Jack Hensley, one of a legion of contractors on the project, is hunkered in a slowly moving SUV, serving as target practice for a baby-faced soldier in a Humvee aiming a laser about 700 yards away. A moment later, another soldier in the Humvee punches commands into a computer transmitting data across an expanse of sand and mesquite to a site 2 1/2 miles away. On an actual battlefield, this is when a precision attack missile would be launched, killing Hensley almost instantly.
In the Army's vision, the war of the future is increasingly combat by mouse clicks. It's as networked as the Internet, as mobile as a cellphone, as intuitive as a video game. The Army has a name for this vision: Future Combat Systems, or FCS. The project involves creating a family of 14 weapons, drones, robots, sensors and hybrid-electric combat vehicles connected by a wireless network. It has turned into the most ambitious modernization of the Army since World War II and the most expensive Army weapons program ever, military officials say.
It's also one of the most controversial. Even as some early versions of these weapons make their way onto the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, members of Congress, government investigators and military observers question whether the Defense Department has set the stage for one of its biggest and costliest failures. At risk, they say, are billions of taxpayer dollars spent on exotic technology that may never come to fruition, leaving the Army little time and few resources to prepare for new threats.
Future Combat Systems "has some serious problems," said Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the House air and land forces subcommittee. "Since its inception, costs have gone up dramatically while promised capability has steadily diminished. . . . And now, with the Army's badly degraded state of readiness from nearly five years of continuous combat in Iraq, I don't see how the Army can afford to rebuild itself and pay for the FCS program as it stands today."
To hear the military tell it, there's a hint of Buck Rogers in the program, including an unmanned craft that can hover like a flying saucer between buildings and detect danger. The idea of Future Combat Systems is to create a lighter, faster force that can react better to tomorrow's unpredictable foes. (cont...)
But in a recent interview, Ukranian space poobah Stanislav Konyukhov says his country is about to bring online a space monitoring system that can not only spot just about anything up in orbit -- but also "gives Ukraine a real mechanism of control over any object in space." (cont...)
Pandemic drill puts cityTo Test
businesses to Christine Kosmos, deputy commissioner of the Chicago Dept. of Public Health (center), Leslee Stein-Spencer (right) of the Chicago Fire Dept. and members of five city departments watch a mock exercise of an avian flu pandemic unfold on their computer screens. (Tribune photo by Chuck Berman / December 6, 2007)
The news kept getting worse and worse: highways and airports shut down, hospitals filled to capacity, pharmacies running out of medicine.As the computer-simulated flu pandemic in Chicago continued to spread, public and private officials taking part in an emergency-response drill this morning got a taste of the high-pressure decisions they would have to make should such a disaster happen here.Representatives of the city's Police, Fire and Public Health Departments, the Mayor's Office and the Office of Emergency Management and Communication sat at computers in the CNA Building, 333 S. Wabash Ave., evaluating on-screen information about the pandemic as it spread and making quick decisions about how best to deal with it. (cont...)
India to conduct mock drills and exercise to combat bird flu
NEW DELHI: Beginning January 2008, India would conduct table-top exercises, simulations and mock drills jointly with other by countries to combat Avian influenza or commonly known as bird flu.New Delhi is also planning to integrate pandemic preparedness into national disaster management structures to review roles and responsibility to engage different sector other health. (cont...)
Horizon Lines Hosts Army National Guard Exercise on Homeland Security (PR)