Report sheds light on NATO's high-tech problems in Kosovo

Although NATO nations contributed significantly to the success of the 78-day air war in Kosovo, the significant hi-tech "imbalance" between U.S. forces and its NATO allies could have long-term implications for the effectiveness of the alliance, a Pentagon report concluded.

The Defense Department's final report to Congress on the lessons learned from the war in Kosovo, released on Tuesday, concludes that deficiencies in NATO's command and control, information systems, secure communications and precision attack capabilities were among the "most important" problems and shifted a "disproportionate burden of responsibility for combat operations to the United States."

The report also concluded that "existing data networks were not adequate to support the flow among key nodes of the NATO information grid" — a problem that the report also says was complicated by a lack of systems interoperability and different classification guidelines for information security. Likewise, "the inability to pass high-fidelity digital data was a shortfall in every phase" of the war, the report stated. In fact, "data sometimes could not be transmitted to the required location at all."

Although NATO established a joint data network to handle the flow of information, the report characterizes it as a group of "disparate tactical digital systems with multiple transmission systems and message formats."

To rectify these problems, the Pentagon is throwing its support behind the Defense Capabilities Initiative, a long-term program that seeks to enhance U.S./NATO systems interoperability and logistics planning.

And while several communications technologies saw their first significant use in Kosovo, including World Wide Web-based information sharing, video teleconferencing and large-scale e-mail coordination and tasking, the campaign was hampered by the lack of clear policies and international agreements on a number of key IT issues. According to the report, agreements with NATO nations must be reached in the following areas:

* Allocation of limited bandwidth, although Europe's modern information infrastructure enabled NATO to take advantage of double the amount of bandwidth used during Operation Desert Storm.

* Establishment of network integration training standards

* Management of the electromagnetic spectrum

* Enforcement of coalition agreements on network security

* Improvements on interoperability by focusing on standards, not hardware

* Acceleration of Host Nation Agreements governing the use of extensive networks


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