This report is the second in a series of studies that several colleagues and I are sponsoring to explain the importance of naval networking to a national audience. In the years since the cold war ended, global commerce and culture have been transformed by the internet. The internet got its name from the fact that technical protocols allow packets of information to be transmitted over thousands of loosely connected networks as if they were a single, unified web. The result is a communications tool of unprecedented reach and resilience. But although our defense department invented the internet, it has not benefited as fully as other users from the power the Worldwide Web unleashes.
The U.S. Navy is pursuing a concept called Forcenet that would enable the service to fully realize the potential of internetprotocol technology. If it succeeds, then our war-fighters scattered around the globe will enjoy continuous access to the complete resources of the joint force, even when they are in motion, under fire, or otherwise disadvantaged. Not only will they be able to communicate instantaneously with other friendly forces, but they will be able to tap into a wealth of lifesaving information and analysis that is currently unavailable to sailors and marines on a timely basis.
Today’s information revolution isn’t just about new technology, it’s about business models and cultural values. The Navy and other military services are shifting from a Balkanized “need-to-know” culture to a “need-to-share” environment in which war-fighters collaborate continuously to achieve national purposes. You still need security clearances to participate in this community of shared values and goals, but once your credentials are verified you gain access to more useful information than war-fighters of the past could possibly have hoped to obtain.
Ideally, all of the war-fighting systems in the joint force will one day be “born open,” able to take full advantage of the flexibility and versatility internet-protocol technology provides. The Navy is pursuing a number of programs such as the Advanced Hawkeye radar plane and the Littoral Combat Ship that are fully open and adaptable to emerging information technologies. But war-fighters should not have to wait for the perfect solution to their information needs — there are faster ways of delivering most of the connectivity they require. This report offers insights into how we can deliver comprehensive global communications to our war-fighters as quickly and inexpensively as possible, so that the Navy of tomorrow can save both lives and money.
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