The U.S. Army's infostructure is falling into formation under a new command that is responsible for the operation, management and defense of that service's information systems worldwide. The organization's mission-provide a high-speed, secure, interoperable knowledge enterprise across the Army and around the globe that plugs into joint systems and the Global Information Grid.
A recent exercise in San Antonio revealed how homeland security cooperation among civil authorities and the military involves more than hardware and software interoperability. Issues such as military capabilities, obligations and restrictions weighed heavily as participants sought to establish procedures to counter a potential cyberattack.
Placing the concept of management into a military context allows the art of both management and command and control to be examined. Both involve the same processes of sensing one's environment, understanding one's place and role in that environment, deciding what needs to be done and ensuring that action is carried out to achieve the intended effect. Information technology has a profound influence on these components, enabling the commander to retain the appropriate focus on the mission, improving the quality and speed of decisions, but increasing the need to take care not to be seduced by information for its own sake.
New data storage and retrieval techniques are allowing theater air mission planners to call up detailed imagery and mapping data from a laptop computer. Using commercial hardware and software, U.S. forces directed attack and rescue missions during the recent Kosovo conflict by accessing continentwide data contained in a single box.
The U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency is purchasing commercial remote sensing imagery, some under exclusive use agreements, to support operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Applications can range from mission planning and rehearsal to battle damage assessment and humanitarian airdrops.
A combination of faster computing capabilities, lower cost storage and improved software is opening new markets for commercial satellite imagery in the 1-meter and, in the future, 0.5-meter resolution range. Although these images were once reserved for U.S. government and military uses, today a wide range of organizations is purchasing them to support their missions. From monitoring activity in other countries and creating accurate simulation models to mapping underwater environments, pictures taken from space have become a valuable tool and have ushered the world into what some have termed the age of transparency.
By manipulating the slippery and elusive qualities of matter's smallest components, scientists have developed a way to encode and send data along unsecured public fiber optic lines. The method relies on the unique nature of atomic behavior-any attempt by an outside party to analyze the coded material changes the atoms' characteristics, rendering the transmission useless.
Hellfire missile-toting Predators are an interim measure to increase combatant power in the area of operations. But the U.S. military is moving forward quickly on the path to a force-enabling tactical air power weapon system for both pre-emptive and reactive strikes.
With the capabilities of today's information technology systems, military, government and industry leaders are nearly overwhelmed with data. The desktop computer has become more than a machine: It's a window to and a connection with the world. Senior government decision makers increasingly are taking advantage of commercial tools, and transformation is the umbrella term used to describe how we are evolving from the industrial age to the information age. In the past, control belonged to the organization that massed forces; today, it belongs to the group that efficiently turns data into useful information.
The U.S. Defense Department is reconfiguring its training approach so service personnel can learn the same way as they will fight-in a joint environment. To ensure that this is achievable, the department is looking to the U.S. Joint Forces Command to provide active management of joint training systems and capabilities across the armed forces and across the nation.
Rapidly deployable, reliable and secure communications are helping sort through the inherent communications chaos surrounding emergency situations. The technology was instrumental in providing communications capabilities after the terrorist attacks and also was useful in debris recovery operations after the space shuttle Columbia disaster.
The U.S. Air Force soon will field a new generation of command and control aircraft featuring advanced radar and communications systems. Designed around an open systems architecture, the aircraft can be easily refitted with new technologies as they become available. These platforms may combine both the capabilities of ground tracking and surveillance with airborne early warning functions some time in the future, Air Force officials say.
Today's unmanned aerial vehicles look like fighter aircraft, but the next generation of aircraft will more likely resemble brainy birds. By taking advantage of miniaturization, researchers and engineers are exploring ways to put the power of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection directly into the hands of warfighters. In the not-too-distant future, these systems will employ networking technologies to give commanders ubiquitous situational awareness.
The rapid evolution of the Internet and other telecommunications networks has begun to eliminate national boundaries and geographic separation among countries. Scientific methods used to study international information flows and resulting globalization indicate a correlation between the flows and major political and economic changes over time.
A multimillion-dollar U.S. Air Force project that streamlines financial information sharing processes is coming to fruition using an approach that facilitates responsiveness to requirements changes and incrementally delivers capabilities. The system goes into production this month after two years in development.
The U.S. government's information technology efforts are being coordinated by a new office responsible for holding agency programs accountable to budget limits and sound business plans. Part of an ongoing drive to streamline government and provide better services to the public, the department promotes the development of innovative ideas and methods to achieve these goals.
Today's challenges call for cooperation and collaboration among the various agencies charged with ensuring homeland security. Information technology systems will be the conduit through which critical data will be shared, and senior government leaders are looking for solutions in several areas, including information security, maritime monitoring and interagency collaboration. TechNet International 2003 will showcase these capabilities and provide a forum for discussion about future requirements.
The force transformation that is sweeping the U.S. military is an integral part of the global war on terrorism. Rather than being a hindrance to the 18-month-old war, this transformation may be necessary for U.S. forces to prevail both at home and abroad. The transformation is not merely about technology, however. Cultural and organizational concepts must be changed, and all of the services and the Congress must develop new ways of funding and enacting defense changes.
Emerging technologies and new strategies may result in as much as a tenfold increase in the U.S. military's operations planning capabilities. In what has been touted as the largest military experiment in history, participants analyzed how the armed forces will fight in the future and what tools they will need to wage war more effectively. Although many of the systems and concepts are aimed at a 2007 battlespace, several of them may bring more immediate benefits for warfighters.
Unmanned aerial vehicles the size of model airplanes, ruggedized minicomputers that automate calls for air support and remotely controlled rifled mortar capabilities will change the way the U.S. Marine Corps fights on future battlefields. Armed with information they can safely gather about what lurks over the next hill, front-line troops will be able to send accurate data to pilots and commanders so they can respond expeditiously with appropriate fire support.