Center for Strategic Decision Research


Policy Issues in Implementing Network-Centric Operations

Mr. Eugene Cunningham
Regional Director-Europe, International Business Development, The Boeing Company

Eugene Cunningham
"...the network needs to be available to each nation, because that is the only way that all of us will get the information." 


I would like to talk about the policy issues associated with implementing network-centric operations, network-centric systems. But from discussing this with a number of people, it is clear that there is a difference of opinion and a difference of understanding of what network-centric operations are all about. So allow me to give a personal example that will perhaps give you a framework. 

A couple of months ago, at one in the morning, I got a phone call from my son. He said, “Dad, I just want you to know I’m alright.” After I finally realized what my son was telling me, I of course said, “Alright from what?” Well, the date was March 11, and my son was in Madrid going to school. Before starting his class, my son’s professor had thought enough to say, “We have had an incident, you all need to call home.” 

That is an example of a network-centric operation. Why? How? Well, there are a couple of things: 1) Twenty-two students in my son’s classroom quickly whipped out cell phones and communicated with all their home commands; and 2) An intelligent actor was operating in that system, a Spanish professor whom I will never know who knew enough to keep his class from being distracted, from having his students’ operations distracted, and who knew that there were home commands that eventually would have become concerned. He knew that if quick action wasn’t taken, certainly there would be a number of phone calls and attempts made by family and friends to try to identify the status of their students. 

This, of course, is a personal example, but it brings forward the point that we are in an age in which conventional warfare is certainly not what we need to design and scope for. We are in an age in which conventional tactics, conventional items, certainly the cell phone, are only part of the weapons used against us. Technology is used for us, but it is also used against us. 


I would now like to talk about six points related to network-centric activities that I believe need to be considered in the policy and acquisition discussions that will take place in the future. 

  • First, the network itself. It needs to be a common architecture. As we have discussed, we cannot afford to develop independent architectures, we cannot afford to waste resources on different development paths and going in different directions. A common architecture needs to be agreed to and put forward. And development funds need to be used over and over again to refine that architecture, to improve it, and to ensure that there are no future incursions against it. A common architecture needs to be developed and needs to be shared.
  • Second, the framework needs to be responsive, and the conditions under which the architecture is developed must look at the most critical decision-making structure. For now, one example might be missile defense. Certainly the response times, decision times, and analysis times for the missile defense scenario are the most critical to us. The commander needs to identify that a threat is imminent, the type of threat it is, the type of assets that are available, the choices that are available, and the probability of success. In the missile defense regime, we cannot afford a faulty execution. The margins are too close, the penalty is too high for failure. 
  • Third, a bridge is needed between military activities and non-military activities. Reference has been made to the transitional paramilitary activities in both Italy and Spain. Well, if there is a transition in activity, there needs to be a transition capability within the network, and that presents a unique problem. If indeed the network is going to bridge military and non-military or paramilitary activities, then the network has to be capable of distinguishing between a war-time environment and a civilian environment, because all of us here need to make certain that the personal freedoms that exist within a non-military environment are ensured. Because data mining is the key element of that network, we need to ensure that the personal liberties and freedoms of all citizens of the nations we represent are not infringed upon. At the same time, we must understand that we are not dealing only with state-sponsored activities but with non-governmental threats as well. So that means we have to look into the civilian side and the civilian data areas because we have to bring that information forward in order to make the data and the system both responsive and effective. 
  • Fourth, the system needs to be an enabler. Both General Jones and Michael Wynne have referred to the fact that we have large stockpiles of equipment that are not necessarily being used most effectively. If the network does indeed connect every soldier, sailor, and airman, every vehicle, every aircraft, every spacecraft, and every vessel, then you also know the status, the health, and the capability of all of those operators within that network. It is critical that the network be used to manage the health of the systems that are out there, not just the threat. As you provide that information, you can use the data mining techniques and some of the SGI systems we have seen to show the trends and developments of those environments, operations, training, or handling that may have an impact on the use and performance of the equipment or the individuals who are operating within the network. 
  • Fifth, interoperability. It is essential that the network be able to be transferred across all forces and all types of forces. The fact that one group is networked or two groups are networked is not going to be good enough. If we need to bring together the member-nations of NATO, the member-nations of the EU, and the Partnership for Peace countries, with all that each nation knows and the understanding that each nation has, then the network needs to be available to each nation, because that is the only way that all of us will get the information. 
  • Finally, these systems need to be affordable. No one nation can develop such a system, no one nation can put it forth. And to make sure that the system is adequately spread among all nations and all participants, we must endeavor to have a policy in which local industries are used as the key innovators and key installers on either legacy systems or newly developed systems. In that way both defense security and economic security will be brought forward by the development of the network, because local industry and local development activities as well as the broader development and maintenance of the network will be ensured.


As you work your way through the six elements, please understand that none of them can stand on its own. They all need to be debated and reviewed, but it is essential that they be consistent as we talk about network activities. And as we look at the framework, we must be responsive and accurate, but we also must be all-inclusive, because a network that limits the ability of actors to bring intelligent decision making forward is not an intelligent network. There is too much information among the member-nations of our organizations to develop an exclusive network




Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research