Urban warfare IT has 'missing link'

The Defense Department and intelligence community should start seriously preparing now for urban battles that will take place in 2015 to 2025, according to the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Such preparation requires developing creative information technology solutions that move quickly from the laboratory into the field, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, who retired from active duty as DIA director in October 1999.

"It's increasingly hard to find a vacant lot to hold a war in," Hughes said. "There's a missing link between the scientist [in the lab] and the operator in the field. I'm making a plea for imagination."

Hughes said DOD and intelligence agencies need to use multiple tools that allow them to locate their adversary by looking through and around walls, and at the same time block the enemy from doing the same thing.

Cities have all kinds of "signatures" that DOD intelligence operators can use, including sound, light, heat, movement, vibrations and cyberspace activities, he said, speaking May 21 at an urban intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Defense Week. "The absence of them is as important as their presence."

Urban warfare is no longer about running up four stories with a 120-pound pack and kicking in a door, and certainly won't be about that 10 or 20 years from now, Hughes said. "It's about understanding what's happening on the 27th or 41st floor of that building without going up there."

The most pressing urban intelligence needs are:

* Identification and tracking of individuals.

* Distributed "staring" sensors for constant, real-time imagery and information.

* Coherent change detection.

* Interior intelligence-gathering tools.

Hughes, a Vietnam War veteran, said he fought battles in both the jungle and the city during that conflict, and acknowledged that he is a "dinosaur of the first order."

"We need a whole new class of people to study and take on this problem in a different way," he said, adding that Joint Forces Command is the best source of that leadership.

Dave Dilegge, a consultant at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va., said Joint Forces Command started an office focused on joint urban operations earlier this year and held a kick-off conference in March where they identified the No. 1 problem to be making progress in urban ISR capabilities.

"If you can make headway there, you can do successful urban operations," Dilegge said.

Hughes agreed, but said DOD's leadership in this area was moving "glacially."

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