Skynet Manque

Have been reading a bit around how the military functions and plans missions (see wikipedia on fireteams, mett-cc, smeac etc.) I’m not particularly a fan of going “kinetic” against people in their own countries who have done nothing to us, but I am a fan of learning how organisations plan big stuff and small stuff.

So that’s how you end up reading stuff with titles like “The Representability of METT-TC Factors in JC3IEDM”

Abstract Military commanders require relevant background information in order to exercise effective situation awareness for command and control. The so-called METT-TC factors (Mission, Enemy, Terrain & Weather, Troops, Time Available and Civil Considerations) represent the canonical, militarily significant background against which information is evaluated and decisions are made. If this background is to be encoded, shared and, ultimately, reasoned about by computers, the METT-TC background must be represented in some standard format with a shared computer-processable semantics. The JC3IEDM (Joint Command, Control, and Consultation Information Exchange Data Model) is a decades-long effort by NATO member countries at developing an interoperable representation of military situation. In this paper, we show how many aspects of METT-TC can be represented in JC3IEDM. We also point to a number of examples of aspects that are not currently or not completely representable in JC3IEDM.

This is all part of the dream of frictionless info-flows, of overcoming the fog of war with bits and bytes. Of structuring un-structured and semi-structured information.

Lots of interest in this article, which I am going to have to re-read sometime soon.

4 Representing Enemy and Troops

What understanding of the Enemy do commanders need? In FM 6.0 “Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces” Appendix B (Relevant Information Subject Categories – METT-TC), it is stated

that a commander should consider (and therefore represent) these aspects of the enemy:

organisation, strength, location, and tactical mobility




vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action (COAs).

It goes on to say: that:

[to] visualize enemy forces, commanders need detailed intelligence, such as, speed of advance, tempo, and strengths and weaknesses.

Now, the computer (let’s just pick a name at random. Say, “Skynet”) has trouble with dealing with more than one kind of enemy. To whit-

“One drawback of this representation is it represents hostility as being a binary property: an organization, person or facility is either hostile or friendly. It might be more appropriate, in some situations where there are multiple militias involved, to know who is hostile to whom. Some militias might be friendly to one force but hostile to one another, and so on. “

Which works fine if the rules of engagement are “kill them all, let God sort them out”, but less good if you’re gonna have those pesky human rights observers knocking around.

More usefulness-

The five military aspects of terrain are:

Observation and fields of fire

Cover and Concealment


Key and decisive terrain

Avenues of approach

But back to the weaknesses- (page 16)

“While it is possible to make quite fine-grained distinctions among types of persons and their affiliations within JC3IEDM, it is not possible to represent all the sorts of relations between groups that one might like. Thus, it is not possible to represent that two religious sects are traditionally hostile to one another, or that two tribes are rivals. This again is due to the representation of hostility as a binary feature in JC3IEDM, rather than a relation between groups. It is possible to associate groups that are affiliated with a common functional group (e.g. al-Qaeda), but it is not possible to specify disaffiliation or enmity in the same way.”

The lesson here is never ever be buddies with anyone Uncle Sam may at some point in the future want to whack. Because the computer won’t be able to compute that you renounce and denounce and distance yourself. You’ll all end up, like that yuppie in the first Robocop movie when the prototype refuses to compute that he has “put down the weapon,” namely, all deaded.


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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