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October 2010

Homefront Help

October 15, 2010
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Connections

Homefront Help is SIGNAL Connections’ effort to support U.S. service members, veterans and their families. The column highlights programs that offer resources and assistance to the military community ranging from care packages to benefits and everything in between. In that same spirit, Homefront Help presents opportunities for readers to donate time, offer resources and send words of thanks to those who sacrifice for freedom. Programs that provide services are listed in red. Opportunities for the public to reach out to service members are listed in blue. Each program description includes a link to the organization's website, when available. Homefront Help also has a Facebook page where visitors can gather and share information.

AdoptAPlatoon

As the name suggests, AdoptAPlatoon does in fact allow organizations to adopt units of troops to send them packages and letters. But the effort goes much further, including: adoptions of military members by individuals or groups; a pen-pal option; one-time support opportunities; support for special operations forces whose information is not public; and holiday and special campaigns. The campaigns include sending holiday-themed cards and treats at the appropriate times of the year as well as programs to gather supplies for specific needs of troops or local children.

New Products

October 15, 2010
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Connections

Building Blocks for Computer Vision

 
It is difficult for computer vision systems such as those used on robotic platforms to make sense even of a single image; understanding more complex outdoor scenes remains one of the great challenges of artificial intelligence. But a new vision system CarnegieMellonUniversity researchers developed enables computers to see the world through the eyes of a child. Similar to the way a child might assemble a building using blocks, the computer analyzes and approximates an outdoor scene using virtual building blocks to create a three-dimensional image based on volume and mass. The novel visual system allows the computer to replicate an image block by block, so that it can better understand the scene. It could eventually enable computers to understand spaces between buildings and other objects, or what might lie behind objects in the foreground, which would be helpful for robots planning a route. An image is first broken into segments corresponding to objects in the scene. Once the ground and sky are identified, other segments are assigned geometric shapes, which are categorized as light or heavy based on appearance, before being reconstructed using virtual building blocks. The National Science Foundation supported the research.

Mobile Weather Predictor

Mission Assurance Moves to the Fore in Cyberspace

October 2010
By Linton Wells II, SIGNAL Magazine

Last month I expressed concern that the growing gap between online functionality and security demanded a rethinking of several key aspects of security—more focus on tagging and tracking data, rethinking resilience and robustness, clearer security policies, and a need to change people’s behavior to reflect more security awareness.

Pacific Command Faces New Set of Challenges

October 2010
By Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

New Technologies, New Missions for Reconnaissance Office

October 2010
By Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine

The National Reconnaissance Office is gearing up for a dynamic future rife with innovative technologies that change the way it collects data from space. The organization is introducing new capabilities that open windows on hitherto unavailable data, as well as new products that tap both the new capabilities and long-extant services.
Spending on science and technology will increase substantially as the organization develops and exploits sensor and processing advances. A new generation of satellites will join and supplant space-based assets that have been on station as long as two decades past their original design lifetime.

Intelligence Key to Counterdrug Efforts

October 2010
By Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Practice Makes Perfect

October 2010
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

Change Happening Now, but More Needed

October 2010
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

U.S. Army acquisition processes are in the midst of a dynamic alteration. Technology development speeds are forcing the military branch to rethink the way it procures the capabilities soldiers need, and the way ahead will be faster and less formal than past methods. Individuals will have the power to create applications faster without stringent guidelines, while larger systems will be brought into the fold in a more timely fashion.

A Call for Consistency

October 2010
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

The intelligence community faces many challenges. Some are unique, but others are symptomatic of problems throughout government. These issues address the need for consistency and reason in intelligence as well as in government decision making. My examples all pertain to the U.S. government, but they can be applied equally to governments everywhere.

Space Monitoring Undergoes Extreme Makeover

October 2010
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Magazine

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.

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