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2003 Speeches

Roger Roberts

Senior Vice President, Space & Intelligence Systems

Boeing IDS

"Network-Centric Operations"

Network-Centric Operations 2003

Washington, D.C.

April 16, 2003

Good afternoon and welcome. It's a pleasure to share the platform with such esteemed colleagues.

Today I am going to talk about the concept of network centric operations, how it works, and what is being done to apply this powerful concept to our military forces and intelligence agencies.

Simply stated, network-centric operations uses the power of a network to access information from far-reaching resources in order to make timely, effective, and sometimes life-saving decisions.

What if - you were commanding an entire squadron of fighter aircraft and could draw upon data from many sources - from Space to beneath the ocean - and sort out only what you need to make the right decision?

What if - you were a Fire Captain called to an emergency and, before your wheels were rolling, were able to assess the situation and know exactly what medical personnel would be required on the scene?

What could be saved - hours? Minutes? LIVES?

This type of network operation is not only possible, but it's fast becoming a reality.

So, let's talk about the network for a moment.

A common example used to depict a network is the Internet, which, of course, is a household word today.

Families plan vacations, locate friends, purchase items, and stay connected using the Internet.

Just about any fact that you want to learn is available there, at your fingertips, by keying in a few words and letting the network gather the data and provide you with access to that information.

And a value of this network is that it acts as a "living entity." By this, I mean that it is constantly receiving new data, cataloging it, and storing it so that those in search can find the most up-to-date information easily and quickly.

For many businesses, the mere posting of a website on the Internet has generated increased sales and profits.

Think about the ads and commercials you see today. No one leaves off their web address.

When we think of the Internet, we think of access to information.

Now, lets imagine that you could not only get access to the information, but, through the use of "intelligent software," could actually turn that information into actionable knowledge - that is - make the information work for you.

As an example, the newest Mercedes BenzTM model is able to evaluate the maintenance and repairs necessary based on the habits of the individual driver. The driver who uses the vehicle to its full capability will require maintenance sooner than those who drive it to the corner and back each day.

This car's "intelligence" is able to assess the wear and tear on the vehicle and, based on that, make maintenance recommendations.

Let's plug the car into our network and assume that the car can communicate with your palm pilot to provide you with the required maintenance schedule.

And, using intelligent software, your palm pilot takes this information and does two things: examines your calendar and then, based on that, schedules a maintenance appointment for you, electronically, at your dealer.

The dealer is on the same network, and, of course, knows your preferred service times and has reserved a convenient time for your appointment.

Let's look at another example, this time in the area of battlefield management.

What if - a battlefield commander had access to information about where his troops are, location of weaponry available, location of coalition forces, even logistical data such as road conditions or weather reports?

Now let's add to that information the location of the adversary, and what he's doing.

And, let's enable the commander to run a few modeling scenarios to predict the outcome of alternative battle plans under consideration.

The network allows decisions to be made that favor the outcome of the battlefield. The network provides actionable information, rapidly, and it gives the battlefield commander the ability to act before the opponent can even think about his next move.

This network allows the commander to save lives and win wars.

That's the value of network-centric operations.

What if this same network served every soldier, airman, marine or sailor by providing information that's relevant to them?

No one would ever be alone in the battlefield.

For those in weaponry, the network assists them with targeting the adversary.

For those in command and control, the network provides fused information to enable a decision to be made rapidly, in fact, faster than the enemy can respond.

Now that we've discussed the value of network-centric operations, let's talk about the steps to applying it to the battlefield.

There are three steps to this journey:

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

This is a basic principle that is used today in the commercial industry.

Just as today when you plug in your computer and have instant access, so too this network must 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, whether a legacy or a new system; 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. This is perhaps the toughest challenge of the three.

In a warfare scenario, every branch of the military and member of the international coalition must adopt a common network architecture:

Enabling the use of this network in warfare presents a final challenge. This will lead to new concepts of operation, ConOps, that are based on having available information in near real-time. It also requires that new technologies be developed and applied to the battlefield network.

Let me mention the top five 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.

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.

Although the examples I mentioned are based on military programs, the technology is completely transferable to other applications, such as homeland security.

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.

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 battlefield operating concepts, our technology development, and our decision process?

What if - using network centric operations, our first responders, such as police, firemen and emergency medical personnel, were better equipped to protect the peace and assist those in trouble?

I believe that if we harness today's network technologies in new and different ways, that we can achieve this vision of a single network providing the information necessary to act decisively.

Over the years, there have been skeptics who believed integrated systems would never be adopted and that we would continue to be "platform-centric."

Well, it is exciting indeed to see that we are overcoming this inertia, and a number of network-centric, lead systems (LSI) integration developments are now underway.

Today, LSI does not carry the baggage of a TSPR-type of arrangement because Government and industry are working together under this arrangement to bring integrated solutions to the warfighter.

So, network-centric operations is not just a vision; it's a reality. I believe that each of us has the ability to help our country to achieve this capability.

I hope you share my enthusiasm for a network-centric future.

Thank you.