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With the new DARPA technology, soldiers are getting more and
better information. But some experts say that for the soldiers
to be truly empowered, military doctrine and organization will
need to change too. "I have seen one after another of these inter-
esting networking technologies come along, and none of them
has made a dent in the institutional resistance to organizational
change or doctrinal innovation," says John Arquilla, a professor
of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey,
CA, who is a progenitor of the concept of network organization
in the military. Yes, he says, patrol leaders can now enter infor-
mation into the system more easily. But "we still have divisional-,
brigade-, and battalion-level structures, mostly on supersized
forward operating bases, with the number of smaller outposts
relatively few. If we are going to talk about a networked warfare,
we need to put the network front and center in our thinking." One
way to do that is to deploy soldiers in smaller groups with more
authority to make decisions.
That's what happened in 2001, when special-operations
forces were chasing al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the mountains
of Afghanistan. When a team identified a target, it did not have
to send a report up the chain of command and wait for a decision
before acting. It could call on comrades and even call in air strikes.
"If you believe that the real implication of the Information Age
is the empowerment of small groups---and if there is any lesson
from 9/11, that is it---we are really talking about information that
allows small groups of people to do striking things," says Arquilla.
The Iraq counterinsurgency should fight the same way the special
forces fought in Afghanistan, he says.
Still, even without the kinds of organizational changes that
Arquilla is advocating (see "Network Warfare," p. 12), DARPA's new
software system is empowering frontline soldiers and shaping
operations. For example, in a telephone interview from Camp
Falcon, 28-year-old Captain David Lively described how TIGR
once helped soldiers track down a pair of mortar attackers. One
night, Lively recalled, soldiers on patrol radioed back to base that
they were being shelled. At the base, other soldiers tapped into
the database and quickly found earlier reports of mortars com-
ing from an intersection of two canals in the vicinity. "TIGR pro-
vided some real-time history to where we could look back where
a common source was coming from," Lively said. The soldiers at
the base radioed the findings to their comrades and to a circling
Apache helicopter. The pilot headed for the spot and was able to
pursue a fleeing pickup truck with mortar tubes in its bed.
Michaelis says such anecdotes are not uncommon. "I can't name
the number of times that patrol leaders and company commanders
have turned to me and stated [that] their most important tool they
have to fight this fight has been TIGR," he wrote. "I've had ... time-
sensitive operations that were able to make associations between
the target being handed to them and local residents, [allowing the
soldiers to find insurgents who otherwise would have escaped].
I've had patrol leaders avoid potential IED hot spots or pass on
IED tactics to their fellow patrol leaders."
And the technology is poised to expand. For now, it is accessible
only at military bases. The next step, says Maeda, is to install it in
Humvees and other military vehicles, allowing soldiers to down-
load and act on new information in real time. Some of these vehicles
already have some low-bandwidth connections, and Maeda says
DARPA is working on ways to make the software work using these
thin pipes. In addition, the system may soon deliver new kinds of
information. In the next two to three years, it could o er surveil-
lance pictures from circling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or
other sensor systems. It could store biometric information, so
that a soldier could see if a civilian being interviewed was a known
insurgent suspect. "There is a whole list of enhancements that users
have requested that we want to fill," Maeda says.
If those enhancements are realized, the result will look a lot
like a deployed version of what the Pentagon's big R&D programs
have been pursuing. But TIGR is growing organically, in response
to the needs of soldiers on the ground. It might be going too far
to say that this technology will be the one to force doctrinal and
organizational change; perhaps not everyone will embrace it. "No
doubt it causes discomfort in those comfortable in traditional intel
development," Michaelis writes. As O'Neal points out, however,
everyone involved in fighting the Iraq insurgency is motivated
to save soldiers' lives by every means possible. In some cases, it's
quite personal. "I'm focused on contemporary technology for the
current force," O'Neal says. "It's all for my son."
DAVID TALBOT IS TECHNOLOGY REVIEW'S CHIEF CORRESPONDENT.
IRAQ WAR DATA
Cumulative number of entries, including events (such as attacks, site
visits, meetings, and discovery of weapons caches) and places (such
as mosques, checkpoints, and boundaries), in the Tactical Ground
Reporting System (TIGR) database available to patrol leaders.
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