(Source: Singapore Ministry of Defence; issued March 10, 2006)
Better decision-making for whom? The guys on the ground or the ones at HQ who end up doing micro-management although they are not on the ground?
In the past, military operations basically revolved around a few issues: where the trooper is, where are his buddies, where is the enemy, and of course, what is the enemy doing.
But since the nature of the world has changed significantly, it is essential for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to be enabled by Integrated Knowledge-based Command and Control (IKC2), said Colonel (COL) David Koh (right), Head of Joint Communications and Information Systems Department, Ministry of Defence.
"Today, with advancements in electronics, IT, unmanned technologies and communications, in particular, you will be able to know where your own forces are without having to keep asking your own people," he said.
"Similarly, the enemy can't hide. You basically will have a network of networks – of sensors, shooters, communications – and all this will enable you to see where the enemy is. We will be able to come up with better war-fighting decisions, where to put our soldiers, who should be going in which direction, and therefore, be able to win the battle more effectively."
COL Koh was speaking at the C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) Asia Conference held in Singapore on 20 Feb.
The theme for this year's event was 'Force Transformation in Action: Information Dominance'. Over 500 military leaders and technologists attended the conference.
The SAF has been actively pursuing IKC2 as a key enabler in its transformation journey and is now starting to take its first steps in IKC2 - translating ideas into experiments and demonstrators.
This IKC2 technology was tested during the SAF's tsunami relief operations in Aceh last year.
The command spanned 2,000 km as C4 systems were quickly reconfigured so that commanders in the area of operations could make informed decisions after consulting with the main headquarters in Singapore.
"The reason why we were able to execute the mission in a very effective and efficient manner was because of all the investments done earlier in the form of the experiments and the trials," said COL Koh. "By having the experiences from all those experiments, we were then able to bring all the equipment together and operationalise them at very short notice and give it to the forces on the ground, which they used to great effectiveness."
For future development, SAF is looking beyond the application of technology and automating its existing processes.
"We are actively looking at how we can re-engineer the work processes and one particular area we are interested in and excited about is at the cognitive level and sense-making - how you make sense of the information, to be able to see patterns," said COL Koh.
The biggest challenges to overcome in this journey towards transformation are in the human dimension, he said. "One manifestation is that of inertia and mindsets. A lot of people look at the SAF today and they see that it is a fairly successful organisation. Then the question is: why the need to change?"
"Change involves disruption and takes people out of their comfort zone. This is one of the big challenges that we face, to convince our people that you need to change even though you are still fairly successful."
COL Koh added that the second challenge was for soldiers to learn to operate in a very different environment. Instead of a hierarchical environment where they just need to know who their superior is, the new environment will require them to do different jobs, have more than one superior to report to and to work with different people.
"This will place more demands on our people and we need people to be more agile," said COL Koh.
Since its inception in 2002, the C4I Asia Conference has been held once every two years. The conference focuses on command and control in network-centric warfare, its ongoing evolution and the implementation challenges faced by armed forces.
Speakers at this year's conference included: Singapore's Chief Defence Scientist Professor Lui Pao Chuen, Australia's Chief Defence Scientist Dr Roger Lough, and NATO's Assistant Chief of Staff C4I Major-General Ruud Van Dam, and the United States' Assistant Secretary of Defence (Networks and Information Integration) Mr John Grimes.