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Network-Centric Warfare: The Problem of Social Order

1 June 2005
Lieutenant Colonel David Schmidtchen

Network-centric warfare (NCW) is becoming the dominant logic of current and future military operations. Network-enabling technologies bring with them a dramatic increase in the quantity of information, the need for constant interaction and a demand for greater organisational transparency. These network characteristics will raise important questions about the cultural assumptions held by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the wider Department of Defence. The pressure on the military workforce and the organisational systems that support it has never been greater. In short, the organisational means on which the ADF has relied to maintain social order are being challenged.

Profiting from the opportunities afforded by new technologies is never as simple as it first appears. The link between technology and social order is subtle, active, and intimately linked to successful change management. The ADF's ability to become an adaptive, versatile and flexible force depends on the workforce's capacity to absorb and integrate new technology. In turn, the workforce's capacity for change depends on the social architecture of the organisation—the organisational systems that allow the workforce to adapt to changing circumstances. It is these systems of social order that NCW threatens directly.

This working paper explores the effect of network-enabling technologies on social order in the Defence Department. It outlines the macro drivers of social order. It then sets up a framework for understanding where network-enabling technologies will challenge the Defence Department's prevailing social order. It closes with the claim that, if Defence leaders are to find a path through the social and organisational paradoxes of NCW, they must understand the philosophical questions that NCW poses.

Last updated
9 December 2017
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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