U.S. military personnel across all armed services soon may be able to share information quickly with the click of a mouse. A pilot program is using a software-based gateway to connect U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force networks in a single instant messaging system. The program planners seek to enhance communications for training and combat operations.
A European army's battlefield digitalization initiative has reached maturity with the wide-scale production of a networked command, control, communications and intelligence system for its mechanized forces. The equipment provides commanders with a near-real-time representation of the theater of operations and marks the location of all known allied and enemy forces on a digital interface. It also allows units such as infantry, artillery, armor and attack helicopters to share information to enhance situational awareness and reduce decision-making time.
A new World Wide Web-based service allows emergency first responders to access government databases, conduct live online collaborative meetings and send encrypted e-mail in the event of a terrorist attack. Designed to serve a variety of user communities, the secure network service's home page provides links and information on terrorism, disaster mitigation and homeland security issues.
Federal agencies responsible for citizen safety are utilizing the latest in technology to improve delivery of disaster assistance information and services to citizens and the emergency responder community. As Americans began using the Internet for everything from managing bank accounts to buying groceries, some U.S. government agencies realized that they were not meeting the needs of their computer-savvy constituents. Although citizens could find a plethora of information on the Web, critical government-held information that could save lives and property after a natural or man-made disaster was lacking.
While the U.S. Defense Department continues its quest for transformation, federal agencies are undergoing a transformation of their own. Earlier this year, a task force, under the direction of the Office of Management and Budget, launched 24 e-government initiatives that will change the way citizens interact with agencies and bureaus. The goals of the effort are to make it easier for individuals and businesses to work with government agencies and to cut costs by eliminating procedural and information systems redundancy.
The U.S. Air Force is undergoing a change in its operational capabilities as significant as when missile-armed jets replaced gun-bearing propeller aircraft. Information technologies, which long have enhanced weaponry and improved capabilities, now are taking their place alongside other key types of hardware as defining elements in Air Force operations.
Industry is focusing on how to reduce computer system complexity by modeling the human body's autonomic nervous system. From servers to software, researchers are building all components of the infrastructure based on the same characteristics-regulation and protection of key functions without conscious involvement. Autonomic computers will make more decisions on their own and require less human intervention.
Information systems are an important part of U.S. military transformation, but they are only one component of a complex continuous journey for the armed forces. Culture, processes and concepts also must change, and government agencies across the board must transform as well for the United States to retain its leadership role.
The success of operations in the Persian Gulf indicates that advanced communications systems are sure to be among the crucial assets put to use by military and government agencies as they work to ensure homeland security. TechNet International 2003 speakers reiterated this point as they shared their views about the importance of information systems in the war on terrorism and in government agency cooperation. Changes continue to take place in technology, policies and procedures, they agreed.
Military and federal government leaders agree that information systems will be key enablers in forming the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and protecting the nation. Speakers and panelists at TechNet International 2003 shared information and insight about the road ahead for the department and how industry will support its work. One chief concern is how to facilitate coordination and collaboration between federal agencies, among various levels of the government and within multiple emergency response organizations.