Pentagon Eyeing Google, Blogs

An influential advisory panel to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is exploring the military implications of powerful Internet search engines like Google, online journals and other new tools for accessing and distributing information.

Kenneth Krieg, under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, has directed the Defense Science Board to conduct a summer study examining “Information Management for Net-Centric Operations.” The goal is to ensure that the Defense Department has in place the proper information networks to sustain future operations.

Information and the networks that carry it “are the lifeblood of military and civil operations,” Krieg wrote in a March 15 memo that will guide the work of the six- to nine-month assessment. The acquisition executive has told the panel to assess the Pentagon's “strategy, scope and progress toward achieving a robust and adaptive net-centric DOD enterprise.”

Over the last few decades the military has significantly improved its combat effectiveness by introducing computer microprocessors to nearly every facet of its enterprise. Using computers and new communication tools, the Defense Department has improved interoperability across the services and facilitated unprecedented levels of information sharing.

“During the past ten years we have seen the evolution of military missions driven by adaptive adversaries who recognize our increasing dependence on information networks,” Krieg wrote. “Going forward, transformation must focus on addressing the stresses imposed by 21st century mission challenges associated with stabilization and reconstruction operations in urban and unconventional environments and responses to unforeseen events with catastrophic consequences.”

Among the challenges facing U.S. military networks and those who maintain them is the need to maintain adequate levels of security, integrity and reliability, according to Krieg.

“As new users demand more information and adaptive information sharing, improved knowledge utilization and better tools for information discovery will become critically important,” he wrote. “'Googling' and ‘blogging' are making their way into military operations at all levels, but the full implications of this revolution are as yet unknown and we have no clear direction and defined doctrine.”

The summer study task force -- being led by Vincent Vitto, president of the Draper Laboratory, and Ronald Kerber, a private consultant -- is tackling three sets of issues.

First, it is examining the “implications of new and innovative” approaches to command and control structure, capabilities and processes, according to Krieg. This includes considering the military's growing need to share information with other federal agencies, coalition partners and non-governmental organizations, which is driven by stability and reconstruction operations, supporting civil authorities in the wake of a massive domestic terrorist attack and countering the proliferation -- and possible use -- of a weapon of mass destruction.

Second, the study is to “evaluate the underlying framework, architecture” and organization of the Defense Department's information enterprise, Krieg wrote. “Explore enterprise-wide cost/risk trades between bandwidth, quality of service, network availability, network security, information integrity, information sharing and collaboration,” the memo states.

Lastly, Krieg has directed the panel to investigate cutting-edge tools for “knowledge utilization.”

Specifically, the acquisition executive wants a report on new approaches to information discovery, information sharing in a secured networked environment, visualization and collaboration.

In addition to examining the implications of Internet search engines and websites on future military command and control capabilities, the Defense Department is actively looking at how such readily available information tools affect the military's strategic communication capabilities.

Commercially available technologies have made rapid transmission of images and information widely accessible. This not only has implications for command and control, as the Defense Science Board is examining, but also for the Defense Department's strategic communications capabilities.

This issue is the subject of a major post-Quadrennial Defense Review assessment through which the Pentagon is examining how the military can be more effective against extremist organizations and individuals not only on the battlefield, but in the media.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a Feb. 17 speech, issued a far-reaching call for improving the government's strategic communications capabilities in order to more effectively combat extremist organizations and individuals in the media.

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