This summer I attended a series of thought-provoking conferences, ranging from business technology to clean energy to cybersecurity and network integration. Collectively, they suggest that we’re living in a “golden age” of technological innovation, but they also highlighted a growing gap between increasingly interactive capabilities and the ability to provide security at several levels, ranging from individual privacy to critical infrastructure protection. The bottom line is that nothing I heard makes me sleep better at night.
Linton Wells II points to UnityNet as an example of how information sharing can support U.S. and coalition strategy in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe. He then challenges readers: "Now think of how you can support UnityNet-like approaches."
Open information sharing in diverse environments is critical. A new initiative in Afghanistan called UnityNet can help bring unclassified information to bear to support U.S. and coalition strategy there and elsewhere around the globe.
UnityNet’s goal is straightforward: networking people together in a unity of effort for a common cause. The key points are people and unity of effort. This is not about technology; it is about changing behavior.
It really is frustrating. For years, the U.S. government—and others—consistently have failed to treat information and communications as either a critical infrastructure or as an essential service in Afghanistan. However, in the past few months, innovative people have been making some important progress. AFCEANs can help a lot—starting with reviving the Afghanistan Chapter.
Last Fall, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate asked a radical question: “How can we restore Internet connectivity to American citizens after a disaster?” Too often, he noted, the government treats citizens after disasters as victims instead of as sentient creatures who could solve many of their own problems if given the tools.
DoD policy recently opened access to Internet web pages from NIPRNET computers. This policy is unenforceable and is insecure. It allows the inadvertent inclusion of attachments for downloading of malware from where it can further propagate across DoD networks to subvert security.
Transformation is much more alive among allies and coalition partners than it seems to be in the United States. Last year I listened to officials from nearly 20 foreign countries enthusiastically describe the extent to which they had transformed, or were transforming, their militaries to align with their perceptions of U.S. initiatives. A few months ago I mentioned this to a group of U.S. flag and general officers, and one commented—with support from others—“I hope you inoculated them against this kind of thinking.” What’s going on?
Networking on the move is the newest capability coming to the warfighter, writes Linton Wells II in this month's Incoming column. He goes on to speculate what this might look like, but notes several challenges along the way. How can industry rise to meet these challenges?
Dramatic changes are swirling around tactical ground communications. These offer many opportunities, even as they are sure to leave frustrated soldiers in harm’s way carrying too much weight, with too little spectrum and not enough interoperability. Overcoming these obstacles is industry’s purview, and it can make a difference.
Tragedy can bring opportunity—in this case, to help save lives and reconstruct nations using the communications and information sharing tools that are the strengths of AFCEA’s members. Shame on us if we squander it.
Despite the suffering wrought by January’s earthquake in Haiti, the crisis showed how innovative knowledge sharing could dramatically improve public-private, whole-of-government and transnational performance in stressed environments. It is up to us to turn these into lasting effects.