Fundamental advances in U.S. night vision technologies are unfolding rapidly. These sweeping military developments already are being demonstrated successfully. Called visual collaboration, the sharing of real-time image, graphics and information from soldier to soldier is enabled by exploiting new sensor and digital network technologies.
I am concerned-despite the discussions that take place in favor of information sharing, information security, network-centric operations and communications support to the warfighter-that the U.S. military remains a platform-centric force. That same case may be made for many NATO and other allied nations. Military leaders throughout the Free World continue to focus their discussions on tanks, ships and aircraft. These warfighting platforms are important big-ticket items that have a key role in warfare. But, to move from our industrial-age mindset to today's information age, I suggest that virtually every platform planning session include a discussion on how that platform fits into the warfighting network.
All that the U.S. Defense Department has to do to network the force properly is to implement advanced information technologies and systems through multi-billion-dollar programs; quickly equip combatants in two ongoing wars with state-of-the-art capabilities; ensure full interoperability among the services and coalition partners; and guarantee information assurance across the entire department infosphere. And, it must achieve these objectives successfully while the entire force undergoes a revolutionary transformation.
Warfighting technologies are improving the way the maritime branch of the U.S. Defense Department gathers information and intelligence as well as how the sea service uses these technologies to make operational decisions. With fresh initiatives and electronics, personnel on ships and at land-based operations centers will be able to identify changes and irregularities, allowing warfighters to focus on fewer targets and to share communications over a more dispersed area.
The new initiative that is reshaping U.S. Army forces into smaller, more flexible formations allows them to realign themselves to meet commanders' mission requirements. The process changes how the service trains, refits and equips its active duty and reserve components as they rotate out of an operational theater. The modified units not only meet Army transformation requirements but also are tailored to perform specific types of missions.
The U.S. Air Force is applying lessons learned from current operations about how new warfighter technologies can build the best bridges between the operational, tactical and intelligence elements of warfare and increase information flow. But while putting more information in warfighters' hands increases situational awareness, challenges remain about how to ensure that more data does not overwhelm troops but rather can be transformed into the applicable knowledge warfighters require.
Diminutive but potent, a versatile unmanned micro air vehicle leaps tall buildings to look for rooftop shooters or hovers and stares through windows to search within for hidden enemies. New applications continually tumble forth for a 14-pound ducted fan vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. This nascent platform rapidly is being recognized for its important platoon-level infantry and cavalry reconnaissance capabilities.
Technology is enabling base commanders and command post personnel to send out alerts in emergency situations more quickly. The new warning systems, being installed on several U.S. military bases, use the base network to reach every communications device connected to the network while tying in more traditional alert components such as public address systems and telephony.
The United States has been fighting a shadowy enemy abroad for more than four years, but uncertainty remains about whether lessons from September 11, 2001, have been sufficiently learned before another attack is launched on home territory. This question was at the heart of AFCEA International's Homeland Security 2006 conference, "Homeland Security 2.0-Building Resilient Communities," held in Washington, D.C., February 22-23. Instead of the usual panel discussions, the event centered on a simulation of a major terrorist attack in the capital region. Over the course of the conference, participants from a variety of federal, state, local and commercial organizations described how they would react to such a developing situation.
Addressing the complex issues security, defense and intelligence-gathering pose in the global war on terrorism can be an overwhelming challenge for any single organization. But experts from around the world are working diligently to cooperate and find the best solutions to tackle these issues. The task is not an easy one. They must balance protection and freedom, safety and privacy and at the same time learn how to collaborate to degrees unheard of in the past. Technology offers many solutions, but some of the best work is done when these experts and the people on the front lines meet face to face, roll up their sleeves and engage in dialogue.