The United States has recruited private industry to help fight the war on terrorism on the home front. The next battlefield may be cyberspace, and the government is working with its operators to protect and defend crucial assets in that realm against attacks that could potentially cripple the country.
Research is extending the boundaries of information assurance technology to include the operational reliability of individual systems and the ability of tactical wireless networks to remain secure. Scientists are developing agile solutions to counter new types of cyberassaults and to protect vulnerabilities detected in emerging technologies.
Technology is now available that allows various organizations to share information from their databases without compromising their sources or individual agency policies. The software would enable national security and law enforcement groups to coordinate their efforts by facilitating the tracking of suspicious individuals and their activities.
Government agencies and commercial companies that are striving to share data to protect citizens or improve service to customers are discovering that as access to data increases, information security challenges grow exponentially. To address this concern, trusted security approaches emerging from government applications offer information assurance at both the operating-system and relational-database-management levels.
Defense in depth is the key to securing what will be one of the world's largest intranets. The U.S. Navy is using a layered approach to protect the systems that will connect all of its land commands and, through satellites, its ships at sea.
Participants in the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration are reeling from the triumph of this year's event, not only because all the pieces came together successfully but also because the lessons learned promise to provide real support to today's warfighters. In addition to focusing on interoperability issues, other substantive items were addressed, including the unique challenges of operating in the Pacific Theater, handling information disclosure problems and ensuring that network vulnerabilities are identified. Broad and successful foreign involvement in the U.S.-sponsored event confirmed that collaboration among nations is essential to defeating today's adversaries.
In the near future, laser-based detection systems will allow military aircraft to identify enemy ground vehicles accurately in battle zones and permit spacecraft and robotic vehicles to navigate safely through unfamiliar terrain. The technology is built around highly sensitive optical detectors that measure minute amounts of reflected laser light. These systems do three-dimensional modeling of scanned objects in real time, offering missile defense systems the capability to differentiate between re-entry vehicles and decoys.
Advances in visual processing may soon allow robot vehicles to travel autonomously across battlefields and city streets. Researchers are developing mathematical models that offer insight into how mechanical and biological systems interpret images for movement and navigation. The answers will provide a key to designing more sophisticated automated guidance systems for commercial and military use.
Government and private industry are struggling to grasp different aspects of the same challenges as they implement network-centric operations. Whether involved with e-commerce or battlefield situational awareness, organizations stand to gain substantially from a networked information infrastructure. However, some solutions-architectures, protocols or security measures-that work in some areas may not be applicable to others.
Battlefield applications of 21st century communications and information technology capabilities allow commanders to assess their own positions as well as the locations of enemies. Soldiers in the field can receive orders and take action in record time. However, an intense dialogue is in progress on how best to employ these technologies to win the war against terrorism.