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SIGNAL Online Exclusives

Nationwide Broadband Safety Network Seeks Industry Input

October 28, 2013
By Beverly Cooper

Work has begun at the federal level to develop a nationwide dedicated, reliable network, which will provide advanced data communications capabilities to police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel. The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will enable public safety personnel to make cellular-quality calls and send data, video, images and text—similar to the capabilities offered on commercial networks. Incident commanders and local officials will have priority access and control over the network. Interoperability issues that result from stovepiped local systems, geographic limitations and other regional constraints also will be resolved.

The FirstNet program, which operates under an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), has issued an initial set of requests for information (RFIs) and has received more than 270 responses from industry so far. “We are looking for great expertise from vendors,” emphasizes T.J. Kennedy, deputy general manager, FirstNet, NTIA, Department of Commerce. A second set of RFIs will be issued after the existing input is reviewed, but no time frame has been set, he adds.

Currently, the organization’s efforts are task focused. The goal is first to develop a strong outreach team and then bring in the right technology and people working in an atmosphere that will drive innovation into public safety, Kennedy reports. Then the group will transition its efforts to a building focus.

Public and Private Sectors are Far Apart on LPTA

October 24, 2013
By Rita Boland

Lowest price technically acceptable procurement might not give government the best solutions, and it definitely causes consternation for industry, but it is here to stay at least for a while.

Project Pushes Water Into Advancements for Biosensors

October 3, 2013
By Rita Boland

The latest results in graphene research show promise for improving electronics and biological or chemical sensors by pushing or pulling liquid droplets across the surface. By placing long chemical gradients onto the graphene, scientists can control the substances’ flow.

New Radios, Waveforms Move Military Communications Into the Sky

October 1, 2013
Henry S. Kenyon

The U.S. Defense Department has spent the last decade developing a family of multiband programmable radios and waveforms designed to move voice, data and video with the goal of connecting small tactical units with larger battlefield networks. Much of this work has focused on supporting warfighters on the ground through vehicle and man-portable radios. But the services now are looking at other ways to connect troops by installing the new radios in aircraft.

This Joint Aerial Layer Network consists of a variety of aerial platforms such as jets, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and aerostats serving as nodes in a larger network. The aerial nodes would help extend the range of ground-based tactical radios and allow for better communications between troops on the ground and the aircraft supporting them. There are a number of Defense Department efforts now under way, primarily directed by the Army, that are seeking to further develop and build out the aerial layer.

Whether on the ground or in the air, the Defense Department’s goal is getting information to the warfighter, Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, USA (Ret.), vice president for government business development with Harris RF Communications, says. He notes that what is emerging out of the ashes of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program is an architecture that connects forces from the brigade level down to tactical command posts and small units at the very edge of the network. The next goal for the Defense Department is to integrate aircraft into this architecture.

To better fit into airborne applications, the Army is developing its Small Airborne Networking Radio (SANR) and the Small Airborne Link 16 Terminal (SALT). Both radios are outgrowths from the former JTRS program. All of these various radios will take advantage of existing Defense Department communications and networking standards to weld the airborne architecture into place, Gen. Moran says.

Biometrics' Unprecedented Public Integration

September 19, 2013
By Rita Boland

Biometrics is on the verge of becoming more pervasive than ever in everyday life, setting the stage for personal identifiers to take the place of other common security measures. The expansion mirrors increased usage in fields such as military operations, citizen enrollment and public safety.

 

Joint Information Environment Is Under Way

September 16, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

The military’s plan to create a single, secure information-sharing environment for all the services finally is taking shape. After much talk and planning, the U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Information Environment (JIE) now is being built with its first component reaching initial operational capability this summer.

“The JIE is not coming, it is here,” said Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, USA, director, command, control, communications and computers (C4)/cyber, and chief information officer (CIO) for the Joint Staff and J-6/CIO. Details of the JIE’s launch and what it will mean for the military, as described by Gen. Bowman and other top Defense Department officials, were the main focus of the AFCEA International Northern Virginia Chapter’s 6th Annual Joint Warfighter IT Day, “Leveraging Technology to Achieve Force Dominance Across the Services,” held in McLean, Virginia, on September 12.

The European part of the JIE, known as Increment One, reached its initial operating capability on July 1, Gen. Bowman said. Work is ongoing to further broaden Increment One capabilities and systems for the U.S. European Command. The three areas where work is under way are network consolidation, enterprise capabilities and applications, and enhancing cyber operations security, he said.

Two other JIE increments are next. They will cover the U.S. Pacific Command and operations in the continental United States. Although work now is under way and a schedule is in place, it is only a draft schedule and is subject to change, explained Robert J. Carey, principal deputy CIO, Defense Department. The march to setting an overall baseline for the JIE will follow a set of linked events across the Defense Department enterprise that will progress as funds and time allow. Citing the tentativeness of the schedule, Carey would not provide further details about the next two increments, but he noted that the effort’s progress and activity will ramp up significantly in 2014.

ICITE Builds From the Desktop Up

September 9, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

As the intelligence community moves into the cloud, it launches the first step at the desktop level.

Learning Real-World Intelligence Analysis

September 6, 2013
George I. Seffers

Officials at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, are developing a program that allows students from any academic discipline to work closely with the U.S. intelligence community in a variety of actual national security-related problems. The university is on track to begin offering a minor in intelligence analysis in the relatively near future and a major in the next five years.

Implemented about a year ago, the program is described as a work in progress. In fact, it has not yet been officially named, but will likely be called the Intelligence Analysis Program. “The goal of the program is to train the future analysts for the intelligence community, the military and business. "What we are trying to do is to provide a learning environment in which students have to deal with real analytical problems,” reports Robert Norton, professor and director of the Open Source Intelligence Laboratory, Auburn University. “We’re not just using things like case studies. We’re actually working current problems. And we do so in an environment where they’re working under an operational tempo similar to what is experienced in the intelligence community.”

Future intelligence analysts learn how analytical products are put together, how data is validated and how to communicate findings in a timely manner. “What we say is that our students work on real problems with real customers. We are working with the intelligence community, we’re working with various combatant commands, and we’re working with various businesses,” Norton says.

New Systems Seek to Connect Troops at the Tip of the Spear

September 4, 2013
By Henry S. Kenyon

Two ongoing military programs, the ready-to-deploy Solider Network Extension (SNE) and the Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN) program now in prototype, aim to connect troops at the very tactical edge back to larger military data and communications networks. These programs—one service-oriented, the other an agency effort—are part of the Defense Department’s thrust to make warfighters, especially individual soldiers in small units, more connected.

GAO Calls for Army to Tweak NIE

August 28, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) is a good idea that is not achieving its potential, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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