The Revolution in Military Affairs: A Partial Timeline (+links)

1-DsQVZN-wu89sU1xgHjIQ6w“A Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies which, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational and organisational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations.” – Andrew Marshall

“The RMA depends not only on technological developments, such as computer and information systems, but also on the new forms of labor – mobile, flexible, immaterial forms of social labor… In these respects RMA is an anticipation and an extrapolation of the recent transformations of social labor, casting the economic figures into the field of battle.” – Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude



  • Andrew Marshall graduates with a degree in economics at the University of Chicago.
  • Andrew Marshall goes to work at the Cowles Commission at the University of Chicago, applying game theory to economic problems. [For more on the Cowles Commission, see “Goodbye to Complexity?”]


  • The RAND Corporation begins subsidizing the Cowles Commission. The relationship is furthered by sharing researchers and co-hosting seminars and talks together. Important individuals who straddled both included Kenneth Arrow, Gerard Debreu, and Herbert Simon.
  • Andrew Marshall continues his work on game theory by taking a position at RAND Corporation. He eventually becomes close to Herman Kahn, James Schlesinger, and Albert Wohlstetter.


  • The Ford Foundation begins heavily subsidizing the RAND Corporation. The dynamic relationship arose from the fact that the Foundation’s president, H. Rowan Gaither, was a key figure in RAND’s internal bureaucracy.
  • Albert Wohlstetter joins the RAND Corporation.
  • Paul Nitze becomes Director of Policy Planning at the State Department.
  • A National Security Council study group chaired by Paul Nitze pens NSC-68, a top secret policy paper arguing for increased peace time spending, the defense of the Western hemisphere, and offensive operations to destroy bases of Soviet power.
  • The Committee on Present Danger is founded to lobby for the arguments contained in NSC-68.


  • Deterence and Survival in the Nuclear Age, penned by H. Rowan Gaither, is presented to President Eisenhower.
  • Following the Gaither Report, President Eisenhower commissions several studies dealing with civil defense and nuclear weaponry; one commission, the Security Resources Panel, is chaired by H. Rowan Gaither. Other members include Robert A. Lovett and John C. McCloy, James R. Killian, and Paul H. Nitze, with Albert Wohlstetter, Herman Kahn, and Andrew Marshall serving as advisers. The Commission launches critique on Eisenhower’s national security policies, demanding higher defense spending, massive ICBM build-up, and a reorganizing of the Department of Defense. The notion of a “missile gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union is also a reoccurring theme for the Commission. [For more on the Gaither Commission and the missile gap, see “Reading Notes from S.M. Amadae’s ‘Rationalizing Democracy’”]


  • Presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy begins using the idea of the missile gap as a key talking point in his campaign strategy.


  • John F. Kennedy is elected president.
  • Robert McNamara becomes President Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense. He begins importing a host of strategists and thinkers from RAND into the Pentagon.
  • President Kennedy and Robert McNamara beginning transitioning away from a “massive retaliation” model of warfare, instead focusing on the possibilities for “flexible response.” Part of this agenda is McNamara’s utilization of systems analysis, developed at RAND through their work on game theory, into the everyday functioning of the military’s command and control.
  • Herman Kahn and several other thinkers from the RAND Corporation found the Hudson Institute. There he continues his work on “scenario forecasting,” simulations designed to help create decisions in unpredictable environments.


  • The Gulf of Tonkin incident takes place. Retaliatory strikes begin.


  • As the Viet Cong’s military activity increase, Robert McNamara begins escalating troop deployments and conducts bombing campaigns in North Vietnam.


  • Robert McNamara is given a paper by Roger Fisher proposing an “electronic barrier” in South Vietnam that would deploy series of electronic sensors and data processors to assist in the coordination of air strikes.
  • Robert McNamara tasks the newly formed Defense Communications Planning Group with implementing the “electronic barrier” system.



  • Albert Wohlstetter introduces Richard Perle, a friend and classmate of his daughter, to his student Paul Wolfowitz.
  • Richard Nixon is elected president.


  • Futurists Ted Newland and Pierre Wack begin deploying the scenario forecasting designed by Herman Kahn at RAND and the Hudson Institute at Royal Dutch Shell’s Group Planning Office.


  • Under the guidance of Albert Wohlstetter, Paul Wolfowitz graduates with a doctoral degree from the University of Chicago.
  • Senator Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson founds the Coalition for a Democratic Majority. The bulk of the organization’s membership comes from the AFL-CIO labor union and the Social Democrats USA – of which Jackson staffers Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz have become acquainted with. [For more on the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, the AFL-CIO and the SD/USA, see “From Socialism to Neoliberalism: A Story of Capture (Part 2 of 2)”]


  • President Nixon establishes an internal Pentagon think-tank, the Office of Net Assessment, to study future paradigms for warfare. Andrew Marshall is appointed as its first director.


  • In a paper titled “Is There A Strategic Arms Race?” Albert Wohlstetter accuses the CIA of underestimating the Soviet’s missile stockpiles. The viewpoint is picked up and propagated by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
  • President Nixon resigns, Gerald Ford becomes president.


  • President Ford conducts his “Halloween Massacre,” reorganizing much of his organization. George H.W. Bush becomes CIA director, Donald Rumsfeld becomes Secretary of Defense, and Dick Cheney becomes Chief of Staff.


  • George H.W. Bush establishes “Team B” to independently verify the agency’s intel on Soviet armaments. Members include Paul Nitze and Paul Wolfowitz, while Andrew Marshall maneuvers the Office of Net Assessment into close comity with the study group.
  • Members of Team B, particularly Paul Nitze, reestablish the Committee on the Present Danger. They tap the Coalition for a Democratic Majority as a support base. Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz are both members. [For more on Team B, the Committee on Present Danger and the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, see “From Socialism to Neoliberalism: A Story of Capture (Part 2 of 2)”]


  • Francis Fukuyama joins the RAND Corporation.


  • Ronald Reagan is elected president. A number of Committee on the Present Danger receive positions in his administration, including George Schultz, William Casey, Fred Ikle, Richard Perle, and over twenty other.



  • The Santa Fe Institute is founded to examine the relationship between disparate topics such as biology, computer engineering, artificial intelligence, and economics to complexity theory. Kenneth Arrow, formerly of RAND and the Cowles Commission, is a member.


  • Peter Schwartz, building on the tactics devised by Herman Kahn and those used at the Royal Dutch Shell Planning Group, co-founds the Global Business Network – an“information hunting and gathering” consulting company for large corporations. Among those closely affiliated with the Global Business Network is Kevin Kelly, a developer for the Whole World ‘Lectronic Link and writer and editor for Wired magazine.


  • Albert Wohlstetter and Fred Ikle, another alumnus of the RAND Corporation, establish the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy. High-profile members include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and Samuel Huntington; Andrew Marshall is present as a researcher.
  • A report titled “Discriminate Deterrence” is drafted by the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy. The report stresses the emergence informative, communicative, flexible, and technologically-enhanced modes of warfare.


  • George H.W. Bush is elected president.
  • Dick Cheney becomes the United States Secretary of Defense.
  • Paul Wolfowitz becomes the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
  • The RAND Corporation publishes Francis Fukuyama’ essay “Have We Reached the End of History,” which utilizes Hegelian dialectic to argue that the “end of history” is marked by the triumph of liberal democracy.
  • The GNAT-750, a reconnaissance drone, is launched.


  • Dick Cheney tasks Paul Wolfowitz with drafting a policy guidelines paper. Wolfowitz and other staffers begin holding meetings with outside analysts, including Richard Perle, Albert Wohlstetter, and Andrew Marshall.
  • Paul Wolfowitz completes a draft of the Defense Planning Guidance, calling for, among other things, increased military spending, preemptive strikes to check the rise of other powers, and American unilateralism.
  • Francis Fukuyama publishes The End of History and the Last Man, a book-length adaptation of his earlier RAND essay.


  • President Clinton appoints R. James Woolsey as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.


  • Admiral William Owens, a proponent of the Revolution in Military Affairs and close associate of Andrew Marshall, becomes vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He begins upgrading military hardware and software to reflect the transition to information warfare.
  • Kevin Kelly publishes Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World, an examination of complexity and emergence with a particular focus on self-organizing patterns in the social and natural worlds. Popularizing the term “swarm,” Out of Control is based primarily on Kelly’s interactions with researchers at the Santa Fe Institute. [For more on the relationship between Kevin Kelly, Santa Fe, and swarming, see “Goodbye to Complexity?”]
  • The Predator drone, a variation of the GNAT-750, makes its first flight.


  • Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence Emmett Paige, Jr. defines “information warfare” as “Actions taken to achieve information superiority by affecting adversary information, information-based processes, information systems, and computer-based networks while defending one’s own information, information-based processes, information systems, and computer-based networks.”
  • The first usage of the Predator drone in a combat zone takes place during the Balkans conflict under the auspices of the CIA’s LOFTY VIEW program.


  • The Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issues Joint Vision 2010, “the conceptual template for how we will channel the vitality of our people and leverage technological opportunities to achieve new levels of effectiveness in joint warfighting…”
  • Emmet Paige, Jr.’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence sponsors a RAND study into informative, network-centric warfare. The result is John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt’s The Advent of Netwar, defining the concept as a “blurring the line between peace and war, offense and defense, and combatant and non-combatant” as made possible by information technologies.


  • The Project for the New American Century is founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan. A neoconservative lobbying outfit and think-tank, members include Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Fred Ikle, Francis Fukuyama, Abram Shulsky, R. James Woolsey, and many others.
  • The RAND Corporation publishes a report by Francis Fukuyama and Abram N. Shulsky (a former affiliate of the Office of Net Assessment) on the Revolution in Military Affairs titled The “Virtual Corporation” and Army Organization. In it, they observe the evolution of the form of corporation through the introduction of information technologies and networks, and urge the armed forces to learn and adapt from these transformation.


  • The Project for the New American Century sends a letter to President Bill Clinton, urging him to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
  • Vice Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, a follower of Andrew Marshall, and John H. Garstka publish “Network-Centric Warfare – Its Origins and Futures”. They cite Wal-Mart’s total information awareness, made possible by advanced sensor grids and point-of-sale scanners, as a model of real-time data monitoring that is essential for the military’s Revolution in Military Affairs.


  • The Swarm Development Group is launched by members of the Santa Fe Institute. It received heavy funding from the Department of Defense’s Joint Warfare Analysis Center.
  • The RAND Corporation publishes John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt’s In Athena’s Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age. They call for the creation of a “Mesh,” a dense grid-work of sensors that allow aircrafts and drones to coordinate precision strikes through real-time data monitoring and sharing.


  • The Project for the New American Century publishes “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources for a New Century”. Among the key recommendations the report issues is utilization of the Revolution in Military Affairs, and Paul Wolfowitz’s 1992 report is cited as a key inspiration.
  • The RAND Corporation publishes John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt’s Swarming and the Future of Conflict, describing the ways that coordination through information technologies allows for ‘swarming,’ in which actors can operate in a non-linear and dispersed form with high speed and flexibility. They credit Kevin Kelly and his book Out of Control as being the first to bring “swarm networks” to their attention.
  • The Department of Defense updates Joint Vision 2010 with Joint Vision 2020, emphasizing the importance of “Full Spectrum Dominance” – “the ability of US forces, operating unilaterally or in combination with multinational and interagency partners, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the full range of military operations.”


  • George W. Bush is elected into office. Numerous principles from the Project for the New American Century take key places in his administration and cabinet: Dick Cheney (vice president), Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense), Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Secretary of Defense and later president of the World Bank), Richard Perle (chairman of the Defense Policy Advisory Board), Francis Fukuyama (member of the President’s Council on Bioethics),etc.
  • Donald Rumsfeld begins putting into his place his interpretation of the Revolution in Military Affairs, the so-called “Rumsfeld Doctrine.” This included the outsourcing of many military functions to private contractors, a renewed focused on technological innovation, the streamlining of Pentagon bureaucracy, among other things.
  • The events of September 11th take place.
  • Donald Rumsfeld establishes the Office of Force Transformation and puts Vice Admiral Arthur Cebrowski in charge of it.
  • President George Bush signs the PATRIOT Act into law, while secretly authorizing the NSA to monitor domestic communications.
  • DARPA’s Total Information Awareness program is launched to provide a full-spectrum knowledge base through the interconnection of hundred of databanks, communication monitoring, facial recognition software, and statistical reasoning. One key aspect of the program is the Policy Analysis Market, which would have allowed bets to be placed on terrorist attacks and other political events in the Middle East, thereby allowing individuals to profit from these incidents.
  • The Predator drone is equipped with missile technology.
  • The RAND Corporation publishes the John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt-edited volume Networks and Netwar: The Future of Crime, Terror, and Militancy.


  • Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz establish the Office of Special Plans to examine supposed links between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Abram Shulsky is appointed as head.
  • The CIA begins its drone warfare program.


  • The invasion of Iraq begins.
  • Blackwater, a private security firm, is deployed in Iraq.
  • The Total Information Awareness program is scuttled after outcry from both within the government and the public.
  • General Stanley McChrystal becomes commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.


  • George Schultz and R. James Woolsey re-launch the Committee on the Present Danger.


  • The NSA launches the Real Time Regional Gateway to monitor, store, and analyze bulk communications across Iraq.


  • The NSA’s PRISM program is launched, building on the advances of the Real Time Regional Gateway.


  • Barack Obama is elected president.
  • The US Naval Air Command awards a $1.3 million contract to Augusta Systems to design information networks capable of mobilizing drone swarms. According to Augusta System’s president, This network can help the Navy to achieve important technology objectives, including system interoperability, network-centric operations and the enhancement of its unmanned vehicle capabilities.”
  • President Obama extends the role of the Joint Special Operations Command, allowing them to operate in a variety of countries while also expanding their drone warfare program. This program is known to have worked in tandem with the NSA’s PRISM program.
  • Blackwater is renamed Xe and begins working with the CIA’s drone program.


  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemini-US citizen, is killed by a drone strike carried out in a joint effort between the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command. Two weeks later, his son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki is killed.
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemini-US citizen, is killed by a drone strike carried out in a joint effort between the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command. Two weeks later, his son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki is killed.
  • Stanley McChrystal publishes an article titled “It Takes a Network” in Foreign Policy, detailing the transformation of the Joint Special Operations Command in a networked force to counter-act al-Qaeda’s own network form.


  • Drones begin flying over American civilian airspace.


  • Edward Snowden, a contractor from Booz Allen Hamilton working at the NSA, leaks details of the PRISM program.


  • The nation-building program in Iraq begins to crumble under attacks from the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant.


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5 Responses to The Revolution in Military Affairs: A Partial Timeline (+links)

  1. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    A very helpful resource

  2. S.C. Hickman says:

    Reblogged this on alien ecologies and commented:
    Edmund brings a Timeline to the Madness abroad in US Foreign Policy… The Age of Drones is Upon Us…

  3. Brian Holmes says:

    Edmund, this is an important direction for all your studies. Only the analysis of militarized tehnological and organizational development allows one to understand the dynamics of contemporary capitalism. But I can see why you termed the timeline “partial”! You’ve focused on the neocons. They are part of the story but there are at least two massive holes in it. One is Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (aka Star Wars) and the other is the Gulf War.

    The best thing I ever read about SDI is Castells’ treatment in what I consider his most original and synthetic book, The Informational City (lousy dijvu copy available online, or get it from the library). Castells shows how the US used massively debt-financed military spending to do the same kind of job as Japan’s MITI, namely use state money to orchestrate a fresh round of technological development after the stagnation of the 1970s. The system of missile defense was never completed but that was not the point. Instead the entire semiconductor and microelectronics industry was fostered and the new generation of cruise missiles and laser-guided bombs was developed, alongside GPS and networked communications. The first two technologies (self-guided missiles and bombs) were the big stars of the Gulf War and inaugurated the idea of the US as a “hyperpower”; the second two really took off in its wake, as the “peace dividend” was declared by Clinton and much of the Cold War military establishment began seeking civilian contracts.

    The mid-90’s Internet boom is unimaginable without SDI and the Gulf War (which Cebrowski fought in btw). And yet that economic expansion itself, in the global space cleared by the fall of the USSR and the show of force in the Gulf War, is what fundamentally changed the game, as you can see in the adulatory treatment of Wal-Mart in the Network-Centric Warfare article and in the book as well ( Of course there is a circular relationship there: the kind of computerized logistics that emerged in the 90’s was spurred by the Gulf War itself and by one of its most remarkable figures, Gus Pagonis, who was the logistics mastermind of the war and went on to rescue and reinvent the Sears corporation. The key to this logistics breakthrough – and to all networked business models – is real-time information. It allows businesses to go beyond the kinds of simulations deployed by J.W. Forrester, and instead deal directly with the whole hazardous, contingent, foggy world of actual interactions in environments that one does not fully control.

    Your timeline is confusing for the same reason that the present world is confusing: it straddles two distinct periods, the postwar era stretching up to 1973/1979, and the neoliberal era that followed (and perhaps ended in 2001/08). As close readers and analysts, both of us see a fundamental distinction between the kind of logic (or indeed, epistemology) that prevailed in the latter period and the kind that was at work in the 50s and 60s, in something like Operation Igloo White, for example. With Igloo White, the point is to achieve closure by transforming the environment according to the idealized dictates of the machine: blow up anything that moves within the grid. With Santa Fe style complex adaptive systems, the point is to expand adventitiously into every space of possibility opened up by new information flows. You cover this distinction quite well in your piece on SAGE but it is somehow missing here. I think the reason lies in a contradiction at the heart of the whole neocon/US-imperial project.

    In effect, the neocons seem to row in both directions at once, pushing network centric warfare while at the same time believing in the kind of closed-world, total-mastery paradigm that was exemplified by Igloo White (or by the current NSA program, for that matter). How could they do any else, if they wanted to restore the conditions of the so-called “American (half-)century”? A pyramidal power structure needs growth dynamics to survive, but it cannot be maintained by anything but informational closure and command-and-control. The story of the RMA is the story of exactly this dilemma. As such, it is waiting to be told.

    best, Brian

    • edmundberger says:

      Hi Brian! Yeah, calling the timeline ‘partial’ was for two reasons, the first of which is that is literally incomplete, with more to be added to it over time (it started as some personal notes for on article on ISIS I’m working on for a website). The other reason is precisely because I decided to focus on neoconservatism. It seems to me that we can’t call Obama and his administration proper “neoconservative,” America’s foreign policy continues to follow the neoconservative template. Furthermore, we’re seeing the return of many of the key neoconservative intellectuals and scholars in the wake of the events in Syria, Iraq, and now Jordan – and I’ll suspect that this trend will intensify in through the run-ups to the elections in 2016. Aside from this, neoconservatism is the perfect lens to view the disjunction laying at the heart of neoliberal capitalism: global information openness vs. total information awareness, with its roots in the cybernetic modes of warfare deployed in Vietnam. Other predecessors of this can also be found deep in the prehistory of neoconservative, when Communists like Jay Lovestone ‘went liberal’ and, with support from the CIA and the AFL-CIO, established a ‘capitalist international’ of sorts that was at once transnationalist in nature yet intimately bound to American foreign policy imperatives and the big business that it represented. In fact, I think without understanding this particular history, we can’t properly grasp the dynamics in Henry Jackson’s courtship of the Shatchmanites and the Social Democrats USA, and their own collision course with the Reagan administration.

      Looking at the military’s technological developments, embodied by the RMA, is completely and utterly bound to the growth of neoconservative, but it, of course, cannot be reduced to it. But by placing the two in parallel trajectories, we can grasp the machinery beyond the machine – the political, the sociological, the extra-technological components: the military-industrial complex in its most nuanced fashion. You mentioned SDI – I’ve actually been doing some reading about the various ‘private sector’ (in quotes because of the murky byways between the private and public sector that really make these types of areas gray zones) that lobbied for Star Wars and supported through the 80s. The most prominent of these was High Frontier, founded by Daniel Graham, a veteran of the intelligence community and a Team B member; Graham was the also chairman of the Coalition for the Strategic Defense Initiative, which interlocked heavily with High Frontier. But this coalition was actually established by the National Coalition for Peace through Strength (also chaired by Graham) – an umbrella group that aimed for grassroots political mobilization based around the ideas being propagated in the Committee on the Present Danger – Team B – Coalition for a Democratic Majority circuits; things become even more tangled and confusing when one considers that the Coalition for Peace through Strength was launched by the American Security Council, which had been bringing together representatives from the military and intelligence community with business interests since the 1950s. I mentioned them briefly in my essay on the SD/USA:

      “[Henry] Jackson himself was deeply entrenched in the corridors that linked big money to politics – after all, his nickname, “the senator from Boeing,” was derived from his cozy relationship with the defense contractor back in his days on the Senate Armed Forces Committee.xli Jackson had also been a reoccurring attendee to the little known National Military-Industrial Conferences, launched in 1955 by a partnership between the hard-right American Security Council (ASC) and two organizations that Dumhoff would later identify as being centers for the ‘isolationist’ divisions of the power elite – the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.xlii These series of conferences sought to bring together and help network participants from the National Security Council and the Pentagon with representative from corporations such as United Fruit, the Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, Honeywell, and Sears Roebuck.”

      Its all very confusing and messy, but I think its all essential to consider in long march to now (and what comes next). One can track the movements, look at these groups, the individuals, and the businesses they represent, and watch what technology is being lobbied for (and under what geopolitical rubric), and asses the changes that this technology engenders as it proliferates and evolves (as I tried to do in the SAGE piece). It seems that we always get looped back to that contradiction, the dialect of the sovereign and the network. Or maybe there is no contradiction, as Anne-Marie Slaughter and others would tell us – that network and sovereignty are not only compatible, but each furthers the other. I think it points to the nature of the crisis at the heart of neoliberalism, whose perpetual re-occurrence really seems to be the unseen driver of so much of this.

      One last thing – I didn’t add anything about the SDI and the Gulf War because, honestly, I’m not too knowledgeable of either other than a general history. I’ve picking up the Castells’ book on Monday – do you have any other recommendations on either topic?

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