WASHINGTON: A combat patrol is four soldiers walking, under orders to look for trouble and react to it. For most of modern history, infantry squads have been the military’s principal sensors, forcing an enemy to respond, allowing American forces to judge the situation and respond. But that is an always risky, often bloody way to generate intelligence.
“Essentially, you are asking them to troll for trouble,” the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Hoss Cartwright, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies today.

But the squad’s role is changing, part of a monumental shift underway in the US military, as enormously powerful computers gather data from a huge array of sources and turn that data into predictive tools. Keep reading →

The Army has launched a major effort to strengthen its seven thousand infantry squads — an effort that will require overcoming cultural and bureaucratic resistance to succeed. Light-infantry traditionalists will have to get over their longstanding suspicion of digital technology both on the battlefield and in training, which will increasingly rely on simulations. Tech geeks will have to get past their reflex to throw a new gadget at every problem, because soldiers simply can’t carry any more gear than they already do. And everyone will have to get used to the idea that their funding might be taken away and given to someone with a better idea, with programs as different as weapons development and training courses potentially in competition. Keep reading →