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American Forces Press Service

'Horizontal Fusion' Makes Troops Less Vulnerable, More Lethal

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2003 -- The Defense Department's unquenchable quest to make troops less vulnerable and more lethal has led to a concept called "horizontal fusion."

Horizontal fusion is a DoD transformation initiative focused on enabling "net- centric" warfare.

DoD officials said net-centric warfare is a concept of operations with information superiority and the ability to make sense of that information as its foundation. The idea is to increase combat power by utilizing all assets in the field and at home to link decision makers and shooters electronically. With access to the same information at the same time, they achieve shared awareness, increased speed of command, higher tempo of operations, greater lethality, increased survivability and a degree of self-synchronization, officials said.

"Net-centric warfare has a lot of implications," said Marian Cherry, the horizontal fusion portfolio manager in DoD's Networks and Information Integration Office. "But the major thing is to be able to communicate, work in real time with anybody, anywhere, to solve a problem.

"That means, if I need to talk to a DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), CIA or J-2 (military intelligence) analyst all at one time to collaborate on a problem, I can do that," she continued. "I can connect everybody up, and they can have a collaboration session -- chat back and forth to solve the problem. That's one aspect of net-centric warfighting."

In other words, net-centric warfare is the flexibility in providing battlefield intelligence from intelligence analysts or commander to troops in the field and from the troops to the commander, all the way down to platoon, squad and small groups of special operations personnel on a clandestine mission, Cherry said.

Net-centric warfare is a higher rung on warfighting's evolutionary ladder, Cherry said.

"We're evolving from where in the past the systems were in charge," she said. The systems performed a function and spit a product out. You were at the mercy of whatever that product was. We constantly built new systems because the products needed to be improved."

Net-centric warfare puts the users in charge of defining, looking for and discovering the information they need, Cherry said, "so over time, we can evolve the systems into providing the information that the user really requires -- and we can do it without spending tons and tons and tons of money, building system after system after system that stand alone and don't talk to one another."

In August, DoD launched a live exercise of net-centric capabilities called Quantum Leap-1. The exercise demonstrated horizontal fusion operations at a variety of military locations across the country.

The horizontal fusion portfolio was launched Jan. 20, 2003, in response to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's vision of transforming the department. It's slated to continue through 2008, expanding and accelerating DoD's net- centric capabilities, Cherry said.

The horizontal fusion concept is the key to net-centric warfare, she explained.

Horizontal fusion is the ability to integrate data from disparate sources for rapid and effective decision-making to make U.S. forces less vulnerable and more lethal, Cherry said.

"The most important aspect of horizontal fusion for the troops in the field is for them to be able to get the information that's relevant to them so they can maintain situational awareness around them," Cherry noted. "Today, they're concentrating in a specific area, but tomorrow, they may be somewhere else. Next week, they may be even further away.

"Therefore," she continued, "they need to be able to pull information to them as they move, so they know what they're walking into and how to best handle it. As near-real time as possible, situational awareness is probably the best thing that horizontal fusion can do for them."

Cherry noted the Army is working on a program called Future Combat System and Land Warrior System. "The work we're doing in horizontal fusion is actually the lead-in to Land Warrior," she said.

"They're trying to equip each soldier with computing capacity," Cherry continued. "Soldiers would actually have the hardware or the capability built into their clothing, which can do a number of things: It will get you the information you need and also provide the ability to better track enemy and blue forces. If you can better track the forces, you have better situational awareness of what's going on in the field." Mistakes will be minimized.

The Army's Land Warrior System gives a soldier a tiny computer and add-ons such as a Global Positioning System receiver, a "heads-up" display and gun-mounted video cameras.

A Land Warrior System-equipped soldier, Cherry explained, could peer around a corner by holding out his weapon with the camera attached to see what's there. The soldier also could fire around the corner while exposing only his hands, she said.

Cherry said this year's horizontal fusion portfolio consisted of 13 initiatives designed to provide improved intelligence and operations communication and support for joint task forces and tactical units engaged in hostile action.

Speaking of these emerging capabilities, Rumsfeld said, "Possibly the single most transforming thing in our force will not be a weapon system, but a set of interconnections and a substantially enhanced capability because of that awareness."

Rumsfeld's vision of force transformation depends upon the creation of "a net- centric integration of intelligence, military operations and information technology that will ensure warfighters have immediate and direct access to the information they need."

Cherry pointed out that not everything was flawless during the Quantum Leap-1.

"We lost the operational SIPRNET (a secure DoD Internet) halfway through the exercise. That was not expected," Cherry said. "The good news was (that) we were able to continue in a net-centric fashion, albeit a smaller community, until the operational SIPRNET came back up.

"Very few people recognized that the communications line were down," she continued. "We'd already downloaded quite a bit of information, and could continue to execute the missions."

Overall, the demonstration went better than imagined, Cherry said. "The next thing is the 2004 portfolio. We have a number of proposals in, and we're in the process of getting that list approved." The next demonstration is scheduled for August 2004, she said.

"The demonstration is just a story to show where we are in terms of implementing net-centric operations," Cherry explained. "It's not all about the story; it's all about the capability."

Cherry said the majority of Quantum Leap-1 scenarios in the demonstration were military combat operations. The demonstration also included a simulated commercial aircraft incursion and a cargo ship that the Coast Guard was sent to intercept.

"So horizontal fusion has applications other than strictly military combat operations, and we're hoping to expand," Cherry said. "The State Department and NATO will be working with us in 2004 in terms of working out how DoD can support other federal agencies and our allies."

She said horizontal fusion is operational now, but it's not yet in widespread use throughout DoD.

"We need to make sure we can provide a trusted network that's reliable -- that people can use and have a lot of faith in," Cherry said. "If they don't have faith in it and don't trust it, they won't use it."

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