Marines aim for comprehensive network

Marine networks are too complicated and unwieldy, and the technology and bandwidth divide between the rear echelons and front lines is too great and must be overcome, according to several officers speaking at today's AFCEA Northern Virginia chapter.

"I think across the board, for all of the services, the systems architecture was very complex, and probably needlessly so," said Marine Lt. Col. Peter Keating, fire support coordinator for the 1st Marine Division, which took part in this year's Iraqi operations. "That was the product of fielding a lot of systems that performed very specialized tasks and functions. We haven't created the conditions for a successful interoperable environment from the go, so we have some improvements to do there."

When the Marines were ready to cross the line of departure into Iraq, a standard architecture for the formation of a comprehensive communications network was not in place and was assembled on the fly. Maj. Michael Sweeney, a command and control integration officer in support of the coalition force land component commander, said all Marines had to learn how to be information managers and that led to widespread digitization.

"Digitization on the battlefield was a success," he said. "It was very common in the war room of the land component commander to see a three-star [general] on automated devices tracking the war. There was an acetane map in the back of the war room that was rarely used."

He said everybody had to learn how to use the information technology equipment and to handle and process the information, rather than depend on a few individuals to serve that function.

"Everybody who dealt with the systems was an information manager," he said. "No longer can we afford to have somebody turn to the information systems officer and say, 'I need you to take a look and figure out how'" something will be integrated or used.

Understanding the relationships between systems in an overall systems architecture became the responsibility of everyone, he said.

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