Info urged to fill military gaps

Exactly nine months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the U.S. military has done a good job of shortening the sensor-to-shooter cycle in Afghanistan, but can do better through enhanced information sharing.

Speaking June 11 at Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's TechNet International 2002 in Washington, D.C., Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said the military's observe, orient, decide and act (OODA) loop is good at the individual service level, but joint warfighting efforts need improvement.

The information that the four services have at the tactical command level is "wildly different for a variety of reasons, and that's unacceptable," he said.

Myers said that the United States and its coalition partners must be adaptable and flexible because the enemy in the war on terrorism is "relentless."

The United States is working with about 80 coalition partners in the ongoing war, and Myers said he is "dismayed" that working with even the closest U.S. allies is almost impossible because of America's technological advantages. He added that he is encouraging American allies, particularly in Europe, to invest in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) to bridge the gap.

During a panel discussion on network-centric warfare, Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Croom Jr., the service's director of communications infostructure and deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration, said that the United States does allow allies on its classified networks in different ways, but none have complete access because U.S. secrets are housed on those systems. He added that allied interoperability is the No. 1 priority of the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration program.

Another panelist, Army Maj. Gen. Steven Boutelle, director of information operations, networks and space in the Army's Office of the Chief Information Officer, said that coalition partners are not the same as allies. With coalitions, the United States doesn't know who will be there or leave at any point in time, and in those cases, there's little technology can do. With allies, interoperability is easier to achieve but will still take a long time, he said.

Along those lines, the greatest challenge facing the recently announced Homeland Security Department will be integrating the different cultures, Myers said.

"It's very difficult to get those cultures to think in a different way and [without information technology] to back it all up, we're putting ourselves at risk and that's unacceptable," he said.

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