By Maj. Bernard J. Jansen, USA; Col. John J. Reidt, USA; and Jerald C. Turner
Rapid changes in both technology and U.S. military missions are mandating that information systems plans be comprehensive as well as flexible. Within this transformational environment, most organizations recognize the need for strategic plans that improve their ability to accomplish their goals; however, many times these plans fail to achieve the desired results.
Engineers have updated and improved a 60-year-old lens antenna technology to create a low-cost, high-gain steerable microwave antenna for satellite tracking applications. Conceived in 1944, the Luneberg lens currently is being employed to maintain two-way satellite contact when a satellite, a receiver or both are moving.
Recent U.S. Marine Corps deployments deep into Afghanistan for operation Enduring Freedom have demonstrated the service's growing digitalization. As troops disembarked to locations far from their amphibious ships, connectivity was maintained through a variety of mobile communications systems. On the tactical level, Marines used battlefield intranets to coordinate operations and send digital imagery to their commanders in near real time.
While operating forces are engaged on the front lines of defense and peacekeeping missions worldwide, some military commands and activities are at the forefront of a different type of battle-the one over information systems integration and interoperability. Like their combatant counterparts, these technology warriors have found that collaboration, cooperation and coordination are at the heart of a successful mission.
Years of designing, testing and deploying information architectures and technologies are paying off in the success of operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. These successes in turn are laying the groundwork for future network-centric capabilities that will bring with them a considerable momentum for change in the U.S. defense infrastructure.
As successful as operation Enduring Freedom has been on the battlefields of Afghanistan, the lack of organizational reform in domestic U.S. agencies threatens the battle on the war's other front-the United States. Despite increased security measures and the heightened state of alert on the part of the public, the country is still highly vulnerable to further attacks by terrorists.
Networked terror groups, domestic radicals, renegade states and terror for profit all threaten Western democracies to an unprecedented degree. Prospective targets might be high-profile infrastructure assets with the potential for high casualty totals, or they might simply take the form of attacks on public institutions to rapidly erode confidence in governments.
The Internet protocol revolution is reaching satellite video communications with a new system that permits transmitting tens of thousands of channels over a single orbital transponder. Users can leapfrog existing satellite video limitations with two-way virtual private networks that can carry streaming video without a hitch.
After considerable interagency debate, the U.S. government has approved ultrawideband radio technology for commercial use. Ultrawideband devices operate across a wide spectrum range instead of a specific frequency. This allows for more efficient spectrum use at lower power levels and presents a possible solution for bandwidth-starved wireless providers. Other applications include ground-penetrating radar, imaging, surveillance and medical systems. However, issues such as possible interference with navigation and commercial aviation systems must be resolved before the technology gains wider acceptance.
As the world barrels headlong into the information age, a growing trend is beginning to alarm many experts in academia, industry and government. Despite the attractiveness of information technology (IT) as a profession, our prime stock of engineers and IT professionals has, by and large, been in our industry for more than 15 years.