Data, communications dominate LandWarNet conference

Highlights of the event

The 2009 LandWarNet conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., brought together government and industry leaders to discuss pressing issues affecting the military's combat operations. Below are some highlights from the conference. For full coverage, go to defensesystems.com/portals/lwn.aspx

Could a new command get lost in the Army shuffle?
With the establishment of the 7th Signal Command, the Army has created an organization to protect, defend and unify its communications network in the United States. Although it includes three Army commands, six component commands, nine direct reporting units, and an eastern and western brigade, it has no coherent command above it, which means it faces challenges in taking hold of the vast landscape it has been charged with supporting.

Protecting hundreds of U.S.-based communications networks is just the start. The command will also work to combine them into a single enterprise network, an endeavor that is already making waves.

“Many of these reporting organizations are hostile to an enterprise network. Why do they need it when they have their own?” asked Richard Breakiron, deputy G3 for future operations at the 7th Signal Command. But "a network-dependent country can be reduced to a third-world country with a cyberattack disabling infrastructure,” which demonstrates the need for consistent network security.

(A G3 in Signal Command is the principal staff assistant to the commander.)

DARPA developing $500 radio for WIN-T
The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program’s Increment 3 is likely to include a $500 radio for dismounted soldiers, a system that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing, said Robert Wilson, deputy project manager of Project Manager Command Posts.

Considered almost a throwaway device at that price, the Wireless Networking After Next radio would have four channels and extend WIN-T’s on-the-move capabilities to soldiers on foot.

“The Army has signed a memorandum of agreement with DARPA to develop and eventually take this to a program of record,” Wilson said.

Command and control must become command and feedback, NATO leader says
In military operations, command and control has been considered the foundation of mission success. But as the military and its culture evolves in an era of instantaneous information sharing and coalition forces, the notion of command and control must evolve, too, said Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander-Transformation.

“The C2 of the future is command and feedback,” Mattis said.

At the same time, as “the glue that puts together the joint force,” C2 must be malleable enough to meet modern demands without overlooking the needs and desires of the people involved,  Mattis said.

“A leader-centric, network-enabled approach creates unity of effort if done right and creates harmony in the fog and friction of war,” he added.

Data defines the fight today
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are as much about the effective use of data as they are about the effective use of weapons.

“When was the last time we fired a main tank gun or massive amounts of artillery at the enemy in anger?” asked Maj. Gen. Randy Strong, commanding general of the Army Communications and Electronics Command's Life Cycle Management Command. “The fight today is largely enabled by information and precision strikes on the enemy.”

The Army must use networks and the information that passes through them to see, hear, disrupt, deny, communicate, and survive. Networks and administrators are also a key component of what the Communications and Electronics Command must bring when it moves from Fort Monmouth, N.J., to its new facilities in Aberdeen, Md.

“It is easy to get Mayflower to do the physical move,” Strong said. “It is more difficult to move the organization,…the people. You want to move the culture of excellence so you have the same sense of who you are ... your pride, heritage and culture.”

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