Study lauds Navy's 'network-centric' plans

The Air Force and the Army need to embrace the Navy’s concept of network-centric
warfare, a new study has concluded.


The Navy is “getting highest marks for its thinking, getting something done and
building stuff that works,” said T.K. Jones, who led the study for the Government
Electronics and Information Technology Association and is director of special studies and
projects for Boeing Co.


The Navy’s innovation and success in network-centric warfare has not gone
unnoticed within the Pentagon, Jones said, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff has asked other
services to “think network-centric.”


But Air Force and Army officials disagreed with GEIA’s assertion.


“I don’t care what service you’re talking about, our vision in the
military—from Joint Vision 2010 and information superiority to network-centric
warfare to any buzzword you want to talk about—all comes down to one thing: the
ability to communicate with one another no matter what the medium,” Lt. Gen. Ronald
Kadish, commander of the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, said last
week at the Military Communications ’98 conference in Bedford, Mass.


Using such networks is the best way for the Defense Department to achieve information
superiority, concluded the study from GEIA, a division of the Electronic Industries
Alliance in Arlington, Va.


The study “highlights the impact of sharply improved information technology on
operating doctrine and weapons systems, and the ability of sensors and surveillance
systems to provide the data stream essential to the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s
information superiority goals,” GEIA officials said.


The structural model for the Navy’s network-centric warfare concept is a
high-performance information grid that quickly assimilates and shares battlefield data
among Naval forces worldwide.


A global Naval intranet, providing a single, integrated picture of the battlefield, is
at the heart of the Navy’s network-centric warfare concept, the Information
Technology for the 21st Century initiative.


The Navy will spend more than $2.5 billion on IT-21 programs to build a global Naval
intranet that supports 270,000 users worldwide.


Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, president of the Naval War College and former director for
space, information warfare, command and control, is credited with first coining the term
“network-centric warfare.”


The Navy will realize its network-centric warfare concept under Cebrowski’s
leadership from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., the study said. The Air Force
and Army, however, will have more difficulty doing the same, according to GEIA briefing
charts.


The Air Force and Army have created the air expeditionary forces and digital division
concepts, respectively. The concepts, however, are based on different cultures and
missions with a slow pace of acceptance from these services for network-centric warfare
approaches, the GEIA team said.


“We in the Air Force have been platform-centric for many years with major weapon
systems such as the F-15 and F-16,” Kadish said. “But what is emerging, I think,
is an understanding that no one platform is as important as its contribution to the
overall network of information. Communications is the backbone that makes it all
happen.”   

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