DOD officials push real-time intelligence

Getting the right intelligence information to the warfighters who need it as quickly as possible is the key to transforming the Navy and Marine Corps and succeeding in the war on terrorism, according to a pair of service leaders.

"The intelligence aspect of this effort has become of the utmost importance," said Rear Adm. Joseph Krol Jr., assistant deputy chief of Naval Operations for plans, policy and operations, during a June 28 hearing of the House of Representatives' Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism. He added that sharing intelligence among the armed services and with U.S. allies has exposed "seams" that must be addressed.

Krol said that much of the intelligence being collected in Afghanistan in caves and from computers there has direct relevance to domestic homeland security efforts. "There's loads of intelligence that needs to be shared across the many seams because it has an effect on our homeland."

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Emil Bedard, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, said that real-time intelligence sharing has improved throughout the course of operations in Afghanistan, but there it could still be improved.

Bedard said that Operation Enduring Freedom has illustrated the great "reach-back" capabilities that technology provides. He used the example of an Afghanistan-based Marine commander receiving terrain, landing zone, route and the latest enemy situation data from intelligence officials in Quantico, Va., in less than four hours.

"Having direct feeds, to the intelligence-gathering platform to the people working the mission, we need to get better at that," he said.

Tools like the Air Force's Predator, a vehicle that uses a TV camera, an infrared camera and radar for surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting, have worked well in Afghanistan, but still do not "go down to the units who need it instantaneously," Bedard said. He added that is partially because the Marines and other services are still largely working on legacy systems, which makes the Defense Department's ongoing transformation efforts of the utmost importance.

"The transformation path we're on is critical," Bedard said. "The technology and platforms coming are critical."

Krol agreed, and said that includes sharing reconnaissance and other necessary information with U.S. allies.

"Speed is where we need to concentrate on," he said. "Our in-theater ability to operate with our allies has been successful, but needs to get better. We need more plug-and-play situations."

Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.), chairman of the terrorism panel, and ranking member Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) both expressed concern about the military's ability to share information with the intelligence community, namely the CIA.

Krol said that the Navy receives information collected by spies "eventually, but we're not 100 percent sure what the source is." He added that the service works that data into operations when it can, but that process takes longer than it should due to the unknown source of the information.

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