US Navy to spend $249 million on “battlespace awareness”
The US Navy has announced that it will spend up to an estimated $249 million on “battlespace awareness”.
Last Thursday, the Navy awarded a new contract to five intelligence, computer and security companies to provide both hardware and “the development, integration, and test of intelligence, battlespace awareness, and information operations applications”.
In other words, the US Navy is embarking on a major new project in the area of surveillance, technology and data acquisition to provide military commanders with a detailed understanding of any conflict area.
According to the Department of Defense’s own definition “battlespace awareness” includes an area’s “environment, factors, and conditions”, “the status of friendly and adversary forces, neutrals and noncombatants” and “weather and terrain.”
The addition of “information operations” in the contract suggests the project will go beyond the remit of geospatial intelligence and may have some capability for commanders to organise messaging campaigns in an attempt to influence various actors in an area of operations.
The contract raises questions over exactly what information the US Navy is intending to collect and in which conflict areas.
The investment can be understood in the context of the influence of ‘network-centric warfare‘ on US military thinking which emphasises the value of a digitally connected force as a means of improving situational awareness and military decisions.
A press release earlier in the year from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) calling for ‘big data’ projects noted that:
“the demands for actionable information have spiked as warfighters at every level—whether at the planning table or on patrol—are called upon to make well-informed decisions”.
The battlespace awareness contract was awarded by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center and will initially last until August 2013. The US Navy has options in the contract to extend the work to 2017.
The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center reports directly to the Navy’s Information Dominance Systems Command.