By Col. Steven J. Spano, USAF, Director, Communications and Information, A-6, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe
A good indicator of the ability to answer an esoteric question of this nature is to first ask if we successfully predicted the last technology and correctly assessed whether it had the anticipated impact. It could be argued that the answer to the former is no and the latter is perhaps marginal at best.
In a world full of uncertain threats, nations have learned that accurate, timely information may often be more crucial than firepower for combat mission success. To transform from a force-driven to a network-centric environment, militaries worldwide are calling on industry for capabilities that allow information to be accessible to the warfighter yet secure from attackers. These same capabilities must enable forces to be light yet keep them responsive and flexible.
The military is finding that voice over Internet protocol is an effective technology for secure collaboration and information sharing on converged networks-those that combine voice, video and data. Defense organizations are migrating from the isolated, point-to-point communications models of the past toward a more agile, networked and collaborative environment. At the same time, they are replacing their proprietary communications solutions with more interoperable systems based on open standards.
The U.S. Defense Department is migrating to an updated version of the Internet protocol that will efficiently connect warfighters and their equipment to theater and global data networks. Internet protocol version 6, or IPv6, can support an unlimited number of site addresses for wireless communications devices, remote sensors, vehicles and precision-guided munitions while offering enhanced security and administrative features.
Back in 1988 when the average price of gasoline was $1.12 a gallon, the U.S. government was selling long-distance telephone service to federal agencies for about 28 cents a minute. Over the past 18 years, however, while the cost of a gallon of gasoline has more than doubled, that same long-distance minute now costs slightly more than a penny. To enable federal agencies to take advantage of today's falling prices and rising technology, the U.S. General Services Administration later this year will award two contracts that will serve as the primary replacement for the expiring Federal Technology Service (FTS) 2001 and FTS2001 Crossover contracts.
Pictures may indeed be worth a thousand words when applied to visualization aids for warfighters and first responders. A university-based facility is using state-of-the-art computers and software to convert large data files into maps for a variety of organizations. This free material is made available to government agencies, academic research groups and companies that require high-resolution terrain imagery.
Analysts in the U.S. Navy will soon be able to examine new ship systems and military tactics from the beginning to the end of the kill chain without ever leaving shore. A modeling and simulation tool will enable them to assess capabilities quickly at their desktop with a level of fidelity that allows them to make better informed acquisition recommendations as well as to explore adversaries' responses to new devices and strategies. The capability capitalizes on advances made by the video game industry.
This year, AFCEA International marks its 60th anniversary. As with other successful organizations, the key to AFCEA's future lies in its members. Our corporate, government and military members do more than just define the association; they also serve as the focal point of our activities, which are entering a new phase in the association's storied saga.