Information Warfare: May 13, 2003

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Satellite communications appear to be a catalyst for getting the different services to cooperate. Since the 1991 Gulf War, a lot more common, and usually satellite based, communications equipment has been adopted by all the services. As a result, usage has grown enormously. Since 1991, Department of Defense use of satellite communications has grown 30 fold. During the 1990s, the Department of Defense helped broker a deal to save the bankrupt Iridium satellite phone network, and got access to really cheap minutes on Iridium phones. But since September 11, 2001, use of those phones by troops has gone up 48 fold. The Iridium phones were a key communications tool during the Afghanistan war, and since then thousands of phones have been distributed to unit commanders and special operations forces. Over all, communications traffic on all Department of Defense networks has gone up over five fold since September 11, 2001. As a result, the Pentagon plans to spend $28 billion over the next five years getting more troops, and more uses, on to the military satellite network. In addition, the military is proposing allowing "first responders" (emergency medical technicians, firefighters, police) emergency access to the military networks, so that everyone will be able to talk to each other during another major emergency. This will require new satellite communications equipment that will allow for this, and equipment makers are coming up with new dual use capability. This would mean that each police precinct or fire battalion would have at least one of these dual use radios so that it would be easy to get into touch with military units called in to help.

 


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