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 United States has been using simulations for decades to explore the capabilities of its military forces and train soldiers to perform their missions better. In the war against terrorism, however, this technology can come out of the training centers and into the operations centers to support the country and its allies in fighting this new type of war and enhance homeland security.
Defensive information warfare posturing traditionally has taken the form of security-passwords, firewalls and locked doors. But with less than 100 percent confidence that intruders can be kept out of information systems, a U.S. Air Force and industry team is developing a fundamentally different defensive approach. They are creating a prototype that provides advanced warning of attacks on U.S. Defense Department systems so they are prepared when security is breached.
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.
While analysts now are keeping a sharper eye on possible weapons proliferation, some of the technologies they employ may play an increasingly important role in maintaining homeland security. In the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States, experts charged with detecting overseas programs to develop weapons of mass destruction are refocusing their efforts on a new list of nations that pose more immediate threats.
Technology is liberating the U.S. Defense Department from the chains of a single location by enabling it to become a network-centric department. The initiative to create a virtual Pentagon calls for taking advantage of advances in networking, Internet protocol, videoconferencing, mass storage and data transmitting technologies. These capabilities would allow military personnel to continue to collaborate and communicate in emergency situations even if systems within the Pentagon are damaged.
A cross-service network that shares sensitive but unclassified information among U.S. Defense Department installations is moving nationwide. The Web-portal technology allows users to document and immediately disseminate information regarding potential threats to personnel, facilities and resources to meet antiterrorism and force protection needs.
The two-year-old U.S. combatant command tasked with both homeland security and homeland defense is juggling conflicting requirements as it strives to establish a vital infostructure. The U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, must balance the need to deter, prevent and defeat threats to the United States with legal limitations on domestic information sharing. This poses both technological and organizational challenges to intelligence dissemination and communications.
As successful as operation Enduring Freedom has been on the battlefields of Afghanistan, the lack of organizational reform in domestic U.S. agencies threatens the battle on the war's other front-the United States. Despite increased security measures and the heightened state of alert on the part of the public, the country is still highly vulnerable to further attacks by terrorists.
Networked terror groups, domestic radicals, renegade states and terror for profit all threaten Western democracies to an unprecedented degree. Prospective targets might be high-profile infrastructure assets with the potential for high casualty totals, or they might simply take the form of attacks on public institutions to rapidly erode confidence in governments.