Security and information sharing have prominent and complementary roles in countering asynchronous warfare challenges, but many of today’s defense policies and military forces still are organized for World War II-type threats. NATO is looking ahead at the emerging challenges in light of a wider threat and is seeking a more collaborative environment in response.
After decades of creating phenomenal information technology tools, the U.S. military is now focusing on convergence. The systems-of-systems approach gradually is being replaced by a more fully intertwining architecture into a powerful mash up. The benefits of initiatives that create unified communications capabilities are as dissimilar as the difference between having a single computer or radio and being part of a network.
A multitude of sentries stand between state-of-the-art solutions and warfighters’ hands. The acquisition bureaucracy has become so convoluted that even urgent need requests are feeling the effects. Debating the way around or right through the administrative sentinels that procurement professionals face in the government was the focus of AFCEA International’s SOLUTIONS Series event, “IT Acquisition: Shifting to a Modern Paradigm.” At the September event in Lansdowne, Virginia, identifying the problems was not a challenge; agreeing on the most expedient way to solve them was a little more difficult.
Modern communications and sensor systems have greatly increased the speed and effectiveness of maneuver warfare and have empowered units at the edge by providing them with greater situational awareness. But these benefits have a price—lack of interoperability caused by disparate equipment and vulnerability to external threats ranging from jamming to cyberattacks.
Call it hybrid, unconventional or asymmetric warfare, the conclusion is the same: the United States and its allies must be prepared to fight a war against integrated threats posed by traditional and nontraditional adversaries. Accomplishing this task will require simultaneous improvements in almost every area of today’s forces, including training, agility, acquisition, strategy, tactics and cultural awareness. To defeat complex foes and their multifaceted attacks, the U.S. military has developed a framework that sets the course forward. However, this plan is not designed as the be-all and end-all of strategies. Instead, it is meant to address past and current challenges and to propel the military and other government agencies into an unpredictable future.
Networks no longer are a tidy complement to the work of defense agencies. As information gathering and processing have become faster and more essential to defense and security operations, those networks have evolved into essential tools. But the very barriers created in the justifiable zeal to protect these networks also are erecting significant roadblocks to information sharing, and the fallout affects the agencies’ ability to collaborate with allies, coalition partners and each other.
The military is aggressively seeking help from industry to satisfy its technical requirements, and the need for private-sector support will grow as supplemental funds dry up and budgets are reduced. The U.S. Defense Department, its partners and allies especially are seeking technologies that will break down barriers to information sharing as well as products that eliminate networks and hardware, particularly boxes and wires.
Reporting by Maryann Lawlor and Beverly P. Mowery. Compiled by Henry S. Kenyon
Reliable federal and state homeland security coordination hinges on information sharing, interoperability, governance and trust. But achieving the right mix of these elements among governments, law enforcement agencies and the private sector presents both cultural and technical challenges.
Enemies are probing U.S. military forces for weaknesses that they can exploit, and these foes already may be winning in cyberspace. Coupled with changed budgetary priorities brought about by the new Obama administration, these threats pose substantial challenges to defense planners wrestling with maintaining readiness in the age of global terrorism.
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.