COMMENTARY

The shift to net-enabled warfare

The doctrine of network-centric warfare might not have changed, but the emphasis on enabling warfighters has

During the past decade, the transformative idea of network-centric warfare has gone from concept to reality. Communications, sensor and information networks have clearly become central to military operations today.

Yet, it’s hard to ignore a distinct shift in emphasis being articulated by senior military leaders — in particular, those responsible for developing, operating, extending and defending the networks used in the context of fighting wars and responding to other military needs.  It’s a shift that has been taking place for some time and one that was certainly reflected again in speeches at last month’s LandWarNet conference and the Defense Information Systems Agency industry forecast.

The shift we’re speaking of is the degree to which enabling the warfighter, in addition to improving the fundamental efficiency and agility of the technology itself, has emerged at the center of network-centric warfare efforts. Putting the warfighter at the fore underscores the fact that networks enable leadership and warfighters--at the enterprise and at the combat level--to secure a winning advantage, not vice versa.

Make no mistake, the network as a system of systems and notion of net-centric warfare, envisioned in the mid- to late-1990s by the likes of Adm. William Owens, Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski and John Garstka for achieving an information advantage, have always been about supporting the warfighting effort and, by default, the warfighter.  Continuing advances in technology and military operations, however, have created new and revolutionary possibilities in communications, intelligence sensors, precision weapons, and command and control systems. That, in turn, has accelerated the need for new and more powerful ways to make information more immediately available, discoverable and actionable.

Although the doctrine and viability of network-centric warfare hasn’t fundamentally changed, its emphasis has shifted to what might more accurately be described as network-enabled warfare.

The difference might seem minor. But we believe it more adequately describes the intent and desired outcome of the programs and technology developments we continue to cover in print each month and online each day at Defense Systems. And it’s why we have redefined Defense Systems tagline that appears on our cover, beginning this month, from "Knowledge Technologies and Net-Centric Warfare" to “Knowledge Technologies and Net-Enabled Warfare."

It's a term and a distincition that is being used increasingly in the defense community. It's also not without precedent: It’s how the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence has been describing their comparable effort to integrate communications and information systems, operational procedures, and knowledge to improve military operations.

This more precise and evolved definition reflects our continuing commitment to keep Defense Systems' focus relevant, current and ahead of the curve in covering information sharing and knowledge technologies; communications; command and control systems; and information, surveillance and reconnaissance systems essential to wartime and peacekeeping activities.

Reader Comments

Mon, Aug 30, 2010 Dave K

It's about time! With Doctrine that attempts to treat Cyberspace as an environment similar to land, sea, air or space, net-centric put the focus on the gadgets instead of the warriors. "Net-centric warfare" was always BS... but it made a good buzzword. "Net-enabled warfare" is so much closer to reality, but frankly, still obscures the fact that communications networks have ALWAYS been part of warfare; whether they are electronic or electric, or older physical systems like signal balloons, or runners carrying messages.

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