By Brig. Gen. John R. Thomas, USMC, Director for Command, Control, Communications and Computers and Chief Information Officer, U.S. Marine Corps
The global war on terrorism has clearly demonstrated both challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. Marine Corps as a new generation of technically savvy leaders emerge. The Marine Corps must capitalize on the lessons learned and develop information technology and communications capabilities to meet the operational demands of these new leaders who find themselves operating in an uncertain, highly fluid, expeditionary environment. Central in our lessons learned is recognition of the power of a netted force. Distributed operations with forces that can be massed at a time and place of our own choosing to create desired effects require a robust, adaptable network. I do not accept the notion that Marines might simply outdistance or outrun their command and control (C2) communications capabilities when it is most critically needed-during combat operations.
The accelerating tempo along with the growing number of military operations is taking a toll on joint training, but the U.S. military and its allies are compensating with technology and adaptive planning. In its first integration training event focusing on functional component commands, the Joint National Training Capability helped militaries from numerous nations prepare to fight in a coalition environment by providing modeling and simulation components. The exercise also certified the USS John F. Kennedy carrier strike group to deploy to real-world operations and provided interim training for the USS Harry S Truman group.
Europe's armed forces are using virtual reality to develop and integrate new technologies. Consisting of several networked facilities operating as a single entity, this research and design capability allows defense firms and their customers to test how systems operate before funds are committed for acquisition and production. This virtual testing center uses sophisticated modeling and simulation functions to create operational and training methodologies.
An advanced thin-client station allows U.S. intelligence analysts to work more effectively by enabling them to share information efficiently on the same network. Data that once resided on multiple networks is now stored on a secure server providing material to individual desktop units. The equipment creates a smaller hardware footprint while improving workflow and reducing security risks.
Many of us who live inside the Washington, D.C., beltway are considering the ramifications of the 9/11 Commission Report. Foremost among the commission's recommendations is the establishment of a director of national intelligence, or DNI. Experts are split on whether this new position would help eliminate intelligence shortcomings and increase efficiency, or whether it would impart lasting damage on the intelligence community when our nation is faced with a deadly menace.
The Iraq War has provided a wealth of lessons that already are being applied to diverse U.S. Army intelligence disciplines such as sensors, situational awareness, information dissemination and secure conferencing. The Army has been incorporating many of these lessons by accelerating some programs and altering others, and many of these activities are supporting the ongoing Army transformation while others are altering its course.
A prototype information management and communications technology soon will provide warfighters with near-real-time intelligence. The network-based system collects imagery, video and other data from airborne and ground-based sensors and stores it in specialized servers. Commanders can then access this raw information for needed materials without waiting for analysts to process it.
The two-year-old U.S. combatant command tasked with both homeland security and homeland defense is juggling conflicting requirements as it strives to establish a vital infostructure. The U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, must balance the need to deter, prevent and defeat threats to the United States with legal limitations on domestic information sharing. This poses both technological and organizational challenges to intelligence dissemination and communications.
A cross-service network that shares sensitive but unclassified information among U.S. Defense Department installations is moving nationwide. The Web-portal technology allows users to document and immediately disseminate information regarding potential threats to personnel, facilities and resources to meet antiterrorism and force protection needs.
As defense simulation grows more complex and more capable, it is segmenting just as it moves toward greater interoperability. Instead of diverse simulations evolving into a single, all-encompassing synthetic battlespace, the course is toward individual activities or systems simulated by powerful computing technologies. The goal of modeling developers is to treat these new simulations as modules and assemble them into large-scale simulations that are tailored to trainees' or commanders' requirements.