War Machines Are Developing Faster Than Our Ability to Regulate Them
Where the 20th century was an era dominated by organizational hierarchies, the 21st century is all about networks.
Chris Fussell is the Chief Growth Officer at McChrystal Group, leading the business development, sales, and marketing teams. He and his team are responsible for identifying and growing McChrystal Group’s network and client base, and for positioning CrossLead as a 21st century leadership model and globally-recognized brand. Chris is an author of the firm’s May 2015 management book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement in a Complex World.
Chris was commissioned as a Naval Officer in 1997, and spent the next 15 years on US Navy SEAL Teams, leading SEAL elements in combat zones around the globe. From war-torn Kosovo, to counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to highly specialized efforts in the troubled areas of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, he experienced and led through the modern evolution of the US military’s Special Operations community, first on SEAL Teams Two and Eight, then in the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
In 2012, Chris left the Naval Special Warfare Development Group in order to join the McChrystal Group. Prior to becoming Chief Growth Officer, he served as an Engagement Lead for a client engagement. Chris is also a Senior Fellow for National Security at New America, a Washington, DC-based non-partisan think tank dedicated to understanding the next generation of challenges facing the United States. Chris is actively involved in several non-profits dedicated to helping veterans and their families, and holds a seat on the Board of Directors for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
Chris earned a Masters Degree in Irregular Warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School, receiving the Pat Tillman Award for highest peer-rated Special Operations Officer in the program. His thesis work focused on the interagency collaboration and intelligence sharing processes that drove effective, cross-silo collaboration during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chris Fussell: The 20th century was all about hierarchies. If you want to create something, if you want to start a country, create a product, whatever it is. Your goal is to create a highly efficient hierarchical model, scale it because that’s what the competition’s doing. And whoever does that the largest and with the most efficiency will eventually dominate the market, will be the dominant country, however you want to look at it. Everyone played some version of this game. The 21st century is dominated by networks because the introduction of the information age, we can suddenly create, free flow these globally distributed, organic, shaped networks of individuals. It’s a radically different environment for everyone. That translates into any space that you can imagine really. Everyone’s wrestling with some version of this because we grew up in the bureaucratic model and so we’re trying to change not just the way we act, but our psychology and how we view the world. And it’s going to change the battlefield as well. You know it’s inevitable — the technology curve continues to grow exponentially. One of the major areas we’re seeing that is the debate around unmanned vehicles.
So is a completely robotic battlefield out of the question at some point? No, I think it’s out of the question not to think about that as a possible end state. We’re so on the front edge of these debates that it’ll be laughable I imagine 100 years from now. But the fascinating part is if you look at the discussions around this type of technology, for the most part our nation states are still trying to solve it through their traditional bureaucratic thinking. How do I legislate for this? What does it look like, et cetera, et cetera. And there’s going to just be an exponential change in how this has the real effects on the ground as the technology continues to grow. So now we have, you know, a single Predator-type overhead aircraft, unmanned, that can do, you know, X, Y, Z. A very, very significant jump over the past 20 years. Fast-forward that 20 years and as the technology scale continues to increase exponentially that could be a single aircraft that has a network of thousands around it that are real-time monitoring on the ground, in the air, buildings, whatever the case may be. Where the technology is pushing conflict is moving so much faster than our systems ability to adapt and regulate it that it’s going to be a real challenge for us the next 10 to 15 years.
Where the 20th century was an era dominated by organizational hierarchies, the 21st century is all about networks. This has implications for the business sector, which loves to see technology curves trend upward at exponential slopes, but also for other areas, including the battlefield. Former Navy SEAL Chris Fussell takes into account our changing world and explains why it's concerning when technology pushes conflict beyond regulators' abilities to rein them in. Fussell is a co-author of the McChrystal Group's best-selling book Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World.
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