The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is only interested in mobile communication if it allows the agency to perform functions it could not perform otherwise, Mark Borkowski, component acquisition executive and assistant commissioner with the CBP Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition, told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
As the U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation continues to build on its positives and address its challenges, progress is being made in acquiring more capability from small business through efforts at the event.
When I first contacted the Pentagon public affairs office for an interview on the Better Buying Power initiative, I was willing to interview any subject matter expert they could line me up with. Shortly after I sent in my query, the government shut down, the public affairs source I was working with was furloughed and my query was going nowhere fast.
Internal change may be the key to managing external change as the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard enter a new era of limited budgets and unlimited global challenges. From research and development to acquisition, these services are looking toward changing methods and technologies to keep the force viable and accomplish their missions. Meanwhile, a range of adversaries continue striving to find and exploit weaknesses in U.S. capabilities and operations.
It’s impossible these days to attend a U.S. Defense Department information technology presentation without repeated mentions of the Joint Information Environment (JIE). But industry representatives often ask, “What does JIE mean to me?” I did some digging into the environment—leveraging the expertise of the AFCEA Technology Committee, discussions with several senior defense information technology leaders and insights from colleagues at my firm who participated in JIE Increment 1 in Europe.
Romania has opted to extend its force modernization period rather than cut important purchases as it deals with its version of the global budget crisis. Despite suffering from the severe economic downturn that began more than five years ago, the Black Sea country continues to upgrade its military with the goal of being a significant security force in an uncertain region.
Homeland security officials are battling privacy and technology issues amid the new social media era that offers both challenges and opportunities. Just as new technologies and information sharing architectures have improved interagency data sharing, new sources of potentially valuable information have emerged to vex planners who must handle technical obstacles and personal rights.
By the end of this fiscal year, the next-generation command and control system for much of the cutter fleet should be installed on the U.S. Coast Guard’s 270-foot cutter class, and the system is now being considered for inclusion on 225-foot and 110-foot vessels. The system, called SeaWatch, combines navigational and tactical, optical surveillance and communications into one situational awareness picture; provides commonality across the fleet; and replaces an aging system that has outlived its usefulness.
Business as usual will weaken rather than strengthen the U.S. military in this time of budget cuts. The force must rely on technology development to ensure that it does not maintain current force sizes at the expense of enablers.
The U.S. military must make difficult decisions that will define the force for years to come amid a substantial risk to readiness and effectiveness, according to a Defense Department official. The nation faces new challenges throughout the world coupled with severe budget cuts at home, and the response to these issues must be taken carefully with a long-term strategic look.
As the national security establishment emerges from more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocuses on other global priorities, the means by which intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) supports those priorities must change as well. ISR operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been conducted in relatively permissive air environments that have allowed the use of long-dwell airborne platforms to provide sustained surveillance of targets of interest. This has led to an imagery-, and more specifically, full motion video (FMV)-intensive pattern of collection. While these conditions may be present in some future conflicts, they do not describe many of the scenarios envisioned for potential contested environments in the future.
U.S. Navy officials expect to award a full-deployment contract for a new shipboard network this spring, and they plan to install the system on nine ships this year. The network provides commonality across the fleet, replacing multiple aging networks, improving interoperability and driving down costs. The Common Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program represents a new business model for delivering capability to the fleet, Navy officials say. The program consolidates five legacy networks into one, which enhances operational effectiveness and provides better quality of life for deployed sailors.
When the U.S. Coast Guard fields its newest cutter next year, the ship will be equipped with an information technology package that offers common tools and capabilities among the cutter and aviation fleets. The technology suite will improve interoperability across the service and with other agencies, and it enhances situational awareness while providing flexibility for future upgrades.
The U.S. Defense Department now is advancing into the third generation of information technologies. This progress is characterized by migration from an emphasis on server-based computing to a concentration on the management of huge amounts of data. It calls for technical innovation and the abandonment of primary dependence on a multiplicity of contractors.
Fiscal constraints and technology evolution are forcing the government to re-evaluate procurement efforts with a renewed vigor. Industry has suggestions for improving processes, but progress will require a different level of dialogue between companies and their public-sector clients. Company leaders believe they can help government overcome some of its issues because they understand both realistic technical solutions as well as the effect policies have on acquisition cycles. But they need the opportunity to show what is available.
The U.S. Army is adjusting its Network Integration Evaluations to facilitate acquisitions more rapidly. Calls from industry and soldiers themselves have precipitated the moves. As companies face reduced funding streams, and technology advances in increasingly shorter intervals, implementing briefer time frames between testing and deployment is imperative to remaining viable on and off the field.
Historical trends during military drawdowns indicate that current Defense Department budget cuts could last for more than a decade. This situation could endanger major acquisition programs and negatively impact the ability of the United States both to pivot forces to the Asia-Pacific region and to maintain a presence in the Middle East, experts say. But the department may have a short window of opportunity to reconcile strategy with lower budgets.
Partnering with industry is not a new concept for the military. However, with funding limits plunging, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet has extended an invitation to industry to come up with ways of giving the Navy what it needs in economic ways.
The move to the cloud offers great potential for U.S. Navy information technology efforts. Yet, other aspects such as applications and integrated capability sets must work their way into the sea service cyber realm.
Reductions in defense funding are having a greater effect on the force than simply instilling fiscal belt-tightening. Already strapped for cash, the services are exploring innovative ideas for cost-efficient information technology acquisition.