From large strategic reconnaissance platforms to squad-level hand-launched planes, unmanned aircraft are moving into new operational niches such as hunter-killer and strike missions across all echelons of the U.S. military. As these systems continue to develop, sophisticated networking technologies will permit them to interoperate with manned aircraft and a variety of remotely operated ground and sea vehicles.
The wind and waves from Hurricane Katrina had scarcely abated along the Gulf Coast before Washington, D.C., itself was awash in pleas for inquiries into a failed disaster relief process. These were followed closely by legislative proposals for substantial changes in roles and missions in the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Preparation, determination and delegation were the U.S. Coast Guard's unstoppable trilogy to keep the lines of communication open as the powerful winds of hurricanes Katrina and Rita blew into the Gulf Coast. The Coast Guard's primary communications unit for the entire region was directly in the path of the first storm, but the organization was able to remain connected with its personnel and was operational within hours. The unprecedented feat was accomplished in large part with the help of the commercial sector, Coast Guard auxiliarists, and site survey and repair teams from multiple locations.
After the winds of Hurricane Katrina subsided, the U.S. government launched a massive rescue and recovery effort in the devastated parishes and counties of Louisiana and Mississippi. The U.S. Defense Department played a major part in these operations, providing troops for law enforcement as well as supplies and equipment to aid beleaguered state and local governments. A key part of the military's mission was restoring communications to first responders across the region.
A Texas-based U.S. Army unit drew on Iraq experience to provide hurricane relief in its neighboring state. The group dropped into New Orleans, Louisiana, set up vital communications, and then redeployed to another location and expanded its network without missing a byte.
The United States and its allies face adaptable enemies in the ongoing war against terrorism and religious extremism. Finding solutions to counter these threats was the focus of a symposium that brought together experts from the military, government agencies and the commercial sector.
Joint and service concepts of network-centric operations continue to inspire leadership and are spawning an impressive array of technologies seeking to connect decision makers at all levels. FORCEnet, the naval component to network-centric operations and the U.S. Navy's contribution to the Global Information Grid, is one of the concepts that articulates how maritime forces will support joint operations in an information-based environment.
From its start as an adjunct to warfighting to its expanded role in all forms of military activities, the discipline of information operations has steadily increased in importance to the modern force. The concept has grown in size and scope, and it now finds itself occupying an important seat at the table of force projection. Yet this evolution did not come about without difficulty, and challenges still remain before the true effectiveness of information operations can be realized.
An expendable one-way gateway buoy that provides a paging system for submarines is undergoing technology demonstrations in the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy considers the buoy to be a possible near-term interface between radio frequency satellites and acoustic communications. This paging system is designed to ensure submarine communications at speed and depth.
Transformation will be essential to NATO's new missions in the post-Cold-War global war on terror, according to the alliance's leadership. And, as in the United States, government and industry will need to partner to achieve the individual goals that must be reached for that transformation to succeed.