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Paper No. 10-17

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L Dodd and JQ Smith

Devolving Command Decisions in Complex Operations

Date: August 2010

Abstract: In contemporary military endeavours, Command and Control (C2) arrangements generally aim to ensure an appropriate regulation of command-decision autonomy such that decision-takers are able to act in a way that is consistent with the overall set of commanders' intents and according to the nature of the unfolding situation. This can be a challenge, especially in situations with increasing degrees of uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity, also where individual commanders are faced with conicting objectives. Increasingly it seems that command decisions are being taken under conditions of internal command contention; for example, when the likely successful outcome of a tactical mission can often be at odds with the overall strategic and political aims of the campaign. The work in the paper builds on our previous research in decision-taking under uncertainty and conicting objectives, where we analysed the responses of military commanders in decision experiments. We demonstrated how multi-attribute utility theory could be used to represent and understand the effects of uncertainty and conicting objectives on a particular commander's choices. In this paper, we further develop and generalise the theory to show that the geometrical forms of expected utilities, which arise from the assumption of commander rationality, are qualitatively stable in a wide range of scenarios. This opens out into further analysis linking to Catastrophe Theory as it relates to C2 regulatory frameworks for devolving command decision freedoms. We demonstrate how an appreciation of this geometry can aid understanding of the relationship between socially complex operational environments and the prevailing C2, which can also inform selection and training of personnel, to address issues of devolving command decision-rights, as appropriate for the endeavour as a whole. The theory presented in the paper, therefore, provides a means to explore and gain insight into different approaches to regulation of C2 decision-taking aimed ultimately at achieving C2 agility, or at least at a conceptual language to allow its formal representation. C2 regulatory agents are discussed in terms of detailed functions for moderating command decision-taking, as appropriate for the degrees of uncertainty and goal contention being faced. The work also begins to address implications of any lack of experience and any differences in personality-type of the individual commanders with respect to risk-taking, open-minded-ness and creativity.