Tag Archives: ncw

"The Few and the Expensive" as a Declining Paradigm

How IBM Conned My Execs Out Of Millions (Technology),” by tyates, kuro5hin, 28 September 2005, http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/9/27/95759/4240.

The sacred cow of “national assets” is finally on the SysAdmin chopping block,” by Thomas Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog, 2 October 2005, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/002385.html.

Network-Centric Warfare is often criticized as too few, little, too expensive. Writing for different audiences, both Dr. Thomas Barnett and tyates take aim at grandiose ways of winning yesterday’s wars

From the Hawk Strategist:

For the longest time, “national assets,” or satellites and related high-end infrastructure, was considered an off-limits resource of the Leviathan-“off limits” in the sense that it was untouchable budget-wise and largely hidden from oversight in “black programs” (like way too much of the intelligence budget in general).

New Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte sends a shot across the Leviathan’s bow by overhauling a huge $15 billion program that is to “provide the next generation of reconnaissance satellites, known as the Future Imagery Architecture.”

Expect more such moves, because both Dems and Repubs in Congress want less money to be funneled into these super-expensive systems and more effort put into ground-floor spying by humans. There is only so much you can figure out about the Gap from miles above.

This shift reflects the growing understanding that, yes, the Leviathan and its war requirements need a lot of classified information of this sort, but the SysAdmin and its peace requirements need a lot of locally derived information, almost none of which is classified, nor does it take a satellite to gather it, the vast majority of the time.

This is yet another good example of the trend we’ll see more and more: the Leviathan giving up its few-and-the-absurdly-expensive to the SysAdmin’s ever increasing need for the many-and-the-cheap.

From the Techno-Geek

Our budget was toast. Burnt blackened toast. We were so far over budget that we felt sick just talking about it.

We had expected IBM to stay for about three months, which all by itself would have blown our budget, given their $325/hr bill rate. But they were in our company for more than seven months, burning through more than a quarter million dollars a week. And Global Services wasn’t the entirety of the IBM damage. We still had licensing and support fees for Websphere, Websphere Portal, Websphere Content Management, Tivoli Access Manager, and DB2.

IBM, which had promoted itself to lead vendor and integrator, had overpromised, overcharged, and underdelivered. We ended up with an overly complex enterprise portal with a few off-the-shelf portlets and a few integrated applications. Many application integration efforts had to be abandoned. It’s unlikely that those apps will ever be in the portal, and the jury is still out on whether the portal will be a success. None of those slick knowledge management presentations we saw at the beginning of the project bore any resemblance to our outcome, and that original consultant was nowhere to be found.

What Went Wrong

There’s no question that our senior management made major mistakes in vendor selection and management. I still wonder if I could have made a better case to the executives. This was my second experience with IBM, and I knew how they operated. I raised as many warnings as I could, but ultimately because IBM was the vendor with the strongest capabilities, at least on paper, they were seen by the execs as the lowest risk choice. This led IBM to be chosen even when their product was unproven or even demonstrably inferior.

IBM sells itself as a provider of business solutions. That puts them in a position to make architecture and product recommendations. It is no surprise whose hardware, software, and services they typically recommend. After all, IBM invented FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt – to deal with their competitors in the 1970s.

Even though IBM presents itself as a company with very advanced capabilities (i.e. chess-playing supercomputers), most of their customers are looking for the basics: web and database hardware and software, and competent technical staff to set it all up and keep it working. All of this is now a commodity, and companies should be paying commodity prices, not IBMs 300% markups.

Learn From Our Mistakes

They say that exceptionally intelligent people are easier to con, because they don’t believe they can be conned. So if you’re too smart for the following suggestions, you may need them the most. Our IT execs definitely did.

# Don’t take shortcuts with vendor selection or project planning. Make your vendors compete with each other during the selection process.
# Never, ever, ever ask an implementation company for strategy, architecture, or product advice. They have no incentive to help you and plenty of incentives to sell you products and services that you don’t need at inflated prices.
# Open standards means more flexibility in vendor selection. Take advantage of this.
# Know the market. Be able to calculate your resellers’ costs and markup. Remember that markups alone don’t add any project value.
# Check resumes of individual consultants. A $250+/hr consultant should be able to walk on water, and their resume should reflect that.
# Maintain a list of reliable implementation partners that includes large and small vendors, small independent contractors, and capable in-house employees. Match the talent to the project and use only proven talent on new projects.
# Run small pilot projects to test vendors, technologies, architectures, etc. This can be done separately or as part of an iterative development cycle.

For more reading, see Darth Vader’s views on NCO. Or the SecretWarrior on iterative development.

In Net-Centric Politics, The Net-Centric Politicians Ru[i]n the Party

Internet and the Democrats,” by Jon Schaff, South Dakota Politics, 20 July 2005, http://southdakotapolitics.blogs.com/south_dakota_politics/2005/week29/index.html#a0005664380.

Schaff of SDP notes that the infusion of high-tech politics into the Democrat Party is hurting America’s Opposition, by turning the technophile “netroots” against the factions of the party who can actually win


There is no such thing as a free lunch. You get activism and money out of the online world, but you also get a louder voice for the far left of the Party. Note this bit referring to Marcos Moulitsas Zuniga, aka Daily Kos:


[Kos] sweepingly dismissed the Democratic Leadership Council, Joe Lieberman, and The New Republic magazine as “tools of the GOP.” In 2004, Kerry’s campaign cut its link to Moulitsas’s Web site after he wrote that he felt “nothing” when four American contractors were killed in Falluja, because “they are there to wage war for profit.”


And also:


After years of uncertainty, he had discovered his niche. Kos quickly found an audience by expressing the unmediated anger of the Democratic base toward Bush, and even more so toward Democrats who cooperated with him, especially over the war in Iraq.


Kos’s “niche” is fueling anger and resentment towards all who do not share his extremist views.

But to the point at hand, I think it is interesting that the very part of the Democratic Party that is gaining power is rejecting the only part of the Party that has won an election in the last 40 years (remember Carter ran as a moderate Southerner).


Failure of Net-Centric Policing (Super-Empowered Locals or Super-Empowered Courts)

Man grabs girl’s arm – now he’s a sex offender,” World Net Daily, 2 July 2005, http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45104 (from Flit(tm)).

Netwar v. Net-Centric War, on America’s streets:

A man who grabbed a 14-year-old girl’s arm to chastise her after she walked in front of his car, causing him to swerve to avoid hitting her, must register as a “sex offender,” the Appellate Court of Illinois has ruled.

Fitzroy Barnaby, a 28-year-old Evanston, Illinois, man was prosecuted for attempted kidnapping and child abduction charges following a November 2002 incident in which he nearly hit the teen with his vehicle.

The girl testified Barnaby yelled, “Come here, little girl,” when he jumped out of his car and grabbed her arm. She broke away and called authorities. Barnaby says he was merely trying to lecture her for her carelessness.

The trial jury accepted Barnaby’s version of the story, but found him guilty of unlawful restraint of a minor – a sex offense under Illinois law. As a convicted sex offender, Barnaby is required to be listed on the state’s sex offender registry and must keep authorities informed of his place of residency. He also isn’t allowed to live near schools or parks. The Illinois Sex Offender Information website, operated by the Illinois State Police, lists those in the registry, along with their photographs and home addresses.

Trial Judge Patrick Morse ordered registration reluctantly, acknowledging it was “more likely than not” Barnaby only intended to chastise the girl. “I don’t really see the purpose of registration in this case. I really don’t,” Morse said. “But I feel that I am constrained by the statute.”

There are two main approaches to security in the world: “netstruggle” and “network-centric struggle.” Both rely on networks, both are built on the works of the late Colonel John Boyd, and both are summed up by Sun Microsystems’ tagline “The Network is the Computer.”

In netwar, in netpolitics, in netfaith, super-empowered individuals use social, economic, physical, and technological networks to come together and act as a group. Especially when these are combined into a tight human-internet, these nets are very powerful. In Iraq, Islamist terrorists use netwar to deny freedom to their fellows and kill Soldiers. In America, Christian Republicans use netpolitics to elect friendly politicians and steer the judicial branch of government. Netstruggle is summed up by America’s motto, E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One.

In network-centric war, politics, and faith, super-empowered leaders use technological networks to order subordinates around efficiently. Especially when the technological network is fast, secure, and everywhere, network-centric strivers can be very powerful. In Iraq, the American military removed Saddam from power in three weeks. Network-centric struggle is summed up by one word: faster.

But if a problem cannot be solved quickly, network-centric solutions are foolish. NCW was great for destroying Iraq in three weeks, but is unable to restore it in three years.

Network-centric solutions win wars, but not peaces.

When we give distant courts the ability to put someone’s name on a magic list, we are doing network-centric policing. We are super-empowering judges and juries to disempower individuals.

You want to end pedophile attacks on your children? Move society to netpolicing — give every man a gun, and make it clear that “honor killings” will not be prosecuted. Super-empower individuals.

You are ok with Barnaby’s fate? Stick to network-centric policing.

Update 27 October 2005: Courtesty Mark at Zen Pundit, Jeff at Caerdroia seems to agree:

The practical result of this is that, at least in the US, the State can fail utterly at some task without leading to dissolution — even at the task of defense against enemies, foreign or domestic. Let us say, for example, that the police make a total mess of fighting against a domestic 4GW threat. While it’s possible the government could turn to death squads, it is unlikely (again, at least in the US). What is far more likely is that the armed citizens would organize themselves into a group and go solve the problem. There is a name for this: a Committee of Vigilance. Perhaps better known as vigilantes. While not the best solution — such groups tend to get out of hand — it is certainly better than giving up to death or at least chaos.

It goes without saying that such a strategy works best in a culture with strong horizontal controls

Introduction to Modern Warfare for Seth of CCK

I was wondering this morning…,” by Seth, Clean Cut Kid, 26 June 2005, http://www.cleancutkid.com/2005/06/25/more-iraq-lies/.

CCK is an enjoyable South Dakota netroots site, and manages to have an even less functional comments page than tdaxp. So this post was originally written as a reply to a comment by Seth, one of the two CCK bloggers:

Fourth Generation War “4GW” was first defined by William Lind. I thank you for crediting mean with inventing it, but I am no Lind.

Interesting, while Lind is a well known cultural conservative, he has been been critical of the Iraq War since before it began.

Retired USMC Colonel TX Hammes deserves credit for spreading the doctrine within the military. While I am unsure of Hammes’ personal views, the fact that the very high ranking military officers have publicly praised it would imply that he gives the War at least qualified support.

4GW is sometimes known as “netwar,” because of its reliance on social networks. 4GW is basically a very-long-term violent ideological struggle.

Network-Centric Warfare is sometimes considered the “opposite” of 4GW, because NCW sees extremely fast high-tech blitzkrieg as the key to victory. An NCW may last six weeks, while a 4GW may last six decades, However, both rely on the works of the late USAF Colonel John Boyd, who is best known for his day-long presentation “Patterns of Conflict

Operation Iraqi Freedom I was an NCW, while Operation Iraqi Freedom II is a 4GW. In the end, America has never lost an NCW. Every war we have lost (Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia) has been a 4GW.

See Seth, if you would bother learning new things instead of mocking theory you could use these facts to help your case. You could say, “The very respected conservative thinker William Lind believes the war is already lost.” Or you could say, “Like President Bush in 2000, I believe that America’s core competency is NCW and we should not attempt to fight 4GW.”

Instead, you decide to recycle stale talking points from 2003, which are much less effective. But I’m hopeful 🙂

I’m glad that the 4GWS1T92Q-5011 theorem you have invented says the insurgency is almost done.

Words are meaningless without context, and as I mentioned the Vice President’s words were in the context of a 4th Generation struggle. The Viet Cong were lethally wounded by the failed Tet Offensive in 1968. The war was successfully “Vietnamized” in 1972. So from the final coherent action of the insurgent enemy to our withdrawal took about 4 years. In a 4GW, that’s quick.

(I’ll save a detailed discussion on the 1972-1975 nature of South Vietnam, as I don’t think its relevant to the present discussion. But if you wish, I can talk about that too.)

So if we found weapons of mass destruction

Misdirection. In your last post you talked about “banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons.” Now you mention WMDs. Not all illegal weapons are WMDs, and while Iraq had no WMDs they did possess illegal convention arms. In the link I provided, Bush was referencing illegal conventional arms.

Barnett and Vader Criticize NCW Arrogance

The Seven Deadly Sins of Network-Centric Warfare,” by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Proceedings, pg 36-39, January 1999, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/published/7d.htm.

It’s Christmas on Hoth,” by Darth Vader, The Darth Side, 27 April 2005, http://darthside.blogspot.com/2005/04/its-christmas-on-hoth.html (from Slashdot).

Net-Centric Warfare is an attempt to use technology to win “conventional” (maneuver-based or Third Generation) wars more easily. It is often criticized by proponents of Fourth Generation Warfare, though both NCW and 4GW are partially right. Nonetheless, it is important to realize that NCW is not perfect. Grand Strategist Tom Barnett lists the following as the “seven deadly sins” of NCW

Dr. Barnett, whose mentor founded NCW,
criticizes the doctrine’s arrogance
  1. Lust -NCW Longs for an Enemy Worthy of Its Technological Prowess
  2. Sloth -NCW Slows the U.S. Military’s Adaptation to a MOOTW World
  3. Avarice -NCW Favors the Many and Cheap; the U.S. Military Prefers the Few and Costly
  4. Pride -NCW’s Lock-Out Strategies Resurrect Old Myths about Strategic Bombing
  5. Anger -NCW’s Speed-of-Command Philosophy Can Push Us into Shooting First and Asking Questions Later
  6. Envy – NCW Covets the Business World’s Self-Synchronization
  7. Gluttony – NCW’s Common Operating Picture Could Lead to Information Overload

The full article is available here.

More succinctly, Barnett’s thoughts are seconded by Darth Vader, dread lord of the Galactic Empire in his new blog, The Darth Side

Lord Vader Criticizes Admiral Ozzol For NCW Arrogance

Admiral Ozzol took the fleet out of hyerspace too close to Hoth, and the Rebel Alliance were — you guessed it — alerted to our approach. The cornerstone of Ozzel’s arrogance is his insistence that rebel technology is so vastly inferior to Imperial technology that we need broker no caution.

This attitude is typical of a man who could not rephase his own fusion orb if his life depended on it. He cannot fathom what rebel engineers may accomplish out of desperation. People who are good with things, people like me, can appreciate the infinite diversity of possible tools buried in artful combinations of even the humblest technologies. Give me an hour to reconfigure an industrial grade repulsolift and I will give you an ion cannon and enough parts left over to build a droid to run it.

Besides running a hyper-advanced NCW space fleet, Darth Vader is proving himself to be an adept Fourth Generation Warrior. With the full might of the Galatic Empire behind him, his only problem is finding an heir to continue his House down the generations.

Update: Zen Pundit compares Barnett’s criticisms with Cebrowski’s original.

NCO v. 4GW

The Pentagon’s Debate Over What Iraq Means,” by Thomas P.M. Barnett, The Command Post, http://www.command-post.org/oped/2_archives/018611.html, 24 January 2005.

With no comment other than “I need to learn more about this,” I present Dr. Barnett’s latest article:

The current fight between NCO and 4GW, over who “lost” the war in Iraq, is basically a repeat of the Rumsfeld-Shinseki argument. The 4GWers accuse NCOers of blindly stumbling from a 3GW victory over Saddam into a 4GW stalemate with the insurgency. But again, this accusation tends to conflate two very different situations: one the war, the other the subsequently botched peace. But the 4GW crowd’s answer can’t be simply, “Let’s get ready for counter-insurgencies because NCO is powerless to deal with them.”

In short, our choice isn’t between Network-Centric Operations or Fourth Generation Warfare, it’s how we focus each effectively on the logically-defined tasks of effective regime change, a list that covers both war and peace. A Pentagon debate that pits these two visions of war against one another is self-defeating and a waste of time. We must take advantage of the force-structure savings allowed by NCO (e.g., the smaller footprint) to build up our 4GW capabilities and marry those with the larger force requirements entailed in successful SysAdmin work.