Col. Steven Spano's response to this question, on behalf of U.S. Air Forces in Europe (SIGNAL Magazine, January 2006, page 336), eloquently articulates much of the critical thinking that is taking place in the U.S. Marine Corps today. His assertion that "it is not about the technology, but how it is applied, that matters," speaks volumes about our service's approach toward emerging technologies.
The changes wrought on the U.S. military by the global war on terrorism are more far-reaching and are happening more quickly than expected, according to U.S. military and government leaders. These changes affect everything from the information infrastructure to personnel policies, and the long-term nature of that war means that even more changes are likely to emerge.
An emerging design methodology allows system designers to connect different vendor applications to share information across a network or networks and to adapt rapidly to changing technologies. With this structure, a variety of software tools can interoperate and organizations can establish metrics to monitor system use and data sharing between internal departments or external agencies.
A World Wide Web-enabled technology is on the verge of dramatically changing the way people and computers interact and share information. It provides a common architecture that permits data to be communicated and reused across application, enterprise and community boundaries. This automated context mapping capability will allow complex network-centric systems to reach their full potential and to scale beyond present systems.
Under a new joint and integrated framework, the Netherlands military is addressing its traditional fragmented satellite communications capabilities by consolidating existing commercial C- and Ku-band satellite communications. The framework involves using flexible and more cost-effective arrangements and infrastructure. A prime strategy is to extend robust X-band military satellite communications usage from a limited shipborne-only role to the air force and army by purchasing capacity on the United Kingdom's new Skynet 5 private finance initiative. In addition, the country is inserting new capabilities through participation in the U.S. Advanced Extremely High Frequency Program as an international partner. This mix of media is designed to provide flexible, available and assured beyond line-of-sight connectivity to Dutch forces.
The People's Republic of China has developed a marine corps for maritime and amphibious operations. However, instead of being designed to invade Taiwan as expected by many Western experts, China's marine corps appears to have been created for South Sea expansion. A major upgrading of weapons, structure and support is making the Chinese marines an increasingly viable threat to nearby islands.
U.S. Marine Corps units soon may be equipped with manportable electro-optic sensors that will help augment security during operations. The devices form part of a prototype suite of automated reconnaissance systems that will permit warfighters to control more territory and to have better situational awareness.
The U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory undertakes a busy agenda for the next two years and beyond after releasing its 2006 Experimentation Campaign Plan. The 41 initiatives in the plan fall into seven categories: command and control, maneuver, logistics, fires, intelligence, force protection and mine countermeasures.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is meeting the global threat head-on by moving from its traditional decentralized information technology framework to a consolidated, enterprise-centric environment. As part of a transformational effort called the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Way Ahead, the agency is replacing its stovepiped environment with regional service centers that have global reach. The centers facilitate all-source data access and enable worldwide availability of information, and the consolidation will correct inefficiencies, decrease costs and improve user productivity.
Researchers are developing a portable sensor to detect hazardous biological materials more rapidly than current methods allow. The sensor has applications for government and private organizations and could be used to reduce the impact of biological weapons of mass destruction and to identify contaminants in health-related concerns.
Electronic bloodhounds that quickly and reliably detect dangerous substances in a closed environment will begin replacing current sensors in military facilities in the near future. The final elements of a program borne out of the need to defend warfighters against biological and chemical agents will enter the transition stage later this year. The goal is to expand protection to the rest of the military work force. This added security is part of a two-year effort to develop extremely fast and accurate sensors that are so cost-effective that they can be used on a large scale.
The U.S. Army is speeding next-generation imaging systems to the field in response to experiences gleaned in Afghanistan and Iraq. Adversaries waging asymmetric warfare have impelled the Army to improve existing technologies and to seek innovative new capabilities in the field of electro-optics.
The military is on the cusp of a new generation of sensor advances. Signal processing and detection technologies are uniting to provide better information and understanding than ever before. Combine that development with the global network being extended to the warfighter and you have the potential for the greatest situational awareness picture ever envisioned by a military planner.