Loopy OODA Loops: 

The Triumph of Faith & Interests Over Facts & Reason

May 30, 2004

Comment: # 513

The American strategist Col John Boyd developed the theory of a continuously adaptive decision cycle Observation / Orientation / Decision / Action Loops as a means for staying connected to and for overcoming the external threats in a menacing environment. [see Boyd and Military Strategy]

A faith-based decision-making strategy, on the other hand, is driven by a non-adaptive ideology, akin to what Boyd would have called a hard-wired Orientation. In such a strategy, staying on message means that observations are forced through a fixed filter that sees what it wants to see, and consequently decisions and actions are driven more by the internal wiring of the Orientation than by any evolving relationship to the external world.  Thus the entire OODA loop turns inside itself, connected to some rigid formality, but disconnected from the environment that loop is supposed to cope with. Remember how faith in a rigid communist ideology disconnected decision-makers in the Soviet Union from events outside themselves.

Boyd's work is crucially important because he showed that the inevitable result of a decision process that loops inside itself is growing confusion and disorder.  Under conditions of menace, such a decision process risks escalation into chaos, panic and overload, leading ultimately to paralysis and collapse.

The government of the United States has not reached Boyd's endgame, yet.  But the loopy behavior in the attached article, viewed through Boyd's lens, suggests the presence of an incestuously amplifying, self-referential OODA Loop headed precipitously in that direction.


Discipline Takes a Break at the White House

The New York Times
May 30, 2004





Reporters who spent the first two-thirds of Mr. Bush's term looking for any crack between the tight-lipped members of the administration suddenly feel as if they have stepped into an amusement park, with different hawkers openly selling disparate policies, explanations and critiques.


There was Attorney General John Ashcroft last week warning America of alarming intelligence that "indicates Al Qaeda's specific intention to hit the United States hard.'' He apparently never coordinated with Tom Ridge, secretary of homeland security.

Mr. Ridge reassured interviewers that there really was not much new intelligence floating around, just a general concern that Al Qaeda would try to influence the election or be tempted by a summer of big events, from the Group of 8 summit in Sea Island, Ga., to the party conventions.


The Pentagon paid Mr. Chalabi's party $335,000 a month for intelligence.

Now his Pentagon sponsors can barely remember his name, and the rest of the administration is suddenly describing him as a con artist at best, and perhaps a leaker of military information to Iran.


The list goes on. For the past two months the president has been on the road promoting his education, health care and other programs, with the White House turning out fact sheets about how much spending has increased in these politically popular areas. But no one told the Office of Management and Budget, and it inconveniently produced a May 19 memo to government departments telling them to be prepared for a $1.5 billion cut in education spending next year, and $900 million in veterans' benefits.

That might please conservatives worried about runaway spending, but President Bush has regularly appeared at "No Child Left Behind'' celebrations boasting that he has increased federal money to the schools by nearly 60 percent.


Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822

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Boyd and Military Strategy

Fourth Generation Warfare