Don’t wait on the QDR – the visionary thinking in the Pentagon right now is coming from the Chief of Naval Operations. Admiral Gary Roughead is looking hard at what it takes to “achieve decision superiority.” He’s pinpointed that tactical information flow is the centerpiece of future warfare and he’s pressing the Navy and others to get ahead of the problem.
Roughead came to the top Navy job from Pacific Fleet via a blink-and-you-missed-it stop as head of Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk. He knows that disrupted communications are among the growing threats to the fleet in the Pacific. Hence, the term “decision superiority” captures all that is best about focused intelligence and operations. We’ve grown accustomed to the products of decision superiority – like a quicker kill chain to take out terrorist targets in Iraq or to ferret out insurgents in Afghanistan. We expect our aircraft and ships to process and act on information fast, slowed down only by our own data processing and command layers. Navy ships like to form an especially fast-acting loop and that’s what technologies like Cooperative Engagement Capability and platforms like E-2 help do.
What if an enemy gets into that loop? What can be done to prevent it?
Roughead seems to be asking that question forcefully. He’s made several bold moves to get his vision across. In September, he gathered 10 other admirals for a session at Lockheed Martin’s “Lighthouse” warfare simulation center in Suffolk, Virginia. Part of their task was to consider secure datalinks for aircraft and ships so they can deal with missile threats and disrupted satellite communications in the future. A Pacific power like China might well put up a fight for the electromagnetic spectrum. The Chinese are keen on cyber operations and have already demonstrated they can and will knock down satellites. In short, a denied communications environment is technically feasible – and Roughead is wise to get the Navy thinking about it.
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