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In an era of constant technological advances, defense agencies are falling short of battlefield expectations when it comes to military communications technologies, according to a study released by Government Business Council (GBC), the research division of Government Executive Media Group, in partnership with Viasat Inc., a global communications company. Based on a survey of over 300 U.S. active military and Department of Defense (DoD) participants across the nation, this study investigated the role of military connectivity and evaluated the practicality and effectiveness of U.S. military communications technologies.
"Our survey reveals an alarming number of defense professionals who lack basic levels of connectivity needed to accomplish their objectives," said Daniel Thomas, director of the Government Business Council. "Respondents are vocal that changes must be made to the acquisition front and center, to keep pace with commercial innovations and equip users with vital battlefield capabilities. This is a clarion call to military leadership across the board."
Among others, key findings from the study include:
- Expectations of connectivity on the battlefield are high, but largely unmet
68% of survey respondents say they expect the same level of connectivity and access to trusted and timely information on the battlefield as they get in the civilian world. However, less than half of respondents (46%) feel they have the level of connectivity needed to successfully execute their mission objectives. And 98% of respondents say they are disrupted to a point where they are left with a complete loss of connectivity on the battlefield.
- At risk of falling behind new threats
Only 27% of respondents believe the DoD's budget priorities for communications technology allow the U.S. to effectively keep pace with escalating geopolitical threats.
- Organizations are facing significant barriers to network modernization efforts
Respondents noted that the three biggest challenges facing their organizations' network modernization efforts are an inability to keep pace with commercial technology, procurement inefficiencies and limited funding. 70% of respondents feel that adopting new acquisition processes would allow their organization to update technologies at the speed of relevance.
- Emerging cloud-based systems, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities will be critical to future mission success
Over 60% of respondents agree cloud-enabled technologies will play an increasingly significant role in enhancing and accelerating the U.S. military's decision-making capabilities. In addition, 81% of respondents agree it's critical for U.S. military forces to have access to a modernized end-to-end satellite and terrestrial networks to make cloud-enabled technologies and the Internet of Battlefield Things a reality across the battlespace.
From a partner perspective, Viasat believes senior leaders in the DoD are beginning to recognize this acquisition problem. These leaders are turning their focus toward transforming the status quo by adapting the DoD acquisition process and culture to address this issue and enhance technological capabilities across the battlespace. However, the State of Military Communications study findings illustrate much more needs to be done to ensure that battlefield communications technology is up to the challenge of assuring resilient, secure connectivity in the most demanding, high pressure situations and to provide the capabilities needed to deter complex, escalating, multi-dimensional threats from near-peer adversaries.
"The State of Military Communications survey, a first of its kind study, indicates the compelling need for enhanced communications technology to be delivered to our military forces on a much faster timeline so that warfighters have the same connectivity during their deployment as they have at home," said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. "Acquisition models must adapt to better leverage private sector technology, so that military connectivity can keep pace with accelerating private sector technology trajectories. By increasingly leveraging private sector capabilities in the vital technology sectors of satellite communications, tactical networking, cybersecurity and cloud-based systems, the DoD can maintain information dominance at the tactical edge, which is crucial to mission success across the current and future technology driven battlespace."
About the Research
Government Business Council, the research division of Government Executive Media Group, in partnership with Viasat, launched the first-ever State of Military Communications survey, an in-depth study of senior military decision-makers. The study was fielded via online survey to a random sample of Defense One, Government Executive, and Nextgov subscribers. After qualification and screening of over 500 respondents, 330 defense leaders were included in the study, over 50 percent of whom wield authority at the highest levels of the military (including Senior Executive Service, GS-13 and above, and officers of equivalent rank).