When Fiction Foretells the Future of Warfare

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by Samantha Bey

Last summer, retired naval aviator Captain George Galdorisi, had just released two anticipated books: AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare (U.S. Naval Institute Press) and Fire and Ice (Braveship Books). Since both books – non-fiction and fiction, respectively – addressed the future of warfare, we decided to circle back a year later to see how the ideas he presented were playing out today.

The bottom line in AI at War, explained Galdorisi, is that “Our national, military and intelligence community efforts are synced up to leverage big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to make our military weapons systems smarter and more effective and to also help our warfighters make better decisions faster than our adversaries.”

 

Read the entire article here! (PDF download)

RECOMMENDED READING FROM THE DESK OF THE SNA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Book Reviews Galdorisi.pdf

Rick Holden Trilogy: The Coronado Conspiracy, For Duty and Honor
and Fire and Ice

For most of the last century, national security policymakers were
sanguine that the U.S. military had an intact process for envisioning
future warfare. Over the last few decades that process has shown
stress, and now the Pentagon looks outside the lifelines – often to
military fiction – to get a better sense of how wars might evolve and
be fought years hence. This process has been institutionalized as a
number of U.S. military commands and think tanks now sponsor fiction
writing contests to tease out potential future warfighting scenarios.

This has spawned a new genre of military-themed works of fiction.
Labeled FICINT – imagining future warfare scenarios based on the
realities of high-end combat and real-world intelligence, not fantasy
– the U.S. national security community has now embraced this genre
as a useful instrument to intuit how tomorrow’s wars will be fought.
Two well-known books in this genre are P.W. Singer and August Cole’s
Ghost Fleet and Elliot Ackerman and Admiral Jim Stavridis’ 2034
(reviewed in the previous issue of Surface SITREP).

This brings me to a recent entry in the FICINT genre – actually a
trilogy of entries – Captain (USN – retired) George Galdorisi’s Rick
Holden thrillers, The Coronado Conspiracy, For Duty and Honor and
Fire and Ice. Each is a good read by itself, and even better if read
in the order presented here. The chief protagonist, Rick Holden, is a
former CIA operative, now undercover as a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

In all three thrillers, Galdorisi not only provides us with a picture of
future warfare but examines what could go awry with issues like
civilian control of the military, near-absolute power in the hands
of senior military officers, and the ability of rogue nations to hold
allies hostage. I believe you will enjoy this trilogy, and I’m eagerly
looking forward to the next Rick Holden thriller.

 

Download this Review in PDF Format

Joseph S. Nye Jr. Review of AI at WAR

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National Defense Review of AI at WAR

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FICINT Discussion with Author George Galdorisi – The Admiral’s Almanac

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May 2, 2022 – Podcast – The Admiral’s Almanac – Listen here!

“I sit down with author George Galdorisi and we discuss FICINT or Fiction Intelligence. The process of writing thriller novels to stimulate the national security planning process. His latest Novel “Fire and Ice” is a harbinger of the current war in the Ukraine. In the end we have a special announcement for Leaders.”

What One Defense Analyst Says about Fire and Ice

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Many commentators have accused the U.S. military of “preparing for the last war.” While there may be some truth to this criticism, there is a movement afoot to better prepare for the wars of tomorrow.

Throughout the 20th Century, planning for tomorrow’s conflicts occurred almost exclusively within the walls of the Pentagon. With a known adversary – first the Soviet Union and then the threat of worldwide terrorism – this was an acceptable strategy. However, today, with substantially more-nuanced threats to the United States, this is no longer the case.

For years, a number of writers have envisioned future warfare and have expressed those ideas in novels and shorter works. Those U.S. officials responsible for the security and prosperity of America either disregarded these stories or criticized them as unhelpful to crafting a coherent national and military strategy.

This has changed in the 21st Century with a new genre of military-themed works of fiction. Labeled FICINT – generally understood to be imagining future warfare scenarios based on the realities of high-end combat and real-world intelligence, not fantasy – the U.S. national security community has now embraced this new genre as a useful instrument to intuit how tomorrow’s wars will be fought.

As one indication of how FICINT is having an impact, a number of U.S. military commands and think tanks focused on military matters such as The U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the U.S. Naval War College, the U.S. Army War College, the Atlantic Council, the Center for International Maritime Security, the U.S. Naval Institute, and others, now sponsor fiction writing contests to tease out good ideas from FICINT writers.

There is a sea change in the way that the U.S. national security community, and especially the U.S. military, are embracing these changes. There have been several recent FICINT novels, Fire and Ice among them, as well as other works – many written by active or retired military officers – that are helping the U.S. plan for tomorrow’s wars, not yesterday’s.

Here is what one defense analyst had to say about Fire and Ice

Russia’s Invasion of the Ukraine

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has dominated international headlines for the last month – as well it should – and the suffering of the Ukrainian people impacts us all.

There has been more heat than light in attempting to understand the mind of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, at least until now.

This New York Times article sheds a heretofore untold story on this ruthless leader

America’s Navy

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A great deal of ink has been spilled documenting the struggles the U.S. Navy deals with in attempting to fulfill its worldwide commitments with a dwindling number of ships.

Indeed, China now boasts a navy that is large than America’s, something that we unthinkable as recently as a decade ago.

I was recently drawn to a thoughtful article written by a former U.S. Navy officer who is now a U.S. Congressman. Here is how she began her article, “Look to the 1980s to Inform the Fleet of Today.”

When I was a naval officer, my ships always had a plan when we left port for where we were going, how we would get there, and what we would do when we arrived. While that remains true of individual ships in the Navy, it’s not true of the Navy as a whole today. The Navy lacks a comprehensive maritime strategy that defines what the Navy needs to do, how it needs to do it, the resources required, and how to manage risk if those resources aren’t available. The Navy had a strategy that did these things in the past. The maritime strategy of the 1980s articulated a clear vision for the Navy’s purpose and how Navy leaders planned to achieve it. The nation would be well-served by the Navy’s developing such a strategy again.

I entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1993 and was part of a new generation of officers who assumed the watch after the fall of the Soviet Union. We were the beneficiaries of a nation that had a clear and defensible maritime strategy, an administration that provided the vision, a Congress that funded it, and a Navy that executed it. Throughout my career, I deployed on both the Navy’s oldest and newest ships, but they were all designed for the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Want more? Here is a link to the War on the Rocks article

Bored By Books?

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Few writers are as successful as Francine Prose (and what a great name for a writer!) and few likely work harder at their craft (Prose typically does dozens of drafts of each novel).

Most of us who write would like to be as successful as Francine Prose. That is why I was drawn to a piece about her with the intriguing title of: “‘I’m Easily Bored by Books,’ Says Writer of 22 Novels.” Here is how it begins:

Francine Prose writes a lot.

During her nearly 50-year career, Prose has published 30 books along with reams of essays, reviews, columns and travelogues on subjects as diverse as Anne Frank, Peggy Guggenheim, Caravaggio and bacon. And while her work deals in weighty themes like truth, identity and power, even when she’s writing about breakfast foods, she is not precious about it.

“I hate the word process, I just can’t bear it,” Prose said in an interview. “People say, ‘What’s your process?’ My process is allowing my soul to leave my body and enter into the body of another human being. So try that!”

Her latest novel, “The Vixen,” which will be published on Tuesday by Harper, is a good example. It is about Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the C.I.A. and book publishing. And it is often hilarious.

“We have to entertain ourselves somehow,” she said.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Penning the Future

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Local author’s works imagine and prepare for the wars of tomorrow
By Samantha Bey

As red, white and blue buntings are hoisted on homes around town and Fourth of July festivities abound, July is an opportune time to reflect on all that this country has bestowed upon us and all that we hope to protect. One Coronado resident who counts the blessings of America – and then writes about how to shield them from potential threats, both real and imagined – is local author, Captain George Galdorisi. The Navy moved George, his wife Becky, and their two children, Brian and Laura, to Coronado in 1983 for what they expected would be another two-year assignment before they’d pack up and leave for their next duty station. Thirty-eight years later, now with grandchildren growing up here, it turns out their sojourn to Coronado was a (happily) permanent one.

Galdorisi ended up completing several tours at NAS North Island, Becky taught in the Coronado School District for over two decades, and Brian and Laura both graduated from Coronado High School. During his tenure in the Navy and despite having had a busy, seagoing career, Galdorisi managed to write more than a dozen books published by mainstream publishers. He has also written over 400 articles for professional publications and hundreds of conference papers for military, industry, academic and technical conferences. And now, as the Director of Strategic Assessments and Technical Futures at Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, he has also managed to write two new books, one fiction and one non-fiction, that look to the future of warfare.

“Most publishers and editors give the same advice,” he says, “which is to ‘write what you know.’ When I write fiction, I draw from my operational experience as a naval aviator, as well as from my technical experience working with unmanned systems, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. This experience informs my novels.” Galdorisi began his writing career in 1978 with an article in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. He went on to write the New York Times bestseller Act of Valor, a novelization of the Bandito Brothers, as well as The Kissing Sailor, which proved the identity of the two people in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square. His reboot of the Tom Clancy Op-Center series includes three consecutive New York Times bestsellers: Out of the Ashes, Into the Fire and Scorched Earth. His latest fiction project, published by Braveship Books and is a series of thrillers about fictional character Rick Holden: The Coronado Conspiracy, For Duty and Honor, and the recently released Fire and Ice. “Fire and Ice is a thriller focused on the political-military tensions created by a modern-day Russia at its vindictive worst,” Galdorisi explains. “Vladimir Putin emerges as a central character who uses the fulcrum of Belarus to hold Western Europe hostage by strangling their oil and gas supplies.” Galdorisi says that the novel poses the plausible and highly realistic question: Can Putin and his rogue nation be thwarted through the combined efforts of EU and US political and military might? Perhaps most striking about Fire and Ice is that fictional events portrayed in the book appear to have come true in 2021. The events described in the novel include a ship completely blocking the Suez Canal, a cyber-attack on America’s oil and gas infrastructure, and Russia bullying and eventually invading a neighboring nation. Does Galdorisi have a crystal ball? Or is he just a very lucky guesser? “One of my childhood heroes, Yogi Berra, said ‘It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.’

When I write fiction, I write about things that worry me about future warfare, and then I try to intuit what wars will be like in years hence,” explains Galdorisi. It seems that so far both his worries and his intuition are pretty spot on. He notes that all three of his most recent novels, The Coronado Conspiracy (which, aptly named, has a firm anchor in this city) For Duty and Honor and Fire and Ice, are contributions to an increasingly popular genre commonly known as FICINT, which is short for fictional intelligence. “This means imagining future warfare scenarios based on the reality of high-end combat and real-world intelligence, not fantasy,” says Galdorisi. “My goal,” he says, “is to leave the reader wondering not if, but when, these kinds of scenarios will play out in our lifetimes.” Galdorisi’s primary writing passion is novels, but he also feels a sense of duty to share his knowledge in the nonfiction arena. Earlier this year he released a nonfiction project, AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare. “Along with my co-author, Dr. Sam Tangredi, another former naval officer and Coronado resident, I wrote this book because we believe that it is important for Americans to understand how inserting big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning into military weapon systems will change warfare as we know it,” he explains.

Galdorisi says writing nonfiction in addition to fiction “definitely helps” when it comes to the believability of his novels. “Starting with Act of Valor, continuing through the Tom Clancy Op-Center books, and now the more recent Rick Holden thriller series, these novels wouldn’t be believable if the technical details—especially technologies that will impact future warfare—were not dead-on right.”

When it comes to the new FICINT genre, Galdorisi explains some readers may feel troubled that people outside of the Pentagon were writing about the future of warfare. He, however, feels differently. “Many commentators accuse the U.S. military of preparing for the last war. There may be some truth to this criticism. However, there is a movement afoot to better prepare for the wars of tomorrow. Throughout the 20th century, planning for tomorrow’s conflicts occurred exclusively within the walls of the Pentagon. With a well-known adversary during the Cold War this was an acceptable strategy. However today, with a plethora of new threats, this is no longer the case.”

Galdorisi explains that for years, writers imagined future warfare, but U.S. officials responsible for the security and prosperity of America either disregarded these stories or criticized them as unhelpful to crafting a coherent national and military strategy. He says this has changed in the 21st century. “The U.S. national security community has now embraced this new FICINT genre as a useful instrument to intuit how tomorrow’s wars will be fought.”

Even with all the potentially looming warfare to write about in real life, Galdorisi’s future writing projects will focus on his fi ction. “I need to get Rick Holden and his friends in trouble again, so I am working on my next novel, as well as on another book on the impact of artificial intelligence on future warfare. That should keep me off the streets and out of the saloons for a while,” he says with a laugh. Other than writing books that envision what future warfare will be like, George likes nothing more than connecting with readers. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about his books, blogs, and other writing on his website, georgegaldorisi.com especially his “Writing Tips,” — which offers useful advice for all scribes, from established authors to future best-selling writers.