Leadership: August 20, 2003

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While Blue Force Tracker ("FBCB2 Lite") was a big success in Iraq, giving each vehicle that had it a laptop/GPS/satellite phone combo that enabled the user to see on the screen all friendly units (and identified unfriendlies) within hundreds of kilometers, there was another part of the new "battlefield Internet "computer system being introduced more quietly. This was MCS-L (Master Control System-Light). Essentially it's a beefed up version of FBCB2 that incorporates a lot of logistical and support functions, as well as the ability to put together and transmit detailed orders. First field tested in Afghanistan in 2002 (with a brigade of the 82nd Airborne division), it proved popular and useful. But after the Iraq campaign, seeing thousands of FBCB2 (Blue Force Tracker) in action, and how they speeded things up, many commanders complained that MCS-L was too slow. In Iraq, orders were issued by email and instant messages. Since the current Secretary of Defense is a big fan of fast operations and equally fast decision making, like minded generals are pushing for a "battlefield Internet" that really will act with the speed of the Internet. More importantly, many officers are asking that the new command and control systems like FBCB2 and MCS have the "look and feel" of the Internet. This, they feel, will save a lot of training time. Hardy anyone joins the army today not knowing their way abound the Internet. FBCB2 and MCS have been justifiably criticized for having a unique (and not very efficient) interface that was hard to learn and nothing at all like the Internet, or the computer games soldiers and officers alike play in their spare time. 

 


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