DOD looks to industry for best technologies to help combat troops

The search for cutting-edge info-sharing leads to industry's flexibility.

The Defense Department is beginning to sort through possible technologies to showcase at the the 2010 Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, (CWID) directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The 2009 event wrapped up this summer and the deadline for 2010 proposals has come and gone. Now officials are narrowing the field of contenders for the 2010 cycle to meet the needs of combat personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“We posture CWID to be an environment to assess industry solutions for these emerging gaps,” said Navy Capt. Kevin Ruce of the joint capability development directorate and host combatant commander lead for CWID 2010.

The CWID program provides a testbed for the future all-stars of military technology – think high school science fair for the NASA set, with troops themselves at the wheel of test drives. The main goal is to secure tools, particularly for information-sharing, that will improve abilities to communicate and make decisions and enable operational flexibility.

Previous cycles have yielded the Global Command and Control System and its Blue Force Tracking component, both integral to wartime decision-making and situational awareness, as well as the Tactical Emergency Asset Management system, which deploys communications systems to areas in need – including disaster areas where communications have been wiped out.

An initiative launched in August 2007 to make CWID more in tune with operational needs and better postured to support the defense acquisition system continues to have an effect as the event evolves year to year Ruce said. In the 2009 event, officials began assessing trials using sponsor-defined metrics, he said.

Anticipating the needs of service members on the ground, particularly in an era of coalition efforts and unconventional warfare, presents a unique challenge for DOD – a challenge that CWID proponents say their program is increasingly adept at meeting.

We are "on the right path to make the CWID assessment process more operationally relevant for our forces at home and deployed as well as to our other mission partners, especially those in Afghanistan,” said Rear Adm. Janice Hamby, Navy's vice director for command, control, communications and computer systems.

While the military reassesses the gaps that need to be filled in the theater, the opportunity is ripe for industry to quickly make a move when the government cannot. “Our operational environment in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our homeland security needs, require [DOD] to rapidly address capability shortfalls from our warfighters and homeland security forces. In many cases, it is industry that provides an interim solution since the original shortfall was not addressed in our capability documentation,” Ruce said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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