In his book Capitalism and Freedom, Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman states that government by its nature contributes "enormous inertia—a tyranny of the status quo—in governmental arrangements. Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change." As a result of the crises caused by Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami that ravaged Indonesia, Congress pressured the U.S. Defense Department to deliver government-based information-sharing services to assist citizens struck by natural or manmade disasters. The need to access, share and disseminate information to save lives by rapidly coordinating humanitarian relief is paramount.
U.S. Marines providing on-site command, control, communications, computers and intelligence support have a new tool—a tactical network in a box—that allows them to learn to use the most recent software in a virtual environment.
New emerging ways to protect electronic data include methods to verify the identity of those who have rights to view specific material as well as to provide access to information through the Internet instead of through hard or soft copies. These approaches reduce the chances of personnel stealing or misplacing copies of confidential records, because data remains in one location. This capability is particularly important as the U.S. military shifts to a network-centric environment and officials look for ways to provide the right information access to the right people while prohibiting that information from the enemy.
To focus on technologies that have global- or theaterwide effect and that span the branches of the U.S. military, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has combined its Advanced Technology Office and Special Projects Office to form the Strategic Technology Office. The office is determining what capabilities warfighters lack and finding solutions for current problems and potential needs.
The U.S. military services are turning their attention to energy practices and energy sources as a matter of national defense and security. As debates rage over oil costs and usage as well as the question of when peak oil—the highest rate at which oil can be pumped from the Earth—will be achieved, the service branches are examining ways to use fuel more wisely and exploring alternative energy sources. While experts disagree on many energy issues, most agree that the United States needs to develop renewable and sustainable energy options now to prepare for the future, and the military must take a lead role in that paradigm shift.
The U.S. Defense Department has an energy conservation and development program that is as far and wide as the U.S. military's reach around the world. The department is revamping methodologies and exploring new technologies both to reduce its energy consumption and to ensure a reliable supply in an uncertain global energy environment.
Despite common interests and goals, the military and the information technology sector are hampered by cultural differences that thwart their ability to work together, according to a former U.S. Defense Department information technology leader now in the private sector.
By employing artificial intelligence, the U.S. Army is raising video games to a new level to create virtual communities populated by hundreds of thousands of fully developed characters. Combining computer game technology, a little show business magic and the expertise of some very clever research engineers, these training tools can be used to practice traditional warfighting techniques as well as to rehearse new skills such as conducting effective negotiation and understanding cultural influences.
Military artificial intelligence programs are making humans, not systems, the focus of their development efforts as they study methods to make tools easier to use. Programs are being focused on using artificial intelligence to free people for the most important tasks and incorporating automation to save lives.
The purpose of artificial intelligence is to create systems that are capable of human-level reasoning. One practical outcome of this research is the capability to make technology invisible to the user. Increasing automation and autonomy are beginning to appear in applications ranging from robots capable of independently navigating and mapping terrain to interfaces that can understand spoken commands to wireless communications systems that automatically configure themselves.