The science-fiction image of robot warriors engaging in decisive battlefield conflicts may be closer to reality with the development of new robotic technologies. Researchers are sending autonomous vehicles up stairs, through fields and across a nation as they work toward mobile machines that can learn new behaviors while operating independently of human control.
Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have developed an approach to information security and sharing that combines the power of the Internet with a memory-sharing system and creates a globally distributed hard drive that is accessible to millions of users. The information would remain intact even when servers fail, natural disasters strike, malicious attacks are launched or all three occur simultaneously.
More than 10 years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Defense Department is shedding old constructs from that period that have been hindering the department's new thrust into space. A major component of these changes places the primary responsibility for acquiring and launching military space systems in the hands of the U.S. Air Force. Within the service, new commands and offices also are being established to interface with homeland security efforts and joint organizations such as the U.S. Northern Command.
The U.S. Air Force is embracing force transformation at the operational and organizational levels and moving away from platform-based modernization. To meet its requirements, the service is selecting new technologies and equipment based on the ability to enhance a variety of capabilities instead of a few narrowly defined missions.
The newest U.S. government plan for cybersecurity proposes some short-term remedies while acknowledging that long-term security goals may take years to come to fruition. First published in draft form last fall, the new version establishes a list of priority programs but eschews detailed directives. This changes the thrust of the strategy from an operations manual to a list of guidelines.
While military combatants continue to fight the war against terrorism on the battlefield, U.S. government officials are stepping up work to protect the borders of cyberspace. Information infrastructure security is such a high priority that government agencies are now required to provide reports on risk assessments, system security needs and security plans before they receive program funding.
The newly independent U.S. Air Force Space Command is focusing on integrating exo-atmospheric operations with lower altitude activities, including ground campaigns. These operations in space, which range from communications to precision guiding of munitions, are becoming less of a separate warfighting aspect and more of a united element of high-technology network-centric warfare.
The newest U.S. combatant command, tasked with defending the homeland, is taking a military approach to using civilian assets. This does not involve discarding existing U.S. laws that mandate separation of military activity from local responsibilities. Rather, it involves organizing and coordinating threat protection and emergency response efforts to maximize available federal, state and local government resources. And, it may include placing the military command under civilian leadership.
The Goldwater-Nichols Defense Department Reorganization Act of 1986 instigated much of the transformation that is taking place in the military services today. It set the stage for the coordinated efforts outlined in Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020 and set the armed forces on the path to becoming fully joint in operation, organization and doctrine. From the standpoint of technology, it has influenced the way systems are developed, tested and deployed.
People and equipment rise to the occasion when military computer networks are attacked, according to evaluators at a recent U.S. Air Force exercise. A two-week event that tested experts on both native Air Force networks and a simulation range produced some surprises in the capabilities of humans and hardware.