Smart mobile mines, underwater attack trumpets and an artificial dog's nose are some of the products that may emerge from a newly reorganized defense research office. The reorganization reflects a growing interdependence among various electronics technologies, according to defense officials.
Virtually any device employing semiconductor technology soon may be able to communicate with its electronic siblings, cousins and even distant relatives. Research underway at an engineering institute, supported by private industry funding, aims to empower electronic components and everyday hardware to communicate with one another during the course of routine operations.
The same wires that carry voice transmissions to individual telephones within an organization are now delivering data, television-quality video and stereo-quality sound directly to the desktop. This allows businesses and agencies to provide multipoint videoconferencing, video-broadcast and video-on-demand capabilities to employees without installing additional infrastructures or overloading existing information technology components or networks.
Internal Defense Department research and development coupled with commercial off-the-shelf technologies is speeding medical care to wounded soldiers on the battlefield. In ongoing programs, scientists are investigating remote health maintenance and trauma care tools ranging from dog tags that hold an entire medical history to diagnostic equipment that helps evaluate the severity of an injury.
Technology providers are responding to the growing demand for telemedicine services by combining individual strengths. Companies that specialize in integration are working hand in hand with medical personnel to determine preferences and needs and then are bringing this information back to hardware and software developers for implementation into products. Individually, these companies could only bring part of the solution to the medical community; together, they are helping to increase the use of telemedicine.
Lightweight ultrasound technology that captures three-dimensional images may help determine the extent of internal bleeding of injured soldiers on the battlefield at least 40 times faster than current equipment. Although the capability to acquire these pictures has been achieved in the past, a system currently being developed by a medical center under contract with the U.S. Defense Department would put this medical service closer to the front lines by making the equipment easily portable.
The Naval Research Laboratory, the U.S. Navy's primary in-house facility for basic and applied research, is taking a leading role in the development of advanced applications of both solid-state semiconductor devices and vacuum electronics-two technologies widely thought to be heading in opposite directions.
Just as information system users are becoming accustomed to the concept of cyberwar, a new form of information conflict is emerging that rests on a completely different set of principles. Popularly known as netwar, it is based on a strategy of accessing a network, not to destroy it but to maintain and operate it as a tool to gather support and maintain communications.
The U.S. Department of Defense is not fully exploiting information technology in military operations and departmental procedures. For an organization that relies on information superiority and technological capabilities to put U.S. national defense at an advantage, the department is lax in thwarting potentially devastating threats to its information systems.
While the security industry concentrates on protecting systems from external threats, a danger to information access is brewing from within organizations. The expansion of and growing reliance on networks is jeopardizing military information technology by exposing numerous sectors and even entire commands to errors that are introduced internally by a single entity.