The U.S. Coast Guard increasingly is extending its operations, often venturing far from the homeland to combat the rising tides of piracy and terrorism. While the nation’s oldest seagoing service is most known for protecting the U.S. shoreline, its homeland security as well as law enforcement and defense capabilities are in high demand, leading to debate over its appropriate role.
Nearly 10 years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, requirements at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center in New London, Connecticut, are still being driven in part by the mission to combat terrorism and the resulting need for maritime domain awareness. To support these Coast Guard goals, the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation program’s priorities have grown significantly in the area of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The head information technology officer for the Marine Corps, Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, USMC, is grappling with several projects necessary to keep critical information flowing smoothly and securely. Gen. Nally’s efforts include dramatically streamlining a sprawling information technology infrastructure, overseeing the Defense Department’s information assurance range, protecting information in the era of social networks and WikiLeaks and transitioning from the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet to the Next Generation Enterprise Network.
The new leader of U.S. Defense Department joint experimentation is setting the priorities for upcoming joint and coalition operational concepts based on requirements that warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq have identified. Although U.S. Joint Forces Command is slated to be disestablished, today’s J-9 is looking 10 to 15 years out, not only designing gee-whiz technology but also creating doctrine for fighting in future conflicts. One crucial concern is addressing problems the military will face if conflict arises in an area with limited access that is in close proximity to the war zone.
The U.S. Marine Corps hopes a forward operating base that obtains its power from renewable energy sources will benefit the force in many ways—especially by saving lives. Eliminating the need for fuel deliveries lowers the number of convoys and exposed troops on treacherous roads in perilous places. The experimental base also could reduce the amount of equipment Marines take into theater, ensuring the Corps remains an expeditionary force. With the tools in the battlespace now, program officials are waiting to hear how the concept performs in combat.
Members of the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team need better communications. Though they feel positive about their mission progress and the abilities of the Iraqis, the soldiers face constant frustration with the status of their information-sharing equipment. Obtaining sufficient support once tools are delivered is an aggravation as well. For troops covering a large geographical area, the “dump it and get out of there” mentality of some providers can result in problems for those who remain behind.
The end of the space shuttle program is the signal for NASA to turn to the private sector for human access to orbit. The space agency that built a series of manned spacecraft to blaze a trail to the moon now is placing its bets on several commercial space technology companies to provide entry for humans into low earth orbit.
This new direction for the government space agency has several goals. First, it seeks to establish a domestic manned orbital capability to reach the International Space Station. After the shuttle program ends this year, the only way for spacefarers to reach the space station for the next few years will be through Russian space agency launches.
Sweden is transforming its military across the board, beginning with its personnel makeup. The Northern European country, which has not been at war since 1814, is transitioning from a conscript military to a fully professional force. This change will reshape the military along different force lines with different emphases.
At a time when many other Western militaries are looking at deep cuts in their defense budgets, Sweden expects at worst a flat budget for the foreseeable future. Priorities for hardware expenditures may shift depending on ongoing studies, but not because of budget pressures.
The newly created U.S. Cyber Command is starting its first year of operation in a race to secure the vital infostructure before a new generation of cyberattacks causes lasting damage to military, government and commercial information assets. This potential hazard is not theoretical; it already has been realized overseas, and it may be just a matter of time before U.S. cyber assets suffer devastating attacks.
To improve access to warfighters’ well-being, the military and industry are developing innovative ways to assess and treat them both inside the battlespace and when they return home. Sensors and communication technologies are evolving into capabilities that are as much about saving individual lives as they are about maintaining situational awareness for entire squads. And, in a world booming with social media, help coping with the physical and psychological effects of war now is literally at a warfighter’s fingertips.
An automated system for managing and retrieving crime-related intelligence is providing several municipal police forces with the capability to share data in a standard format. This system offers the potential for tracking suspicious activities and alerting officials to potential crimes before they occur, and this counterterrorism application has spurred the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fund its introduction at the state level.
Export controls of military-related materials long have been a bone of contention between government and industry, but 2010 ushered in an array of changes, with adjustments to current laws and talk of broader reform. Leaders of private-sector organizations have pushed hard for legal decision makers to simplify the sale of products to foreign entities so domestic companies can keep pace with overseas competitors. And though these industry personnel might sometimes label the governing agencies as obstacles, administrators of the law also want restructuring efforts to move forward.
U.S. combat operations in Iraq may have come to an official end, but work in the country is far from over. U.S. troops are playing more and more supportive roles and, in some cases, acting as advisers. With the help of U.S. experts, the locals are taking over their own defense and law enforcement, putting the country on track to handle all problems internally in the near future.
In the real world, predicting the military’s requirements is not the work of soothsayers. Instead, it requires traditional and nontraditional defense contractors alike to keep their eyes wide open and their ears to the ground. If they plan to sell a solution to one or all of the armed services in the coming years, they had better be paying close attention today to technical gaps as well as wish lists. And although companies going after military and government business are similar in many ways, their approaches to garner that next big contract are often very different.
The complexities of communications in Afghanistan require the military to adopt new ways of doing business, such as creating the Afghan Mission Network rather than using traditional networks, and turning communicators into warfighters rather than mere supporters. The Afghan Mission Network directly addresses the military’s operational need to mix coalition forces down to the company level, which provides commanders with greater flexibility in task organization and the ability to fight more effectively as a true coalition. That seemingly simple need has sparked a chain of events that may change forever the way coalition forces communicate on the battlefield and the role that communicators play in wartime.
Sailors assigned to the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups had an uncommon training opportunity recently when they conducted a joint exercise in the waters near Southern California. Though carrier groups often operate together to respond to real-world events, disparate taskings and locations usually prevent combined rehearsals. But thanks to fortuitous schedules, the Lincoln and Nimitz assets were able to meet up in the vast Pacific, enabling personnel to combine resources in preparation for future mission requirements.
The U.S. Navy is steaming full speed toward attaining its dream of a digital force, but the most difficult part of the journey may lie just ahead. The sea service has its technological map, and its course has the endorsement of the top leadership. However, it must deal with a new set of challenges as its info-centric force evolves into a new form.
After 10 years of service, it is time to say goodbye to the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet—almost. The massive network serves more than 700,000 sailors, Marines and civilians and makes up about 70 percent of the total Navy information technology footprint ashore. It originally was supposed to finish its time with the Navy in early fall to make way for the Next Generation Enterprise Network. Instead, the sea service has extended the life of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet and will spend $3.4 billion on a continuity-of-services contract to keep the network around for another 43 months.
As conflict in Afghanistan intensifies, coalition allies are employing all elements of information-gathering technology to win battles while protecting themselves and civilians. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activity is at an all-time high as experts try to coordinate the largest armada of these capabilities ever deployed.
The decades-long dream of harnessing the sun’s power in orbit as a source of clean, renewable energy on Earth may lie just over the horizon. Yet, unlike traditional space efforts, this concept may come to fruition as a result of commercial—not government—commitment.