Leadership: June 8, 2003

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The Iraq wars success with battlefield networks has encouraged the services to move forward more quickly with their own networking projects. The U.S. Navy, for example, has a combat network project called Joint Fires. The problem is that this system is intended just for warships cooperating, and little has been done to link Joint Fires into the combat networks of the other services. A less popular system, but more needed, is to put mine detection and clearing equipment on most navy ships. Even though two of four U.S. Navy ships damaged in combat in the last twenty years were because of naval mines, there is still a lot of reluctance in the navy to spend the money and effort to put the mine warfare equipment on so many ships. Networking is sexy, mines are not. Many naval officers believe the problem is a lack of systems thinking at the top. Projects get started because something is momentarily hot, and keeps going because contractors and members of Congress see lots of money at stake and dont want to lose it. Using Operations Research (applying math and common sense to a situation) on these situations would get the networking done right, and the mine warfare equipment installed. But Operations Research has not yet found a way to deal with contractor and Congressional politics.

 


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