By Scott Charbo, Chief Information Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
There are two certainties in life that we all know: death and taxes. I submit that we add a third: Technology is ever-changing and evolving. If you don't believe this, check your graveyard of cell phones and chargers.
Despite the ongoing push toward information system interoperability, attaining the goal of Defense-Department-wide jointness may fall victim to the need for some stovepipe systems. While U.S. forces continue to strive for joint and coalition interoperability, many specialized roles cannot be served adequately by applying a one-size-fits-all approach to information technology and systems.
A deployable cell-phone-based system will allow coalition warfighters to communicate on the move without relying on vulnerable links to satellite groundstations. Designed for portability, the equipment can form self-healing tactical networks that connect automatically to other nodes and to satellite or landline systems. It relies on third-generation cellular waveforms that transmit live streaming video, provide reduced latency and increase bandwidth and security.
The U.S. military has deployed a command and control technology that allows warfighters to view, store and act on information provided by a variety of sources such as cameras, unattended ground sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles. The system can superimpose live video images onto a three-dimensional map to create a persistent surveillance capability in a specific area, and it allows users to issue alerts based on specific activities such as people or vehicles entering restricted areas.
A new, state-of-the-art command center is coordinating the operations of allied forces in Afghanistan. It provides officers with enhanced connectivity and situational awareness and features a specially built network to share sensitive coalition data. A large on-site staff of liaison officers helps speed inter-organizational information sharing and decision making, allowing for more rapid and streamlined operations.
The greatest challenge facing NATO interoperability is the desire of individual nations to safeguard information and technology from their allies, according to the general manager of the agency tasked with enabling coalition interoperability.
Since launching its first offensive operation in Kosovo in 1999, NATO has been changing its command structure and improving its ability to deploy small troop units quickly to anywhere in the world. It has shifted from a regional focus to a global focus and from its traditional tendency of taking an immediate action outlook for the more proactive approach of preparing a vision for future operations.
The large hexagonal building's Tidewater architecture blends well with its placid Hampton Roads surroundings. Indeed, this bucolic Virginia setting belies the beehive of combat-related activity inside-experiments that are profoundly transforming the way this nation fights wars and protects its citizens.
In the United States, both corporate and Defense Department telecommunications have developed along a path of increasing complexity to support global geopolitical or commercial requirements. The paradox is that while this complexity improves the ability to support worldwide operations, the underlying network is becoming more vulnerable.
Biometric scanners, gamma ray detectors and unmanned underwater vehicles seem like topics reserved for futuristic action-adventure movies. However, these technologies are being embraced by agencies under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's umbrella. Technologies that serve to track, trace and contain or detain potentially harmful materials and individuals are being studied, tested and integrated into many homeland security activities.