In honor of Veterans Day, celebrated in the United States on November 11th, today's post looks at the U.S. Army's newest crowdsourcing initiative, the Capstone Concept.
The United States Army has long been on the forefront of technological advancement, all while maintaining an aura of secrecy and confidentiality. For this reason, it's hard to imagine that they would be looking for opinions on one of the most pivotal issue in warfare - how to plan for an environment that is changing so rapidly that they have no idea what it will look like in five months, much less five years or longer.
The Army is developing a document called the Capstone Concept, which attempts to do just this - define the problems that will be faced in future armed conflict, and describe how the army will deal with these problems. The Capstone Project was first created in 2005, and dealt primarily with technological issues of warfare - assuming that changing technology would be the biggest catalyst in the way armed conflicts are waged. After 8 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, the Army has realized that technology is only a small element of the change that has occurred.
One of their discoveries was that, more important than technology is the intelligence that comes from relationships. They discovered, for example, that oftentimes the enemy hides within a population, walking among civilians, unrecognizable to an outside observer. At the same time, they learned that junior leaders on the ground can have significant knowledge of these populations that their higher ups might not have. When given the autonomy to establish trust with people in these communities, these junior leaders were better able to ferret out the enemy, which enabled the army to deal with them individually rather than in larger initiatives that put civilians at risk. They also found that if they could forge relationships with key community leaders - clergy, teachers, merchants - they were better able to earn the trust of that community, which in turn led to better intelligence.
This current document reflects the lessons learned in the last 8 years of war, and attempts to find gaps in the Army's experience, with plans for how to fill these gaps. It's an unimaginable assignment - figure out what you don't know, and then determine how to minimize surprises. To tackle the daunting task of writing this document, the Army assembled a team of individuals with different perspectives - Army personnel of various ranks, from Generals to Privates, members of Academia, professional Strategists, and allies. Now they want to know what you think . They have created a draft and have shared it here. Regardless of where you stand in relation to current operations, this is an opportunity to have your voice heard and potentially contribute to this important document.