By Maryann Lawlor, Henry S. Kenyon, Robert K. Ackerman
Information technology is the key differentiator in operations in southwest Asia and the global war on terrorism, according to military leaders who spoke at TechNet International 2004. Each shared his or her individual perspective on how information systems are transforming the way the military is fighting today and will fight in the future. Speakers included key U.S. Defense Department and information technology leaders from each of the armed forces as well as the joint community.
Experts representing many areas of homeland security and defense shared their insights during three panel sessions at TechNet International 2004. Discussion topics varied from wireless device security to infrastructure protection to business continuity. Leaders from industry, government and the military agreed that information technology offers many benefits, but it also poses considerable security challenges.
The U.S. Army is testing a new technology that will enable a seamless connection between the wireless world and the landline world by means of tactical radio networking. Through the use of an already proven network infrastructure, the addition of a centralized routing capability within a family of current-generation tactical field radios has provided access to multiple forms of connectivity that were previously unattainable in the field.
The transformation taking place today in both the military and in industry is a logical and necessary step along the evolutionary trail. History documents how economic and societal structures adapted to changes brought about by the transition from the agrarian to the industrial age. We have to turn on the Discovery Channel to learn how people must have felt about adjusting to different ways of earning a living, new modes of transportation, revolutionary tactics for fighting battles.
Rewarding unconventional thinking and promoting a culture where people have the freedom and flexibility to take risks and try new things is a salient move by the U.S. Defense Department. In seeking to instill an entrepreneurial approach to developing military capabilities, a key element is to encourage people to behave less like bureaucrats.
Military transformation may begin with a vision developed by U.S. Defense Department leaders, but it is in the individual services that the rubber meets the road or-in the U.S. Navy's case-the keel meets the water. All of the service's transformation efforts are aimed at achieving specific goals that will make the Navy more agile and increase strike precision.
U.S. Marine Corps transformation efforts are seeking to keep humans at the center of an increasingly automated decision cycle. As the service morphs into a network-centric fighting force, planners are designing doctrine and technologies to serve warfighters' needs without burying them in excess information.
An experimental communications system may soon connect U.S. Marine Corps units deployed on amphibious operations. Built using current satellite technology linked to radios and battlefield data management devices, the network will connect forward tactical units with task force commanders.
A push for force transformation across all branches of the military has brought about change in the research and development community and the collaboration technologies it creates. To meet the growing demand for accurate, relevant and timely information on the battlefield, scientists and engineers are focusing on interoperability, standards and advanced technologies.
The U.S. military will conduct its annual search for interoperability solutions next month with a renewed sense of urgency as nations continue to pull together to fight terrorism and government agencies pursue collaboration in homeland security efforts. Once again, this year, the focus will be on examining dozens of technologies that commands can employ to address immediate interoperability problems.