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American Forces Press Service

Networkcentric Warfare Makes Warfighting More Efficient

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Servi

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2005 Networkcentric warfare streamlines the warfighting process at the operational level, the director of global operations for U.S. Strategic Command said at a conference here May 17.

Navy Rear Adm. Thomas Zelibor, who spoke during the Technet International 2005 conference, said he realized before the beginning of the global war on terrorism that accepted ways of information sharing were not working well enough. Zelibor is director of global operations for U.S. Strategic Command.

The traditional approach pushed through a lot of information, resulting in delays pinning down answers, he said.

In July 2000, when Zelibor assumed duties as commander of Carrier Group 3 and the Carl Vinson Battle Group, he decided the command was "not going to do business as usual."

"I thought, 'What the heck, we're just going to go do Southern Watch in Iraq, and we'll try something different,'" Zelibor said.

The networkcentric method that Zelibor implemented served to speed up the process of sifting through the volumes of information received daily. The traditional method was simply too slow and laborious, he said.

While speed and agility in information sharing is crucial, those aspects must be balanced with security. Zelibor said he was not aware of any studies that proved the old method was more secure than the networkcentric method.

"We need some level of security, but we go too far when it restricts our ability to act and attack," he said. "Our security system should resemble something more like a Kevlar body vest than full body armor."

On Sept. 11, 2001, he was assigned responsibilities as the commander of Task Force 50, in charge of a three-carrier task force in the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Adding new players who were not used to his methods of doing things could have caused problems. However, Zelibor said, he was pleasantly surprised with the results.

"The results at the operational level: Networkcentric warfare made us far more effective," Zelibor said. "Our team was in sync and made far more efficient, faster and more responsive than the old way of doing business."

The change from the old way of doing business to a networkcentric-warfare approach didn't happen overnight. Nor will the change throughout the military be instantaneous, he said.

"It will take persistent, passionate leadership driven to change the current culture to make networkcentric warfare our standard way of doing business," he said. "I think leadership and culture will determine the future of networkcentric warfare at the strategic level."

Networkcentric warfare is at a crossroads, though, he said. That crossroads is satisfying the need to know, the need to share and the right to know in a culture that always has hesitated to reveal too much to too many.

Sharing of knowledge is necessary if all entities are to work together as a team, he said. And that applies not just to inter-service communications. It's also necessary to keep international allies in the loop.

"Recent history has shown us that when America finds itself in a street fight, (England and Australia) are with us like our older brothers when we were young kids," Zelibor said. "And I contend that they have a right to know, and we need to make sure that we keep them in the loop on all our decision-making processes."

He said that while we tend to depend on the support of the two countries we also tend to put up firewalls that prevent them from fully integrating into the fight.

"We need to embrace interdependence at all levels and across the continuum of government, private sector, agencies, allies and ... industry," he said.

Ultimately, Zelibor said, it is leadership and culture that will determine the success of networkcentric warfare at the strategic level.

"My experience with networkcentric warfare at the operational level is just scratching the surface on how far we can go with this approach," he said.

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