Technology Demos Accelerate Delivery of Combat Systems

By Eash, Joseph, III | National Defense, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Technology Demos Accelerate Delivery of Combat Systems


Eash, Joseph, III, National Defense


The Defense Department's Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program has become the bridge between the scientist and the soldier. It is enabling the Pentagon to innovate faster and, moreover, the results are increasingly hitting the field.

While this program has cost $210 million since its inception in 1994, it is providing disproportionately large returns. It is reducing cycle times and acquisition costs, and it is quickly changing U.S. military capabilities.

COMMENTARY

Technological change is accelerating. Today, the microchip doubles in power every 18 to 24 months. The race now goes to those who can rapidly integrate technology This means an exponential increase in systems performance. Industry is reducing cycle time-the period required to design, make and deliver products. Car-makers now can take a car from concept to customer in less then 24 months.

This development is not lost on U.S. adversaries, who can readily lock on to diminishing cycle times through the commercial marketplace. New technologies readily available to them include commercial satellite services for communications, navigation and surveillance, low-cost biological and chemical weapons and cruise, as well as ballistic missiles. Moreover, if U.S. adversaries cannot develop these technologies on their own, they can purchase them on the world arms market.

Development of defense equipment must be faster. Past cycle times for major defense systems have taken as long as 18 years. This is no longer affordable.

The ACTD program was established to speed technology transitions. It does this by placing technology under the operational scrutiny of war-fighting troops. The process puts technology into operational demonstration in order to quickly see what will or will not work.

Information Superiority

The ability of the United States to develop and exploit information superiority in 2010 is being influenced by the ACTD program. Of the 57 ACTDs implemented, a significant number focus on information technologies.

Two ACTDs are enabling the reengineering of the U.S. military command and control. Essentially, they cut planning time at the combatant command-level from days to hours.

The first is the Advanced Joint Planning ACTD. Its tools are allowing planners to rapidly assess force readiness and edit deployment plans. The system was developed and operationally used at the U.S. Atlantic Command in less than a year. These tools have been integrated into the Global Command and Control System, which make them available for worldwide use.

The second step in this reengineering is the Adaptive Course of Action ACTD. Implemented in 1998, it seeks to enable collaboration among combatant commanders in crisis response. This includes providing them with situational awareness, enabling them to develop courses of action and helping execute theater operations. This ACTD is applying technologies developed by defense labs and commercial industry.

Both ACTDs offer potential savings over past practices for acquiring information technologies.

This reengineering goes down to the tactical level. The Extending the Littoral Battlespace ACTD demonstrated a network that links all computers in the battlespace. This was done by inserting a commercial-- off-the-shelf technology into computers that digitally transmit text, images and voice communications. Dismounted troops are equipped with lightweight computers that replace radios. This network is linked to theater and national intelligence. The result is increased situational awareness and faster target engagement.

The Information Operations Planning Tool ACTD is helping U.S. regional commanders plan information operations. It was installed at the U.S. Central Command in March 1999. The Information Assurance Automated Intrusion Detection Environment ACTD supports defensive operations. It relies on current and maturing intrusion-- sensing tools. …

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