There was a time when federal agencies were required to buy their goods and services from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA's business was pretty much guaranteed. Like the days of the 10-cent postage stamp, however, that time has passed.
The complexity of the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance environment has increased significantly during the diverse operations the U.S. military has supported in recent years. From the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq to the devastation in the Gulf Coast region, the ability to share information has been instrumental in saving lives and carrying out effective operations. However, the fast tempo of activity within such a short period of time has brought to light the challenges that still exist in sharing data among organizations.
Italy is partnering with its local industry to develop a next-generation radio family similar to the U.S. Joint Tactical Radio System. The United States and several other nations will offer significant input in the radios' development.
The U.S. Army is synchronizing its information technology efforts for the future by increasing and improving communication among senior leaders. The primary vehicle for this effort is the service's Office of the Chief Information Officer/G-6 500-Day Plan, which was revealed last fall. In addition to outlining the Army's vision, mission, goals and objectives, the strategy calls for regular reporting from high-level personnel in charge of achieving the initiatives it sets forth and measuring progress.
The wealth of information available worldwide from open sources has impelled the U.S. intelligence community to establish a new center dedicated exclusively to exploitation and dissemination of valuable unclassified products. This center will scour the world's environment of readily available information for snippets of data that could complete a vital intelligence picture as well as for messages among enemies that travel in the open through the global village.
Recent flights of the Spider-Lion fuel-cell-powered unmanned aerial vehicle have shed light on the potential for deploying fuel-cell technologies in the future. Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory designed the Spider-Lion, and while the aircraft itself is not intended as a tactical device, it will serve as a high-impact research platform for testing fuel-cell technology. The two successful flights mark the first time a fuel-cell-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has flown for several hours.
A close U.S. ally is focusing its unmanned systems development on homeland security. Israel has a history of adopting innovative technologies to suit its strategic needs, and its armed forces were among the first to develop and adopt unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance and electronic warfare operations. The nation's aerospace industry has become adept at creating a variety of unmanned air, ground and sea platforms to meet changing requirements and to fill new roles.
Small and lightweight loitering cruise missiles with pinpoint precision are playing a deadly battlefield hide and seek in all weather conditions against hard-to-find mobile enemies. Armed with highly lethal warheads, a family of new weapons is emerging from development for both U.S. Army and Air Force applications. Moreover, these weapons hold the potential to significantly alter warfare.
What may be the oddest looking U.S. Navy craft to set sail in years is carrying the hopes of visionaries who aim to transform Navy ships and missions with the aid of advanced technologies. The composite-material craft couples a new hydrodynamic design with a modular network-centric electronic system to leverage the many innovations emerging from the information technology sector.
The U.S. Defense Department's messaging initiatives have made organizational messaging faster, easier and more secure while reducing the effort and personnel needed to perform the work.
The final phase of a three-stage plan has been put into place to modernize the Defense Information Systems Agency's acquisition process for getting new technologies into the hands of warfighters rapidly. Four new program executive offices will improve integration across product lines and support end-to-end engineering of the Global Information Grid. Streamlining the total acquisition process and holding these offices accountable from a budgetary standpoint are among the goals of the transformational effort.
Last summer's Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) change of command was bittersweet for the information technology community, as we said farewell to one friend and welcome aboard to another. It also was a reflection of how blessed our nation is that as we make changes at the highest levels in our armed forces and their agencies, we continue to provide superb leadership and management. Even when styles and methods are different, the change almost always turns out to be healthy.