A prototype information management and communications technology soon will provide warfighters with near-real-time intelligence. The network-based system collects imagery, video and other data from airborne and ground-based sensors and stores it in specialized servers. Commanders can then access this raw information for needed materials without waiting for analysts to process it.
The two-year-old U.S. combatant command tasked with both homeland security and homeland defense is juggling conflicting requirements as it strives to establish a vital infostructure. The U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, must balance the need to deter, prevent and defeat threats to the United States with legal limitations on domestic information sharing. This poses both technological and organizational challenges to intelligence dissemination and communications.
A cross-service network that shares sensitive but unclassified information among U.S. Defense Department installations is moving nationwide. The Web-portal technology allows users to document and immediately disseminate information regarding potential threats to personnel, facilities and resources to meet antiterrorism and force protection needs.
As defense simulation grows more complex and more capable, it is segmenting just as it moves toward greater interoperability. Instead of diverse simulations evolving into a single, all-encompassing synthetic battlespace, the course is toward individual activities or systems simulated by powerful computing technologies. The goal of modeling developers is to treat these new simulations as modules and assemble them into large-scale simulations that are tailored to trainees' or commanders' requirements.
As the world barrels headlong into the information age, a growing trend is beginning to alarm many experts in academia, industry and government. Despite the attractiveness of information technology (IT) as a profession, our prime stock of engineers and IT professionals has, by and large, been in our industry for more than 15 years.
After considerable interagency debate, the U.S. government has approved ultrawideband radio technology for commercial use. Ultrawideband devices operate across a wide spectrum range instead of a specific frequency. This allows for more efficient spectrum use at lower power levels and presents a possible solution for bandwidth-starved wireless providers. Other applications include ground-penetrating radar, imaging, surveillance and medical systems. However, issues such as possible interference with navigation and commercial aviation systems must be resolved before the technology gains wider acceptance.
The Internet protocol revolution is reaching satellite video communications with a new system that permits transmitting tens of thousands of channels over a single orbital transponder. Users can leapfrog existing satellite video limitations with two-way virtual private networks that can carry streaming video without a hitch.
Networked terror groups, domestic radicals, renegade states and terror for profit all threaten Western democracies to an unprecedented degree. Prospective targets might be high-profile infrastructure assets with the potential for high casualty totals, or they might simply take the form of attacks on public institutions to rapidly erode confidence in governments.
As successful as operation Enduring Freedom has been on the battlefields of Afghanistan, the lack of organizational reform in domestic U.S. agencies threatens the battle on the war's other front-the United States. Despite increased security measures and the heightened state of alert on the part of the public, the country is still highly vulnerable to further attacks by terrorists.
Years of designing, testing and deploying information architectures and technologies are paying off in the success of operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. These successes in turn are laying the groundwork for future network-centric capabilities that will bring with them a considerable momentum for change in the U.S. defense infrastructure.