The next step in network-centric warfare

Steve LeSueur

When the shooting stopped in Iraq, a new kind of war began, and it's proving to be a real test of the Defense Department's network-centric initiatives. Sophisticated weapons systems can identify and destroy enemy ships and aircraft that are miles away, but such systems were not designed for soldiers patrolling streets crowded with cars and people.

For Washington Technology's special report on the Defense Department, Staff Writer Brad Grimes examined the military's progress as it transforms itself into a network-centric warfighting force.

Until now, the Pentagon's emphasis has been on building networks and sharing information, but experts in government and industry said it's time for the services to take the next step: They must develop and deploy sensors to collect information and software to process that information and get it to the right people.

For example, an autonomous sensor that could fly ahead of a convoy and look for explosive along the road could save lives both in traditional war settings and in places like Iraq.

As one analyst said, "If network-centric warfare 1.1 was about infrastructure, network centric warfare 2.0 will be about sensors and software."

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