Defense and Transportation Synergy
COL Kenneth L. Alford, Ph.D., and Steven R. Ditmeyer
National Defense University
The Department of Defense (DoD) is actively working to transform platform-centric operations into net-centric operations.
Net-centric railroading could provide DoD’s Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET) with unified operations in
which positioning systems, sensors, computers, advanced mathematical models, and digital communications could be used to col-
lect, process, and disseminate information to improve the safety, security, and operational effectiveness of our nation’s railroads
in support of national defense. As both departments pursue net-centric operations there will be numerous opportunities to
share technology and experience.
A dmiral Jay Johnson, Chief of Naval
Operations, apparently coined the
phrase net-centric warfare in 19971. Net-cen-
tems for command, control, communica-
tions, and information (C3I), as well as for
braking systems, grade crossings, defect
organizations. For the DoD, self-syn-
chronization means the ability of a well-
informed force to organize and synchronize
tric warfare has been defined as an informa- detection, and planning and scheduling complex warfare activities from the bottom
tion superiority-enabled concept of operations that systems. These technologies can prevent up. … Self-synchronization is enabled by a
generates increased combat power by networking collisions and overspeed accidents, pre- high level of knowledge of one’s own forces,
sensors, decision makers, and shooters to achieve vent hijackings and runaways, increase enemy forces, and all appropriate elements of
shared awareness, increased speed of command, capacity and asset utilization, increase reli- the operating environment .
higher tempo of operations, greater lethality, ability, improve service to customers, 7. General benefits that result due to
increased survivability, and a degree of self-syn- improve energy efficiency and emissions, increased connectivity. Net-centric com-
chronization . increase economic viability and profits, puting is governed by Metcalfe’s Law, which
Rapid and significant advances in and enable railroads to measure and con- asserts that the power of a network is pro-
information technology hardware and trol costs and manage the unexpected . portional to the square of the number of
software during the past two decades have Intelligent railroad systems could nodes in the network. The power or payoff
made it possible to fundamentally change enable railroads to improve their quality of of net-centric computing comes from informa-
the way information is gathered, stored, operations on the DoD-designated tion-intensive interactions between very large
processed, and used. As the DoD Chief Strategic Rail Corridor Network4 numbers of heterogeneous computational
Information Officer (CIO), John G. (STRACNET), enhancing their respon- nodes in the network .
Grimes, recently noted: siveness to military deployments. They
would also enable railroads to respond
… We must recognize that it is all
with flexibility and agility to rapid changes
about information, and we must in the transportation marketplace. These
view information as a strategic Like the DoD’s concept of net-centric
systems could alleviate the need for a divi- warfare, the DoT’s concept of net-centric
asset. Timely, accurate and trusted sion commander to call railroad executives
information lies at the heart of net- railroading is a system of systems. Twenty-
late at night to find out the location of nine key technologies, programs, and sys-
centric operations.  railroad cars for loading their division’s tems, either developed or under develop-
heavy equipment – like Maj. Gen. David ment, have been identified which could
The concept of net-centric operations, Petraeus had to do during the 101st
though, is not limited to warfare and the help create a net-centric railroading sys-
Airborne Division’s deployment to partic- tem. (For a complete list, please see the
DoD. The DoD is not the only large gov- ipate in Operation Iraqi Freedom .
ernment organization that is considering sidebar entitled Railroad Net-Centric
moving to net-centric operations. The Technologies.)
Department of Transportation (DoT), for
Benefits of Net-Centric Here are 10 of the many technologies
example, is seriously evaluating and Operations that are being considered for incorpora-
encouraging net-centric railroading. Proponents of net-centric operations – in tion into a net-centric railroading system.
government, industry, and academia – Some, or all, of these systems may have
claim many benefits. Here are some of the direct application for the DoD, as well:
most frequently claimed benefits that • Positive Train Control (PTC) sys-
Intelligent railroad systems were first
described in the Secretary of should apply to the DoD, the DoT, and tems are integrated C3I systems for
Transportation’s report, The Changing Face the railroad industry: controlling train movements with safe-
of Transportation2, published in 2000, and 1. Increased operational flexibility. ty, security, precision, and efficiency.
their description was expanded in the 2. Increased decision-making speed. PTC systems would improve railroad
Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) 3. Cost savings through increased effi- safety by significantly reducing the
Five-Year Strategic Plan for Railroad Research, ciency of asset usage. probability of collisions between
Development, and Demonstrations3, a March 4. Improved support to geographically trains, casualties to roadway workers
2002 congressional report. dispersed elements. and damage to their equipment, and
The FRA, railroads, and the railroad 5. Increased visibility and a better under- overspeed accidents. The National
supply industry have been working on the standing of operations. Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
development of intelligent railroad sys- 6. Self-synchronization of subordinate has had PTC on its most wanted list of
20 CROSSTALK The Journal of Defense Software Engineering January 2007
Net-Centric Operations: Defense and Transportation Synergy
transportation safety improvements
since 19906. PTC systems are com- Railroad Net-Centric Technologies
prised of digital data link communica-
tions networks, continuous and accu-
rate positioning systems, on-board
The accompanying article highlights several of the key technologies, programs and
computers with digitized maps on
systems that can be incorporated in net-centric railroading. The following is the com-
locomotives and track maintenance
equipment, in-cab displays, throttle- • Digital data link communications • Vehicle-borne track monitoring sensors.
brake interfaces on locomotives, data- networks. • Car on-board component sensors.
link connections at switches (both • Nationwide Differential Global • Car on-board commodity sensors.
powered and manual) and wayside
Positioning System. • Intelligent grade crossings.
detectors, and train control center
• Positive train control systems. • Intelligent weather systems.
computers and displays.
• Electronically controlled pneumatic • Tactical traffic planners.
• Crew alertness monitoring systems
brakes. • Strategic traffic planners.
promote on-duty alertness and vigi-
• Knowledge display interfaces. • Yard management systems.
lance of train crews through the use of
• Crew registration and time-keeping • Work order reporting systems.
systems. • Locomotive scheduling systems.
non-invasive technology applications. • Crew alertness monitoring systems. • Car reservation and scheduling
Real-time monitoring and feedback of • Track forces terminals. systems.
individual alertness levels would allow
• Automatic equipment identification. • Train crew scheduling systems.
crew members to modify their behav-
• Wayside equipment sensors. • Yield management systems.
ior and reduce their risk of unsafe per-
• Wayside track sensors. • Security systems.
• Locomotive health monitoring systems. • Emergency notification systems.
• Crew registration and time-keeping
• Energy management systems. • Traveler’s advisory systems.
systems would use identification tech- tion on track profile and conditions, railroading with intelligent railroad sys-
niques such as the Department of speed limits, train length and weight, tems is not without impediments – the
Homeland Security’s proposed Trans- locomotive engine fuel performance competition for capital within railroad
portation Worker Identification Cre- characteristics, locomotive health companies, for example. Railroad compa-
dential (TWIC), other electronic card monitoring systems, etc. Conceptual nies need to understand, though, that a
keys, passwords, or biometrics such as work has been done on EMS, but a well-executed investment in intelligent
fingerprints and/or retinal scans to prototype system has not yet been railroad systems should reduce the capital
ensure that only authorized crew mem- implemented. needed for locomotives, cars, and tracks.
bers are permitted to control locomo- • Car on-board commodity sensors Net-centric railroading should enable
tives and track maintenance vehicles. are being installed on freight cars to railroads to manage unexpected situations
• Locomotive health-monitoring sys- monitor the status of the commodities by providing real-time information about
tems consist of sensors mounted on being carried – measuring, for exam- current operations and the current envi-
engines, traction motors, electrical sys-
ple, temperatures, pressures, vibra- ronment. The DoD, as well as commercial
tems, air systems, exhaust systems, and
tions, load position, radiation, gases, railroad customers, could benefit signifi-
fuel tanks on locomotives. Most new
and biohazards. cantly from improvements in visibility,
locomotives are equipped with most of
these sensors. In the future, the data • Intelligent weather systems consist running time, and service reliability result-
would be transmitted over the digital of networks of local weather sensors ing from the implementation of net-cen-
data link communications network to and instrumentation – both wayside tric railroading.
train control centers, maintenance and on-board locomotives – combined
facilities, and motive power distribu- with national, regional, and local fore- Increasing Capacity
tion centers to permit real-time moni- cast data to alert train control centers, Today there is a capacity problem in rail-
toring of locomotive performance and train crews, and maintenance crews of roading. During the past 25 years (follow-
efficiency, improved diagnosis of actual or potentially hazardous weath- ing the deregulation of the railroad indus-
problems, and more effective assign- er conditions. try), American railroads have physically
ment of locomotives to trains. • Security systems consisting of closed- downsized – tracks, locomotives, train
• Wayside track sensors are installed circuit television cameras and infrared cars, and employees – while, at the same
to identify a number of defects that presence detectors are being deployed time, overall rail traffic has increased. With
occur on and alongside the track as at bridges and tunnels, and even on a growing economy and growing imports,
well as identify conditions and some locomotives, to provide detection railroads face congestion on many of their
obstructions along the track. Among of intruders and obstructions. lines. The last time the nation faced a sim-
the conditions and defects that could Appropriate information would be ilar crisis was during World War II.
be detected are switch position, bro- transmitted via data link to train control Net-centric railroading will provide an
ken rail, misaligned track, high water, centers and train and maintenance effective increase in capacity. It enables
rock and snow slides, excessive rail crews in addition to security forces. railroads to handle different types of traf-
stress, misaligned bridges and trestles, • Emergency notification systems fic (such as coal, grain, container, and even
blocked culverts, and earthquakes. installed at train control centers pro- passenger) that have different service
• Energy management systems vide for the automated notification of requirements, enabling them to co-exist
(EMS) are installed on locomotives to all involved organizations following on the same facility. Different types of
optimize fuel consumption and emis- railroad accidents, incidents, or threats. trains can each be managed according to
sions. An EMS would receive informa- The implementation of net-centric their individual requirements.
January 2007 www.stsc.hill.af.mil 21
Software Engineering Technology
These net-centric systems will enable Freedom. On April 2, 2003, Army micromanagement. Recent experience
control centers to know the location of all LTC Ernest Rock Marcone (a battalion in Afghanistan and Iraq has shown that:
trains and the status of their performance, commander with the 69th Armor of
whether they are on schedule, behind the Third Infantry Division) led an …another consequence of our
schedule, or ahead of schedule. The tacti- armored battalion of almost 1,000 U.S. expanded global connectivity
cal and strategic planning systems will soldiers to seize Objective Peach – a was that reach-back, a desirable
enable railroads with flow control – similar key bridge across the Euphrates River capability when used with dis-
to what the Federal Aviation Administra- and the last major obstacle before crimination, metamorphosed
tion is able to currently do with aircraft – American forces would reach into reach-forward as rear head-
to anticipate the location of trains (two Baghdad. That night, Marcone’s battal- quarters sought information…
hours from now, four hours from now, ion was surprised by the largest coun- and then used that information
etc.) and to initiate actions to reduce or terattack of the war. All his net-centric to try to influence events from
remove congestion problems before they sensing and communications tech- the rear. 
actually occur. nologies failed to warn him of the
attack’s scale. He did not realize that It is ironic that net-centric operations
between 5,000 and 10,000 Iraqi troops enables both reach back (providing
with about 100 tanks and other vehi-
As the DoD continues to shift to net-cen- increased information for local leaders
tric operations, there is no reason that cles were about to attack his position: to make decisions) and reach forward
insights and lessons learned from work (providing rear headquarters with addi-
done thus far should not be shared with tional information and an increased
other federal agencies. The authors pro- “Twenty-nine key temptation to micromanage). There
pose several concepts that may be benefi- must be a balance reached between cen-
cial to the railroad industry as they begin a technologies, programs, tralized planning and local execution.
net-centric transformation: 9. Be patient. The DoD has been active-
1. Have a thorough discussion with and systems, either ly working on net-centric warfare for
the railroad industry regarding several years, but as John G. Grimes,
which information should be developed or under DoD-CIO, recently noted:
pushed to users and which infor-
mation should be pulled by users. development, have Unlike designing a tank or
The answers to those two questions launching a satellite, our trans-
are not necessarily disjointed data sets. been identified which formation to net-centric opera-
2. Information security and informa- tions is traversing new ground.
tion assurance must be part of could help create We stand at the brink of an era
every net-centric discussion. when networked capabilities
3. Do not underestimate the tension a net-centric will increase efficiency, enhance
that exists between continuing invest- mission success, save lives and
ment in legacy systems and the railroading system.” potentially reduce force struc-
upfront costs of replacement net-cen- ture… 
tric systems that offer a higher rate of
return. Next to the fall of Baghdad,
says Marcone, that bridge was
4. Technological changes will affect The DoD is in the process of transforming
the companies within the railroad- the most important piece of to net-centric operations. Net-centric rail-
ing industry in unforeseen ways. terrain in the theater, and no roading could be the key to making rail-
one can tell me what’s defend- roads safer, reducing delays and costs, rais-
…we must change how we ing it. Not how many troops, ing effective capacity, increasing reliability,
train, how we organize, and what units, what tanks, any- improving customer satisfaction, improv-
how we allocate our resources thing. There is zero informa- ing energy utilization, reducing emissions,
… Because a net-centric force tion getting to me.  increasing security, and making railroads
operates under a different, more economically viable. At the same
more modern rule set than a 6. Understand that your organization- time, these efforts should provide numer-
platform-centric force, we must al culture will be affected by these ous opportunities for sharing hardware,
make fundamental choices in at changes. One of the major lessons software, and experiences.
least three areas: intellectual learned is that without changes in the Grimes recently summarized:
capital, financial capital, and way an organization does business, it is
process.  not possible to fully leverage the Net-enabled operations, while
power of information . clearly complex, can actually be
5. The importance of redundant and 7. Maintain realistic expectations. described quite simply. It is all
back-up capabilities cannot be Metcalfe’s Law is really about potential about ensuring timely and accurate
overstated. A pessimistic look at his- gains; there is no guarantee that simply information gets where it’s needed,
tory shows that failures often occur at hooking things up will make the results when it’s needed and to those who
the worst possible moment. The better . need it most. 
November issue of Technology Review 8. Recognize that net-centric opera-
provided an in-depth review of one tions are not a panacea. Increased This is equally true for the DoD, the
such challenge during Operation Iraqi asset and data visibility may encourage DoT, the railroad industry, other modes of
22 CROSSTALK The Journal of Defense Software Engineering January 2007
Net-Centric Operations: Defense and Transportation Synergy
transportation, and other government 843-2004Mar6¬Found=true>.
agencies. Reasonable sharing of plans, 5. Lambeth, Benjamin S. “The Downside
research, experience, and lessons learned of Network-Centric Warfare.” Avia-
regarding net-centric operations should be tion Week and Space Technology 11
in everyone’s best interest.N Feb. 2006. Get Your Free Subscription
References Notes Fill out and send us this form.
1. Alberts, David S., John J. Garstka, and 1. Address at the U.S. Naval Institute
Frederick P. Stein. Network Centric Annapolis Seminar and 123d Annual
Warfare: Developing and Leveraging Meeting, Annapolis, MD, 23 Apr. 6022 Fir Ave
Information Superiority. DoD C4ISR. 1997. Bldg 1238
Washington: Cooperative Research 2. Available online at <www.bts.gov/ Hill AFB, UT 84056-5820
Program (CCRP) 1999. publications/the_changing_face_of_ Fax: (801) 777-8069 DSN: 777-8069
2. Grimes, John G. “A Chat with John G. transportation/>. Phone: (801) 775-5555 DSN: 775-5555
Grimes, New Defense CIO.” Defense 3. Available online at <www.fra.dot.gov/
Systems Jan./Feb. (2006): 14+. us/content/225>. Or request online at www.stsc.hill.af.mil
3. Weick, Karl E., and Kathleen M. 4. Available online at <www.tea.army.
Sutcliffe. Managing the Unexpected. mil/DODProg/RND/default.htm>. ____________________________________
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. 5. Cebrowski, Arthur K., and John J.
4. Atkinson, Rick. “The Long, Blinding Garstka. “Network-Centric Warfare: __________________________
Road to War: Unexpected Challenges Its Origin and Future.” Proc. of U.S.
Tested Petraeus in Iraq.” The Wash- Naval Institute, Jan. 1998. POSITION/TITLE:_________________________
ington Post 7 Mar. 2004: A1 <www. 6. The NTSB’s most wanted list is found
washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn? at the NTSB Web site <www.ntsb.gov/
pagename=article&contentId=A36 Recs/mostwanted/rail_issues.htm>. __________________________
About the Authors ________________________________
COL Kenneth L. Alford, Steven R. Ditmeyer ________________________________
Ph.D., is a professor and joined the Industrial
department chair at the College of the Armed ______________________________
Industrial College of the Forces as the DoT Facul-
Armed Forces at the ty Chair in 2003. He _____________ _________________
National Defense Uni- served his Army active
versity in Washington, DC. He has duty tour with the Office of the Special ___________________________
served 26 years in the Army as a person- Assistant for Strategic Mobility in the
nel, automation, and acquisition officer Organization of the Joint Chiefs of ______________________________
in a wide variety of duty assignments, Staff, and in the Army Reserve he served
including his previous position as an with the Military Traffic Management _________________________________
Associate Professor in the Department and Terminal Service and Head
of Electrical Engineering and Computer Quarters, 3rd Transportation Brigade CHECK BOX(ES) TO REQUEST BACK ISSUES:
Science at the United States Military (Railway). Ditmeyer’s civilian career has SEPT2005 TOP 5 PROJECTS
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