Wired has new details about a little-discussed Army outfit "in Iraq": Task Force Odin. In August, 2007, General David Petraeus related an anecdote to reporters:
OK, we've got a UAV overhead. It sees guys planting an IED, now what do you do? OK, well you have to be able to command and control: maybe attack helicopters, maybe ground forces, maybe armed UAVs, maybe F-16s. How do you tie all that together? ...We're really doing it here, in real detail. Three to five times a day that scenario is playing itself out, that one scenario right there.
It turns out this may have been a reference to Task Force Odin. Now it turns out that Odin was "a hundred-man Army unit is using an array of drones, manned surveillance planes, helicopters, and video downlinks" may have killed 2,400 bomb-planters and captured 141 more.
It was an exceedingly deadly small group of people. Yet Odin is remarkable in other ways. First for its composition. Unlike the combat units we are accustomed to imagining it fused a wide variety of skills. Pilots, analysts, technicians, computer specialists. And the other strange thing about it was probably it's location. The reason the words "in Iraq" are enclosed in quotation marks is because it's really hard to say from the reports where Odin "was" in the sense of a physical location. An article by Colonel A. T. Ball describing the workings of the system gives the distinct impression that a large number of people were cooperating in the task of "taking back the roads".
The task of integrating numerous non-standard aircraft, several exploitation systems, and dozens of civilian contractors while performing management and oversight for the contracts in place for TF ODIN is incredibly challenging for a unit deployed in combat and supporting brigade combat teams in the daily fight. This unique task force requires a systems integration officer, contract officer representatives, and government flight representatives in order to ensure that minimum infrastructure and oversight are in place to accept and assimilate all of the program office-provided, contractor-operated, and contractor-maintained material.
The real giveaway to the surmise the parts of Task Force Odin were geographically scattered is this paragraph. (Italics mine)
TF ODIN also faced complex technical issues pertaining to distribution of full-motion video transmission and broadcast throughout theater. In broadcasting full-motion video across the theater, bandwidth is always a limiting factor.
We live in a world where it's the virtual things that can kill you. Ruin your life's savings in a market crash involving derivatives. Fill the mind of a man in your shopping center with ideas culled from obscure Jihadi forums. Guide a bomb controlled by a computer on command of someone thousands of miles a way on an insurgent digging a hole in a road in Iraq. And it's all held together by bandwidth and computing resources.
Bandwidth. It's the invisible highway that ties things together. Communications and switches (and switches are nothing more than specialized computers) mean that maintaining information dominance has now become as vital as maintaining supply lines and retaining control of the seas. Not just figuratively, but literally. And this is why cyberwarfare -- that mysterious sounding, almost unreal branch of warfare -- has become a major branch of warfare. It's been recently reported that "The Air Force is in the process of standing up a Cyber Command, based on the infrastructure of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale AFB, La. Lt. General Robert Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force, will head up the new command. Cyber Command will be evolved into a major 4-star command, Air Force officials have said."
Recently Wired reported that "The nation's top spy, Michael McConnell, thinks the threat of Cyber-Armaggedon is so great that the U.S. government should have unfettered and warrantless access to U.S. citizens' Google search histories, private e-mails and file transfers, in order to spot the cyberterrorists in our midst."
Hyperbole? You be the judge. It's hard to know where the frontline is now. For that matter, where is "where"?