Who is the bigger genius - the person who comes up with a cerebral concept, or the person that can effectively communicate it to the public? I first heard a presentation on Network Centric Warfare back in 1998 from Mr. John Garstka, who had worked with Admiral Cebrowski on perfecting this transformational concept of warfare. Friedman makes the allusion that "Network Centric Warfare" is in reality, "Picture Centric Warfare". It was the ability to take disparate information systems to create a picture of the battlespace that has been the true revolution in military affairs. Friedman succeeds in taking a complex theory and presenting in in understandable terms & supporting it with very clear case studies.
Friedman asserts the British Navy first showed the capability of Network Centric Warfare to process multiple intelligence systems during World War I. By combining two nascent intelligence capabilities -- direction finding & code breaking -- the British were able to locate the German fleet, thus solving one of the oldest problems of naval warfare (locating the adversary's fleet). Now that they had the ability to do that, the British were able to free up ships from blockade duty (they already knew where the adversary was, so they didn't need to look anywhere else). The Battle of Jutland was the acme of the application of Network Centric Warfare, where the British were able to anticipate the location of the German fleet before they sailed, and were therefore able to have their fleet in perfect position to "Cross the T."
Friedman then follows the natural evolution of the application of American intelligence collection & fusion through World War II, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. America may not have invented Network Centric Warfare, but Friedman's case studies prove the case that we have been trying to perfect it.
No system can be perfect; Friedman presents the failures of Network Centric Warfare by examining the events that led up to the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark and the accidental shoot-down of the Iranian airliner during the tanker wars of the 1980s.
As a communications officer, much of the text in the latter part of the book was filled with acronyms of systems names that are impossible to keep straight unless you have been indoctrinated into the Naval C4 community. However, the reader will leave with the conceptual framework of the capabilities of these systems and how they tie together. Friedman finishes up with an analytical look at how the Soviet Navy failed to apply these same concepts within their own navy.
From a strictly naval perspective, I can find no fault with Friedman's evolution of the intelligence fusion in naval warfare. Colonel George H. Sharpe first applied these same concepts more than 50 years earlier during the American Civil War. By combining cavalry reports, telegraph intercepts, prisoner reports, and other sources, Colonel Sharpe had given General Meade a nine-section report warning of the Army of Northern Virginia's intent to invade the North in 1863. Secondly, the Civil War also so experimentation with balloons and a telegraph device serving as artillery spotters. The concept of intelligence fusion to paint a picture of the battle-space wasn't entirely new. In the 1900's there were just more sensors and more methods of painting the picture of the battlespace.
Friedman's work is the most accessible book I have read on Network Centric Warfare. Friedman writes in a direct, easy-to-comprehend style that brings the previous cerebral works on Network Centric Warfare to a level that doesn't require an IQ of 150 to understand. I highly recommend this book to any reader looking for case studies in the naval application of network centric warfare.