Center for Strategic Decision Research


The Network Revolution: Why It Is Important

Lieutenant General Johan Kihl
Chief of Staff, Supreme Commander's Headquarters,
Swedish Armed Forces

Lieutenant General Johan Kihl
"With the help of technology, we can now put most of our money into...command and control systems and less into engagement systems."



There are two reasons for transformation, and I think it is important to distinguish between them. One reason, of course, is the change in our security environment, the new threats. But the other one is technology development, which is a separate issue. It is a coincidence that both changes are happening at the same time, but the need for network-centric forces has not come about because of the change in the environment. However the change in the environment demands a restructuring of the armed forces. 

What does transformation mean to us? It means a change in the structure of the armed forces. In the old days, during the Cold War, we used most of our money to buy a good deal of equipment for engagement systems. This was necessary; it was essential to prove to the enemy that it was never worth attacking a small country like ours because they would lose a lot more than they could gain. 

Today, as we face many uncertainties, we need a totally different structure. And with the help of technology, we can now put most of our money into information systems and command and control systems, and less into engagement systems. We can connect those three elements into a network that ensures our information superiority, and we can give information to someone who can make a decision about it and who can send in some kind of engagement system. If you have that kind of network and can use it in real time, or very close to real time, then you have an advantage. During the Cold War we had additional forces just in case; today we have just enough forces and that is a big change. 

What kind of forces do we need? What are the demands? We need forces with flexibility and mobility. We need joint forces, especially for small states. Exclusive systems are no longer viable in the future. They must be connected to each other as one whole system. 


Though people have been talking at the workshop about connecting platforms, we see the system in a much broader way. We need to look not only at platforms but at every service you can get from the platforms; then you can see how much you can use and the way you can use it. In Sweden, we don’t talk about the military network, we talk about the network. It is a totally new playing field for the armed forces. But is it possible to keep up with the U.S. with this type of network? Yes, it is— not in all respects, but that is not necessary for other states. In command and control it is necessary, because then you can talk to each other. 

Interoperability is of course essential. But we are not only talking about interoperability with other nations; we are talking about interoperability with other agencies. We need that in order to be sure we have home security. The problem is not technical; it is in people’s minds. This is revolutionary, and people must realize that it is a new way of commanding troops, a new kind of tactic, a new way to organize units and systems. But we need to take part in many more exercises to be able to handle it, maybe every day; we must live in this network. 

A number of people are skeptical about this net-centricity. I am not trying to convince them, because it does not matter what you or I think about network-centric defense; it will be put into use all over the world. We will all live in information-based societies. In fact, most of us are already living in them, and the rest will do so soon. So, no matter what we believe, we must accept it. And if we take advantage of it, then we can be very good actors in the future. 























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