Generals praise, fret over bandwidth

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Battlefield commanders recently returned from the deserts of Iraq have conflicting opinions about the distribution of some technology used to topple the regime.

Although all agree that new technologies helped speed up the end of combat operations, the availability of bandwidth — long decried as one of the military's top challenges — was not acceptable for all commanders.

The amount of data flowing to Air Force commanders in Iraq was unsurpassed in the history of warfare, said Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force vice chief of staff, speaking today at the U.S. Naval Institute's warfare exposition and symposium.

"I had 100 T-1 lines coming through" the combined air operations center, he said. "That's 1.5 million bits of information every second times 100."

Significant time was devoted to developing contingency plans in the event that communication services were off-line or compromised, but Moseley lauded the coalition's success at getting information into the hands of those who needed it most.

However, Marine Maj. Gen. James Amos, commanding general of the Third Marine aircraft wing, said bandwidth was a problem for him throughout the operation.

"We definitely had challenges with bandwidth," Amos said. "We had minimal bandwidth and everybody wanted it.

"I had one...channel available to me," he said. "If someone else was using it, I had to wait until they were finished. And it's not just voice — it's data, too."

The need to push data to forward air controllers on the ground still remains one of Amos' top concerns, but he said he is convinced the situation will improve as services use more digital technology.

"I'm a big proponent of digitization," Amos said. "When it's 120 degrees outside and there's dust and sand blowing and I can't see you, we're still going to have to pass information and it's going to have to work."

Military officials expected bandwidth to be something the Defense Department would have an abundant supply of, with everyone on the battlefield connected to a certain degree. But the speed with which the forces moved and the inability to string fiber nationwide hampered efforts.

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