The U.S. Defense Department, with the cooperation of nations worldwide, is examining a multitude of technologies that would enhance today's command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. Recently created systems would allow military forces to acquire targets more accurately, collaborate remotely and share weather information to determine how conditions will affect a planned mission or the effectiveness of a weapon. Emerging technologies also would passively monitor potential targets, facilitate near-real-time access to up-to-date terrain information, provide a defense against information operations, and reduce the footprint and life-cycle cost of equipment.
Information is the Swiss Army Knife of the tactical warfighter. It is a multifaceted tool that can be applied to a wide range of functions, many of which have unintended benefits. It is rapidly migrating from a warfighter's helper to a more central role in military operations. In this era of network-centric warfare, information is a weapon, and its enabling hardware are becoming weapon systems.
The information assets inherent in strategic connectivity may soon extend down to the individual soldier in the foxhole. Not only will combatants be able to provide their own slant on theater operations, they also may be able to tap the massive data resources of the entire U.S. Defense Department.
U.S. Army rapid deployment forces will field an advanced communications management system that will provide its units with a more efficient data conduit than is available with legacy equipment. The vehicle-mounted platform consists of mobile switches and routers that feature integrated commercial and government hardware and software designed to provide voice, video and data service in a tactical environment.
By the latter part of this decade, a fleet of wheeled robots now evolving toward autonomy may perform many of the tasks handled by today's front-line soldier. The U.S. Army is experimenting with a prototype of radio-operated vehicles capable of engaging in various kinds of reconnaissance and surveillance activities. Once fully integrated into the service, these unmanned units will enable the execution of important objectives while reducing the casualties and logistical complexities often associated with rapid reaction forces.
Nations seeking to enable information exchange among international coalition partners face several daunting tasks for laying the groundwork for vital interoperability. Many of these efforts involve individual national commitments to build interoperability into their systems and practices, while others require consultation and consensus before proceeding along equipment deployment paths.
Nowhere does the battle for or against outsourcing rage more fiercely than in the halls of the Pentagon, seat of the most powerful military in the world. The U.S. Defense Department is finding itself in the throes of a debate that might, over time, cause it to cede its hegemony to commercial forces and lose the tools it will need to fight on distant battlefields.
The U.S. Pacific Command is cultivating a variety of technological tools that would bring coalition partners into permanent wide area networks and support the numerous partnerships in the vast region. Enhanced connectivity within the U.S. military forces and improved links for foreign nations will support the United States' primary mission in the Asia-Pacific region-ensuring security in an area of the world that continues to build up its armaments.
U.S. military forces on the Korean peninsula are mobilizing the power of technology to nurture a partnership that has been more than 50 years in the making. The unique nature of the Korean theater of operations has prompted the combined and joint commands in that area to fine-tune information systems to meet their distinct requirements.