Six decades ago, a group of technologists from government and industry established an association dedicated to maintaining "as a contribution to industrial preparedness the splendid liaison and cooperation that existed during the [second World] War." Now, one Cold War and four hot wars later, the association that these visionaries founded has grown into an international organization that is as relevant and as important as ever.
Six decades ago a band of signalmen and combat photographers returned from the battlefields of World War II to form the Army Signal Association (ASA), adopting a goal to "perpetuate and strengthen the ties that were fashioned in battle" and to "maintain and improve cooperation between the armed forces and industry in the design, production, maintenance, and operation of communications, electronics, and photographic equipment."
The past 10 years have hosted an explosion of technology that has revolutionized productivity, shifted priorities and transformed communications from words to keystrokes. The cultures of play, work and even warfare have been redefined repeatedly-so much so that it is hard to remember a lifestyle before Google, the iPod, razor-thin cell phones, voice recognition and personal digital assistants. Ten years ago, most people still used paper maps to find directions and looked up telephone numbers in thick, cumbersome directories.
In the history of the U.S. Defense Department, no date is perhaps more infamous than that of September 11, 2001. On that day, al-Qaida terrorists slammed a jetliner into the Pentagon-exactly 60 years after the day the Pentagon's construction began.
Try to identify the source of the quotes below and the year in which each statement was made:
During the past two years, SIGNAL Magazine has asked military command and government agency chief information officers (CIOs) to share with its readers their insights on technologies that could have the biggest impact on their organizations in the future. This column has been a forum for them to communicate-in their own words-the paths they need capabilities to travel so they will be better able to achieve their objectives.
Among the most pervasive changes of the past 60 years has been the cost of living. No costs or salaries could remain static during six decades of capitalism, as 1946 saw the beginning of the removal of wartime wage and price controls. Major economic growth
Succeeding in the new strategic environment requires levels of responsiveness and agility never before demanded of our forces. The U.S. Defense Department must transform from its historical emphasis on ships, guns, tanks and planes to a focus on information, knowledge and actionable intelligence.
Despite years of discussion on the topic, the U.S. Defense Department is keeping its focus on interoperability. However, the department has undergone a shift from efforts directed primarily at developing the technology necessary to make broad intercommunications possible to work that concentrates on establishing the policies and doctrine necessary for communicators to use available resources.
This year's Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration was just as much about evaluating the event itself as it was about evaluating technologies. Although the 2006 format mirrored previous years' activities, the lessons learned during the first time the execution phase was hosted outside the United States could help improve the annual undertaking by broadening the focus to boost international interoperability. Event leaders are recommending several changes for future demonstrations, including increasing the number of countries that participant; linking the demonstration to Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics programs; and improving the coordination between the U.S. and NATO's Allied Command Transformation.
A newly established government agency is helping the U.S. Defense Department transform the way it does business. The organization is charged with improving how the military tracks and valuates its many assets and how it purchases equipment. Reporting directly to Congress, the agency is mandated to meet tight deadlines and to maintain maximum transparency in its operations.
Creating an army is difficult in peacetime and even more so when a nation is at war. The Iraqi government has done that, standing up a national army that will pave the way for the eventual withdrawal of coalition forces from the country. But modern armies are complex and require many parts to operate efficiently, and signal units constitute a key feature that is missing from the new Iraqi army.
The Republic of Bulgaria is facing a challenge familiar to many former Warsaw Pact NATO members as it strives to build a modern interoperable force under domestic fiscal constraints. But not all new Central and Eastern European NATO members are active in overseas security deployments both for NATO and for other coalition operations. Bulgaria is facing short-term as well as long-term challenges as it rigs for interoperability concurrent with a transition to a professional military.
Germany will deploy its first dedicated secure military satellite communications system before the end of the decade. The constellation is designed to assist the nation's forces as they support coalition and peacekeeping operations. The first satellite is scheduled to be in orbit by 2008, and the entire system is planned to be online by 2009.
The French army soon will issue its troops an advanced suite of technologies that will improve their lethality, survivability and situational awareness. Consisting of an integrated system of communications, sensors and body armor, the equipment will allow small tactical units to integrate into larger network-centric formations.
Odin, the chief god of ancient Scandinavia and the patron deity of war and wisdom, used guile and intelligence to defeat his enemies. Like its namesake, an advanced command, control and communications system allows warfighters to understand the operational situation quickly and to make informed decisions.
Slovakia is preparing to deploy a highly sophisticated mobile communications system for its army. Linking all echelons, from small tactical units to national headquarters, the network consists of state-of-the-art software-defined radios interfaced with legacy equipment. The system's Internet protocol-based technology is compatible with U.S. and NATO equipment, allowing Slovak forces to participate in multinational operations.
Now that the U.S. Defense Department has its arms around the challenge of moving vital information down to the individual warfighter, it is facing a new challenge of sharing information with nonmilitary, non-U.S. organizations. This latest priority reflects the diversity of operations that the military might find itself involved with for the foreseeable future.
A family of software-based radios designed specifically for export will allow many nations to acquire network-centric capabilities for their ground forces. Built around a waveform engineered to meet international standards, the radios permit legacy equipment to interoperate with other national or coalition systems in ad hoc mobile communications networks.