Until recently, battlefield information systems were viewed merely as enablers to conventional military operations. Only a decade ago, their buzzwords were "force multiplier." Since the Gulf War, which demonstrated the value of Western high-technology supremacy, information systems have steadily increased in importance, shedding their supporting roles for leads in the growing variety of military operations.
A single secure global information grid is emerging to greatly increase U.S. and allied combat power. This overarching system-of-systems approach recognizes that each unique platform, weapon system, computer, radio, piece of equipment and warrior is also part of a much greater network.
The drive to speed new military information system technologies to the field, coupled with an increased reliance on commercial off-the-shelf products, is posing new interoperability problems for communicators. Many of these systems must interoperate in an increasingly networked environment with legacy equipment or foreign counterparts in coalition operations.
Communications specialists are proposing that the U.S. Forces-Korea change engineering and management approaches and follow the lead of commercial Internet service providers. The plan offers wide area network transmission bandwidth between the global defense information infrastructure and command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems users on the Korean Peninsula, and it addresses several problems with the existing data network there.
British forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo will receive a new, highly automated communications network designed to reduce staffing requirements. Part of an ambitious 28-week program by the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence, it will replace a manpower-intensive system currently in use, allowing roughly 260 Royal Signal Corps personnel to be reassigned. Made entirely from commercial technologies, all elements must be in place and operational by late August before the harsh Balkan winter begins.
Several months of Russian attacks have shifted the balance of power in Chechnya and changed U.S. thinking about urban warfare. After suffering stunning public defeats just a few years ago, Russian forces applied painful lessons learned then to drive Chechen forces out of their capital city, Grozny, this year. Yet, according to U.S. analysts, this may have merely altered the thrust of battle, not resolved it. And, the tactics employed by both sides are forcing U.S. experts to take another look at the concept of urban warfare.
The passionate debate about whether to collect sales tax on purchases made over the Internet has politicians, economists and industry searching for the right course of action to continue unprecedented economic growth while supporting the flow of revenue to states or to countries. Experts on both sides of the issue have strong convictions, leaving the legislators with some very hard choices to make during the next several years.
A World Wide Web-based document coordination tool developed for the U.S. Army has become available for the entire federal government. The system enables multiple users to review a directive or regulation posted on a Web or intranet site and enter their comments. The recorded information is then used to modify the document efficiently as it moves toward completion.
Profound Internet growth and the changes it generates in the economy and society is a double-edged sword. Electronic commerce benefits are fundamentally altering the way people produce, consume and communicate. Yet, risks and vulnerabilities are inherent network byproducts. Growing electronic threats mandate risk management, customer confidence and at least some level of information protection.
The path to Western alliance membership will be paved with silicon if the modernization plan for a former Warsaw Pact nation is successful. The Republic of Bulgaria is looking toward building its revamped military around advanced information systems assembled through U.S. guidance and commercial partnerships.