While weaving the thread of homeland security throughout the panel discussions at TechNet International 2002, speakers also expressed candid views about the problems that must be solved to make the best use of today's technical capabilities. Topics included network-centric warfare, biometrics, smart cards and emergency communications.
Battlefield applications of 21st century communications and information technology capabilities allow commanders to assess their own positions as well as the locations of enemies. Soldiers in the field can receive orders and take action in record time. However, an intense dialogue is in progress on how best to employ these technologies to win the war against terrorism.
Government and private industry are struggling to grasp different aspects of the same challenges as they implement network-centric operations. Whether involved with e-commerce or battlefield situational awareness, organizations stand to gain substantially from a networked information infrastructure. However, some solutions-architectures, protocols or security measures-that work in some areas may not be applicable to others.
Advances in visual processing may soon allow robot vehicles to travel autonomously across battlefields and city streets. Researchers are developing mathematical models that offer insight into how mechanical and biological systems interpret images for movement and navigation. The answers will provide a key to designing more sophisticated automated guidance systems for commercial and military use.
In the near future, laser-based detection systems will allow military aircraft to identify enemy ground vehicles accurately in battle zones and permit spacecraft and robotic vehicles to navigate safely through unfamiliar terrain. The technology is built around highly sensitive optical detectors that measure minute amounts of reflected laser light. These systems do three-dimensional modeling of scanned objects in real time, offering missile defense systems the capability to differentiate between re-entry vehicles and decoys.
Participants in the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration are reeling from the triumph of this year's event, not only because all the pieces came together successfully but also because the lessons learned promise to provide real support to today's warfighters. In addition to focusing on interoperability issues, other substantive items were addressed, including the unique challenges of operating in the Pacific Theater, handling information disclosure problems and ensuring that network vulnerabilities are identified. Broad and successful foreign involvement in the U.S.-sponsored event confirmed that collaboration among nations is essential to defeating today's adversaries.
Defense in depth is the key to securing what will be one of the world's largest intranets. The U.S. Navy is using a layered approach to protect the systems that will connect all of its land commands and, through satellites, its ships at sea.
Government agencies and commercial companies that are striving to share data to protect citizens or improve service to customers are discovering that as access to data increases, information security challenges grow exponentially. To address this concern, trusted security approaches emerging from government applications offer information assurance at both the operating-system and relational-database-management levels.
Technology is now available that allows various organizations to share information from their databases without compromising their sources or individual agency policies. The software would enable national security and law enforcement groups to coordinate their efforts by facilitating the tracking of suspicious individuals and their activities.
Research is extending the boundaries of information assurance technology to include the operational reliability of individual systems and the ability of tactical wireless networks to remain secure. Scientists are developing agile solutions to counter new types of cyberassaults and to protect vulnerabilities detected in emerging technologies.
The United States has recruited private industry to help fight the war on terrorism on the home front. The next battlefield may be cyberspace, and the government is working with its operators to protect and defend crucial assets in that realm against attacks that could potentially cripple the country.
The challenge of providing secure information is not new. Since the early days of computer networking, we have been striving to ensure the sanctity of bits and bytes. As computer and communications technologies advanced exponentially, so did the security challenges facing our information community. Now, information systems are everywhere and have become essential elements in the daily operations of industry, civil government, the intelligence community and military forces.
While military combatants continue to fight the war against terrorism on the battlefield, U.S. government officials are stepping up work to protect the borders of cyberspace. Information infrastructure security is such a high priority that government agencies are now required to provide reports on risk assessments, system security needs and security plans before they receive program funding.
The U.S. military's goal of a network-centric warfare capability is a step closer to reality with the recent contract award for the development of a long-awaited family of advanced radios. The devices will eliminate communications difficulties between terrestrial and airborne units through the use of common waveforms, creating greater situational awareness and enhanced survivability for warfighters.