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Defense Analysis Professors Offer Fresh Perspectives on the Design of Warfare
U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Patrick Dionne

Defense Analysis Professors Offer Fresh Perspectives on the Design of Warfare

By MC2 Patrick Dionne

Faculty in the Naval Postgraduate School’s (NPS) Department of Defense Analysis (DA), Drs. John Arquilla and Nancy Roberts have brought their own unique perspectives to a concept gaining traction in defense circles, collaborating on the release of a new monograph entitled “Design of Warfare.”

“The purpose of this monograph is to give people in the warfighting business a better understanding of how to design for warfare,” said Roberts. “Designing includes several elements such as doctrine; how the warfighting units are structured; how information is shared; and what technology is employed. All these elements can be combined and configured into different designs depending on the situation and the context.

“This monograph challenges people to stop and think, ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing this?’ And this needs to be done for every intervention,” stressed Roberts. “For our students here, and those who read this monograph, we try to give them some basic knowledge to help them understand what options they have.”

The 70-page monograph offers several examples from history that provide evidence to the authors’ call to the importance of design.

“I think both of us, in the course of our work together, have come to realize that war is fundamentally a design challenge,” said Arquilla. “It may not always be framed that way ... Some people think it is all about force, and for a very long time, people used the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force as a prime example.

“But from a design perspective, we look deeper than that and realize that the stronger and more technologically-advanced side has lost in the past, with sheer destruction often failing to achieve policy and strategic goals,” Arquilla continued. “The key takeaway here is that design matters ... It is important not only to look at the great strategic successes in war, but also to look at the failures of design.”

The monograph has been sent out to leading military educational institutions and selected communities in defense and intelligence, both U.S. agencies and our allies, which have “provided a lot of enthusiastic feedback and support from those who have read it so far,” Arquilla notes.

“This monograph really points to the importance of design here at NPS which is something that is a well-kept secret that we are really trying to make much more visible,” added Roberts. “We have many students here really interested in design, and we would like to put NPS on the map especially for our work in strategic design. It would be our value-added contribution to the design community. Our network of contacts make us uniquely-positioned to be a hub in strategic design for issues of defense and national security.”

With the completion of the monograph, Arquilla and Roberts are moving to publish a second study on grand strategy that is currently in the works. It will look at the history of grand strategy, over an expanded period, from different perspectives, countries and military situations with hopes of adding a design perspective.

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Today@NPS showcases some of the speakers, conferences, experiments, lectures, and other events that take place at the Naval Postgraduate School on a daily basis. If you would like more information about any of the highlighted activities please contact the public affairs office at pao@nps.edu.

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September 2017

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