Marines aim to use IT against friendly fire

SAN DIEGO'Despite military successes in the Iraq war, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James T. Conway said he's haunted by friendly fire incidents.

At a time when the military has seen huge technological advances, Conway, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, said "it's just criminal that there's no solution" to the friendly fire incidents.

"We're demanding a technical solution to that," Conway told a mixed group of military and industry participants at this year's West 2004 conference, sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the U.S. Naval Institute. "We came out of the war with that as our number one issue."

During the session, armed forces leaders discussed their immediate technology goals.

Conway said logistics problems continued to plague ground forces. He said most of the issues were with in-transit tracking, but added that logisticians weren't entirely to blame. He cited miscommunications among unit leaders as part of the problem.

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Terry Cross, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said insufficient maritime communications technology is what keeps him up at night.

"I don't know what's out there. I don't know what I don't know," Cross said.

Much of the Coast Guard technology is outdated; some Coast Guard cutters date to the 1960s. One, Cross said, "is even eligible for Social Security."

What bothers Air Force Brig. Gen. Gregory Power is not insufficient comm technology, but too much data.

Power, vice commander of the 8th Air Force, said that during recent military operations in Iraq, Global Hawk collected far more data than the ground air analysts knew what to do with. At one point, Power said officials put the unmanned aerial vehicle on a two-hour holding pattern during which no data was collected.

"It was overwhelming the men on the ground [who were] trying to make sense of the data," Power said. "We lost time because we were spending time on analyzing an overwhelming amount of data."

Power asked industry participants to develop a system to sift through the heaps of data, reducing the amount of time analysts spend on the process.

He said his lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom were to continue working on joint interoperability with coalition forces, including giving allied forces access to secure military networks.

"That's one issue we really are going to attack full-force," Power said. "We are not going to let them be restricted from having full information."

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