November 11, 2011
New stovepipes are being added all the time
An interesting report appeared on National Defense Magazine, which provides some interesting observations on the way military stakeholders today look at the network-centric paradigm.
There was a time at the annual Milcom conference when "network-centric operations" was the buzzword and all that anyone talked about. Panels were devoted to the ultimate goal of making military communication systems work seamlessly together, pushing data collected by myriad sensors to whomever needed it. Organizations such as the National Defense Industrial Association devoted entire conferences to the topic. Generals in keynote speeches declared that "the days of stove-piped systems are over." Two days into the military communications industry's largest conference of the year, and not one speaker or panelist has uttered the word "network-centric."
Does this mean that the military has reached nirvana, and all non-interoperable systems have been eliminated? Hardly. In fact, new stovepipes are being added all the time, according to Lt. Gen. Charles R. Davis, commander of the Air Force's electronic systems center. "Most of the programs I deal with today have gone along the path of building their own complete infrastructure, their own complete hardware and software protocols, to be able to fit on the network because they are being held responsible for their performance in program A or program B," he said.
One of the problems is that every program has its own funding stream. Joint Tactical Radio System terminal programs aren't coordinated with the communication satellite programs, so there are delays in getting the technology to war fighters, he said. The defeatist strategy is to create gap-filler solutions, or patches, so they can link "because that is the only way the system knows how to react," Davis said.
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