Robust Information Technologies Vital to Maintaining Pacific Theater Effectiveness

April 1999
By Robert K. Ackerman and Michelle L. Hankins
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Ashore, at-sea connectivity looms key to fulfilling rapidly changing missions in dynamic environment.

Economic uncertainties, a rapidly changing political picture, and growing regional rivalries complicate U.S. efforts to preserve security in the Pacific region. The world’s largest ocean abutting the most populous continent offers numerous challenges to U.S. forces counted on as the major font of stability in that area.

New information technologies planned for the services loom larger in the context of Asia-Pacific operations. Maintaining a long reach across vast geography is essential to implementing strategic and tactical goals, both political and military.

This task is further complicated by the changing nature of conflict and military readiness. U.S. forces are restructuring around a network-centric environment in which information is the force enabler. Conventional warfare is giving way to the likelihood of asymmetrical conflict. Troops must plan and train for operations in heavily populated urban areas. And, U.S. forces face personnel difficulties as they attempt to recruit and retain top-notch people.

These and many other related issues were explored by speakers and panelists at West ’99, an exhibition and symposium cosponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Held January 19-21 in San Diego, the event featured U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard officers; government officials; and industry experts who shared views with 8,000 attendees.

Keynote speaker Adm. Archie Clemins, USN, outlined some of the major steps that remain on the road to fully interoperable network-centric warfare. These include getting away from sensor-to-shooter stovepipe systems and moving toward wideband local area networks, obtaining wideband radio frequency or satellite communications, and implementing effective information management. The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander in chief declared that backbone investment is critical, as this aspect constitutes 80 percent of an information infrastructure.

He noted that the fleet is evolving from system- to personal computer- to network- to content-centric operations. Networking will surpass personal computers next year, only to give way to content-centric operations by 2012. Forecasting a break-even point by next year, Adm. Clemins predicted greater cost efficiencies as these systems are brought on-line.

“If we don’t change, somebody else will, and they will be ahead of us,” the admiral warned.

Former Secretary of Defense Dr. William J. Perry, who spoke at the technology luncheon, emphasized the importance of U.S. high technology in sustaining battlefield dominance. Now a professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, Perry related that “the whole world knows how effective our weapons are. They’ll either counter them or copy them.” Training, however, is a key element of that technology dominance, and the United States must not allow that discipline to fall prey to budget cuts. It would be “a tragic mistake” to cut corners in this area to save money, he warned.

Perry predicted that Congress will not make overly harmful cuts because it understands the before and after of the current military. Congress wants to reduce overhead and wants an efficient defense, and no member of Congress  wants bases shut in his or her district. A counterpoint to that, however, is that the military must spend wisely. The Defense Department is “just scratching the surface” of efficient business practices, Perry noted. “While the government has deep pockets, it also has short arms,” he said.

Personnel issues emerge as major factors in budgeting and planning. Lt. Gen. Jack W. Klimp, USMC, outlined Marine Corps personnel challenges in the Marine Corps commandant’s address. Pinch-hitting for Commandant Gen. Charles C. Krulak, USMC, Gen. Klimp brought his perspective as deputy chief of staff for manpower and reserve affairs to bear on how the Corps is preparing for future missions.

The Marine Corps is now deploying once every five weeks. By 2000, this may increase to once every three weeks. The average number of forward-deployed marines is 24,000, which is 4,000 more than before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Also, this new era promises an increased emphasis on urban operations, and Gen. Klimp describes it as “one of the most exciting experimental phases in the history of the Corps.” To accommodate this, the Marine Corps has shifted its recruiting focus from traditional central U.S. strongholds to coastal regions to increase representation from major metropolitan areas.

Gen. Klimp cited urban warfare exercises as key to future Marine Corps operations. Marines will likely be faced with a “three-block war” in an urban environment. A marine on the ground could go from humanitarian to peacekeeping to mid-intensity conflict, all in a three-block area. This already happened in Somalia, the general related, and the global trend toward urban migration increases its likelihood for future deployments.

This is especially true in the Asia-Pacific region, where up to 70 percent of the world’s population resides. Adm. Joseph W. Prueher, USN, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, described this region as “dynamically in flux,” not static. Speaking at the joint forces luncheon, the admiral noted that the Pacific’s economies are struggling, governments are changing—including democracies—and the Pacific Command must continue to contribute to security and stability in the region.

The command has adopted two basic premises for security: taking military, diplomatic, political and economic approaches all in concert; and providing military security to support stable conditions that foster economic and political prosperity. While peacetime engagement and relationship-building serve preventive defense, the command must train and prepare to ratchet up to a crisis point, if necessary.

Adm. Prueher listed seven elements of readiness: qualified people, modern equipment that works, support systems, training, tactics, logistics and communications infrastructure, and home support infrastructure. A failure of any one of these adversely affects readiness, he stated. Concerning information systems, the United States has a huge data glut, but no knowledge or understanding glut.

The “pivotal security relationship” between the United States and Japan, the admiral declared, is the command’s highest priority and that “we’re in it for the long haul.” Japan spends $5 billion on its military alliance with the United States, in addition to noncash expenditures such as real estate and other basing elements.

China also is vital to future security and stability, and the United States is “working on building the foundations for a long-haul relationship” with that country as well. The world’s most populous nation has “excellent thinkers on asymmetric warfare,” the admiral remarked. In descending order, China’s military priorities are its strategic rocket forces, its navy, its air force and its army. The future of Taiwan is the top issue between the United States and China, and the United States is committed to a peaceful resolution of this issue. Adm. Prueher warned that current U.S. strategy toward China is “a tactic, not a policy.”

Several other nations are key to regional security. The United States seeks an improved military relationship with India, the world’s second most populous nation and a nuclear power with ballistic missiles. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, is “a no-kidding problem.” The strategically important nation is in the midst of political, economic and military instability.

The chief of naval operations, Adm. Jay L. Johnson, USN, described the sea services as “tailor-made to carry out the national security strategy.” Adm. Johnson explained that the future would be shaped by three irreversible trends: greater globalization and interdependence, networking, and technology assimilation. To be effective in this new era, the Navy must be forward, modern and connected, he asserted.

“Networking is the principal organizing force in the world,” he emphasized.

The admiral warned against further cuts in Navy force structure. While the service currently can meet national security challenges, any drop below a 300-ship fleet will present “unacceptable risk.” He called for significant increases in the shipbuilding budget to ensure that the Navy will be able to “use the borderless domains of sea, space and cyberspace.”

Industry can provide a valuable service by teaching the Navy lessons learned, especially shortcomings, in information technologies, the admiral said. The Navy will be buying some capabilities, not building them. Key technologies include new tactical sensing and reconnaissance capabilities coupled with advanced weaponry. This will hold adversaries at risk, he projected.

The Navy’s information technology (IT) 21 program will provide a robust information capability to all surface vessels and submarines, with every ship becoming a ship of the line, the admiral said. This must extend ashore to the business and corporate side of the Navy to ensure that onshore facilities are consistent with at-sea assets. IT 21 capabilities will also provide a huge boost to morale on long deployments, he predicted. In sum, “we cannot afford not to do this,” Adm. Johnson emphasized.

Under Secretary of the Navy Jerry MacArthur Hultin echoed some of Adm. Johnson’s remarks on the importance of the Navy to U.S. security strategy. The end of the Cold War so changed the defense picture that “we are in the midst of an unpredictable, chaotic, fast-moving storm,” the under secretary declared. The defense posture becomes more uncertain every day, and the U.S. dominance of the global marketplace brings with it economic dependence on other nations. Still, Hultin believes the 21st century can be “a golden age for the United States and for U.S. naval power.”

All the services face a challenge to “find a way to deliver the goods for readiness and modernization for the 21st century,” he stated. This must be achieved at spending levels equivalent to only 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. To remain strong, the Navy “must learn to just say no” to some current expenditures in order to acquire breakthrough technology systems, Hultin declared.

It is important to break “the zero-sum financial game in Washington” and change the way business is done, he added. Key to this is moving away from a state-run economy—the Pentagon—to a market system. “We need [the commercial sector] to hold us to world-class business practices.

“If I can’t get what we want from an agency, we should be able to go to the commercial sector,” Hultin said.

The conference’s first panel examined how the defense community can keep up with commercial development. Defense Information Systems Agency Director Lt. Gen. David Kelley, USA, noted that the military is still on the retail end of the economies of scale when it comes to bandwidth costs, and it must move to the other end of that scale. He also described how DISA’s defense information systems network 2000 is a simpler, more capable system at half the cost of its progenitor. The SONET ring system, which already has a European presence, soon will be extended into the Pacific region.

Rear Adm. John A. Gauss, USN, commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, called for a disciplined engineering focus to integrate commercial technology into the military. He warned that commercial capabilities are useless without embedded security. Calling information “the commodity,” Adm. Gauss stated that “if it is not end-to-end, then the parts you buy aren’t worth buying.”

Col. Marilyn A. Quagliotti, USA, vice director for command, control, communications and computer (C4) systems, the Joint Staff, asserted that the “we’ll know it when we buy it” concept of budgeting for C4 does not work with Congress.

A panel on information technology from the sea generated a lively exchange among its participants. Panel moderator Adm. William Owens, USN (Ret.), launched the discussion by saying that the information technology system “really is badly broken.” He called for widespread changes in information technology implementation with greater recognition of the importance of the commercial sector. A total of 55 of the world’s 100 largest economies are companies, and countries in the know are capitalizing on commercial technologies. Adm. Owens, now with the satellite data network company Teledesic, stated that “the Chinese are all over us,” in examining Teledesic’s capabilities as they pursue lease opportunities.

Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, USN, president of the Naval War College, warned of “a great deal of one-sided thinking that tries to predict the future and script the enemy.” He added that increasing in importance are networked tactical sensors and electronic warfare. Fred Belen of the Office of Naval Research said that “the [needed] bandwidth will, or can, be there.” For security, the military must “reach out and grab” commercial off-the-shelf products.

Brig. Gen. Timothy Donovan, USMC, commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, asserted that sensor grids are inadequate to provide necessary depth. The year 2000 problem may be a blessing in disguise because it is forcing information experts to abandon a lot of old software and systems. Col. Harry Townsley, USA, chief, systems engineering and development division, said that the digitized infantryman will employ both data and situational awareness to serve as both sensor and shooter. And Lt. Cmdr. Ross Mitchell, USN, described how joint data, joint planning and joint fire control networks all will enable warfighters to launch any ordnance within a “ring of fire.”

Former military officials questioned whether the United States is headed for a hollow force as they presented their perspectives on force readiness at a panel session. Vice Adm. James Fitzgerald, USN (Ret.), former inspector general of the Navy, and Lt. Gen. Don G. Holder, USA (Ret.), former commandant, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, both agreed that the U.S. military has readiness problems. Adm. Fitzgerald cited a decrease in the number of forces as well as reductions in recruiting and retention as contributors to the problem. An “erosion of benefits” is also affecting the services, who need to be fully appreciated, the admiral said.

“Reduced budgets and increased operations have put modernization at risk,” according to Gen. Holder. Noting the realm of the U.S. military, with troops serving about 100 nations around the world, he said “the operational pace of the past decade is wearing, but sustainable at the price of changed force content.”

Lt. Gen. Richard T. Swope, USAF (Ret.), former Air Force inspector general, stated, “It is time for a sustainable development in our forces.” This growth must involve a well-trained reserve component, and several on the panel agreed that the training can be used, not only to prepare forces, but also to attract new recruits to join the services as well. Adm. Fitzgerald noted that, as automation reduces the number of people in the services, a greater need for highly specialized people emerges.

A panel on retention provided a lively discussion on causes of discontent and possible solutions. Rear Adm. John Natter, USNR (Ret.), cited three major issues emerging from an in-depth study of retention problems among junior officers: no confidence in leadership, erosion of benefits, and little job satisfaction. Only one in 10 junior officers aspires to be a commanding officer, he submitted. This problem is compounded when the Navy’s civilian leadership denies the existence of a junior officer problem. “It turns people off,” said Adm. Natter of the reaction to that attitude.

Rear Adm. David Brewer, USN, commander, 5th Group 3, added family separation, stress and low quality of life to the list of causes. A six- to 10-month extension of a tour, combined with a shortchanging of department heads, reduces morale among personnel. The admiral decried the corporate mentality currently pervading the military that is geared more toward preventing failure than encouraging initiative.

“We have to go back to the warrior’s code—credibility and esprit de corps, not the corporate culture,” Adm. Brewer declared. “Let people fail.”

Vice Adm. Michael L. Bowman, USN, commander, naval air forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, warned that pay and benefit increases alone are not enough. “If we don’t get our hands around this [problem], no matter how much money we spend … it won’t work.” Describing naval aviation retention as a challenge, not a crisis, he urged that leaders listen to junior officers through their commanding officers. Make them feel empowered and forget the zero-defect mentality, he argued.

Rear Adm. Fred L. Ames, USCG, revealed that many junior officers in his service are not treated well by superiors. He quoted one chief petty officer as saying, “If I treated my junior enlisted the way junior officers are treated in the boardroom, I’d be fired.” Four basic factors that need attention are pay compensation, retirement, housing and medical care. The admiral called for a 401k plan for the Coast Guard as one solution.

Speaking from the audience was Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden, Jr., USMC, deputy commander, U.S. Forces Japan. Gen. Bolden cited the importance of spouses in the military personnel equation, saying, “If you can convince a spouse that the job is fun, you’re more than halfway there.”

An overflow crowd heard specifics about the Navy’s plans for a virtual intranet. Scott Randall, program director for global information and networks, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), said that the Navy must treat this endeavor as an enterprisewide solution. This includes mundane business practices such as buying in bulk. SPAWAR’s Brian Clingerman, technical director to the chief engineer, allowed that the commercial sector will provide much of this intranet’s elements. Industry has developed all the necessary standard interfaces, so the Navy does not have to “roll them out.”

“A U.S. presence in Asia is part of the solution, but it’s not the entire solution,” stated Vice Adm. Dennis V. McGinn, USN, commander, Third Fleet, in a panel session discussing the Pacific region in 2010. To be ready in the next century, forces must understand what role they are going to play in the region. These forces must be continuously trained in an interoperable environment, and the United States must have a rapid pipeline for technology from the time of inception to use. Leveraging forms of information technology, such as modeling or simulation, to train the services will remain crucial in the next century.

Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr., USA, commandant of the U.S. Army War College, addressed needs for the next century. “We need to build a balanced force that’s capable of out-of-area operations in Northeast Asia. Right now, we just don’t have it,” he declared.

Citing potential flashpoints in the region, panelists agreed that the United States must watch for possible conflict in China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, North Korea, South Korea, and new nuclear rivals Pakistan and India.

Gen. Michael P. Carns, USAF (Ret.), former vice chief of staff of the Air Force, offered that the most threatening factor in the stability of the Pacific region involves unhealthy economies. Japan can no longer be depended upon as the economic savior in the area, he said.