U.S. defense planners are redesigning military doctrine and capabilities to adapt to the new realities of insurgent and asymmetrical warfare. To build an effective force in this era, the military may have to empower the 21st century warrior with new capabilities previously limited to higher-level commanders.
In 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Act mandated jointness in the Defense Department. This affected training, doctrine, personnel management and assignments, force structure and operations. Joint operations and a joint approach to command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) have become fundamental to the way we fight.
China has been buying and adapting Russian naval technologies as it introduces new ships to the fleet in fits and starts. Instead of standardizing ship designs and deploying large numbers of similar ships to its emerging blue water fleet, the People’s Liberation Army Navy keeps introducing new types of guided missile destroyers largely in pairs. The answer to the question of why China produced only one or two of four recent new guided missile destroyer designs could be that China is trying to gain the capability of producing a 956-type ship so that no more expensive Russian imports would be needed.
The U.S. military’s newest combat aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, is designed as a multirole platform capable of carrying out a range of missions for different services and foreign allies. Its brains are an advanced software programmable avionics package that can be rapidly reconfigured for new operations. The package manages the aircraft’s navigations, communications, electronic warfare, and identification friend or foe functions. Although it was developed for use in fighter aircraft, the electronics package can potentially be installed in a range of airborne and ground-based vehicles.
Web 2.0 users beware: Social networking technologies may be fun and useful, but the one thing they are not is secure. For all the benefits it offers, the Web 2.0 world is still pretty rowdy, and the risk to enterprises is very serious. Experts warn that capabilities such as social networking and collaborative content sites are a wide-open window to hackers who are using their mega-networking appeal to spread malware and crack into systems. Unless organizations take precautions, not only do they put themselves at risk, but they also may inadvertently become members of a ring of thieves whose goal is to get their virtual hands on information, which equals riches.
Science fiction heroes zooming faster than the speed of light is the stuff of space-age movies, but slowing down or stopping light’s speed may prove more useful to the military and others. Scientists have found that changing the pace of light brings technologies that were once considered impossible closer to reality.
Nanotechnology may soon provide warfighters with lightweight and powerful electronic equipment. Researchers have created a fully functional transistor radio made entirely of carbon nanotubes. This feat demonstrates that these microscopic structures can be used as high-speed transistors and radio system components that consume only a fraction of the power required by current equipment.
In the future, there will be no place to hide from the U.S. military. Two prototype sensor technologies may soon allow warfighters to observe enemy units at great distances and to track their movement inside buildings and urban areas. These systems benefit from recent developments in optics, radar, algorithms and processing to pull images out of desert heat distortion or to create maps of entire neighborhoods rapidly, greatly increasing soldiers’ situational awareness.
The minds of the world who are creating the future’s communications technology already know what to expect in the next generation—tools that are smaller, more powerful and more flexible yet less expensive. These experimenters also know that current bandwidth problems have to be a focus area for future operations. Research and development is already underway on everything from nanomolecules to intercontinental systems that will incorporate those features that troops need most. At the same time, military members can expect brand new capabilities and better security as well.
Sights, sounds and searches will undergo vast improvements for computer users in the coming years as researchers’ imaginations and know-how take flight and new capabilities hit the marketplace. Novel data visualization tools will enable users to create photo compilations that produce three-dimensional virtual tours of a location. Communications devices will be embedded with arrays of microphones and speakers that craft sound bubbles. And tomorrow’s versions of today’s word processing software will lend a techno-helping hand by automatically searching out previously composed materials and making them available at the click of a mouse. In fact, plans for new man-machine interfaces may make even the mouse-click itself obsolete.
Scientists are racing against the clock to develop a means of defeating an enemy that threatens to stop computer technology progress dead in its tracks. The threat is not terrorism; it is Moore’s Law, as complementary metal oxide semiconductors are nearing their size and performance limits as defined by the laws of physics.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is offering its intelligence users a menu instead of serving them the food of its own choosing. A new online system being implemented incrementally will provide the agency’s customers with the capability to individually tailor their own diet of geospatial intelligence services and products.
The U.S. and Japanese militaries are reaffirming their commitment to collaboration with the construction of a Japanese air defense command on a U.S. Air Force base in the Asian country. The move further enhances the bilateral relationship the two nations share and will increase command and control through persistent personal interaction.
While most military planning focuses on how to win wars, a concept developed by forward-thinkers in the joint world is honing methods to prevent them. Dubbed cooperative security, the plan aims at helping countries with struggling governments and economies so they do not fall victim to internal conflict or become tempted to open their doors to terrorists. Its creators willingly acknowledge that not only would it be impossible for the armed forces to bring about the desired stability on its own, it would be foolish for them to even try to go it alone.
Various mechanisms exist to achieve success, but the power and benefit of 500-day plans have been proven repeatedly. Organizations can use this approach to plan and quantitatively measure the success of transformational activities even during the most dynamic of times.