The Army's Training and
Doctrine commander challenged
military, industry and academic
leaders attending the Mad Scientist
Conference, Monday, Aug. 8 and
Tuesday, Aug. 9, to think differently
about the future.
"There's a preoccupation
with trying to predict the future,"
said Gen. David G. Perkins,
TRADOC commander. He challenged
the group assembled at
Georgetown University to describe
the future --
not predict it.
"That sounds like a nuance,
but actually it's a significant nuance,"
Perkins said. He explained
that describing the future requires
having a well-rounded understanding
of the environment. It means
understanding the changing variables
and not "hardwiring" a solution.
During the conference,
these "mad scientists" are tasked
with describe the strategic security
environment in 2050. The Mad
Scientist initiative is co-sponsored
by the Chief of Staff of the Army's
Strategic Studies Group,
TRADOC, and the Georgetown
University Center for Security
This is the second year a
group has met in Georgetown for
this ongoing intelligence initiative.
Speakers include Chief of Staff of
the Army Gen. Mark Milley, along
with the editor of Popular Science
Magazine, the president of FutureScout
LLC, the director of the
Australian War Research Center
and representatives from universities
across the country.
Perkins told the group that
he's not looking for innovative
ideas. What he wants is innovation,
which he defined that as turning
critical thinking "into valued outcome."
The Army has no lack of
innovative thinking, he said, but
because of bureaucracy and an allor-
nothing mentality, it's often difficult
to follow through on
innovative ideas. In business, many
companies with innovative ideas
have gone bankrupt, he said, because
they couldn't bring those
ideas to market.
One of the things that characterize
innovative companies is a
high rate of collaboration, he said.
That's what the conference is all
The military often has an
"obsessive-compulsive nature to
get everything digital," he said.
"What happens is we miss opportunities
to shape the future. We get
consumed with responding to the
A different way of approaching
the future would be to
ask the question, "What puts the
U.S. Army at an advantage?"
"We don't do as good a job
thinking two moves ahead, especially
if we're successful," Perkins
said about the military. He said
success tends to hardwire a tactic
or technique and make it permanent.
But the enemy adapts.
For instance, he said the
U.S. has the best targeting capabilities
in the world. So enemies decide
not to be a target. They don't
wear uniforms; they don't assemble
in large formations; they blend in
with the population; and they go
Any technical innovation is
only temporary, Perkins reminded
his audience. The enemy will soon
"Technology has become
the most transferrable of our capabilities,"
he said. Years ago, stealing
a trade secret required taking
blueprints and reams of documents.
"Now all you need is a thumb
As an armor officer,
Perkins said he has long appreciated
the protection afforded by the
M1 tank and Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
"I'm used to getting my protection
from tons and tons of
armor," he said.
Advanced protection for
combat vehicles is one of the capabilities
that TRADOC leaders believe
will be critical in 2050.
"The problem we're seeing
now is, with the proliferation of
ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles),
shaped charges … is that the cost
curve as well as the physics (are)
working against us," Perkins said.
"It's much easier to develop new
ways to penetrate the armor."
charges is relatively inexpensive
compared to producing new armored
vehicles, he said. The adversary
can update more quickly and
at lesser expense. The old paradigm
of "more and more armor"
may be outdated, he said.
"Better think of a different
way to protect," he said. What's
needed are capabilities, rather than
things, he said. He challenged the
group to avoid some of the "traps"
that discussions of the future often
Army News Service