and information networks. The gathering, exploitation, and transmission of information about the enemy and the environment have always been of critical importance in guiding military operations. The means for doing so have become so powerful in recent times that they have overtaken the capabilities of individual platforms and weapons as primary drivers of global naval force capability.
Network-centric operations thus represent a new force design and operational paradigm for the naval forces. In network-centric operations, naval force and other Service elements, organized as a single, joint, networked system, will be able to achieve mission objectives far more rapidly, decisively, and with greater economy of force than was possible earlier. However, the entire, joint system will be more intricate than any the naval forces and joint forces have ever dealt with in the past. For the Navy and the Marine Corps, the transition to NCO will require that many of the traditional approaches to development and operations be transformed into new methods and concepts of operation.
The key attribute of NCO is the unprecedented ability to support well-informed and rapid decision making by naval force commanders at all levels, within a system of flexible and adaptable command relationships. The information network and infrastructure in which the naval force elements will be embedded will enable dynamic adjustment and adaptation to battlespace situations and needs as they emerge. Multiple platforms separated by great distances will be able to work as closed-loop systems with the same speed and assurance that have characterized single platform-weapon combinations. Within the physical limits of time required for movement and weapon range and speed, the force commanders operating in the network-centric mode will be able to concentrate widely dispersed forces’ fire and maneuvers at decisive locations and times. The forces will be able to achieve the precision needed to identify and engage opposing forces and specific targets with minimal casualties and the least civilian damage. And they will be able to do so at a pace that overwhelms the opposition’s ability to prevent the actions or to respond in time to avoid defeat.
To develop these attributes of NCO, information and networking technology will have to be applied to achieve the following, to the greatest extent possible:
Knowledge of where all U.S., allied, neutral, and opposition installations, forces, and platforms are, in terms of common space and time coordinates, in time to use the knowledge to desired military effect;
Sharing of processed information throughout the force as and when needed by the decision makers at various command levels;
Coordination of all (possibly widely dispersed) assets—sensors, weapons, platforms, Marine units—to operate as a common whole; and