It seems so innocent, downloading a game or other entertainment to pass the time during a tedious or stressful deployment. Yet, some of the dangerous cyber-critters that hitch a ride on many of those “fun” downloads make the fleas your dog brought home last summer seem like a welcome addition to the household.
This is what I’ve been hearing from government and industry leaders who invested heavily in information technology to improve organizational performance but didn’t see the returns they expected. Some chief executive officers implemented instant messaging software across their organizations to improve communication flow, but because users were not convinced that communications were secure, instant messaging was ignored. In other situations, both leadership and staff were uncomfortable with social networking tools because they were used to communicating through other people—not with more direct, less formal means.
“We are at war.”
Interoperability remains an illusive goal that the U.S. military continues to fight for on all fronts. From the simulations used in training to the radios on battlefields, the ability to communicate using voice, video and data continues to be a problem despite years of effort. New strategies are being adopted that already have shown the inklings of improvements, but reform is needed at the policy hub so the military service spokes can deliver network-centric capabilities out to the edge—right to the individual warfighters themselves.
A diverse group of military, government, commercial and industrial experts gathered in a unique conference environment to examine the integration of information.
As AFCEA enters its 62nd year, I am pleased to report that the association has never had a stronger program of services nor been sounder financially. We have been listening to our stakeholders and are responding with a new set of offerings that will be important to every member.
Recognizing that the Global War on Terrorism covers many distinct areas of the world, the U.S. Army is expanding its intelligence databases by adding regional analysis capabilities for its areas of operation. This information will be stored in distributed data warehouses that allow analysts to access and share actionable intelligence to support forces in theater. Army intelligence brigades will use these tools to store and study data before providing it to deployed forces.
Cyberspace is the latest realm that the U.S. Defense Department is seeking to dominate in its efforts to protect national security and to project force. But this goal has not gone unchallenged as hackers from a variety of nations and criminal and terrorist organizations have tried to penetrate government networks to steal information or cause damage.
Protecting space-based assets is now the top priority for the U.S. Air Force Space Command, according to its commander. With the military’s reliance on network centricity well established, communications and situational awareness satellites have increased in significance to military operations—and to potential adversaries seeking to counter Western goals without confronting superior allied forces directly. And, the private sector is equally dependent on the many capabilities inherent in orbital platforms.
Having long relied upon military prowess and diplomatic skills to project and protect its interests on the seas, on land and in aerospace, the United States now is in conflict with stateless entities seeking hearts and minds, not land or treasure. It is a global contest of words and images, waged on a battlefield called cyberspace where rules of engagement that govern traditional conflict don’t apply and plans for a multiagency effort to protect the information infrastructure have not yet been adopted.
The architects of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s procurement office are refining the organization’s blueprints for acquisition. Leaders are renovating the past procedures to fix problems and introducing new ideas that firmly yet flexibly establish best business practices for the future. More will be expected from companies, but at the same time more opportunities to work with the department will be available.
With the termination of supplementary funds looming, the U.S. military is bracing for the acquisition environment of the future. Much of the defense budgets in the near term will be allocated to replace critical equipment worn out faster than anticipated by wartime operations. As a result, other programs will have to vie for the funding they require. In the information technology sector, acquisitions experts also are striving to reduce the time required for accepting delivery of new technology so troops can stay ahead of the development curve.
Technology innovations and lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan are driving new directions in the U.S. Army’s communications road map. Because technology is changing capabilities so quickly—and because the need to equip combat forces in Southwest Asia is paramount—the Army is incorporating shorter decision cycles to measure progress as it speeds desperately needed capabilities to its warfighters.