NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIVERSITY: It just might be iPhone time for the world’s most powerful army,. As defense budgets shrink and commercial networks grow, top brass from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on down are questioning the service’s current plan to keep developing custom-built, military-specific, and extremely expensive communications networks. If groups like al-Qaeda,… Keep reading →
PORTSMOUTH, VA: People tend to think of the Marines as square-jawed jarheads, not tech geeks. But after a decade of wartime investment in network technologies, Marine commanders have acquired lots of high-tech gear — so much so that now they’re returning from long land wars to Navy ships, they can’t always find a place to… Keep reading →
[UPDATED with comments from Army generals] WASHINGTON: In the latest battle over Army radios, defense industry giant General Dynamics is beating the war drums once again. If the Pentagon doesn’t issue a new contract for backpack-sized “Manpack” radios soon, GD warns, they and co-supplier Rockwell Collins will complete the current lot by the year’s end — a… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Defense contractor General Dynamics has taken hits from the Army, from the Pentagon’s independent Director of Operational Test & Evaluation and from us about its role in the troubled Joint Tactical Radio Systems program. Now, in an interview this morning, the president of GDC4S (that’s General Dynamics Command, Control, Communications, & Computer Systems), Chris Marzilli,… Keep reading →
Part outsider, part incumbent, Harris Corp. is eagerly upsetting applecarts by taking on defense industry colossus General Dynamics and other established contractors in its bid to grab a hat trick in this year’s Army radio competitions. The largest service is expected to make awards in three of its largest communications programs this year as early… Keep reading →
As the Army prepares to choose the new builder of its handheld digital radios, the incumbent contractors are tryiing to convince Congress to keep other companies out. The incumbents are General Dynamics, which publicly apologized to the Army over its half of the program last year, and Rockwell Collins. The Army’s own chief of acquisitions,… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: What homemade roadside bombs could do to Army and Marine ground vehicles was the ugly surprise of the last decade. What sophisticated long-range missiles could do to Navy aircraft carriers could be the ugly surprise of the next. “I think it would almost follow like the night to the day,” Rep. Randy Forbes told me in a recent interview. “The last decade… we asked a disproportionate sacrifice from the Army and Marine Corps,” he went on. “The next decade’s going to be the decade of seapower and projection forces, [and] some of those ugly surprises we see bits and pieces of already.”
As chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, Forbes wants to refocus fellow legislators, the Pentagon, and, for that matter, the media from a narrow debate over the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to a wider look at all the capabilities that a carrier can support. That includes not just traditional manned fighters like the F-35, but also unmanned drones like the X-47B and the future UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System), electronic warfare aircraft like the EA-18G Growler, and even cyber attacks. Keep reading →
RANGE 24, FORT DRUM, NEW YORK: “That’s awesome,” said Maj. Edward Sedlock, watching another soldier call up data on his militarized Android smartphone. It was such small, unguarded moments — neither officer had noticed a reporter standing nearby — which suggest that, after more than a decade in development, the Army’s struggle to bring wireless networking to the foot soldier is finally yielding fruit, just in time to help secure the drawdown in Afghanistan.
Sedlock and his comrade weren’t part of some special group testing new equipment, like the much-publicized Network Integration Evaluations in the New Mexico desert, AOL D readers are so familiar with. Instead, they belong to an operational unit, the 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, training to use the new gear as they get ready for an expected deployment in Afghanistan. (They haven’t yet received their formal orders to go but planning is well advanced, down to designating an assigned area of operations the Army asked us not to name). “3/10″ and its sister unit, the 10th Mountain’s 4th Brigade, are the first combat brigades to receive the technology, as part of an upgrade the Army calls “Capability Set ’13″; two more brigades, from the famed 101st Airborne, are next in line for the new network. Keep reading →
PENTAGON: Technology is a two-edged sword, and it can cut the hand that wields it in unexpected ways. For a generation, ever since the first Gulf War, the information age has been America’s big advantage, arming the US military with everything from smart bombs to remotely piloted drones to supply databases. But even low-tech Iraqi insurgents could pick up Predator video transmissions from time to time, and potential adversaries from China to Iran are far more capable in cyberspace. So as the all-consuming commitment to Afghanistan winds down, the armed services have started looking hard at the perils and potential of their dependence on computer networks — none more so than the US Navy.
The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, has increasingly emphasized the intersection of the brave new world of cyber with the Navy’s longstanding strengths in electronic warfare, most recently in an editorial published on this website yesterday. To flesh out the CNO’s vision, I sat down with Greenert’s point man on the coming war of electrons, Rear Adm. William Leigher. A veteran cryptologist who went on to serve at Fleet Cyber Command, Leigher now bears the jaw-breaking title of “director of warfare integration for information dominance,” known in Navy shorthand as N2/N6F. It’s his job to keep up with the staggering pace at which information technology advances. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The current fiscal crisis slams the entire military, keeping aircraft carriers in port and fighter pilots on the ground for lack of funds, but of all the services, said Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale today, “the Army has by far the worst problem.”
That’s because the Army faces a unique triple-barreled budget problem, known with grim humor as “6-6-6″ because each part takes $6 billion out of Army readiness accounts: the automatic cuts known as the sequester, which began March 1st; the Continuing Resolution now funding the government, which continues spending at 2012 levels without any flexibility to start new programs or even adjust existing ones; and the shortfall in wartime supplemental funding (called OCO, for Overseas Contingency Operations) caused by unexpectedly high costs in Afghanistan. Keep reading →