Technology Supports Two Fronts

July 2003
By Maryann Lawlor, Henry S. Kenyon, Robert K. Ackerman
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From military operations to homeland security efforts, networked information systems help win the battles.

The success of operations in the Persian Gulf indicates that advanced communications systems are sure to be among the crucial assets put to use by military and government agencies as they work to ensure homeland security. TechNet International 2003 speakers reiterated this point as they shared their views about the importance of information systems in the war on terrorism and in government agency cooperation. Changes continue to take place in technology, policies and procedures, they agreed.

TechNet’s theme, “Homeland Security: IT in a New World … 9-11 and Beyond,” set the stage for an assembly of high-level military and government leaders who candidly enumerated the challenges surrounding the task of protecting citizens. Speakers at this year’s event, which took place May 6 through May 8 in the new Washington, D.C., Convention Center, attributed much of the success in operations around the world to information technologies and the companies that provide them.

In Tuesday’s first speech, Gen. Paul Kern, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command, said information must be fused and shared to address six aspects of homeland security: preparation, detection, prevention, protection, response and recovery. Efforts must extend into cyberspace because attacks in that domain can be as devastating as physical attacks, he added.

Gen. Kern pointed out that the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Defense Department and government agencies overlap in homeland security work. What is needed, he said, is an architecture that integrates different disciplines to work in concert toward common goals. To arrive at this architecture, the Defense and Homeland Security departments must agree on goals, then determine how best to accomplish them.

One of the first priorities for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which merged 22 agencies, will involve addressing policy and procedural issues. In addition, interoperability and technology problems must be solved. With the help of industry, the armed forces have made progress in these areas, and the commercial sector also will be called upon to support the DHS with solutions.

While the DHS plays the lead—and the Defense Department a supporting role—in domestic security, it is the military that is likely to be called first when an emergency occurs, Gen. Kern stated. “Information fusion clearly made a big difference in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Now, the challenge is to meld this with civil groups. We can do it, but don’t underestimate how difficult this is,” he said.

Defense Keynote Luncheon speaker Richard L. Haver, special assistant to the secretary of defense for intelligence, described the federal government’s advances in homeland security efforts. In May, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center was established. Staff from many organizations are coming together at the center and fusing information about terrorist activities. In addition, the position of undersecretary of defense for intelligence was created, not to take away from current intelligence organizations but rather to be a single source for other organizations that require intelligence support.

Intelligence funding has increased, a move the president was committed to even before September 11, 2001, Haver said. The challenge now will be to spend those resources wisely.

Finally, the intelligence community has a new way to set priorities. “Two years ago, the challenge would have been to get the heads of intelligence organizations to sit down and talk. Today, the thrust is not only their ownership of the problems but  also their responsibilities for solving them,” he explained.

The intelligence community is in a renaissance phase today, much like it was in the late 1960s when industry started providing new tools for collecting information. Now, intelligence must be merged and put to use. “Information is not the answer. We’re not interested in just information and knowledge superiority. Decision superiority is what we’re interested in,” Haver stated.

The outcome of the war on terrorism will depend on keeping adversaries on the defensive and taking away their sanctuary, he added. Citing privacy protection concerns, he said that the military and government must find ways to accomplish this without impinging on individual rights. Measuring how well the intelligence community is doing in these areas is necessary. However, users rather than community leaders should be the evaluators, he added.

Wednesday’s events began with a breakfast speech by Lt. Gen. Martin R. Berndt, USMC, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Atlantic. The general spoke about how information technology supports warfighters and the relationship between information technology and homeland security. He noted that, as a naval service, the Marine Corps is more relevant to today’s fluid global situation than at any time in its history. U.S. naval and sea-basing capabilities permit the military to choose when it wants to enter combat or pursue humanitarian actions.

Information technology is central to these capabilities. Although digital systems were available during the first Gulf War, for the most part, the troops used analog-based 1970s and 1980s technology. Since then, the Marine Corps has fielded advanced digital systems that contributed to the rapid advances achieved in operation Iraqi Freedom.

However, Gen. Berndt warned that challenges remain. Among these are continuing issues with combat identification. Although fratricide was greatly reduced in the recent operations in Iraq, incidents still occurred. The general expressed his hope that the Defense Department will develop a joint blue force tracking system that is interoperable and incorporated into planning and doctrine.

The Marine Corps also could benefit from better wireless communications. Although the service has traditionally operated in the littorals, new doctrine and current operations involve units located up to 600 miles inland. The challenge is to provide small unit leaders with connectivity to higher echelon commanders inside and outside of the theater of operations. The general concluded by saying that the service will benefit from new collaborative planning tools that permit commanders to plan and carry out joint operations.

The Wednesday luncheon panel focused on integration and interoperability issues for joint operations. Panelists discussed the challenges their respective services face and how they have adapted to new technologies and roles. Moderator Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., USA, director of command, control, communications and computer systems, J-6, the Joint Staff, outlined how information helped to eliminate or mitigate the confusion of the war. Citing speed and agility as key to winning on today’s battlefields, the general outlined several technologies that were critical in recent operations. Among them were collaborative planning tools, nearly unlimited bandwidth, real-time video feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles and handheld satellite communications systems.

The success of recent operations also has applications in the ongoing war against terrorism. Lt. Gen. Peter M. Cuviello, USA, chief information officer, G-6, U.S. Army, noted that one lesson from operation Iraqi Freedom was that units down to company commanders were connected to information networks. For homeland security, military and civil branches of the government should be meshed into an enterprise architecture. New capabilities such as the Joint Tactical Radio System will help to create a common operating picture for the uniformed services.

Efforts by the U.S. Air Force to shorten its sensor-to-shooter chain were described by Rob Thomas II, assistant deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration, U.S. Air Force. He shared that enhancing the decision loop involved integrating command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. However, the scope of the Air Force’s efforts remains challenging because the service is building an air- and space-based network. Thomas conceded that concerns remain about how the Air Force interacts with other services’ sensors and systems. Besides pushing for enhanced integration, work must continue on improving response time with machine-to-machine interchanges to speed decision loops.

Air Force support to homeland security was the topic of Thursday’s Four-Star Breakfast address. Lt. Gen. Ronald E. Keys, USAF, deputy chief of staff, air and space operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, discussed a number of measures and initiatives designed to help provide homeland defense as well as to keep the Air Force current with technological requirements.

To prevent attacks, the Air Force conducts forward operations, which constitute most of the service’s activities in this endeavor. Speed—of information as well as of aircraft—is important to deter, detect or pre-empt terrorist actions. To protect the homeland, the service provides air sovereignty alert, works to secure the infrastructure and is developing missile defense. To respond to a terrorist attack, it supplies disaster mitigation and again maintains air sovereignty alert and missile defense.

Gen. Keys warned against information system vulnerability. “If you take my networks down, you gum up my works. And if I have to take out stubby pencils, then doing thousands of air sorties becomes a problem,” the general declared.

All of the Air Force’s transformation efforts involve information systems and operations. In the information technology arena, the service is developing a system that will move information irrespective of the host or platform. This will require a common machine language that enables systems to be horizontally and vertically integrated. This type of systems interoperability will require an open architecture, he stated. “People have the information—people have the dots, but we can’t connect them on the same sheet of paper,” the general noted.

The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has undergone a recent reorganization that has brought together new responsibilities reflecting the changing world. STRATCOM’s commander, Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., USN, gave attendees at Thursday’s Keynote Luncheon a detailed account of the command’s new missions and capabilities.

For example, instead of relying almost exclusively on nuclear weapons for strategic defense, the command now can choose from among conventional weapons, non-kinetic means and special operations forces to achieve its mission objectives. These diverse options reflect the current broad range of global threats. “We redefined the word ‘strategic,’” the admiral added. The command’s responsibilities include information operations, and its capabilities must be improved if it is to achieve a true global strike ability. “We have oversold and underdelivered integrated information operations,” the admiral stated.

One of the command’s goals, a complete global strike capability, probably will be used primarily to support regional commanders. Some challenges remain before the command has the capabilities, however. Many of its systems such as the venerable B-52 bomber are aging well beyond original service timelines. The admiral suggested that replacement platforms might include hypersonic craft, manned or unmanned.

Adm. Ellis reported that the initial operating capability for missile defense is due to be delivered by the end of September 2004. This capability will be delivered to regional combatant commands such as the U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for homeland defense. The full missile defense architecture will comprise theater missile defense systems, airborne laser aircraft, mid-course interceptors and even pre-boost-phase interception. The ultimate goal is a global concept of operations that will provide missile warning to all combatant commanders.

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