Providing High-Tech Hegemony

jkitfield@govexec.com

When NATO announced a cease-fire in Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia in June, Pentagon officials punctuated the victory by showing reporters detailed video of Serbian troops exiting the province of Kosovo in troop transports. It was a rare moment in the annals of modern warfare. For the first time, a land army had been defeated by precision-guided air power, with a corresponding combat casualty count of roughly 5,000 Serbian forces killed vs. none for the United States and NATO.

The revolutionary military capability behind those lopsided figures was underscored by the Pentagon video itself, which was shot by a Predator advanced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that few nations possess. Indeed, the foundations of the technological "revolution in military affairs" that the Pentagon has been promoting for many years were on clear display during Operation Allied Force: air- and space-based sensors; stealth aircraft; precision-guided munitions; and advanced information systems supplying superior command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The synergistic result of those technologies is a U.S. military whose "situational awareness" and ability to influence the battlefield is so clearly superior to its counterparts that even close NATO allies have become concerned about a rapidly widening "technology gap."

The by-products of the quest for military superiority have also contributed mightily to the red-hot U.S. domestic economy. DoD funding in the realm of computers and communications in the past decades has led directly to such advances as the supercomputer, the Internet, satellite broadcast television, high-resolution video games, speech recognition, artificial intelligence-even the ubiquitous computer mouse.

The seed corn of such technological advances is the Defense Department's research and development (R&D) programs. For much of the Pentagon's decade-long downsizing, R&D funding has fared better than other accounts. While overall defense spending dropped by 39 percent between 1986 and 1998, R&D funding over that period declined by only 18 percent, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), an independent think tank in Washington.

As the Pentagon has begun shifting more money into modernization accounts in the past year to help fund an approaching wave of new weapons procurement, however, R&D funding has suffered. In the fiscal 2000 defense budget request, the Pentagon asked for $34.4 billion in R&D funds, down from $37.4 billion in 1999. Anticipated R&D spending in 2001 is $34.2 billion.

Given an opportunity to realize truly revolutionary technological advancements-and experiencing a relatively benign period in terms of serious threats to vital U.S. interests-some experts believe the Pentagon should focus more of its precious resources on research and development.

"The fact that there is a significant plans-versus-funding mismatch in the current defense plan does not necessarily mean that more money should be provided for defense. It may mean that DoD's current modernization, force structure and other plans are, when viewed as a whole, excessive given the overall level of risk assumed in our national security strategy," Andrew Krepinevich, director of CSBA, wrote in a critique of the Clinton administration's fiscal 2000 budget request. "Indeed, a strong case can be made for a revised defense plan that involved making cuts in force structure, slowing some existing modernization plans, and relying on more upgrades of existing systems. These cuts would insure that sufficient funding was available to finance a robust program of research and development and experimentation-the most critical element now needed to begin the transformation of the U.S. military."

Space-Based Systems

Spaced-based sensors and communications systems are a key part of the U.S. military's superiority in information-age technologies. Spy and communications satellites are used to identify targets, relay communications, guide aircraft and weapons to their intended targets, and conduct battle damage assessments.

One of the most revolutionary advances in both military and civilian affairs has been the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System. The 24-satellite GPS constellation provides a global, three-dimensional positioning and navigation system for aircraft, ships, artillery, tanks and other weapons delivery systems. Boeing manufactured the first 28 Block II/IIA satellites, the last of which was launched in November 1997. The first of a planned 21 Block IIR satellites, built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin, was launched in mid-1997. The Pentagon intend to procure additional Block IIF satellites beginning in 2001, with upgrades including a second and third signal as well as navigational warfare (NAVWAR) improvements. In fiscal 2000, DoD plans to spend $170.9 million procuring new NAVSTAR GPS satellites and an additional $98.9 million in continued research, development and testing of the system.

The Pentagon also is continuing to deploy the MILSTAR communications satellite system, which features extremely-high-frequency transponders for secure, jam-resistant communications around the globe. The first two satellites were launched in 1994 and 1996, with the remaining four satellites to be launched between 1999 and 2002. For fiscal 2000, DoD has allocated $361.3 million in continued research, development and testing of the MILSTAR system, which is built by prime contractor Lockheed Martin with subcontractors TRW and Hughes Corp.

In fiscal 2000, DoD also has allocated $557.7 in research and development funds for the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), a planned constellation of satellites in both low and high orbits that will supply critical missile tracking information for planned theater and national missile defense systems. The SBIRS Low system eventually will consist of 24 satellites. Two contractor teams-Boeing/Lockheed and TRW/Hughes-are competing for the program in its present demonstration and validation phase, with the launch of demonstration satellites planned for next year. At the conclusion of this phase, one contractor team will be chosen. Launch of the first operational satellite is slated for 2006.

The SBIRS High part of the system, meanwhile, will consist of four satellites in geosynchronous orbit and two satellites in highly elliptical orbit. Four will be acquired with research and development funds, while the next three will be funded through procurement appropriations. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin is expected to launch the first SBIRS High satellite in late 2004.

Space Launch Systems

A series of recent launch failures and the Pentagon's aggressive satellite program has put a premium on next-generation space launch vehicles. In fiscal 2000, DoD plans to spend $324.8 million in research and development funds, and $395.6 million in military construction, to develop the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The EELV will replace the current family of space launch vehicles-the Delta, Atlas and Titan.

With the EELV, Pentagon planners hope to reduce launch costs by 25 percent to 50 percent. The cost of EELV development will be shared by the Air Force and the two contractors, Boeing and Lockheed. The new system should begin launching satellites starting in 2002.

In the meantime, the Pentagon plans to spend $476.7 million in fiscal 2000 research and development and procurement funds for the Titan IV space launch vehicle, which is used to launch heavier payloads. A total of 30 Titan IV boosters have been procured from prime contractor Lockheed, of which 14 remain to be launched over the next four years.

DoD will likewise spend $66 million in fiscal 2000 for the medium launch Delta and Atlas space launch vehicles, built by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, respectively.

'Eyes and Ears'

Advanced airborne surveillance and reconnaissance systems, which act as the eyes and ears of military commanders in the field, are another critical component of the revolution in military affairs. The developmental E8-C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) proved its potential in the Persian Gulf War, when it was used to identify, track and target enemy ground formations from the air. Built on a Boeing 707 platform, the JSTARS system was credited with first identifying a column of Iraqi forces as it exited Kuwait City in 1991, then directing allied fighters to the scene. The resultant "Highway of Death" eventually helped bring an end to the war.

For fiscal 2000, DoD has requested $130.5 million in continued research and development funds for Joint STARS and $352.5 million in procurement funds. The prime contractor is Northrop Grumman.

DoD is also acquiring a family of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of the type that recently identified Serbian forces retreating from Kosovo. Each UAV is specifically tailored to conduct overhead surveillance in all weather conditions, day or night. At the completion of their missions, UAVs return to base or ship for repeated use.

The three UAVs currently being developed and procured are the medium-altitude Predator; the high-altitude Global Hawk; and the high-altitude, low-observable DarkStar. In fiscal 2000, the Pentagon plans to spend $610 million in continued research and development on the UAVs and $38 million acquiring additional Predators.

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