It is hard to resist the Big Brother analogy to describe law enforcement agencies' use of new technologies for catching lawbreakers. From thermal scanners that monitor the amount of heat emanating from a suspect's house to hidden cameras that catch red-light runners to software that leads to the capture of cybercriminals, new capabilities have brought with them new privacy questions.
New algorithms and signal processing technologies may reduce the vulnerability of global positioning system devices to electronic countermeasures. Antijam systems already are in production and are being incorporated into the latest U.S. Defense Department weaponry. Future iterations may bring signal assurance to even the smallest handheld consumer devices.
Although global positioning system technologies are being used widely in both the military and commercial arenas, research currently underway could broaden their reach by making the capability better, smarter, faster and less costly. One project, which is near completion, combines inertial navigation with global positioning system navigation to increase effectiveness. The second, a longer term program, is aimed at increasing users' ability to operate successfully in the face of enemy jammers or countermeasures.
Information assurance, preserving radio spectrum, ensuring interoperability and establishing secure wireless links are just some of the tasks on the menu for the Defense Information Systems Agency. The agency's Defense Department-wide mandate has placed it at the nexus of the infosphere that increasingly is defining military operations worldwide.
The British government has launched its ambitious program to create a state-of-the-art tactical communications infrastructure for its military. When complete, the United Kingdom's armed forces will have a secure radio system that operates a battlefield Internet jointly across multiple ground, air and sea platforms.
Several key impediments must be conquered if network-centric warfare is to achieve its potential for revolutionizing military operations. Long-standing concerns such as interoperability and cultural resistance are joined by issues of understanding human behavior and research and development investment. These elements threaten to slow or even derail efforts to incorporate the full advantages of network-centric warfare into U.S. forces by 2025.
The U.S. Air Force is examining technology that would enhance a B-1B Lancer crew's situational awareness while in the air and simultaneously record data that can be shared with other mission commanders or used to train future aircrews. The capability would provide pilots with information about existing threats, which would allow them to execute appropriate threat avoidance maneuvers.
Warfighters soon may be wearing clothing with built-in radio antennas and global positioning system receivers. These items would be embedded in uniforms and equipment harnesses laced with internal wiring and circuitry that connect personal communications devices, computers and power supplies to form a single network.
Unattended sensors in a future theater of operation detect enemy movements, identify and locate targets, and feed that information via unmanned aerial vehicle communications network nodes to the command center. Commanders collate their data with other information from space and U.S.-based sources, then signal unattended battlefield and airborne weapons to launch against enemy assets. These networked weapons keep track of battle damage and trade-off targets as they are destroyed.
The Bush administration's declaration of war on terrorism allows federal organizations such as the National Security Agency to expand their electronic intelligence-gathering practices. With initial deployment of U.S. forces to the Middle East, demand to locate hostile terrorist cells and their support mechanisms immediately is rising, both in the United States and overseas. In addition, what had been a gradually growing requirement for U.S. forces to conduct information operations, including computer network offense and defense, is now switching to fast forward.
While U.S. military forces retaliate against terrorists for the horrific World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, the Bush administration also is organizing to help shield the nation's critical information infrastructure. The White House is establishing U.S. cybersecurity functions under a single individual. That person will function as the president's special adviser for cybersecurity, reporting directly to both the new cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security and the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
The U.S. Army is pushing to ensure that the people in charge of the latest tools in warfare are up to date in defending its information and computer networks. Personnel who are key to the service's transformation and its move to digitizing the force are being trained to install, configure, operate and maintain the latest communications systems and are learning to identify evolving threats to these systems.