Joint and service concepts of network-centric operations continue to inspire leadership and are spawning an impressive array of technologies seeking to connect decision makers at all levels. FORCEnet, the naval component to network-centric operations and the U.S. Navy's contribution to the Global Information Grid, is one of the concepts that articulates how maritime forces will support joint operations in an information-based environment.
The United States and its allies face adaptable enemies in the ongoing war against terrorism and religious extremism. Finding solutions to counter these threats was the focus of a symposium that brought together experts from the military, government agencies and the commercial sector.
A Texas-based U.S. Army unit drew on Iraq experience to provide hurricane relief in its neighboring state. The group dropped into New Orleans, Louisiana, set up vital communications, and then redeployed to another location and expanded its network without missing a byte.
After the winds of Hurricane Katrina subsided, the U.S. government launched a massive rescue and recovery effort in the devastated parishes and counties of Louisiana and Mississippi. The U.S. Defense Department played a major part in these operations, providing troops for law enforcement as well as supplies and equipment to aid beleaguered state and local governments. A key part of the military's mission was restoring communications to first responders across the region.
Preparation, determination and delegation were the U.S. Coast Guard's unstoppable trilogy to keep the lines of communication open as the powerful winds of hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew into the Gulf Coast. The Coast Guard's primary communications unit for the entire region was directly in the path of the first storm, but the organization was able to remain connected with its personnel and was operational within hours. The unprecedented feat was accomplished in large part with the help of the commercial sector, Coast Guard auxiliarists, and site survey and repair teams from multiple locations.
The wind and waves from Hurricane Katrina had scarcely abated along the Gulf Coast before Washington, D.C., itself was awash in pleas for inquiries into a failed disaster relief process. These were followed closely by legislative proposals for substantial changes in roles and missions in the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
From large strategic reconnaissance platforms to squad-level hand-launched planes, unmanned aircraft are moving into new operational niches such as hunter-killer and strike missions across all echelons of the U.S. military. As these systems continue to develop, sophisticated networking technologies will permit them to interoperate with manned aircraft and a variety of remotely operated ground and sea vehicles.
A knowledge-sharing effort is helping the U.S. Defense Department's information operations community overcome complex operational challenges. Administered by the U.S. Air Force, this information exchange mechanism permits analysts and warfighters to access relevant data from government, academic and corporate experts. The undertaking also gathers subject matter experts together to discuss and to solve specific issues then stores their findings in an online repository.
Although centuries old, information operations is fast becoming the newest strategic weapon in the U.S. military's arsenal. The reformation has come about more by evolution than revolution, bringing individual specialties such as electronic warfare, operations security, military deception, psychological operations and computer network operations under one umbrella. But the result of this synthesis is a military capability that can be a force multiplier when integrated early, often and continuously throughout mission planning and execution.
Flattening a network instead of a city may be the key to successful urban combat operations. U.S. Army intelligence is restructuring its information architecture both to suit the ongoing force transformation and with an eye on the joint arena. The Army's goal is to create a network that extends the reach of vital information across the breadth of the force and down to the individual warfighter.
A new high-power commercial X-band communications satellite, designed to meet growing bandwidth demands, will help satiate the U.S. military's voracious appetite for space-based connections. Rapidly increasing satellite communications requirements are expected to continue outstripping government-owned satellite capacity for the foreseeable future.
Changes are afoot in the fleet as the U.S. Navy plans for greater versatility in force and execution. The Navy's vital FORCEnet program, which is the baseline for the service's infostructure, will alter Navy capabilities significantly. However, it is more than just an end in and of itself. As revolutionary as FORCEnet is to naval planning, it also represents an evolutionary phase that offers to lead to a complete revolution in warfighting amid seamless integration in the joint realm.
The U.S. Navy is developing the first group of hybrid sailors to serve on a vessel that is revolutionary in its technology as well as in how it will be manned and employed. To aptly prepare the crew members, the service is revamping some of its training curricula so these sailors can handle the multitude of tasks required in a totally systems integrated environment. This is the first time the groundwork for a ship's manning as well as its training requirements is being based on job task analyses conducted across the enlisted community.
An expendable one-way gateway buoy that provides a paging system for submarines is undergoing technology demonstrations in the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy considers the buoy to be a possible near-term interface between radio frequency satellites and acoustic communications. This paging system is designed to ensure submarine communications at speed and depth.
From its start as an adjunct to warfighting to its expanded role in all forms of military activities, the discipline of information operations has steadily increased in importance to the modern force. The concept has grown in size and scope, and it now finds itself occupying an important seat at the table of force projection. Yet this evolution did not come about without difficulty, and challenges still remain before the true effectiveness of information operations can be realized.