Small Wars Journal

Multi-Domain Entropy

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 9:37am

Multi-Domain Entropy

The central idea of Multi-Domain Entropy is to create uncertainty within enemy domains in order to disadvantage their ability to win.

David R. Douglas, Robert F. Hodson, Jonathan E. Czarnecki and Adrian T. Bogart

The Future of Modern Warfare Has Arrived

Is global war against sophisticated enemy peers upon us?  Has globalization connected us so well that conflict is assured?  Have the days of fighting on land, air and sea expanded to include cyber and space?  Are we at a point now where the American way of war is as complex as the operational environment we are expected to campaign in, and if so, then what is winning?

While Iraq and Afghan brush-fire wars burn bright over the horizon, larger threats loom in the darkened corners across the world.  Conflict between nation-states is gaining.  One potential adversary exerts reflexive control against its neighbor, another overtly rattles its ballistic nuclear missile saber, a third seeks nuclear weaponry and a fourth is expanding its territorial reach.  To our east and our west, the outbreak of war is foreseeable, if not already here. 

Yet as war nears or perhaps has arrived, what field do we take battle on?  Today, the traditional way of war on land, at sea and in the air has apparently grown by two.  An unseen war of "1"s and "0"s is underway in both cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, while space is perhaps the first major battlefield in the next global war.  The once mastered dominion’s of air, land and sea have now expanded with space and cyber, and are the multi-domains of warfare.

Multi-Domain Battle is Timeless

“You who participated in the Battle of Midway today have written a glorious page in our history. I am proud to be associated with you. I estimate that another day of all-out effort on your part will complete the defeat of the enemy. ”

-- Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, 5 June 1942

The 3 to 6 June 1942 Battle of Midway was an epic multi-domain battle.  The Imperial Japanese Navy launched a complex attack to destroy American sea-power in the Pacific and seize a foothold to stage attacks on the United States.  The Japanese battle plan involved a diversionary attack to Alaska sequenced with a Carrier Striking Force to the northwest to launch the main raid on Midway, and an invasion force from the southwest to take the island.  Japanese High Command believed that a successful campaign would place America in a position of strategic disadvantage and force terms.  Unknown to the Japanese, the United States was decoding their messages.  The Japanese plan was understood in advance and American forces positioned to defeat them. 

Midway meant warfare across multiple domains.  With this atoll as the prize, the Japanese main effort focused on fighting for land.  In the electromagnetic spectrum, the battle was fought to gain timely enemy intent and maneuver, sea and land based air forces would be the primary combatants against naval forces. 

Through the mix of it all, American forces defeated Japan's attempt to gain a position of relative advantage against the United States.  Expertly guided mission command by America's Admirals had outmatched the overmatching power of the Imperial Japanese Navy.  Yet the underpinning of America's victory rested on creating uncertainty and disorder within enemy domains to destroy their ability to win.

Historic Multi-Domain Entropy

The study of this 'win' is exhausting, but is exemplified within domains.  In the pre-dawn days of the cyber domain, the cryptanalysis of Japanese operational coded radio transmissions understood enemy intent.  That understanding allowed for Admiral Nimitz to visualize the pending conflict and predict to a fairly high degree of accuracy the position of the multiple Japanese attacking forces and the timing of their attack.  The cryptanalysis also permitted U.S. command to describe the size force which the Imperial Japanese Navy had sent sail for Operation Midway, so American counter-strike forces could position to gain advantage over the Japanese. 

While the Japanese objective was to seize Midway for a land-based platform to gain strategic advantage of the United States, Midway first served as a fixed base to launch American attacks against the Japanese fleet.  At sea and from the air, the main destructive battle occurred, as wave after wave of U.S. aircraft executed a chaotic swarming of repeated attacks by U.S. Army bombers and U.S. Navy torpedo and dive bombers on Japanese carriers.  Directing signal, air, sea and land action was Admiral Nimitz's mission command, executed by combining a counter-strike strategy, informed by reliable intelligence estimates and led through a series of mission orders whose progress was continually monitored at headquarters. 

Yet, Midway's victory was won through disordering the enemy's ability to win.  Knowing what he knew, Admiral Nimitz was able to make unclear to the Japanese the intent and location of American combat power.  The unmasking of American forces while the Japanese fleet was focused on Midway, confused the Japanese leadership on who to attack; Midway or the American carriers.  That confusion provided lethal opportunity for American forces. 

The timing of the launch and recovery of Japanese aircraft was disrupted by the American swarming attacks, and opened the main element of Japanese combat power to destruction.  The weather played against Japanese detection of U.S. forces, as well as refueling operations but advantaged U.S. aircraft to mask in the cloud cover prior to attacking. 

All in all, American forces had presented a series of multiple dilemmas to the Imperial Japanese Navy which overwhelmed their ability to win; overpowering the adversary across multiple-domains.  The American success reversed Japanese offensive momentum allowing the United States to assure gains and advantage over the subsequent months and the years to follow.

Yet Japanese intransigence contributed to the defeat.  Japanese commanders believed the United States was unaware of their plans.  The Japanese did not expect any U.S. carriers and Japan assumed success in taking Midway.  As a result, the Japanese readiness for battle was lowered allowing for American disorder to be incepted.

Midway, like other battles where confusion and disorder were used to provide the decisive edge, offers a deep understanding of the concept of Multi-Domain Entropy.  As the Battle of Midway details, America's commanders were able to cause great chaos and uncertainty within the Imperial Japanese Navy's battle management systems, and that led to a series of decisions which assured their defeat.

Conceptualizing Multi-Domain Entropy

The central idea of Multi-Domain Entropy is to create uncertainty within enemy domains in order to disadvantage their ability to win, while simultaneously maintaining relative certainty within friendly domains to maximize our possibilities for victory.  This is what Multi-Domain Entropy is for; to create chaos within an enemy's battle systems, while battle-hardening our own.  Those systems include decision-making, battle management, the will to win, technical, mechanical and automation.  By doing so, disadvantages the enemy's ability to: control its own forces, conduct effective military operations, actions and activities and reduces or eliminates an adversaries' ability to win.

There are two major opportunities to apply Entropy in Multi-Domain Battle; first, to incite the enemy NOT to act according to his objectives before battle begins; and second to enable our forces to achieve their objectives through disrupting/destroying/disabling the enemy’s ability to achieve his.

The concept design goes even deeper to its central objective.  The core goal is to outcompete adversaries across one, multiple or all domains through temporary windows of domain superiority by increasing entropy within the enemy's systems while decreasing our own entropy.  Increasing Entropy is defined as inducing or the inception of physical, cognitive, connective, technical, and sustainment dilemmas to erode enemy ability(ies) to define predictability of friendly forces, effect counter-measures or implement action/counter-action.  Successful multi-domain Entropy relies on access, placement and timing within one, multiple or all domains and the associated sequencing to do so.

Once there, the concept looks to create or accentuate entropy or compel randomness in specific areas of - enemy mission command, enemy battle management or operating systems and within enemy knowledge management systems.  These are the three areas which produce the ability to win and where enemy forces like ours exert command of their forces, execute operations and create and share information.  But while disordering an enemy's systems, Multi-Domain Entropy calls to protect at all times friendly or own multi-domain battle systems from being disadvantaged by enemy action or influence.

As leaders craft their entropic strategy, they prepare offensive and defensive options which are ready to actuate when the timing and conditions are favorable for Multi-Domain Entropy.  Options are incepted directly, indirectly or unexpectedly affecting the enemy's ability to comprehend, reason, and command action/counter-action against friendly forces. 

A sampling of operations, actions and activities which Multi-Domain Entropy can use are:

  • Anti-Access activities
  • Area Denial
  • Attacks on Enemy Center(s) of Gravity
  • Continuity of Operations
  • Deception Operations
  • Enforcement of Exclusion Zones
  • Flexible Deterrence Operations
  • Foreign Humanitarian Assistance
  • Insurgency/Counterinsurgency
  • Internal Development and Defense
  • Military Engagement Activities
  • Protection
  • Psychological Operations
  • Sanction Enforcement
  • Security and Military Assistance
  • Space Operations
  • Strikes and Raids

Multi-Domain Entropy is organized into four distant applications to ready, disorder, attack and consolidate.

First and always is BATTLE READY.  During this application, we secure our ability to strike at the place and time of our own choosing.  Battle Ready allows us to shape enemy reality of our capabilities, while hedging our realty against theirs and counter-strike before enemy action. 

BATTLE READY: 'Stand-to' Coupled With Hedging

  • Bring all our capabilities relevant to Multi-Domain Battle rapidly up to the ready.
  • Deploy to Forward Domain Battle Areas to reduce time to strike and entice enemy consolidation so we may counter-strike prior to the enemy attacking.
  • Conduct anti-fragility drills and close vulnerabilities.  Re-assure resiliency in own operating systems.
  • Commence randomness of own actions to overwhelm enemy surveillance and confuse enemy battle tracking.
  • Prepare to mask; effectively reducing the signature of own forces across all domains.

Once protected, the DISORDER PHASE incepts chaos and randomness in enemy mission command, operating and knowledge management systems.  The Disorder Phase begins offensive entropic action.

DISORDER PHASE: Mobility Through Applying Energy Across Space, Time and Information

  • Make friendly past behavior indeterminate of what friendly action happens next.
  • Make enemy operating systems insecure by disassociating/unpairing command to control.
  • Encourage confusion within enemy populations through misinterpretation of friendly actions.
  • Subvert enemy systems and place under friendly control; then pragmatically disrupt.
  • Cause mistrust within enemy computing systems.
  • Continue randomness of own actions to overwhelm enemy surveillance and confuse enemy battle tracking - Security through Mobility.
  • Adapt or transform own operating systems to ensure resiliency.  Use repetitive anti-fragility audits to correct vulnerabilities.
  • Induce unsureness with enemy leadership and their populace on their ability to win.

Sequenced with Disorder is ATTACK SWARMING.  During this phase, there is are continuous and concentrated joint combined arms to overpower by overwhelming enemy mission command, operating and knowledge management systems.  Swarming continues until enemy systems reach the point where they cannot command a win.

ATTACK SWARMING: Break-in and Break-out/Pursuit

  • Disseminate success criteria and establish exit criteria.
  • Mask own positions and intent by distorting reporting and activity of friendly forces.
  • Gain situational awareness/knowledge that informs the place/time of break-in.
  • Break-in and swarm onto enemy tactical positions, operational C2 nodes and strategic leadership centers to degrade/disable/deter/destroy the enemy ability to win.
    • Concentrate force at point and time of need, then pulse to next vulnerability – debilitate with a series of small, rapid and conclusive attacks.
    • Swarm joint combined arms to outmaneuver and overmatch enemy forces repeatedly until gaining a position of relative advantage against the adversary.
  • Break-out from the attack and pursue enemy forces as they displace or retreat.
  • Constantly displace mission command and forces to avoid enemy targeting.
  • Monitor enemy forces and look for vulnerabilities to exploit.
  • Condition to consolidation.

Once the objective(s) is/are obtained, the CONSOLIDATE PHASE assure gains and position of relative advantage, set conditions to resolve conflict or war. 

CONSOLIDATE PHASE: The Development and Application of Negentropy or Re-ordering.

  • Create order from disorder; requires a great deal of mass/force, energy and information applied across all or selected domains.
  • Prioritize consolidation as the culminating phase of multi-domain battle.
  • Secure the Population from enemy control.
  • Exploit success wherever and whenever feasible.
  • Re-integrate enemy force back into their own society as non-belligerents.
  • Establish protection zones to secure friendly forces from further organized enemy and irregular attacks.
  • Transition to Diplomacy and Development functions of National Power, Defense in support.

Onward to Multi-Domain Entropy

Managing our own Entropy and increasing our enemy’s Entropy is a highly efficient, extremely effective, and history-demonstrated means of battle in the 21st Century.  A high point in the art and science of war and commonplace to warfare, not episodic in application.  Midway helps us visualize Multi-Domain Entropy and inspires innovation from the victory which turned the tide of war in the Pacific.  Multi-Domain Entropy is opportunity to understand how our adversaries make decisions, operate and share information and turn that against them by multiple dilemmas in multiple domains.  When we apply the concept and disorder the enemy's own way of fighting, then we find ourselves winning in a complex world.

The views expressed by the authors are strictly theirs and do not represent the official views of their organizations or the United States Government.


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About the Author(s)

Colonel Adrian T. Bogart III is a career Special Forces officer, who has commanded Infantry and Special Operations Forces, and held other key leadership positions at almost all levels of the United States Army.  His Bachelor of Science degree from the Virginia Military Institute, compliments his Masters of Arts in Diplomacy with a concentration in Terrorism from Norwich University.  A veteran of 57 months in combat, he has published two books, several articles and delivered podcasts on civil support, counterinsurgency operations, mission command and combat tracking.

Dr. Jonathan E. Czarnecki is currently a professor of Joint Military/Maritime Operations, Naval War College, Monterey.  He is a retired Army colonel with more than 27 years of experience in the field and staff.  His M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science and Applied Social Statistics are from the State University of New York at Buffalo; his B.S. in Social Sciences/Industrial Management is from Clarkson University.  He has published numerous articles on joint operations, organizational behavior, operational art, information, complexity and systems thinking as applied to national security.

Robert F. Hodson is a technology program manager at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in information science, a M.S.E. in computer engineering, and a B.S.E in computer science and electrical engineer. Dr. Hodson has authored or co-authored over 40 publications including technical papers, articles, and one book in areas including space electronics, computer architectures, and education.

David R. Douglas (PhD - University of Maryland, 1982) is a Senior Staff Scientist at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. His research focuses on nonlinear beam dynamics in high-performance superconducting charged-particle accelerators, and has contributed to the design, construction, and operation of systems for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as to defense and industrial applications of high-power directed-energy systems. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.