Monday, February 22, 2010

Social Networking for the War on Terror

In "Exchange Rate" Tim Ripley (Jane's Defence Weekly, 27 January 2010), describes a broadband system used by coalition forces in Afghanistan. Surprisingly, while western military organisations have been using the Internet for more than a decade, this has largely been confined to particular arms of national forces, rarely linking outside the forces of one country and far from the battlefield. Tim describes the work of the NATO Communications and Information Systems Services Agency (NCSA), with its Mission Secret Network linking command centres in Afghanistan. The UK Joint Command and Control Support Programme (J2SP) was not ready so the built an interim "Project Over task". managed by the Defence Information Infrastructure Integrated Project Team (IPT). They still do not have the much heralded "Common Mission Secret Configurable Network", but have improved on previous stovepipe US systems (where each part of each service only communicated with its own headquarters). NATO have a set of applications for VOIP and Adobe Acrobat Connect. This includes NATO Joint Chat (J-Chat) for military chat rooms, Wiseweb and Joint Automated Deep Operations Coordination Systems (JADOCS). Wiseweb provides a web based interface to information. Despite all this it seems to me that NATO are a long way behind the state of the art in the implementation of web based systems, compared to commercial practice. In particular the use HTML 5, smart phone compatible formats and of e-book formats, shows considerable potential for the military. This would also allow access at lower echelons, where there are currently data rate limitations and limits due to display devices. The commander in the back of an armoured vehicle in the field will not have the big screen and broadband connection of the headquarters, but that doesn't mean they can't have the same data.

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