Like everything else in the world, military command and control has come to the Web. But with that transition come as many challenges as opportunities, as demonstrated by an article by Brian Robinson at Beltway-based Federal Computer Week's FCW.com, titled DOD arms soldiers, allies with information.
The story focuses on the goals and conclusions of the latest in a series of multi-national testbeds (Multinational Experiment 4 (MNE4)) intended to augment international military collaboration on the battlefield. Success in this type of military collaboration, as with other ventures that rely on the participation of multiple parties, involves a high dependency on standards. One lesson of MNE4, as summarized by MNE4 Technical Lead Maj. Pete Carrabba is this:
Open standards are essential for us to develop our own standards and applications. Proprietary products force us into long-term contracts and provide no flexibility for us to develop according to our needs.
According to the article, the next such experiment “will define the standards for the tools that will enable data sharing. Content management software based on open standards is essential for this goal…. Future systems will use a hybrid of industry standards and those that JFCOM and others develop.”
The MNE testbeds are only one example of ongoing efforts in this area. An ambitious consortium (and a client of mine) formed to address similar issues is the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC), which (among other actifities) is selecting and compiling standards in profiles to enable communication and data sharing among US and allied forces, much as the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) creates profiles to enable Web services.