By Dane Weston, AFCEA Orlando-Central Florida Chapter President
Everything is "transforming" these days. Our economy, our military, our nation and our place in the world are all under immense pressures to change, to dramatically alter what we are to keep up with what we need to be.
The U.S. Air Force is moving its communications and command and control systems to an on-demand, Internet-based model. This will consist of wired and wireless data pipes connecting ground installations, aircraft and satellites in a seamless architecture. However, while many parts of this structure are in place, the service still faces the challenge of establishing and managing what will become a massive system of systems.
Within the next decade, the U.S. Air Force plans to field a rapidly deployable satellite launch capability to support joint and coalition operations around the world. By working with the national research and development community, the service aims to identify and nurture technologies that will enhance the nation's military space efforts.
A new generation of autonomous, problem-solving robots will soon be entering commercial service. Recent advances in computer processing power have allowed researchers to design prototype machines that can navigate in unfamiliar surroundings unassisted. Using a variety of sensors, the robot creates a constantly updated three-dimensional map as it goes through its routine. It is this self-navigation that is finally placing mobile robotic systems on the verge of commercial viability, scientists say.
Ken Dahlberg sometimes likens his burgeoning high-technology business to a high-speed ride at a Disney theme park. No, he is not being sarcastic-far from it.
In just six years, Dahlberg's information systems and technology (IS&T) group at General Dynamics has become one of the largest and most respected outfits selling technology services to the nation's defense and civilian agencies.
U.S. Defense Department science and technology investment is transcending the requirements model of the past in a shift from threat-based to capabilities-based thinking. While researchers are examining areas such as avionics, materials and nanotechnology, military leaders are exploring how cutting-edge developments can move more quickly from the laboratory to the field.
During the past 18 months, the topic of security has been explored in the pages of SIGNAL Magazine in dozens of articles and in at least a half dozen commentaries. Security also has been a priority for AFCEANs worldwide whose responsibilities range from ensuring network security to offering professional training, to enforcing disciplines and compliance and investing in technology. We know that we must set the bar very high and demonstrate that intrusions or disruptions of our networks is not an option. As information technology professionals, we recognize that security is a social, legal, technical and cultural issue and are working hard to cover all the bases.
An increasing emphasis on information security is prompting experts in the technology industry to follow the lead of the medical and legal professions, which feature a system of specialties and subspecialties. One major accreditation organization is taking a closer look at the government sector and addressing the distinct circumstances of information security specialists in that arena. Once specific issues are identified, they could affect the certification process as well as influence public policy.
A review of U.S. Defense Department information systems using a code analysis process has found no evidence of deliberate infusion of vulnerabilities into applications, but it has found instances of bad coding practices and programmer shortcuts that have left systems open to attack. The vulnerabilities found would not have been easily detected by an outside source, but they were open doors for an insider who wished to exploit them. The systems were hosted on extremely critical networks where a breach could have catastrophic consequences.
One of the key factors inhibiting the growth of the wireless fidelity market is security. The attractive wireless technology that offers a wide range of applications also is generating a wave of uncertainty about the fidelity of its connectivity.