Several key impediments must be conquered if network-centric warfare is to achieve its potential for revolutionizing military operations. Long-standing concerns such as interoperability and cultural resistance are joined by issues of understanding human behavior and research and development investment. These elements threaten to slow or even derail efforts to incorporate the full advantages of network-centric warfare into U.S. forces by 2025.
The British government has launched its ambitious program to create a state-of-the-art tactical communications infrastructure for its military. When complete, the United Kingdom's armed forces will have a secure radio system that operates a battlefield Internet jointly across multiple ground, air and sea platforms.
Information assurance, preserving radio spectrum, ensuring interoperability and establishing secure wireless links are just some of the tasks on the menu for the Defense Information Systems Agency. The agency's Defense Department-wide mandate has placed it at the nexus of the infosphere that increasingly is defining military operations worldwide.
Although global positioning system technologies are being used widely in both the military and commercial arenas, research currently underway could broaden their reach by making the capability better, smarter, faster and less costly. One project, which is near completion, combines inertial navigation with global positioning system navigation to increase effectiveness. The second, a longer term program, is aimed at increasing users' ability to operate successfully in the face of enemy jammers or countermeasures.
New algorithms and signal processing technologies may reduce the vulnerability of global positioning system devices to electronic countermeasures. Antijam systems already are in production and are being incorporated into the latest U.S. Defense Department weaponry. Future iterations may bring signal assurance to even the smallest handheld consumer devices.
It is hard to resist the Big Brother analogy to describe law enforcement agencies' use of new technologies for catching lawbreakers. From thermal scanners that monitor the amount of heat emanating from a suspect's house to hidden cameras that catch red-light runners to software that leads to the capture of cybercriminals, new capabilities have brought with them new privacy questions.
Unified military operations are leading to a redistribution of intelligence functions as the U.S. Defense Department transitions into a network-centric world. Sensors and shooters once belonged to the same family of operators. Now, sensing, analysis and dissemination of intelligence information are moving into a realm apart from the weapons delivery process.
Few things on Earth go unnoticed by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. So, when the landscape of national security changed in the 1990s, it saw the beginning of the end for a long-established corporate culture. The once highly secretive organization has since restructured itself by dramatically increasing its research and development efforts and aggressively enlisting services from the commercial sector. These changes reflect a general trend toward consolidating space-based observation assets within the intelligence community.
The U.S. Defense Department is seeking industry input on the design of the next generation of airborne signals intelligence systems. The joint effort, which involves the services, a defense agency and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, is known as the Joint Airborne Signals Intelligence Architecture Standards Working Group. It will build on past defense and industry successes to create the next version of the signals intelligence architecture document. The group is led by the National Security Agency and projects publication of version 2.0 in early 2002.