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.
While operating forces are engaged on the front lines of defense and peacekeeping missions worldwide, some military commands and activities are at the forefront of a different type of battle-the one over information systems integration and interoperability. Like their combatant counterparts, these technology warriors have found that collaboration, cooperation and coordination are at the heart of a successful mission.
Recent U.S. Marine Corps deployments deep into Afghanistan for operation Enduring Freedom have demonstrated the service's growing digitalization. As troops disembarked to locations far from their amphibious ships, connectivity was maintained through a variety of mobile communications systems. On the tactical level, Marines used battlefield intranets to coordinate operations and send digital imagery to their commanders in near real time.
Engineers have updated and improved a 60-year-old lens antenna technology to create a low-cost, high-gain steerable microwave antenna for satellite tracking applications. Conceived in 1944, the Luneberg lens currently is being employed to maintain two-way satellite contact when a satellite, a receiver or both are moving.
Rapid changes in both technology and U.S. military missions are mandating that information systems plans be comprehensive as well as flexible. Within this transformational environment, most organizations recognize the need for strategic plans that improve their ability to accomplish their goals; however, many times these plans fail to achieve the desired results.
Battlefield information systems, both in use today and being designed for the future, have gone beyond being a force multiplier to become a cornerstone of military operations. The technology of today, along with that being prototyped for tomorrow, means timely response to execute the commander's intent and timely and accurate response to the individual warfighter.
The U.S. Navy is launching a new initiative that expands the concept of network-centric warfare from the purely technical world to the operations doctrine domain. The paradigm will affect every aspect of the Navy-from acquisition processes to transportation, from information sharing to targeting. Military leaders believe this new approach will increase combat effectiveness and better support joint and coalition operations.
Researchers are investigating the use of alternative radio transmission methods for military information systems. A recently launched program examines the use of ultrawideband technology in robust, scalable communications devices and networks, in radar and in collision avoidance sensors.