Cyberspace, the virtual domain existing within the chips and wires of computer networks, may be the front line of the next big battle. A clash there may not be decisive, but it could be over in less than a second. As to whether the United States is as prepared as it ought to be, the answer appears to be no. According to government and industry experts, U.S. forces are just beginning their learning curve. The message is that it is time to beef up defenses, partner with the private sector, train the work force and educate the public about the dangers the country faces.
Now that network centricity is a given part of warfighting, it is undergoing growing pains that could hinder its greatest capabilities as the force embraces it fully. Service interoperability is as great a challenge as ever, and that task is complicated by the need to include both allies and nontraditional coalition partners in information networks.
Representatives from Europe and beyond met in Prague recently to discuss information sharing in the battle environment and the requirements for seamless information transfer. The need to pass information among partners remains paramount for defense organizations, especially as various countries on the continent become further integrated. However, questions surround the best methods for pursuing these data-sharing goals, and challenges still remain.
The war on drugs has lost prominence in recent years to the war on terror, but the two dangers are not entirely separate. Leaders and other members of the anti-drug, anti-terror battles met in October to discuss the connections between illicit substances and insurgents and to emphasize the continued problem in the Americas posed especially by cocaine. And while terrorism may be high in the general public’s mind as people fear another attack, drug use is killing thousands of American citizens, including children, every year.
Information assurance, encompassing such objectives as data availability, integrity and confidentiality, is a growing concern in the enormous data processing and communications enterprise run by the U.S. Defense Department and the underlying commercial infrastructure. The Defense Department’s network, known collectively as the Global Information Grid, is powerful but fragile. It also is under constant attack.
The U.S. Army’s LandWarNet program, the focus of Army information technology modernization, is fragmented, unsecure, expensive and not standardized. This comes from Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, USA, the U.S. Army chief information officer (CIO)/G-6. He believes that the Army will fix these problems, but it will take a coordinated plan to do so.
As the armed forces move into the brave new world of information sharing, one of their biggest challenges will be identity assurance—proving that the parties to a virtual transaction are who they say they are, or simply that the person trying to enter a secure facility does in fact have a right to be there. Many current technologies already handle this task, including public key technology and biometrics, but many problems exist as well, such as duplication of effort within the federal government, lack of funding and even understanding what identity is.
With the eighth year of the Global War on Terrorism nearing, military leaders are taking one big collective deep breath and adjusting their thoughts about jointness, leadership and even acquisition. Fueled by more information about the enemy, they are speaking out about the need for balance—between the human element and technology, between fighting the wars today and preparing for future conflicts. They also are expressing what might be called radical ideas about how the armed forces move forward in the future, replacing the adjective asymmetric with irregular or hybrid when describing wars with today’s adversary.
Cultural changes in the U.S. Defense Department are bringing people out of their comfort zones and encouraging them to take advantage of technology opportunities happening around them. The movement toward a service-oriented world is challenging the systems mentality and is leading to a collaboration and information sharing environment that is more agile and responsive.
Information silos and data hoarding are more than annoyances—they cost lives and disrupt missions. Although government leaders understand the need to share information, not only among agencies but with allies and the private sector, progress has been slow and uneven.
The United States learned a series of painful lessons in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It became immediately evident that federal, state and government agencies at all levels had to share information more efficiently. The founding of the Department of Homeland Security was a key step toward coordinating communications and cooperation between the various components of the government. But the scale of the effort meant that creating a national information-sharing architecture would take many years to establish.
The U.S. military is facing a host of missions in all areas of symmetric and asymmetric warfare. These include counterdrug operations, cyberwarfare, stopping piracy, maritime domain awareness and diverse operations in the Global War on Terrorism. And, many of these challenges are linked in ways that threaten Free World security.
The Global War on Terrorism is pushing the visibility and value of spectrum to the forefront. Problems encountered during current operations illustrate how devices that find their way onto the battlefield without thorough spectrum requirement vetting are costing lives. Whether the challenge is systems that interfere with each other or equipment that has not been tested in the electromagnetic environment in which it will be used, the consequence could be mission failure instead of success, death instead of life. Military leaders are committed now more than ever to not only keeping spectrum management in the limelight but also continually checking on its progress.
“We are at war.”
Interoperability remains an illusive goal that the U.S. military continues to fight for on all fronts. From the simulations used in training to the radios on battlefields, the ability to communicate using voice, video and data continues to be a problem despite years of effort. New strategies are being adopted that already have shown the inklings of improvements, but reform is needed at the policy hub so the military service spokes can deliver network-centric capabilities out to the edge—right to the individual warfighters themselves.
A diverse group of military, government, commercial and industrial experts gathered in a unique conference environment to examine the integration of information.
Simulation and training, technology transfer and unconventional warfare were just a few of the topics discussed by a star-studded series of speakers representing some of the highest ranking officers from NATO countries. These leaders spoke at Allied Command Transformation’s (ACT’s) annual Industry Day 2007 (ID-07), held September 26-27 in Warsaw, Poland. For the fourth consecutive year, AFCEA International’s European office was responsible for administering the two-day event.
The transformed infocentric force can count on a future rich in enabling technologies but short on how to achieve common goals, according to many military and industry experts. New capabilities deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are improving operations for U.S. forces there, but new challenges to interoperability are rising as commercial technologies increase their influence on military systems. And, neither industry nor the military can plot a clear course to achieving a fully network-centric force. Despite agreeing on goals, the two are far apart.
Leaders from across the length and breadth of the military agree that the Global War on Terrorism has uncovered serious shortcomings in today’s force. While warfighter performance continues to shine, nearly every element of the institutional military structure needs serious revamping to fight sophisticated, well-networked adversaries who employ high-technology and rudimentary capabilities so effectively that coalition forces must regroup and rethink their strategies. From antiquated acquisition processes to cyberspace activity and protection neglect, frontline commanders say the status quo has to go and deep changes must be made for the United States and its allies to win the war.
The extensive thrust to Web services in the military is raising as many issues as promised new capabilities. The broad-based effort is complicated by nations' differing approaches as well as by the rapid changes that characterize the 21st century Web.