I consider 1990 as the earth-shattering year on planet Earth (no pun-intended). The world was about to change – permanently some may argue. One of the world’s two super powers, USSR and an established alternative form of governance, the communism, was about to lose traction. The cold war was about to end. Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost were too rapid transformations that instead of stopping accelerated the break-up of USSR. Berlin wall had already fallen and suddenly many new countries were coming out of former USSR and USSR Block. India had a Prime Minister, Mr. V.P. Singh, who came to power on the promise of clean government in 1989 and stayed in only for a year till November 1990. The world was changing fundamentally.
This was the year when I joined my first job at Institute for Systems Studies and Analyses (ISSA) after doing my masters in computer science. This was a dream come true for me as I dreamt to be a defense researcher since my class X when I watched fly-past of Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft on its golden jubilee anniversary in 1982, from the roof top of my home at Delhi. Given my more than deep interest in defense and security analysis rather than computer science, Dr. N. K. Jaiswal, then Director ISSA, straightaway assigned me to a rather interesting study on if a war happens when it will transition to a nuclear war in cases of symmetrical or asymmetrical nuclear capabilities with both nations. This was based on a model being developed using prisoner’s dilemma from Game Theory. It was a matter of great pride for me that I contributed to the report based on this work and was mentioned as a co-author. Based on this model which used a monte-carlo simulation approach to study strategies, we designed and developed the first three terminal computerized crisis game/seminar game/free form game/politico-military game. It is interesting to note that today 20 years later I am exploring the same methodology to create business innovation solutions.
In August 1990, may be due to break down of cold war equilibrium, Saddam’s Iraq annexed Kuwait. Throughout the rest of the year 1990, there were regular reports of US attacking Iraq to free Kuwait. The attack came on 16th January 1991. However, at the turn of New Year I got a call from my lab Director that we will have to go to (Scientific Adviser) SA’s office, to discuss something related to Gulf war. ISSA was made part of a study group to understand if oil-wells are burnt by Saddam as a counter to allied attacks, what will be the environmental effects. In a week’s time we studied all reports and implications published in popular press – it was mentioned that Indian environment may get affected and scenarios equivalent to a Nuclear Winter may happen. In about 4 days of work we made a high level model to estimate the impact of oil-well fires. The report was tabled in parliament and also our results were published in India Today and many newspapers. It was a great high for me personally.
Why I mentioned the above three studies – if one looks at the work ISSA was doing before that – it was operational and tactical problems – these studies were our initial forays into the messy, unstructured and chaotic world of decision and systems analyses at strategic level. This become my life-long love, the world of messy, long term and long range problems at the strategic level. The book that I wrote in 2004 titled “Strategic Decision Making – applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process”, is a testimony to the remarkable exposure that I had at ISSA. The book also was a direct influence of the work I did while contributing to Dr. Jaiswal’s book titled “Military Operations Research: Quantitative Decision Making”. It was a great learning experience to see how that book emerged.
My best period in ISSA started when I came back from my M. Tech in January 1997. In that year, Dr. Jaiswal retired and Mr. S C Jethi became the Director. Dr. Kalam had taken over as SA and I had new energy for applying my new found problem solving methodologies. My love for strategic level decision problems expanded in the new eco-system. I developed a new methodology to model and quantify weapon systems effectiveness. Till that that time operational lethality was considered as the dimension of weapon effectiveness, we expanded that to include survivability, operability and interconnection capability of the weapon system. This became a paper called Weapon Power Score (WPS) that I presented at Ballistics Conference in South Africa in 1998. I expanded the WPS as well as explored other such methodologies for example Situational Force Scoring (SFS) by Rand Corporation and created a new model based on the existing Adaptive Dynamic Model of Epstein into a comprehensive methodology for incorporating effects of advanced technologies in modeling combat including combat support systems. An offshoot of this study was a methodology for analyzing centrality in networks using eigenvalue method. I developed it on my own. Later I found that centrality using eigenvector is an established method in social network analysis. This result has been used in some of my recent work on system complexity in software. In 1998 it resulted in my second international paper which was presented in RMCS UK’s conference.
By now, ISSA was established as a lab doing unique strategic analysis work. We became members of high level committees to study Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA’s). We were called to study impact of peaceful nuclear tests. This was work that we did before May 1998. I distinctly remember that we submitted a report on economic and other impact of peaceful nuclear explosions on 10th May 1998. On 11th May we heard India has conducted its nuclear test. That was a great feeling to know that ISSA contributed to the country’s need and I played a small part. In all my work at ISSA, I have felt a remarkable emotion of pride in contributing to a larger goal – for my country. I can safely say in my work in private companies since the year 2000 till now, this sort of feeling has never been felt. By now, ISSA was well established as a Strategic Analysis Laboratory, we were forming a great team of scientists who were interested in exploring, experimenting and evolving solutions rather than using existing cookie-cutter solutions of the past.
Our reputation by now had expanded so much that SA asked us to study Nuclear Doctrine and WMD needs of India. Using an established model called Ingrilitor-Britto model to study the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine of cold war, we developed our own model to estimate how many missiles we need to take care of our adversaries’ nuclear missiles. I worked with our resident Game Theory expert to develop on this model. The methodology was so interesting that we published a paper in one of the conferences on OR. At the same time, I got interested in the shift to network centricity. The concept on network centric combat force (NCCF) – I can claim – we produced a model – that must be the first on NCW. Our resident Information Theory expert discussed the principle of maximum entropy one day. We discussed together and the result was a report and a model using principle of maximum entropy for estimating threat intensity on specific nodes in a NCCF.
In 1999 during Kargil war we studied and looked at the casualties and combat operations to predict what may happen. That report was also released and was well appreciated. Last report, before I left ISSA, was on Strategic Command and Control Network and the mechanisms of escalation. I think that was initial work which had solid contours to become a new model – I am sure it would have been continued to create a final report.
In nutshell, my 10 years in ISSA/DRDO were a life changing and immensely rich experience of intellectual pursuits through scientific methods and I can proclaim that a decade of work at ISSA/DRDO has helped me to continuously create in the private industry. I have done much better in my career and my life, because I worked at ISSA for 10 years. I am sure in last decade or so many things would have changed, but I am convinced there will still be minds exploring new horizons in ways that are unique to ISSA. Over umpteen cups of tea, over discussions on next pay commissions, over personal priorities and children growing up, over each other’s leg-pulling, over informality of discussions, over understanding of variety in what makes ISSA/DRDO, I have no doubt, science happens! That I think, is a great experience – ISSA was and still is my most precious experience.
Navneet Bhushan (Navneet) is a founder director of CRAFITTI CONSULTING (www.crafitti.com) – an Innovation and Intellectual Property Consulting firm focused on co-crafting Innovation in global enterprises. He is the winner of Indira India Innovation award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Leadership for 2012. He is the principal author of Strategic Decision Making- Applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process published by Springer-Verlag, UK, as part of the Decision Engineering Series. Read Navneet Bhushan Profile. Read Navneet Bhushan Columns.