November 2, 2004
Pentagon officials are concerned that precision weapons arent living up to their potential, citing problems with targeting, weapons reliability, and battle damage assessment that need to be fixed. Currently, 29 different organizations are involved in collecting data for a cruise missile or other precision weapons attack. The information isnt well organized and planning needs to be streamlined. Putting lead agencies in charge of different aspects of targeting is one option under consideration as is a web site portal for targeting information is envisioned to give users rapid access to data.
Rapid battle damage assessment (BDA) has been a shortcoming since the 1991 Gulf War, often taking days to make an estimate of inflicted damage. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, BDA took between 24 to 48 hours to generate after an attack, in one case delaying an army advance. BDA is currently too dependent on imagery and doesn't address secondary strike effects that aren't visible. One Army general has suggested that BDA could afford to be more aggressive given the effectiveness of the U.S. military over the past 10 years.
Other aspects that officials want to fine-tune are surge procurement and communications bandwidth. Officials are debating whether to create an inventory of long-lead items, typically parts that take up to a year to construct, in case there is a need to rapidly rebuild stockpiles in case of a major conflict. Finally, most of the existing communications infrastructure was designed for voice, not digital networked weapons. The military wants to be able to communicate with hundreds of reprogrammable weapons in flight, but doesn't currently have the capability to do so. Some creative juggling, such as sequential launching, may be able to work around some of the problem, but a long-term fix will require deploying more capable communications gear and more satellites. Doug Mohney