Ever since Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld came back to Washington, the talk at the Pentagon has been about almost nothing but transformation. Yet, for all the talk and all the money expended, real progress has been slow. Most changes to date have been organizational or operational, such as were demonstrated in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But most of the equipment used in that campaign predated transformation. There are very few military systems ready for fielding today that can actually be called transformational.
One system that can be called transformational and that is ready to move forward now is the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program or BAMS. This is a program to augment the Navy’s fleet of aging P-3 and EP-3 surveillance and intelligence collection aircraft and support the future MultiMission Aircraft (MMA) that will replace them. The centerpiece of the current BAMS program is the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Global Hawk is the successful winner of a $1 billion dollar competitive development effort by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create a high altitude, long-endurance, high-payload UAV. The Global Hawk performed superbly over central Iraq, employing a variety of sensors to monitor Iraqi activities and communications. The U.S. Air Force intends to procure at least fifty of this UAV.
BAMS is a “poster child” for transformation. It is not simply that with its range, altitude, endurance and payload capacity (3,000 lbs) the Global Hawk can cover tens of thousands of square miles in one mission, collecting a range of information for different intelligence purposes. BAMS is truly transformational because it breaks down traditional information “stovepipes.” It will serve as a critical node in the military’s network-centric architecture, able to both collect information and pass it directly to the Navy’s Joint Fires Network, other Navy platforms and even to combat elements of the other services.
One of BAMS most attractive features is that it can actually save the Pentagon money. BAMS will reduce the number of P-3/EP-3s that must be maintained or the number of MMAs that will have to be bought. Fewer aircraft means a smaller shore establishment and that translates into personnel cost savings too. Buying Global Hawk will also achieve cost savings across the Navy-Air Force program. Because it can serve multiple users in a single mission, the Global Hawk can reduce the cost to the nation of broad area surveillance to just pennies per square mile surveilled.
BAMS is a transformational program and Global Hawk is a proven system. Right now the program is in a bureaucratic limbo in the Navy, even though BAMS is in the FY2005 budget. Every day the program is delayed pushes transformation that much farther into the future. If Secretary Rumsfeld really wants to see the U.S. military transformed, one of the best ways to do this would be to get the Navy moving forward with BAMS.
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