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New Tools Available for Network-Centric Warfare 70

Posted by samzenpus
from the click-and-destroy dept.
Reservoir Hill writes "MIT Technology Review reports that a new map-based application is the latest tool in the military's long-term plan to introduce what is sometimes called "network-centric warfare." The Tactical Ground Reporting System, or TIGR allows patrol leaders in Iraq to learn about city landmarks and past events and more than 1,500 junior officers in Iraq — about a fifth of patrol leaders — are using the map-centric application before going on patrol and adding new data to TIGR upon returning. By clicking on icons and lists, they can see the locations of key buildings, like mosques, schools, and hospitals, and retrieve information such as location data on past attacks, geotagged photos of houses and other buildings (taken with cameras equipped with Global Positioning System technology), and photos of suspected insurgents and neighborhood leaders. They can even listen to civilian interviews and watch videos of past maneuvers. "The ability ... to draw the route ... of your patrol that day and then to access the collective reports, media, analysis of the entire organization, is pretty powerful," says Major Patrick Michaelis. "It is a bit revolutionary from a military perspective when you think about it, using peer-based information to drive the next move. ... Normally we are used to our higher headquarters telling the patrol leader what he needs to think.""
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New Tools Available for Network-Centric Warfare

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  • and here's... (Score:5, Informative)

    by owlnation (858981) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:00AM (#22557608)
    ... the print friendly version [technologyreview.com] so you don't get attacked by the annoying ads.....
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)
      Call me a slashdotter, but I think they should get gamers' input for things like this. After hundreds of hours of Insurgency [insmod.net] and BF2 I can also attest that overhead maps are insanely helpful in planning large maneuvers when in command, though you need to actually know the level inside and out to actually get anything done as a foot soldier. Not really appropriate to the less-realistic Battlefield, but in Insurgency at least, effective peer-to-peer communication is absolutely essential to winning the round
    • by museumpeace (735109) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:52AM (#22558812) Journal
      if used by 911 dispatchers, with feedback from police, fire an EMTs, this sort of a system could lead to police who knew where ambush was possible, firemen who knew when a building was condemned or had toxic or explosive contents, alleyways too narrow for an ambulance and so forth...before they scramble.
      • What you are asking for is "inter-agency data-sharing [google.com]". It is, indeed, very powerful, but "Big Brother" concerns [google.com] — largely but not entirely imaginary — stand in the way...

      • Good idea, but it has been around for a while.

        Google for "GIS" + "law enforcement" or "disaster response", to see lots of sources. For example ESRI [esri.com] produces several products for these purposes.

        The most recent trends are to add real-time synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and knowledge sharing capabilities on top of the basic GIS "maps + database", to get capabilities like those required in military command and control applications.

        As mentioned above, inter-agency cooperation [and inter-operabil

  • I'd like to have that app just to describe the area where I live. I wish I'd been able to work on it... the other geeks always get all the fun :-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ChefInnocent (667809)
      Perhaps you should look at the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (TIGER) data published by the Census bureau. It is a cool set of map files. You can find more at http://www.census.gov/geo/www/tiger/ [census.gov].

      I know the transportation departments across the country use the files.
  • You'd think... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by nagora (177841)
    that these guys were constantly under threat from some uber-opponent instead of being the most over-funded organisation in history, capable of literally destroying all life on Earth. Why do they need MORE technology? Shouldn't they have to wait until they can use what they already have properly?

    TWW

    • Re:You'd think... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:17AM (#22557760)

      Shouldn't they have to wait until they can use what they already have properly?
      I do believe that this technology is enabling them to properly use what they already have.
    • that they should give up some tech, and increase the risk to their lives? or give some tech to an enemy? i don't understand what motivates your thinking
      • by nagora (177841)
        My point is that the military get far too much funding. I don't give a damn, frankly, if they're at risk. I didn't ask them to go and fight for Haliburton. They wanted the job and they expect everyone else to stump up the cost.

        TWW

        • you have a very cocooned and typical point of view of a lot western children (children in mind, if not actual chronological age), who have seen no real menace in their lives, and therefore see no reason to fight menace. this coddled pampered view becomes so stilted as to actually see menace in that which exists to protect them from menace. this is a flawed perspective on the reality of the world we live in, that is only possible to develop if you live in a hermetically sealed climate controlled world, disco
          • by nagora (177841) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @01:07PM (#22560174)
            you have a very cocooned and typical point of view of a lot western children (children in mind, if not actual chronological age), who have seen no real menace in their lives, and therefore see no reason to fight menace.

            Yes, apart from being blown up by the IRA, having my grandmother shot dead and a friend blown to pieces it's all been pillows, harps, and peeled grapes here.

            I see menace in the wasp's nest, and I see menace in the fool who stirrs the wasp's nest up. Which is more evil?

            Take your head out of your ass and take a look around once in a while.

            TWW

            • the people who stir up the nest are not responsible

              better analogy: guy holds someone hostage. he says if the police try to rescue the hostage, he'll shoot the hostage. the police try to rescue the hostage, and screw it up. so the guy shoots the hostage

              who is responsible for the dead hostage?

              the guy who shot the hostage, 100%

              if you believe the police in any way are responsible for the dead hostage, then you believe that governmental authority and rights are more important than individual responsibility and r
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)
      FTFA:

      "One of the very first things we did in looking at the IED problem was to recognize that the army is trying to fight an insurgency with a pretty blunt instrument," [Walter Perry, a senior researcher at the Rand think tank in Arlington, VA, and a Vietnam-era army signals officer] says. "This is about 90 percent police work and 10 percent violent conflicts. Patrols--the cop on a beat--fill out a report saying, Here is what I did. You get situational awareness."

      So to answer your question, they need more technology because 90% of the time, they're operating outside their core competency.

      All Baghdad needed from the outset was police on the ground to prevent it from degenerating into the Sunni/Shi'a/USA clusterfuck it is today. In 2003, US troops were not prepared for that job, nor were their bosses prepared for that eventuality, even though many people had accurately predicted what was going to happen.

      It's nice to see the boys at the RAND Institute saying that

      • by rickb928 (945187)
        "All Baghdad needed from the outset was police on the ground to prevent it from degenerating into the Sunni/Shi'a/USA clusterfuck it is today. In 2003, US troops were not prepared for that job, nor were their bosses prepared for that eventuality, even though many people had accurately predicted what was going to happen."

        It sounds as if you're stating that all Baghdad needed back then was some police.

        Which police force would you have put in place back then? Saddam's gang? The Iraqi Army? which one?

        Our Arm
        • by bentcd (690786)

          ps- domestic terrorism in the USA is pretty rare.
          This is mostly due to bias. A school shooting in Baghdad would be labeled as a terrorist attack whereas the same type of incident in the US will be labeled as a crime.
        • by CmdrGravy (645153)
          Either of those would probably have been better than nothing but why would 'nothing' even be an option ? The US Govt knew it was going to invade, it knew it was going to dismantle all the existing civil frameworks so why didn't it plan for an effective replacement ?

          • by rickb928 (945187)
            You presume the US military did not plan for an 'effective replacement'.

            Something like complaining about why your favorite NFL quarterback didn't throw the pass to the *OPEN* receiver, instead of the guy that was covered. Or your favorite striker not bending the ball around the keeper, but instead drilling into his belly...

            In hindsight, much seems flawed. At the moment, either the military chose wrong options in the heat of the moment (example the first, above) or simply did not execute or choose the righ
    • by zchang (1068706)
      With an attitude like that, I'm surprised that you're even on the internet. Your opinion could just as easily be written on pen and paper and exchanged over drinks at the local pub, but your ability to reach a large audience would be severely limited. Instead, you grace the rest of the world with your presence on Slashdot so that we can revel in your wisdom. Personal remarks aside. This is the entire gist of what makes systems like TIGR so effective and are the best areas to spend tax dollars. Improvem
    • by vacaboca (691496)
      What is interesting to me is that this "over-funding" is what resulted in the Internet that you rely upon to complain that these guys are getting some tools to help protect themselves from those that wish them harm (and have a clearly-demonstrated ability to do so, uber or not).

      Our nation's military and intelligence community is in an interesting, somewhat unique time in history where it is able to benefit from technology created outside of the defense world rather than the other way around. I'm always gr

      • by nagora (177841)
        What is interesting to me is that this "over-funding" is what resulted in the Internet

        Yes, because we'd not be able to do scientific research without killing people. That money would all just go to waste.

        TWW

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oodaloop (1229816)
      As a defense contractor who's worked on (and taught) Net-centricity and as a former Marine, I can say that what we're facing is an enemy that is capable of much more speed and agility than we are. The whole point of Net-centric warfare is to move away from top-down Cold War era Command and Control to something more along the lines of what these emergent, adaptive, complex terrorist and insurgent networks use. Intead of wasting time and energy trying to adapt to a moving target, so to speak, these kinds of
    • by s2jcpete (989386)
      This technology is what people in the military call a force multiplier. It allows infantry to operate more efficiently due to increased knowledge of what is going on in the ground in their area of operations. I also would say the cost of something like this is very small in the scheme of things (compared to oh say, life insurance payouts to some grieving family when a squad gets ambushed). I'm former infantry and would have loved something like this.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mckinnsb (984522)
      I don't think so.

      I was opposed to this war from the beginning (my opinion has since become more complex), but I think this technology will help end it.

      If you read the article, it alludes to the fact that one of the main reasons we (the United States) are losing against insurgents (and have lost against guerrilla warfare in general), is because the manner in which they act and share information is vastly different from the way the US Army operates.

      In the US army, systems like this have already exis

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by trongey (21550)

        ...we (the United States) are losing against insurgents (and have lost against guerrilla warfare in general), is because the manner in which they act and share information is vastly different from the way the US Army operates.
        And this is supremely ironic when you consider how the US came to be an independent nation. Apparently our military leaders didn't pay much attention in their high school history classes.
        • by couchslug (175151)
          "And this is supremely ironic when you consider how the US came to be an independent nation."

          Not really. The decisive Revolutionary War battles were not only conventional, but fought with considerable help from the icky French. :)
      • by nagora (177841)
        I was opposed to this war from the beginning (my opinion has since become more complex), but I think this technology will help end it

        Military blunders are rarely fixed by military solutions.

        TWW

    • by jotok (728554)
      Destroying all life on the planet is pretty easy. Finding and capturing one random guy in an alien culture without leading your personnel into a trap and getting them blown up...not so easy.
  • Internets (Score:4, Insightful)

    by backwardMechanic (959818) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @10:26AM (#22557834) Homepage
    This sounds a bit like planning a holiday (vacation) using the internet. I was planning a trip to Portugal last night. I looked up lots of guest houses and hotels, saw their locations on a map, read reviews from other travellers, etc. I could even find the locations of tourist sites, see photos of them from other tourists, and get satellite photos of them from Google. I'm glad the military are catching up.
    • I'm glad the military are catching up.
      They already have, at least in some parts of the world. I worked on similar software intended for NATO use... 12 years ago. Granted it was a bit less multimedia-y as you might expect, but the intended use was the same.
    • This is a bit more than catching up. The officers don't have to go to 6 different sites to get this information. It seems like its all presented to them in one application. This ease of access information is probably the most useful part of this program.
  • got to love glossy icons and semi-transparent toolbars...
  • scary thought (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    From the article:
    "It is a bit revolutionary from a military perspective when you think about it, using peer-based information to drive the next move. ... Normally we are used to our higher headquarters telling the patrol leader what he needs to think."

    Peer based information eh? Fundamentally an armed mob and the military are relatively similar: both are large groups of people using force (read: weapons; read: guns) to achieve an objective requiring greater force than any individual member is capable o
    • by qbzzt (11136)
      However, what happens when the information given through peer-based channels is different from and outright contradicts the information (and the orders based on that information) coming from command?

      The peer based information also goes to the commander. Commands should be adjusted as needed. IIRC, the US military gives patrol commanders a certain level of leeway to best accomplish their missions - so this is just another source of information for use in that leeway.
    • by searp (1248692)
      You have put your finger on why it is disruptive. C2 pyramids can operate in two ways. Accepted is top-down control, information fed up to enable same. In this sort of fight, far better to have the top of the pyramid act in support, to enable the bottom of the pyramid, which actually has the wherewithal to shape the battle. Much more scary to thing of folks that are completely out of the fight, say in Tampa or similar, trying to run the entire operation. That is accepted theory, and it is stupid. Kill
  • where does the I in TIGR come from?
    • where does the I in TIGR come from?

      The first rule of military acronyms is that they must sound warrior-like. Where the letters "come from" is a secondary consideration.

  • Wasn't this called The Google Earth Community in an other life? Or is this one of those great innovative new inventions with compliments of the other Gates?
  • It really does look like the military finally went and looked at what is happening in the MMO world. This sounds a lot like what the eq2maps [eq2interface.com] project does, by allowing POIs (Points Of Interest) to be not only updated by users, but added by users.

    The sad part is it has taken this long for the military to remember that it's the guys on the ground that are actually seeing what is happening, and can provide a lot of useful information if they are just listened to. Giving them the ability to update databases wi
    • by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @11:33AM (#22558582) Journal

      The sad part is it has taken this long for the military to remember that it's the guys on the ground that are actually seeing what is happening, and can provide a lot of useful information if they are just listened to. Giving them the ability to update databases with what they see should help save lives down the road.
      Actually, if you've been reading some of the more non-traditional news sources, you'd know this isn't a sudden change in course, but a continuing refinement of stuff they've been working on for years.

      Try to track down one of the detailed stories of how they identified where Saddam was hiding. Not a newspaper account, but a detailed story about it. They did not, as you might assume, get a tip that said "Hey, Saddam is here!" (Or rather, they have way too many such tips.) It was actually a clever approach where they graphed his network of associates, figured out where he was most likely to take shelter, applied carefully-placed pressure to narrow down the options (both in the sense of locating him, and in the sense of corralling him), and eventually fingered his location through logic and information gathering.

      I think the news reporters don't report this stuff because they don't really understand it. If they did, they'd be much more panicky about the capabilities the military has been developing. Personally, while most people are screaming and worrying about half-imaginary infractions by the Bush administration, I find myself a little concerned not at how bad our military is at putting down insurgencies, but at how good at it they are getting. Not the usual story line, I know, but one better supported by the actual evidence, IMHO.
  • ...the patrol leaders name who was one of the seeds of this project? Damn it! Demote him back to Sergeant now!
  • by blueZ3 (744446) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @12:29PM (#22559504) Homepage
    Only from the top (Majors and above) does it appear that HQ is telling the patrol leader "what to think." On the ground, the NCOs and junior officers are quite capable of evaluating situations and responding to them as appropriate.

    In an ideal military (which as a vet, I realize ours isn't--but closer than you might think) the chain of command sets an objective and then the lowers carry it out as they see fit. Micromanagement (something most line soldiers were apprehensive about with the Land Warrior system, or whatever they're calling it this week) is never a good thing in a fight. You don't want a general, most of whom are at least 50% political animals with their eye always on the "how will this look on my evaluation" factor, telling a private which window to throw a grenade in when clearing a house. The general says "take the city" the colonel says "Company A attack from the north, Company B attack from the west" and the captains tell the NCOs "go get 'em" and leave the minor details up to platoon/squad leaders.

    On a similar note, more information (contrary to the commonly-held slashdot idea) isn't always better. Aside from information overload (another Land Warrior worry) there's the fact that details can get lost in an outpouring of video and maps. It's equally effective to talk to the last patrol's leader and get him to tell you "don't go down Saddam Street" or "We've had problems when we go past the former Baath Party HQ." Better in some ways, since an actual person can communicate nuances and answer questions. Also, I think there can be a tendency to put some portion of your attention on mapping the actual space to what you've seen in the dog-and-pony show, which lowers your situational awareness.

    I'm not completely discounting TIGR, just saying that whether this TIGR deal is the bee's knees or not... remains to be seen
    • Forgot to mention: if the boots on the ground like this (after sufficient trials) that's a good sign that it's a keeper. I wouldn't trust a major to make that evaluation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fnord666 (889225)

      It's equally effective to talk to the last patrol's leader and get him to tell you "don't go down Saddam Street" or "We've had problems when we go past the former Baath Party HQ." Better in some ways, since an actual person can communicate nuances and answer questions.

      I'll second this. A face to face with previous patrol leaders as well as those who overwatch your patrol sector is indispensible information. If you start taking fire, there isn't time to look at your PDA and figure out which way to move,

      • by searp (1248692)
        Not as effective. Works for units that work the same AO, doesn't work for logpacs or out of area missions. Doesn't help much when a new unit comes in and has to come up to speed in days (many, many soldiers killed because they haven't had the time to become truly familiar with their AO). Relies on human memory (mine sucks). Not much detail - try describing the hidey-hole at that bend in the unnamed road. TIGR fills a very real gap.
  • If you're interested in the topic, I highly recommend John Robb's Global Guerrillas [typepad.com] blog. He's got a good book out too, but the blog is more up-to-the-minute analysis. It won't come as a surprise to folks on slashdot that the insurgency is heavily reliant on an open-source model (and more specifically, exploiting our inability to change tactics on-the-fly). Good reading.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Defining the "peer" in a military scenario is important. The peer and the information they bring to the table are linked together but confidence levels for each piece of data need to be mentioned. How to justify an assigned confidence level ...good luck with that guys. I would imagine it could work if you make allocations for the different types of peers and place different confidence levels based on Military Rank. Someone without a rank evidently is flagged with lower confidence level. The actual data
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday February 26, 2008 @01:52PM (#22560866) Journal
    Once all other nations adopt this super duper network centric warfare, Pakistan's ISP will quietly change the routing tables of the internet and completely flummox these developed warriors. Only the soldiers on donkeys, which Pakistan has abundantly, will be able to fight. That is the secret plan of Pakistan to become the military super power.
  • They bought the troops a subscription to google earth plus it seems. Pretty well the same capability I have with my laptop and a GPS unit. I use mine for prospecting in the BC bush. Useful but not a lot of icons to click on out there. In closer however it's a bedlam of hot spots, merchants and if you want 3D buildings.
  • The military is obviously doing some very interesting development with this type of application. I'm curious if they've gone the next step and actually run 1st person shooter style virtual combat missions in these data spaces. Seems like you could get a really good idea of where the key strategic points were just by playing a few rounds of counter-strike on a map with this much data...

Wasn't there something about a PASCAL programmer knowing the value of everything and the Wirth of nothing?

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