Building the Army's confidence in high-tech

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

say.

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."

Others agree.

"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

Center.

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

momentum.

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