Building the Army's confidence in high-tech
- By George I. Seffers
- Jul 03, 2000
If future soldiers and commanders do not trust battlefield intelligence
provided by information systems, the Army's revolutionary transformation
into a more mobile and more lethal force could crumble, some service officials
The Army transformation is centered on the Future Combat System, a family
of vehicles designed for multiple missions. The future system will be networked
to ground-, air- and space-based information systems to provide situational
awareness of the battlefield, allowing greater battlefield intelligence
and quicker decisions. The vehicles might also be networked with remote
robotic weapon systems, information-gathering robots and Global Positioning
System-guided long-range munitions, so that operators can destroy enemy
targets without being seen.
The Herculean effort marks the greatest transformation the Army has
seen in decades, according to Gen. John Keane, Army vice chief of staff.
And the service cannot transform without some risks.
"What the Army is trying to do is radical and revolutionary. The kind
of stuff the Army is doing is risky," said Frank Fernandez, director of
the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
One risk is the secureness of the information systems, and how much
service personnel believe in that secureness.
"This whole notion could fall apart like a house of cards — not only
if [the system] is not secure but if it is not perceived by the user to
be secure," said Louis Marquet, director of the Army's Communications-Electronics
Command's Research, Development and Engineering Center, speaking at a June
26-29 Army science and technology conference in Northern Virginia. "Perception
is an even harder thing to achieve in this case than reality."
"Perception is a big deal. It boils down to confidence....We want to
instill confidence in the systems we're going to be putting out there for
the warfighter; confidence that the e-mail system is not going to be infected
by a virus; confidence in the call-for-fire messages — that they originated
from the proper location and weren't spoofed on the way; confidence that
logistics databases or the medical records that are being transferred are
done in such a way that they aren't being interrupted in transit," said
Robert Schenk, an official with Cecom's Research, Development and Engineering
Efforts to build and secure information technologies for the future
Army are led by Cecom with help from the Army Research Laboratory, DARPA
and others. Army leaders say the transformation is necessary to meet future
military threats. The effort recently has gained new emphasis, funds and