Marines' Shea: Demystify net-centric warfare, keep threats in mind

Meeting the military's network-centric challenges must not trump vigilance toward IT threats, according to the director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Shea said his organization's successes over the past year, such as helping curb the improvised explosive device menace, and in logistics, information assurance, transportation and space-war management concepts are examples of not losing sight of the smaller goals while meeting DOD's larger IT needs.

'In the networking business ... we've got to be careful [that] we don't get so wrapped up in the blanket of information technology that we don't really take a look around and understand what the ' future threat is ' and what the capabilities we need to provide in the future are 'to the 2015 time frame and out,' Shea said at a luncheon last week in McLean, Va., sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Shea said that the military services have a 'heightened cyberawareness' about viruses and the like, but are becoming overwhelmed by technology's sheer enormity and rapidly changing nature.

'Demystifying what the network-centric world is all about' is key, Shea added. 'I need to be able to talk to my superiors and counterparts in terms that are clearly understood by them.' The military's 'vernacular and lexicon ' [have] become very imprecise over time.'

Moreover, Shea urged much more training for the services overall, and particularly for electronic warfare units'what DOD calls 'training to the threat.'

'Traditional spectrum management conflicts' is another area his office is addressing, because 'there's an awful lot of electrons flying around the battle space these days [and there are] many emitters' ranging from bar codes to radio frequency identification tags.

Last month, Shea said his office launched a lessons-learned Web site, drawing on management experience from deployments in Southwest Asia and elsewhere. This will help the services 'better manage frequency spectrum' before and after operations.

With the 'pot of money' the department now enjoys, Shea added, 'We are able to quickly field and implement enterprisewide solutions that help us seal some gaps and vulnerabilities.... We've got programs of record out there; we've got capabilities we're trying to field'. [Nonetheless] we need to continue to press the envelope. The bottom line is we are not satisfied with where we are. We're continually challenging what we do.'

David Walsh is a freelance writer in Chevy Chase, Md.

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