In a January 2003 address to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Conference, United States Air Force General and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers outlined the three key parts of the U.S. military's current transformation: intellectual, cultural, and technological.
There's little doubt the intellectual (the ability to adapt to new missions and challenges) and the cultural (a top-down push to empower creative thinking and risk-taking) would be much more difficult to implement without a powerful array of technologies. Though listed as Myers' third priority, a select few technologies have proven to be key in the DoD's transformation efforts. Increases in interoperability and high-bandwidth communications have brought Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, and Strategic Reconnaissance (C4ISR) information to the front in real time.
There are numerous examples from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom of platforms from similar and different services working together as never before. In Iraq, Marine Corps F-18s and AV8-B Harriers worked in hunter-killer tandems not previously envisioned while in Afghanistan. The U.S. Navy P-3 Orion antisubmarine warfare aircraft identified ground targets for the U.S. Army.
It's difficult to underestimate the impact of this real-time information. Instead of a "soda straw" look at the battlefield, forward-deployed decision makers have increasing access to imagery, location, and communications like never before. This paradigm provides a more holistic theater-wide view and enables a greater degree of creativity in using a broader array of interservice platforms.
Technologies key to this transformation plan include GPS, broadband encrypted secure satellite and terrestrial communications, simulation and training software, datalinks, advanced electro-optic systems, inertial navigation systems, and a myriad of information-technology (IT) products and services. These technologies are keys to what has come to be known as network-centric warfare. Used collectively, these technologies allow for faster, better-informed decision-making, turning time into a kind of force multiplier.
Just look at the progression of doctrine from operations Desert Shield/Storm in 1991 through Iraqi Freedom in 2003 to see the evolution of these trends. Top uniformed and civilian DoD leadership are pushing hard for this intellectual, cultural, and technological transformation, and Frost & Sullivan doesn't see a retrenchment in the near future.