In the 18 months following the terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has undergone a series of structural changes. At the state and federal levels, efforts are underway to enhance communications and information-sharing infrastructures among agencies and other organizations. Public institutions also have reached out to the private sector to form partnerships designed to protect vital national infrastructures.
The term network-centric warfare broadly describes the combination of emerging tactics, techniques and procedures that a networked force can employ to create a decisive warfighting advantage. According to John Keegan, author of A History of Warfare, it is similar to the significant warfighting developments of the industrial age and agrarian age in that network-centric warfare seeks to exploit an order of magnitude change in an underlying source of power to increase warfighting advantage dramatically. Paula Kaufman, in an article she wrote for IEEE Spectrum, agrees with this opinion. In the industrial age, power was primarily derived from mass and the sources of power for moving mass. In the information age, power is increasingly derived from information sharing, information access and speed, she says.
Major military failures frequently arise when leaders ignore fundamental changes in technology, doctrine or society. However, when leaders are seduced into believing that there is a fundamental change in technology or doctrine where none has actually occurred-for example nuclear weapons in Korea or the use of the helicopter in Vietnam-the result can be equally devastating.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The U.S. Air Force is embracing force transformation at the operational and organizational levels and moving away from platform-based modernization. To meet its requirements, the service is selecting new technologies and equipment based on the ability to enhance a variety of capabilities instead of a few narrowly defined missions.
At first glance, Hummer sport utility vehicles, more associated with yuppie urban commandos, would seem unrelated to the U.S. Army's radical force transformation plans. Nevertheless, in a highly innovative approach, the service bought commercial Hummers, cut them apart, stretched their length, and installed leading-edge communications and information technology systems.