Military Internet Use Poses Challenges And Opportunities

January 2004


TechNet Europe 2003, held in Rome, drew a multinational, multifaceted audience for its conference theme "Internet: Friend or Foe?" 

NATO forces must overcome hurdles as they seek to exploit its technology.

Many of the same concerns that vex civilian and commercial users of the Internet confront the Atlantic alliance as its militaries embrace Web-based technologies in their ongoing transformations. Yet, the technological changes that are underway offer so many advantages that NATO members must find ways to incorporate them into their military operations.

These issues were discussed at TechNet Europe 2003, which was held at the Jolly Midas Hotel in Rome, Italy, on October 16-17. This year’s annual AFCEA Europe event coincided with the 25th anniversary of His Holiness the Pope’s accession and also the beatification of Mother Theresa in Rome. These were events that, in themselves, not only brought significant numbers to the eternal city, but also served to remind attendees at TechNet, who came from 21 countries around the world, of the rich historical and religious perspectives that Rome has to offer.

Some more recent historical perspective came into play in TechNet Europe 2003’s theme, which was “Internet: Friend or Foe?” The first keynote speaker, Adm. Gregory G. Johnson, USN, commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, and commander in chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe, immediately brought the theme into focus by suggesting that the Internet was indeed a friend, but an immature friend. The admiral painted a broad canvas with an emphasis on peace and stability. With 800 million people living under the security of the NATO umbrella and the world population estimated to grow by 2.5 billion people in the next 50 years, he suggested that such issues cannot be handled by one nation alone. Therefore, he was very keen on organizations such as NATO to assist in handling the ungovernable and the ungoverned.

Touching briefly on the technology that supports the Internet, he noted that between operation Desert Storm and operation Iraqi Freedom there had been a 300 percent increase in bandwidth requirements, and he assessed this as part of an insatiable growth in appetite. He viewed networked platforms and the need to share a frictionless information flow as essential to providing persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Against that, the admiral warned of information overload, the increasing dependence on technology and the challenges of maintaining interoperability, particularly over security issues. He classified all of these as issues that could be managed.

TechNet Europe’s first session focused on the Internet in the operational environment, and its three speakers drew upon recent operations to provide a broad view of the Internet in support of military forces and governmental scenarios. The subsequent discussions extrapolated from some initial lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq operations.


Dr. Raffaele Esposito, vice chairman of NATO's Industrial Advisory Group and president of AFCEA's Rome Chapter, gives the keynote address at the conference. 

The second session entailed an attempt to predict the evolution of the Internet over the next 10 years with an initial view of the quantum network of the future, followed by some thoughts on how electronic government might resolve the challenges of large-scale government business integration. With an emphasis on portals and an open network environment, it was still important to consider the integration of legacy systems left over from earlier monolithic applications. The final presenter looked at using Internet technology in storage networking, suggesting that storage would become another networked computer but stressing that it was important for such a system to maintain compliance with company security policy.

The first day’s final keynote speaker was Dr. Raffaele Esposito, vice chairman of NATO’s Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG) and president of AFCEA’s Rome Chapter. He explained that the NIAG is a high-level consultative body under NATO’s Conference of National Armament Directors. It comprises 17 NATO nations and seven Partnership for Peace nations designated by national trade associations representing more than one million industries from across the allied nations. The NIAG had been a prime mover in developing NATO’s Standardized Agreement on unmanned aerial vehicles, but it more routinely looks at industrial interfaces, industrial support, trans-Atlantic cooperation and interoperability against the background of the Prague Summit of 2002 and NATO’s recent Defense Capabilities Initiative.


Adm. Giampaolo di Paola, ITN, Italy's national armaments director, prepares to address TechNet Europe 2003. 

On TechNet Europe’s second day, the opening keynote speaker was Adm. Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte, ITN, commander, Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe. He discussed how his staff and the maritime forces under his command used the Internet and its derivatives to improve coordination, dissemination of information and the operational picture as well as to offer feedback. He warned that some of the dangers of such instant communications had first been highlighted in 1936 by Adm. O. di Giamberardino, who wrote, “With the multiplication of rapid communication, the admirals can ask for and receive orders wherever they are, and such a resource is abused to such an extent that we have at sea also radio-guided brains.” Adm. di Monteforte went on to look at how the NATO crisis response operations in NATO open system, known as CRONOS, provided a new and less formal way of communicating, but he stated that it was dependent upon satellite facilities being available, and he noted that it was a system without priority. He summarized his perspective by saying that, “Simply speaking, the Internet and its military variants are a breakthrough. We must simply learn how to use them.”

Panelists in the next session concentrated on the Internet and security. Interlocking global critical infrastructures were reviewed and set against increasing threats from viruses, hackers, fraud and espionage; increasing expectations from customers, partners, auditors and regulators; and increasing exposure from a greater dependence on information technology and more widespread connectivity. The complexities of today’s organizations were considered against the backdrop of start-ups, acquisitions, mergers, de-mergers, outsourcing, joint ventures and consultancies. The special case of digital imagery was used to illustrate many of these points.

Adm. Giampaolo di Paola, ITN, Italy’s secretary general of defense and its national armaments director, spoke about technical innovation and its effect on transformation. He stated that European traditional thinking was, perhaps, hard to change, and he used the analogy of a chess game where each platform—or individual—might be considered a pawn. Networking technology now means that each piece can have the value of a king or queen. He saw command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) as the core of transformation, and he stated that he wished that minds could be changed as rapidly as technology. The admiral emphasized the need for a strong European defense technology base but suggested that this is as much a political issue as a technology issue. It was not always possible, nor desirable, to buy new technology from abroad, as the purchaser could thereby become vulnerable. He ended with a review of the issues surrounding the European Defense Force proposals versus NATO Defense Forces and, in another illustrative analogy, suggested that a family with only one car soon came to an equitable agreement when more than one of them wanted to drive at the same time.


Adm. Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte, ITN (l), commander, Allied Forces Southern Europe, and Cdre. Robert Howell, RN (Ret.), AFCEA Europe general manager, converse at TechNet Europe 2003. 

In the final panel session experts looked at the dark side of the Web, where guidance is available on bomb-making, credit card and telephone fraud, lock picking, virus creation, password cracking and even bank robbery—to name but a few “dark sides.” Proper briefing, training and discipline remain the best defenses against disruption.

The session was also a first for TechNet Europe in that it included a brief by the director of the Investigative Division of the Computer Crime Division of the Italian Postal and Communication Police Service. Its top priority at present is child pornography. In the past three years, more than 1,000 people involved have been reported to judicial authorities, 120 arrested and 5,000 foreign nationals reported to the police authorities in their respective countries. Other investigative areas include hacking, software piracy, fraud, cyberterrorism and money laundering.

The final afternoon included two keynote speakers. Col. Ilkka Jäppinen, Finnish Army, director, Defense Forces Technical Research Center, Finland, examined how the Finnish Forces use the Internet, noting that electronics is one of Finland’s leading exports. The Defense Network covers the whole country and is fully digitized. However, Finland has a dense communications infrastructure built by a handful of network operators. These networks are interconnected in numerous places creating one national pool of resources, though commercially separate. All defense employees have access to the Defense Intranet that is neither physically nor logically connected to the open Internet. Where access to both is required, it is provided by extranet solutions. There is a third, and separate, secure network for defense planners and operators. The Finnish defense forces use the Internet for e-mail, publicity, training and acquisition. Perhaps the most exciting new initiative is the Information Technology and Crisis Management program, which is a joint venture of governmental, nongovernmental, private and academic users developing a decision-making and knowledge management system for use in international crisis management operations.

TechNet Europe 2003 ended with a presentation by H. Peter Dicks, general manager of the NATO Consultation, Command and Control (C3) Agency. He examined the vision, the philosophy and the architecture for Internet technology followed by a look at NATO’s Network Enabled Capability (NNEC) and the subsequent challenges. His vision embraces all that has changed in today’s NATO operations, emphasizing the high tempo and asymmetric nature of modern warfare and the associated extended reach, distributed operations and sporadic multiple engagements.

He sees information superiority, along with command and control (C2), as the major areas for improvement. His philosophy concentrates on taking today’s sequential decision-making processes, whether operational or administrative, and melding them into a concurrent command process. This brings new requirements such as function de-confliction, service synchronization, awareness coordination and planning in near real time. These requirements mean moving from a centralized static methodology to an integrated dynamic process. The associated architecture demands coordination and integration across warfare and functional areas, interfacing C2 with sensors and shooters.

Dicks sees NNEC operating on four levels: C2, engagement, information and sensor. The NNEC can be dynamic and responsive, but it needs C2 along with the concomitant technology. He emphasized NATO’s challenges in this field marked by a reluctance to accept change, particularly in command principles and leadership styles. There also is a lack of understanding of NEC-specific philosophy, methodology and technology. He additionally indicated that there is a lack of willingness to make the necessary investment into NEC requirements because it is so new and, for many, untested.

Cdre. Robert Howell, RN (Ret.), AFCEA Europe’s general manager, drew TechNet Europe 2003 to a close by commenting that friends come and go but enemies accumulate; yet, he felt that this event had shown that the Internet was a friend that is clearly here to stay. He ended by inviting everyone to TechNet Europe next year, to be held in Warsaw, Poland, on October 14-15, 2004.

Additional information on TechNet Europe 2003, along with copies of most of the presentations, can be found on the World Wide Web at

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