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SIGNAL Connections

International Contracts Archive


June 2008
ORCA –A Whale of a Communications Project
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has embarked on a whale of an effort with ORCA—the Optical Radio Frequency (RF) Communications Adjunct project. ORCA is an all-weather, jam-resistant, high-bandwidth network that offers high connectivity. The program addresses the U.S. military’s increasing need for transmitting voice, image, video and other critical data simultaneously among dismounted and maneuvering forces, airborne assets and upper command echelons. The large amount of tactical data that must be shared currently is straining the capacity of available ground and satellite communications systems. DARPA awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a $46.1 million contract for work on ORCA. Under the one-year, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, the company will develop and demonstrate a prototype tactical network that employs free-space optical and RF links. Northrop Grumman also will provide a “leave behind” capability for the warfighter. Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems ( sector is leading the effort under the contract administration of the Air Force Research Laboratory (

New Products

November 17, 2008

Portable Rugged VisualizationCenter

Warfighters receiving live video feeds require high-grade monitors and processing equipment. The Vigor Evo HD is a lightweight, deployable system designed to support situational awareness, target acquisition, and command and control needs in tactical operations centers. The system features three 17-inch high-resolution displays, plus a central display with two fold-out screens for panoramic or multiwindow views. For more information, visit

Kevlar Transit Cases
Military and commercial electronics must be protected from the elements. This line of carbon fiber and carbon/Kevlar rackmount military cases is designed for lightweight and ballistic reinforcement. Fully ruggedized, the cases are shock resistant, watertight and sealed from sand and dust. For more information, visit

Small Business Benefits Big

April 15, 2008

The AFCEA Small Business Committee is sharing its valuable resources digitally, including podcasts of past meetings. Committee meetings, which occur monthly and comprise leaders from throughout the small business community, regularly include presentations by representatives from the U.S. Defense Department, federal government organizations or large corporations. Topics range from business practice guidelines to new procurement regulations and policies, and committee members have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with key leaders in government agencies.

For example, a recent meeting featured Carla Undurraga, a member of the Small Business Development Program at SAIC, who shared information about strategies to market services, products and solutions. Undurraga offered guidance about how to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. During another meeting, committee members explored nuances of recent legislation affecting the small business community with information presented directly from Dean Koppel, assistant director of the U.S.Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Office of Policy and Research.

Visitors to the AFCEA Small Business Committee’s Web site can access presentation materials and photo coverage from recent meetings, as well as important SBA links, acquisition information and the inside scoop on upcoming events. By tuning in to the podcasts and simultaneously viewing the accompanying slides, site visitors can effectively attend any of the committee’s meetings—without leaving their desks—even if the meeting took place months ago.

The Changes War Brings

April 15, 2008


 Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN, speaks at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, an organization that turns 50 this year.

The Global War on Terrorism is precipitating the revolutionary changes taking place in today’s military, and these changes are likely to continue, Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns. “We should not forget not just that we are at war but that we’re going to be at war for a long time,” he said during his recent visit to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). The admiral visited the command as part of his travel rounds to bases, forts and unified combatant commands.

Adm. Mullen attributes the wide-ranging transformation currently underway in the military to the urgencies of war. Changes are occurring not only at the command level, the admiral points out, but also in the way the services recruit, retain, educate and train personnel.

Generation Gap of Millennial Proportions

April 15, 2008
by Maryann Lawlor

From their familiarity with technology to their eagerness to share information, the generation now entering the work force is wired differently than the generations before it. In fact, it’s more comfortable being wireless. Worry about security? Not a top priority for this group. Policy? What policy?

The millennials, as young adults born after 1980 have been dubbed, thrive on learning about and using the latest gadgets and programs. Most believe in a “no walls” approach and have been labeled risk takers. As a result, one security expert says government and commercial organizations need to start rethinking their approach to ensuring their data security, because simply issuing a policy probably won’t cut it anymore.

News Briefs

November 17, 2008

Littoral Combat Ship Era Begins
The U.S. Navy has commissioned the first littoral combat ship (LCS). The 378-foot USS Freedom features interchangeable mission packages so that it can be reconfigured for antisubmarine, mine and surface warfare on an as-needed basis. It is filled with advanced networking capabilities that enable it to share tactical information with other Navy aircraft, ships and submarines as well as with joint units. USS Freedom can operate in water that is less than 20 feet deep and can travel at speeds exceeding 40 knots. In addition to tactical and communications tasks, the new LCS will serve as the platform for launch and recovery of manned and unmanned vehicles.

International Contracts

July 15, 2008

Tracking Ships from Space

A concept demonstration satellite has been launched carrying equipment sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard Nationwide Automatic Identification System (NAIS). The project tests the feasibility and effectiveness of automatic identification system (AIS) message reception and reporting from space for ship tracking and other navigational activities. The satellite should transmit operational data in approximately two months. The satellite testing marks increment three of the project. The NAIS will improve U.S. maritime domain awareness by employing the integrated network of AIS equipment and user interface services that display and exchange AIS-equipped vessel information. Collected data will enhance security through collision avoidance and through detection, identification and classification of vessels up to 2,000 nautical miles from shore.

A New Spin on Electrons

Scientists have used a single-photon technique to observe the evolution of individual electron spins in semiconductor nanostructures. The work is contributing to the new field of semiconductor spintronics, which exploits the spin of electrons and makes them perform like miniature magnets. Experimentation is underway to assess the benefits of electronic devices using spintronics to power quantum computers made of diamond. The capability may allow the U.S. Air Force, which is funding the research, to reduce electronic power consumption by creating low-power electronic devices that feature massively improved processing speeds.

FCS Delivery Accelerates

Homefront Help

November 17, 2008

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 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. 

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) offers a wealth of resources—some of which have been featured in this column before—for the military community and offers many programs for the public to support its freedom fighters. One of the classic ways the organization enables citizens to reach out to warfighters is through its gift cards and exchange catalog gift certificates. Anyone can purchase these items and send them to a specific military member or designate them for any service member, including injured warriors, for distribution by a service organization. AAFES is offering free shipping on the cards as well to avoid extra costs.

Networking Ahead of the Curve

April 15, 2008

The Free World is seeing as great a revolution in military affairs as has ever been documented. That’s old news. New capabilities are being introduced so quickly that forces are learning how to use and exploit them in the midst of combat. That also is old news.

What is new is that the commercial sector is leading this revolution by pumping new information technologies into the military faster than anyone can plan for them. Individual warfighters and commanders alike are embracing the capabilities that these technologies bring. The largest military in the Free World, that of the United States, is built around the concept of using network-centric operations to prevail against any enemy.

The information technology challenge is to meet the higher expectations of warfighters and commanders. And, in another development that is not new, the more capability that is provided, the more its customers want.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has greatly increased both the quantity and quality of services provided to the military over the past 20 years. It is taking advantage of the commercial information revolution with technologies such as the everything over Internet protocol (EoIP). Its own two key software applications—Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) and Network Enabled Command Capability (NECC)—are at the heart of efforts to bring Web 2.0 services to the military.

To provide vital bandwidth, the agency has established a commercial communications satellite infrastructure through an extensive lease program that provides the overwhelming bulk of the military’s orbital connectivity. Plans for new high-capacity military communications satellites are moving toward fruition, but the reliance on commercial orbiters is likely to continue.

Committee Receives SBA Regulation Update

April 15, 2008

Dean Koppel, assistant director of the Office of Policy and Research, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), spoke to the AFCEA Small Business Committee and guests in February. The Office of Policy and Research falls under the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and is responsible for assisting in the development of legislative initiatives used to strengthen and enhance opportunities for small businesses in federal procurement. The office also develops and implements the SBA’s small business program procurement regulations, initiatives and policies. 

Koppel focused on two recent regulatory issues pertinent to small business. First, he discussed an SBA Size Recertification Regulation (Volume 71, Federal Register 66434). The new rule was published on November 15, 2006, with an effective date of June 30, 2007. This rule addressed at which point in the process size is determined for long-term federal contracts such as Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts, the General Services Administration Multiple Award Schedule contracts and multi-agency contracts. Long-term contracts are defined as having a duration of five years or longer (including options). Under this rule, contractors are required to recertify after five years and at the exercise of every option thereafter. One notable exception to this occurs in the case of acquisition, merger or novation. Under these circumstances, the contractor must notify the contracting officer within 30 days, Koppel said. Recertification must be complete within 30 days of the action becoming final. The rule applies to prime contracting situations only and is not applicable to subcontracting, he added.


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