An infusion of funding, some corporate restructuring and a new business plan are re-energizing one commercial satellite company as it creates new capabilities. These improvements could increase support of military operations and homeland security efforts. They have already lowered prices for satellite telephone users and helped a health care association put a backup communications system into place in rural areas sooner than planned.
The new Department of Homeland Security is assembling an information infrastructure that must encompass internal and external organizations, must process and disseminate key data among the appropriate customers, and must incorporate innovative new technologies and approaches to stay ahead of the enemy-all without missing a critical piece of intelligence or running afoul of the law. In effect, the department is constructing a complex information architecture that must serve its crucial immediate needs well before it is completed.
The international telecommunications system is re-balancing into four major centers of innovation: the United States, China, India and an expanded Europe. If current trends persist, the United States may be hard pressed to maintain an advantage in communications technologies and services and could find its ability to prosecute information warfare highly constrained.
After years of economic stagnation, the satellite industry could find that a turnaround is about to begin. Early returns point to a resurgence in interest and visibility for a weathered, yet optimistic, industry. Now more than ever, the government community recognizes that the commercial satellite industry plays an essential role in both international and homeland security. Several important occurrences in 2003 have set the stage for a turnaround.
The U.S. Marine Corps has built a hybrid-electric land vehicle that could be a harbinger of future battlefield mobility. The combination diesel/battery vehicle would have greater range than existing four-wheeled infantry carriers and would be able to operate quietly without any visible thermal fingerprint.
New collection platforms, satellite communications links, a common operating data set and commercial-style database exploitation tools are at the top of the intelligence wish list for the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines fight in a manner similar to that of a joint task force, and their intelligence approach parallels this as it seeks to collect, process and disseminate information to users. Many of the hurdles that plague joint warfighters have been overcome by the Corps, but in doing so it has developed its own needs that cannot be met by joint service operations.
China's procurement of additional modern Kilo-class submarines for the People's Liberation Army Navy, development of second-generation nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines, and continued production of improved indigenous diesel boats present a threat to the U.S. Navy and other antisubmarine forces. However, these submarines may present an even larger challenge to Chinese crews and support assets.
The long-sought dream of using lasers to defend against an enemy on a battlefield may be closer to realization, if recent tests in the New Mexico desert can be transitioned successfully into a tactical system. The U.S. Army is aiming to begin development next year of a prototype that would be ready in 2007 to defend against targets ranging from cruise missiles to incoming artillery shells.
The U.S. Army is looking to radically change the very concept of information management to meet its growing intelligence demands arising from force transformation. This will require a new way of processing and disseminating information in a network that links a rapidly growing number of increasingly diverse sensors and sources.
The focus of long-term changes underway in China's military is on regional rather than global improvements. This approach includes deploying systems that have only a local reach as well as developing or acquiring advanced technologies for specific military units or elements.