Afghan campaign illustrates interdependency of technology and the warfighter

SAN DIEGO'During Operation Enduring Freedom, troops often relied on satellite communications systems, computer-targeted weaponry and precision-guided munitions. But the Afghanistan campaign also illustrated that smart warfighters, not just smart technology, help win battles, the Navy's undersecretary said yesterday.

Although advances were made in Afghanistan in how the military used technology to fight, Susan Morrisey Livingstone said technology was more an enabler of a larger transformation taking place throughout the services.

"Soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are our only asset. Without them, the highest technical platform has no value," the Navy undersecretary said during a keynote speech at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's West 2003 conference. "Unless they understand [the technologies], such tools and gadgets become meaningless."

One key tool that helped the Defense Department manage the deployment to Afghanistan was the development of a Web services architecture, said Navy Rear Adm. Charles L. Munns, director of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet program.

When reservists were called to assist active-duty troops in Afghanistan, they often were sent over without instructions, Munns aid. "They showed up and didn't know where to go or what to do. It was a real mess."

But with the rollout of the Web services architecture, Munns said, the Navy redefined the way it sends reservists to combat. Previously, the deployment of reservists was a months-long process. Today, it takes 30 days, Munns said during a panel discussion at the conference.

"Now there is a resident data source in place that can be used for a whole host of things," he said. "The revolution that we're in is taking the department from using local information, then converting it to a library of information that is authoritative. It allows us to be more effective."

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