This crude but highly effective approach might be just what U.S. federal information technology officials need. Those charged with managing the government's information technology networks—its vital nervous system—should remind themselves, "It's the architecture!" The present paradigm is hopelessly insecure and inefficient. No amount of federal largesse invested in the U.S. government's current Web-based architecture will ever take the nation where it needs to be. As the old Yankee once told the bewildered New York tourist seeking directions to Kennebunkport, Maine, "You can't get there from here."
Responding to a soldier's complaint about equipment inadequacies in Iraq, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied, "You go to war with the army you have, not with the army you want," and his remark was condemned as an unforgivable excuse for gross mismanagement. While warranted, that criticism could be leveled at most administrations in U.S. history when arms are stacked and forgotten at war's end. Today, mismanagement is exemplified by the current reliance on information operations amid network centricity, which offers as much vulnerability as advantage.
The U.S. Air Force is building a robust cyberwar capability as part of a revised mission that adds cyberspace to the service's fighting domains of air and space. As part of this effort, the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force established a Cyberspace Task Force to help frame the service's direction in this third domain. The task force is working to harness capabilities, take stock of gaps and vulnerabilities, and increase awareness about cyberspace.
The United States needs a national emergency communications architecture to provide standards that public safety responders at all levels can rely on for coordination of efforts. Legislation could be necessary to ensure that commercial carriers are part of the solution as the government seeks to leverage commercial, state, federal and defense assets to form a standardized emergency network.
Military commanders looking for a battlefield advantage that can tip the balance dramatically in their favor may be able to benefit soon from a promising new technology application. Called predictive insight, it holds the potential not just of making the concept of complete battlespace awareness a reality but also of taking that concept a giant step further.
The Sender Policy Framework is an emerging Internet standard that could cause a large part of the U.S. Army's legitimate e-mail to be categorized as spam and dropped. Large e-mail providers in the commercial world are in the initial phases of implementing the framework, and while deleterious effects on Army e-mail have been rare so far, they are almost guaranteed to grow as more providers and intermediaries adopt the standard. However, several courses of action can address the issue, and Army Knowledge Online already has taken steps to implement the framework while simultaneously protecting the future viability of the service's e-mail system.
In the United States, both corporate and Defense Department telecommunications have developed along a path of increasing complexity to support global geopolitical or commercial requirements. The paradox is that while this complexity improves the ability to support worldwide operations, the underlying network is becoming more vulnerable.
The role of imagery as a national intelligence asset could be on the cusp of a promising alternative future, or it could be about to dwindle significantly. Much depends on the choices that the imagery community makes over the next several years.
The exploding use of encryption in cyberspace has spawned a dilemma for policy makers. They must strive to balance citizens' rights to security and privacy with the needs of law enforcement and intelligence to police what a senior defense official terms a "lawless frontier," and others call the "World Wild Web."
Alarmed that its borders can easily be breached through technology in the hands of criminals, terrorists, nontraditional foes and even the merely inquisitive, the federal government has broadened the definition of national security. In doing so, it has established a timetable for erecting defenses, enlisted a host of recalcitrant bedfellows into its national security apparatus, and charged the intelligence and law enforcement communities to collaborate and perform what some believe without resources to be a near-Sisyphean task.
The military's increasing reliance on commercial off-the-shelf information systems is leading to an environment in which the technologies could be driving the doctrine. The opportunities-and the challenges-presented by these new technologies cover the gamut of communications, computing, sensors, networks, interoperability and security. The defense community's response to this development may define military superiority for years to come.
Nowhere does the battle for or against outsourcing rage more fiercely than in the halls of the Pentagon, seat of the most powerful military in the world. The U.S. Defense Department is finding itself in the throes of a debate that might, over time, cause it to cede its hegemony to commercial forces and lose the tools it will need to fight on distant battlefields.
Allied intelligence agencies engaged in computer-to-computer signals intelligence exploration are closely examining Internet protocol network intercepts and forensics analysis as a new weapon in the war against terrorism. Traditional signals intelligence professionals, who have shied away from this type of intelligence gathering for more than a decade, are realizing that the computer-to-computer intelligence gap can be filled. The fact that computer-to-computer signals intelligence is a weakness in current allied intelligence-gathering efforts is no secret. But after decades of denial, the intelligence community and emerging technologies are changing the old ways of looking at network surveillance.
Today's threats to U.S. national security range from the bloody reality of terrorist suicide bombers who kill and maim individuals to weapons of mass destruction that potentially hold many thousands at risk. The U.S. information infrastructure is a vital element of U.S. national security, but the design and management of software render its terminals, nodes and networks demonstrably vulnerable to malicious manipulation.
Commercial off-the-shelf procurement is now a fact of life for the U.S. Defense Department. This thrust is driven as much by economics as it is by technology advances. However, the headlong rush to commercialize the defense technology base is producing unwanted complications that threaten to undermine the original goals of commercial acquisition.
In Case of Emergency, Break Glass. That phrase calls to mind the image of a firefighter's axe in a glass box on a wall. It also is an appropriate analogy for the U.S. Defense Department's approach to information operations, wherein powerful capabilities often are locked away from the hands of the warfighter. But unlike the firefighter, who is trained in the use of the axe, warfighters have virtually no opportunity to train with U.S. information operations capabilities or to factor them into their plans. Tight security controls that are designed to ensure the protection of many capabilities are, as an unintended consequence, locking the armed forces out of opportunities to learn to use them effectively. This, in a nutshell, is the problem of overprotection.
Asymmetric tactics and network-centric warfare demand a new look at command and control. Information now is a weapon of choice; software, radio frequencies and bandwidth are critical commodities; networks are essential delivery platforms; and access controls are mandatory. All must be melded into operational art. The foremost challenge for commanders and staffs in this new battlespace environment may be the command and control (C2) of the infostructure.
The tragic events of September 11 provide ghastly substance to the metaphor of asymmetric warfare. And, they add credence to prescient but nebulous warnings of threats to homeland security and concomitant vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures.
Military superiority, diplomatic deftness and economic clout are measurable and globally respected instruments of U.S. national power. Information, on the other hand, while a potent strategic resource and foundation for national power, has not earned equal recognition. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the failure to win the battle for hearts and minds of Arab and Muslim populations. The world's superpower is, in the view of most commentators, losing the propaganda war.
Information technology is widely and often wildly heralded as the key to rearming the U.S. military for networked conflict, marshaling a host of disparate and dispersed bureaucracies to secure the homeland, and exporting American principles of liberty and justice. But, cloaked by hubris is the indisputable fact that the worth of information technology is established not by how much it costs, but how intelligently it is employed and how well it satisfies user needs.