DOD still lacks comm in the trenches

NEW YORK'The Defense Department deserves an A for its long-haul communications to the Iraq theater but an F for reaching the soldier on the ground, former assistant secretary of Defense Arthur L. Money said today.

Money, who formerly was assistant secretary for command, control, communications and intelligence, and other experts on government comm spoke today at the Satellite Application Technology Conference and Expo.

"All types of communication paths are needed - not just point-to-point or net-centric," said Money, who continues to promote U.S. information superiority as a consultant. "In Iraq, the information couldn't get from the higher to the lower echelons."

He suggested beaming real-time satellite TV to units on the ground because "there's still a gap before we have enough joint tactical radios and terminals" for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical.

The National Reconaissance Office's Transformational Communications Architecture is at least 10 years off, he said. "DOD relies on fiber networks. But when you get to the mobile user, satellite becomes essential."

Retired Lt. Gen. Clarence E. McKnight Jr., former director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the department has historically "fostered big strategic networks at the expense of the tactical guy at the far end of the pipe."

But that is changing, said Robert S. Dickman, deputy for military space in the Office of the Air Force Undersecretary. "We're going from channelized to an IP architecture," Dickman said.

Among the satellite projects Dickman is planning are:

  • Next-generation polar weather satellites that will have a common data architecture, in conjunction with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • Global Positioning System III satellites and new launch vehicles

  • Space-based radar for persistent surveillance.

  • "In Iraq, space was an enabler for every target," he said. "We can't draw a distinction any longer between strategic and tactical. We want a very big pipe and a very small terminal in the hands of somebody who's on the move."

    Michelle Bailey, program manager for Navy satellite communications systems, said commercial satellites from Inmarsat Ltd. have proved the most reliable for Navy ships, largely because of their worldwide support.

    "I'm looking at that kind of logistics performance for all my new systems," Bailey said, "but I sometimes bang my head over COTS" because the manuals for commercial off-the-shelf devices have to be rewritten with different information and help numbers for sailors.

    "Large equipment manufacturers buy COTS from small vendors and have no insight into that black box," she said, adding, "The subs have to share some of their proprietary information with the prime."


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