How to Think About Future Wars
One of the challenges for the military is to prevent the tendency to “fight the last war“, meaning that military structure and doctrine, but also military thinking, training, and equipment of a fighting force are aligned to experience from the past, but not to looming threats of the future. It is easier to stick to “legacy thinking” like replacing an old tank with a new and better one than to imagine something completely new. In order to avoid these traps, future research could play a vital role.
Any new orientation of large organizations like militaries, with their long-termed set up of personnel and sometimes even longer-termed procurement processes will need future-oriented decision making early on. Modern procurement cycles are normal to last 15 to 20 years from the start of a project to its final delivery. New equipment is meant to be in use for an additional 10 to 15 years at a minimum. Therefore, today´s decisions determine the armed forces for at least 30 years ahead – if not more.
In the Bundeswehr, long-term future analysis is done by the Future Analysis Branch in the Bundeswehr Office for Defence Planning (BODP – Planungsamt der Bundeswehr). Organized as an interdisciplinary team along with the STEEP-MC structure, it gives advice to the planning community of the Bundeswehr to enable informed and “future-robust“ decision-making.
Thinking about future wars includes much more than only visions of future weapon systems and military battlefields. Initial trend analysis hints that in future conflicts all parts of society will be affected. This makes it even more important to get it right, to achieve the best possible understanding of “future war”, its development, its processes and manifestations, its means and ends. With this in mind, this session intends to discuss methodology as much as initial findings in order to improve our all understanding of what to expect if everything goes wrong and future war breaks out.