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Tackling Big Data With Small Projects

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army officials envision a future in which ground and air platforms share data and where soldiers at a remote forward-operating base easily can access information from any sensor in the area, including national satellites or reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead.

Multiple Thrusts Define Geospatial Agency Big Data Efforts

August 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Technology innovations, new roles and expanding missions are shaping the move toward big data in the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. A mix of tradecraft and technology is ensuing as the agency evolves from an organization that always has worked with voluminous imagery files to one in which big data represents a goal that promises to change many aspects of intelligence.

David Bottom is the director of the information technology services directorate at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). He explains that, with its imagery library, the NGA has been generating and using large data files for some time. Imagery resolution, file complexity and the number of files continue to increase. Bottom allows that the agency must transition from dealing in large data files to incorporating the concept of big data. “There is a lot of information in those large data files that you could consider to be big data,” he offers. “So how do we actually transition the agency—not just to being a large data file provider, but to that big data environment where there is a lot going on in those image files?”

Big data is not fundamentally changing the NGA’s mission, Bottom states. The capability does allow the agency to function as a foundation for integrated intelligence. It also provides increased capabilities in terms of being able to deliver a better product more quickly. “If those data points—and their relationships—are portrayed in time and space in a way that enables the user to quickly make sense of something, that is the power,” he declares.

U.S. Army Explores Push-Button Networking

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Army’s current tactical network delivers a wide range of capabilities for warfighters, including unprecedented communications on the move. But the complexity can overwhelm commanders who have countless critical tasks to complete and soldiers’ lives in their hands. Future tactical networks will automate many processes and may be smart enough to advise commanders, similar to JARVIS, Iron Man’s computerized assistant.

The Army’s current networking technology includes Capability Set 13, a package of network components, associated equipment and software that provides an integrated capability from the tactical operations center to the dismounted soldier. It supports Army warfighters in Afghanistan and provides a host of capabilities not offered by the wide area network in use as recently as 2012. The Army has fielded the capability set down to the company commander level with a package known as the Soldier Network Extension, which delivers some challenges along with the added capabilities. “The company commander is trying to maneuver around the battlefield, and he’s trying to command a company, and he has these new pieces of kit that he has to learn how to use, and it’s complicated. That’s part of the problem,” says Jennifer Zbozny, chief engineer for the Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical. “If you had an iPhone with an interface you didn’t understand, and you had to do a million things and log on a million different ways, you’d probably get tired of it and decide it’s not worth the effort.”

Defense Acquisition, Meet Moore’s Law

August 1, 2014
By M. Thomas Davis

The United States had a pressing need for a new defense capability. That was what many thought, but as is often the case in a democracy, not all agreed. The debate went on for some time, but it finally was settled, and Congress approved a large sum of money to design and field the new system.

Then, there followed additional debates: How many systems are needed? What are the key performance characteristics? Who should build it? After considerable, often contentious discussion, a request for proposals was published, responses came in and there was a selection. The selection, however, was not without controversy, and a protest was lodged. Once the protest was resolved, a contract was awarded that required production be spread to six different localities in six different states. The first efforts to gather the needed construction material were unsuccessful, leading to cost overruns, schedule delays and ultimately congressional hearings. Fortunately, at the end of this long and laborious effort, the system was delivered and proved to be world-class when tested in combat against a fully capable enemy.

Does this seem familiar? Is this story from recent experience? It could be the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), or perhaps the Littoral Combat Ship, or maybe the Next Generation Jammer. But actually the story comes from Ian Toll’s fabulous book Six Frigates, which recounts in great detail the acquisition of the U.S. Navy’s first six combat vessels in the 1790s. One of those ships, the USS Constitution, known as “Old Ironsides,” still is moored in Boston Harbor, a continuing testimony that as tortuous and contentious as this early acquisition was, it succeeded.

Information Is the New Currency and the New Conflict Construct

August 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Future wars will be fought not over territory, not over ideals nor even over prestige. Future wars will be based on what creates wealth, according to a former Defense Department official who helped usher the department into the information age.

New Leaders Installed at AFCEA

August 1, 2014

AFCEA International has announced two concurrent leadership changes. The association welcomes Lt. Gen. Robert M. “Bob” Shea, USMC (Ret.), as president and chief executive officer (CEO) and Linda Gooden as its new chair of the board of directors. Gen. Shea succeeds Kent R. Schneider, who served as AFCEA’s president and CEO for seven years. Gooden succeeds Al Grasso, who served two years as chairman.

CERDEC Supports U.S. Army Effort to Modernize Crypto Devices

July 9, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

A U.S. Army team is modernizing legacy cryptographic equipment at bases around the world to safeguard military information shared on already overhauled tactical networks.

DHS Releases Quadrennial Homeland Security Review

July 3, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Cyber attacks are high on the Department of Homeland Security’s radar, but increasing reliance on network technology might be making the country more vulnerable to cyberthreats rather than less.

Federal Aviation Administration Approves First Unmanned Quadrotor

July 2, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The Instant Eye small unmanned aerial system received approval last Thursday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be used by an energy company, which will conduct research, development and training to see if the system is practical for inspecting infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines and insulators on towers. It is the first unmanned quadrotor to receive FAA certification and may be the lightest aircraft ever certified. The approval opens the door for the system to be used for a wide range of commercial applications.

DARPA Program Aims to Help Counselors Spot Signs of Stress, PTSD

July 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

DARPA is funding a new program to help combat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and military suicides. It has tools to analyze facial expressions, body gestures and speech, both content and delivery, and inform experts on a user’s psychological state of mind or alert them to behavioral changes that could indicate problems.

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