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SIGNAL Connections

Airmen Tap Into Knowledge Now

May 15, 2008
by Maryann Lawlor

E-communities are growing by leaps and bounds in the U.S. Air Force’s premier professional networking venue: Air Force Knowledge Now (AFKN). With more than 225,000 users and nearly 12,000 communities of practice (COPs), AFKN is fast becoming the virtual go-to place for airmen seeking to connect with each other to discuss issues and solve problems. And although the e-space was originally established for members of the Air Force, it is quickly becoming a joint collaborative environment as members of active-duty, Reserve and Guard of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps join the ranks of users.

The social networking and e-collaboration that has been seeping into the organizational fabric of the commercial sector today is a tool Air Force personnel have been taking advantage of for some time. In fact, in 1999 when the service first introduced AFKN, it had to create its own technologies to establish the capability because nothing like it existed on the commercial shelf. Over the past nine years, however, the Air Force has seen it take on a life of its own, continuing to produce benefits that even its originators did not foresee.

At the core of the AFKN’s structure are COPs that registered users create to open discussion about specific areas of interest. Topics can range from procurement procedures to security forces. Randy Adkins, director, Air Force Center of Excellence for Knowledge Management, says the increased use of AFKN simply reflects how technology has changed professional interaction. In the past, airmen would call or e-mail each other to get information or collaborate; now many look to the Web as the venue for exchanging ideas and solving problems.

Military Shapes Conditions for Peace

May 15, 2008
by Maryann Lawlor

While most military planning focuses on how to win wars, a concept developed by forward-thinkers in the joint world is honing methods to prevent them. Dubbed cooperative security, the plan aims at helping countries with struggling governments and economies so they do not fall victim to internal conflict or become tempted to open their doors to terrorists.

The formalized document, titled “The Military Contribution to Cooperative Security,” is the brainchild of the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s (JFCOM’s) Joint Innovation and Experimentation Directorate (J-9), Suffolk, Virginia, and the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), Stuttgart, Germany. Originally called “shaping,” the approach is now commonly referred to as cooperative security.

Rear Adm. Dan W. Davenport, USN, director, Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate (J-9), JFCOM, explains that nearly two years ago, the U.S. Defense Department recognized that it lacked a concept that covers its geographic combatant commanders’ day-to-day efforts that lead to a more stable security environment. The department sought concept proposals describing these activities, and JFCOM and EUCOM offerings were so similar that the Joint Staff directed the two to partner to create the final concept. In many ways, the joint operating concept essentially documents and institutionalizes what the military services have been doing for quite some time, the admiral allows.

AFCEA Events Take Shape in Europe

May 15, 2008

Information professionals from all over Europe are gathering on June 4 at the SHAPE Club in Mons, Belgium, to learn and share their ideas about the pitfalls and benefits of using commercial technology in the battlespace. Sponsored by AFCEA Europe, “The Dual Use of Technology” symposium and exposition features a variety of speakers from industry, government and the military.

Topics will be discussed from two angles: national and commercial. Featured speakers such as Dag Wilhelmsen, general manager, NATO C3 Agency; Lt. Gen. Ulrich Wolf, DEU  A, director, NCSA; and Tom Conte from Dell Incorporated will offer their insights about topics such as current and emerging technologies, reasons the military has turned to the commercial sector, and how industry is adopting their on-the-shelf products to meet the specific needs of the military.

Following the event in Mons, AFCEA Professional Development Europe is offering a two-day course titled “Doing Business with NATO–Understanding the System” on June 5 -6 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, Brussels, Belgium. Based on his work with NATO, John Roberts, retired British Army colonel, will lead this workshop-style class that focuses on sharing experiences about working with NATO and offers the opportunity to network with potential collaborators on future projects.

Innovators Imagine Communications Far Down the Road

May 15, 2008
by Rita Boland

The minds of the world creating the future’s communications technology already know what to expect in the next generation—tools that are smaller, more powerful and more flexible yet less expensive. These experimenters also know that current bandwidth problems have to be a focus area for future operations.

Scientists and engineers are working on a range of projects to meet the needs of troops. At LGS Innovations, researchers are preparing technologies that could roll out in 10 years and others that are 20 or more years away. One major focus area is the need to work around limited bandwidth problems. In the Bell Labs Layered Space-Time (BLAST) project, LGS engineers are increasing the amount of data transmitted over the spectrum. Already they have demonstrated speeds of 50 bits per second per hertz. “That’s pretty extraordinary because spectrum is pretty precious,” says Dave Bishop, chief technology officer and chief operating officer at LGS. Spectrum also is expensive.

BLAST employs multiple transmitting and multiple receiving with specific algorithms to code and decode messages to make multipath communications advantageous. Bishop believes this will have a major impact on military communications.

Antennas are another area of next-generation communications technology under development at LGS. The organization is working with nanotechnologies and metamaterials to create electronically large but physically small antennas. The experimental materials enable the shrinkage of large antennas required with specific radio frequencies.

The Never-Ending Quest for Jointness

May 15, 2008

The need for the U.S. military services to act in concert —“jointness”­— is not a new concept. The services have been working to improve interoperability for decades. The longtime issue became an urgent problem after Grenada operations in 1983 when interoperability troubles plagued U.S. forces—a situation highlighted when a warfighter pinned down by enemy fire on that island had to use his personal commercial telephone card to call his U.S. base to request fire support from overhead gunships. The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act codified the need for joint interoperability, and the services have been striving toward that goal for more than two decades.

But true jointness is like perfection: something to aim for, but never to achieve. Being able to operate jointly is a prerequisite for any forces going into combat, whether a nation is acting unilaterally or as part of a coalition. Planners as well as operators are working diligently to eliminate interoperability. Yet, despite unanimity of purpose, no one is likely to see ultimate jointness attained in the foreseeable future.

There are several reasons for this shortfall. Foremost among these is that services with distinctly separate roles want equipment tailored to their needs. With mission requirements first among criteria, interoperability problems are bound to emerge despite the best efforts of planners to design interoperability into systems. At some point, authorities are faced with the tough choice of interoperability versus ideal performance.

Identity Assurance Grows Stronger

June 16, 2008

The U.S. government’s progress toward a universal personal identification card for government employees and contractors is moving into the next phase. A need to increase key lengths to ensure security has the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) busy working to define replacements and to determine a specific migration schedule. Updates will begin at the end of this year and continue through 2015.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive–12 (HSPD-12) instigated the drive for a common, reliable and secure identification standard for federal employees and contractors. The directive requires that all agencies issue interoperable credentials to all government employees and contractors by October 2008. NIST laid the groundwork for creating the credential with the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 201. According to William MacGregor, Personal Identity Verification (PIV) coordinator and acting manager of the security testing and metrics group at NIST, FIPS 201 is the umbrella name for a dozen documents that detail requirements for issues such as the card distribution, biometrics, testing and the cryptographic elements.

Make a Difference in the Intelligence Community

May 15, 2008

The AFCEA Intelligence Committee is looking for a few good men and women from industry to share their expertise by serving as members of the committee. The group comprises intelligence professionals from both the public and private sectors who volunteer to oversee AFCEA’s intelligence outreach.

Committee members attend monthly meetings at AFCEA International in Fairfax, Virginia, and support two symposia each year. In addition, they have the opportunity to influence the course materials used in AFCEA professional development courses by contributing ideas based on their expertise. Periodically, Intelligence Committee members also have contributed article ideas that have been followed up by SIGNAL Magazine and SIGNAL Connections staff. By serving as an intelligence community resource for AFCEA’s leadership, committee members further the association’s efforts to reach out to the intelligence community at large and facilitate a much-needed dialogue among respected professionals.

While government members of the Intelligence Committee are appointed by their organizations to serve, commercial-sector professionals must be elected. The application process currently is open to members of industry who support the intelligence community, are U.S. citizens and possess a Top Secret clearance with SI/TK access.

Homefront Help Archive


Homefront Help is SIGNAL Connections’ effort to support U.S. service members, veterans and their families. The column highlights programs that offer resources and assistance to the military community ranging from care packages to benefits and everything in between.

In that same spirit, Homefront Help presents opportunities for readers to donate time, offer resources and send words of thanks to those who sacrifice for freedom. Programs that provide services to the troops are listed in red. Opportunities for the public to reach out to service members are listed in blue. Each program description includes a link to the organization's Web site, when available.

Contracts Archive


May 2008
Secure Communications Coming to Marines
A modular, scalable Internet protocol communications and networking system will be produced for the U.S. Marine Corps as the next-generation Tactical Data Network-Data Distribution System-Modular (TDN-DDS-M). The system enables deployed Marines to establish secure, networked voice, data and video conferencing as well as other communication capabilities among commanders, joint warfighters and coalition forces. The TDN-DDS-M will connect Marines with advanced technologies that are smaller, lighter and consume less power than earlier versions of the technology. The TDN-DDS-M upgrades the TDN-DDS-Replacement. The modular system contains routers, switches, computers, power supply and other equipment needed to access the Defense Information System Network, the secret Internet protocol router network and the nonsecure Internet protocol router network along with coalition and joint forces networks. Initial deliveries of TDN-DDS-M systems are scheduled for the third quarter of 2008. General Dynamics C4 Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics, was awarded the five-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract. The initial award value is $130 million with a potential of $375 million if all options are exercised.  

New Products Archive


August 2009
Satellite Communications/Search and Rescue System
Military personnel and first responders often work in isolated areas where satellite links are the only reliable means of communications. The HOOK2 GPS (Global Positioning System) combat search and rescue (CSAR) system consists of a software-defined, upgradeable AN/PRC-112G transceiver or an AN/PRC-112B1 transceiver, and a handheld GPS Quickdraw2 interrogator. The system provides two-way messaging and GPS positioning for accurate location data. The Quickdraw interrogator also can turn most aircraft into a CSAR platform by plugging the device into the aircraft’s intercom system. For more information, visit


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