Army increases stake in battlefield digitization

The Army's fiscal 2000 budget calls for $2.8 billion for its battlefield digitization program, which is designed to connect armored vehicles, helicopters and even individual soldiers on the battlefields of the 21st century using advanced communications and computing technology.

This request represents a $200 million increase over the $2.6 billion the Army allocated to its Force XXI digitization program in the fiscal 1999 budget and, according to an Army spokesman, will allow the service to field the world's first fully digitized division in fiscal 2000, which ends September 2001.

The digitally networked Army, the service said, will provide "a fully integrated command and control capability from the regional commander in chief to the soldier."

In a speech last year, Paul Hoeper, assistant secretary of the Army for research, development and acquisition, said the new systems will allow commanders to develop "situational awareness" of friendly and enemy forces and "pierce the fog of war" that normally develops during the heat of battle.

The budget includes $72 million in research and development funding for its Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below command and control system, which the Army described as "the cornerstone" of its digitization effort. That R&D funding is down from $98 million in fiscal 1999, reflecting the move of the system from the laboratory to the field, the Army spokesman said.

The Army also plans to increase spending on tactical command and control systems in fiscal 2000 to $285 million, up from $236 million in 1999. The Army asked for $187 million in procurement funding for satellite communications in 2000, down slightly from $198 million in 1999. The Army also continued strong funding for upgrades to its base communications system, asking for $193 million in 2000, up from $150 million in 1999.

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