While information technology is furnishing combatant commanders with situational awareness in current operations, cutting-edge capabilities now provide overall situational awareness to the commander in chief. In recent years, and particularly since September 11, 2001, enhancements made to the White House communications systems ensure that the president can stay connected to his troops-all the time and from any location. Like the transformation that is taking place throughout the military services, the technologies that support the president have evolved into a system of systems at breakneck speed.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security went on a shakedown cruise in the military world with its inaugural participation in the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration this summer. Department personnel discovered how useful the event can be to explore new technologies, while military personnel gained greater insight into homeland security needs and how to support U.S. emergency operations. Many lessons were learned by military and homeland security participants alike in areas that reached beyond technology.
Demands to increase information sharing and collaboration among government agencies are creating a growing requirement for easy-to-use security products that facilitate classified communications. Many organizations are now realizing the benefits of videoconferencing; however, information protection in this area generally involves support from communications security-certified personnel, and moving from unclassified to classified conferences requires cumbersome procedures.
The World Wide Web's commercial revolution is feeding new capabilities to Intelink, the intelligence community's independent intranet. As usage increases and information grows exponentially, Intelink is adapting Web tools to serve the increasingly complex needs of a secure network.
The U.S. Army is pushing to ensure that the people in charge of the latest tools in warfare are up to date in defending its information and computer networks. Personnel who are key to the service's transformation and its move to digitizing the force are being trained to install, configure, operate and maintain the latest communications systems and are learning to identify evolving threats to these systems.
In the past year there has been spirited public debate about the future of the intelligence community. While this debate largely is rooted in the attacks of September 11, 2001, many of the issues currently being addressed go far beyond the war on terrorism. One of the central issues includes key aspects of the intelligence community's functions in an infocentric democracy that is transforming its military into a network-centric fighting force.
The Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military are embarking on a path to combine their complementary assets in the war on terrorism. Both national security elements have been taking on each other's characteristics-the military is transforming its force along a common denominator of information, while the intelligence community increasingly is engaging in active, even paramilitary, operations in the field.
Greater urgencies in both conventional and asymmetrical warfare are accelerating the development and deployment of measurement and signature intelligence systems. This rapidly growing discipline is delving into more diverse sources of data, and experts are advancing ways of using it to help other intelligence sensor systems. Concurrently, laboratory researchers are seeking to develop a totally new family of sensor systems that can detect everyday energy emissions from artificial and organic sources.
The U.S. Army has a new tool in its arsenal that allows mobile troops to gather intelligence about the location and activities of adversaries by pinpointing the source of signal transmissions and intercepting communications. The system will replace legacy electronic warfare systems that were developed more than 30 years ago, and it has already been deployed in Afghanistan in support of operation Enduring Freedom.
Information technology is widely and often wildly heralded as the key to rearming the U.S. military for networked conflict, marshaling a host of disparate and dispersed bureaucracies to secure the homeland, and exporting American principles of liberty and justice. But, cloaked by hubris is the indisputable fact that the worth of information technology is established not by how much it costs, but how intelligently it is employed and how well it satisfies user needs.