A new and very interesting concept is growing among a community of dedicated national security professionals. These include diplomats, soldiers, law enforcement officers, intelligence operatives, cyber warriors and development specialists. They are being aided by sociologists, psychologists, and policy academicians. Their unifying concept is that 21st century warfare in the post-9/11 world requires a different viewpoint than what we have applied in the past.

All the skills that have been so valuable in the past are still needed, but they must be wedded into the same practitioners. We no longer have the luxury of a linear, series type engagement. We now require an integrated simultaneous approach that has soldiers who can do development and intelligence gathering, who know the psycho-social dynamics of the people among whom they live and move. It requires information operations that range from paper leaflets to the most sophisticated cyber campaigns, and it must be completely immersed in the overall policy thrusts of the nation’s leaders. This new integrated concept is called Fifth Generation Warfare (5GW).

I have begun to search out these visionary warriors. Some have the traditional look of polished military leaders. Others appear to be banal business types, but in fact have served in the world’s most dangerous places. A few have never left their workstations but have engaged with radical terrorist groups on a regular basis with multiple personas.  Others appear to be tweed-clad propeller heads (their self description, not mine), but who are dedicated to finding our adversaries’ key points of vulnerability and those places where we can turn adversaries into friends.

Many of these efforts are nascent and embedded in more traditional approaches. The 5GW movement has found its most ardent (and effective) proponents in a group called the 5GW Educational Institute. They are a growing community of professionals from all the communities mentioned above. While a new enterprise, they have begun with a focus on Homegrown Terrorism and Jihadi Media as well as other aspects of Information Warfare Operations within the struggle against extremists.

Part of the uniqueness of 5GW Educational Institute is that they are really trying to blend the disparate disciplines into an integrated approach. The staff’s qualifications are as impressive as the crucial areas of study they are tackling. In their words, they are bringing together some of the best from the world of academia along with the “PhDs” of the Operational World, some of our more storied operational practitioners. From academia, they have Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, the author of “Inside al Qaeda” He is just one of three or four individuals who have gained inside access to interview members of Al Qaeda. They also have Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a former jihadist member of the Jemmal Islamyiah and leading thought leader on radical Islam.

From the Operational World, they bring former commanders and members of the U.S. Special Operations Forces, some from highly classified special mission units who have been largely instrumental not only in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but in areas around the world pre-9/11 and since that sad day. They also complete what they refer to as their “operational edge” by including members of the Intelligence Community, both top-level analysts and members of Human Intelligence Operations organizations.

Lastly, they add in hybrid types who have extensive experience in high level policy and interagency process positions, including numerous former political appointees. These generally bring a combination of senior level inter-agency backgrounds, academic study, as well as add on-the-ground operational experience to the mix.

The 5GW Educational Institute focus areas of study are those topic areas that are currently most challenging to our national and global security: Global Jihadism; Homegrown Terrorism; Financial terrorism or Sharia Finance; Narco Terrorism and U.S. Border Security; Global Energy Security; and Information Warfare operations.

FBI Director Robert Mueller recently testified to Congress that a spike in recent terrorism cases is direct evidence of the evolving threat. He specifically said the following:

Groups affiliated with al Qaeda are now actively targeting the United States and looking to use Americans or Westerners who are able to remain undetected by heightened security measures. It appears domestic extremism and radicalization appears to have become more pronounced based on the number of disruptions and incidents.

The 5GW Educational Institute is truly one of just a few groups studying the idea of “Generational Warfare.” They are on the cutting edge of a new (and hopefully effective) way to address the challenges our nation faces. They are attempting to be the thought leaders on the topic of 5GW and make the case that the United States is at a moment of transitioning from traditional and separated disciplines in the national security space to the world of highly integrated, multifaceted and sophisticated 5GW.

Our enemies have figured this out already. They are agile, innovative and will try whatever works. We tend to still have an industrial-age methodology. We preach agility, net-centric operations and a legion of other buzz words, but then return to our comfortable traditional corners. We cannot afford to wait 40 years to integrate the way DoD did between the 1947 establishment of the Department and the 1987 Goldwater – Nichols Act. Heck, it really took us a lot longer than that! We must begin this process now!

I applaud the 5GW Institute and others like them for their foresight and willingness to “swim upstream.” The going is and will be tough. Fortunately for the nation, these guys NEVER give up.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More
  • Have you had a chance to read The Handbook of Fifth-Generation Warfare?

    Much of the discussion and theory of 5GW precedes the formation of that Institute — indeed, the Institute is not quite “cutting edge” although, being new, perhaps that remains to be seen.