The dominant agenda item in the U.S. Army is its ongoing transformation, and the dominant element in this transformation is the Army's information systems. Empowered by new electronics technologies, these systems and their capabilities are defining the service's configuration and missions.
The U.S. Army is modernizing the command and control infrastructure of its major facilities in the United States, Europe and Asia. Once complete, the new system will allow enhanced reach-back capabilities among front-line forces, sustaining bases, national and theater command assets.
The U.S. Defense Department is developing software that will allow commanders to quickly design, prepare for deployment, manage and monitor joint task force communications networks. Once connectivity is achieved, the platform-independent system will provide bandwidth management and information assurance capabilities.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is strengthening its communications structure with a new standard Internet protocol encryption system that protects data, videoconferencing and some voice communications. The organization and its member nations will begin using the system later this year.
Full-featured distributed collaboration tools served to operators on a full-featured multiscreen workstation will be the emerging technology that will have the biggest impact on the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) in the future. It is a long way to go anywhere in the Asia-Pacific area of responsibility (AOR). Emerging technology that is mature enough to create virtual presence anywhere in the AOR and beyond enables real-time information sharing, decision support and direction, thereby improving speed of command and force synchronization. In short, collaboration tools will enable the command to be there without going there; that saves time and fuel and eliminates the need to secure real estate.
The lines between the tactical, operational and strategic realms of warfare are beginning to blur in large part because of technology. Investments in command and control have changed the character of the battlespace, and while some of the new capabilities provide commanders with more control than they ever envisioned, new challenges are surfacing that must be tackled. The command and control capabilities that deliver the benefits of network centricity have consequences that today's military and government leaders must address in their transformational efforts.
A successful future U.S. Air Force tactical operation may end with both a bang and a whimper. Traditional munitions-based operations employing kinetic weapons increasingly are sharing the airspace with information-based nonkinetic measures. The result soon may be an air strike that neutralizes an adversary with only minor damage, if any, to enemy assets.
Construction of a new tactical communications infrastructure is underway in Iraq that will support tens of thousands of troops and eventually benefit the Iraqi people as it is turned over for their use when the U.S. military leaves the country. With the help of commercial capabilities and industry expertise, the infrastructure will improve tactical operation coordination between multiple sites by increasing the speed at which information can be shared from kilobytes to megabytes.
Even the most vocal advocates of Bowman would accept that the program's lengthy history has led it to become a synonym for procurement delay. Nonetheless, Bowman's in-service date was declared in March when the first unit, the British Army's 12 Mechanized Brigade, successfully completed a formation-level operational field trial using two mechanized battle groups and a brigade headquarters.
U.S. Army tank commanders now are looking up at information the same way fighter pilots do: through a helmet-mounted ocular. The head-up device allows tank crew members situated outside of the hatch to view the same information that is displayed on computers inside the tank. The equipment was introduced with troops in operation Iraqi Freedom.