ESC Fighting Irregular Warfare While Facing Future Funding Constraints
Lt. Gen. Ted F. Bowlds, USAF, commander, Electronic Systems Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, delivered the luncheon speech at MILCOM 2009. Gen. Bowlds stated that the world is changing so fast that it is impossible to predict what innovations will develop as well as threats the U.S. will face in the next 10 to 15 years. "Five years out is about all we can go," he said. Although irregular warfare is the buzzword today, in the spectrum of conflict, it doesn't represent any more than 10 percent to 15 percent of the threat today, he said. Despite this low percentage, it is consuming a lot of the U.S. military's time. "I tell people if you get three individuals with an attitude and an explosive, you've got a problem on your hands. They can go anywhere they want to and take that problem and make it your problem these days," he stated. Adding to the challenges are budget realities. The way the U.S. Defense Department does business with industry is going to start to change very drastically, he said. The top priorities for the fiscal year 2012 budget will be influenced by "a lack of appetite for spending for DOD" and other pressures, such as the economy and health care. As a result, the military budget is going to come down, the general noted. "The spending spree that we all got to enjoy for the past five or six years is going to evaporate away from us. So, we're going to have to be smarter in doing what we can with what we've got, or we're going to have to be very, very smart in buying what we need," he added. At the heart of the next generation in the military is creation of data, systems and ideas, the general noted. Gen. Bowlds noted that if the military is not careful, its acquisition process is going to go the "way of the dinosaur" because technology is moving so quickly. About 90 percent of what is used at ESC rides on commercial technology today. "So over the years, we've been trying to figure out how to tighten up our acquisition," he stated. The goal at ESC is to get solutions into the hands of the warfighter within 12 months. In terms of fighting threats in the cyberspace, virtualization of networks may hold the key, the general allowed. By creating a number of virtual networks, data can be stored in different locations, so it is a constantly moving target. "It's like being a chameleon in the cyber domain," he stated.