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The Bottom Line: Revolution Through Evolution

November 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

The bottom line is that today's military structure is not set up to foster creative solutions and incorporate them into the bureaucracy, but a revolution quietly erupted in October. More than 80 innovators came together to discuss their ideas about how to solve some of the military's most vexing problems.

New Systems Seek to Connect Troops at the Tip of the Spear

September 4, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

Two ongoing military programs, the ready-to-deploy Solider Network Extension (SNE) and the Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN) program now in prototype, aim to connect troops at the very tactical edge back to larger military data and communications networks. These programs—one service-oriented, the other an agency effort—are part of the Defense Department’s thrust to make warfighters, especially individual soldiers in small units, more connected.

Mobility Banks Bucks

September 3, 2013

A recent survey of government employees reveals that federal agencies benefit financially from the flexibility mobile devices afford the work force. Responses from more than 200 federal employees at the management level indicate that 81 percent connect to work remotely at least once a week, 54 percent connect at least once a day and 45 percent connect several times a day. Respondents estimate that, in addition to their full-time work schedule, they spend more than another full workday—nine hours—each week checking their mobile devices for messages and email.

According to input collected through the survey MeriTalk conducted, federal workers believe they would increase their productivity by an additional seven hours per week—or nearly $14,000 per employee per year—if seamless remote connectivity and mobile access to their agencies was available. Among the challenges preventing the extra efficiency are slow connections, cumbersome security procedures and limited network access.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc. sponsored the survey.

Telecommunications Leaves Mark on Afghanistan

September 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

A massive telecommunications infrastructure modernization effort in Afghanistan is designed to contribute to socioeconomic development; provide entry into the global information society; and support national prosperity, sustainability and stability. A key part of that effort is coming to fruition: officials with a telecommunications advisory group in that country expect the completion very soon—possibly this month—of a fiber-optic ring around the nation’s perimeter.

Building
 a Bigger,
 Better Pipe

August 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

Scientists at the U.S. Defense Department’s top research and development agency are seeking the best new ideas to provide a larger-scale mobile network to support an increasing array of bandwidth-hungry mobile computing devices for warfighters.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for new technical approaches that would expand the number and capacity of Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANETs) nodes available in the field.

“When we look at MANETs, it’s really tough to deliver networking services to more than about 100 users,” says Mark Rich, program manager, DARPA Strategic Technology Office. Those 100 users translate into approximately 50 nodes on a mobile wireless network operating in a forward location, generally supporting everything from tactical and operational systems to advanced video services. All of these functions are carried on a service that is largely dependent on highly secure digital radio systems. Once that limit is reached, network services begin to deteriorate in quality and effectiveness. To support larger deployments or to cover a greater area, military communications experts usually knit smaller networks using other available means, such as satellites.

Smartphone Increases Soldier Intelligence

July 26, 2013

10th Mountain Division U.S. Army Rangers and soldiers on the battlefield are now wearing commercial smartphones to communicate with each other and higher commands. Nett Warrior is a Samsung Galaxy Note II with its commercial memory wiped clean and Army-developed software loaded. It displays the locations of fellow soldiers, allows placement of location digital chem-light markers, and enables warfighters to communicate through texting. This information is then relayed to commanders over encrypted tactical radios.

“We are beholden to the commercial industry,” Jason Regnier, project manager, Nett Warrior, PEO Soldier, says. At approximately $700 per unit, buying the devices commercially costs substantially less than procuring similar devices from contractors, he explains.

In addition, the ability to buy newer versions of a device as technology matures means soldiers can transition to up-to-date capabilities as they develop. “So when the Note IIs are gone, they’re gone. Then we’ll have to be ready to buy Note IIIs or whatever it’s going to be,” Regnier relates.

Before the smartphones are integrated into a Net Warrior system, most of the communications capability is disabled, including the cellular antennas and the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. A USB connection with a soldier’s hip-mounted Rifleman Radio enables communication.

DISA Awards App Store Contract

July 1, 2013
George I. Seffers

DISA’s Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization awarded a firm fixed price contract for the Mobile Device Management (MDM) system and Mobile Application Store (MAS) to Digital Management Inc. (DMI) of Bethesda, Md., Thursday for an initial award amount of $2.9 million, with four six-month option periods for a total lifecycle amount of nearly $16 million. The base period of performance for this contract is July 9, 2013 to July 8, 2014. The establishment of the MDM and MAS is a keystone for the Department of Defense Mobility Implementation Plan as it sets the stage for the digital ecosystem that will operate and assure the mobile devices that connect with Defense Department networks. 

A Joint Environment Changes Everything

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant U.S. Coast Guard commandant for command, control, communications and information technology, sees the Joint Information Environment as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems in the years to come as he faces a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He says a military-wide common operating environment will establish “enterprisewide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”

The admiral told the recent AFCEA Solutions Series–George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I,” the Joint Information Environment (JIE) will allow for more efficient system configurations and facilitate consolidation of the Coast Guard’s information technology work force. As the director of the U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command, he also is mindful that the JIE will improve his ability to control what devices are attached to the network, giving him, for example, the opportunity to quickly detect and order the removal of an unauthorized USB thumb drive inserted into a secure network computer.

Hewing to the reality of doing more with less, the admiral also told conference attendees that within the next eight months, the Coast Guard is expected to move to the U.S. Defense Department’s enterprise email system. Adm. Day stated that even though this move initially may cost more in some cases, the long-term benefits to the service will mitigate and justify some of those costs. In addition, acknowledging the futility of reinventing the wheel, he noted that the Coast Guard is adopting the U.S. Air Force’s Virtual Flight Bag, which replaces nearly 300 pounds of printed manuals and charts carried aboard aircraft by crews. Apple iPads will be loaded with digital copies of the same material.

Hooked on Mobile 
Security

July 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Project Fishbowl spurs industry to
 meet military
 and intelligence 
community needs.

U.S. intelligence and defense officials are wrapping up a mobile device pilot program known as the Fishbowl project and are planning over the next year to expand on the capabilities it provides. Doing so is part of a larger strategy to wean the agency and the Defense Department off of government-designed mobile device technology, which will save time and money while providing secure, cutting-edge electronics for high-level government officials and to individual soldiers.

Fishbowl provided 100 Android devices to users across 25 organizations. The name is a reference to the fact that fishbowl users are a closed community capable of talking only to one another on the device, which provides secure voice and data services including email, calendar and some chat capability. “These are all Web-mediated services. We don’t store data directly on the device. It acts as a thin client back to the enterprise so that if the device gets lost, there’s very little data that can be obtained from the device itself,” says Troy Lange, National Security Agency (NSA) senior executive for the mobility mission. The NSA is teamed with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) on the project.

The next step is for DISA to implement an operational capability that will replace the pilot. DISA also will establish a government-owned app store that will add to the catalogue of available software applications for mobile products.

Information Agency 
Changes Security Approach

July 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The increasing use of readily available and inexpensive commercial technologies by the military is changing the way the Defense Information Systems Agency provides information assurance. As these technologies are integrated into the Defense Department information infrastructure, the agency is adjusting its approaches to providing security for its networks and the data that reside on them.

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