Defence chiefs fire network-centric salvo

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is aiming to unify all its information systems into a single virtual private network over the next 20 years to reap benefits as part of its massive Network Centric Warfare (NCW) initiative.

Speaking at the C3I Defence Watch seminar in Canberra this week, the dynamic duo of vice chief of Defence Force, Vice Admiral Russ Shalders and deputy secretary of strategy and policy, Shane Carmody delivered the most detailed public briefing to date on how Australia's armed forces are seeking greater tactical advantages through networking defence in a range of information systems.

The mandate, as stipulated by Minister for Defence Robert Hill in April, is known as Network Centric Warfare (NCW) with Australian forces already utilising a range of network-based real-time tactical information sharing Web sites and homepages as part of Operation Falconer.

In a statement that clearly rankled many attendant vendors, Shalders revealed that the original Web site concept, in terms of actual operational application in the field, came from a Web-savvy Lance Corporal deployed to shuffle paper.

The result was a series of secure Web sites and Internet chat rooms where those in charge of the operation were able to safely exchange operational information.

Not only did it provide a single picture of the battle space but archived information and lessons learned for future reference.

Shalders said this framework for intra-force knowledge-sharing is being extended to encompass any deployment of Australian forces including the strife-torn Solomon Islands.

Shalders and Carmody also revealed that Defence is releasing a major policy document at the end of the year, unambiguously entitled the NCW Roadmap, laying the foundation for network warfare across all armed forces for the next 20 years.

While the outcome is clearly achieving ROI on the battlefield, they stressed the importance of true interoperability for the forces and a cultural shift within the ADF.

This includes the attitudes of IT vendors accustomed to selling multiples of the same thing into heavily siloed operations.

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