Some of the most forward-thinking minds in the U.S. Defense Department that regularly tackle the tough tactical problems in the Global War on Terrorism are applying their innovative ideas at home. These architects who design the latest military approaches to defeating the enemy are assisting combatant commands, specifically the U.S. Northern Command, to determine the best ways to support homeland defense. In addition, these experts are ferreting out the most ideal balance for the department in its support to civil authorities. Recent experiments that demonstrate technical capabilities are bridging the gap between the military, other government agencies and civilian organizations by facilitating information sharing and creating critical partnerships that are essential during times of crisis.
A system that combines U.S. Navy and Coast Guard requirements for port security may be the key to securing harbors against maritime threats. Built largely with off-the-shelf technologies, the system can allow officials to monitor ship traffic by combining database knowledge with real-time sensor input.
With the possibility of a nuclear attack within the United States still very real, developers from the government and private industry are working to create radiation detectors that will yield more accurate results from greater distances. Building on technology created for fields such as astrophysics and nuclear medicine, the homeland security community wants to create tools that will stop the “bad guys” before they reach their destinations.
Iraqi insurgents are not the only adversaries adept at adapting—cybervillains also have learned to transform their tactics and circumvent new ways of protecting information infrastructures. Despite improvements in security software and practices, crackers, criminals and even nation-states continue to take advantage of an unsecured Domain Name System, flawed technologies and minimal testing and commercialization options for researchers.
The federal government is exploring new technologies to ensure vital communications links among government officials in times of crisis. At the heart of these efforts is the worldwide transition to Internet protocol telephony and its broad capabilities. Given the global nature of these communications changes, the government is turning to the international test arena to evaluate new priority telecommunications approaches.
Disaster areas are chaotic, demanding, challenging environments for both the survivors and the organizations trying to help them. A recent international demonstration examined ways to develop new applications and technologies to coordinate disaster recovery operations better. The event also focused on building social networks between the participants to streamline and accelerate future relief efforts.
The U.S. Defense Department's messaging initiatives have made organizational messaging faster, easier and more secure while reducing the effort and personnel needed to perform the work.
The final phase of a three-stage plan has been put into place to modernize the Defense Information Systems Agency's acquisition process for getting new technologies into the hands of warfighters rapidly. Four new program executive offices will improve integration across product lines and support end-to-end engineering of the Global Information Grid. Streamlining the total acquisition process and holding these offices accountable from a budgetary standpoint are among the goals of the transformational effort.
A U.S. government effort will lighten the load of identification badges personnel must carry, but both federal officials and industry representatives now realize that they have run into a few snags. While substantial progress has been made, challenges in technology as well as economics, policy and testing continue to surface. Deadlines have been set and pragmatic plans put into place; however, it is still questionable whether one card can replace numerous identification badges in the near future.
The Transportation Security Administration is doing more than just making sure travelers have a safe trip; it also is ensuring the security of the data, video and voice communications that travel on its network. In response to the deficiencies raised in a report issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's inspector general last year, the administration acknowledged its network flaws and moved forward quickly to correct them. Among the issues that needed to be addressed were policies, processes and procedures concerning security testing, audits, and configuration and patch management.
Consistently locating and tracking the world's commercial vessels, their cargos and crews is like hoisting a halyard with a large holiday ensign during a nor'easter-tricky but not impossible. More than 80,000 commercial ships from more than 100 nations ply the seas at any given moment, making maritime domain awareness critical for the nation's protection.
The combatant command in charge of U.S. homeland defense is in the midst of creating a one-stop cyber shop for information. The initiative supports a trusted information exchange by laying the foundation of an emergency event management framework. Developers contend that the tool will proffer the data and knowledge that commanders, agency leaders and law enforcement personnel need to make appropriate decisions during a crisis, and it ultimately will capture the decision-making process so it can be reviewed after the event has ended.
The two military commands primarily responsible for homeland defense are coordinating their efforts on the new front lines of cyberspace. Because both offensive and defensive information operations are an integral part of protecting North America, the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command are training their experts in combined environments to ensure that they can act swiftly when responding to threats or planning strategies.
Smart surveillance systems soon will make it difficult for militants to infiltrate mass transit facilities and secure installations. These technologies, along with advanced foreign-media monitoring and first-responder training applications, provide government and law enforcement organizations with a crucial edge against terrorism.
The U.S. Coast Guard is going on the offensive with a transformational initiative that represents a fundamental shift in how the service operates. Rather than serving primarily in a response mode, the service is taking a proactive approach to understanding the global maritime space so it can assess any vessel that could affect the safety, security, economy or environment of the United States. To accomplish this task, the Coast Guard will be relying on technologies that help track watercraft, distinguish normal activity from potential threats and provide this information to the people and organizations that need it.
The homeland security market is undergoing a major shift away from individual products and systems to integrated, solutions-based offerings. A combination of business mergers and new technologies is the major force behind this change. Companies have consolidated critical sectors of the market, creating a business environment where broad suites of complementary services have an edge over narrowly focused products.
The focal point for national efforts to combine federal and local law enforcement security activities can be found just a few blocks from the White House in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. The police charged with patrolling the nation's capital are finding that conventional police work is proving far more useful in dealing with terrorist threats than anticipated. And, the department's Joint Operations Command Center, or JOCC, serves both as a center for tracking conventional crime and as a base for coordinating multigovernmental responses to violent demonstrations and terrorism in the nation's capital.
The Bush administration's declaration of war on terrorism allows federal organizations such as the National Security Agency to expand their electronic intelligence-gathering practices. With initial deployment of U.S. forces to the Middle East, demand to locate hostile terrorist cells and their support mechanisms immediately is rising, both in the United States and overseas. In addition, what had been a gradually growing requirement for U.S. forces to conduct information operations, including computer network offense and defense, is now switching to fast forward.
While U.S. military forces retaliate against terrorists for the horrific World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, the Bush administration also is organizing to help shield the nation's critical information infrastructure. The White House is establishing U.S. cybersecurity functions under a single individual. That person will function as the president's special adviser for cybersecurity, reporting directly to both the new cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security and the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The war on terrorism and heightened homeland security are prompting the U.S. military to re-evaluate its priorities and accelerate the use of strategic concepts that only months ago were in the experimental stage. Although some of the tactical approaches are not in the polished form they would have been in several years from now, certain aspects can and are making their way into today's efforts.