Swarming & The Future of Conflict by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt

This report by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt is an outstanding resource on swarming tactics. It discusses the history with examples from history on swarming tactics strengths, weaknesses and challenges in designing swarming tactics as a tactical option for the military. For law enforcement Its important to remember that dangerous circumstances we respond to in an attempt to resolve, require we take even more into consideration these complexities as the law enforcement mission here at home is to protect and serve the communities we police. At times due to the nature of violence brought about by those who would do harm jeopardizing innocent lives,require we engage adversaries in a way that stops them decisively with tactics that consider time and risk. swarming tactics is  a viable option to do just that.

Law enforcement engagements are won by careful weighing of ones sides advantages with the other side’s weaknesses. Swarming is no exception. As with any strategy or tactic, swarming will not work against all types of adversaries in all situations. Tactical judgment and ability will be key factors when making this analysis. 

John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt have put together a great resource on the topic of swarming with this report Swarming & The Future of Conflict. It must be read, studied, discussed amongst those in law enforcement who understand the evolving threats and how these threats must be dealt with. Then a comprehensive training program that creates and nurtures the ability of response teams and individual frontline street officers to translate these methods in solving tactical problems they encounter.  Leadership must be more adaptive and break away from command and control culture prevalent in law enforcement to a more, decentralized control or command and influence structure. The complexity of swarming operations grows with the number of units and officers, the speed at which they move and the space over which they operate. Hierarchal leadership structures in this type of environment will not work effectively as it slows down the decision making cycle giving the initiative to the adversary(s). For swarming tactics to work against a mobile and elusive adversary who often times possesses superior situational awareness the demand for control must be addresses and adapted so semi-autonomous units and individual responders work in accordance with the departments overall intent and goals of the mission. 

This report has been a great influence in my research and understanding of the tactics of swarming. I believe swarming to be a viable option to add to law enforcement response to the evolving threat.

From the summary: Swarming & The Future of Conflict

Swarming is seemingly amorphous, but it is a deliberately structured, coordinated, strategic way to strike from all directions, by means of a sustainable pulsing of force and/or fire, close-in as well as from stand-off positions. It will work best—perhaps it will only work—if it is designed mainly around the deployment of myriad, small, dispersed, networked maneuver units (what we call “pods” organized in “clusters”). Developing a
swarming force implies, among other things, radical changes in current military organizational structures. From command and control of line units to logistics, profound shifts will have to occur to nurture this new “way of war.” Our study examines the benefits—and also the costs and risks—of engaging in such serious doctrinal change. Examples of swarming can be found throughout history, but it is only now able to emerge as a doctrine in its own right. That is largely because swarming depends on a devolution of power to small units and a capacity to interconnect those units that has only recently become feasible, due to the information revolution.

Briefly, we advance the idea that swarming—engaging an adversary from all directions simultaneously, either with fire or in force—is one of four types of doctrine that have long been around. The other forms are the chaotic melee, brute-force massing, and nimble maneuver. Each form has had a different information requirement—melees requiring the least, maneuvers needing more than massing, and swarming depending completely on robust, rapid communications. While all the forms have been around throughout history, melees and massing appear to have been dominant at the tactical level primarily in pre-industrial times. Such paragons of maneuver as Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan are overshadowed by a long procession of mass-oriented militaries—a point borne out by the brief eminence of the empires they created.

Over the past two centuries, however, mass and maneuver have followed a much more interactive pattern, featuring the dominance of the former, at times (e.g., as in World War I)—but also of the latter (e.g., in World War II). We argue that the rise of advanced information operations will bring swarming to the fore, establishing a new pattern in conflict.

This study derives insights from examples of swarming in nature and in history. Both areas are replete with instances of omnidirectional yet well-timed assaults. From ants and bees and wolf packs, to ancient Parthians and medieval Mongols, swarming in force, or of fire, has often proven a very effective way of fighting.

Read the Complete PDF of Swarming & The Future of Conflict  bellow:

swarming.pdf1.46 MB