West 2005, the annual conference and exposition sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute, opened with a series of controversial speeches and panel discussions. The three days of conferences, speakers, panels and courses began with the Marine Band playing music ranging from marches to swing jazz. This proved to be something of a metaphor for the ideas that were exchanged on this first day. Being held February 1-3 in San Diego, this year's event mixed current events with prognostications in its program, "Beyond Iraq; How Do We Get Transformation Right?"
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security became the 15th cabinet department in January 2003, consolidating 22 agencies and more than 180,000 people under one unified organization. Prior to creation of the department, no single federal department had homeland security as its primary objective. One can only imagine the challenges it faces as a brand new department in this age of technology. The department's staff is confronted every day with building the enterprise architecture, developing its geospatial capabilities, enhancing its cybersecurity and improving its wireless technologies.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, changed Free World society forever. The terrorist slaughter brought home the concept that no oceans, no mountains, no national borders will deter evildoers from attacking innocents around the globe.
The focal point for national efforts to combine federal and local law enforcement security activities can be found just a few blocks from the White House in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. The police charged with patrolling the nation's capital are finding that conventional police work is proving far more useful in dealing with terrorist threats than anticipated. And, the department's Joint Operations Command Center, or JOCC, serves both as a center for tracking conventional crime and as a base for coordinating multigovernmental responses to violent demonstrations and terrorism in the nation's capital.
The homeland security market is undergoing a major shift away from individual products and systems to integrated, solutions-based offerings. A combination of business mergers and new technologies is the major force behind this change. Companies have consolidated critical sectors of the market, creating a business environment where broad suites of complementary services have an edge over narrowly focused products.
The U.S. Coast Guard is going on the offensive with a transformational initiative that represents a fundamental shift in how the service operates. Rather than serving primarily in a response mode, the service is taking a proactive approach to understanding the global maritime space so it can assess any vessel that could affect the safety, security, economy or environment of the United States. To accomplish this task, the Coast Guard will be relying on technologies that help track watercraft, distinguish normal activity from potential threats and provide this information to the people and organizations that need it.
Smart surveillance systems soon will make it difficult for militants to infiltrate mass transit facilities and secure installations. These technologies, along with advanced foreign-media monitoring and first-responder training applications, provide government and law enforcement organizations with a crucial edge against terrorism.
Viruses, worms, hackers, spam, disgruntled employees, flawed software, terrorists-cyberspace is rife with danger, but defending information has some pitfalls of its own. Information security specialists are the front-line warriors in this battlespace, and they may be making important decisions about which weapons to use based on misconceptions often promulgated by security product vendors. Industry experts have taken a closer look at some commonly held information assurance beliefs and claim that many are little more than myths.
The U.S. Air Force is building on new capabilities tested in Afghanistan and Iraq with a push for networked operations that exceeds many of the dreams of air combat planners of only a few years ago. New warfighting technologies in the pipeline for years are being melded with advanced sensors, data processing and information systems to produce a networked force that increasingly resembles a multicellular organism working to be the dominant life form in its environment.
The U.S. Air Force is building its future around an info-centric force that must solve a myriad of problems related to networking of facilities, platforms and people. With new capabilities being tested and validated in combat operations over Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force is streaking headlong into becoming a networked force that operates around the concept of information as a constant throughout the battlespace. But, until challenges such as security, data commonality and funding are met, the future of the network-centric Air Force remains up in the air.