Integrating Weather in Net-Centric Warfare: A Case for Refocusing Human Resources in Air Force Weather

Article excerpt

Editorial Abstract:

Dwindling manpower in Air Force Weather (AFW) and an increasingly net-centric Air Force are forcing a change from the days of the face-to-face weather briefing. Furthermore, the Air Force needs a better degree of forecast consistency. The author proposes that automated forecasts and forecast tailoring represent significant changes for AFW but that their implementation will remove potential human bottlenecks, enable greater detail for decision makers, and increase the speed of access for all users.

THE WEATHER BRIEFER is obsolete, a victim of net-centricity. In a world where everyone is connected, people affected by weather will access related information directly and integrate it into their decision processes. No longer will "Stormy" the weather briefer, acting as both an expert and a bottleneck, serve as gatekeeper to weather databases. To remain relevant to net-centric operations, Air Force Weather (AFW) must aggressively develop support for net-centric access and redefine the role of the weather briefer. Specifically, if it wishes to meet the demands of increasingly net-centric decision makers, despite a shrinking manpower pool, AFW must automate the forecast-tailoring process, remove the weather briefer, and address inconsistency in the weather database.

Background

Understanding the interaction between netcentricity and AFW operations requires some awareness of the fundamental concepts of each. According to The Implementatimi of NetworkCentric Warfare, "NCW [network-centric warfare] is characterized by the ability of geographically dispersed forces to attain a high level of shared battlespace awareness that is exploited to achieve strategic, operational, and tactical objectives in accordance with the commander's intent."1 Increased sharing of information via the network at all levels of command likely will result in massed effects (increased combat power), decision superiority, heightened speed of command, and self-synchronization.2 As described in the NetCentric Environment Joint Functional Concept, when connected, units can pursue a commander's intent without repeated contact with superiors to synchronize operations, relying on shared awareness based on consistent information to self-synchronize.3

The Transformation Planning Guidance of 2003 specifically states that "implementation of the Department's force transformation strategy will shift us from an industrial age to an information age military. Information age military forces will be less platform-centric and more network-centric."4 NCW will increase connectivity at lower echelons of command and throughout functions other than command and control (C2). The Net-Centric Environment Joint Functional Concept notes that "since C2 nodes are already fairly well connected, the real power of the Net-Centric Environment will be in connecting the other functions and extremities of the force."5

The Office of Force Transformation monitors the progress of the transformation effort. The Transformation Planning Guidance directs each of the services to write a road map that addresses, among other things, its conversion to NCW. Service NCW programs include the Joint Tactical Radio System, Air Force Link-16 airborne data link, Department of Defense (DOD)-wide Global Information Grid networkinfrastructure program, Navy Cooperative Engagement Capability data link, and Army Force XXI Batde Command Brigade and Below data-link system.6

In addition, looking to improve their forces' shared situational awareness and collaborative decision making, the services are actively increasing the connectivity of their forces and experimenting with new tactics, techniques, and procedures to take advantage of the new capability.7 Despite the newness of NCW technologies and procedures, success stories have emerged from Operation Iraqi Freedom. For example, data links and the Blue Force Tracker system have reduced incidents of fratricide, and procedures enabled by new data links have allowed the development and striking of targets within 45 minutes. …