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The ability of U.S. forces to gather, process, and disseminate battlespace information in a networked fashion has given them a tremendous advantage in major combat operations. This battlespace information has allowed U.S. forces to move faster and apply military power more aggressively and effectively. Today's networks enable shared situational awareness, unity of action, and enhanced shared understanding. A survey of officers revealed that soldiers and leaders are investing time and resources in informal networks that connect and fill the gaps in formal networks. These informal networks include unit-level databases, social networks, blogs, online discussion groups, and chat rooms. An intriguing opportunity exists to integrate these networks in powerful new ways — such as enabling units to self-synchronize, or to provide electronic overwatch for each other. The authors recommend that the Army continue and expand efforts to extend the network (including SIPRNet) to lower echelons, invest more time in developing and exploiting informal networks, and expand the network to include host nation, coalition, and other U.S. government partners.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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