With the capabilities of today's information technology systems, military, government and industry leaders are nearly overwhelmed with data. The desktop computer has become more than a machine: It's a window to and a connection with the world. Senior government decision makers increasingly are taking advantage of commercial tools, and transformation is the umbrella term used to describe how we are evolving from the industrial age to the information age. In the past, control belonged to the organization that massed forces; today, it belongs to the group that efficiently turns data into useful information.
The U.S. Defense Department is reconfiguring its training approach so service personnel can learn the same way as they will fight-in a joint environment. To ensure that this is achievable, the department is looking to the U.S. Joint Forces Command to provide active management of joint training systems and capabilities across the armed forces and across the nation.
Rapidly deployable, reliable and secure communications are helping sort through the inherent communications chaos surrounding emergency situations. The technology was instrumental in providing communications capabilities after the terrorist attacks and also was useful in debris recovery operations after the space shuttle Columbia disaster.
The U.S. Air Force soon will field a new generation of command and control aircraft featuring advanced radar and communications systems. Designed around an open systems architecture, the aircraft can be easily refitted with new technologies as they become available. These platforms may combine both the capabilities of ground tracking and surveillance with airborne early warning functions some time in the future, Air Force officials say.
Today's unmanned aerial vehicles look like fighter aircraft, but the next generation of aircraft will more likely resemble brainy birds. By taking advantage of miniaturization, researchers and engineers are exploring ways to put the power of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection directly into the hands of warfighters. In the not-too-distant future, these systems will employ networking technologies to give commanders ubiquitous situational awareness.
The rapid evolution of the Internet and other telecommunications networks has begun to eliminate national boundaries and geographic separation among countries. Scientific methods used to study international information flows and resulting globalization indicate a correlation between the flows and major political and economic changes over time.
A multimillion-dollar U.S. Air Force project that streamlines financial information sharing processes is coming to fruition using an approach that facilitates responsiveness to requirements changes and incrementally delivers capabilities. The system goes into production this month after two years in development.
The U.S. government's information technology efforts are being coordinated by a new office responsible for holding agency programs accountable to budget limits and sound business plans. Part of an ongoing drive to streamline government and provide better services to the public, the department promotes the development of innovative ideas and methods to achieve these goals.
Today's challenges call for cooperation and collaboration among the various agencies charged with ensuring homeland security. Information technology systems will be the conduit through which critical data will be shared, and senior government leaders are looking for solutions in several areas, including information security, maritime monitoring and interagency collaboration. TechNet International 2003 will showcase these capabilities and provide a forum for discussion about future requirements.
The force transformation that is sweeping the U.S. military is an integral part of the global war on terrorism. Rather than being a hindrance to the 18-month-old war, this transformation may be necessary for U.S. forces to prevail both at home and abroad. The transformation is not merely about technology, however. Cultural and organizational concepts must be changed, and all of the services and the Congress must develop new ways of funding and enacting defense changes.