Future software will shift weapons' directions in midair

Software allowing instantaneous communications makes the war in Iraq unlike any other in history, a federal executive said today.

The ability to send instant e-mail and handheld communications to the battlefield is a fundamental change, said David H. Crandall, assistant deputy administrator for research, development and simulation for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Crandall said software development has much further to go.

'We've come a long way, and this war will test that, but I don't think we're finished,' he said at an Arlington, Va., software quality forum sponsored by his agency and the Energy Department.

'The warfighters' ability to make decisions is still behind the ability to report on what they're doing,' he said. For example, he said, the military can now change the targeted coordinates of weapons before they've been fired, as may have been done after intelligence data indicated Saddam Hussein's whereabouts last Wednesday.

But, Crandall said, development must continue until military software can literally change a weapon's direction while it's still in midair. That kind of instant decision-making ability might have prevented the recent hit on a Syrian bus crossing a targeted bridge, he said.

Whether deployed for war or everyday business use, such software evolutions take time, Crandall said.

New communications software must fully displace existing paper-based processes. Instead of adding on to them, he said, 'we've got to eliminate some of this stuff.'

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