Army IT progress comes in measures

The Army has made real progress over the past year transforming into a lighter,

leaner, more lethal force, but the information technology piece of that

transformation may be more evolutionary than revolutionary, according to

service leaders.

"You're talking about [transforming] the entire Army, with all of its

doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures, equipment, everything. Things

move a little slow sometimes, but that's not the case with the Army transformation.

We've had a good year," said Gregory Dahlberg, undersecretary of the Army,

speaking at the Association of the United States Army annual conference

in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

By the end of this month, the service intends to equip part of the first

interim brigade combat team with software known as Force XXI Battle Command

Brigade and Below, a cornerstone of the service's effort to digitize its

forces. The unit already has begun training, through the use of simulation,

to use the software, and will train on the actual software beginning in

December.

In addition, the unit this fall and next spring will receive:

* The Army Battle Command System, which provides command and control

at all echelons.

* The Tactical Internet, a mobile, battlefield version of the commercial

Internet.

* Command posts at the battalion and brigade levels that are more capable

of receiving, processing and releasing information.

* A host of sensors, such as the Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

Still, at least one key official expressed concern that the IT piece

of the transformation might progress slower than the service would desire.

"The digitization effort will grow and continue to mature. There are

some real challenges in all the processes we have to keep that growth going

on into the future," said Lt. Gen. Paul Kern, military deputy of the Army

acquisition corps. He cited the use of command and control computers and

accompanying software to do tasks that "up until this point has been manual

in the U.S. Army."

Progress will be more evolutionary in those areas because it has to

fit into the joint command and control structure as well, according to Kern.

"We, the United States Army, will have to fit into the Global Grid," he

said.

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