There is a quote used by countless writing teachers worldwide, and credited to almost as many writers, which reads, “I would have written a shorter letter, but didn't have time.” It’s time to bring that quote up to date given the way we fire off messages in a split second via email, instant messages (IMs) and “Tweets” (Twitter message). Today’s version should read, “I’m sorry that message was so dumb; I didn’t have time to make it smarter.”
We are now nine months into the Obama administration. During that time, some answers have emerged to the many issues that have popped up, but nearly as many questions remain. One lingering question involves defining transparency.
I want to depart from my usual Commentary format this month to give you early notice about the upcoming AFCEA International membership survey. The information we derive from this survey is critical to us in our planning and budgeting process for the coming years.
Political as well as military transformations are driving major changes at NATO. The alliance is reshaping itself to serve more as a geopolitical security organization than as a purely military one designed for armed deterrence and operations.
Cybermarauders are taking aim at NATO systems both within the alliance and through member nations as experts strive to stay a step ahead of adversaries. The alliance must deal with different security standards along with diverse levels of information system sophistication among member nations.
The Royal Navy is creating an island on an isle in an effort to de-risk advanced communications systems early, easily and with less expense than traditional means. As Britain continues its development of the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, those working with the technology systems have created a mock-up of the ships’ aft island, on which will go an array of equipment. The complexity is necessary for the support of all the personnel who will draw from its resources, and officials with the project are determined to ensure top-notch functionality before the carriers set sail.
An aircraft developed by a U.S. corporation is serving as a test-bed for advanced unmanned aerial systems. The internally funded program will employ a fighter-size prototype the company previously designed for a now-defunct military program. The applications for the platform have yet to be determined but will be based on customer desires and requests. The first flight is scheduled to launch late next year, and the company believes it will help shape the future of autonomous air technologies.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is stepping up its outreach to homeland security partners in all tiers of government in another Defense Department effort to improve interoperability. Plans include building personal relationships and improving technical knowledge as personnel from the agency attend increasing numbers of events across the nation. The agency also is pursuing more formal synchronizations through high-level channels. Officials believe the work will result in better, more coordinated responses to catastrophes. The work often places the federal agency in a consultant role, advising others on best practices and new ideas for purchases and procedures.
Four top-level federal organizations are taking a cue from the journalism handbook by focusing on the “who, what, when and where” to improve information sharing. Without developing new standards, this collaborative effort has created a federal information exchange specification and implementation profile that enables agencies to harvest the basics, regardless of where the data resides. Once fully embraced, this methodology, which still is in its infancy, holds great promise for addressing many of the information-sharing flaws identified by the 9/11 Commission and other assessments of the shortfalls in communications prior to the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Against a backdrop of current events, warfighters participating in the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration took the controls and toyed with tools that future troops may one day find indispensable. The activities in which to explore more than 40 emerging or improved capabilities were based not only on operations in Afghanistan but also on terrorist activity that could be plucked from the headlines of any major newspaper. Though provided with a set of real-world scenarios, the diverse backgrounds of participants—from technophobes to technomaniacs, young and experienced, active-duty and reservists—resulted in serious free play that lent an air of operational realism to the event.
Autonomous unmanned vessels soon may be patrolling harbors and conducting coastal reconnaissance missions. The prototype for these future robo boats can operate cooperatively with other robotic surface craft and navigate to a destination without human guidance. Designed for use in shallow waters, the boat can connect to and be controlled by U.S. Navy ships via tactical communications networks.
A NATO program supporting alliance forces in Southwest Asia takes requests for new capabilities from commanders in the field and rapidly turns them into new equipment and services. The increased pace of operations in the region has provided an additional challenge to a very busy organization, particularly as NATO forces operating in Afghanistan require communications and infrastructure support for operations in that nation’s rugged and undeveloped terrain.
An armed ground robot with its own sensors and weapons is undergoing operational trials with U.S. troops. Designed to support soldiers in nonlethal and direct combat situations, the robot features a variety of sensors to locate enemy forces and a machine gun and grenade launchers to suppress them. The machine is also equipped with safety and communications equipment allowing coalition forces to operate it at considerable distances for reconnaissance and infiltration missions.