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.
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.
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.