Winning the Wars of the 21st Century" was the appropriate theme of West 2001, the first western conference and exposition by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute in the new millennium. The first of three days of panel discussions and distinguished speaker addresses generated lively debate over how to prepare for-and deter-war in an uncertain era.
A series of mobile groundstations soon will provide commanders with real-time detection and trajectory information about enemy theater and strategic missiles. Developed to operate with a new constellation of advanced early warning satellites, the air-transportable facilities will enhance the survivability of U.S. expeditionary forces.
Fast, agile units employing advanced sensors and situational awareness suites will soon become the U.S. Army's vanguard rapid deployment forces. Currently mustering and training at Fort Lewis, Washington, these interim brigade combat teams will rely on a variety of wireless communication and information technologies to detect, outmaneuver and engage more heavily armed opponents.
A consensus is growing among national security experts that the U.S. government's security policies must make space a top priority. If it does not, a space-based Pearl Harbor could be around the corner.
The U.S. government is poised to adopt a new encryption standard that will replace existing ciphers used in secure, nonsecret communications. The algorithm is compatible across a variety of software and hardware applications and in limited-memory environments such as smart cards.
The military is not the only entity that knows information is a powerful weapon. Companies that both develop and depend on communications technologies now recognize that strength increases with numbers and cooperation benefits individual firms and protects overall economic growth. Despite the competitive nature of commerce, information operations have moved from the public to the private sector.
In Case of Emergency, Break Glass. That phrase calls to mind the image of a firefighter's axe in a glass box on a wall. It also is an appropriate analogy for the U.S. Defense Department's approach to information operations, wherein powerful capabilities often are locked away from the hands of the warfighter. But unlike the firefighter, who is trained in the use of the axe, warfighters have virtually no opportunity to train with U.S. information operations capabilities or to factor them into their plans. Tight security controls that are designed to ensure the protection of many capabilities are, as an unintended consequence, locking the armed forces out of opportunities to learn to use them effectively. This, in a nutshell, is the problem of overprotection.
Asymmetric tactics and network-centric warfare demand a new look at command and control. Information now is a weapon of choice; software, radio frequencies and bandwidth are critical commodities; networks are essential delivery platforms; and access controls are mandatory. All must be melded into operational art. The foremost challenge for commanders and staffs in this new battlespace environment may be the command and control (C2) of the infostructure.
The U.S. Defense Department is refocusing efforts to protect military communications from computer network threats. By shifting its network operations emphasis from exclusively defensive to a more offensive stance, the government seeks to ensure the integrity of coalition operations. Preparations for projecting a greater disruptive potential to adversaries are underway.
Although experts agree that the vast majority of future military operations will be fought by joint forces, the U.S. military's information technology continues to be somewhat fragmented. To take advantage of all the benefits of information operations during a mission, systems used by all the forces and at all levels must be able to talk to each other. Numerous technologies have been developed that enable this capability; however, the challenge is larger than technology.
Small businesses constitute a major element of AFCEA International's membership. Their breadth of activity in many ways reflects AFCEA's areas of interest, and the association is paying heed to their impact as well as to their needs.
Virtually every piece of military electronics hardware, from the simplest handheld personal computing assistant to the most powerful mainframe computer, faces the challenge of interoperability to fit into the U.S. Defense Department's Global Information Grid. Designed as the ultimate military networking project, the grid is a cornerstone for achieving the information superiority outlined in the department's Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020.
Faced with rapidly changing information technology needs, the Central Intelligence Agency is serving as a venture catalyst to help fund private sector startup companies with promising technologies. An organization established by the agency seeks new companies with commercially viable products and serves as a facilitator providing the firms with access to capital and markets.