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Introduction

A staff officer is someone who works within a military headquarters, usually within a specific department, with the intention of supporting commanders in various ways. Whilst large alliances, and coalitions, have a lot of parallels to real-life structures, they lack staff officers. I think that this reduces the operational capacity of EVE alliances, and is an opportunity for reform.

History of Military Command Structures in EVE

Before making a case for reform, it is constructive to look at the history of how military forces in EVE have been commanded. In the first few months and years, there was no real military command structure. The conflict was purely tribal in character, where individual fleet commanders would rally a group of people to accomplish some form of objective.

Over time, a degree of formal military command on the strategic level began to emerge. Corporation and alliance CEOs determined specific military objectives, and FCs carried it out. However, operational command remained deeply limited. Coordination of multiple fleets was rare and relatively difficult. Intelligence was handled on an ad-hoc basis, with individual relationships and connections having more prominence than institutional capacity.

This focus on the strategic level of command eventually crystallized in the position of the Skymarshal. This is a single person who acts as a sort of supreme commander for all military activities within a given alliance or coalition. They coordinate with diplomats, logicians and alliance leadership to draw up war plans and assign FCs to specific targets. This was the command model which served in the later phase of the 2007-2009 Great War.

However, by mid-2011 or so – varying in terms of geography – this model began to come under strain. Campaigns in Dominion sovereignty were so complicated and multifaceted that a single person could not reliably conduct all planning and prioritization for anything other than a very short action. Moreover, as alliances expanded out to muster significant forces in multiple time-zones, a single Skymarshal was no longer viable. One person could not coordinate operations at all times. The drubbing which Goonswarm received in the AUTZ in their adventure in Tribute is indicative of this issue.

Therefore, alliances moved to a Skyteam. This is a relatively small group – perhaps up to 15 – senior FCs with a great deal of experience. This is the model currently used by the vast majority of organizations in the game. It splits some of the burdens of command operations and makes it possible for talented FCs to rise up the ranks to a position of overall command and responsibility.

However, I believe that this model is somewhat flawed, and could be replaced.

A Real Life Interlude

I was talking with an acquaintance about the Goons’ deployment to the north in August, and he remarked with some wonderment, “They’re fighting wars larger than most of Europe since WW2”. This stopped and made me think about the issue. Even setting aside the Goons, whose immense size is something of an outlier, just a normal alliance deployment might see somewhere in the region of 4000 people engaging.

In real life, that’s about the size of a Brigade Combat Team in the US Army. A BCT has about 300 people in a headquarters role, spread across a number of dedicated headquarters companies. Whilst many of the functions of a headquarters in real life doesn’t really map over to EVE – you don’t really need a chaplain or legal advisor, for example – there are still a large number of roles which are relegated to a small group of FCs.

What am I suggesting?

Therefore, it is my proposal that to improve the capacity of military command teams, we should replace the Skyteam was a dedicated military staff supporting commanders. This is for two key reasons.

The first is that the skills of an FC do not directly map to strategic command. This is not in any way meant to disparage the FCs who currently run campaigns – many of them are professional and highly competent individuals. However, at the strategic level, there are a lot of other factors to consider; diplomacy, logistics, human intelligence, reconnaissance and the media meta-game to name but a few.

Being an FC, even a really good FC, does not necessarily prepare you to address these challenges. Having a dedicated staff who can specialize makes up for any deficiencies in the experience set of a specific commander.

The second is that a member of a Skyteam has a huge amount of weight on the shoulders. They have to make military decisions, but they also have to keep an eye on every other factor which might affect the campaigns they conduct. This places a great deal of stress upon them, and it can lead to mistakes. For example, at BR-5RB, NC/PL made the judgment that their USTZ pilots would log in to save them – and paid the price for their mistake to the tune of 8.76 trillion ISK. A military analysis staff might have prevented this misjudgment from happening.

Challenges

Setting aside the fact that I have never held any command position of any note – which might perhaps disqualify me from serious commentary on strategic warfare – there are three key challenges with a ‘staff officer’ plan.

Firstly, it requires many more people to be involved in the military planning. This presumably poses something of a problem in terms of enemy intelligence efforts. This might be countered by strict compartmentalization of information, but that could, in turn, impede interdepartmental cooperation and slow things down even more. Resolving this challenge sounds like a minutiae heavy task which I can’t comment upon – though it must be noted that in real life, military forces manage to deal with this problem.

Secondly, it runs the risk of slowing things down by having too many people as part of the decision-making process. In the current model, you plan with a handful of people who you know well. Moving that to a more staff focused approach might impede progress. To resolve this challenge, I would advocate for an approach wherein decision making is kept to a handful of people – key commanders, maybe an intelligence and diplomatic liaison. Everyone else is given things to do and gets them done without having to know why.

Lastly, we run into the fact that real life staff officers are paid for their time. A commander can be reasonably confident that they can rely on staff to get things done. In EVE, this is not always the case. If your military analyst for Fountain has a bad cold and doesn’t feel like talking EVE, then that would be a serious problem. In a Skyteam structure, you don’t need lots of people around to do jobs. This challenge might be resolved by making sure that staff are not hyper-specialized, and having regular cross-briefing so if one person isn’t around, a crucial component of the system doesn’t fall apart.

Conclusion

I have no specific credentials in-game for command. I am, at best, an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to military history and science. However, I do think that a staff structure of some form might improve the combat capabilities for groups around New Eden and that the gravitas of EVE conflict might be best matched by staff structures.

 

Featured image credit: Razorien

353 Comments

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