Tuesday, June 19, 2007

U.S. Army Recognizes Itself

The U.S. Army recognized the top inventions of 2006. And they are all Army programs. Created by the Army. For the Army.

Blow Torch Counter Improvised Explosive Device System, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. This vehicle-mounted system detonates IEDs at safe stand-off distances, minimizing vehicle damage and Soldier injuries.

"It's fairly easy to operate, and it gives a sense of security to the Soldiers when they're on convoy duty," said Maj. Brian Hackenberg, who helped develop the system.

Integrated Robotic Explosive Detection System, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala. Capable of crossing rugged terrain, this remotely operated system incorporates an explosive trace detector onto a robotic platform.

Plastic Shaped Charge Assembly for Remote Destruction of Buried IEDs, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. Remotely emplaced, the PSCA destroys known or suspected unexploded ordnance with higher accuracy than similar devices currently in use. Its low-fragmentation plastic housing eliminates collateral damage.

Humvee Crew Extraction D-ring, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala. Combat locks on the up-armored Humvee provide security for Soldiers but often get so damaged the doors can't be opened. The D-ring provides solid anchor points for the hooks of a tow strap, chain or cable to pull open damaged doors.

"There was an issue of Soldiers getting trapped inside Humvees that had been damaged for whatever reason ... enemy fire or being flipped. Soldiers had problems getting the doors off these up-armored Humvees so we took their advice and created the D-ring," said Wesley D. Patterson, who is part of a Fast Assistance in Sciences Team that deploys to help Soldiers solve problems that can be resolved within six months.

M1114 Humvee Interim Fragment Kit 5, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. This kit was fielded as a ballistic improvement for the M1114 Humvee in April 2006. A prototype door solution with fabrication and mounting instructions was provided within one week with automotive testing and safety certification.

Remote Urban Monitoring System, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Fort Belvoir, Va. RUMS hardware combines emerging technologies in Wireless Local Area Network technology, night-vision cameras and unattended ground sensors to eliminate false alarms. Tripped sensors transmit an alarm signal to the camera module and operator after video and audio from multiple camera modules confirm the unattended ground sensor's alarm signal.

Constant Hawk, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Constant Hawk is a surveillance capability that uses an electro-optic payload to collect intelligence and identify areas that require increased surveillance by other assets.

OmniSense Unattended Ground Sensor System, U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. OmniSense is an unattended ground sensor system used to detect and classify personnel and vehicles in perimeter defense.

EM113A2 Rapid Entry Vehicle, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Picatinny, N.J. The REV provides rapid entry, non-lethal crowd control and rescue-squad insertion capabilities into areas requiring non-lethal intervention. The vehicle increases Soldier survivability through improved situational awareness and the ability to move and fire from within an armored vehicle.

BuckEye System, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Miss. BuckEye uses a digital camera to produce geospatial information for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It also produces high-resolution 3D urban mapping.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Dot Calm Era?

Looks like online retail shopping has slowed according this piece in the New York Times. Have we entered an age where pointing and clicking has become so stressful we put the mouse down?


Why Estonia Matters

CSIS released this study on the recent cyber-attacks in Estonia. According the authors, Estonia doesn't matter much. Well, maybe just in terms of not being a victim of an electronic attack from an enemy combatant. The effects of virtual attacks such as spam or hacking are at minimum annoying and at most enough cause to raise the threat level color.

On a state level, these types of virtual disruptions are certainly worth keeping track.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Add Another Continent to the Network

Tom Barnett has yet another excellent piece in the latest Esquire, this time an article on the new bases planned for the African continent. Read the entire article here.

"The Horn of Africa was supposed to be Washington's bureaucratic mea culpa for the Green Zone, a proving ground for the next generation of interagency cooperation that fuels America's eventual victory in what Abizaid once dubbed the "long war" against radical Islam. But as its first great test in Somalia demonstrated, the three D's are still a long way from being synchronized, and as the Pentagon sets up its new Africa Command in the summer of 2008, the time for sloppy off-Broadway tryouts is running out. Eventually, Al Qaeda's penetration of Muslim Africa will happen -- witness the stunning recent appearance of suicide bombers in Casablanca -- and either the three D's will answer this challenge, or this road show will close faster than you can say "Black Hawk down."'


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Goure's Got it Right

Good article from Defense News (subscription access):

Pentagon Hones Its Procurement Strategy

"Call it net-centricity with a purpose. As the Pentagon and U.S. military services build their networks of networks, they are looking especially for gear that can filter the rivers of sensor data, then share the gleanings easily among the services.

“We are no longer investing in networking simply for the sake of increasing communication and dumping information. We are now investing into networks for a purpose, networks driven by strategy,” said Daniel Gouré, vice president of the Lexington Institute.

And neither is the military interested in raw information; there’s too much of it already, thanks largely to the enormous amount of electronic intelligence-gathering systems. Instead, troops and their leaders need tactically or strategically relevant information, Gouré said.

“The interesting question is an operational one. What is your conception of what net-centric is about? It is not simply about sharing information,” Gouré said. "


Two from BBC

Check out Tom Barnett's posting on censorship on the Net as well as our posting from May 21. BBC is sure keeping track of the censorship issues.


The Net and Your Future Employment

The Internet has certainly helped the job hunting process with sites devoted to job openings, resume tips and what clothes to wear to an interview.

Harvard Business Review wants to know what happens when a job candidate is Googled and the search results find some interesting information.

Read the case study here and feel free to send in your thoughts.


Glut-ton for Punishment

What happens when you analyze global infectious diseases, the World Wide Web and some old bling? You get this report from the National Academies called Glut: Mastering Information Through The Ages.

For $33 this report is all yours. Although this report summary reminds me a bit of Jared Diamond's series of books that tie together cultural and historical events to support modern trends. Who knew history was so net-centric?

"What do primordial bacteria, medieval alchemists, and the World Wide Web have to do with each other? This fascinating exploration of how information systems emerge takes readers on a provocative journey through the history of the information age.

Today's "information explosion" may seem like an acutely modern phenomenon, but we are not the first generation nor even the first species to wrestle with the problem of information overload. Long before the advent of computers, human beings were collecting, storing, and organizing information: from Ice Age taxonomies to Sumerian archives, Greek libraries to Dark Age monasteries.

Today, we stand at a precipice, as our old systems struggle to cope with what designer Richard Saul Wurman called a "tsunami of data." With some historical perspective, however, we can begin to understand our predicament not just as the result of technological change, but as the latest chapter in an ancient story that we are only beginning to understand.

Spanning disciplines from evolutionary theory and cultural anthropology to the history of books, libraries, and computer science, writer and information architect Alex Wright weaves an intriguing narrative that connects such seemingly far-flung topics as insect colonies, Stone Age jewelry, medieval monasteries, Renaissance encyclopedias, early computer networks, and the World Wide Web. Finally, he pulls these threads together to reach a surprising conclusion, suggesting that the future of the information age may lie deep in our cultural past."


If You Network It, They Will Come

This Brookings report speaks to this author's Rustbelt roots. What are the key differences between America's thriving urban centers and cities that were once major industrial centers? Brookings suggests that an economic focus (read: get on the globalization bandwagon) will help revitalize former industry heavy cities.

The lesson is that in order for these cities to once again achieve economic prosperity, they have to connect to the wider globalization economic trends.

“A dynamic economic moment is also now underway, a result of a fundamental restructuring of the global economy:

• Globalization has accelerated the shift of our economy from the production of commodities, to the design, marketing, and delivery of goods, services, and ideas. Services employment grew by 214 percent from 1970 to 2000 as manufacturing declined, and now represents 32 percent of all jobs in the country.

• The shift to a knowledge and innovation economy demands greater numbers of highly educated, highly skilled workers—now the single biggest driver of economic growth across metropolitan areas.

• The role and function of universities, colleges, medical research institutions, and other institutions of higher learning in economic development and community revitalization is growing and changing.

• The growth of the knowledge economy is altering the value and function of density and proximity, which is widely held to help accelerate the transfer of knowledge and ideas between people and firms.

While globalization and technological change have undoubtedly contributed to the decline of those cities reliant on “old economy” industries, moving forward, they also have the potential to give them back their competitive edge.”


Upcoming Event: NGDC Conference

Next Generation Data Center Conference and Expo

August 6-9, 2007

San Fransisco, California

A copy of the brochure can be found here.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

Network Comms - Background

Excellent background piece in the latest issue of Scientific American on network communications.

"The military has recognized the robustness of network coding and is now funding research into its use in mobile ad hoc networks, which can form on the fly. Such networks are valuable in highly changeable environments, such as on the battlefield, where reliable communications are essential and establishing and maintaining an infrastructure of fiber-optic cables or cell towers is difficult. In an ad hoc network, every soldier's radio becomes a node in a communications system, and each node seeks out and establishes connections to neighboring nodes; together these connections establish a network's links. Every node can both send and receive messages and serve as an intermediary to pass along messages intended for other receivers. This technique extends communications capabilities far beyond the transmission range of a single node. It also allows enormous flexibility, because the network travels with the users, constantly reconfiguring and reestablishing connections as needed.

By changing how networks function, network coding may influence society in ways we cannot yet imagine. In the meantime, though, those of us who are studying it are considering the obstacles to implementation. Transitioning from our router-based system to a network-coded one will actually be one of the more minor hurdles. That conversion can be handled by a gradual change rather than a sudden overhaul; some routers could just be reprogrammed, and others not built to perform coding operations would be replaced little by little.

A bigger challenge will be coping with issues beyond replacing routers with coders. For instance, mixing information is a good strategy when the receiving node will gather enough evidence to recover what it desires from the mixture. This condition is always met in multicast networks but may not be the case in general. Moreover, in some circumstances, such as when multiple multicasts are transmitted, mixing information can make it difficult or impossible for users to extract the proper output. How, then, can nodes decide which information can and cannot be mixed when multiple connections share the same network? In what ways must network coding in wireless networks differ from its use in wired ones? What are the security advantages and implications of network coding? How will people be charged for communications services when one person's data are necessarily mixed with those of other users? In collaborations that span the globe, we and others are pondering how to unravel such knots even as we strive to enhance the capabilities of the communications networks that have become such an integral part of so many lives."


Upcoming Event: Operations Research

Thanks to Alidade for sending this along. Please find registration and conference information here. The event is going to be held in Annapolis on Monday, June 11.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Unmanned System is Better than Your Unmanned System

The Unmanned Bloggers are not above cross-posting some good video material.

See the following post from DefenseTech.org on the future of unmanned aerial combat. Just goes to how many companies out there are experimenting with vehicles of all sorts of shapes and sizes.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In Other Words

I certainly didn't need any more threats to be frightened of. Now the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute has released this report to add to the QDR threat matrices.

And I thought hybrids were a good thing.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Much Ado About China

Or not. Yesterday officials from China and the U.S. met to discuss economic issues. In typical non-committal form, the two sides smiled and agreed that talks were pleasant without any clear conclusions.

This sentence pretty much sums up relations:

Suffice it to say we had a healthy exchange of views.”

Here's to yet another round of talks that will result in, well, another round of talks.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Can you hear me now?

Apparently not. Many issues persist with net-centricity from the technology to the analysis to actionable items. See this Federal Computer Week article.

Surprised? Didn't think so.

See the Defense Science Board studies from April 2007:

Information Management for Net-Centric Operations Volume I

Information Management for Net-Centric Operations Volume II


On and Off Buttons

Good read from Global Guerrillas on Internet Systems Disruption.

Gird your IPs!


Monday, May 21, 2007

Is it hot in here? Or is it just me?

Excellent post today by The Dew Line on the green issues associated with commercial aviation. Find it here. Look for a more in-depth feature in an upcoming issue of Flight Magazine.


See No Evil, in E-Form

According to the OpenNet Initiative, state sponsored censorship of the world wide web is increasing.

From the BBC:

The study of thousands of websites across 120 Internet Service Providers found 25 of 41 countries surveyed showed evidence of content filtering.

Websites and services such as Skype and Google Maps were blocked, it said.

Such "state-mandated net filtering" was only being carried out in "a couple" of states in 2002, one researcher said.

"In five years we have gone from a couple of states doing state-mandated net filtering to 25," said John Palfrey, at Harvard Law School.

Mr Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, added: "There has also been an increase in the scale, scope and sophistication of internet filtering."


Counting Greys

Business managers and executives in the defense/aerospace industry are keenly aware of the age-range issue. Bringing in young talent to replace the wave of retiring professionals has been an area of interest for years and has gained some media interest.

While attracting talent is important, there is very little discussion on how to keep these young folks in the business. This is becoming increasingly important as advanced technology is no longer a niche defense capability. The next 5-10 years may see higher rotations, particularly amongst engineers, migrating to competing industries such as IT and software engineering.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Lot of Lute

The Bush Administration has picked their ‘war czar’ for the war in Iraq. According to multiple sources, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, U.S. Army, has been selected for the position.


Sunday, May 6, 2007

Networks in the News

Forbes magazine is running a special feature on networks. It’s good to know Forbes sees the value in networks beyond technology. Please see the following sections:

Networks – Breakthroughs

Networks – Lifestyle

Networks – Technology

Networks – Community

(Excellent post on The Long Tail blog to this Forbes series here.)

Also see the new publication from Dr. David Alberts and Dr. Richard Hayes on planning complex endeavors.

And while you’re in a net-centric place, take a look at the inaugural issue of the International C2 Journal.


Friday, May 4, 2007

Diplomacy? Never heard of it.

When diplomatic relations get tense, blame the music.

See here, here, here and here.


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The World is Argumentative

If there were a national security version of MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch, I’d like to nominate these two:

Thomas Friedman


Pankaj Ghemawat

[Note: Ghemawat wrote an article for the Mar/Apr 07 Foreign Policy called “Why the World Isn’t Flat." And you all should know about Tom Friedman’s book by now.]

Friedman begins:

“Pankaj Ghemawat says the world is not flat (“Why the World Isn’t Flat,” March/April 2007). No kidding. In arguing that globalization and economic integration are still far from a reality, Ghemawat fails to take into account the bigger picture of what is actually taking place in the business world. His narrow focus on the “10 percent” of internationalization across certain industries obscures my basic argument about the future of globalization. Obviously, the world is not yet flat. But my larger point is that the “flattening” technologies and processes of globalization now under way are the most important developments not just in economics but also in government, politics, war, finance, journalism, innovation, and society in general. Flattening technologies are empowering individuals, in previously unheard of ways, to reach farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper than ever before. Big institutions, from newspapers and television networks to software firms and Texas power companies, are being fundamentally transformed or challenged by these superempowered individuals. Two tiny environmental groups just held up the biggest leveraged buyout in history—the deal for TXU, the Texas electrical utility—until it was reshaped to their liking. Tell them the world is not flat.” (Foreign Policy May /June 2007 Letters Section)

Ghemawat responds:

“Thomas Friedman seems not to have read beyond the title of my article. If he had, he would have realized that the 10 percent presumption isn’t based on a narrow focus on “certain industries.” My measure of the internationalization of investment, for example, aggregate across all industries. But such a relation probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference, since Friedman has very little use for data. The 450-plus pages of his World is Flat do not contain a single table, chart, or footnote. Instead, we get a jumble of stories held together with hyperbole.” (Foreign Policy May /June 2007 Letters Section)


World Views in Multiplicity

One of the things that keep us up at night is figuring out how to organize and develop a means to talk about national security as change.

We figured the first step is what some people call brainstorming. We call it Google.

Then some people would make a list. We call it cutting and pasting.

21 Solutions to Save the World – Foreign Policy

State of the World – Tom Barnett, Esquire

10 Emerging Technologies of 2007 – MIT Technology Review

Annual EIU Report on E-Readiness - EIU Highlights via BBC

Lessons of the Last Bubble – strategy+business

Friday, April 27, 2007

How Graphic of You

I was forwarded this cartoon from David Axe’s website. He’s a journalist who’s also written a book or two.

He recently visited East Timor to cover the situation there. What a disappointment.

And I mean the cartoon.

The cartoon is all about David Axe talking about David Axe on David Axe’s blog.

Does the world care about East Timor? Cartoon David lies and says yes. It could have been more redeeming if he went on to say that he was there to talk to the people and write stories to shed light on the situation. But no, that is not the case.

He just wants to take pretty pictures of pretty helicopters.

Is this the new condition of ‘war correspondents’? That the real story is about the heroic journalist breaking away from an American desk to ‘experience war’?

Don’t get me wrong. I think there is great value in providing this level of media transparency in conflicts.

But here are my two cents to all authors, writers and reporters who call themselves war correspondents. The story is not about you. You are not a warfighter.

I want to hear about what that man in the first panel has to say. I want to hear what that Aussie on the ground has to say.

I can Google for pictures of hardware myself.

Sadly, this is yet another case of journalists trying to market themselves instead of focusing on their jobs.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Business and Transformation

Change is a funny word in business. It’s good, it’s edgy, it’s hip. It makes me want to buy suit shirts in colors other than white or light blue. OK, not really. I guess I’m not that transformational.

The folks at McKinsey published an article in February 2007 about a CEO’s responsibility to change in his or her company. Does this apply to the defense and aerospace industries?

The article suggests the following four rules for CEOs:

  1. Making the transformation meaningful. People will go to extraordinary lengths for causes they believe in, and a powerful transformation story will create and reinforce their commitment. The ultimate impact of the story depends on the CEO’s willingness to make the transformation personal, to engage others openly, and to spotlight successes as they emerge.
  2. Role-modeling desired mind-sets and behavior. Successful CEOs typically embark on their own personal transformation journey. Their actions encourage employees to support and practice the new types of behavior.
  3. Building a strong and committed top team. To harness the transformative power of the top team, CEOs must make tough decisions about who has the ability and motivation to make the journey.
  4. Relentlessly pursuing impact. There is no substitute for CEOs rolling up their sleeves and getting personally involved when significant financial and symbolic value is at stake.

These rules are as much relevant to my business as any other. Excellent article (registration is free).


This Day in History - April 26th

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. This day's events inspired Picasso's piece called, well, Guernica.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Shocks Are Trendy

Many on board the transformation bandwagon were ideologically concerned after the death of Art Cebrowski. Who would carry the torch of transformation as culture? Who would remind the national security community that transformation is about how to think?

The latest effort by the Office of Force Transformation is called “Shocks and Trends.” Similar to the systems perturbations model, “shocks and trends” would widen the scope of examining change. This would include anticipating and responding to the effects whether or not direct military support is required.

Will “shocks and trends” be another engine to crank out case studies that prove net-centricity is good? Can OFT extend its transformational ideology to talk about tradition non-military subjects? I am interested to see what issue they tackle first.


From Russia With Love

Are conditions in Russia as promising as they seem?

-Oil/Gas/Natural Resources are in ample supply

-Energies markets actually putting rubles in pockets

-With rubles in pockets, time to go to Starbucks

-Say what you will about Putin, but at least Russia is stable!

-Who knew Russia had all that land?

Thanks to the scholars at Wharton for pulling together these articles.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Role of Navies Questioned, Sort Of

George Friedman, founder and chairman of geopolitical analysis engine Stratfor, recently wrote an article entitled “The Limitations and Necessity of Naval Power.” In it, he explains a bit of the obvious that current operations are soaking up resources towards land based operations. So what is the current and future role of a nation’s navy?

He uses an example of a naval blockade against Iran (as a response to the recently held British sailors). If the U.S. implemented a naval blockade, the U.S. would have asked for more trouble:

“1. Iran could mount strategic counters to a blockade, either by increasing anti-U.S. operations by its Shiite allies in Iraq or by inciting Shiite communities in the Arabian Peninsula to unrest. The United States didn't have appetite for the risk.

2. Blockades always involve the interdiction of vessels operated by third countries -- countries that might not appreciate being interdicted. The potential repercussions of interdicting merchant vessels belonging to powers that did not accept the blockade was a price the United States would not pay at this time.”

He goes on to explain the arguments for reducing a naval force structure saying that the tactical response of navies remains a reality mainly in the littorals. But eventually he goes on to say that navies are strategic and therefore are needed to keep the sea lanes open.

Is this a flaw in naval strategic thinking? Is it good enough to suggest continued naval force structure enhancements because of threats down the road? What Friedman fails to do is answer the funding question. Geopoliticians very rarely talk money, but conceptualizing world order steadfastly remains a fantasy without addressing the budget question.

He concludes:

“Whatever happens in Iraq -- or Iran -- the centrality of naval power is unchanging. But the threat to naval power evolves. The fact that there is no threat to U.S. control of the sea-lanes at this moment does not mean one will not emerge. Whether with simple threats like mines or the most sophisticated anti-ship system, the ability to keep the U.S. Navy from an area or to close off strategic chokepoints for shipping remains the major threat to the United States -- which is, first and foremost, a maritime power.

One of the dangers of wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they soak up resources and intellectual bandwidth. It is said that generals always fight the last war. Another way of stating that is to say they believe the war they are fighting now will go on forever in some form. That belief leads to neglect of capabilities that appear superfluous for the current conflict. That is the true hollowing-out that extended warfare creates. It is an intellectual hollowing-out.”


Monday, April 23, 2007

Upcoming Events

A few events around town. -Bill

The 9/11 Legislation and Private Sector

Sponsored by CSIS

April 24, 2007


Location: Capitol Hilton

Who’s Afraid of North Korean Regime Collapse?

Sponsored by AEI

April 24, 2007


Location: AEI

U.S.-Japan Partnership in Transforming the East Asian Security Environment

Sponsored by the Heritage Foundation

May 1, 2007


Location: Heritage Foundation

Emerging Markets and the Global Financial System

Sponsored by SAIS

May 2, 2007


Location: SAIS

Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2006

Sponsored by AEI

May 14, 2007


Location: AEI

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

I was at a wedding this past weekend and had some pretty interesting observations. First, a swing band should never attempt to play modern pop music. Ever.

But more importantly, I made note of how contemporary culture has had some net-centric elements before we even coined the phrase. On the plane ride back to Washington, I made the following lists of most net-centric and least net-centric songs. This is just my first round of thoughts. I’d appreciate any ideas.


Most Net-Centric Songs

Don’t Fear the Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult

Dude (Looks Like a Lady), Aerosmith

I Can See for Miles, The Who

King of the Road, Roger Miller

Knowing Me, Knowing You, ABBA

Private Eyes, Hall & Oates

RADAR Love, Golden Earring

Ray of Light, Madonna

Suddenly I See, K.T. Tunstall

Walk This Way, Aerosmith/Run-D.M.C version, of course

We Are All Made of Stars, Moby

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?, R.E.M

Whenever, Wherever, Shakira

Wind of Change, Scorpions

With a Little Help from My Friends, Joe Cocker

Least Net-Centric Songs

Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen

Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac

Hung Up, Madonna

I Heard it Through the Grapevine, CCR

I Ran (So Far Away), A Flock of Seagulls

I Take My Chances, Mary Chapin Carpenter

I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones

Is There Anybody Out There?, Pink Floyd

Land of Confusion, Genesis

Message in a Bottle, The Police

Should I Stay or Should I Go, The Clash


Sledgehammer, Peter Gabriel

Take This Job and Shove It, David Allan Coe

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More Net-Centricity, Please!

One of transformation’s founding fathers, retired Vice Admiral Art Cebrowski, used to end many of his PowerPoint presentations with a cartoon. It showed a soldier finding cover under a barrage a bullets talking on a cellphone. The cartoon bubbled said something to the effect of “With all due respect Sir, I need a little less net-centricity and more bullets!”

Clever take on the cellphone. Evidently you can get a signal anywhere in a net-centric world. Thank you, critical nodes.

Cmdr. Greg Glaros USN (ret.), who used to work in Cebrowski’s Office of Force Transformation, contends that land vehicles need to be more net-centric to get information about those bullets before they are overhead. Although Glaros says the technology is out there, he fails to name names or provide a solution to fix the acquisition noose that stifles quick fielding.

It is an operational desire to prevent the cartoon situation above. But can we talk price here? The tech is out there. We’ve got the platforms to put them on. Will Glaros’ next article talk about cost-overruns on netted systems? Being more net-centric may mean more lives saved and shorter engagements, but how much more will it cost?

To read the article, please click here.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Heck No, We Won’t Go?

Interesting piece in this month’s Atlantic Monthly. Andrew Bacevich, professor at Boston University and retired Army colonel, talks about an increasingly vocal element of the armed services. A small group of service members are lobbying Congress to withdraw from Iraq.

He writes, “It heralds the appearance of something new to the American political landscape: a soldiers’ lobby. In formulating their appeal, men and women in America’s fighting forces claim a new prerogative: to engage in collective political action for the explicit purpose of influencing national-security policy.”


“The creation of the all-volunteer force had a second consequence. Military service, once viewed (at least nominally) as a civic obligation, has become a matter of choice. As a result, the burden of “defending our freedom” no longer falls evenly across society. Those choosing to serve do not represent a cross section of America, and most are presumably well aware of that fact.

To assuage uneasy consciences, the many who do not serve proclaim their high regard for the few who do. This has vaulted America’s fighting men and women to the top of the nation’s moral hierarchy. The character and charisma long ago associated with the pioneer or the small farmer—or carried in the 1960s by Dr. King and the civil-rights movement—has now come to rest upon the soldier.”

He concludes:

“[E]mpowering groups of soldiers to join in the debate over contentious issues is short-sighted and dangerous. Implicit in the appeal is the suggestion that national-security policies somehow require the consent of those in uniform. Lately, media outlets have reinforced this notion, reporting as newsworthy the results of polls that asked soldiers whether administration plans meet with their approval.”

I am not so concerned about the folks who agree or disagree with the current operations in Iraq. What I want to see are the effects on voting once these brave men and women rotate enough times. This also has to have an effect on their family's vote. I’ll be watching out for any blue and red shifts in the next several elections. Any guess on how many Iraq war vets will run for office?

The full (subscription) article can be found here:



Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How We Got the Idea

It all started at your typical Washington, DC national security conference. Representatives from government, industry, think tanks and the press assembled to hear experts speak on current events and strategy. And at the end of the day, right before the fancy dinners, three professionals found themselves in a most awkward moment.

A senior OSD official, a defense industry executive and a local think tank resident scholar walked into the elevator. They all knew of each other. The scholar began to decompress. "If I have to listen to one more panel session talk around the issues, I think I'm going scream."

They walked out on the same parking deck floor (of course) and began to talk. The scholar complained of the lack of historical evidence to support most theories and implications. The senior OSD official wanted information that he could work with and not just data gleaned off of today's newspapers. The industry official thought his job was the most difficult. How does an executive grow his business, please shareholders and provide the warfighter the most effective, least expensive capabilities with which to win?

So here we have a forum by which the three of us have decided to talk, share information, and hopefully receive a little bit of insight. We have decided to keep our cyberspace identities as generic as possible. It's not about us, it's about the ideas.

Ace: He's our former fighter pilot turned civilian government leader. His educational background is in the mathematics and engineering. He uses any excuse to reference the Navy, though his knowledge of the Army and Air Force is unmatched. Don't ask about the Marines. He's afraid of them.

Mike: He's our senior industry executive. For a retired Air Force colonel, he knows how the defense industry works. He holds an MBA from one of those expensive schools, though we don't hold it against him.

Bill: He thinks he knows more than anyone else even though he's never been in uniform and can't get enough of JAG reruns. He holds two master's degrees in history and a PhD. He writes articles and essays like they're going out of style. And speaking of style, his ties never match his suits.

We looking forward to sharing our thoughts with you on this dynamic means of communication. And we look forward to your ideas as well. Because in the end, aren't we all net-centric?