Technologies Rushed to War Face an Uncertain Future

By Erwin, Sandra I. | National Defense, August 2006 | Go to article overview

Technologies Rushed to War Face an Uncertain Future


Erwin, Sandra I., National Defense


In the scramble to deliver equipment requested by commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army often bypassed its own procurement bureaucracy.

That is good news for troops in the field. The downside for the Army, however, has been a proliferation of battlefield equipment that lacks the routine logistics support and long-term funding normally allocated to systems bought under the traditional rules of military procurement.

Many of the technologies that were rushed to war--such as bomb sniffing robots, digital radios or handheld computers--are known as "orphan" programs, because they exist outside the regular acquisition lifeline. A case in point is a piece of command-and-control software developed at one of the Army's small laboratories in Hunstville, Ala. The technology, called "advanced warfare environment," links air-defense sensors and weapons so a commander can see, on one single computer screen, what potential threats are in the area and what weapons are available to shoot down those targets.

The Air Force, Army and Marine Corps all have deployed this technology to Iraq and elsewhere, but the project may not have a long-term future because it is not in the Army's regular budget.

"It's a little bit difficult for the Army or any service to accept things that are developed by labs or other organizations that are not in the normal train of institutional Army development," says Larry Burger, director of the future warfare center at the Space and Missile Defense Command.

Some of the military labs create "orphans," he says. These are programs that are "out there and don't have the long-term funding and the structure as normal acquisition programs."

At the organization responsible for weapons requirements, the Army Training and Doctrine Command, officials have been aware of the problem for some time, and are trying to come up with solutions, Burger says. …

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