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SIGNAL Online Exclusives

Intelligence Taps Industry for Essential Technologies

May 22, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

James Bond’s U.S. counterpart may be equipped more with commercial technologies than with systems developed in intelligence community laboratories. The private sector will be called upon to provide even more capabilities to help keep the intelligence community ahead of adversaries and budget cuts.

Nanosatellites STARE at Space Junk

May 17, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

 

 

Unmanned Systems Soon May Offer Universal Remote

May 9, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Unmanned vehicles may become joint platforms as new software allows operators using a standard control system to use craft employed by different services. So, an Army squad deep in the battlefield may be able to use data accessed directly from a Navy unmanned aerial vehicle to bring an Air Force strike to bear against enemy forces.

NIST Releases Latest Catalog of Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Systems

May 3, 2013
by Max Cacas

A government-wide task force led by NIST is out with the latest catalog of security and privacy controls for federal information systems, including some new thinking when it comes to addressing insider threats that go beyond technology.

Unmanned Cargo System Faces Uncertain Future Following Afghanistan Deployment

May 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officials describe the K-MAX unmanned cargo helicopter as having met or exceeded requirements in Afghanistan, but they also report that the Marines have not yet developed requirements for the system to become a program of record and say they are unsure what effect sequestration will have on the system.

The Marines deployed two K-MAX aircraft to Afghanistan in late 2011 as part of an urgent operational need to ferry supplies to and from forward operating bases, reducing the number of manned flights or vulnerable convoys in an attempt to reduce casualties. The deployment is designed to demonstrate the system’s capabilities, and the Marines recently announced the indefinite extension of the K-MAX mission in Afghanistan. To date, the unmanned helicopters have delivered more than 3.2 million pounds of cargo and continue to keep ground convoys off the roads, significantly reducing Marines’ exposure to improvised explosive devices and other lethal threats, Marine officials say. The system carries supplies such as ammunition, food and water, generators, medical supplies and even mail.

Maj. Daniel Lindblom, USMC, operations officer for Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3, said during a May 1 teleconference with reporters that the system’s performance “has been absolutely superb.” The unmanned helicopter offers some advantages to manned aircraft, especially for emergency resupply missions. “That’s where we really make our money,” says Maj. Lindblom. “The ability for us to plan on the fly and execute on the fly is quite a bit better, in my opinion, than manned aircraft.”

NASA Explores Reconfigurable Space Communications

April 25, 2013
By Rita Boland

NASA is advancing information sharing away from planet Earth through the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) test bed installed on the International Space Station. Researchers finished the check out and commissioning phases of this software-defined radio (SDR) technology earlier this month and now have commenced experiments.

Synergistic Challenges Vex Intelligence Community

April 19, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Free World intelligence communities are confronting a more difficult world in which dramatic changes are altering the geopolitical landscape faster than previously experienced. Both technology and human factors play a role in this dynamic realm, and both technological and human solutions will be necessary for the intelligence community to adjust accordingly.

Maj. Gen. Richard Lake, USMC, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) deputy director, National Clandestine Service for community human intelligence, told an audience at the AFCEA Northern Virginia Chapter on April 19 that the intelligence community as a whole must change the way it operates internally to meet these burgeoning challenges. Some of the geopolitical trends are longtime issues that have become more important, while others are new and require different ways of addressing their challenges.

Gen. Lake noted that one paradigm shift underway involves the definition of key terrain. Traditionally, territory was the metric for terrain. Now, however, population is becoming the defining element. Population growth continues at a steady rate, but people increasingly are migrating to urban areas. By 2020, about two-thirds of the world’s population will reside in urban areas, the general reported.

With this demographic will come increased competition for resources. As urban areas and their accompanying economies grow, so do their need for energy, and economic modernization continues around the world. But the biggest resource competition may be for fresh water. That need is exploding, as the general observed that more than 30 nations obtain more than 30 percent of their water supply from outside their borders. The increased competition for one of the most basic resources is potentially destabilizing.

Secretary Hagel Commits to Resolving Medical Record Interoperability Issues

April 16, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Defense Department will decide on a path forward within 30 days.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told members of Congress on April 16 that he is personally committed to solving the database interoperability problems between the Defense Department (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that have left thousands of veterans waiting months while benefits claims are processed.

According to VA officials, the agency has been breaking records in the number of claims processed, yet it now takes an average of 273 days to process a claim. The VA has fallen increasingly behind as veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that backlog is expected to increase as the drawdown in Afghanistan continues.

Part of the issue is that the VA uses an electronic processing system known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), while the Defense Department uses the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) for processing medical records.

Introduced in 1996, VistA offers an automated environment that supports day-to-day operations at local VA health care facilities. It is built on a client-server architecture, which ties together workstations and personal computers with graphical user interfaces at various VA facilities, as well as software developed by local medical facility staff. The system also includes the links that allow commercial off-the-shelf software and products to be used with existing and future technologies.

Advanced Capabilities Required for Future Navy Warfighting

April 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Future conflicts likely will be fought in degraded information technology environments, which will require the U.S. Navy to develop and exploit new capabilities to continue to operate in contested cyberspace. Technologies such as a flexible information grid, assured timing services and directed energy weapons must be part of the naval information system arsenal if the sea service is to maintain information dominance through the year 2028.

These were just a few of the findings presented in the Navy’s Information Dominance Roadmap 2013-2028, which was released in late March. Presented by Rear Adm. William E. Leigher, USN, the Navy’s director of warfighter integration, the report outlines the growing challenges facing the fleet and how the Navy must meet them.

The report divides information dominance challenges into three areas: assured command and control (C2), battlespace awareness and integrated fires. While the United States will continue to maintain supremacy in those areas, that supremacy is shrinking as more nations are closing the gap between U.S. capabilities and the ability to disrupt them.

Among the advanced capabilities the Navy will require toward the end of the next decade is assured electromagnetic spectrum access. Achieving this will entail fielding greater numbers of advanced line-of-sight communication systems; being able to monitor combat system operational status and adjust it using automated services; having a real-time spectrum operations capability that enables dynamic monitoring and control of spectrum emissions; and generating a common operational picture of the spectrum that is linked to electronic navigation charts and displays operational restrictions.

DISA Lays Groundwork for Commercial Cloud Computing Contract

March 26, 2013
By Max Cacas

One of the U.S. Defense Department’s top information technology officials says work is beginning on a multiaward contract for commercial cloud computing services, but the official says he has no timeline or total value for the business.

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