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IT Critical in Helping Iraqi War Effort

Federal Computer Week reporter reports on IT systems deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I traveled to Kuwait with a single, unique purpose: to report on the information technology systems and products being used to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I say unique because my focus wasn’t on the laser-guided munitions, Patriot missiles, or any other weapons systems that get so much publicity in round-the-clock war coverage. Instead, I was there to write about the communications, intelligence, logistics, telemedicine and other IT-laden systems that help ensure coalition forces are armed with not only the best weapons, but also the most recent and best supplies and information.

Without IT, coalition forces still would have won the war most likely, but it would have taken much longer and many more lives would have been lost. For proof of that, consider the speed with which coalition forces overcame enemy forces in cities throughout Iraq; not just because they were armed with better weapons, but also far superior information and intelligence provided by satellites, radar, ground sensors, digital imagery, movement tracking systems and more.

But challenges remain. Bandwidth remains a constant issue, and the desert climate—complete with blazing temperatures and ubiquitous sand—also caused some headaches.

“The biggest challenge in this theater is that it’s still such a satellite-centric theater, and inherent with that is that you do have bandwidth constraints,” said Army Maj. Gen. Rip Detamore, commander of the 335th Theater Signal Command at Camp Doha. “You can’t upload stuff onto fiber links like in Europe because there’s no backbone to do that.”

But the military is addressing the problem. A fiber link was recently established to connect Camp Doha with the Theater Command Communications Center in Bahrain and finally back into “the large fiber connections in the European infrastructure,” Detamore said.

“This is an information-centric war and logistics is at the heart of it,” said Maj. Forrest Burke, chief of logistics information management for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command at Camp Arifjan.

Burke’s staff labored for nearly five months to integrate logistics systems, and their work paid off by providing tactical-level commanders a common operating picture of logistics. Three main systems and many subsystems were integrated to form the Logistics Common Operating Picture, including:

• The Joint Deployment and Logistics Model (JDLM), used for graphical displays, modeling and data mining.

• The Integrated Logistics Analysis Program (ILAP), the data repository.

• The in-transit visibility (ITV) network, which provides movement tracking

Both Detamore and Burke agreed that contractors are critical to the Defense Department’s wartime efforts and that the military personnel working with IT systems and programs couldn’t do their jobs without the industry support.

No one can predict when, where or between whom the next war will occur, but my two weeks in Kuwait taught me that one thing is certain: IT, and the people that use it to their advantage, will play a critical role in deciding the outcome.

About the Author

Federal Computer Weekly Senior Department of Defense reporter Dan Caterinicchia spent two weeks in Kuwait reporting on technology’s impact on the Iraqi war effort. His reports from the Middle East can be found at http://fcw.com/fcw/articles/2003/middle_east/index.asp.

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