While weaving the thread of homeland security throughout the panel discussions at TechNet International 2002, speakers also expressed candid views about the problems that must be solved to make the best use of today's technical capabilities. Topics included network-centric warfare, biometrics, smart cards and emergency communications.
One year ago, I discussed the role that AFCEA International can play in supporting interoperability among coalition forces. Until recently, that interoperability drive largely has focused on ensuring that vital equipment is built to the same standards on both sides of the Atlantic. The primary hurdle to be overcome was incompatibility among different nations' information systems, and building new systems along the lines of common standards helped us move toward built-in interoperability.
The home nation of the former Warsaw Pact is undergoing a multifaceted military revolution as it strives to provide significant contributions to Free World security. Shortly after leading the former Eastern bloc in joining NATO, Poland is facing multiple challenges to both modernize and transform its armed forces.
This month marks the transformation of the U.S. Army's only air assault division into a new modular format that is designed to lead the Army into the future. Following similar changes at the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is metamorphosing into a modular construct that brings with it significant changes in structure and equipment.
The U.S. Army's force restructuring effort is affecting every aspect of the service, including the way signal soldiers train. To address the communications needs of modular units, the U.S. Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia, is helping to create a multifunctional signal soldier who can accomplish different tasks as required by the unit. As joint operations drive doctrine and technical solutions, the Army's junior leaders are being taught from the start to think about how the Army works with the other services beyond the realm of joint task forces.
Even Wal-Mart's Sam Walton might stand in awe of the way the U.S. Army is transforming its logistics infrastructure. The service has identified four focus areas for change and is now in the blueprinting phase of improving how the supply chain links. With the support of commercial enterprise resource planning technology, the Army is targeting problems to ensure that data is not the only asset that makes it to the end of the last tactical mile.
Europe's armies and defense firms are working together to transform conventional ground forces into digitized, network-centric units. A major part of this effort seeks to connect legacy equipment to data and communications networks. The first of these advanced national brigades is scheduled to enter service by the end of the decade.
The cost of linking legacy systems with new technologies entering service across Europe has caused a major international firm to shift its operational focus. Faced with shrinking defense budgets and nations locked into large multi-year procurement programs, the European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS), Paris, recently underwent an internal realignment. The company shifted away from being a platform and subsystem provider to becoming a primary systems integrator. This distinction is important because smaller budgets mean that European defense ministries can no longer afford to duplicate the efforts of other nations. Instead, they must leverage the expertise of multinational defense firms through shared integration programs.
A family of advanced lightweight reconnaissance drones is enhancing the situational awareness of German army units in Afghanistan and Kosovo. Easily transported in ground vehicles, the aircraft feature an automated flight control and navigation system that does not require skilled pilots to operate and can be rapidly assembled. Designed for mobility and a minimal logistics trail, the aircraft can operate from forward areas without the need for a runway.
A recently developed individual navigation tool allows soldiers to know their precise location inside buildings or areas where global positioning satellite signals are jammed. By combining several technologies into a small, lightweight unit, the device would provide warfighters with a three-dimensional view of their position so they could retrace their path to exit an area. The equipment also could help civilian first responders such as fire, police and emergency personnel to find routes through damaged or smoke-filled buildings.