When the U.S. Joint Forces Command was disestablished nearly a year ago, transitioning its network proved more complicated than just flipping a switch—or even what was anticipated in various scenarios. Experts found that the nature of the command’s disestablishment brought to light significant incompatibilities in Defense Department networks.
Prospective bidders for the U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network are facing several balancing acts as they weigh multiple criteria to vie for the multibillion-dollar contract. Issues such as technology refresh, service integration and savings sharing loom large in what ultimately will be the Navy’s primary information network.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is improving military networks by increasing the situational awareness of their statuses. The process enables people with permission to evaluate where a problem exists anywhere on a network, so they can reduce the time and resources necessary to fix it. Personnel also will be able to route their data better by understanding where failures occur and how to work around them.
While the dust has been kicking up around U.S. Defense Department social networking policies, the Defense Information Systems Agency has been actively pursuing one option that could address many challenges commercial sites pose. Hundreds of military and government personnel have been test-driving DEFStar, a commercially developed colleague network that resembles Facebook. From this pilot program, the agency hopes to find the middle ground between classified-only collaboration and the Wild West environment of the World Wide Web.
Four top-level federal organizations are taking a cue from the journalism handbook by focusing on the “who, what, when and where” to improve information sharing. Without developing new standards, this collaborative effort has created a federal information exchange specification and implementation profile that enables agencies to harvest the basics, regardless of where the data resides. Once fully embraced, this methodology, which still is in its infancy, holds great promise for addressing many of the information-sharing flaws identified by the 9/11 Commission and other assessments of the shortfalls in communications prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The U.S. Army is developing a network-centric system to connect and manage its air defense systems. The capability will provide commanders with a dynamic, real-time picture of the battlespace through shared data feeding into the network. Dynamic software will permit warfighters to establish defenses quickly by selecting available weapons batteries and sensors across a theater of operations and linking them into a combat mission.
U.S. Marines providing on-site command, control, communications, computers and intelligence support have a new tool—a tactical network in a box—that allows them to learn to use the most recent software in a virtual environment.
Military and humanitarian relief personnel now can reach out from the field more easily with a product that combines voice and data communications capabilities in a single box. The approximately 65-pound kit is field portable, ruggedized and self-cooling. It uses open architecture standards and can be applied to hastily formed networks, military operations, disaster response and medical relief efforts.
Technology is enabling base commanders and command post personnel to send out alerts in emergency situations more quickly. The new warning systems, being installed on several U.S. military bases, use the base network to reach every communications device connected to the network while tying in more traditional alert components such as public address systems and telephony.
The military is finding that voice over Internet protocol is an effective technology for secure collaboration and information sharing on converged networks-those that combine voice, video and data. Defense organizations are migrating from the isolated, point-to-point communications models of the past toward a more agile, networked and collaborative environment. At the same time, they are replacing their proprietary communications solutions with more interoperable systems based on open standards.