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News Briefs

Smartphone Increases Soldier Intelligence

July 26, 2013

10th Mountain Division U.S. Army Rangers and soldiers on the battlefield are now wearing commercial smartphones to communicate with each other and higher commands. Nett Warrior is a Samsung Galaxy Note II with its commercial memory wiped clean and Army-developed software loaded. It displays the locations of fellow soldiers, allows placement of location digital chem-light markers, and enables warfighters to communicate through texting. This information is then relayed to commanders over encrypted tactical radios.

“We are beholden to the commercial industry,” Jason Regnier, project manager, Nett Warrior, PEO Soldier, says. At approximately $700 per unit, buying the devices commercially costs substantially less than procuring similar devices from contractors, he explains.

In addition, the ability to buy newer versions of a device as technology matures means soldiers can transition to up-to-date capabilities as they develop. “So when the Note IIs are gone, they’re gone. Then we’ll have to be ready to buy Note IIIs or whatever it’s going to be,” Regnier relates.

Before the smartphones are integrated into a Net Warrior system, most of the communications capability is disabled, including the cellular antennas and the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. A USB connection with a soldier’s hip-mounted Rifleman Radio enables communication.

Collaborative Portal Opens Business Opportunity Doors

July 18, 2013

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems has created a portal to facilitate collaboration among experts from multiple industries in a secure, controlled, cooperative environment. GDNexus matches innovative solutions to customer requirements across the defense, federal government, intelligence community and commercial markets.

Registered members of the community are notified immediately when new Need Statements are announced and can respond through the portal with products and services that fulfill the requirements. The GDNexus team reviews and evaluates the responses and then sends the potential customers an assessment of the proffered solution.

The team also sends feedback to members to help them enhance their product strategy and align technology road maps to future requirements. Subject matter experts from General Dynamics work directly with technology providers, providing insight and perspective. “GDNexus also provides another important mechanism for us to act as an honest broker, bringing innovative technologies to our customers quickly as a prime systems integrator,” Nadia Short, vice president, strategy and business development, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, says.

The first customer Need Statements focus on the cyber domain and are now available in the portal. GDNexus member companies currently include NetApp and RSA.

Unmanned Submersibles Competition Challenges Students

July 18, 2013

The Office of Naval Research and the AUVSI Foundation are co-sponsoring an autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) competition, which supports interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education while increasing the pool of AUV ideas. The 16th International RoboSub Competition, titled “License to Dive,” will challenge university and high school student teams to bump buoys, park, fire foam torpedoes through a hexagonal cutout, deposit two markers into bins while submerged, and deliver two PVS mock pizza boxes to a specified location. They will be judged based on points awarded for how well their AUV completed the tasks. Teams also must create websites and write journal papers that outline their work.

Cash prizes will be awarded at the discretion of the judges; the 2012 competition first through third place winning teams took home $8,000, $4,000 and $3,000, respectively.

A real-time webcast of the 2013 RoboSub finals will begin on July 28 at 1 p.m. PDT.

Corporate Espionage Concerns Could Affect Contracting

July 17, 2013

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee that he is concerned about the level of cyber attacks affecting defense suppliers. As a result, he is considering changes in contracting procedures to mitigate the risk of corporate espionage. “I’m talking particularly about design information that might not be classified, but if you acquire that information, it certainly shortens your lead time to building things, and it reduces your costs,” he told committee members. “That’s an advantage we don’t want to give our potential adversaries.”

Kendall expressed his concerns during his testimony in support of the reauthorization of the Defense Production Act, which grants the president the power to ensure timely procurement of essential services and materials during war or national emergencies. Parts of the act are set to expire on September 30, 2014.

The law is an urgent operational requirement that is as necessary today as it was in 1950 when it was enacted, Kendall said. “Industry has no obligation to prioritize national security requirements, and at times, they’re financially motivated to do otherwise,” he stated. “New, expanded and modernized domestic industrial capabilities reduce the risk of foreign dependencies caused by geopolitical factors or other economic issues and strengthen the economic and technological competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.”

Electronic Warfare Tool Enters Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase

July 9, 2013

The U.S. Army is creating a software tool that will enable soldiers to coordinate and synchronize electronic warfare operations across the electromagnetic battlefield. The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool (EWPMT) will feature 22 distinct functions, including deconflicting offensive, defensive and friendly signals as well as integrating intelligence and terrain data. As part of the Army’s long-term plan for the Integrated Electronic Warfare System (IEWS), electronic warfare officers could use the software for pre-mission planning and to identify threats.

EWPMT development is taking place in six phases, and during the third quarter of fiscal year 2015, the first set of software tools will be tested in select units. The tool is scheduled to be fully operational across the Army by the end of fiscal year 2019.

Col. Joseph P. DuPont, USA, project manager, Program Executive Office, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, shared additional information about the EWPMT and the IEWS in a presentation to the AFCEA Aberdeen Chapter in November 2012 and in an article in SIGNAL Magazine in April.

Defense Department Issues First Acquisition Report

July 15, 2013

Lawmakers now are reviewing the U.S. Defense Department’s first annual data-driven review of purchasing. Officially titled “Performance of the Defense Acquisition System, 2013 Annual Report,” the document is the first publication of an annual effort to sift through the mountain of data available on the department’s purchases and to determine which work and which don’t. The point of the report, says Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, “is to help us all figure out ways to do a better job with [acquisition]” and ultimately to ensure more and better products.

Despite significant improvement in some areas, Kendall maintains that there is “considerable room for improvement.” The report serves to reinforce the need for the Pentagon’s Better Buying Power Initiative, which was announced nearly three years ago, he adds.

University Teams Participate in Deep-Space Habitat Challenge

July 11, 2013

Seven projects from six universities will be put to the test in NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation’s 2014 Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, a program designed to heighten students’ interest in spaceflight-related disciplines and complement NASA’s current research and development on deep-space habitats.

The teams of undergraduate students will face a series of milestones throughout the 2013-2014 academic year to design, manufacture, assemble and test systems and concepts that could be used in future deep-space habitats, working closely with the NASA Advanced Exploration Systems program’s Deep Space Habitat Project team. Participants are encouraged to explore multidisciplinary approaches, outreach efforts and partnerships with experts and industry through the challenge. The teams are to produce prototypes, which may be integrated onto an existing NASA-built operational habitat prototype in May to June 2014.

U.S. Navy Gathers Efficiency Ideas

July 11, 2013

The Chief of Naval Operations' Reduce Administrative Distractions (RAD) team is collecting input about how to streamline or eliminate administrative processes. With an interface similar to social media platforms, the U.S. Navy website, created by IdeaScale, enables visitors to share their observations about training, administrative tasks, procedures and instruction, and then propose their ideas for efficiencies.

Open to all ranks and any duty status as well as naval civilians, it also features comment and voting capabilities. To encourage participation, users are rewarded with merit badges based on their activity on the site. Since the RAD team launched the site on July 1, discussion topics have ranged from anti-terrorism force protection to electronic routing.

Data collection is the first in a three-phase approach to address cumbersome administrative processes in the fleet. During phase two, the information will be analyzed, and the RAD team will propose automation, elimination, reduction or other actions to those responsible for the administrative programs identified for improvement during phase one. Phase three will be the execution of the reduction measures and must be complete by September 30, when the RAD team will announce the progress made to date, monitor the impact and plan for the next cycle.

Data Collectors Increase Intelligence

June 27, 2013

Robots slightly shorter than the average human may be able to connect portions of the offline world to the online world digitally. Knightscope Incorporated will soon be testing the K5 and K10 robots, which can autonomously prowl through large areas and small spaces, collecting significant amounts of data from their immediate surroundings. Applications include perimeter surveillance of military bases and inspection of power plants.

An integrated machine operating system autonomously guides each robot through defined boundary conditions; the sensor operating system collects data from the immediate surroundings. During beta testing scheduled for the end of this year, this data will be fed into the company’s network operations center. Use of the robots will be offered to customers through a machine-as-a-service subscription business model.

The K5 and K10 feature omnidirectional cameras, microphones, optical character recognition, thermal imaging and air quality detection.

Robots Rumble

June 20, 2013

Civilian and military bomb squad teams from across the country are participating in the 7th Annual Western National Robot Rodeo and Capability Exercise this week. Hosted by Sandia National Laboratories, the event pits these experts against each other to determine who can most effectively defuse dangerous situations with the help of robots.

The rodeo and exercise comprises 10 events that enable the teams to practice using robots and new technology in a low-risk but competitive environment. In previous events, one scenario included identifying, locating and disposing of suspected hazardous material stored in a residential garage and moving simulated fuel rods from a nuclear reactor damaged by a tornado.

This year’s competitors include local and state law enforcement departments from a number of U.S. cities as well as the Kirtland Air Force Base Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.
 

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