U.S. Defense Department science and technology investment is transcending the requirements model of the past in a shift from threat-based to capabilities-based thinking. While researchers are examining areas such as avionics, materials and nanotechnology, military leaders are exploring how cutting-edge developments can move more quickly from the laboratory to the field.
Ken Dahlberg sometimes likens his burgeoning high-technology business to a high-speed ride at a Disney theme park. No, he is not being sarcastic-far from it.
In just six years, Dahlberg's information systems and technology (IS&T) group at General Dynamics has become one of the largest and most respected outfits selling technology services to the nation's defense and civilian agencies.
A new generation of autonomous, problem-solving robots will soon be entering commercial service. Recent advances in computer processing power have allowed researchers to design prototype machines that can navigate in unfamiliar surroundings unassisted. Using a variety of sensors, the robot creates a constantly updated three-dimensional map as it goes through its routine. It is this self-navigation that is finally placing mobile robotic systems on the verge of commercial viability, scientists say.
Within the next decade, the U.S. Air Force plans to field a rapidly deployable satellite launch capability to support joint and coalition operations around the world. By working with the national research and development community, the service aims to identify and nurture technologies that will enhance the nation's military space efforts.
The U.S. Air Force is moving its communications and command and control systems to an on-demand, Internet-based model. This will consist of wired and wireless data pipes connecting ground installations, aircraft and satellites in a seamless architecture. However, while many parts of this structure are in place, the service still faces the challenge of establishing and managing what will become a massive system of systems.
Everything is "transforming" these days. Our economy, our military, our nation and our place in the world are all under immense pressures to change, to dramatically alter what we are to keep up with what we need to be.
Military and federal government leaders agree that information systems will be key enablers in forming the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and protecting the nation. Speakers and panelists at TechNet International 2003 shared information and insight about the road ahead for the department and how industry will support its work. One chief concern is how to facilitate coordination and collaboration between federal agencies, among various levels of the government and within multiple emergency response organizations.
The success of operations in the Persian Gulf indicates that advanced communications systems are sure to be among the crucial assets put to use by military and government agencies as they work to ensure homeland security. TechNet International 2003 speakers reiterated this point as they shared their views about the importance of information systems in the war on terrorism and in government agency cooperation. Changes continue to take place in technology, policies and procedures, they agreed.
Information systems are an important part of U.S. military transformation, but they are only one component of a complex continuous journey for the armed forces. Culture, processes and concepts also must change, and government agencies across the board must transform as well for the United States to retain its leadership role.
Industry is focusing on how to reduce computer system complexity by modeling the human body's autonomic nervous system. From servers to software, researchers are building all components of the infrastructure based on the same characteristics-regulation and protection of key functions without conscious involvement. Autonomic computers will make more decisions on their own and require less human intervention.
The U.S. Air Force is undergoing a change in its operational capabilities as significant as when missile-armed jets replaced gun-bearing propeller aircraft. Information technologies, which long have enhanced weaponry and improved capabilities, now are taking their place alongside other key types of hardware as defining elements in Air Force operations.
Sophisticated tracking and communications capabilities rapidly installed on military platforms in the Middle East helped U.S. and coalition commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq slice through the fog of war with near-real-time situational awareness. Blue force tracking technology provides information about the location of friendly and enemy forces as well as terrain and danger zones such as mine fields. Equipment installed on a variety of platforms continues to allow mission leaders, commanders and warfighters in locations from the Pentagon to the battlefield to see the same picture of and elements in the battlespace like pieces on a chessboard.
The U.S. Defense Department is transforming its intelligence infrastructure to meet the revolutionary changes that the military is undergoing. The very nature of intelligence is changing with the revamping of the force, and its application promises to be a key issue in the success of that overall military transformation.
The theoretical superiority of network-centric warfare in conventional combat was realized with the rapid U.S.-led coalition victory over Saddam Hussein's forces in Iraq. Coalition forces brought to bear the full power of megabits and gigabytes against regular, irregular and so-called elite forces of the Iraq military.