Military must reshape R&D

The way wars are fought is changing, and the research and development (R&D) community has to change with it, said the man leading transformation efforts in the Defense Department.

All elements of war — from fires to intelligence to logistics — must be reworked to reflect an Information Age when joint systems and instant access to data are critical, said Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of DOD's Force Transformation Office.

Command, control and communications capabilities should be built with joint interdependency in mind, not interoperability, Cebrowski said, speaking today at the Naval-Industry R&D Partnership conference in Washington, D.C. When building intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets and logistics systems, consider operational demands, not suppliers, he said.

"Look at business," Cebrowski said. "If a firm doesn't put the customer at the center, that's a firm in trouble."

The military, he said, should focus on four risk management areas: people; joint science and technology projects and funding; joint experimentation; and tools for modeling a complete battlefield picture that shows how forces interact.

"Our models were poor for Industrial Age warfare, and they are worse than poor for Information Age warfare," he said. "The development of quantitative methods to support decision-making...that's a very important area for future research."

People are the most expensive resource, but they are the only place where new ideas and innovations are born, Cebrowski said. "The question is, 'Are we using them in the right way?'" he said.

Other speakers at the conference included navy Capt. Robert Whitkop, director of FORCEnet at the Naval Network Warfare Command, and Peter Verga, principal deputy to the assistant defense secretary for homeland defense.

Information architecture currently in place helped Iraqi operations succeed, but there is still a long way to go to meet the department's long-term vision, Whitkop said.

Currently, the top priority is more efficient use of bandwidth, he said. Other goals include: data and communications exchanges among the Navy's three largest networks; enhanced ISR capabilities; and development of a common operations tactical picture.

"FORCEnet is the glue that brings the whole Naval Power 21 into being," said Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, chief of naval research.

Naval Power 21 lays down U.S. Navy and Marine Corps goals for the next several years.

Meanwhile, Defense officials must bring the same awareness to the maritime domain that the U.S. government has for air traffic, Verga said. Ocean-borne threats should be identified while they're still at sea, Verga said, adding that doing that would require giving first responders some military technology.

It is also useful to scan cargo in ports to find illegal items or potential dangers, he said.

"There are some very promising technologies that allow visibility...but it's a matter of scope and scale," Verga said. "It's incumbent on the technology community to screen containers," without a massive interruption of service.

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