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Saturday, November 13, 2004The Pentagon is building its own Internet, the military's world wide web for the wars of the future. The Pentagon calls the secure network the Global Information Grid, or GIG. It may take two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build the new war net and its components. The goal is to give all American commanders and troops a moving picture of all foreign enemies and threats - "a God's-eye view" of battle.
This "Internet in the sky," Peter Teets, under secretary of the Air Force, told Congress, would be the infrastructure for realtime system covering all defence operations. Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet and a Pentagon consultant on the war net, said he wondered if the military's dream was realistic. "I want to make sure what we realize is vision and not hallucination," Mr. Cerf said. "This is sort of like Star Wars, where the policy was, 'Let's go out and build this system,' and technology lagged far behind,'' he said. "There's nothing wrong with having ambitious goals. You just need to temper them with physics and reality."
Advocates say networked computers will be the most powerful weapon in the American arsenal. Fusing weapons, secret intelligence and soldiers in a global network - what they call net-centric warfare - will, they say, change the military in the way the Internet has changed business and culture. "Possibly the single most transforming thing in our force,'' Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said, "will not be a weapons system, but a set of interconnections." Over all, $200 billion or more may go for the war net's hardware and software in the next decade or so. To realize this vision, the military must solve a persistent problem. It all boils down to bandwidth. Bandwidth measures how much data can flow between electronic devices. Too little for civilians means a Web page takes forever to load. Too little for soldiers means the war net will not work. The bandwidth requirements seem bottomless. The military will need 40 or 50 times what it used at the height of the Iraq war last year, a Rand Corporation study estimates - enough to give front-line soldiers bandwidth equal to downloading three feature-length movies a second. In a net-centric world, "you would not have a Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines," but a unified force, said William Owens, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. |
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