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The Stryker brigade, one of the Army’s newest units, has a full complement of Army digital networked communications and battle command systems. An important issue for the Department of Defense and the Army is whether these networking capabilities translate into an information advantage and, if so, whether that advantage results in greater mission effectiveness in stability operations. To answer those two questions, the authors compare three units that operated in the same area in Iraq’s northern provinces between 2003 and 2005: the 101st Airborne Division (ABD) (which had only limited digital communications capabilities), the 3/2 Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT), and the 1/25 SBCT. Overall, the 1/25 SBCT and 101st ABD performed best in the stability phase in northern Iraq. They were particularly effective in social networking with the local populace and civilian leaders. The 3/2 SBCT did not perform as well as the 1/25 SBCT, even though it was equipped with some of the same digital networking capabilities. Some of the tactics it employed, such as indiscriminate sweeps, widened the gulf between coalition forces and the local populace. Although networking technologies confer obvious benefits, the authors conclude that command leadership, training, and the processes employed in stability operations are just as important for improving mission effectiveness in stability operations.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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