What does it mean to be a leader?
At our core, we innately understand that leadership matters. I recently searched the book catalog on Amazon.com for books about leadership, and it probably will not surprise anyone that my search came up with 348,433 hits. So on one level, we understand it—leadership is important.
What does it mean to be a leader?
It is fitting that this month’s SIGNAL Magazine includes a focus in on the U.S. Army. The month of August also features the 2009 LandWarNet Conference, the Army’s premier forum for information sharing and training in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) and information technology. LandWarNet 2009 will be held August 18-20 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The United Kingdom’s defense industry is in a state of flux that may lead to a potential round of consolidations in the coming years as small and medium-size firms are acquired by larger national and international companies. This fluid state is being caused by two factors: the global economic crisis and upcoming general elections that could put the Conservative party in power for the first time since the late 1990s—a move that would trigger a major strategic assessment of the nation’s defense priorities.
The crystal ball for U.K. communications and information systems is clouding as military priorities and economic realities are combining to limit high-technology spending. The Ministry of Defence has committed to several large-scale programs that will absorb the bulk of equipment procurement money, and it is reining in overall spending as a result of national budgetary constraints arising from the global economic downturn.
Companies now can acquire certified identity credentials that facilitate employees’ physical and logical access when they work with the U.S. Defense Department, other government agencies and government-affiliated organizations. A biometrics-infused card authenticates a person’s identity using bar codes, a digital photograph and fingerprints. Through a not-for-profit association, contractors become part of an operational system that can exchange credential information with the government.
Modeling and simulation are becoming more critical in military and homeland security efforts, and academia is playing a key role in the ongoing development process. Old Dominion University has dedicated an entire center to the field with emphasis in several areas essential to government, including a division specifically focused on national defense and protection. The center’s personnel work with counterparts in other organizations to develop capabilities for efforts as diverse as planning hurricane evacuation routes and improving care for wounded warriors, and they offer analysis for particularly complex problems as well. In addition to their project-focused endeavors, the researchers are creating standards in modeling and simulation to ensure better interoperation in the future.
Modeling and simulation is bringing the world into the command center, into the boardroom and even onto the desktop. The value of models and simulations is increasing significantly as organizations use bits and bytes to strategize. Traditionally, the capabilities have been used for testing and training. But now, by getting to know their customers’ aspirations intimately, companies are employing these techniques to give their clients what they need, while strengthening their own bottom line.
Reaching beyond the traditional domains of sea, land, air, space and cyberspace, the U.S. military now is exploring its newest realm: the virtual world. The services are creeping cautiously into the latest frontier of simulated worlds with islands and avatars. This is not a simple maneuver. It is one filled with hurdles and pitfalls, but it is a domain that the U.S. Defense Department understands it can ignore no longer.
Researchers from military laboratories are studying the human element in detecting explosive devices, trying to determine if certain people have an instinct for locating the weapons and, if so, what characteristics they share. The results add another piece to the puzzle in the Defense Department’s efforts to counter improvised explosive devices. The work already has uncovered certain facets of information that military commanders can use to identify troops with innate abilities or to train warfighters in specific skills.
Two key projects are defining U.S. Army intelligence efforts to improve its analytic capabilities. While their aim is the same—allowing analysts to process key intelligence information faster and more efficiently—they take opposite approaches to the common goal.
The U.S. Army training community now can take advantage of an online resource that combines official doctrine with traditional and Web 2.0 technologies. Following in the footsteps of other military niches that have created communities on the Internet, training personnel have transformed a tasking to revise a field manual into development of a Web site that offers one-stop shopping for educators’ needs. The online applications are available to anyone with the right credentials, and the more people contribute to the content, the more powerful the tools will become.
The U.S. Army is launching a military career path focused on electronic warfare to support its forces deployed in Southwest Asia. This occupational field meets a demand by commanders to have skilled personnel operating the mobile jamming equipment that has become common throughout the theater. However, the Army is still in the process of establishing the occupation’s management, training courses and related doctrine.
The U.S. Army’s ambitious and controversial Future Combat Systems program to develop a family of networked combat vehicles, robots and sensors has been cancelled and is being broken up into three separate programs. These three divergent efforts will focus on new ground vehicles; technological upgrades, or spinouts, for all Army units; and network and software development. The changes are part of an undertaking to bring new capabilities into service over the next 15 years.
Building networks and speeding new information technologies into the field are changing U.S. Army acquisition permanently, according to a general tasked with maintaining connectivity among diverse forces. The need for commercial networking technologies and capabilities, along with the exigencies of warfighters facing unconventional combat, are impelling the Army to accelerate new technologies to the front and to change programs concurrently.