Intelligence, logistics placed under microscope

The NATO air war waged last year to dislodge the Serbs from Kosovo taught the Pentagon an important lesson about the multitude of advances it has made in automating intelligence and logistics functions: More needs to be done.

Thanks to a relatively modern information infrastructure that already existed throughout Europe, and the U.S. military's edge in information technology, the NATO forces were able to take advantage of one of the most robust global support networks established in recent memory. And yet, it did not do everything that was needed, according to the Pentagon's final report to Congress on the war, released Tuesday.

The biggest success story of the war in Kosovo comes from the positive impact that real-time video teleconferencing had on the ability of high-level commanders to coordinate and plan the campaign. Video teleconferencing connections were made possible through the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, which provided what the report describes as secure video communications with "excellent clarity." It also allowed senior strategic commanders to exert real-time influence over the tactical maneuvers of forces.

The global communications infrastructure, put in place primarily by the Defense Information Systems Agency, also provided U.S. intelligence analysts with a critical reach-back capability to the U.S., "reducing the number of scarce imagery analysts required in theater," the report stated.

However, deployable intelligence systems and a cadre of deployable technicians are two areas that need improvement, according to the report. Likewise, the Pentagon study concluded that more effort needs to be expended in improving the intelligence community's ability to prepare for such crises in advance and to "size" long-haul communications accordingly.

Despite the high-tech improvements made in DOD's ability to plan major deployments and track its equipment, also known as asset visibility, "there is still room for significant improvement," the report concluded.

One of the major impediments to achieving in-transit visibility during Kosovo, the report stated, was the inability to capture data accurately at the source. "Even if the necessary data were available, there is currently a lack of adequate feeder systems and the associated communications support needed to collect and fuse the data into a coherent picture on the Global Transportation Network," stated the report. GTN is a linchpin logistics system operated by the U.S Transportation Command.

In addition, interoperability problems create "friction at all levels of the deployment planning process," the report stated. "Among the problems are inconsistent data requirements and electronic data formats that cannot be easily shared between systems."

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