In an effort to improve situational awareness down to the squad leader level, the U.S. Marines Corps and Army intend to provide the next-generation situational awareness software on ruggedized handheld platforms similar to smart phones or personal digital assistants. The Joint Battle Command-Platform is the second increment of Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below software that was fielded more than a decade ago. The new platform is intended to provide integrated, on-the-move, timely, relevant command and control and situational awareness information at all echelons, enabling units to become more survivable and lethal. It also will improve combat effectiveness, reduce risk of fratricide, improve latency, security and interoperability within the joint environment, and provide an integrated network with increased bandwidth and a more user-friendly interface.
Work on the Soldier Radio Waveform is focusing on increasing the number of nodes—currently up to 36 radios—that can stay connected in a chaotic environment. Recent testing indicates that it shows great promise for keeping warfighters at the platoon level connected to their squad leader with both data and voice even when communications among the entire squad are lost. The waveform searches for other available radios from the same squad, then hops back through the nodes to create a path for data and voice communications.
The great green Hulk of comic-book lore becomes superstrong when angered. Now, the U.S. Army is investigating a tool with a similar name that will allow warfighters to extend their strength, enabling them to carry heavy weights without straining their bodies—and without the need to take on a broccoli-like hue. By equipping troops with an exoskeleton, developers believe they can help reduce military members’ burdens and assist them in better conducting their missions.
The U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier is working with a focused fervor to carry out its responsibility to refine the development of and supply virtually every piece of equipment soldiers wear or carry. As troops engage in persistent conflicts around the globe, they require a new set of technologies to achieve their missions. To ensure victory on the battlefield, these tools must make forces more lethal, survivable, sustainable and agile. Office personnel are working to ensure they do just that, whether the situation calls for a new uniform or a state-of-the-art technical device.
Barely six years after it joined NATO, Bulgaria is in the throes of a major military upheaval as it strives to modernize its forces effectively amid severe budget constraints. The Black Sea nation must undo decades of stagnation as a Warsaw Pact member along with more recent missteps during its early modernization efforts.
Obstacles ranging from passive obstinance to active hostility are vexing efforts by the U.S. Pacific Command to maintain security across the vast Asia-Pacific region. The command has built a structure of stability throughout the region based on diplomatic and military cooperation with most of the several dozen nations that populate the hemisphere. However, new military challenges are putting plans and resources to the test.
The transnational threats of drug trafficking, money laundering and narcoterrorism have increased the value of international intelligence to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The agency is interoperating more closely with U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies to share and process information about threats that only a few years ago were the purview of just one specialty agency.
Operating from the most remote island chain on the planet, the U.S. Pacific Command is working to bridge the waters that surround it by training hard and often with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. In an area of responsibility where bilateral relationships rather than multinational alliances are the norm, personnel spend large amounts of time engaged in exercises designed to improve interoperability and promote peace. Each year command troops and civilians alike rehearse, sometimes with tens of thousands of their closest friends, for real-world emergencies while simultaneously establishing relationships with their neighbors to the east.
A multitude of changes underway at U.S. Strategic Command are revolutionizing the U.S. Defense Department’s place in space. In addition to the three Wideband Global SATCOM satellites currently in orbit, the command is discussing how the commercial sector can continue to support its missions, and its Joint Space Operations Center is undergoing not just a facelift but what can be considered a total remodeling. In addition, the command is boosting its outreach through the influence it now has with its authority over the Commercial and Foreign Entities Program.
The U.S. Biometrics Identity Management Agency, an Army agency tasked with coordinating biometrics efforts across the Defense Department, is expanding capabilities and broadening data sharing with other government agencies and coalition partners. The agency, which also operates the department’s premier biometrics database, is coordinating with the departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security to share biometrics data between the three primary databases used by the various departments.
Based on technology being developed through the U.S. Army’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, unmanned systems of the future could become trusted companions on the battlefield—much like canines have been for thousands of years.
A time-honored military event turned 16 years old this summer, and what some may call an unruly adolescent and others an annual gathering that has outlived its usefulness reveals how lessons learned can turn into powerful practices. The Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, with its trial sandbox mirroring Afghanistan, not only continues to be as vital as it was in years past but also shows that building on experience leads to new discoveries.
Technology and relationships go hand-in-hand in the U.S. European Command’s area of responsibility, and the head of communications at this military organization has plans for both during his tenure. Long-standing partnerships in the region need continued nurturing, and newer partnerships, such as those with former Soviet bloc nations, require encouragement. These international entities must find ways to interoperate despite having different resources to apply in an environment of blindingly fast technological advancement.
The United States is improving its ability to respond to the ever-present threat of a chemical, biological or nuclear incident in the 21st century by establishing 10 National Guard Homeland Response Forces across the country. These units each will comprise hundreds of members who will be trained in the various skills necessary to save lives in the event of a catastrophe.
The U.S. Navy is investing significant time and effort to secure the waters that surround Latin America and the Caribbean, but not through force or interdiction. Instead, the military branch is embracing the idea that “together we can do more” by reaching out to countries in the area. This effort involves exchanging information and delivering necessary aid through an annual event designed to improve relations among nations. By participating in these activities, personnel forge long-lasting connections and provide immediate help to those who need it.
A seemingly dead program now has new life as the basis of a U.S. Army tactical communications system. Building on extensive past funding, the service is excerpting pieces of the past and crafting them into a network for the future. This time around, the Army is drawing the users into the design process sooner so that the results are likely to pay big dividends.
Instead of a NASCAR winner-take-all competition, the race to secure information systems is more of a traffic jam where getting ahead depends on the lane you’re in. Operators consistently crawl along by putting patches in place and upgrading antivirus software, yet that annoying lane-changing system attacker keeps bobbing and weaving its way to the front of the gridlock daring you to catch up. But information superhighway menaces are being quashed by a collaborative effort among government organizations to ensure that the United States is in the correct lane when it comes to staying ahead of information security troublemakers.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are a phase closer to putting chemical detectors into the hands of everyone who wants them. Developers have finished demonstrating a miniaturized sensor that can fit into the now-omnipresent personal cell phone. Early testing shows promise for small, inexpensive technology, and over the next year or so project personnel plan to test its real-world application. The cell phone platform would enable crowd sourcing to reduce false positive readings, and it would support instant alerts that would send out timely notifications. The goal of developers is to improve public safety, enhance homeland security and ultimately save lives. In this next round of development, researchers with the program have to figure out how the network will support the technology and determine whether applications that seem strong in the laboratory will function in the field.
The U.S. federal information technology work force is sandwiched between two major trends it must address to continue successful operations—the retirement eligibility of the Baby Boomer generation and the emergence of Web 2.0. The former threatens to empty hundreds of thousands of positions across the government, while the latter is shifting how the work force thinks about and uses technology. Solutions for both these issues converge in the Net Generation (sometimes referred to as Generation Y or the Millennial Generation), the demographic of youth currently preparing to enter institutions of higher learning and the job market. However, this population group is not a panacea for the government’s problems, because the ideas held by these young adults will challenge the status quo.
When the U.S. Army needs to determine if an area on the battlefield is safe or is threatened by hidden menaces, it may be calling on its own custom-made mosquito air force to probe the area and report back to headquarters. Army researchers are developing life-size robotic sensor platforms based on small flying insects.