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2003 Speeches

Roger Roberts

Senior Vice President, Space & Intelligence Systems

Boeing IDS

"Integrated Battlespace Approaches in Network-Centric Operations"

International Technology Summit

Rome, Italy

February 06, 2003

Good morning and welcome. I am happy to be a part of this forum today and I am delighted to share the platform with my esteemed colleagues.

For the next few minutes, I'd like to talk about network-centric operations and how it relates to battlefield management.

What if, as a battlefield commander, you had a network that gave you the information you need to make life-and-death decisions?

What if, this information was always accurate and you obtained it immediately, without waiting for the data to move through an incremental computing process?

I believe that this is not only possible, but that it will become a reality within this decade and it will be made possible through the use of networks.

So let's talk for a moment about networks and how they can support decision-making.

Network-centric operations rely on a super network that collects, interprets and routes valuable information to those who need it.

So when you need information or need to make a decision rapidly, the network provides the right information at the right time.

Certainly we all know about communication networks, for they are a basic part of society today.

Think about the looks you would get from your kids if you were to tell them you don't "surf" the net. You might as well be from another planet.

But network operations in the context that I'll speak about today involve more than using the Internet or establishing an email account.

It's about much more than connectivity.

It's about using a network to turn data into information and using that information to make decisions... It's about making the data work for you.

So, let's explore the use of a network for battlefield management.

You've just seen a video that talked about what might have happened at several historic battles if the commanders had access to better information.

What if --- today you were commanding an entire squadron of fighter aircraft and knew exactly what your colleagues at sea and undersea were doing?

What if --- you had the ability to receive data from many sources - from Space to beneath the ocean - and could sort out only what you need to make the right decision?

What would be saved? Hours? Minutes? And how many Lives?

So let's talk about these "what ifs." I believe the use of networks in battlefield management will have the broadest and most profound effects imaginable.

In fact, I believe that network-centric operations will fundamentally change the way we fight wars and collect intelligence.

We call this the Integrated Battlespace, a vision for the future where everyone on the network shares information and communicates to and through each other while following the commander's established rules of engagement.

Everyone has the ability to get access to the data needed, to turn that data into information, and to make rapid decisions, in fact faster than the adversary can respond.

It doesn't matter if you are in a submarine or flying overhead or crawling through the jungle, all members are connected through this super network, sharing information and making decisions inside - or ahead of - the opponent's timeline.

In the United States, we have a saying that sums this up: "the left hand knows what the right hand is doing."

I am told that in Italian, with apologies for my poor Italian accent, a similar phrase is: "Si tratta che la mano sinistra quello che fa la destra."

In whatever language you say it, the Integrated Battlespace enables anyone on the network to answer questions commanders have today, such as:

Knowing those answers will help you make decisions that result in improved mission performance. As the video said: "Act first and you will win."

But this is a change in how we operate today, and this change must be effective in the battlefield... human lives depend on it.

So, what is required to achieve this transformation? Three steps:

Let's discuss the network technology first: At the basic level, a common architecture must be developed and used by everyone - one with common interfaces, common standards, and common protocols.

Just as today when you plug in your computer and have instant access, so too this network must connect with, that is, interoperate, with all of its nodes, regardless of platform, type of system, or location.

Access is seamless, transparent, and it is immediate.

This common architecture must be adopted by everyone in the network; those who fail to adapt will be left out and will be less effective.

The transition to network-centric operations not only involves technology but also requires a change in culture, a change in the way things have been done in the past.

Every branch of the military and member of the international coalition must adopt this common network architecture in warfare.

Enabling the use of this network in warfare presents a final challenge. It requires that new technologies be developed and applied to the battlefield network.

Let me mention the top four of these technologies:

So, how close are we?

Today a strong foundation is being laid where these technologies are being matured and applied to operational systems, platform by platform and system by system. Continued progress along this path will ultimately define the integrated battlespace that I have described.

In the last year alone, work began on several key programs, such as Future Combat Systems, the Joint Tactical Radio System, and the Family of Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals, which, taken as a whole, are establishing a new concept of operating in the tactical battlefield for the next 20 years - one that relies on the network.

It is programs like these that will use network technology to get the information to the decision-maker - not in a few hours or days --- but RIGHT NOW - because in the battlefield, time is precious.

Since September 11, the world has learned to appreciate more than ever the uncertainty and vulnerability that people feel when threatened by terrorists.

Clearly, access to information will play a major role in giving our military and civil authorities the timely information they need to make the decisions necessary to defeat emerging threats to our way of life.

Today, I've spoken about the challenges we face in making the Intergated Battlespace a reality, and about some of the technologies and cultural changes that, when made, will help develop a capability that preserves the peace.

I am very optimistic that those of us in this room can help create the future that I have described.

I base that belief on what our industry has already achieved, on what we are doing together now, and what we can achieve in the years ahead through partnership and cooperation.

What if --- network-centric operations could be incorporated into the very heart of our operating concepts, our technology development, and our decision process?

What if --- we were, through network centric operations, better equipped to protect the peace and defend our nations?

What if --- peace and the pursuit of happiness were once again the freedoms enjoyed by people everywhere?

So, what will tomorrow bring?

I believe that if we harness today's network technologies in new and different ways, that we can create a safer and better world for our children and our children's children.

That's why I am highly optimistic. And I hope you share my enthusiasm for the future.

Thank you.