Chief of staff weighs in on Army networks

Tropical Storm Fay kept Army Chief of Staff George Casey from attending LandWarNet 2008 in person, but his message about how networks can help the Army came through loud and clear.

Tropical Storm Fay kept Army Chief of Staff George Casey from attending LandWarNet 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Monday, but his message about how networks can help the Army deal with today's situational realities around the world came through loud and clear via a video teleconference link.

Those realities are daunting and will lead to "persistent conflict," and can only be addressed by a 21st-Century Army. Such an Army will have to evolve to meet six trends head on: Globalization, resource competition, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, failed and failing states, and demographic trends.

Casey says that the Army can only address the potential threats wrought by each of those trends by transforming into a digitally connected expeditionary force that is agile, lethal, sustainable from a logistics standpoint, and interoperable with allies, other government agencies and indigenous forces.

So what role does the network play in all that?

Said Casey: "The network is central to our ability to build the Army as I described. I think of the Verizon group (from the television commercials) behind our soldiers. I want to see a squad leader with a hand-held device from which he can draw the knowledge of the Army."

Casey visited with Google and Cisco last week, and what he saw there solidified in his mind the fact that the Army has a long way to go before it can collaborate effectively in the digital domain.

"Our systems are not set up for the level of collaboration we need in order to build the institutional agility into our force," he said.

The Army chief of staff wants to see the service's network enterprise effort do two things: "Focus on an efficiently operated world-class IP capability for the force, particularly in the garrison environment, and enhance the ability of our people to collaborate."

Casey also had some parting thoughts for the LandWarNet audience, which broached 5,000. "The essence of the enterprise approach is people being able to accept common standards, which is better for everybody. Also, getting everybody to accept the notion that they don't have to control the data in order to take advantage of it."

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