2013 Robert Steele Reflections on Alternative Command & Control (AltC2) — Five Questions and a Game Plan 1.1

Cultural Intelligence
Robert David STEELE Vivas
Robert David STEELE Vivas

1.1 Adds contribution “An API for NATO” from Innovation Hub participant laukner, and adds Open Source Everything (OSE) graphic that most of us agree is the necessary technical transformation that must take place for the UN, EU, NATO, BRICS, and others to be effective at M4IS2 and creating a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all.

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This post addresses five questions in the context of the NATO Members and NATO Commander's mission intent — one excellent and still useful reference is Charles Barry, “Transforming NATO Command and Control for Future Missions,” World Security Network, 15 October 2003, see especially the section on the Allied Transformation Command that emphasized transformation lessons learned, guidelines, benchmarks, concepts, and doctrine; funding priorities for design and implementation of transformational or alternative C3 (consultation, command, and control) among NATO members and external non-NATO elements essential to mission success.

01 Who are the customers of an alternative command and control schema, and how do we involve them?

The customers are all those for whom the existing C2 system is inadequate in design, capacity, or outreach.

This includes all NATO commanders, all staffs, and all subordinate elements using the existing C2 system that cannot receive timely communications from all of the stakeholders that do not have the unilateral, proprietary, expensive, “secure” C2 system that is provided to the mission commander by virtue of past concept development, doctrine, procurement, and fielding.

This includes all NATO commanders, all staffs, and all subordinate elements that cannot receive via the existing C2 system timely tailored decision-support from the narrowly focused secret national systems that generally do not process most of what they collect and do not collect on lower tier targets and issues where most of the demand is going to be for the foreseeable future.  The Non-Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers of the various NATO military contingents could be a superb starting point for a first look at what's not working, what is needed, who should be included in an expanded customer base, and what alternative sources and methods should be considered by the NATO ACT AltC2 pilot project.

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This includes all non-NATO commanders, staffs, and elements from across the United Nations, European Union, the BRICS, all of the intelligence tribes* within each nation, and particularly the regional associations** and their member nations and all elements of all member nations that have a desire to be a party to the mission or follow the mission but cannot afford, obtain, or be approved for use of the legacy NATO C2 systems.  

* Intelligence tribes include academia, civil society inclusive of labor and religion, commerce, government at all levels, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit.

**  African Union, Community of Latin American and Caribbean State, (Asian) Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

We involve everyone outside of NATO through a deliberate and persistent campaign of transparency and truth that builds trust.

Converting the annual NATO Network Enabled Capabilities (NNEC) conference into an OSE/M4IS2 event would be an excellent and low-cost way to engage the EU, BRICS, African Union, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies, and all universities, labor unions, religions, citizen advocacy groups, hybrid and local governments, law enforcement associations (e.g. INTERPOL, EUROPOL, chiefs of police in Africa), media bloggers, and local NGOs as well as major NGOs such as the Red Cross.

Ideally the US Government can be persuaded to fund the Open Source Agency (OSA) that also funds a Multinational Decision-Support Centre and the United Nations Open-Source Decision-Support Information Network (UNODIN).  Ideally Sir Richard Branson will consider implementing The Virgin Truth as a model for providing free Open Base Transceiver Station (OpenBTS) cell phones to the five billion poor, while also providing free roaming to the one billion rich that travel in aid of the poor.  There are also tie-ins with Adriana Huffington's concept of Plan B for social business, and George Soros' legacy the Open Source Foundation (OSF).

02 How does AltC2, at the strategic level, support knowledge/intelligence acquisition among international organizations in need of decision-support?

In my view, NATO, like the OAS, is fighting for its existence.  The original justification for NATO is long gone, and NATO's forays into out of area adventurism led and funded by the Americans, have been a general failure.  Afghanistan and Iraq are both lost, Libya is a mess, and Syria has been destabilized but is now off-limits thanks to Russian resistance to the insane US proposition that it could accomplish regime change across the Middle East without breaking the related economies and societies.  What NATO has going for it are a multinational staff process familiar to military professionals across more than 66 countries; and the Allied Transformation Command (ACT) that is just now coming into its own as a new generation of flag officers is able to hear what we have all been saying for 20 years.

NATO ACT faces three major challenges in relation to strategic knowledge/intelligence acquisition among international organizations in need of decision-support.

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01  Open Source Rules.  NATO as a whole must finally recognize, officially, that secret sources and methods provide less than 4% of what military commanders need, and nothing for everyone else.  Worse still, NATO does not possess its own organic intelligence collection capabilities, and its processing capabilities are insignificant.  Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), which NATO wisely examined in 2000-2003, is the primary intelligence discipline for multinational information-sharing and sense-making.  Within NATO, it must be appreciated that most of what NATO needs to know is known by others who cannot afford and have no wish to be burdened by NATO's traditional C4I technologies, securities, and protocols.

Above are shown the mission areas for full-spectrum operations, the disciplines, and a concept for making OSINT central to everything that NATO does in the strategic, policy, acquisition, and operations domains.  As Brigadier General James Cox, CA (Ret) has recently observed, NATO never got past the informational aspect of OSINT, and never achieved the ability to create OSINT.  It merits mention that countries have been so irresponsible about their defense acquisition programs and force structures, that NATO may find that it can play a very important role in establishing a common intelligence picture — totally unclassified — that can inspire improved multinational program management.


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Open Source Everything (OSE) is a technical concept that AltC2 must embrace in order to inter-operate with everybody else at all levels of functionality — collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination.

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02  Eight Tribes.  NATO as a military organization is a member of one of the eight tribes of intelligence.  The other seven are academia, civil society including labor and religion, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit.  None of the other tribes are obligated to share information with NATO; NATO lacks AltC2 networks for engaging those other tribes; and NATO has nothing to offer the other tribes in return for their sharing information.

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NATO lacks — largely because its member nations lack — a strategic analytic model that could serve as a foundation for information-sharing treaties and agreements.  No one at the highest levels of NATO or its member governments appear to have a grip on the ten high-level threats to humanity or the twelve core policy domains, in part because the financial interests that dominate the political actors do not profit directly from addressing poverty, infectious disease, and so on.  NATO is not in touch with the non-military threats, and this one reason I focus in the third challenge below, on the urgency of NATO changing its approach to information and decision-making.

03  M4IS2.  NATO should remain a military organization — however, it is incompetent at both the proven process of intelligence, and it is completely out of touch with all of the information and all of the expertise that reside within the other seven tribes.  I would like to see NATO acknowledge that the EU is the dominant organization for understanding non-military threats, and see both NATO and the EU agree that the EU Emergency Response Centre should instead become the Multinational Decision-Support Centre able to produce both open source and secret intelligence is support of all strategy, all policies, all acquisition, all operations.  I would take this a step further and urge the EU and NATO to embrace the BRICS and the three regional associations that quite properly exclude the USA from their affairs — the African Union (AU), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean State, and (Asian) Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.  Only by establishing a standard approach to M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making), creating the first on the shores of the Mediterranean, and then gracefully and transparently engaging with the BRICS and others to replicate the M4IS2 centre and network in Asia and in the Americas, can NATO remain central in the age of information.

There are two assets that NATO ACT can leverage for educational purposes.  The first is the set of three documents, the NATO Open Source Intelligence Handbook, the NATO Open Source Intelligence Reader, and the NATO Intelligence Exploitation of the Internet.  All three are dated and need to be redone.  The second is the NATO Network Enabled Capabilities (NNEC) Conference.

There is a third asset that I recognized during a recent video-telconference: the enlisted or other ranks across NATO.  In my experience, the enlisted ranks are the first to grasp how lunatic and mis-directed their officers might be, how poor their equipment might be, and what their most important information gaps are.  They are also the first to grasp alternative solutions that they are often not allowed to implement.  We have too many officers (at least in the US system) and we do not pay enough attention to our enlisted or other ranks.  I might add that based on my personal experience, I consider senior enlisted personnel to be vastly more effective at outreach to field representatives across the other seven tribes.  They profer a humility and a directly that is not typical of the officer class.

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HANDBOOKS:   With AltC2, sponsor a distributed network of interested parties — open to all with focused research identifying the top minds in each of the eight tribes on each of the threat topics and policy topics — and set forth as the objective the creation of a “rainbow” series of documents (see the logo for the colors that I have been associated with each of the eight tribes).  Our first objective is to get each tribes to define its best practices with respect to AltC2 and open sources and methods as they pertain to how that tribe addresses the top ten high-level threats to humanity and the twelve core policy domains.  Ideally the BRICS can be engaged as well, perhaps creating their own rainbow series, with a reconciliation conference at some point.  Our second objective is to leverage the rainbow series to create a new consolidated EU/NATO/BRICS/AF/CELAC/RCEP executive document and master handbook, both in print and online in all relevant languages, that are nothing less than the foundation for a new form of global Information Operations (IO) that is focused on peaceful preventive measures, on waging peace with whole of government and all tribes investments, on creating prosperity by pushing free cells phones and free Internet access and free education “one cell call at a time,” out to the five billion poor.

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CONFERENCE.  For twenty years I organized a conference for all ranks from all tribes focused on “National Security and National Competitiveness: Open Source Solutions.”  The time has come to focus on OSE (technical) and M4IS2 (human).  Here to the side is one depiction of how I might study the human factor and the alternative applied technology solutions for the NATO Network Enabled Capabilities (NNEC) with a subtle shift occuring toward New Network Enabled Capabiltiies that are totally un-military, un-secret, un-proprietary, and therefore broadly affordable and universally available.  I believe that Crisis Mappers, UnityNet, STRONG ANGLE, CATALYST, all have important lessons to offer, and that is should be possible for the EU and NATO, and others including the White or peaceful side of Special Operations Forces (SOF) to experiment with open software and open hardware, rapidly creating an AltC2 grid (STRONG ANGEL did this, Unity Net does this, Crisis Mappers do this) that can be used for Whole of Government and All Tribes strategy, policy, acquisition, and operations C3 (consultation, command, control) but with a difference — NATO must learn that in today's world, one must give up control to gain control — “control” is achieved by arming all interested parties with the truth in a transparent fashion, creating trust.  NNEC 2014 could be the first conference in the world to address OSE/M4IS2, and attract not just vendors but entrepreneurs and innovators, all pre-screened to weed out the die hard traditional proprietary solutions, and welcome only that which is open, transparent, shareable, AND secure — something most proprietary systems cannot credibly claim.

03 How does AltC2, at the strategic level, support a comprehensive approach to coordination and collaboration with non-NATO actors?

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This is where a shared Strategic Analytic Model plays a role in focusing collection, processing, analysis, sharing, and the shared task of respectfully and openly achieving multinational consensus.  This is also where the fifteen slices of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) come into play.  No one manages HUMINT properly that I know of.  The eleven slices of HUMINT that are unclassified — not secret — open — are where the outreach and the integration need to be professionalized, using AltC2 such as GoToMeeting, Skype, email, and cell phones.

In my experience, the military has failed to do well in Civil Affairs and other forms of Operation Other than War (OOTW), now called Stabilization & Reconstruction (S&R) because at least in the USA and specifically with respect to Afghanistan and Iraq, the US military shut out the diplomats, commercial attaches, and others from all early planning, and neither the military nor the White House or Congress supported proper funding for non-military investments.  I still remember when the Soviets left Afghanistan, the next day the entire budget for covert paramilitary operations was cut, and despite the desperate appeals from Congressman Charlie Wilson, Congress refused to keep the budget going but with a shift toward water works and school houses.

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I am one of the original scholars focused on predicting and remediating revolution, and while there are isolated individuals across various governments and non-governmental organizations that understand some of this, no one I know of has achieved a whole of government approach to their own country, must less other countries.  Here to the side is a very comprehensive and still original model for understanding revolution — combined with the strategic analytic model that emphasizes the urgency of addressing poverty, infectious disease, and environmental degradation, we have a ready made planning guide for collecting, processing, analyzing, and sharing information relevant to how all tribes across all countries make decisions.  I have left the color coding in, depicting preconditions of revolution that exist today in the USA, where the public interest has been neglected for decades, with poverty doubling in the USA in the last decade.  Apart from preconditions, a precipitant is needed to spark a revolution — the Tunesian fruit seller is a modern example.  I recently predicted that the next whistle-blower in the USA will be a retired lieutenant colonel who has planned his contribution for years, executes it with perfect anonymnity, and very possible takes down the White House and the Joint Chiefs of Staff using only information released to the public.  It is not possible for countries to sustain deeply inappropriate operations for decades without creating “cognitive dissonance” within their military and civilian government ranks, and within the public.  In the USA today we have 22 veterans a day successfully committing suicide, up from 18 a day under the Bush Administration.  The time has come for NATO to have its own intelligence with integrity, and to learn to say no to the USA while saying yes to the EU and BRICS and regional associations.

In my answer to the previous question I addressed handbooks, a conference, and the need to always consider the human factor with the technical factor.  There is a desperate need among all governments for strategists and internationalists who are dedicated to AltC2, outreach, OSE/M4IS2.  I have long envisioned the need for a world training & education centre that offers integrative and mind-expanding options for entry-level, mid-career, and senior executive ranks (both officer and enlisted or other ranks), and that also offers specialization courses such as those pioneered by Col Jan-Inge Svensson, SE (Ret) at the Folke Bernadette Academy, on peacekeeping intelligence and multinational information-sharing.

04 How does AltC2 assure implementation of Mission Command at the operational (theater) and tactical levels?

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The greatest challenge facing AltC2 is its lack of champions such that AltC2 is taught, concepts and doctrine developed, equipment authorized (e.g. cell phones with both secure channels and geospatial masking as needed).  The traditional military requirements and acquisition process is broken and incapable of meeting our needs.  CENTCOM is a very good example — the entire US military program “assumed” that the CENTCOM J-6 would never need more than two full-up C4I networks — the last time I looked CENTCOM J-6 was running twelve full-up C4I networks, all badly, all competing for bandwidth and equipment and spare parts.  We must abandon the unilateral proprietary procurement model and move toward mission mix and match with an emphasis on Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) solutions.  I was one of those advocating this 20 years ago — as one of my son's pointed out to me recently, I simply had to out-live all those with closed minds to finally get a hearing.  There is also a desperate need for multinational planning, programming, and budgeting, rooted in a totally truthful grasp of reality.  There is no reason at all why we should not be using residual capabilities in abandoned DoD satellites to provide free satellite communications to selected areas of the world; why we should not be — at the national level — articulating to Sir Richard Branson the case for The Virgin Truth, and more of less demanding that the UN and its specialized agencies and all non-governmental organizations profer transparent books so that we can start cleaning out the waste and using information to eliminate corruption and better connect the one billion rich with the five billion poor at the item or household level.  Charity aggregators are generally dishonest — recently the 50 most dishonest US charities have been identified, this can be done for every country, and even organizations such as the Red Cross will fail to demonstrate that they deliver more than 10-15% — at best — of all dollars donated, to any needy recipient.

At root AltC2 is about transparency, truth, and trust, the subtitle of my last book.  No amount of advance training and education can substitute for an individual's having a deep sense of ethics and honor.  Soliders urinating on the dead, raping girls who are prisoners, are a disgrace to all of us and tell me that their officers are irresponsible and not held accouintable at any level.  There are now reasonable grounds to impeach the past several US presidents and the incumbent, and while I favor Truth & Reconciliation over vengeful justice, it is a fact that if we do not get a grip on the moral education of our personnel, not just military but across all eight tribes, then we will continue to do the wrong things, inspire hatred, waste treasure, and generally destroy Homeland Earth.

05 How does AltC2 support asymmetric and non-military operations or actions?

In 1990, ghost-writing for the Commandant of the Marine Corps, I devised the first coherent contrast between conventional and emerging threats.

Conventional Threat

·        Governmental

·        Conventional/Nuclear

·        Static Orders of Battle

·        Linear in Development

·        Rules of Engagement (ROE)

·        Known Doctrine

·        Strategic Warning

·        Known Intelligence Assets

Emerging Threat

·        Non-Governmental

·        Non-Conventional

·        Dynamic or Random

·        Non-linear in development (COTS)

·        No constraints (ROE)

·        Unknown doctrine

·        No established I&W network

·        Unlimited 5th column

We still are not effective against the emerging threats because of the combination of ignorance and arrogance at the highest financial and political levels, and because our officers confused loyalty to the chain of command with their oath to defend and support the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, domestic and foreign.  The financial and political classes have been the worst possible enemy of the public interest in the USA since the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the ensuing cover-up.  At root, dealing effectively with asymmetric and non-military operations or actions demands that every individual be educated and trained to the old special force standards (not the new ridiculous standards where entry level soldiers and being put on A Teams); and every individual must have access to all possible relevant information in all possible relevant languages, all the time time.  AltC2 is at root a mind-challenge and an intelligence-challenge.  The battle is won or lost a decade before it takes place.  We are losing.

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From where I sit, NATO in Brussels should be talking to the EU, and NATO in Norfolk should be talking to White SOF, and between them they should be recruiting George Soros and the Open Source Foundation, Sir Richard Branson and The Virgin Truth, and some of the billionaires from the BRICS, and we should all be working toward creating the world brain and global game.  I know how to do this, but I have never found anyone with both the intelligence to understand me and the power to do something about it.  NATO ACT is on the cusp of a historic turn of events and it has, in my view, the right flag officers, the right mind-sets among key staff, and a virtual carte blanche to begin SERIOUS innovation, not the reformative endeavors on the margin that have characterized previous incarnations of ACT.  I wish well for all of us.  Someone, somewhere, has to start getting a grip on the truth — the truth at any cost lowers all others costs.  Until you get the truth on the table, no matter how ugly it is, you cannot deal with it.  Truth, Integrity, Innovation…we can create a prosperous world at peace for one third of what we spend on war now.  All that has been holding us back is our unwillingness to say no to evil and no to illegal orders.

ADDED 20 June 2013


Thanks for pointing to Crisis Mappers. I have found some interesting publications on the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) website to



  • Data Standards and Quality
  • Workflows to Support Decisions
  • Professionalization
  • Experimentation
  • Education and Training

“An ‘API for the UN’ was a topic of discussion at the 2010 Crisis Mappers conference in Boston, with the core notion being that the UN should partner with the V&TCs (Volunteer and Technical Communities) to establish a common set of protocols to connect their people, workflows, and data flows. The ICT4Peace Foundation heard this appeal and integrated the concept into its recommendations for the UN CITO’s Crisis Information Management initiative. What remains, however, is to design the interface itself.”

We should either re-use this API or define an “API for NATO”.

See Also:

2013 Robert Steele — Alternative Command & Control and Four Transformation Forcing Concepts

2012 Robert Steele: Practical Reflections on UN Intelligence + UN RECAP

2012 PREPRINT: The Craft of Intelligence 3.4

1976-2013: Analytic, Methodological, & Technical Models 2.0

Manifesto Extracts


Open Source Agency (OSA)

Public Intelligence 3.3

References: NATO Transformation Process Documents — and Gaps + Peace from Above RECAP

SmartPlanet: The $10 Cell Phone Has Arrived….Plus Open Cell Meta-RECAP

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