DOD eyes bandwidth growth

Bandwidth problems have long plagued the Defense Department's transformation efforts, but this year's budget has helped DOD address that critical communications capability, according to Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Speaking at a March 22 media roundtable at the Pentagon, Aldridge said that this year's budget includes funding to help DOD move toward having the equivalent of fiber optics in space via satellites with "gigabit types of capabilities."

"We're just beginning the process...and it will take years, but the vision is unlimited bandwidth with global access," Aldridge said. He acknowledged that the goal is ambitious, but reiterated, "That's the vision."

Aldridge answered a variety of questions during the hour-long briefing and outlined his view of the Army's ongoing transformation to the Objective Force and its aggressive schedule for fielding its first unit and the Future Combat Systems (FCS) by the end of the decade.

The Objective Force is envisioned as more deployable than current armored forces and better able to survive an all-out fight than current light forces. FCS is designed to create an integrated battlespace in which networked information and communications systems provide a competitive edge to soldiers in the field and commanders in the control room.

At a March 14 meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Airland Subcommittee, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairman of the subcommittee, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) questioned whether there was significant funding and technology to accomplish the Army's transformation goals and whether the risks associated with it have been sufficiently addressed.

Aldridge said he shared those concerns and agreed that it is a "very rapid schedule to be on." But he said the Army is funding the program the best way it knows how and that the recent selection of a lead systems integrator for FCS will help officials better define the various components and how they will interact.

Earlier this month, Boeing Co.'s Space and Communications group and Science Applications International Corp. were awarded the $154 million lead systems integration contract to help form the vision for Future Combat Systems.

He said the components must be defined by next year when a "milestone B" decision is scheduled to move FCS into the system development and demonstration stage.

"The Army is fully committed to it — that is the future of the Army," Aldridge said. "If they're going to fund anything, it's going to be FCS first."

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