LandWarNet 2011 took on a naval twist this morning as Adm. William McRaven, USN, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), took the stage to discuss his view of communications. The leader quickly pointed out the relevance of SOCOM at a largely U.S Army conference, explaining that members of his command are inherently joint and interagency. He then cleared up any confusion that special operations are always kinetic by emphasizing that engagement activities are a critical part of missions. Adm. McRaven also said that SOF warriors represent a major value to the country. "I like to think we're the most cost effective capability the U.S. government has out there," he stated.
To successfully complete objectives, SOF relies heavily on strong communications and operates its own network, which has 54 garrison nodes, five strategic entry points and 59,000 global users operating in about 70 countries at any given time. Adm. McRaven said these warriors represent a major value to the country. Over the network each day, personnel exchange 321,000 emails, conduct 210 video teleconferences (VTCs) and make more than 400,000 thousand phone calls. "[There is] a fairly robust enterprise network out there," the admiral said.
All the information is exchanged for a variety of purposes. A high-level reason is to communicate to command, which the admiral believes is the easiest piece. Others exchange information to control troops and assets in a tactical environment and require greater fidelity. Further clarity is necessary when sending and receiving intelligence; Adm. McRaven explained that for that purpose, users need high-definition video, crystal clear images and good voice transmissions. One of the most important ways troops use the network is to target the enemy. Mistakes there can result in the deaths of civilians. Also critical is passing accurate information to higher headquarters because once leaders there receive it, media sources likely will begin to broadcast the information shortly after.
After providing the background on SOCOM and the SOF network, Adm. McRaven then presented the audience with what his communications needs. The first item on his list was universal domain. He would like to address the issue of tagging the information instead of worrying about the protocols of the devices passing it. He also asked for improved reception, citing a need for closed-caption type capabilities in VTCs that would show what a speaker is saying in different languages. In addition, the admiral stated needs for an enterprise cloud, a full-spectrum search engine and ironclad protection solutions. Adm. McRaven also referenced two other areas of importance to his mission. "En route communications are absolutely critical," he stated, as is interoperability between SOF and general purpose forces.