Net-centric warning delivered

Network-centric warfare — which seeks to make data available to those who need it across the organization or on the battlefield — is the future of the U.S. military, but many potential pitfalls must be addressed to ensure its success, according to a top official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Donald Henry, special assistant to the director of net assessment in the Office of Net Assessment within OSD, said network-centric warfare is essentially an outgrowth of changes in communications technologies, but that evolution — although beneficial — also carries danger.

"With every great change in technology, there are profound, unanticipated and unintended consequences," Henry said during his May 22 presentation at the International Quality and Productivity Center's Network Centric Warfare 2002 conference in Arlington, Va.

Henry said network-centric warfare is the way of the future, but that DOD must address four key issues as it moves forward:

* Determining accountability if something goes wrong.

* Erasing a bias against full automation in certain situations and assigning responsibility for how systems act in fully automated action.

* Keeping U.S. allies up to speed.

* Protecting operations from one rogue or "crazy" individual.

The current military system does a good job of addressing such issues via the chain of command, only using full automation in demonstrations or exercises, divulging as much data as possible to allies, and having established procedures to prevent one disgruntled person from bringing down an entire mission.

However, with network-centric warfare, the dangers associated with all of these increase, Henry said.

"I don't have any answers...but these are the potential pitfalls" that will be faced during the next five years, he said.

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