Search:  

 Blog     e-Newsletter       Resource Library      Directories      Webinars
AFCEA logo
 

SIGNAL Blogs

AFCEA Answers: Frustrating Wait to Acquire Emerging Information Technology

September 27, 2013
By Max Cacas

The chief information officer for the U.S. Marine Corps says that in an era when he and his colleagues in the American military would like tactical radios to be a cross between a walkie-talkie and a smartphone, there is a big challenge to be overcome. And no, it has nothing to do with bandwidth, storage or even the device itself, although all of those are important considerations.

Instead, Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, USMC, director, command, control, communications and computers, and chief information officer (CIO), U.S. Marine Corps, says, “I am frustrated by waiting too long to get current, emerging information technology into the infrastructure. Gen. Nally made his comments during a recent edition of the AFCEA Answers radio program.

The general says this frustration on his part is compounded by the reality that because his service is part of the Department of the Navy, he does not have the same kind of acquisition authority that CIO colleagues in other services and most civilian agencies enjoy.

“At the speed of cyber, I need it now, I don’t need it tomorrow. I think with the handheld devices that we will use in the future, that we are developing right now with DISA [the Defense Information Systems Agency] are good, they continue to improve, DISA has been very helpful. But it has to be secure in a cyber environment,” he says.

Gen. Nally also notes that young Marines just entering the service within the last few years are easier to train using new handheld devices, especially those based on commercial smartphone technology, because they grew up using similar devices.

Cool App-titude: Military Traveler

September 24, 2013
By Rachel Lilly

Do you need an all-in-one source for military base information? The free Military Traveler app for Android and iOS provides a portable directory with contact information for establishments on military installations across the United States.

The app includes phone numbers, hours of operations and website links for establishments at more than 250 bases, including the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, and 29 USOs. Look up a base using the search feature to access its full directory. You also can browse through a world map or save a location to your favorites for easy access. Military Traveler includes banks and ATMs, child development centers, barber and beauty shops, gas stations, commissaries and more.

Download the app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play.
 

 

Want to know more? Watch the Military Traveler video below:

These sites are not affiliated with AFCEA or SIGNAL Magazine, and we are not responsible for the content or quality of the products offered. When visiting new Web sites, please use proper Internet security procedures.

Authenticating Who You are Online

September 18, 2013
By Rita Boland

Cyberspace has security problems, and the U.S. government is trying to do something about it. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is promoting a plan and taking actions to move citizens beyond usernames and passwords to more powerful methods of authentication. In recent years, massive data theft has occurred in the cyber realm. Even strong passwords are vulnerable to hackers.

Identities are difficult to verify online, forcing many government and civilian transactions to occur in person to satisfy security needs. Furthermore, the complexity of having multiple passwords for myriad accounts means that many people abandon using certain Web services instead of going through the process to recover passwords they forget. Trusted identification could provide the foundation for a solution, explained Dr. Michael Garcia, deputy director, NSTIC National Program Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), at the Biometric Consortium Conference.

To illustrate his point, Garcia explained that the U.S. Defense Department’s intrusion rate dropped 46 percent after the organization banned passwords in favor of common access cards with public key infrastructure. Costs, policy and other barriers prevent certain groups from following this model, however. The NSTIC has within it the idea of an identity ecosystem that will improve online trust. Officials believe the marketplace exists for such technology. Industry will lead the way with government serving as a convener, facilitator and catalyst, Garcia said. The private sector must determine how to build an ecosystem in which it can swap out technologies for various reasons.

Calling All Rocket Scientists

September 18, 2013

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking ideas and technical proposals for how to best develop a fully reusable unmanned aircraft that would provide access to space faster, easier and at a lower cost than current satellite launch vehicles. According to Jess Sponable, manager of the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, the agency aims to build on proven technologies to create a reliable, cost-effective space delivery system that can be used to launch payloads into space, return to Earth and repeat the process the next day. Technical goals include the ability to fly 10 times in 10 days achieving speeds of more than Mach 10.

Current concepts call for a reusable first stage that would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude then one or more expendable upper stages would separate and deploy a satellite into low-Earth orbit. The aim is to achieve this at a cost of less than $5 million per flight for 3,000- to 5,000-pound payloads. “How it’s configured, how it gets up and how it gets back are pretty much all on the table. We’re looking for the most creative yet practical solutions possible,” Sponable states.

DARPA has scheduled an XS-1 Proposers Day for October 7 and plans to hold one-on-one discussions with potential proposers on October 8. Registration for the event must be received by noon on October 1. Additional information is available via email and on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Do You Control Your Identity?

September 18, 2013
By Rita Boland

 

“We are in an era where biometric data is proliferating,” Dr. Joseph Atick, chairman, Identity Council International, said today at the Biometric Consortium Conference. That expansion is taking place in the civilian world in addition to increases in the military and public safety sectors. “Biometrics in daily life has arrived,” Atick explained.

Societal changes regarding how people view privacy and how they use social media are helping to drive changes in the biometrics field. In fact, social changes are driving a revolution in the industry. Reputation of people is becoming pervasive, indelible and inescapable in large part because of the Internet. Data about individuals can be culled simply through performing a Google search and remains available indefinitely. As such, officials, or others, can link more and more pieces of information to individuals, including pieces not collected through a formal means. Atick used the example of two British citizens who were sent home after arriving in the United States and having their identities verified. They were linked to joking tweets saying they would destroy the United States and dig up Marilyn Monroe.

Social media has many implications with identity management. For one, it makes it dramatically easier to determine social identities. Through various platforms, people’s choices show their dynamic relationships, give context to parts of their lives and offer trust by affiliation. A person who has 1,000 highly respectable LinkedIn contacts, for example, should receive some weighting for trustworthiness from that, Atick said. Social media also allows for social résumés. Individuals can post whatever they want, but other people vet them. Atick explained that the upshot of what is happening in the world is that increasingly identification is being derived from data external to the biometrics enrollment process.

Cybersecurity Technologies Ready for Prime Time

September 18, 2013

Eight emerging cybersecurity technologies ready for transition into commercial products will be unveiled at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel on October 9. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate is hosting the event, which will feature intrusion detection, removable media protection, software assurance and malware forensics capabilities.

The Department of Energy’s national laboratories developed the technologies that the DHS’ Transition-to-Practice program will showcase during the Technology Demonstration for Investors, Integrators and IT Companies East event.

Cybersecurity professionals and technology investors from private industry will learn about these new technologies through presentations, demonstrations and discussions with the research teams that produced them. Attendees also will have an opportunity to schedule a private one-on-one discussions with the researchers to discuss opportunities for commercializing the technologies and areas of interest to drive further cybersecurity research.

Attendance is free, but registration must be received by October 7.

NATO Forwards Biometrics

September 17, 2013
By Rita Boland

NATO is investing time, talent and treasure into advancing biometrics, Col. Bernard Wulfse, Dutch Army, commander, Joint Task Force Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED), explained at the Biometric Consortium Conference. The alliance has named biometrics a critical capability shortfall to address. Key to achieving goals for biometrics is bringing all the partner nations together—not only the few currently supporting the efforts. Methods that proved useful against IEDs have applications in the biometrics realm, and lessons can be applied from the former to the latter.

Current conflicts generate from within states, not between them, so identifying enemies is difficult. More investment in rooting out the bad guys is necessary, Col. Wulfse explained. This anonymity in the physical and cyber realms makes it impossible for traditional forces to deploy their best capabilities. “Asymmetric threats … have rendered our strengths ineffective,” Col. Wulfse said.

Identity management of friend and foe can help mitigate the threats of these types of adversaries and not only in the military context. Other applications include C-IED, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, access control and more. Unlike in times past, biometrics efforts now truly have support from the highest headquarters, the colonel stated.

Despite this support, the basic challenges remain the same. The potential of biometrics for military use is not fully understood. NATO lacks harmonization in guidance, procedures and standards. Capabilities among the various armed forces are unbalanced. There is a lack of knowledge and trust in the biometrics arena, and many of the troops collecting biometric information today will not see the benefits from their work because it often takes years for the data to become a usable resource.

Biometrics: Changing the Game and Facing Challenges

September 17, 2013
By Rita Boland

Biometrics has advanced significantly over the past decade, altering the lives of people across the globe, especially in developing countries. But the field faces many concerns as it looks toward the future.

Ken Gantt, acting deputy director, Office of Biometric Identity Management, outlined the challenges he sees at the Biometric Consortium Conference Tuesday in Tampa, Florida. The first is direction. Members of the biometrics community need to determine where they want to be in 2025. The second challenge is a combination of policy, privacy and perception. “What is right to share and with whom?,” Gantt asked. Third is operations in terms of improving the employment of biometrics. Fourth is technology. “We can’t do what we do without technology,” Gantt says. However, this comes with problems because of resource constraints. Developers have to make technology affordable.

The fifth and final challenge is identity, or rather, the definition of identity. Gantt explained that the term has different meanings for different people. The lack of uniformity presents challenges when groups try to work together. Gantt made several recommendations to resolve the issues he presented. One basic measure calls for a standardization of definitions and vocabulary to decrease confusion. Most of the other solutions revolve around increasing communications within and outside of the biometric community. Sharing ideas, insights and the benefits of adopting biometrics will advance the field internally as well as encouraging its acceptance by the general populace.

Cool App-titude: Call Dibs

September 17, 2013
By Rachel Lilly

In the military community, moving is often a part of life, and that includes buying and selling items along the way. The free Call Dibs app makes that process easier by providing a convenient space for active duty, Reserve, Guard, veterans, U.S. Defense Department civilians and their families to offload or find goods.

An alternative to sites like Craigslist, Call Dibs focuses exclusively on the military community to add a layer of trust and a sense of security to the process.

Use the app to post items quickly from your phone, browse listings by others, and send and receive messages. You must have a .mil email address to be validated as a military user.

Download the app from the iTunes App Store or participate through the Call Dibs website.

These sites are not affiliated with AFCEA or SIGNAL Magazine, and we are not responsible for the content or quality of the products offered. When visiting new Web sites, please use proper Internet security procedures.

Modularity on the Move

September 16, 2013

The U.S. Army is replacing the swivel-chair approach to viewing situational awareness information in combat and tactical vehicles with a standardized family of build-your-own tactical computers. In addition to enabling tactical computers to interoperate, the family of systems reduces the basic configuration computer cost by as much as 36 percent while increasing performance by more than 350 percent.

Based on modularity, the Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS) includes three models that are interchangeable so it can be customized for specific missions. A tablet computer is the basic building block of the MFoCS. The intermediate model adds a processing unit with a 12-, 15- or 17-inch display, and the advanced configuration includes the tablet plus two intermediate units for a total of three workstations.

The MFoCS is designed to work with Joint Battle Command–Platform (JBC-P), which includes hardware, software, communication equipment and network management infrastructure. However, it also will support other command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications.

DRS Technologies is developing and producing the MFoCS, which also will support the JBC-P’s Mounted Computing Environment, one of six computing environments that are part of the Army’s common operating environment.

AFCEA Answers: The Five "Vs" of Big Data

September 13, 2013
By Max Cacas

In considering how best to manage the challenges and opportunities presented by big data in the U.S. Defense Department, Dan Doney, chief innovation officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), says the current best thinking on the topic centers around what he calls, “the five Vs”.

Appearing on a recent episode of the AFCEA Answers radio program, Doney says it’s important to always consider “volume, velocity, variety, veracity and value” when trying to manage and take advantage of big data.

“Volume gets the most attention,” he says, noting that most people focus on datasets measured in terabytes and petabytes. “In fact, though, that’s the one in which we’ve made the most progress. When it comes to “velocity,” or the rate at which large datasets often pour into servers, Doney notes that many algorithms originally designed for static databases now are being redesigned to handle datasets that require disparate types of data to be interconnected with metadata to be useful.

Doney goes on to say that “variety” remains one of the last three challenges when it comes to big data for his agency because of the DIA’s mandate to create a “big picture” that emerges from all that information. And he says that solutions have so far not caught up with the DIA’s needs.

Doney says “veracity,” or the “ability to put faith behind that data,” becomes a challenge when one needs to put equivalent amounts of context to disparate data types to add important detail to that “big picture.”
 

Brian Weiss, vice president, Autonomy/HP, says that when it comes to “value” in consideration of big data, some of the most exciting innovation is coming in terms of how to distinguish and sort out important information from the huge datasets.

Programs Will Perform or Face the Consequences

September 12, 2013
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Army no longer has the luxury of propping up program failures with extra money, causing big changes in the service’s decisions. “If a program doesn’t execute, it’s not going to be a program very long,” said Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, USA, deputy for acquisition and systems management, headquarters, Army, during TechNet Augusta. His repeated this main message throughout his presentation, emphasizing that programs must perform and meet budgets.
 
The general also addressed activities by the acquisition community related to modernizing the Army’s network. “If we’re going to get to one network, we’re really talking about enterprise,” Gen. Greene stated. Budget and world conditions are forcing the military branch to adjust how it carries out business.
 
Gen. Greene explained that under normal circumstances, acquisition officials would have the program objective memorandum for 2015-2019 complete and work on the 2016-2020 version would be underway. But because of issues with national budgets, personnel still are reworking the former version. “It’s going to be tough for my community,” Gen. Greene said. During the recent years of war, the Army has focused on immediate solutions, but now it will have to see further out to make decisions about where to place its bets for the future.  One of the most important investment bets is the network.
 

JIE Moves Boldly Forward

September 12, 2013
By Rita Boland

The Joint Information Environment (JIE) is well on its way to becoming a pervasive reality for the U.S. Armed Services and its coalition partners. The version at U.S. European Command reached initial operational capability on July 31, and the Army now has 1.5 million users on enterprise email, a key service under the environment.
 
Today at TechNet Augusta, Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J6 of the Joint Staff, said that the JIE is necessary because of real problems that exist in current environments. The foundation of the new capability is a single security architecture. Though the effort began as a measure to increase efficiencies, the military now realizes it offers much more, the general explained. Over time, the various services, commands and agencies created their own information technology. “That didn’t help us a ton on the battlefield,” Gen. Bowman said. The JIE will provide a unified enterprise for everyone, including mission partners.
 
Industry will be essential to ensuring that evolving capabilities are integrated as appropriate. “There’s no single answer,” Gen. Bowman explained. “The JIE is not static.” It also is far-reaching, intended for use at all echelons in all operating environments.  Gen. Bowman said everyone will join the new plan, though not in the same way. He compared the JIE services to a menu. Users eventually will have all the items, but not at the same time or in the same order. Earlier this month, the Defense Department Chief Information Officer Teri Takai directed that all department members will migrate to enterprise email. Organizations must submit plans within 120 days.
 

What Sequestration Means to Army Materiel

September 11, 2013
By Rita Boland

“No other field has changed so completely, so rapidly as signals has in the last 10 years,” Gen. Dennis Via, USA, commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC), said during TechNet Augusta on Wednesday. During his address, he asked the Army’s communications community to help his organization provide the capabilities soldiers will need even as sequestration makes providing them more difficult. Senior leaders should worry about the budget, leaving soldiers in the field to worry about coming home safely.

As U.S. involvement in Afghanistan comes to an end, the Army is resetting and establishing itself to be ready for the next contingency operation. The AMC is taking on new roles and responsibilities, making adjustments as necessary to play its part in the changes. The command is expanding its Enhanced Army Global Logistics Enterprise (EAGLE) effort for motors. Previously, only the Reserves had the program, according to Gen. Via, but within the month it should be available at forts Benning, Campbell and Gordon as well as Redstone Arsenal. Even with budget reductions, the command is engaged in big spending. Of the $2.2 billion the Army spent on science and technology in the last year, the AMC executed $1.6 billion of it. There is $28 billion worth of equipment in Afghanistan, and the command is looking to bring $22 billion of it back to the United States.

The prospect of leaner funding is a big challenge. Gen. Via explained that leaders have tough decisions to make on money and personnel. The command is mandated to reduce its manning from 580,000 to 490,000 persons. “And we may go lower than that,” Gen. Via said. “We don’t know.” He added that any possible changes, including closing down AMC locations, are on the table as decision makers try to comply with sequestration.

In an interesting side note, Gen. Via is the only Army Signal Corps soldier to obtain the rank of four-star general.

Team Signal and LandWarNet 2020

September 11, 2013
By Rita Boland

Network modernization is the key to the U.S. Army of the future, and soldiers already are reaping the benefits of updates to the LandWarNet (LWN). The chief information officer (CIO)/G-6 is leading a charge to improve infrastructure by replacing copper circuit switches with necessary state-of-the art technology. “That’s what we have to fix,” said Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, the service’s CIO/G-6, during AFCEA International’s TechNet Augusta on Wednesday. Improvements at Fort Hood, for example, are going to increase bandwidth there by more than 1,000 times. Along the way, other efficiencies are realized. By turning off unused phones, the Army is saving $14 million a year.

Many alterations are under way to create LWN 2020. By moving to a capability-set solution, the Army will enjoy three key advantages over older, program-of-record approaches. They are: the ability to reprioritize what installations to modernize next based on pressing requirements; the ability to take advantage of the rapid pace of information technology advancements by buying fewer items more often; and saving money as prices drop for the same items over time. “With a program of record, you just buy,” Gen. Lawrence said. Already, the Army is using the capability set to modernize 12 of its installations.

The Shape of the Cyberforce

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

As cyber becomes increasingly important to military operations, the personnel necessary to success in the field are a major focus of attention. Senior noncommissioned officers from all four branches of the U.S. military and the Army National Guard sat on a panel to today discussing this issue during TechNet Augusta.
 
These leaders addressed the issue with training up cyberwarriors over a year or more, only to lose them quickly to other internal organizations or to the private sector. The Navy’s representative, Senior Petty Officer Nathan Maleu, said he is in favor of longer terms for sailors in the cyberfield and in fact would like to see that across the military as long as the term periods do not negatively impact careers. He also commented on group efforts stating “I’m really happy we’re standing up service cyber teams,” but he would like to see a more aggressive approach to standing up joint cyber teams. Air Force representative Master Sgt. Lonnie Becnel shared that the Air Force actively is working to extend tours. Another concern in his service is trying to find the people to become members of cyberteams. A lack of strong assessment tools makes it hard to know who really is qualified.
 
The Army National Guard is looking at how to recruit soldiers now and keep them through 2030 and beyond. The active Army and Marine Corps representatives expressed sentiments similar to their colleagues. However, Master Gunnery Sgt. Adam Bethard, USMC, noted that the Marine Corps has no  cyber career field. Rather, current career fields will receive more cybertraining. 

When 5th Graders Run the Army

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

The grade schoolers of today are the company and battalion commanders of tomorrow, and the U.S. Army already is preparing the network they will use. Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, USA, deputy commanding general, futures, and director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, talked about that technology during his luncheon address at TechNet Augusta this afternoon. Soldiers are examining what they will require in 2030 and beyond, decisions that will be important for determining where to invest science and technology dollars.
 
Gen. Walker said that for 12 years life for soldiers has been simple. They were going either to Iraq or Afghanistan, returning for about a year, then deploying again. In that time, personnel found a way to enable rapid acquisition that worked around traditional systems to send soldiers the resources they needed to succeed in the field. That knowledge will serve the Army as it moves into a situation of reduced resources. The Army’s situation includes a complex environment in which even identifying threats can be difficult. Additionally, conventional and special operations troops are now combined in unprecedented ways. “We can never go back,” Gen. Walker stated.
 
According to the Army’s official planning guidance, the service has many roles moving forward, ranging from defeat and deter to humanitarian assistance. The general says people are coming to soldiers and saying, “We need you to do everything.” He added, “When you think of it, historically this is what the Army has done for the nation.” To meet challenges, the Army must modernize its technology. “We’re living off our investments [during] the '90s in terms of the network,” Gen. Walker explained. To provide the nation what it needs, the service branch must upgrade. “What we have now is a network that works great if you’re a motorized ground unit in Afghanistan,” he said. 
 

Evolutions Under Way in Army Signals

September 10, 2013
By Rita Boland

One particular issue keeps Maj. Gen. LaWarren Patterson, USA, up at night—materiel. Gen. Patterson is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, Georgia, and shared his concerns during AFCEA International’s TechNet Augusta on Tuesday.

“I think what we’re doing at the NIE is phenomenal,” the general stated. The NIE is the Network Integration Evaluation, a twice yearly exercise that test new technologies for the Army. “Here’s my concern—it’s too damn complex,” Gen. Patterson added. The opinion is not just his own. He has heard it from many soldiers at all levels. “You need a Ph.D. to turn some of this [stuff] on,” the general explained. Troops have too much to do to have to push multiple buttons to communicate or even turn on a device.

Young soldiers were a topic throughout the general’s presentation, during which he walked the audience through what his organizations are doing in regard to the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities, or DOTMLPF, spectrum. He pointed out that youth today will not accept education that consists of multiple PowerPoint demonstrations. Therefore, trainers must adjust to be more collaborative. New soldiers and officers also expect technology. Facilities at Fort Gordon are making that difficult, because they are outdated. Gen. Patterson shared his frustrations trying to train 21st century soldiers with obsolete equipment and infrastructure. The general reaches out to young soldiers when opportunities arise. For example, he and members of his leadership team had avatars of themselves created and placed into a video that introduces newcomers to Fort Gordon.

Personal Identification Cards Become More Powerful

September 9, 2013

 

Federal employees and contractors are receiving updated identity management tools to log onto federal computers or to enter government facilities. The National Institute of Standards and Technology issued new versions of the Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Card as mandated by revised standards. The stronger authentication credential combines cutting-edge technology with lessons learned from federal agencies. Improvements include a derived PIV credential option for use in mobile devices, an optional on-card fingerprint comparison capability, use of iris pattern as a biometric with or without fingerprints, optional secure messaging between cards and readers, and remote updating of the card’s credentials.

Mobility Banks Bucks

September 3, 2013

A recent survey of government employees reveals that federal agencies benefit financially from the flexibility mobile devices afford the work force. Responses from more than 200 federal employees at the management level indicate that 81 percent connect to work remotely at least once a week, 54 percent connect at least once a day and 45 percent connect several times a day. Respondents estimate that, in addition to their full-time work schedule, they spend more than another full workday—nine hours—each week checking their mobile devices for messages and email.

According to input collected through the survey MeriTalk conducted, federal workers believe they would increase their productivity by an additional seven hours per week—or nearly $14,000 per employee per year—if seamless remote connectivity and mobile access to their agencies was available. Among the challenges preventing the extra efficiency are slow connections, cumbersome security procedures and limited network access.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. sponsored the survey.

Pages

Subscribe to SIGNAL Blogs