In a world where defense organizations need to be flexible, accurate, responsive and timely, information must be at every user’s fingertips, regardless of their location. Technology is also a factor in attracting recruits; the new ‘millennials’ have grown up with 24/7 internet access and have developed skills that they expect to utilize in the workplace.
There is increased demand for deployable capabilities1 that give commanders real-time understanding of their operational and force readiness, supply chain service status and material availability. To achieve high battlefield mobility, ERP must be seamlessly integrated with other sensory based systems such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) and Global Positioning System (GPS).
Combat platforms are now often equipped with health monitoring, diagnosis and reporting systems, requiring more sophisticated technology and architecture. Nodal networks environments are required, not only for command and control purposes, but also for basic functions of availability and readiness, and to highlight serviceability status.
Although defense forces recognize the importance of mobile technology2, they are less certain of how to attain ubiquitous connectivity. Many current ERP solutions cannot provide operational and force readiness information, and can only partially inform simulation and ’what if?’ scenario analyses. Battle management systems, on the other hand, provide situational awareness, and some analysis, but need to be fed with data. A key challenge is to transfer data from the ERP for manipulation within combat and battle management systems, and return modified data to the ERP, while maintaining auditable records.
As cloud becomes ubiquitous, defense ERP and battle management systems will have to fuse together, thus removing the traditional boundaries associated with database, application and hardware. This requires re-written application codes and re-designed database and overall environment architecture.
In the longer term, many defense forces will seek an integrated solution allowing manufacturers, suppliers and consumers (at all levels), to securely view and share data, ‘from foxholes to factory.’ This will eliminate time-consuming, potentially inaccurate, manual methods. Maturing deployable and mobile solutions such as United States Marine Corps Global Combat Support System (USMC-GCSS) and US Coast Guard Deepwater Program will be key consumer-side activities toward achieving this goal. The latter links vehicles, boats, aircraft, helicopters and drones with command and control facilities including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
1Deployable technology is one that operates off middleware and can be autonomously connected and disconnected across a battlefield. It should have ‘store,’ ‘forward’ and ‘synchronize’ capabilities for lost or interrupted communication. Applications must be able to cope with low bandwidth and high latency.
2Mobile technology enables forces to utilize hand-held devices, whether commercial or military off-the-shelf. The devices must connect to the nodal network and deployable architecture operating in ‘store,’ ‘forward’ and ‘synchronize’ mode when required.