Standing Up Technology To Fight Terrorism

August 2002
By Maryann Lawlor, Henry S. Kenyon and Robert K. Ackerman
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Leaders brace for unrelenting terrorist threat, warn against complacency and inflexibility.

Battlefield applications of 21st century communications and information technology capabilities allow commanders to assess their own positions as well as the locations of enemies. Soldiers in the field can receive orders and take action in record time. However, an intense dialogue is in progress on how best to employ these technologies to win the war against terrorism.

Speakers and panelists addressed this question in three days of presentations at TechNet International 2002, which took place at the Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital from June 11 through June 13. With a theme of “Homeland Security: Terrorism and Technology—The Critical Role of IT,” the conference and exhibition featured eminent speakers from both the military and industry. They presented their thoughts on how September 11 has affected their activities and the challenges that lie ahead as a result of those events.

Gen. Paul J. Kern, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command, who spoke at the opening of the Four Star Breakfast series on Tuesday, stated that although it is moving quickly, and improvements are occurring faster than budget increases, technology is not the primary problem. What concerns the general is how the military culture can adapt and change to take full advantage of the benefits technology offers.

Exploiting information begins with the data that is turned into information then into knowledge and finally into wisdom, which Gen. Kern described as “knowing what to do in a situation.” Action, he said, is the last and critical part of military operations. One of the first challenges is language. Whether the data is offered in English or another language, information and commands must be presented in a way that everyone understands, he stated.

To accomplish this, he recommended first determining the appropriate action, then working backward in the process to determine what information is needed. Miscommunications buy time for terrorists to plan and take action, Gen. Kern offered. “So we must make sure that information is communicated in the right way so the correct action can be taken,” he said.

Today’s military and government agency cultures are based on holding on to information and not sharing it. This attitude must change, Gen. Kern warned.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the Defense Keynote Luncheon speaker on Tuesday. Gen. Myers, AFCEA’s 2002 David Sarnoff Award winner, said he has the sense that the military and Americans are starting to get “a little too complacent” about a threat that is still serious. “When terrorists are relentless, then our pressure on them must be relentless,” the general remarked. Terrorists operate in small cells that can be adaptable and flexible. In response, we too must be adaptable, flexible and shrewd thinkers, he pointed out.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they have planned many events since September 11. We will be attacked again—or if we are attacked again—we don’t know if they will use weapons of mass destruction. That’s what we’re dealing with, and that’s why we have to keep pressing on,” Gen. Myers stated.

Echoing some of Gen. Kern’s comments, Gen. Myers noted that fast action will be key to winning the war against terrorism. The traditional tactic of observe, orient, decide and act must include fast processes. “The one who can do this the fastest will win,” he declared. The good news, Gen. Myers related, is that in Afghanistan the military has succeeded on this front. The bad news, he said, is that the enemy has adapted to it. Standing up the new Northern Command on October 1, 2002, will help address this problem.

Although tactical command and control (C2) is good in Afghanistan, each of the services has “wildly different processes, and this has to stop,” Gen. Myers added. The biggest challenge for the United States is getting information sharing right and overcoming the established culture, he said. “If we don’t have the information technology to do it right, we’re putting ourselves at risk, and that’s unacceptable to me. This fight is not going to be over any time soon,” he predicted.

Adm. William J. Fallon, USN, vice chief of naval operations, spoke at Wednesday’s Four Star Breakfast. The admiral discussed technology issues facing the U.S. Navy and steps the service is taking to remedy them. Among the technology problems encountered are difficulties with interoperability, reliance on aging legacy applications and security vulnerabilities relating to human error. Adm. Fallon also spoke about an overabundance of information and a lack of bandwidth. The admiral noted that new methods that turn data into actionable intelligence must be sought, and new management tools and efficiency measures are required to control bandwidth shortages.

Addressing interoperability among the Navy, other services and coalition allies, Adm. Fallon proposed three steps: First, make databases coherent so commanders can share information. Second, the admiral recommended emphasizing joint operations by moving away from service equipment stovepipes and legacy systems. His third point focused on the importance of datalinks to bring together disparate operational pictures into a common framework. “There’s a tremendous amount of data that ought to be common,” he said.

Although the Navy has been successful in modernizing and standardizing sea-based data systems through its IT-21 program, shore-based systems remain a mix of legacy technologies. The admiral noted that he would like to see the creation of a worldwide data infrastructure for shore-based facilities, and the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) is a step in the right direction.

In closing, Adm. Fallon reiterated that the Navy must focus on improving joint service requirements and common operational standards. Attention also must be paid to technology applications such as real-time and nonreal-time networks. He noted that not all data is needed immediately, especially on the business side of the service.

Using information technology to enhance joint and coalition operations was a key theme at Wednesday’s J-6 Luncheon. Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., USA, director of command, control, communications and computer (C4) systems (J-6), the Joint Staff, moderated the panel discussion. Gen. Kellogg noted that the Army must solve interoperability issues in C2 systems, support and facilitate homeland defense, achieve information interoperability with U.S. government organizations and coalition allies, and identify and change inefficient behavior patterns.

Lt. Gen. Peter M. Cuviello, USA, chief information officer and director of information systems for C4, Office of the Secretary of the Army, highlighted a number of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems that are about to enter service. Gen. Cuviello explained that these capabilities create a virtual network that is tied to the Global Information Grid and is critical to supporting the Army’s data and video requirements.

Outlining the U.S. Air Force’s C4ISR needs, Maj. Gen. Gerald F. Perryman Jr., USAF, assistant deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, noted that the service seeks to tie these components together. Major priorities for the Air Force include ensuring an integrated and robust communications infrastructure and providing a modeling and simulation capability for C4ISR systems.

U.S. Marine Corps efforts to support joint communications solutions were discussed by Brig. Gen. John R. Thomas, USMC, deputy director C4 Department, Headquarters U.S. Marine Corps. Because of the expeditionary nature of this service, planners seek to provide joint commanders with a scalable, flexible and executable C2 solution. Gen. Thomas explained that this solution must be enterprisewide and described NMCI as an example of an integrated end-to-end solution.

Rear Adm. Nancy E. Brown, USN, director, Space, Information Warfare and C2 Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, shared a recent example of flexible network interoperability. In February, the coalition fleet in the Arabian Sea supporting operations in Afghanistan had grown to 102 ships. Interoperability issues arose not only among vessels from various nations but also among U.S. Navy ships from the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, which used different protocols to communicate with regional allies. The Navy solved this issue by fitting designated ships with local area networks to act as communications bridges.

Leading off Thursday’s program with the Four Star Breakfast address was Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, USAF, vice commander of the Air Combat Command. Gen. Wright described how the Air Force is leveraging technology to improve its warfighting dominance in the midst of operations against al Qaida.

Gen. Wright listed six priorities for the Air Force’s technology transformation: correlation/fusion; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance management; time-critical targeting; coalition interoperability; forward footprint reduction; and training. The ultimate goal will be centralized control with decentralized execution.

As a first step, the Air Force’s 10 air expeditionary forces (AEFs) are receiving technology upgrades and training between combat deployments. Two AEFs are deployed at any given time for about three months. After each deployment is complete, the pair of AEFs returns to receive its upgrades. The first two AEFs have finished their deployments and are receiving upgrades and new training. The third and fourth groups will complete their upgrades in September, and continuing this schedule will result in the ninth and tenth AEFs completing the upgrade chain in June 2003.

Gen. Wright emphasized the synergy of ISR systems with the C2 network. Saying “the ISR constellation is integral to everything we do,” the general described how the Air Force aims to place all of its systems on what would effectively be a party line. As an example, the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle is a good sensor system, but it is “like looking through a soda straw.” The Air Force must capture innovation to incorporate these systems, he declared.

No dialogue on homeland security would be complete without an examination of industry’s role in that effort, and Thursday’s luncheon speaker addressed the industry perspective. C. Michael Armstrong, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, AT&T, began by reminding the audience that industry bears some responsibility for infrastructure security because it has most of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Noting that “technology has made the world smaller, but it has not necessarily made us closer,” Armstrong warned that buildings are not the only U.S. targets for terrorists. The real potential for cyberattacks threatens all aspects of our critical infrastructure, and he called for industry to work to detect and anticipate threats.

The AT&T chairman related how communication is key in first responses to terrorism. A recent war game featuring a biological attack on a U.S. city featured a lack of effective communications during the onset of the attack, and the hypothetical result was millions of deaths. When the exercise was restarted with effective communications, the death toll dropped to the thousands.

One vital measure that companies can undertake is for each firm to establish a cyberrisk management program. A senior manager would be designated as a full-time crisis manager. Armstrong also suggested that backup systems should ensure continuity of operation, not just recovery from disaster.

Armstrong suggested that Congress can help industry in these efforts by passing two key pieces of legislation. One would provide a very specific exclusion to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) so industry can share proprietary information with the federal government without fear of outsiders using the FOIA to obtain this material. The other would be a special antitrust exemption to permit companies to discuss and collaborate on security efforts without violating antitrust laws.