Meshing of US and allied defense sensors gaining importance

Networking of sensors could help bring about reduction in nuclear stockpiles, says military's vice chaiman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James Cartwright

The ability to network sensors between allies is taking on increasing importance and could soon lead to the U.S. and its allies being able to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in their arsenals necessary to counter threats.

"We are networking together people of like minds to build a deterrent strategy that says that the sum is greater than any single part," said Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at the annual Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference in San Diego this past week.

"No individual nation can afford to field a system that will protect them the way this netted system will do. This is a system that shares awareness, and allows us to diffuse things before we have to go kinetic."

Cartwright said that the architecture of such a global system should depend equally or more on international technology than it does on U.S. systems. Sharing the burden in building such a network would fall primarily to American allies in Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere already fielding U.S.-produced systems such as Aegis and Patriot. Israel's Arrow anti-missile system, for example, is a good example of another nation's technology that can tie into American technology such as Patriot to create an overarching network that is more effective than any one system would be on its own.

"It allows a construct of shared awareness and shared defense that is becoming an anchor point for our deterrent strategy. It is incredible what we have done in the Pacific, where we have netted together South Korea, Japan and other nations.

"Compare that to our strategic nuclear arsenal, which we'd like to see come down in importance, and the rise of this capability and you start to feel a deterrent construct that is fundamentally different and is not based on mutual assured destruction. I think is a more responsible way to move forward as a nation."

Such burden sharing will also help the U.S. and its allies keep up with technology growth, and not fall too far behind on Moore's Law, which says that computer technology doubles in capability every 18-24 months.

In his keynote address at AFCEA West, Cartwright also discussed the establishment of US Cyber Command. According to Cartwright, Cyber Command won't be a walled-off organization like U.S. Space Command. Both Cyber Command and Space Command fall under the umbrella of US Strategic Command.

"Unlike Space Command, we will keep it aligned with the warfighter. So we're not going to let it go off in a corner and classify itself to the extent that the only people that know what's going on are inside the little green room, and the rest of us as warfighters have no idea how to use it, ask for it or deploy it," he said.