Some realities might transcend even our galaxy – could it be that one of them is the complexity of defense acquisition? It should come as no surprise, then, that science fiction may help to effectively convey the challenges faced by defense planners here on Earth.
For people who study defense issues, strategy, and acquisitions, there is a two-sided beauty to using science fiction as a means of conveying high-level concepts. On the one hand, science fiction depicts futuristic worlds in scientifically plausible and moving ways by inspiring readers with visions of interstellar travel and sophisticated technology, raising philosophically challenging questions about the meaning of human life in this vast universe along the way. On the other hand, the artistic license and creativity essential to good science fiction can also direct readers’ attention to timely issues here on Earth in a way that both entertains and informs.
Take the short story, “Krog’s New Weapon: Reality is a Special Case.” By contrasting a group of cavemen arguing about the functional capabilities of a club designed to kill mammoths with an advanced civilization’s military planners who have realized that a ship years in the making serves no purpose in their current strategic environment, the author achieves something that volumes of serious analytic reports often struggle to do. The authors, all Air Force officers, pushed back against consensus wisdom in an entertaining and unorthodox way. In this case, the story draws attention to the very real challenge US policymakers face with acquisition programs whose cost, questionable strategic purpose, and political risks only serve to complicate the task of executing national defense objectives. Notably, the story appeared in a 2008 issue of Defense AT&L magazine, which only serves to amplify the irony.
Importantly, such a story asks readers to step out of a complex “real world” into one that is lighthearted and requires being open to far-fetched ideas about faraway civilizations that face the same planning challenges defense officials here on Earth do. By going off planet, the authors conveyed a point about US acquisition policy in a way that no official briefing could ever do.
Read the original story in Defense AT&L.
Thanks to one of the story’s authors, Dan Ward, for bringing Krog and his struggles to our attention.