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SIGNAL Connections

DSI Miami: New Position Reinforces Commitment to Collaboration

August 15, 2008
by Rita Boland

Rear Adm. Robert C. Parker, USCG, is the new director of security and intelligence (DSI) at Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), located in Miami. He is the only person ever to hold that title because the position was created the day he reported for duty in April; he also is the only member of the Coast Guard to hold a director position in any U.S. Defense Department command.

The admiral shares that being the first Coast Guard officer to hold a directorship is personally exciting, especially because he is taking part in an organization as innovative as SOUTHCOM. “If you had asked me two years ago if this would ever happen, I think I would have said probably not in my wildest dreams,” he states.

The role is well suited for a Coast Guard officer because unlike some other combatant commands, SOUTHCOM undertakes few military operations and has no major armed forces peril in its area of responsibility. One example of how SOUTHCOM works differently than other commands is in its employment of two deputies—a military officer and a Senior Executive Service (SES) civilian.

SOUTHCOM solves problems through interaction from a variety of government agencies and even nongovernmental organizations. Adm. Parker explains that SOUTHCOM is a natural fit for the Coast Guard because of the regular interactions with international governments and interagency representatives. The Coast Guard works frequently with other agencies and the general populace during the course of its normal duty.

Plan Revamps Security Clearance Process

July 15, 2008
by Maryann Lawlor

Say the words “security clearance” in a conversation with defense contractors, and the vast majority has a tale to tell of long waits and missed opportunities. Those two words have people in Washington, D.C., talking too. For two years, the organizations in charge of the security clearance process have worked hard to improve it. But for many, the time for revamping the old is over, and the time for creating a new process has begun.

Some experts who have followed promises of improvement for decades say talk is cheap and change costs money—the one element that has been missing from many of the plans. While the Security and Suitability Process Reform plan does not address this specific issue, it does focus on a number of problems that have been the downfall of patchwork solutions. The Joint Security and Suitability Reform Team, known as the Joint Reform Team, composed the plan in response to a presidential directive issued on February 5, 2008. The team comprised members of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the U.S. Defense Department, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Office of the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Innovations Shape LandWarNet

July 15, 2008
by Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Army’s LandWarNet program is reinventing itself as it progresses toward its goal of full connectivity from the command level down to the individual soldier. Technologies deployed in support of warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan are leading to changes in the overarching program, and capabilities introduced by the private sector are adding a new flavor to the Army’s contribution to the Global Information Grid.

Numerous application and system advancements have been introduced into the theater of operations, and they are the focal point of many of the Army’s LandWarNet modifications. Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, USA, Army Chief Information Officer (CIO)/G-6, states that these advances are changing the communications infrastructure for LandWarNet along with the type of data and applications it is providing.

Gen. Sorenson warrants that LandWarNet is how the Army is going to communicate in the future. From the standpoint of the warfighter in Iraq or Afghanistan, LandWarNet is all about improving situational awareness. The Army has introduced data and radio transport systems—such as Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) and Blue Force Tracking—that have improved situational awareness.

Now, the Army is introducing the command post of the future, which addresses collaboration capabilities for soldiers from the tactical edge up to higher levels such as corps and above. The new capabilities are used to generate battle update briefs on a daily basis, the general reports. All levels of the force see the same picture.

Conference Content Delivery to the Desktop

SIGNAL Staff

One of AFCEA’s missions is to provide a forum for ethical dialogue between government agencies and industry. In the past, this has only taken the form of conferences, symposia and exhibitions. But today, both AFCEA and SIGNAL Magazine are forging a path in cyberspace to provide yet another avenue for discussion.

In addition to their traditional Web site features, each now provides snippets of material directly from the conference site as well as full coverage by way of audio recordings, usually available within a week of the event. But listening is only one side of a dialogue, so AFCEA and SIGNAL also invite virtual visitors to share their own insights and knowledge by commenting on the blogs and contributing to the wiki. Whether part of the Millennial Generation or ready to retire, participants in these forums are using the tools of their trade to download information into the hard drive they call a brain and suggesting new ways to solve old problems.

The WEBINAR SERIES offers insights about topics that will be discussed during a future event or a burning topic of interest to the AFCEA community.

NCES Reaches Milestone C Ahead of Schedule

July 15, 2008
by Rita Boland

Superman isn’t the only one faster than a speeding bullet. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) recently achieved Milestone C on its Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) project six months ahead of schedule. Program personnel used a combination of a new test and evaluation master plan template and the organization’s breakthrough acquisition model to reach the milestone early. They hope to encourage other programs to speed up their processes as well.

Military developers working on information technology-related projects have been struggling for years to meet U.S. Defense Department acquisition and evaluation requirements while fielding their products on a relevant timescale. If developers respond too slowly to warfighter requirements, the troops work around acquisitions to create what they need. Another problem, especially for information technology projects, is that technologies that take too long to field may be out of date by the time they arrive.

In an effort to reduce the lag time between requirement identification and solution provision and to reduce costs, DISA began its ABC acquisition policy: adopt before buy, buy before create and create if necessary. Using that model, the NCES program was able to accelerate the rollout of several of its capabilities, including the portal function. NCES adopted the Army’s Knowledge Online (AKO) to create Defense Knowledge Online, eliminating the need for NCES personnel to start from scratch or even buy technology to develop a new portal. “The AKO portal stood out as already serving a great number of people and providing most of the capabilities [NCES] was looking for,” Dr. Steve Hutchison, DISA’s director of test and evaluation, explains.

The Toughest School of All

July 15, 2008
SIGNAL Staff

Throughout the 1990s, the end of the Cold War brought with it a new approach to military doctrine. Planners throughout the newly enlarged Free World modernized their forces around information technologies. In the United States, network-centric operations became the modernization catch phrase as the military moved to embrace new enabling technologies and transform for new missions and obligations.

But, as with most military modernizations in peacetime, the effect of information technologies on the fighting force largely was theoretical. Planners designed architectures around systems that then were acquired and fielded; but at the end of the day the effectiveness of the network-centric force could be evaluated only by limited training and experimentation.

That changed on September 11, 2001. The United States found itself at war, and the military soon was pressed into service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Suddenly the new network-centric systems had moved from the theoretical to the actual battlefield. The technologies and the concept itself would undergo the ultimate live-fire test—war.

Early grades were good. Warfighters liked many of the new technologies, which they found especially useful against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s army in Iraq. Some systems making their way through the procurement pipeline were sent to the battlefield on an accelerated schedule, and they also were received warmly by the troops.

Navy's Top Acquisition Officials' Message to Small Business: Bring Your Ideas to Us

July 15, 2008
SIGNAL Staff

Opening-day remarks at the Navy Blue Coast Small Business Conference by two of the Navy’s top acquisition officials conveyed a clear message that the Department of the Navy values small businesses. John S. Thackrah, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, specifically asked for small business input and ideas in his kickoff address at this second annual Navy small business event. He encouraged small businesses to be persistent in their efforts to communicate their ideas to the Navy and remarked, “Small business is where all of our great innovation comes from.” Thackrah’s enthusiasm for the promise of the small business contribution in support of overall maritime strategy was evident throughout his remarks.

Rear Adm. Seán F. Crean, USN, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) Acquisition and Logistics Management, in his address to the group after lunch, echoed Thackrah’s sentiments. Adm. Crean added that when it comes to small business, the Navy understands. “We know that 40 percent of our high-tech workers are employed in small businesses. We know that most of our innovation comes from small businesses.”

Both Thackrah and Adm. Crean have small business backgrounds, which helps explain their zeal. Thackrah was once a small business owner himself and understands first-hand what it means to manage a business. Adm. Crean is a Reserve component flag officer currently serving on active duty. In his civilian life, Adm. Crean works for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Government Contracting.

NMCI in a Box

July 15, 2008
by Maryann Lawlor

Disaster zones are the latest home for a system that is more often seen in command centers and Pentagon offices than in operations. The Deployable Site Transport Boundary (DSTB) is a local area network extension capability that can enable up to 200 warfighters in the field to tap into the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) using one public Internet protocol address. The capability was developed by the U.S. Marine Corps and EDS to enable humanitarian relief efforts with a small equipment footprint.

Ron Bowlin, manager, NMCI Enterprise Engineering Services, EDS, says the genesis of the capability occurred in mid-2006 when the Marine Corps needed instant plug-and-play access to the NMCI network during a deployment. The capability did not exist then, but by spring 2008, what has been donned “NMCI in a Box” was not demonstrated but actually used during exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand. Also, the 3rd Marine Logistics Group, based in Japan, recently used the capability while deployed to Burma as part of Joint Task Force Caring Response, a humanitarian relief mission.

The box this NMCI connection comes in is no ordinary container. About the size of a steamer trunk, it is both ruggedized and waterproof. Among the components inside is a router, virtual private networking technology, a wide-area data services application accelerator called Steelhead and an uninterruptible power supply.

New Products

7/15/08
by Henry S. Kenyon

Handheld Receiver

This handheld coded orthogonal frequency division multiplexing monitor/receiver is designed for a range of applications including security surveillance. The palm-sized RFX-PRX-II receiver is available in 2 gigahertz and 5.8 gigahertz versions. It is fully ruggedized with an impact-resistant plastic shell. For more information, visit www.rfcetnral.com.

ART: PRX-II

Document Inspection Software

Avoiding malicious software in incoming e-mails and files can prevent many headaches for network administrators. The PuriFile v3.2 software is a document inspection tool that detects and identifies hidden objects and metadata in Microsoft Office files that could accidentally or maliciously disclose sensitive information. The program can discover sensitive words or numbers, camouflaged text, hidden pictures or graphics, and cropped and scaled pages. For more information, visit www.itt.com.

Cablebox

Tangles of electronics and power cables are not only unsightly but also a potential fire hazard. The CableBox covers and organizes power strips and surplus cable lengths. Made of flame-retardant plastic, it features open slots at either end to align cords. For more information, visit www.bluelounge.com.

ART: Cablebox2.jpg

Rugged Handheld Computer

Remaining connected in harsh environments can be a challenged for many workers. The Handheld Toughbook CF-U1 is designed for use by a range of professions, from industrial workers to first responders. The CF-U1 features a backlit keyboard, a sunlight-viewable liquid crystal display screen and a magnesium alloy chassis designed to survive drops up to four feet. For  more information, visit www.panasonic.com/toughbook.

Laptop Case

The New SIGNAL Online

June 16, 2008
SIGNAL Staff

The New SIGNAL Online

SIGNAL Connections arrives in thousands of e-mail inboxes each month, but now it’s time to also catch up on news about SIGNAL Online. SIGNAL Connections, AFCEA’s monthly e-newsletter, is only part of the SIGNAL family of publications. Newly redesigned and easier to get around in, the magazine’s redesigned Web site features additional online exclusives such as “On Cyber Patrol,” the popular cartoon and feature from the U.S. Army’s Office of Information Assurance and Compliance, and archives of recent SIGNAL webinars.

Also available online is SIGNAL’s digital edition—the complete magazine in an easy-to-browse format—as well as Web versions of the articles you read in SIGNAL each month, making them simple to share with colleagues through e-mail. Chapter News is more visible on the home page, making it easier for chapters to publicize what they are doing. And the magazine’s resources are going to grow as our editors find more and better channels for readers to make the most of their Internet experience.

But that’s just the beginning. As part of the AFCEA 2.0 initiatives announced in March by AFCEA President and CEO Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL also has launched SIGNAL Scape, the official blog of SIGNAL Magazine and AFCEA International. SIGNAL Scape has expanded capabilities to allow readers to share information from SIGNAL through the medium of their choice, be it e-mail, Facebook, del.icio.us or more than a dozen other social media platforms.

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