402. The Light on the Hill: America and Non-Terrestrial War

[Editor’s Note:  Army Mad Scientist is pleased to present our latest episode of The Convergence podcast, welcoming back COL Stefan Banach (USA-Ret.), Director, Army Management Staff College, to discuss non-terrestrial war, weapons of mass deception, and why we are at a pivotal point in the defense of our country — Enjoy!]

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COL Stefan Banach (USA-Ret.) is a Distinguished Member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and served in that organization for nine years, culminating with command of the 3rd Ranger Battalion from 2001-2003. He led U.S. Army Rangers during a historic night combat parachute assault into Afghanistan on October 19, 2001, as the “spearhead” for the Global War on Terror. Steve subsequently led U.S. Army Rangers in a second combat parachute assault into Al Anbar Province in western Iraq in 2003.  He served with distinction in the U.S. Army from 1983 to 2010. Since then, he has provided executive consulting services to a diverse range of clients at a number of prestigious institutions.  Steve Banach also serves as the Director, Army Management Staff College, an element of Army University responsible for “igniting the leadership potential for every Army civilian.”

In today’s interview with COL Banach, we explore non-terrestrial war, weapons of mass deception, and why we are at a pivotal point in the defense of our country.  The following bullet points highlight key insights from our interview:

      • The United States is experiencing a new form of conflict known as “non-terrestrial warfare.”  Our adversaries no longer seek to confront us on the traditional battlefield. Instead, they will use non-tangible capabilities in cyber, big data, space, and the information space to influence entire societies and create tangible results, the effects of which may remain invisible for weeks, months, or even years. It is an unbounded, global, strategic form of maneuver, performed by nation and non-state actors that is an enduring, new approach to warfare.
      • Non-terrestrial warfare encompasses strategies like mis- and disinformation — weapons of mass deception — where social media has emerged as a tool that can influence the behavior of entire populations.  Data collected on human behavior while operating in this space creates new opportunities for actors to understand, exploit, and manipulate collective behaviors. This is a pre-meditated and well-orchestrated campaign that we are seeing implemented in algorithmic warfare today, dividing populations and creating dis-equilibrium and systemic shock in our society — it is a brilliant, elegant, strategic form of maneuver that is being levied against us.  It is not by accident, and it is pervasive and growing!
      • As witnessed in the on-going conflict in Ukraine, the role of non-state actors is increasingly important.  Elon Musk maneuvered Spacex satellites and provided Starlink ground stations to the Ukrainian government to ensure continued satellite internet communications in the face of Russian cyberattacks.  Hackers targeted Russian communications infrastructure, while Ukrainian citizens engaged in hybrid warfare in the defense of their homeland.  In non-terrestrial war, the lines between civilians and combatants will continue to blur, with “hacktivists” and influential individuals exerting power to damage state infrastructure and alter the behaviors of entire populations.
      • The U.S. Department of Defense should not wait for a catalyst event to begin adapting to this new style of warfare.  Non-terrestrial war is a complex, adaptive challenge that requires our leadership to mobilize adaptive work acumen across the enterprise.  It requires a whole-of-nation, whole-of-coalition response — a Manhattan Project 2.0.  We should focus on bringing together subject matter experts to redesign and create a new learning ecosystem to conceptualize this reality, craft an enduring global non-terrestrial maneuver strategy, acquire a new synthesized and weaponized “Technology Palette,” and prepare to engage in and win this fight!

Stay tuned to the Mad Scientist Laboratory for our next episode of The Convergence — featuring Shubhi Mishra, founder and CEO of Raft, a data-intensive digital consultancy, discussing wicked problems in national security; finding creative, mission-focused solutions; and equipping the DoD with sustainable, emerging technology.

If you enjoyed this post and podcast, check out its companion essay The “Convergence” and Non-Terrestrial War, as well as the following previous posts and podcasts by COL Banach:

Global Entanglement and Multi-Reality Warfare, and associated podcast

Virtual War – A Revolution in Human Affairs (Parts I and II)

… and the following related content:

Sub-threshold Maneuver and the Flanking of U.S. National Security and Is Ours a Nation at War? U.S. National Security in an Evolved — and Evolving — Operational Environment, by Dr. Russell Glenn

Hybrid Threats and Liminal Warfare with Dr. David Kilcullen, and associated podcast

Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Sign Post to the Future (Part 1), by Kate Kilgore

China and Russia: Achieving Decision Dominance and Information Advantage, by Ian Sullivan

The Exploitation of our Biases through Improved Technology, by proclaimed Mad Scientist Raechel Melling

A House Divided: Microtargeting and the next Great American Threat, by 1LT Carlin Keally

The Erosion of National Will – Implications for the Future Strategist, by Dr. Nick Marsella

Weaponized Information: What We’ve Learned So Far… and Insights from the Mad Scientist Weaponized Information Series of Virtual Events

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

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