Orientation and Action, Part II: The OODA-PISRR Loop

The Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) loop of John Boyd is not only a model of human cognition.

It is also useful in aligning the generations of modern war within the framework of human cognition

Likewise, the broader Observe-Orient-Decide-Act/Penetrate-Isolate-Subvert-Reorient-Reharmonize Social loop is not only a model of social cognition

ooda_pisrr_09

It is also useful in aligning the kinetic intensity within the framework of social cognition

waveform_one

Both of these findings can be synthesized by viewing the generations of modern war within the framework of social cognition.

Consider that the second generation of modern war (2GW), based on concentrate of firepower, is the strong-suit of the state in war. Likewise, consider that the fourth generation of modern war (4GW), based on idealogical coherency, is the strong-suit of the insurgent in war.

From this we can place the third generation of modern war (3GW), based on mobility, in between the state’s and the insurgent’s spheres of influence.

And this makes sense. In Patterns of Conflict, John Boyd describes maneuver warfare as “blitz/guerrilla.”

(One might just as easily as say “Global Guerrilla / Panzer General“)

There are two remaining generations of modern war, and both fall outside the realms of the state and non-state. The first generation (1GW), built on total mobilization, was designed for states able to conscript a large fraction of the male population but unable to communicate effectively enough to effective combine firepower. Thus we place 1GW to the left of 2GW, as belonging to an actor which we would describe as a state… almost. (Compare the workings of Napoleonic France to that of a modern state to see how a 1G “state” falls short.)

Likewise, place the fifth generation of modern warfare (5GW) to the right of 4GW. 5GW is the domain of non-states… almost. When a 5GW is used by a state, it’s actually the province of a “state within” that acts as an internal insurgency. The Military-Industrial-Complex devised by President Truman is the work of such a 5GW conspiracy-within-the-state.


Blue Circle encompasses the Realm of the State
Red Circle encompasses the Realm of the Non-State

The take-away from this visualization is as follows:

  • each ‘higher’ generation of war is less kinetically intense than the one before it.
  • Further, states tend to be victorious in areas where intensity is high but not overwhelming — between 2GW and 3GW.
  • At the same time, non-states tend to be victorious at low but not underwhelming kinetic intensity — between 3GW and 5GW.
  • Finally, 1GW and 5GW fall outside the realms of both the state and the non-state, and into the lands of the proto-state and the state-within.

Orientation and Action, a tdaxp series
1. The OODA Loop
2. The OODA-PISRR Loop

Orientation and Action, Introduction: On War Since John Boyd

Patterns of Conflict,” by John Boyd, edited by Chuck Spinney and Chet Edwards, Defense in the National Interest, Boyd’s last edition, December 1986, PowerPoint edition, 27 February 2005, http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/05/23/john_r_boyd_s_patterns_of_conflict_brief.html.
Unto the Fifth Generation of War,” by Mark Safranski, ZenPundit, 17 July 2005, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/07/unto-fifth-generation-of-war.html.


The Generations of War in the Context of the OODA Loop

Whether you view reality as land, or as a sea, or even a mystical body, one thing is clear: you exist with it.

More specifically, you can effect the world and the world can effect you. Action flows from you to the world, and information flows from the world to you. Whether you kick a rock, pet a dog, or eat a snack, the your flow of action and the world’s flow of information make life what it is.

This is true no matter what you are. If you are a fighter, process remains the same. The fighter acts on the world, and the world blowbacks to the fighter. Blowback is the residue — the only thing that remains — of the fighter’s action after the action. A happy and lucky fighter gets easy and pleasant blowback. Fighters to choose poorly have less pleasant experiences.

The above three charts show the individual and the world as entities, and the lines are their relations. The graphics are called Entity-Relation, or E-R diagrams, and are commonly used to understand databases.

Another way to look at things is with flowcharts. Let’s take a look at the same fighter / world system, but with flowcharts. Here, a process called “fighting” effects a direct access storage device called the “world.”

Remember, this is exactly the same thing as before:

But what is this fighting? What sub-processes make up this process called “fighting”? Or for that matter, what sub-processes make up the process we called “being human”?

Air Force Colonel John Boyd invented something he called a “decision loop,” made up of four sub-processes called “observing,” “orienting,” “deciding,” and “acting.” While his original graphic was rather ugly, we can expand our “fighting-world” flow-chart to show his decision loop:

Or, even better:

Because the four stages start with O, O, D, and A, the decision loop is sometimes called an “OODA” loop. In the model…

  • We observe reality. We take that observation and make sense of it. We oriented new things we see against what we already think we know.
  • After we oriented new facts, we may go back into observing. This may happen if we are confused, or we just want to “wait and see.” Alternatively, we might decide what to do.
  • When we make decisions, two things happen. Obviously, the first thing is that we observe that we made a decision. We might then orient that with thinking that our decisions have often been bad, and paralyze ourselves with doubt.
  • The other thing that happens when we make a decision is we go on and act. Action effects the world, like when we chase a cat or rob a bank. Actions are implicitly guided by our orientation too. For example, you go through the entire OODA loop to decide to walk to the store, but many individual actions (how to move your legs to walk) are guided by your orientation without any decision to do so.

 

With this introduction of John Boyd’s out of the war, read on to see how it explains the many generations of modern war…


Orientation and Action, a tdaxp series
1. The OODA Loop
2. The OODA-PISRR Loop

Give Homeland Security an Army

The United States already has seven uniformed services

  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Marine Corps
  • Navy
  • NOAA Corps
  • Public Health Service

While the latter two are relatively toothless, the first five on the list do show that uniform services can become critical.


Give Them Guns

While at the Boyd Conference, one questioner asked a panel composed of William Lind, Frank Hoffman, and Bruce Gudmundsson if they could help with a new legislative initiative to be proposed shortly: create a Uniformed Service under the Department of Homeland Security. I regret not writing down the questioner’s name. This is an amazingly exciting proposal, for one reason: capabilities create intentions.

In the panel proper, Bruce explained how the trench warfare of World War I was enabled by the large gun factories created by the British and French for a naval war against each other that never happened. Nonetheless, the ability to mass produce lots of very large guns remained after the English Channel Threat had passed. So when a new problem (German aggressiveness) came up, warfighters reached for the tools they already had: in that case, including large artillery pieces.

If this sounds familiar, it should. While pre-Great-War Britain and France featured miniature Military-Industrial-Artillery complexes, the United States currently possesses an enormous Military-Industrial-Leviathan-Complex (MILC). While the MILC has largely outlived its usefulness — what was once our front-line defense against a Soviet takeover of the world is now relegated to topping the odd tyrant and defending Taiwan — the way it enabled our 5GW against Soviet Communism is something we must always be greatful for.

Now it is time to build a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex (MISC) to win our 5GW to shrink the gap. Because 5GW relies on observation and not orientation, it does not matter if policy makers intend to fight the 5GW at the outset, so long as what they observe leads them to do so anyway. You know the old expression, “when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?” The 5GWarrior who wishes to shrink the gap must think the same way. We need to give our policy makers a Military-Industrial-Sysadmin-Complex so that more problems in the Gap looks like jobs for the Sysadmin.

Creating a uniformed service under Homeland Security is a way to do this. It does not matter if policy makers originally see the Homeland Security Corps as a tool for rescuing people from hurricanes, fighting forest fighters, or state-building in Arab Africa. All that matters is that it has the capability to do system administration, in the same way that those old naval guns had the capability to do trench warfare.

Capabilities create intentions. Shrink the Gap. Build a Gap-Shrinking-Platform.

Create the Homeland Security Corps.