Network-centric operations score big in Iraq, DOD's Frankel says

'JTRS is no longer a networking program. Instead of replacing lots of [radio units], we are now talking about an intelligent routing radio system.'

'DOD's Mike Frankel

Henrik G. DeGyor

Network-centric military operations have moved from the concept stage into reality, a Defense Department executive said recently.

The Pentagon is building the infrastructure for the Global Information Grid, a globally connected, single information system with an enterprise architecture. DOD expects to complete all the layers of the GIG, including communications and applications, later this decade, said Mike Frankel, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and IT systems.

Tightly integrated, IP-based communications is a key layer in the network-centric program, Frankel said. Defense has invested heavily in communications programs as part of the grid, including the $5.7 billion Joint Tactical Radio System and $800 million GIG-Bandwidth Expansion. Systems connected to Defense networks will be installed in weapons platforms, Frankel said, eliminating the need to carry bulky computers to battlefields in the future.

'You won't have to carry all the computers, just carry your weapons systems to the field,' Frankel said. 'We will take to the fields thin clients, simple devices.'

Global 10-Gbps network

The Defense Information Systems Agency recently released a request for proposals for GIG-BE, which will establish a worldwide 10-Gbps Defense network.

The Pentagon is shifting its plan for JTRS, Frankel said. 'JTRS is no longer a networking program,' he said. 'Instead of replacing lots of [radio units], we are now talking about an intelligent routing radio system. What we're building is an internet.'

Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., director of command, control, communications and computers for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that networking the military during the war in Iraq gave commanders in the United States the same picture that theater commanders saw. Networked systems let allied forces operate with such speed and precision that the Iraqi generals' battlefield picture was obsolete before they could act on it, Kellogg said.

'We do not believe they had any situational awareness of what we were doing or where our forces were,' he said. 'We could tell you, even in Washington, D.C., down to 10 meters, where our troops were.'

The Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System, a Central Command system that was installed in 72 Navy warships and dozens more coalition ships, helped sailors to communicate in Iraq much better than they did in Afghanistan, officials said.

'CENTRIXS provides a secure allied LAN that can connect via satellite communications to the NATO Secret Wide Area Network,' said Lt. Brauna R. Carl, a Navy spokeswoman.

'This secure network capability enables coalition commands to share information through e-mail, Web services, Common Operational Picture, and distributive collaborative planning tools such as chat and whiteboarding,' she said.

CENTRIXS is still being used in Iraq for daily status reporting and for tactical and operational planning, she said.

The success of systems such as CENTRIXS shows how reliant the military has become on sharing information across many platforms, said Army Lt. Gen. John Riggs, director of the Objective Force Task Force, an Army modernization project.

DOD is so focused on connecting the military services, Riggs said, that the term interoperability no longer applies to Defense systems.

'I don't think that we're talking about interoperability any longer. I think we're talking about interdependence of the systems,' Riggs said.

To accommodate this interdependence, military developers should leave room for movement in the design phase of future weapons and systems, he said.

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