Archived Red Team Journal Mission (1998)

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The following is the Red Team Journal mission as posted on the site in 1998. For better or worse, it still applies today. (We even dug up an old RTJ banner!)


In spite of growing readiness problems, the U.S. military remains without peer. It is the best-trained, best-equipped force in the world. Its budget is larger than the next five largest defense budgets combined. It fields technologies many forces won’t acquire until well into the next century, if ever.
      Yet today the United States is more vulnerable to attack than perhaps ever before. The same complex latticework of technology that powers our cities and yields dominant awareness on the battlefield masks an abundance of critical leverage points. A knowing adversary can target these points with potentially spectacular effect. Pick a card and pull. The house comes down.
      Red Team Journal seeks to enhance U.S. national security by exploring these non-traditional threats and strategies. It is founded on four premises:

  1. Complex systems often produce unexpected behavior. The economy, the human immune system, and a carrier battle group are all examples of complex systems. As a rule, such systems display emergent behavior that cannot be fully understood by reducing the system to its constituent parts. One corollary of this premise is that increasingly complex military systems introduce a greater level of uncertainty to the battlefield. A second corollary is that the future is inherently unpredictable.
  2. Technology brings about new vulnerabilities and new dependencies. As the historian Edward Tenner has observed, technology has a way of biting us back. This is not to argue that technology is always counterproductive, merely that we rarely calculate its net effects beyond the most immediate and tangible measures of performance. Such calculations typically overlook the complicated opportunity costs involved in making modern war.
  3. Future adversaries will adopt new and unexpected ways of countering U.S. technological superiority. Some competitors may counter U.S. technologies directly. Others may do so asymmetrically. Whatever the case, the lessons of biological evolution tell us that complex adaptive systems can be remarkably clever at preserving themselves.
  4. People count. While technology undergirds nearly every activity, both military and civil, the human factor remains pivotal. A poorly trained, unmotivated military force is of little practical use even when matched with the latest weapons. High tech and low morale just don’t mix, although low tech and high morale often do.

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