After the WWII, the entire field of operations was taking to a different level where analogue contexts no longer defined the course of action, policy and the direction of future investments. RAND took the battlefield to space, thereby introducing and eventually rendering the axiomatic drivers to the digital age of computers and coding. It was the clear insight of the military commanders and political leadership that the new operational fields would require a new kind of intelligence to lead and co-direct with the traditional military expertise; the speculative and creative engineer-researcher able to define his very own new territory where there was none before: space as a way to harness and direct operational resources anywhere on the planet. RAND embodied and directed at the same time a cultural, social and political shift towards a beginning of evidence based policy and R&D, building up datasets that were to be used as input for policy makers. It literally created its own axiomatic borders and playing ground. It built a new ontology alongside the old one of traditional and analogue warfare. This new ontology posed new questions, created new definitions of what a threat is, what a risk is, what assets are, what security means, and ultimately, the very nature of war.
RAND could do this because of three key shifts:
A. A key understanding of the military and political top to understand the deep nature of the change that is needed to face the consequences of a reality that has been shaped by the tools of the day: “In a report to the Secretary of War, Commanding General of the Army Air Force H. H. “Hap” Arnold wrote: “During this war the Army, Army Air Forces, and the Navy have made unprecedented use of scientific and industrial resources. The conclusion is inescapable that we have not yet established the balance necessary to insure the continuance of teamwork among the military, other government agencies, industry, and the universities. Scientific planning must be years in advance of the actual research and development work.”
B. A key understanding of choosing the right use case, that actually in its successful design shows more than the mastering of certain skills and techniques: “But the most riveting observation, one that deserves an honored place in the Central Premonitions Registry, was made by one of the contributors, Jimmy Lipp (head of Project RAND’s Missile Division), in a follow-on paper nine months later: “Since mastery of the elements is a reliable index of material progress, the nation which first makes significant achievements in space travel will be acknowledged as the world leader in both military and scientific techniques. To visualize the impact on the world, one can imagine the consternation and admiration that would be felt here if the United States were to discover suddenly that some other nation had already put up a successful satellite.” (http://www.rand.org/pubs/special_memoranda/SM11827.html)
C. The key passage in Preliminary Design of Satellite Vehicle, prepared on May 2 1946, the publication that kick-started RAND, is on page 4 section 8: Method of safely landing a satellite vehicle: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the primary contribution of this report are in methods, and not in the specific figures in this design study. One point in particular should be highlighted – the design gross weight, which is of the greatest importance in estimating cost or in comparing any two proposals in this field is the least definitely ascertained single feature in the whole process. (underlining is original)…..The most important thing is that a satellite vehicle can be made at all in the present state of the art.”
The successful combination of A, B, and C – balance of disciplines and funding, choice of use cases and building of new methodologies – is rare, and when it succeeds it means a period of hegemonic and infrastructural domination, as we have witnessed in the leadership of the USA until now.