Magazine article National Defense

Technology Gaps

Magazine article National Defense

Technology Gaps

Article excerpt

Irregular warfare underscores equipment shortcomings

While U.S. military commanders in the Middle East generally are satisfied by Pentagon efforts to move needed technologies to the front lines, much remains to be done.

This is the assertion of Army Maj. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, chief of staff of U.S. Central Command, who added that technologies to counter improvised explosive devices are at the top of his wish list.

He identified other needed technology advances, such as managing the electronic spectrum, accelerating linguist training, upgrading sensors so their "unblinking eyes" can provide full-motion video to fighters on the ground, developing data-fusion systems that can improve tactical intelligence, advancing automated security systems to minimize the number of troops required for base defense, and addressing the need for compact mobile command posts.

"The requirements are evolving because we're fighting an adaptive enemy, and as we get very proficient at one thing, he will change the problem set. You can see that with improvised explosive devices," said Austin at a recent industry conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., sponsored by the Association for Enterprise Integration. "We've got to be forward thinking about what the requirements will be, and we've got to step out ahead and create solutions for those requirements."

Mundane tasks, such as being able to identify people, are a huge problem in Iraq, he added.

"We're engaged in a man hunt in a place that doesn't have a structured way of identifying people," Austin said.

Meanwhile, a technology provider noted that software originally designed for law enforcement agencies, such as i2 Inc.'s "Analyst's Notebook," has expanded into the military. Use of this analytical tool has picked up momentum in recent years, said company officials.

The Windows-based information-fusion product "allows analysts and investigators the ability to manage volumes of data from several different sources and visualize the information in a temporal or network layout," said Chuck Izzo, a former Army intelligence officer, who is the company's federal account manager for the Defense Department. "They then can quickly discover relationships between entities and then clearly communicate their findings to an intelligence consumer," he said.

Officers who have served recently in combat said that the expanding array of non-traditional missions required to fight in Iraq expose deficiencies in equipment.

"We are being tasked, in the fighter Air Force, to take on all kinds of roles out in the field. Not just the standard, traditional interdiction," said Lt. Col. Louis Dupuis, an F-15E weapons system and operations officer. "We're going anywhere from task to strike and reconnaissance ... to convoy escort. We're doing airborne interdiction, real-time targeting; we're doing some ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] not only on strike platforms as well as F-16s, hut even in the bomber world, B-1s and B-52s," he told the conference.

Air Force Col. Jon Klaus, who commanded a KC-135 tanker squadron, said he, too, saw firsthand the need to employ equipment in new ways. For example, he said, to get fighter jets closer to the battle, tankers must linger longer in the air and accomplish refuelings at lower altitudes.

As a result of this shift, Klaus said he wants to see defensive technologies, such as a missile warning system with counter measures, installed in the aircraft, as well as some sort of de-confliction system to prevent mid-air collisions. …

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