Net-centric success depends on culture

The future of network-centric warfare will rely just as much on policies and cultural adaptability as it will on the technology on which it runs, according to a panel of experts assembled at the AFCEA International West 2003 conference in San Diego Jan. 15.

While new technology will continue to be adopted quickly, the success of network-centric operations will largely depend on how the U.S. forces and their allies use that technology.

Rear Adm. Charles Munns, director of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, said that network-centricity is happening throughout the Navy. The service has not made a conscience choice to adopt network-centric operations, but is riding the tide that has started to swell, he said.

"There has been a value proposition change on the commercial side—in airlines and retail stores and the way computers are sold—and so must it be in the military," Munns said. "The intranet we are building is the answer we need to deal with the future. NMCI is going to take 1,000 [local-area networks] and morph them into one interoperable, secure intranet. It's a commercial system, it's a service, not a product, and it involves capitalizing on industry's best practices."

Others on the panel said just as much attention needs to be paid to getting technology and standards to allied and coalition forces as is being paid to enhance U.S. forces.

Commodore Jon Welch of Great Britain's Royal Navy said remembering the allies has been an overlooked part of adapting to a network-centric model, and it is one that could cause serious problems in future wars.

"We need to think about our allies before just coalitions, and one way to do that is to get NATO to fix [some of the problems]," Welch said. "Don't wrestle with the problems on your own. Tell the allies what you're buying and what you're doing with it."

And not all answers to forming a military capable of network-centric warfare lie in technology, according to Cmdr. Greg Glaros, a member of the Chief of Naval Operations Office's strategic studies group.

"Net-centricity is not about the technology you find at an event like [AFCEA West]," he said. "It's more relevant to think about human behavior and organizational relationships. We often take the physical approach and get what's best and newest. But we have to ask, 'Do we know the questions we need to begin to ask before we go and pump money into [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]?' "

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