Sorenson: Talk to the Soldiers in the Field

August 19, 2008
By Henry Kenyon

LandWarNet 2008 began this morning with an introduction by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, USA, the U.S. Army chief information officer (CIO)/G-6. While Gen. Sorenson's remarks largely focused on what would take place during the three-day conference and exposition, some of his anecdotal comments illuminated the key issues that he hopes will be addressed by the many Army and industry attendees.

He described two incidents in which individual soldiers with little specified training nonetheless were able to solve complex problems simply by applying their own field experiences. He emphasized this key point: "Talk to the soldiers in the field." No solution to any problem-technological or otherwise-can be achieved without input directly from the warfighter user community.

And, as network centricity moves close to the individual soldier, this is becoming all the more important. Soldiers are performing too much hardware and software integration in the field, and that has to change. He called on industry to implement those solutions sooner and relieve warfighters of that burden.

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One unintended consequence is a disconnect between roles in the field and roles in garrison. Soldiers who are forced to become system and network administrators when deployed to SWA are then relegated to writing trouble tickets to DOIM when they get back into garrison. It leaves them with a sense of a reduced scope of responsibility and leads to dissatisfaction. It points out the need to better synchronize garrison and field ops.

The situation you describe, Jason, extends beyond that one challenge. That is one reason why the Army is pushing for its Network System Centers. They would allow a division to deploy seamlessly without having to reconfigure its IT capabilities throughout the process. Unfortunately, that's still in the future, and the warfighter needs relief here and now.

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