Visions become real

Thomas R. Temin

Cyberwarfare. Global information grid. Networked sensors. Joint interoperability. Situational awareness.

Such words and many others like them, used to describe the information environment in which post-Cold War conflicts will be fought, are no longer abstractions. Events on Sept. 11 have catapulted the carefully pictured conflict with an imagined new type of enemy out of the realm of potential and into the real.

Suddenly, U.S. military forces are engaged against that type of enemy which has long been envisioned in a million Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, mission statements, simulations, war game exercises and budget requests. This enemy and the terrain on which it will be fought are radically different from the conventional armies and navies of nations'a fact that Defense Department planners have long expected and, to a lesser degree, prepared for.

Using airliners to cause physical destruction has certain, if horrifying, analogies to computer hacking such as network denial-of-service attacks. Both use the target's own infrastructure and equipment against it. Both require training, planning and knowledge.

It's fair to assume that, having achieved property destruction of nearly biblical dimensions, the perpetrators will attempt something equally big against information systems. This time, the goal won't be to put funny slogans or pictures on home pages, but to wipe out systems. Indeed, the World Trade Center was a major communications hub in addition to a financial center and Western symbol.

Military systems face two challenges as they support the forces that will be thrown against the enemy. They must deliver the functionality promised. And they must be hardened against attack.

Vendors are also on notice. They must take their product claims and contractual clauses not merely as legal obligations but as sacred trusts.

Support for the warfighter'the phrase no longer has the glib, slogan quality it did two weeks ago. We hope and pray'and have faith'that the information systems and those building and operating them are up to the task, now that plans and simulations have given way to powder, iron and blood.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: [email protected]


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