Network-centric warfare progressing

AFCEA San Diego chapter

SAN DIEGO — As military experts analyze the network-centric warfare lessons learned from the Iraqi conflict, the consensus is that there is a lot of good news, but the U.S. armed services still have a long way to go.

Rear Adm. Kenneth Slaght, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), said the conflict has resulted in many conversations with Joint Forces Warfare Command, and the widespread agreement is that "we're not there yet."

"In Desert Storm, we had the capability of quick targeting in about four days by the end of the war," Slaght said this week at a conference here. "In the latest conflict, we got that time down to 45 minutes. That's impressive, but we're not there yet."

Slaght said the armed services' goal is to be able to identify a target, relay that information to the right people and launch a weapon at the target — all in one or two minutes.

"The component technology is there, and now we need to get it done," he said at the 25th annual command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) symposium, hosted by SPAWAR and the San Diego chapter of Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) International.

Part of the Defense Department's transformation vision involves the concept of network-centric warfare, which includes linking together disparate portions of the battlefield and increasing the lethality of American forces by providing situational awareness and knowledge superiority.

The military services face challenges in achieving that goal because they have acted independently and created their own systems, architectures and applications, with little or no thought of interoperability with the other services or coalition partners.

"We need to get serious about common architectures," Slaght said. "In the past, we have spent a lot of time and money on architectures and then put them on the shelf and didn't enforce them."

Slaght said that only in the past several years have the services really started developing architectures and applications that are interoperable from their inception.

"We must get serious about this, because we're not going to have more money out there floating around under the FORCENet umbrella," Slaght said, referring to the Navy's transformational effort. "We're going to have to work with the money that's on the books."

Scott Randall, deputy commander at SPAWAR, said the forces fought well and continue to do so, but the issue of fratricide is still paramount on the services' collective list of issues to correct.

"A lesson learned, one more time, is 'blue on blue' fire," Randall said. "We need to learn how we can take away from battle the lesson of how we can overcome fratricide."

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