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Defense

Inexpensive Solutions Emerge for the Modern Battlefield

March 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

The defining images of the opening stages of the 2001 Afghanistan invasion were of bearded U.S. Special Operations forces on horseback talking with invisible air assets high overhead. Ancient transportation technology melded with cutting-edge communication protocols created an odd but appropriate scenario in the midst of a wholly unanticipated conflict. The synergy of high- and low-capability technologies likely will define 21st century conflicts, especially with foes we cannot currently imagine.

As our official defense posture pivots to the Pacific, this strategic imperative calls for specific procurement decisions and military kit. Yet, what if we are wrong? Does the greatest threat to our national security truly come from Asia? What if in preparing for a low-probability, high-cost conflict, we end up facing an enemy who intentionally and subtly maneuvers around our complex systems?

It seems more than coincidental that our perceived threats also mesh with status quo, high-cost technological solutions. Intentionally or not, we are preparing to fight only the types of wars we currently are best suited to fight. Our military is built on emphasizing the physical aspect of warfare, especially when it comes to fielding advanced technology.

However, pouring precious time and scarce resources into incredibly complex, expensive technology, inhibits our ability to buy capabilities more suited to higher-probability, low-intensity, prolonged conflicts. These more difficult challenges, like rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, are not going away, even if we hope they will.

The argument for high-cost, high-complexity weapons systems in all circumstances claims that by countering the most capable threat, these systems necessarily will be suitable for every contingency. They can be “degraded” with equal effectiveness for a lower-intensity conflict. This, however, is simply not always the case.

China Employs Ships As Weapon Test Platforms

March 1, 2013
BY James C. Bussert

A handful of designs serves to validate indigenous and reverse-engineered technologies.

The People’s Republic of China has been introducing diverse new classes of ships into its navy for decades, but it also has employed some as vessels for weapons trials. Three ships distinctly have served as test platforms for many of the new technologies that entered service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLAN. An examination of these trial ships can illustrate the next generation of technologies about to be incorporated in the navy.
 

The first nominal weapon trial ship was the 1,200-ton Yanxi class AGE hull 701 Hsun, built in Shanghai in 1970. It carried no systems other than anti-aircraft guns and radars, but it did support Soviet Styx surface-to-surface missile (SSM) launch and recovery during tests.

In March 1997, the Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai launched the 6,000-ton Dahua class ship Shiyan for testing modern naval weapon systems. The ship, hull 970 (experimental), initially was hull 909, which was built as a weapon range test ship. It deployed to the South China Sea test range in January 1998. The trial equipment tested included electronic countermeasures (ECM), a prototype vertical launching system on the bow and several copies of the Russian MR-90 Front Dome fire control radar to illuminate air targets. The 970 operated off of Japan in February 2000 as an electronic intelligence (ELINT) ship prior to PLAN East China Sea exercises.

The lead Dahua class ship frequently changed hull numbers. Launched as 909, the hull number was changed to 970 by the time of its completion in August 1997. The hull number was changed again to 891 as a weapon trial ship in October 2002. China’s changing of ship hull numbers and even names makes determining the actual history of one particular hull difficult, which certainly is a reason for this practice.

Top Information Technology Officials Peer into the Future

February 28, 2013
George I. Seffers

Top information technology officials from a variety of government agencies identified cloud computing, mobile devices and edge technologies as the technologies that will be critical for accomplishing their missions in the future.

Luke McCormack, chief information officer, Justice Department, cited cloud-as-a-service as vital to the future. He urged industry to continue to push the barriers of stack computing, and he mentioned edge technology as an emerging technology. “Edge is going to be really critical to perform missions,” he said. He cited the Google Glass project as an indicator of what the future will bring.

Mobility could be the future of training and simulation, suggested Sandy Peavy, chief information officer for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). She revealed that her office is putting together a pilot program introducing tablet computers into the training environment, and ideally, she would like trainees to be able to access simulation on the mobile device of their choice. Peavy also reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is providing special agents with iPhones and experimenting with other devices. “If I’m going to be able to provide just-in-time training, then mobile technology is the key.”

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security, also cited mobility as a key future trend, but he also brought up metadata tagging, saying that it helps to understand the data itself and to establish rules for who sees what information. Metadata tagging is especially important as the department grapples with privacy concerns.

Cyber and Physical Protection are Intrinsically Linked

February 28, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The recently signed executive order on cybersecurity and the presidential directive on critical infrastructure protection are not separate documents. In fact, they are part of the same overall effort to protect the nation, said Rand Beers, undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Beers discussed the effort on Thursday at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

The two documents are “part and parcel of a whole of government and whole of society concept. The executive order is focused on cybersecurity, but the presidential policy directive takes the cybersecurity element and places it within the broader context of critical infrastructure protection in the sense that cyber and physical critical infrastructure are linked to one another,” Beers said. He added that a cyber attack that shuts down the electric grid could shut off access to water and to communications, which could affect the economy. “I’m not here to suggest cyber Armageddon is about to happen, but we have enough of a warning to understand that concerns about cybersecurity are not being overhyped.”

Beers revealed that the government is working to identify critical cyber nodes within the country, just as it has inventoried physical facilities that make up the nation’s critical infrastructure.

He added that the administration would still like Congress to pass cyber legislation. “We would still very much prefer legislation. We need to incentivize the private sector to take on the needed best practices,” Beers said. He suggested that legislation should include a safe harbor element providing liability protection to those in the private sector who adopt best practices but still suffer outages during a catastrophic event.

Security Concerns No Longer Drive Biometric Technologies

February 27, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Security concerns have largely driven advances in biometric technologies, but that likely will not be the case in the coming years. Commercial needs will overtake government security needs in determining the direction of biometrics, according to Troy Potter, vice president, Identity and Biometrics Solutions, Unisys Federal Systems, at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference on Wednesday.

“We’re looking at this change from a security focus to a convenience, automation and cost-savings focus. That’s driving the market today. Commercial organizations will drive the market for the next 10 years,” Potter stated.

He cited the example of a friend who has to provide a fingerprint scan when dropping off and picking up her child from the day care center. Potter said that while it may seem to be an effort to improve security, it actually is more motivated by cost savings and having a detailed record of exactly when children are picked up and dropped off. He also cited the example of social media sites using facial recognition.

Some systems, he pointed out, now require a 16-digit password and a large percentage of help desk calls are for password resets, making biometrics an attractive alternative. “The problem is, who is going to manage all of this,” he asked. “Do we trust the day care more than we trust the government?”

Next Generation Biometrics to be a Boon for Law Enforcement

February 27, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) system will improve law enforcement’s capabilities as much as DNA analysis, according to Dave Cuthbertson, assistant director, Criminal Justice information Services Division, FBI.

The NGI advances the FBI’s biometric identification services, providing an incremental replacement of the current system while introducing new functionality. The NGI improvements and new capabilities are being introduced across a multiyear timeframe within a phased approach.

Increment three, which will be deployed in April, will improve accuracy in part by adding palm prints. About one-third of prints recovered from a crime scene are from the palm rather than the fingers, Cuthbertson reports, while serving on the Biometrics/Identity Management panel at AFCEA’s Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. “NGI will be to crime solving almost like DNA processing,” he stated.

The agency already has implemented the first two increments, which increased accuracy from 92 percent to 99.6 percent. Additionally, increment two allows officers in the field to use mobile devices to send back biometric data to be checked against information in the repository.

The fourth and final increment will add more than 13 million mug shots, which will be matched against fingerprints. Cuthbertson said the facial system likely will not provide law enforcement with one definite match but will instead provide a list of possible matches, which law enforcement officials will then have to analyze and investigate further.

Eleven states currently participate in the system, and 13 are working toward participation.

Chinese and Iranian Cyberthreat Growing

February 27, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Gen. Michael Hayden, USAF (Ret.), former director of the CIA, indicated an astounding extent of Chinese cyber espionage and said he believes the Iranians are attacking U.S. banks with unsophisticated but pervasive cyber attacks.

Regarding the Chinese, Gen. Hayden said he believes the government solution to cyber espionage should be economic rather than cyber. “We have cyber espionage coming at us, and they’re bleeding us white. The reason the Chinese are doing this is economic. I think the government response should be economic. We can punish China in the economic sphere,” Gen. Hayden told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

He added that some believe we cannot punish China economically because the Chinese own too much U.S. debt. Gen. Hayden indicated he disagrees.

The general also said the U.S. engages in cyber thievery as well, but he indicated that it is more for security reasons than economic reasons. “We steal other people’s stuff, too. And we’re better at it. We’re number one. But we self-limit—we and a small number of other countries around the world, all of whom speak English,” Gen. Hayden said.

Regarding the Iranians, Gen. Hayden said the number of attacks on the U.S. banking industry has ballooned. “My sense is that we’ve seen a real surge in Iranian cyber attacks. The Iranians have committed distributed denial of service attacks against American banks. I’ve talked to folks in the game here, and they’ve reported to me there’s nothing sophisticated about the attacks, but they say they’ve never seen them on this scale,” Gen. Hayden revealed.

NIST Seeks Industry Information for Cybersecurity Framework

February 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a request for information on Tuesday, February 26, for the cybersecurity framework demanded by the recent White House executive order.

Speaking on the cybersecurity panel at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Jeff Voas, a NIST computer scientist, said he received his first briefing on the executive order about a week ago and NIST already has begun putting together working groups. The request for information process should be concluded in about 45 days. “We’re only a week or two into this,” Voas said.

The panel included Darren Ash, deputy executive director for corporate management and chief information officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates the civilian use of nuclear power. Ash said that most nuclear power plants in this country were built decades ago in an analog environment, whereas more recent applications to build nuclear facilities are grounded in a digital environment.

“We know that cyber is important. What we expected and required of these licensees was to establish their plans on how to address cyber,” Ash said. “What’s important is what we do with it.” Recent nuclear license requirements have been accepted, he reported, and just this fiscal year, the commission has begun to inspect the cybersecurity capabilities to ensure they are meeting the requirements.

Richard Puckett, chief security architect for GE, argued that the term “cyber” is too vague, meaning different things to different sectors. To private sector clients, for example, cyber refers to protection of credit card numbers and other personal information, whereas government and military customers are more concerned with the cyber activities of other nation states and the protection of critical infrastructure.

Hotels Hot Target for Terrorists

February 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The hotel industry has seen a greater increase in terrorist attacks than any other industry in recent years, according to Alan Orlob, vice president of global safety and security for Marriott International. Orlob offered a first-hand account of the attacks on two hotels in Jarkarta, Indonesia, in 2009.

Orlob, the luncheon keynote speaker at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., was staying at a Ritz Carlton hotel, which is owned by Marriott, at the time of the attack.

He said that as he stepped out of the shower, he heard at an explosion at the hotel across the street. “I looked out my window, and I could see the front of the JW Marriott, and I saw smoke coming out of the back and people running,” he said. Moments later, another explosion occurred at the Ritz Carlton.

“I followed the broken glass and the destruction into the restaurant. I don’t know how many of you have been involved in improvised explosive device attacks, but it tears clothes off people and separates extremities. That’s what I was seeing that morning,” he said. “I remember feeling that sense of anger that morning.”

Orlob said he studies the tactics, techniques and procedures used by terrorists, and he offered lessons learned, including training first responders to decide which victims should be treated first, only evacuating a building if the evacuation area has been cleared first and ensuring evacuation plans are current.

Two-in-One Unmanned Aircraft

February 25, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy technology may allow in-flight conversion from helicopter to fixed wing.

Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are developing unmanned aircraft technology that will allow the conversion from a vertical take-off and landing system to a fixed-wing craft during in-flight operation. The conversion capability will provide the take-off and landing flexibility of a helicopter with the longer range, higher speeds and lower wear and tear of an airplane.

The technology demonstrator is referred to as the Stop-Rotor Rotary Wing Aircraft. It is capable of cruising at about 100 knots, weighs less than 100 pounds and can carry a 25-pound intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) or electronic warfare payload, such as the Expendable, Mobile Anti-submarine warfare Training Target (EMATT). “We decided to do a demonstration vehicle that could carry an EMATT. It’s like a little submarine that can generate sonar signals, and it’s for training anti-submarine warfare operators,” explains Steven Tayman, an aerospace engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory. “It’s a neat payload.”

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) includes a removable payload bay that is about 12 inches wide, 38 inches long and six inches deep with “bomb bay doors” for dropping payloads, such as sonobuoys. “You could use a UAV to deploy a sonobuoy field, which would be pretty exciting,” Tayman says. “There’s really no limit to the payload other than volume.”

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