The U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review and the fiscal year 2007 defense budget submission were noteworthy for their focus on special operations forces. Both documents called for increased emphasis on small, highly trained, mobile units in the ongoing global war on terrorism. Our success in ridding Afghanistan of its Taliban rulers showed how effective coalition special forces can be in the shadowy war against terrorists.
Addressing the complex issues security, defense and intelligence-gathering pose in the global war on terrorism can be an overwhelming challenge for any single organization. But experts from around the world are working diligently to cooperate and find the best solutions to tackle these issues. The task is not an easy one. They must balance protection and freedom, safety and privacy and at the same time learn how to collaborate to degrees unheard of in the past. Technology offers many solutions, but some of the best work is done when these experts and the people on the front lines meet face to face, roll up their sleeves and engage in dialogue.
The United States has been fighting a shadowy enemy abroad for more than four years, but uncertainty remains about whether lessons from September 11, 2001, have been sufficiently learned before another attack is launched on home territory. This question was at the heart of AFCEA International's Homeland Security 2006 conference, "Homeland Security 2.0-Building Resilient Communities," held in Washington, D.C., February 22-23. Instead of the usual panel discussions, the event centered on a simulation of a major terrorist attack in the capital region. Over the course of the conference, participants from a variety of federal, state, local and commercial organizations described how they would react to such a developing situation.
Technology is enabling base commanders and command post personnel to send out alerts in emergency situations more quickly. The new warning systems, being installed on several U.S. military bases, use the base network to reach every communications device connected to the network while tying in more traditional alert components such as public address systems and telephony.
Several decades from now, a U.S. unmanned combat aircraft orbiting a battlefield will identify a ground target with its sensors and use its communications laser to beam the coordinates to an overhead satellite. After receiving target confirmation from analysts on the other side of the planet, the aircraft will bank sharply, refocus its optical communications array to weapons mode and destroy the target with a multi-kilowatt laser pulse. The system will then revert to its data transmission mode to uplink a battle-damage assessment. This may sound like science fiction, but recently developed technology that electronically moves and focuses lasers may one day make this scenario a reality.
Sweden's military is embracing multinational cooperation and procurement in its software-defined radio activities that may lead to the melding of two powerful radio systems. The Scandinavian country is striving to attain the fast, flexible and high-capacity family of Software Communications Architecture-compliant radios envisaged in its Common Tactical Radio System program. Demonstrator vehicular radios for armored battalion trials have been ordered, and additional procurements of platform-based and soldier radios are scheduled to begin later this year.
The U.S. Army is conducting basic research to develop niche tactical wireless solutions that can be moved quickly into larger programs. The effort is a partnership among government, commercial and academic organizations that permits them to pool their resources and share the benefits of new developments.
Collaborative technologies are leading the revolution in military affairs as they help commanders and warfighters realize long-sought capabilities in the network-centric force. These technologies' effects range from a more fluid network in theater to a new set of missions for special operations forces.
Although transformational, today's network-centric warfare concepts may be infinitesimal compared to how technology-fueled cooperation can and will revolutionize future operations. Military leaders already have seen an inkling of the ramifications of capabilities such as instant messaging, short message service and blogging. And experts believe that these technologies not only could but should change the fundamental structure of both corporate and military organizations.
A demonstration technology program underway is developing U.S. military weapons that can travel at greater supersonic speeds. The Revolutionary Approach to Time-critical Long Range Strike, or RATTLRS, system will expand high-speed flight capabilities and improve performance for expendable supersonic vehicles.
The U.S. military's elite units have another platform from which they can launch maneuvers. Devised from submarines the U.S. Navy had planned to decommission, the new vehicles will be multimission, multiservice platforms designed specifically for covert operations and special operations warfare.
A service with a long history of creative solutions to military challenges is joining forces with the unconventional warfare community. The U.S. Marine Corps has established a special operations command that will work as part of a joint special forces group.
The global war on terrorism and new technological capabilities have changed the way special operations forces fight and how they are employed in the battlefield. Nontraditional missions require nontraditional skills, and the U.S. Special Operations Command is training a new type of warrior to use skill sets vital in the war on terrorism.
These are exciting times in terms of technology at the U.S. Senate as we work to execute our information technology (IT) strategic plan. Having just implemented a comprehensive active directory and messaging architecture and entering the testing phase of a new services portal to bring business to the Web, we are poised for the next technology wave to have the biggest impact on the Senate-convergence communications technologies, including Internet protocol telephony (IPT).