An experimental Internet-based system could allow future warfighters to direct satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles and to acquire reconnaissance data and imagery immediately from tactical battlefield positions. The software-based technology treats space and air assets like Internet addresses, permitting remote users to request information from them or to monitor the status of platforms.
The U.S. Navy's Naval Sea Systems Command is adopting corporate acquisition strategies for buying services nationwide through the Web. A new e-commerce system that expands on a three-year-old model has designated more than 100 industry teams for procurements under a performance-based contracting process. This novel contracting approach also opens new opportunities for small businesses, including set-asides for primes and subcontractors.
Interoperability with allied forces is a priority for Australia's military, and a program underway will deliver a multiphase, $600 million renewal of the Australian Defence Force's tactical communications systems. The program initially will rely on a bridging capability largely based on existing infrastructure that will be supplemented and ultimately replaced over at least the next decade in a series of phased improvements.
The most impressive new large guided missile destroyers (DDGs) of China's Peoples Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN, are the showcases of new operations and responsibilities beyond traditional coastal roles. The ships' new sensors, missiles and combat systems are mainly of Russian and Western origin. However, China now is faced with the challenge of operating and maintaining these advanced systems to create a credible threat to foreign navies in Far Eastern waters. This blue-water fleet primarily comprises ships that have been operational for years, but other more advanced ships are being built and may be deployed as soon as next year.
First responders from a number of organizations are now equipped with technology that allows them to coordinate their actions in an emergency using an interface that facilitates communications between incompatible devices. The interface enables one telephone and five different radio networks to interconnect by plugging in a telephone or radio handset from each network. The small, lightweight unit has been tested by the U.S. Air Force and currently is in use by the National Guard and several law enforcement groups.
Lessons learned from operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are influencing transformation efforts across the U.S. military. Speakers and panelists featured at Transformation TechNet 2004 emphasized that information technology tools enhanced mission effectiveness; however, much work remains to improve capabilities, concepts of operations, acquisition methods and force structure.
Information technology is the key differentiator in operations in southwest Asia and the global war on terrorism, according to military leaders who spoke at TechNet International 2004. Each shared his or her individual perspective on how information systems are transforming the way the military is fighting today and will fight in the future. Speakers included key U.S. Defense Department and information technology leaders from each of the armed forces as well as the joint community.
Experts representing many areas of homeland security and defense shared their insights during three panel sessions at TechNet International 2004. Discussion topics varied from wireless device security to infrastructure protection to business continuity. Leaders from industry, government and the military agreed that information technology offers many benefits, but it also poses considerable security challenges.
The U.S. Army is testing a new technology that will enable a seamless connection between the wireless world and the landline world by means of tactical radio networking. Through the use of an already proven network infrastructure, the addition of a centralized routing capability within a family of current-generation tactical field radios has provided access to multiple forms of connectivity that were previously unattainable in the field.
The transformation taking place today in both the military and in industry is a logical and necessary step along the evolutionary trail. History documents how economic and societal structures adapted to changes brought about by the transition from the agrarian to the industrial age. We have to turn on the Discovery Channel to learn how people must have felt about adjusting to different ways of earning a living, new modes of transportation, revolutionary tactics for fighting battles.
Rewarding unconventional thinking and promoting a culture where people have the freedom and flexibility to take risks and try new things is a salient move by the U.S. Defense Department. In seeking to instill an entrepreneurial approach to developing military capabilities, a key element is to encourage people to behave less like bureaucrats.
Military transformation may begin with a vision developed by U.S. Defense Department leaders, but it is in the individual services that the rubber meets the road or-in the U.S. Navy's case-the keel meets the water. All of the service's transformation efforts are aimed at achieving specific goals that will make the Navy more agile and increase strike precision.
U.S. Marine Corps transformation efforts are seeking to keep humans at the center of an increasingly automated decision cycle. As the service morphs into a network-centric fighting force, planners are designing doctrine and technologies to serve warfighters' needs without burying them in excess information.
An experimental communications system may soon connect U.S. Marine Corps units deployed on amphibious operations. Built using current satellite technology linked to radios and battlefield data management devices, the network will connect forward tactical units with task force commanders.
A push for force transformation across all branches of the military has brought about change in the research and development community and the collaboration technologies it creates. To meet the growing demand for accurate, relevant and timely information on the battlefield, scientists and engineers are focusing on interoperability, standards and advanced technologies.
The U.S. military will conduct its annual search for interoperability solutions next month with a renewed sense of urgency as nations continue to pull together to fight terrorism and government agencies pursue collaboration in homeland security efforts. Once again, this year, the focus will be on examining dozens of technologies that commands can employ to address immediate interoperability problems.
Major military failures frequently arise when leaders ignore fundamental changes in technology, doctrine or society. However, when leaders are seduced into believing that there is a fundamental change in technology or doctrine where none has actually occurred-for example nuclear weapons in Korea or the use of the helicopter in Vietnam-the result can be equally devastating.
The term network-centric warfare broadly describes the combination of emerging tactics, techniques and procedures that a networked force can employ to create a decisive warfighting advantage. According to John Keegan, author of A History of Warfare, it is similar to the significant warfighting developments of the industrial age and agrarian age in that network-centric warfare seeks to exploit an order of magnitude change in an underlying source of power to increase warfighting advantage dramatically. Paula Kaufman, in an article she wrote for IEEE Spectrum, agrees with this opinion. In the industrial age, power was primarily derived from mass and the sources of power for moving mass. In the information age, power is increasingly derived from information sharing, information access and speed, she says.
In the 18 months following the terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has undergone a series of structural changes. At the state and federal levels, efforts are underway to enhance communications and information-sharing infrastructures among agencies and other organizations. Public institutions also have reached out to the private sector to form partnerships designed to protect vital national infrastructures.
While the individual armed services continue their march toward change, some forward-thinking military leaders are examining transformation on a larger scale-the realm of operations. Technologies likely to be available in the future will enable effects-based operations, a concept that may not replace conventional warfare but certainly could narrow its breadth.