Neil Siegel’s groundbreaking systems engineering work in creating the “digital battlefield” has helped define the future of the U.S. armed forces and is already saving the lives of soldiers and Marines. Dr. Siegel led the design of a digital system capable of tracking friendly and enemy forces, thereby revolutionizing tactical-level command and control. He led programmatic, systems engineering and technology efforts and also guided what was an initially controversial concept through political minefields to realization. This system, known as Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and-Below (FBCB2), is also known as the Blue-Force Tracker. Dr. Siegel’s invention of the force-structure-aware communications network provides better communications in the challenging tactical environment by incorporating continuously updated knowledge of the military force structure it is supporting into routing decisions. The communications network achieves reliable infrastructureless wireless communications for tens of thousands of mobile platforms, without depending on cellular towers or fixed-site relays. FBCB2 has thereby become the U.S. Army’s principle battle command system, is deployed on U.S. Army and U.S. Marines vehicles worldwide, and is credited with saving hundreds of soldiers’ lives during its use in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans. It has been cited by commanders as one of the most decisive new military technologies of our time. Over 90,000 units of this system are in use today, and it is planned to be the cornerstone of U.S. tactical operations for decades to come.
Dr. Siegel is an IEEE Fellow and member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2011 he was awarded the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal “For the pioneering engineering that lead to the successful development of the digital battlefield, a lifesaving and integral part of US Army operations.” He is currently sector vice president and chief engineer at Northrup Grumman’s Information Systems, Dominguez Hills, Calif.