Commanders emphasize C4ISR

Leaders of three joint, global commands explained how vital C4ISR systems are to the Defense Department's success and called on lawmakers to ensure that those programs continue to receive funding in the future.

In March 13 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the leaders of the Pacific, Southern and United Nations commands, outlined how critical the continued development of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems is in the global war on terrorism and future conflicts.

"Over the past three years, improving the C4 posture in the Pacific has been a top [Pacific Command] priority and still is one of the most critical challenges we face today," said Pacom commander Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo, whose authority encompasses 102 million square miles and about 220,000 combined military and civilian staff. "The C4 infrastructure must be continually sustained and protected. We've invested heavily in command and control systems and equipment, communication devices, and computers across the command. We do this because our current and future requirements demand that we do."

Army Gen. James Hill, commander of Southern Command, which is responsible for 32 countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean, agreed but said his current C4 infrastructure "lacks the flexibility to execute the assigned mission due to over-reliance on inadequate commercial communications systems, limited communications bandwidth, and fragmented operations and maintenance support."

"Consequently, Southern Command is unable to effectively and efficiently support a counterdrug mission simultaneously with another contingency operation such as antiterrorism, noncombatant evacuation, migrant operations, disaster relief or defense of the Panama Canal," said Hill, who assumed his post seven months ago. "Since existing military systems alone are insufficient, it is my intention to transform, expand and maintain a cost-effective, efficient, centrally managed and robust infrastructure that supports the theater security cooperation strategy."

That strategy includes counterterrorism operations, regional engagement, crisis response and counterdrug missions. Southern Command is partnering with the Defense Information Systems Agency and the State Department's Diplomatic Telecommunications Service Program Office to explore commercial alternatives, including fiber-optic communication links, for improving C4 effectiveness throughout the region, he said.

Army Gen. Leon LaPorte, commander of the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea and the United Nations Command, said increasing C4ISR functionality and interoperability, including an enhanced common operational picture, is one of his top priorities for force modernization.

"Over the last year, we have created a combined common operational picture that integrates Republic of Korea unmanned aerial vehicles, tactical data links from both Republic of Korea and U.S. air and naval vessels, and live video feeds from throughout the theater," LaPorte said. "We seek to expand these capabilities by adding logistics and engineering common operational picture currently under development at Joint Forces Command."

LaPorte thanked the senators for their support thus far, but said the common operational picture "is built on an aging communications infrastructure that is increasingly expensive to maintain," and that command requires:

* Improved secure digital networks.

* Collaborative planning tools.

* Enhanced interoperability.

All three commanders agreed that enhanced C4ISR systems would help DOD intelligence gatherers and analysts to do their jobs better and faster. "Many folks envision large volumes of information as pages and pages of text messages, which can overwhelm users and result in 'information overload,'" Fargo said. "Instead, we are talking about maximum use of multimedia such as video, shared applications through collaboration software and high-resolution imagery. Through these types of tools, our operators can digest more information and we can collectively move toward a more knowledge-based environment."

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