Recently, President George W. Bush and the U.S. Defense Department announced the creation of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to “help Africans achieve their own security, not to extend the scope of the war on terrorism or secure African resources.” Had this statement been made five years ago, most of the world would have openly supported the notion of a U.S.-led effort to ease human suffering. But today the
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 U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s demonstration designed to enhance interoperability is making greater efforts to improve communications with forces outside of the United States. This year’s Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration involved increased NATO participation as well as trials at locations worldwide. The event host, the U.S. European Command, leveraged its physical location and mission contacts to expand international cooperation. Next year, the command will serve as the host combatant command for the demonstration for the third consecutive year—the first command to three-peat.
A language analysis system is making it easier for intelligence organizations to identify and track suspicious conversations on military and civilian voice communications networks. The technology identifies keywords in a target language and also can be triggered by a specific regional accent.
The mission objective for the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet was a simple, one-line item: Combine the thousands of systems, applications and control mechanisms in the entire U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps together into one uniform, well-managed network. Simple, but far from easy. The promised payback from this undertaking was also simple: enhanced security, increased efficiency and the capacity to move more military personnel from the computer management field onto the battlefield. Now, as the project approaches the end of its initial contract period—even taking user rumbling and grumbling into account—the world’s largest private network appears to be working as planned.
A plan to put the Internet in orbit could lead to big benefits for troops and other users. The efficiencies of the technology would provide increased speed, smaller terminals and direct access to the Internet. The program’s public-private partnership will combine commercial development and products with government leasing and usage and could help blaze a path toward a new business model.
The U.S. government and private industry are transitioning to a new telecommunications converged network technology. Based on a novel network protocol, the system will provide and enhance the full range of multimedia services, improving all types of communications for military troops worldwide.
Alliances between complementary companies are changing how industry will use the myriad of communications devices that evolved during the past decade. Mismatched pieces that once appeared to belong in different toolboxes now are falling into place, and converged communications is delivering one multipronged tool that is more useful than the sum of its parts. Easy access to the right people at the right time tips the scales from technology that takes a lot of work to work that takes advantage of technology.
International forces operating in Afghanistan are using a new dedicated communications backbone that is being deployed across the nation. The network consists of point-to-point radio links, satellite communications and landlines providing connectivity across the theater and reach-back to national headquarters.
An innovative software-defined radio soon will help the Spanish government test and develop new capabilities for its military communications systems. Researchers will be able to evaluate software and equipment quickly so systems can be modernized and the military can participate in multinational research programs.
The French military has launched two programs to modernize its tactical and strategic communications systems. One effort will equip army logistics units with a wireless network allowing commanders to track supplies and to access the national military intranet. The second program, now in its preliminary phase, will link all of France's individual military networks into a single system.
The Swedish Air Force is upgrading its command and control systems to become interoperable with NATO equipment. The nation's primary aircraft and sensor management system recently underwent a major upgrade designed to enhance its capabilities and to prepare it for future operations with alliance and coalition forces.
In the near future, robot warplanes could autonomously take off, navigate to their targets and identify them—all before contacting human operators for clearance to attack. This operational independence is the promise of a new program underway in the United Kingdom. Building on experience gained from several other recent technology demonstrations, the project emphasizes systems development and integration. The aircraft's situational awareness will rely on its ability to process and translate flight and sensor data without human interaction.
Long-neutral Sweden faces major defense changes as it shifts its military emphasis from homeland defense to coalition operations. A force built around defending the territory of a single Scandinavian nation now must open up to interoperate fully with other nations in distant locales. This is bringing about changes in funding, logistics and force size.
Finland's military is facing its own force transformation as it alters its structure and its mission. The Baltic nation is looking at broad-based equipment modernization, substantial personnel cuts and a network-centric architecture to define its armed forces.
My involvement with AFCEA goes back 38 years. I have been in a number of volunteer leadership positions at the chapter and international levels, and I am excited about starting out on this journey as your association's president and chief executive officer.