News | July 1, 2004

Global Networks: Emerging Constraints on Strategy

By Bob Fonow Defense Horizons 43


Global NetworksOverview

If current trends in communications technologies and services persist, the United States will be hard pressed to keep a strategic advantage in network capability. The international telecommunications system is rebalancing into four major centers of influence and innovation. Within ten years, Europe, India, and China will have the same technological and innovative capabilities in telecommunications as the United States. This shift is problematic for U.S. national security, because the global telecommunications infrastructure is becoming an important strategic battlespace—the physical battlefield of information warfare. Understanding the dynamic of regional balancing is critical to shaping U.S. responses 

Underscoring this dynamic is a shift from hierarchical science and technology development based on U.S. educational dominance to globally distributed centers of technological development facilitated by the international telecommunications network. 

This article assesses the changing geopolitical structure of the international telecommunications system and analyzes the problems and opportunities for the United States in a vastly different telecommunications environment. Much of the writing on U.S. network-centric warfare and information warfare capabilities reflects unbounded enthusiasm, with little emphasis on vulnerabilities and the capabilities of potential adversaries. A thoughtful evaluation of new strategic constraints is imperative.