Commercial, Defense Sectors Face Similar Challenges, Solutions

August 2002
By Robert K. Ackerman
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But different approaches may be needed for specific applications.

Government and private industry are struggling to grasp different aspects of the same challenges as they implement network-centric operations. Whether involved with e-commerce or battlefield situational awareness, organizations stand to gain substantially from a networked information infrastructure. However, some solutions—architectures, protocols or security measures—that work in some areas may not be applicable to others.

These points were discussed in lively exchanges at the I-Defence Summit during two conference days titled “Empowering Defence Through Internet Technologies” and “How Information Management Can Enhance Your Capability.” Held in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, the event was sponsored jointly by AFCEA Europe and Cisco Systems.

Leading off the first day with the keynote address was John Garstka, assistant director, concepts and operations, Office of the Director, Force Transformation, U.S. Defense Department. Garstka, co-author of a book on network-centric warfare, discussed how the concept relates to the department’s ongoing transformation.

Garstka allowed that to the extent that the U.S. military does not transform, it is at risk strategically. All indications are that in future warfare the network will be the single most important contribution to combat power. Networked forces outfight non-networked forces, even when they are similarly equipped.

“The information domain is ground zero,” Garstka declared.

Simon Willis, head of e-government, Cisco Systems, Europe, drew key distinctions among different approaches to organizational information systems. Digitizing and networking an organization can revolutionize it, but the digitization and networking of stupidity is just more stupidity. An organization cannot be transformed without innovation, he asserted, and this can be achieved by controlling standards from the middle of the organization and keeping innovation at its edge.

Beth Land, government e-business strategist with Cisco Systems in the United States, discussed similarities and differences between e-government and e-defense. Whereas e-government is an application of industry and government best practices, e-defense is broader and encompasses all Defense Department business functional areas. Two major defense revolutions are underway in business and operational practices. Echoing the previous speakers, Land cautioned against implementing technology for technology’s sake. “Don’t put lipstick on the bulldog,” she remarked as she warned against automating bad business practices. “It’s not about technology; it’s about culture.”

Defense networking was the focal point of a presentation by Lt. Col. Terry Morgan, USMC (Ret.), program executive of Cisco’s Defense Initiative Team in the United States, and Paul Shreve, defense initiative manager EMEA for Cisco’s Global Defense and Space Group in Europe. Col. Morgan led the presentation as he called for openness in technology to achieve connectivity. This change must be holistic, not just technical, he declared. He added that, just as in warfare, there has never been a network upgrade where every technical change worked.

For the future, the colonel foresees several technology areas as active: mobility and wireless networking; miniaturization, both end-item and embedded; convergence of voice and video, followed by Internet protocol (IP); enabling and embedding end-item network compatibility; and plug-and-play integration. Ultimately, he suggested, the rifle will be an IP device that sends digital snapshots back to headquarters.

Harald Tveit Alvestrand, chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force and a Cisco Fellow in Norway, related how the Internet’s increasing ubiquity is having major sociological impacts. Security increasingly will be an issue, as each individual piece of the Internet infrastructure must be secured. Security by obscurity is dead in this global village. Soon, he predicted, being without Internet access will be worse than losing electrical power. “Ride the tiger,” he concluded.

The U.S. Army’s embrace of transformational information technologies was the topic of a presentation by Col. Fred Stein, USA (Ret.), deputy manager, command, control and communications (C3), battlefield networks, The MITRE Corporation. Stein, who co-authored a book on network-centric warfare with Garstka, told attendees how the use of firepower, maneuver protection and information is the key to battlefield supremacy.

Yet, this overwhelming advantage does not come easily. “This is hard stuff—really hard stuff,” Col. Stein said. It can take up to three years to reach digital maturity, and this is before training leads to understanding. Many issues remain to be resolved as the transformation continues.

Col. Aurelian Ionescu, Romanian Army, Romanian project manager for the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Information Management System (PIMS), described how PIMS is an important enabler for PfP distance learning. The future of PIMS includes increased access capabilities for countries, organizations and individuals, he stated.

“The network-centric warfare mass is just enormous,” according to Sam Ezekiel, Cisco Systems marketing director in the United States. He told the audience how the ongoing transformation is critical to network-centric warfare, but he added, “The transformation is not about networks—it is about decision making.” Ezekiel discussed how a unified communications grid would provide the networking flexibility—currently lacking—that is necessary to achieve effective and efficient connectivity.

Speaking at the VIP dinner that night was Robert K. Ackerman, editor in chief of SIGNAL Magazine. Ackerman provided the audience with insights and updates on operation Enduring Freedom. He declared that the tactics and technologies employed in Afghanistan have forever changed the way war is fought.

He related that imagery was an essential element in that operation, as several weapons platforms embraced new types of missions with the ability to receive real-time streaming video. Satellite links proved invaluable, and Web services also were a key innovation that played a big role in that operation’s success.

The second day of the conference began with a keynote address by Dean Sivara, director of the Internet Business Solutions Group, Public Sector, Cisco Systems Europe. Speaking on the topic of global networked business, he discussed how e-business tends to follow an S-curve. Returns are minimal at first, but then they reach a cross-point and grow increasingly profitable. “Becoming an information-rich organization does not happen overnight,” he expressed. Military applications include personnel optimization, logistics management, e-learning and service to the warfighter.

Col. Stein returned to discuss the challenges of information management and sharing in a tactical environment. Its three phases are deployment, employment and redeployment. He warned that communications have become too complex, with radios having routers and servers embedded in them. An operator must know packet rates to manage information flow among units, he added. “We need to be released from the bondage” of these assets, he contended, adding that battlefield networks are brittle.

Challenges in information management and interoperability in NATO were discussed by Lt. Col. Hermann Roggemann, GEA, NATO Consultation, Command and Control (C3) Agency. Col. Roggemann warned of an “interoperability gap” facing the Atlantic alliance. Achieving a common data environment necessitates overcoming logistical hurdles such as the lack of a common communications language and the use of different measuring systems. Establishing an integrated data environment requires linking two U.S., three European national and three NATO systems to a common reference system.

A Netherlands perspective was presented by Lt. Col. Lex Bubbers, RNLA (Ret.), of Reinforce Business Innovation. Col. Bubbers explained that his country’s battlefield situational awareness system was designed around the concept of “keeping it as simple as possible.” It sought to provide answers to three questions: “Where am I? Where are my buddies? Where is the enemy?”

Russia faces several challenges in establishing a modern information infrastructure, stated Dr. Vladimir K. Kharitonov of the State Telecommunications University in St. Petersburg. Only 35 percent of the nation’s public switched telecommunications network equipment is digital, and the country includes thousands of kilometers of poor channels, he said. To address those challenges, he and fellow university researchers have developed a new type of communications system, called synchronous asynchronous transfer mode, that allows voice, data and video protocols to interoperate.

Professor Alexandre Sotnikov of the St. Petersburg Telecommunications Center described some of the challenges facing telemedicine, which is a high priority in Russia. Telemedicine has not yet defined its concept of information the way that e-banking and e-commerce have, he noted. Nor are the parameters for telecommunications networks directly applicable for the evaluation of telemedicine systems. “It is not a trivial task to manage information in telemedicine systems,” the professor said.

Oxana Tikhonova of Internet Security Systems discussed the security challenges involved in handling information over an open network. Threat protection is the solution to the variety of security problems facing network providers and users, she offered. This is especially important as attacker sophistication grows steadily while intruder knowledge declines. She cited one Internet service provider that went out of business because of vicious attacks. On the other hand, in Europe roughly 60 percent of frauds are internal.