Nr 4-5   2010

The Demise of RMA

With little fanfare, the concept known as Revolution in Military Affairs, or RMA, finally left the stage in early August. As part of an effort to save $100bn over five years by reducing administrative costs and the number of consultants, and eliminating redundant organizations, Secretary Gates of the US DoD proposed that several organizations dealing with networks and information be closed. One such organization, with which Sweden has had extensive interaction, is the Networks and Information Integration Office, including the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. The savings will go into the budget for operations, and the proposal seems likely to pass smoothly through Congress.

The RMA concept, originally developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s (see, for instance, A. A. Gretchko, The Armed Forces of the Soviet State (in Russian), 1975), was based on the idea that full situational awareness through extensive networking and information superiority could somehow reduce requirements on protection and firepower.  Major programs based on the RMA concept were launched in several countries, e.g. the Future Combat System (FCS) in the US, the Future Rapid Effects System (FRES) in the UK, and the Ledsyst program in Sweden.

These programs all ran into problems for at least three reasons. Events in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that heavily armored vehicles still were vitally important, in particular in urban environments. The programs cut across all the services, aiming for jointness and interoperability, and thus faced resistance from service-specific programs. Finally, several of the programs, all of which were hugely software-intensive (95 million lines of the code in the case of the FCS program) generated severe cost overruns.

Requirements on interoperability and jointness will obviously remain, but are likely to be increasingly handled by interaction among the services, and less through some superior, coordinating body.

Gunnar Hult

Chairman, Swedish Military Technology Association