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The Unique Character of Naval ISR

December 1, 2013
By Kent R. Schneider

Naval forces represent the ultimate projection capability for the United States. This important capability creates some unique requirements and constraints in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the Navy and Marine Corps. The expeditionary nature of these forces drives two distinctive aspects of naval ISR.

First, naval forces must take much of their ISR capability, particularly real-time, with them. Distances and the lack of afloat infrastructure cause virtually all but space-based assets to travel with each expeditionary force. This includes airborne platforms, other sensors and processing resources. Ground-based resources can be accessed only when in port or during some littoral operations.

Second, afloat platforms are among the most bandwidth-constrained military assets. This obviously affects how they can access remote data and intelligence sensor downloads. The amount of digital imagery and streaming video that can be brought onto a ship at sea clearly is limited. This suggests that more data must be carried on the ship and that pre-planning is critical. These limitations also demand a closer link between operational planners and their intelligence counterparts.

Given all of this, it should surprise no one that the U.S. Navy was the first U.S. military service to integrate its -2 and -6 functions. You may recall when the Navy combined these functions to create the N-2/N-6 position and staff, with then-Vice Adm. Jack Dorsett, USN, as the first to take on this role. The idea was to combine all information functions under the “Information Dominance Corps” to integrate planning and execution and conserve resources. This has worked well for the Navy and has allowed it to take better advantage of information resources afloat—including not only ISR assets but also command and control and administration/log functions.

So, how will the future treat all of this? The new maritime strategy is emerging and will adjust the use of maritime forces for the evolving threat, geopolitical shifts, maritime roles in the new U.S. defense strategy and fiscal realities. Planning and employment of naval ISR necessarily will adapt to these changes, and the Navy will look to industry to help with new requirements. Everyone needs to be part of this dialogue as the new maritime strategy is revealed.

The West 2014 Conference, co-hosted by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute, is scheduled for February 11-13, 2014, at the San Diego Convention Center. The theme this year is “The New Maritime Strategy: How Do We Make It Work?” Speakers and panels will focus on challenges and opportunities with the execution of the new strategy.

The Honorable Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, will open the conference by providing the strategic and fiscal context for the new maritime strategy. Other speakers providing various perspectives on the strategy include the Honorable Richard Danzig, former secretary of the navy; Adm. Harry Harris, USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet; Adm. Samuel Locklear, USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Command; Adm. William McRaven, USN, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command; Rear Adm. James Foggo, USN, assistant deputy chief of naval operations (operations, plans and strategy, N-3/N-5); and a panel of the chiefs of the sea services—Gen. James Amos, USMC, commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, USN, chief of naval operations; and Adm. Robert Papp, USCG, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard.

This robust set of speakers represents many of the senior leaders who have developed the new maritime strategy and who will be responsible for near-term implementation. Attendees need to interact with these speakers and help provide the industry perspective on execution.

Also, returning to San Diego this year is the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer (CIO) Conference led by Terry Halvorsen, the DON CIO. This conference is held within the West Conference, and these command, control, communications, and computers (C4)/information technology leaders will be a full part of the dialogue on the new strategy.

The armed forces of the United States are at an inflection point. With the forces in Afghanistan beginning to phase out, a rebalance to the Pacific and a restructuring to meet mandated cost reductions, changes will be profound throughout the force structure. There will be no better place to discuss this far-reaching change for the maritime component than at the West Conference in San Diego. Please be part of the dialogue.

 

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