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Document created: 1 March 2008
Air & Space Power Journal - Spring 2008
Lt Col Paul D. Berg, USAF, Chief, Professional Journals
Gen Curtis LeMay once stated, “At the very heart of warfare lies doctrine. It represents the central beliefs for waging war in order to achieve victory. Doctrine is of the mind, a network of faith and knowledge reinforced by experience which lays the pattern for the utilization of men, equipment, and tactics. It is the building material for strategy. It is fundamental to sound judgment.”1 Airmen might agree with General LeMay in principle, yet doctrine and technology coexist uneasily in today’s Air Force. Airmen’s eyes are apt to glaze over at the mere mention of the word doctrine, yet technology conjures up exciting visions of sophisticated equipment. Perhaps Airmen view doctrine as being akin to broccoli—healthy but boring. Referring to doctrine, some Air Force doctrine manuals declare that “Airmen should read it, discuss it, and practice it,” yet persuading Airmen to read the dozens of Air Force doctrine manuals published over the past decade poses a challenge.2 If Airmen are not internalizing the latest doctrine, then we have a problem.
Doctrine deserves respect because it has been intertwined with technology for millennia and explains how to use technological tools to achieve military purposes. Skillfully integrating doctrine and technology can lead to victory, but technology without doctrine to guide its use has little military significance. Perhaps the most technologically oriented military service, the Air Force aggressively promotes technological development and seeks ways to translate it into improved operational capability. That process also functions in reverse when doctrinal requirements to perform a military activity spur efforts to develop the requisite technologies. Unfortunately, the Air Force can only partially control its technological destiny because the service generates only a fraction of the world’s air, space, and cyberspace advances. We must therefore monitor a wide array of technological innovations, including those that may not at first appear relevant to our operational domains, and be prepared to adapt quickly to them. Cyberspace technologies are evolving at an incredible rate, and the Air Force is striving to formulate new doctrine for that vital operational domain, but we also need to realize that existing technologies exert a powerful influence on doctrine. Possessing proven technologies such as those that make possible stealth aircraft and precision-guided munitions offers a strong incentive to refine doctrine for their employment. We need updated doctrine for existing technologies, but new technologies can suddenly render old ones obsolete. Ideally, doctrine should be both flexible enough to meet changing operational conditions and visionary enough to justify developing new technologies.
Doctrine may have a reputation for dullness, but Airmen still manage to learn about it. The Air Force is working diligently to distill the latest combat experiences and technological innovations into doctrine. Even if Airmen seldom read doctrine manuals, the wisdom they contain still seeps almost unnoticed into the tactics manuals and force-development curricula to which Airmen are constantly exposed, ensuring that personnel absorb many essential doctrinal concepts. As a force-development tool, Air and Space Power Journal dedicates this issue to advancing the professional dialogue about how doctrine and technology affect air, space, and cyber operations.
1. Quoted in Air Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 17 November 2003, 1, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/service_ pubs/afdd1.pdf.
2. For examples, see AFDD 2-3, Irregular Warfare, 1 August 2007, vi, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/jel/service _pubs/afdd2_3.pdf; and AFDD 2-3.1, Foreign Internal Defense, 15 September 2007, vi, http://www.dtic.mil/ doctrine/ jel/service_pubs/afdd2_3_1.pdf.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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