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Many Needs Vie for Scarce Defense Funding

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The budget reductions that will be a fact of military life for the foreseeable future promise to impel dramatic changes in force structure and military operations. Ongoing needs such as high technology and overseas commitments offer the possibility of being both challenges and solutions, as planners endeavor to plan around a smaller but, hopefully, more capable force.

Army Integrates Systems Tools Across Network Echelons

February 10, 2014
By Rita Boland

Soldiers are moving away from the programs that developed stovepiped network operations solutions for particular needs and domains, transitioning to integrated capability sets.

DISA Rolls Out Version One of Unclassified Mobility Capability

February 7, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has deployed the initial version of its unclassified mobility capability, which will provide military and civilian Defense Department personnel with access to a wide selection of mobile devices, applications and services.

Cyber Contest Hones Military Cadets' Skills

February 6, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Defense Department launched a new competition to promote cybersecurity education and training in the nation’s military service academies. Beginning last November, the three service academies created teams to compete in the Service Academy Cyber Stakes, which culminated in a major interschool event held over the weekend of February 1-2 at the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh.

For some years, the Defense Department has been working to increase the number of cybersecurity personnel. One major goal is to have some 4,000 specialists trained by 2017. To get the number and quality of cyber experts needed, the Defense Department has focused on training and educating—especially for future officers who will be charged with defending national cyber assets.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Carnegie Mellon University and New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering managed the Cyber Stakes event. It involved some 50 cadets and midshipmen from West Point and the Naval and Air Force academies participating in individual and small team competitions, explains Dr. Daniel Ragsdale, DARPA program manager. While the cadets competed against one another, they shared a large room. This proximity promoted team building and participation between the competitors, which helped with information sharing. More importantly, this competitive yet cooperative atmosphere will be important in helping create long-term professional relationships between these junior officers as they begin their careers, Ragsdale says.

Researchers Develop One-of-a-Kind Nanocomputer

January 31, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Scientists and engineers from MITRE Corporation and Harvard University published a paper this week revealing the development of what they call the most dense nanoelectronic system ever built. The ultra-small, ultra-low-power processor could be used for tiny robotics, unmanned vehicles and a broad range of commercial applications, including medical sensors.

Trillions of Sensors Feed Big Data

February 1, 2014
By Michael A. Robinson

The emergence of big data combined with the revolution in sensor technology is having a synergistic effect that promises a boom in both realms. The ability to fuse sensor data is spurring the growth of large databases that amass more information than previously envisioned. Similarly, the growth of big data capabilities is spawning new sensor technologies and applications that will feed databases’ ever-increasing and diverse types of information.

How will intelligence
 acquisition priorities change in
 a post-counterinsurgency world?

February 1, 2014
By Col. Herbert Kemp, USAF (RET.)

As the national security establishment emerges from more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocuses on other global priorities, the means by which intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) supports those priorities must change as well. ISR operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been conducted in relatively permissive air environments that have allowed the use of long-dwell airborne platforms to provide sustained surveillance of targets of interest. This has led to an imagery-, and more specifically, full motion video (FMV)-intensive pattern of collection. While these conditions may be present in some future conflicts, they do not describe many of the scenarios envisioned for potential contested environments in the future.

Time for the Military to Take a Long, Hard Look

February 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

Military people like to look at themselves, and it has nothing to do with vanity. Rather, it is about improving, but the attention is not always welcome at the business end. Senior personnel offer the usual advice: Cooperate and learn. Do not be defensive. Looking at ourselves can only make us better, so we go along with it. And often—not always, but enough to matter—we find out important facts we did not know.

Defense Challenges Converge in Asia-Pacific

February 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

All the challenges vexing a modern military—budgetary limitations; information technologies; cyber; and joint and coalition interoperability—are defining operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Covering more than half the Earth’s surface and comprising dozens of nations, the vast area is rife with geopolitical rivalries that complicate efforts at regional security. And, the one domain that knows no geographic bounds—cyberspace—weighs heavily on the success of potential warfighting operations in that region.

Three days of government, military and industry speakers and panelists from around the Pacific Rim examined these issues at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013, held December 3-5 in Honolulu. The theme of “Building Coalitions Through Cyber” launched discussions that extended far beyond the digital realm.

Cyber was the dominant topic, with dialogues ranging from its advantages to its pitfalls. Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, USMC, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), quoted his commander, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, USN, as saying, “We have built cyber on a house of cards.” Gen. Conant stated PACOM is beholden on what cyber has promised, but its full capabilities may not be available during a conflict. “We’re going to be on a denied battlespace; they won’t let us have all the comms,” Gen. Conant said of cyber activities by adversaries. “We’ll have to learn how to do task forces again.”

Scott Dewar, the Australian consulate general in Honolulu, called for domestic and international coalitions to generate approaches for cybersecurity. Effective cybersecurity ultimately will depend on the ability of nations with shared interests forming coalitions that influence the development of international rules and regulations, Dewar said, calling for “a global approach to cybersecurity and common rules of operation.”

Transforming Defense Acquisition From the Inside

February 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. military officials may delay the next iteration of the Pentagon’s premier acquisition reform initiative, Better Buying Power 3.0, which likely will continue to improve service acquisition and exportability processes.

Officially launched in 2010, the Better Buying Power (BBP) initiative is a broad effort for the defense acquisition community to reform itself from within. BBP encompasses a set of fundamental acquisition principles to achieve greater efficiencies through affordability, cost control, elimination of unproductive processes and bureaucracy, and promotion of competition. BBP initiatives also are designed to incentivize productivity and innovation in industry and government and improve tradecraft in the acquisition of services, according to the BBP website.

“We’re already looking at a Better Buying Power 3.0 to constantly take the data from our activities and adjust in smaller increments, so that in the future we gradually learn enough from our past to come to a better overall system for acquisition,” says Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition.

Because of recent budgetary uncertainties, however, the release date for BBP 3.0 is uncertain. “We’re trying to do this on a two-year cycle. We’re dealing with a lot of budget uncertainty. That impacts our ability to collect meaningful data. That’s a fact of life,” McFarland states, adding that department officials want to avoid making short-sighted decisions without enough data. “We may actually look at a longer cycle this particular time before we initiate the release of the Better Buying Power 3.0 because we may not have enough of an indication of what the success or challenges are in the Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative before we can go on to the next.”

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