Tech Overload

Pay Attention and Think Fast

October 04, 2013

U.S. Department of Defense

The Reformers were simply wrong.

The Pentagon’s record of development of weapons is far from perfect. Some really didn”€™t work (in the days of the Reformers, DIVAD and the early M16 rifle are examples) and some were simply unnecessary except to keep engineers employed and money flowing to contractors (the B-1 and B-2). But the blanket rejection of anything more advanced than the weapons of the Korean War was absurd.

Still, covering the Reformers was not entirely without its charms. There was the Oodle-oop. One night I went to a conclave of Reformers and heard over and over a word I couldn”€™t resolve into English. It sounded like “€œoodle-oops,”€ or maybe “€œhula hoops.”€ What the hell, I wondered, was an oodle-oop?

It seemed that Boyd had invented them. They were not oodle-oops, but OODA Loops. I was fascinated, and asked what an oodle-oop”€”OODA Loop, I mean”€”might be.

It turned out to mean Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action. If a pilot could go through these steps faster than his opponent, he would win. Nobody, the Reformers believed, had ever thought of this before.

Any obvious idea can be made more mysterious if expressed in bulleted form:

“€¢ Observation: the collection of data by means of the senses

“€¢ Orientation: the analysis and synthesis of data to form one’s current mental perspective

“€¢ Decision: the determination of a course of action based on one’s current mental perspective

“€¢ Action: the physical playing-out of decisions

De-bureaucratized, this amounts to “€œPay attention and think fast.”€ I learned it playing fast-break basketball in high school. It gets better, though. The obvious can be made yet more astonishing by using a diagram:

Diagram stolen from Wikipedia

To be yet more learned and impressive, if that were possible, one spoke of “getting inside the enemy’s OODA Loop.” It sounds like something that would worry anyone with a teenage daughter. Actually it meant “keeping the initiative,” but this wasn”€™t adequately grand. It’s pick-up basketball: Keep the other guy so busy trying to figure out what you are going to do to him that he doesn”€™t have time to figure out what to do to you.

So much for military reform, at least by these guys.

 

Pay to Play - Put your money where your mouth is and subscribe for an ad-free experience and to join the world famous Takimag comment board.