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SIGNAL Connections

Agreement Opens Communications for Joint Tactical Radio System

September 15, 2008
by Rita Boland

The Joint Program Executive Office Joint Tactical Radio System (JPEO JTRS) and the Software Defined Radio (SDR) Forum have signed a formal agreement to collaborate on JTRS technology development and share information about capabilities. The understanding will open communication lines between the military and industry and academia that will enable the program office to continue creating solutions as well as clarifying standards for future projects.

The agreement offers a better opportunity for the program executive office to discuss its needs with members of the forum and leverage ideas from ongoing science, technology, research and development efforts. Though the JPEO JTRS already is a member of the forum, the formal arrangement makes official processes that allow program office personnel technical access to white papers, research and industry surveys in the SDR and wireless network areas. “We’re excited about this agreement because what it does is provide an avenue for us within government to have access to both industry and academia,” John Armantrout, chief technology officer for the JPEO JTRS, says. 

Technical teams across the JPEO include program offices working on current and near-term solutions to field capabilities for SDRs and wireless networks to the warfighter. The agreement makes it easier for the executive office to learn about innovative ideas for next-generation technology from nontraditional sources. “The [JPEO JTRS] gets a much broader look at current and future states for SDRs and wireless networking that we wouldn’t normally have if we didn’t have this avenue,” Armantrout explains. By tapping into the work and vision of outside partners, the JPEO JTRS can prepare for future needs without disrupting the work of the technical teams that are fielding the capabilities necessary for today’s battlefield.

All Is not Quiet on the Southern Front

September 15, 2008
by Robert K. Ackerman

The Monroe Doctrine of ensuring Western Hemisphere security by keeping out nonregional powers has given way to a more complex activity that combines humanitarian and military operations with partnerships among various governmental agencies across national borders. The number of groups and international partners is almost as great as the variety of challenges facing the many nations composing North America and South America.

The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is tasked with maintaining security throughout 45 countries and territories—every country south of the United States except Mexico, with which the United States has a cooperative relationship through the U.S. Northern Command. The United States is tied closely with the economies of these SOUTHCOM nations. About 40 percent of U.S. trade runs north and south within the Western Hemisphere, and the United States has strong military relationships with many of these nations.

“This is not America’s backyard,” says Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN, SOUTHCOM’s commander. “It is a home that we share together, and it is very clear that the United States needs to be very deeply involved.”

Alternative Frameworks for Process Improvement: A Small Business Guide to Major Frameworks

August 15, 2008

Dr. Jim Kane addressed the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), ISO 9000, Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Six Sigma alternative frameworks for process improvement for a small business at AFCEA’s Small Business Committee meeting. He described the characteristics of each, including which certifications make sense, particularly a defense-oriented small business. Kane focused his remarks on the business aspects pertinent to evaluating each framework and deciding which one is appropriate in different situations.

Small businesses were advised to perform a comprehensive analysis of the pros and cons before undertaking a process improvement effort. Taking an unusual approach, Kane suggested that a small defense-oriented business might actually begin by considering the case against adopting a process improvement framework. In general, he stated, the major process improvement frameworks are really more appropriate for larger organizations. Finally, the investments involved with each are substantial. All of the frameworks require some mix of dedicated resources beyond the direct costs that include leadership time, staff hours and additional external resources. Be cognizant of the impact this expense will have on income statements, he advised. No formal U.S. Defense Department policy requires adherence to these frameworks, he pointed out.

Experts Delve in to Everything over IP

August 15, 2008

Many government agencies are moving to an everything over Internet protocol (EoIP) environment to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. While the benefits of these initiatives can be substantial, transitioning to a converged EoIP infrastructure can be challenging, particularly for large organizations.

An EoIP environment not only ensures consistent accessibility to services and applications but also enables the quick deployment and scaling of both legacy and new services and applications, tailoring them to current missions. Experts agree that this architecture offers advantages, but they advise that it is not as easy as flipping a switch.

Among some of the issues that organizations’ chief technology officers should consider before moving to EoIP are how to provide services in an era of national security intelligence and e-government; how to preserve investments in existing systems; and how to deliver global network services. These and other topics will be discussed during the next free SIGNAL Magazine Webinar on August 21 at 2 p.m. EDT.

Reconciling Collaboration and Security in the Social Media Space

August 15, 2008
by Helen Thompson

As new media and the phenomenon of Web 2.0 continue to evolve at lightning speed, one new term that seems to have some staying power is “social media.” And as social media becomes more popular with people of all ages, agencies must take a closer look at one-size-fits-all technology policies that create barriers to collaboration within these media spaces.

Advocates for open networks say the issue is one of effective leadership and training rather than technology, while critics point out the all-too-real security concerns that are of particular interest to defense workers and warfighters. That tension between collaboration and security will be part of the focus of next month’s AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series: Information Assurance and is part of an emerging conversation taking place on the blogosphere.

Bob Gourley, chief technology officer, Crucial Point LLC, uses Web 2.0 platforms regularly. He has written extensively about using social media in the collaborative space—with an eye on national security planning—on his blog.

Gourley acknowledges that the need to mitigate risk is a significant issue, but he emphasizes the unique nature of the collaboration that takes place on the Internet and how it “accelerates good ideas.” One advantage he mentions is the ability to outsource—or actually, “crowdsource”—the discovery of information to various individuals who bring new information to your attention. “These others can be crowds, random individuals, fields of experts or trusted friends,” Gourley says. “Which of these you leverage can vary from subject to subject or task to task.”

Source Book Update

September 15, 2008

ATTENTION AFCEA CONTACTS: Time to Update Your Company's SIGNAL Source Book Listing

One of the benefits of AFCEA corporate membership is the free corporate profile that companies receive annually in the January issue of SIGNAL Magazine. Called the Source Book, the listing of leading technology companies also has an online version that can be accessed at To ensure that your business’s most current information is available to customers, your company’s AFCEA contact can now update the corporate profile through the AFCEA member portal or can connect to the portal from the Source Book online site. The deadline for updates to be included in the January 2009 print directory is September 24, 2008.

AFCEA is sending each corporate contact a letter that includes instructions on how to update the company’s profile online. Contacts can wait for the letter to arrive or go immediately to the site and follow the instructions on how to update. A user identification number and password are required, but password and identification help also is available online. All corporate contacts should review their company’s profile on the site to ensure it is correct. Write-ups that do not require changes should be reviewed and approved by clicking "okay for publication." Contacts also should be sure to add their firm’s areas of expertise to the Topical Guide.

Interoperability Key to Multinational Operations

August 15, 2008
by Henry S. Kenyon

NATO is transforming itself as it approaches its 60th birthday. While change is nothing unusual for the alliance, the scope and nature of its military commitments shift from simple defense to peacekeeping, so the national armies operating under NATO’s banner must be able to function together harmoniously in the field. While harmony is vital in the era of network-centric warfare, achieving it remains a challenge.

The agency responsible for planning and managing the alliance’s interoperability requirements is the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A), based in Brussels, Belgium. The NC3A serves the alliance by providing scientific research, supporting acquisition efforts, and spearheading initiatives to develop and approve interoperable software and hardware standards. It also works with Allied Command Transformation (ACT) to formulate long-term capability requirements.

According to NC3A General Manager Dag Wilhelmsen, the agency’s other major role is as the architect for NATO interoperability standards, perhaps the agency’s most active responsibility. In this area, the NC3A works with agencies in NATO nations, national standardization bodies and private industry.

The NC3A operates in a spiral process to develop capabilities from their inception until they are deployed. Because the agency represents no individual nation or industry, it has the ability to serve as an unbiased adviser to NATO nations.

Emergency Communications Plan Sets Spending Priorities

August 15, 2008
by Maryann Lawlor

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) has developed the nation’s first National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP). The plan will be the center for future decisions concerning grant awards from the department. It outlines steps that will be taken at the federal, state and local levels to ensure communications across all disciplines as needed, on demand and as authorized. The NECP aims to address the gaps in capabilities identified by events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina.

Developed with input from all 56 states and U.S. territories, the NECP defines three strategic goals to establish a minimum level of interoperable communications over the next five years. By 2010, the plan calls for 90 percent of all high-risk urban areas, some 60 areas designated within the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), to demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events that involve multiple jurisdictions and agencies. According to the NECP, by 2011, 75 percent of all non-UASI jurisdictions should be able to show this same level of response capabilities. Finally, by 2013, 75 percent of all jurisdictions should be able to demonstrate response-level emergency communications within three hours of a significant event as described in DHS’s national planning scenarios.

Security Smarts for the New Breed of Mobile Phones

August 15, 2008
by Rita Boland

What looks like a phone and works like a phone but is really a computer? Pretty much any device classified as a “smartphone.” And while the devices do send and receive voice signals, the security necessary to keep them and the networks they connect to safe is more closely related to the personal computer than the telephone.

Tom Cross, a mobile security expert with IBM Internet Security Systems X-Force, is encouraging the users and organizational distributors of smartphones to take steps to secure their information and networks. He offers five recommendations for any company or agency that distributes the devices to its employees to allow them to connect into an enterprise. “Most of the advice that we have really relates to protecting your network from the phones if they are exploited,” Cross says.

The first recommendation is simple and direct: enforce strong passwords on smartphones. Cross explains that security personnel can use the software that comes with the platform or a third-party security measure to enforce password policy. Passwords are critical because they can prevent the disappearance of a $400 phone from becoming an invaluable loss in terms of personal e-mail and other private information. If users have to enter complicated passwords, organizations have a better chance of protecting corporate data.

NATO: The Treaty That Binds

August 15, 2008

Several years ago, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, U.S. political philosopher Francis Fukuyama penned a book titled The End of History and the Last Man. In it he offered that the clash of political ideologies that characterized the Cold War was at an end and that no alternative had emerged to democratic capitalism. Unfortunately, an alternative has arisen since in the form of violent religious extremism, and the democratic countries of the world once again have found themselves engaged in a struggle for national security. And, other nations that harbor imperialistic dreams counter to freedom wait their turn around the globe.

At the heart of the defense of civilization lies NATO. Founded amid the ashes of World War II and the onset of the Cold War, NATO has helped ensure peace in Europe and North America for more than six decades. Its collective security approach expressed in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Charter—an attack on one is an attack on all—helped deter any Cold War adversary from taking a divide-and-conquer approach to subjugating the Free World.

It is telling that the first—and so far, only—time that Article 5 was invoked by the alliance was in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. A foreign terrorist organization killed thousands of people on U.S. soil in what would prove to be the first of several attacks on Free World democracies. NATO is engaged in fighting that terrorist group on several fronts, particularly in Afghanistan.


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