Magazine article National Defense

Information Warfare Pioneers Take Top Pentagon Positions

Magazine article National Defense

Information Warfare Pioneers Take Top Pentagon Positions

Article excerpt

Military planners and policy-makers, for many years, have advocated the need to increase the interoperability of computer networks for battlefield use. Although some progress has been achieved, the reality today is that network-centric warfare is more of an academic concept than an operational reality.

Things could change in the future, however, as the pioneers of network-centric warfare settle into high-level Pentagon posts. These officials will be expected to help bring network-centric warfare to the mainstream of military doctrine and program development.

In 1999, David Alberts, John J. Garstka and Frederick P. Stein published a book tided, "Network-centric Warfare, Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority." A contributor to the book was then-Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski.

Now, Cebrowski, Garstka and Alberts are all working at the Pentagon in positions that allow them to influence the application of network-centric warfare. Cebrowski, recently retired from the Navy, is the Pentagon's director of force transformation. Garstka is the chief technology officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Alberts is the director of research and strategic planning for the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence (C31). The assistant secretary for C31 is the Pentagon's chief information officer.

Network-centric warfare can be defined as the use of computers, high-speed data links and networking software in combat operations, said Ronald O'Rourke, a national defense specialist at the Congressional Research Service. The application of network-centric warfare means that data gleaned from listening devices, unmanned vehicles, geospatial information and human intelligence is collected and distributed in real time to the military services.

"Network-centric warfare is no longer just someone's idea, but it's being put into practical use and is accruing benefits," said Alberts in a recent interview. "We're developing a state of shared awareness, so that everyone understands what it is, and program managers develop capabilities with an eye toward interoperability, even when that specifically may not be mentioned in program requirement documents.

"We know we have to deploy a robust infrastructure for sharing information," Alberts said. "Not only do we need all the information collected by the Defense Department available in the same place, we need information collected by other people, outside the Defense Department."

Current legacy systems are not interoperable without work-arounds and special fixes, which may create security problems, Alberts said. "Most people know that security is also a huge issue in this day and age," he said. "Doing something both interoperable and secure is a real challenge.

"We have people now monitoring networks and looking at systems, and we're melting big strides, but in the final analysis, it takes a lot of people at the Defense Department to get something done," he said. Experimentation will be key to the implementation of network-centric warfare, said Alberts. "Experimentation is a great start, and we need to be doing a hell of a lot more of it," he said.

Alberts mentioned that Garstka often gives speeches, talks and attends conferences outside of the Defense Department, in order to exchange ideas about network-centric warfare. "We used to think that industry and academia were way ahead of us on this concept, but it turns out now that we do a lot of stuff here just as well," he said.

Cebrowski fine-tuned the concept of network-centric warfare while he was president of the Naval War College. As the force transformation "point man," answering directly to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, he is tasked with making sure that the military services are working in line with the Department's vision. It is expected that his first priority will be to make all the services "network-centric. …

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