Walker spy case puts spotlight on military's `C3'
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Thus the Navy is also building two ground-based extremely low-frequency (ELF) radio stations, which transmit signals to subs through the earth. One, near Clam Lake, Wis., is operational.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Blair concludes that Reagan administration efforts are at least a step in the right direction, but that they probably have not solved the whole problem of strategic communications vulnerability.
There is also a problem with ``the staggering cost of doing business'' in this area, said Assistant Defense Secretary Donald Latham in a speech earlier this year.
For instance, he estimates that terminals in B-1 bombers for receiving MILSTAR signals will cost several million dollars apiece.
Though attention and budget increases have been lavished on strategic systems, most military communications spending still goes for more-mundane, largely tactical equipment: field radios, telephone switching stations, etc.
The Army, for instance, wants to spend $12 million next year on PRC-70 radio sets and $5 million on teletypewriter terminals.
Shielding tactical communications from prying ears is today a large budget item -- and was so even before the Walker case called into question the security of certain systems.
Adm. James D. Watkins, chief of naval operations, has said the Walker revelations mean that the purchase of some new equipment will have to be acclerated, at a cost of millions. The Navy's detailed 1986 budget, which was prepared before the spy case broke, already proposes spending some $163 million on coding equipment.
One of the most persistent problems with tactical communications is getting the Army, Navy, and Air Force to build networks that will work together. The services at times seem to regard one another as major threats to Western civilization, with the result that the Marines develop an artillery control system that can't talk to its Army counterpart.
``Things are getting better, but there's still a long way to go,'' says a retired high-ranking military communications specialist.
Take JTIDS, the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System. In essence a fancy radio designed to give all services access to crucial battlefield data (such as location of enemy tanks), JTIDS has been 11 years in the making as the Navy and Air Force have fought over its design.
Congress, fed up, may just slash the $270 million requested for JTIDS in 1986.
On any future battlefield, complex tactical communications systems might make a large difference.
Along with JTIDS, the US military has been working on a host of systems that make cellular car phones look like tin cans with string.
Target radars have already progressed to the point where the Marines in Lebanon in 1983 tracked incoming artillery shells, matched up satellite data, and located enemy gun positions to within about 13 meters, according to the Armed Forces Journal.
But there is such a thing as too much data and communication, some analysts say.
If everyone is on the phone to everyone else, confusion may result, and soldiers in the field may not be able to react flexibly to changing situations. ``It's the plethora of gadgets that gets us in trouble,'' says William Lind, a defense analyst for Sen. Gary Hart (D) of Colorado.