10/27/2002

COMMON OPERATIONAL PERCEPTION


By Chris Adams
LAMSA Weapon Systems

Common Operational Perception is a concept that will revolutionize law enforcement, augment military practices, and generally make life much tougher for the bad guys. That concept is Common Operational Perception. This is not to be confused with Unity of Purpose or any of the other operational phrases that generally refer to everybody going in the same direction understanding what needs to be done once they get there.

For starters, a Common Operational Perception occurs when all of the players on one side of a conflict have the same understanding of what the obstacles, dangers, and potentials to be exploited are. Furthermore, this is not a snapshot of these factors such as looking at a map of troops before jumping out of a plane in Operation Market Garden or some other great military disaster. This information is delivered to all the players in real time via the use of technology.

Some of you may be thinking that this was achieved with the advent of the radio. While the radio was a step in the right direction, it was only part of the journey. In fact, we have all been waiting to make that next step towards this Holy Grail since..... 1209 AD.

That''s right, in 1209 Genghis Khan and his ''Mongol Horde'' attacked Northern China. Using the strengths that most people would agree constitutes a modern army, Khan and his Generals overran much of that region. In fact, the original plan had been to completely depopulate the continent and use it for grazing Mongol horses, but an advisor talked Khan out of it by advising him that living Chinese would pay more taxes than dead ones.

Over a period of 32 years, the Mongols overran much of Russia, the Middle East, and were beginning to work on Eastern Europe when they stopped and returned home. Luckily for Europe, Ogadin (Genghis Khan''s third son) died before the invasion of Europe could start, and the Mongols returned home for the funeral. After that, they preferred to attack further into Russia. Were it not for that, there may be no Eiffel Tower and no civilization as we know it.

The effectiveness of their military doctrine was only exceeded by the viciousness of the aftermath. In Harat, the Mongols slaughtered 1,600,000 in 1220 AD. In Nishapur, they dispatched some 1,747,000 victims. Needless to say, everyone in the world that was aware of the Mongols was terrified of them.

Why were the Mongols so effective? The Mongol warrior of the time was actually physically smaller than his counterparts in Russia, the Middle East, and Europe. Mongols did carry superior bows, but since they were often outnumbered, this was not a deciding factor. No, the secret was communication. From hilltops Mongol Generals could control the actions of tens, hundreds, even thousands of troops via flag signals sent to commanders in the field. In a time when most warfare did not differ much from a bar fight; this gave the Mongols a tremendous advantage. They had Unity of Purpose, and they had it even before the final fall of the Eastern Roman Empire.

On to Common Operational Perception. Yes, radios were a step in the right direction. Then again, how many individuals will describe a situation in exactly the same way? How many law enforcement officers have watched a car pass by that was just described to them because the person who described it saw the color differently or did not call out the right manufacturer? How many military commanders have found themselves baffled trying to find something that has been described to them on a radio?

This is where technology is going to start a new era for military and law enforcement forces alike. Wireless video technologies, long range surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicles, and wireless computer networks are already delivering the first generation of a Common Operational Perception to military forces. With this, troops not only understand what they are instructed to do, but also what the challenges are; and they are updated in real time. The ability to share images of the area of operations will brief troops on enemy troop movements, potential traps, and potential enemy weaknesses. When combined with the ability to get live feedback on these images and other perspectives from subject matter experts, command staff, and other soldiers in the field, this gives a distinct advantage.

Many in the law enforcement community will say that this is fantastic, but that law enforcement usually trails the military in adopting technology by about fifteen years or more. In this case, the adoption of this technology will be much faster. There are several reasons for this, but the most important is money.

A Common Operational Perception will lead to fewer mistakes in potentially lethal situations. Fewer mistakes will lead to fewer injured personnel; fewer injured or killed suspects; and less property damage. This in turn means less money paid out in benefits, fewer lawsuits against government agencies, and fewer payouts. In short, the motivation to put the technology in place is greater than the resistance to new ideas.

As for the technology to do this for law enforcement; I''m already building it. The development of the Cyber Command Post has been ongoing for a year with local, state, and federal agency input. Watch for market entry of this system later this year and for an ensuing parade of new technologies that will change the way critical incidents are handled.

Think of this article as a heads up of what''s coming. Start thinking about how this ability to have heretofore unbelievable commonality and augmentation of situational awareness will affect law enforcement, military, and you. I think that you will be very pleased with what you see. I only hope that the next major jump after this one doesn''t take another 761 years.

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Chris Adams is Managing Director of LAMSA Weapon Systems and a contributor to PoliceOne.

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