The Network in Military Operations

By Flynn, Charles A.; Grigsby, Wayne W. et al. | Army, May 2012 | Go to article overview

The Network in Military Operations


Flynn, Charles A., Grigsby, Wayne W., Witsken, Jeff, Army


Fighting in the Clouds

Today's operational environment is defined by rapid technological change - from the progression of commercial cellular and data networks to the ubiquitous presence of satellite communications. tial adversaries acquire emerging commercial off-the-shelf technology and create threats that are "innovative, adaptive, globally connected ... and possess a wide range of old, adapted, and advanced technologies," according to U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's Operational Environment 2009-2025.

The global proliferation of technology has created highly networked societies, both socially and technologically, affecting not just the way adversaries fight but also their very cultures. They have evolved into highly distributed and networked threats with an increased ability to maneuver against us through both conventional and asymmetric means. In turn, this has created a situation in which a communication Network able to touch and link all members of a fighting force is central to not only our operations but also those of our adversaries. As we prepare for the future we must better understand cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, and how our organizational culture supports and inhibits the building of a successful Network.

The Network as a Weapon

This article uses the word network in two ways: networks and the Network. Whereas networks consist of people working together to accomplish a mission, the Network is the technology used to connect and enhance human networks to achieve a desired objective. In other words, the Network is people enabled by technology with a shared purpose.

In today's operational environment the effective use of the Network is as powerful a determinant of unit performance as the ability to fire ballistic weapons systems or maneuver forces. That said, the Army must consider the Network as a weapons system, and commanders and their staffs must also incorporate the Network into how we array our capabilities to achieve decisive outcomes.

To address this situation, the Army is developing the technological-human interface that is the Network to:

* Gain understanding of the operational environment from intelligence sources, partner agencies, and adjacent and subordinate units.

* Enable decisions through analysis of these sources.

* Coordinate, synchronize and execute efforts to achieve the desired operational objectives. The Network, however, cannot perform this role unless it is given the same attention in planning and execution that we afford other more traditional weapons systems.

Commanders must array and employ the Network in time, space and purpose to ensure the success of the overall operation, just as they array fires or logistics. With the Network, this array is not just physical but also accounts for the cyberelectromagnetic (CEM) aspects as a part of the overall understand / visualize /describe/direct/lead/assess role in the operations process. This includes an appreciation of these mediums as maneuver space - areas where positional advantage is possible - from the commander down to the newest private in the command post.

Fighting in the Clouds: Understanding the Network

From a technical perspective, the Network consists of five layers: platforms and sensors, applications, services, transport infrastructure and standards. Those employing the Network must understand these layers and how they are arrayed. As the Army seeks a resource-informed approach to an effective Network, the concept with the most efficiency and feasibility is "cloud computing."

Cloud computing relies on high bandwidth, with virtually no delay in the exchange of information between systems, that allows computing and data storage to be physically separate from the user. Physically separating devices from the services of the Network achieves several advantages. First, resources can be shared across a large pool of users, allowing for centralization of infrastructure. …

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