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Report Faults Military Technology in Iraq War

Report Faults Military Technology in Iraq War
SOURCE :  http://reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=6476658

Report Faults Military Technology in Iraq War

Tue Oct 12, 2004 06:58 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -

Front-line U.S. troops often lacked access to surveillance and intelligence data during the invasion of Iraq because of computer glitches, Technology Review magazine reported on Tuesday, citing a classified report by Rand Corp.

One battalion commander told the magazine he had almost no information on the strength and position of Iraqi forces after his division took control of a key bridge south of Baghdad on April 2, 2003.

Lt. Col. Ernest Marcone said he was told to expect one Iraqi brigade advancing south from the Baghdad airport, but instead was forced to battle three separate Iraqi brigades advancing from three directions, the magazine reported.

What ensued was the largest counterattack of the Iraq war. U.S. troops won because of their superior weapons, greater firepower and air support, but not because they had any real insight into enemy positions through new technology, the magazine said.

"Next to the fall of Baghdad, that bridge was the most important piece of terrain in the theater, and no one can tell me what's defending it," Marcone told the magazine. "Not how many troops, what units, what tanks, anything. There's zero information getting to me."

Marcone's experience was typical, according to a largely classified report being prepared for the Pentagon by the Rand Corp, which concludes that front-line commanders often did not benefit from cutting-edge technologies. These were aimed at moving toward a smaller, smarter fighting force connected by advanced communications systems.

Walter Perry, a senior Rand researcher, told the magazine the report uncovered a "digital divide" that allowed division commanders to get a good view of the battlefield, but left front-line commanders basically in the dark.

The problems preventing effective relaying of crucial data included lengthy download times, software failures and lack of access to high-bandwidth communications.

Pentagon officials highlighted the success of networked forces during the Iraq war, including the case of a U.S. radar plane detecting Iraqi troops during a blinding sandstorm and ordering in bombers using satellite-guided bombs.

But the report found that ground forces had serious problems getting access to vital intelligence and surveillance data. In three cases, U.S. vehicles were attacked when they stopped to receive data on enemy positions, it said.