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Nationwide Broadband Safety Network Seeks Industry Input

October 28, 2013
By Beverly Cooper

Work has begun at the federal level to develop a nationwide dedicated, reliable network, which will provide advanced data communications capabilities to police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will enable public safety personnel to make cellular-quality calls and send data, video, images and text—similar to the capabilities offered on commercial networks. Incident commanders and local officials will have priority access and control over the network. Interoperability issues that result from stovepiped local systems, geographic limitations and other regional constraints also will be resolved.

The FirstNet program, which operates under an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), has issued an initial set of requests for information (RFIs) and has received more than 270 responses from industry so far. “We are looking for great expertise from vendors,” emphasizes T.J. Kennedy, deputy general manager, FirstNet, NTIA, Department of Commerce. A second set of RFIs will be issued after the existing input is reviewed, but no time frame has been set, he adds.

Currently, the organization’s efforts are task focused. The goal is first to develop a strong outreach team and then bring in the right technology and people working in an atmosphere that will drive innovation into public safety, Kennedy reports. Then the group will transition its efforts to a building focus.

Public and Private Sectors are Far Apart on LPTA

October 24, 2013
By Rita Boland

Lowest price technically acceptable procurement might not give government the best solutions, and it definitely causes consternation for industry, but it is here to stay at least for a while.

RoboRoaches to the Rescue

October 21, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Swarms of cyborg cockroaches may one day aid in search and rescue, military reconnaissance and an array of other missions.

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are about to get a little bit creepier—but it's for a good cause. Research funded by the National Science Foundation could lead to swarms of the insects being used for a variety of missions, including search and rescue in collapsed buildings, military reconnaissance or hazardous chemical detection.

Scientists at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, have developed software that allows the bugs to map unknown environments based on the swarming instincts of cyborg insects, or biobots. The idea is to map areas without access to GPS navigational signals. “They are live insects, but what has been done to them is that there are small backpacks that ride right on top of them, and they have electrodes attached to their antennae and their abdomens,” explains Dr. Edgar Lobaton, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

“Signals are sent to the electrodes, and that is what makes them stop or move forward or turn to the right or left,” he explains.

High Technology Comes to Army Vehicle Intercoms

October 10, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Army has begun introduction of a new vehicular intercom system designed to offer soldiers 21st century communications features inside a variety of vehicles. A recent milestone decision by the Army’s program executive officer for enterprise information systems (PEO EIS) gave the go-ahead for procurement of the Army-Navy/Vehicle Inter Communications 5 system, or AN/VIC-5.

The Asia-Pacific Rebalance: Where Does
 It Stand, and What About Implementation?

November 1, 2013
by Kent R. Schneider

It has been less than two years since the president and the secretary of defense released the latest strategic defense guidance, titled, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” A key tenet of this guidance was a strategic rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. This guidance acknowledged the ongoing threat in the Middle East and South Asia, but it also postulated that the threat capability had been reduced there. It also made the case that, “U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities”—hence the rebalance.

The Failing of Air Force Cyber

November 1, 2013
By 1st Lt. 
Robert M. 
Lee, USAF

The U.S. Air Force cyber community is failing for a single fundamental reason: the community does not exist. In 2010, the communications community began to be identified as the cyber community. An operational cyberspace badge was created, and those who previously had been communications professionals now were seen as cyberwarriors. This change did not effectively take into account that cyber and communications are two distinct fields and should be entirely separate communities.

When attempting to identify cyber operators, it is impossible to look at the cyber Air Force specialty codes (AFSCs) as an indicator. In the officer ranks, only a small fraction ever takes part in on-keyboard or operational missions where the effects of cyber are leveraged for exploitation, attack or defense. Yet, all of the personnel wear the badge and identify themselves, some cynically so, as part of the cybercommunity.

This faux community creates problems when trying to identify the personnel needed for a mission. It is a distinct way of thinking and set of skills that enables an operator to target adversary networks or take an active role in defense. As an example, many people consider themselves computer network defense operators and are consulted as such. Yet, often they participate in more of a communications or maintenance role. They establish, maintain and oversee networks. This is a very important role—maybe even more important than a defense operator’s role when done correctly—but it is different. Applying vendor-issued software patches is not defense; it is maintenance.

Ask the Expert: In terms of homeland security resilience, how do we
 navigate the path from theory to practical application?

November 1, 2013
By Kenneth P. Rapuano

The recent emphasis on “resilience”—the homeland security equivalent of mission assurance—is overdue and much needed. However, it involves fundamental challenges with which we are still grappling in our efforts to achieve a more resilient nation.

The concept of mission assurance, the continued functioning or rapid reconstitution of key mission capabilities across a wide range of degradations, is very familiar to those with military exposure. However, the domestic application of this idea did not occur until after 9/11. And, it was not until several years following that terrorist attack that the concept of resilience received significant attention.

The new emphasis on resilience represents a welcome paradigm shift. It recognizes what many homeland security practitioners long have known, and some policy makers had been reluctant to acknowledge publicly—that not all threats are preventable. So, efforts must focus on bolstering the capability to maintain essential functions through adverse circumstances—and rapidly reconstituting them when that is not possible. The argument for building domestic resilience is widely embraced by the homeland security enterprise, and it now is enshrined in presidential directives and planning frameworks. However, in key respects, achieving resilience is more demanding than traditional protection efforts. It requires more holistic planning and harder choices than we are used to.

Building Highly Functional Teams Requires Empowerment and Trust

November 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

Over the past year, I’ve had the honor of forming, organizing and implementing two teams of emerging military leaders. Both have provided valuable insights, mostly through learning from doing and adapting after failure. The adage “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” runs deep throughout both, and individual members are given high degrees of autonomy. Working with these two groups, I have learned several lessons along the way, and I hope to carry them forward into the critical second year.

Intelligence Leaders Seek Common Interests With China

November 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Pacific Command intelligence community is fostering an increased dialogue between China and other nations with interests in the Pacific Rim. The expanded effort is designed to build trust, avoid misunderstandings and improve cooperation in areas where China’s national interests converge with the national interests of the United States and others.

U.S. Army
 Pacific Aims 
at Refreshing
 Its Networks

November 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Legacy communications are underpinning new capabilities as the U.S. Army Pacific works to upgrade its systems before obsolescence defeats innovation. The new technologies and systems that will define U.S. military networking are beginning to reach across the Defense Department’s largest theater of operations. Yet, budgetary constraints are hindering implementation of new capabilities, and the existing systems that form the foundation of theater networking badly need upgrades before they begin to give out.

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