When the first commercial imaging satellite rocketed into outer space, few realized that a quiet revolution leading to total transparency had begun. Like the introduction of television, the advent of commercial satellite imagery has facilitated the dissemination of information to the world in graphic detail. But experts warn that this new capability could be a double-edged sword. Commercial satellite imagery is unveiling previously secretive activities to the court of public opinion where it can be scrutinized in a way never before possible.
The U.S. Defense Department is developing miniaturized infrared detectors and sensors that do not require bulky cooling systems. These devices will be compact enough to fit in small robotic vehicles and microaircraft or will be manportable. The technology also may improve night vision and missile seeking equipment. Recent advances in physics and materials science are moving these devices from the laboratory to the battlefield.
The U.S. military may one day obtain detailed reconnaissance imagery with laser light that has never touched a target. By using two laser beams and taking advantage of a unique characteristic of quantum mechanics that permits one beam to mirror the state of its twin, researchers are developing low-power systems that can measure, or illuminate, objects across a variety of frequencies, yet generate detailed pictures in the visible spectrum.
The U.S. Army's infostructure is falling into formation under a new command that is responsible for the operation, management and defense of that service's information systems worldwide. The organization's mission-provide a high-speed, secure, interoperable knowledge enterprise across the Army and around the globe that plugs into joint systems and the Global Information Grid.
A recent exercise in San Antonio revealed how homeland security cooperation among civil authorities and the military involves more than hardware and software interoperability. Issues such as military capabilities, obligations and restrictions weighed heavily as participants sought to establish procedures to counter a potential cyberattack.
Placing the concept of management into a military context allows the art of both management and command and control to be examined. Both involve the same processes of sensing one's environment, understanding one's place and role in that environment, deciding what needs to be done and ensuring that action is carried out to achieve the intended effect. Information technology has a profound influence on these components, enabling the commander to retain the appropriate focus on the mission, improving the quality and speed of decisions, but increasing the need to take care not to be seduced by information for its own sake.
New data storage and retrieval techniques are allowing theater air mission planners to call up detailed imagery and mapping data from a laptop computer. Using commercial hardware and software, U.S. forces directed attack and rescue missions during the recent Kosovo conflict by accessing continentwide data contained in a single box.
The U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency is purchasing commercial remote sensing imagery, some under exclusive use agreements, to support operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Applications can range from mission planning and rehearsal to battle damage assessment and humanitarian airdrops.
A combination of faster computing capabilities, lower cost storage and improved software is opening new markets for commercial satellite imagery in the 1-meter and, in the future, 0.5-meter resolution range. Although these images were once reserved for U.S. government and military uses, today a wide range of organizations is purchasing them to support their missions. From monitoring activity in other countries and creating accurate simulation models to mapping underwater environments, pictures taken from space have become a valuable tool and have ushered the world into what some have termed the age of transparency.
By manipulating the slippery and elusive qualities of matter's smallest components, scientists have developed a way to encode and send data along unsecured public fiber optic lines. The method relies on the unique nature of atomic behavior-any attempt by an outside party to analyze the coded material changes the atoms' characteristics, rendering the transmission useless.