The Conficker computer virus, which was first detected in 2008, reared its ugly head last week in Afghanistan, where it was detected on the Afghan Mission Network—the network NATO and coalition forces use to fight the war. (This is the first in a series of online and print reports by SIGNAL Magazine Technology Editor George I. Seffers while embedded with NATO forces in Afghanistan.)
What’s a Caltrop? It could be the start of a lame joke like, “what’s a hen way” or “what’s a Grecian earn?” In fact, a Caltrop is an ancient land mine of sorts. It is usually a multi-sided spiked object that could seriously tear up a bare foot, an unshod hoof or a pair of Bronze Age sandals. Today the modern version of caltrops is used against vehicles with unreinforced tires. Think televised car chase on some freeway. They are not sophisticated and certainly not anywhere as bad as an IED. Yet, given the right circumstances, they are very effective.
Four companies pursuing technologies connected to manned orbital spacecraft are receiving $270 million from NASA in the second phase of an effort targeted at building a commercial manned space launch industry. The goal is to develop a launch capability that would replace the space shuttle and lead to commercial exploitation of manned orbital spaceflight.
An exercise in leveraging social media for humanitarian assistance and disaster response fostered global participation last month, with more than 39,000 people from 94 nations tuning in to a simulation of two seismic events and a tsunami set in the Adriatic Sea. Participants in the exercise used tools such as Twitter and Facebook to create a rich, real-time environment for crowd-sourcing solutions and other collaborative activities.
Thanks to search engine overload, the answer to any question is seemingly never more than a mouse click away. But a new eye-controlled laptop could ensure that information is literally available in the blink of an eye.
For a few moments during the Super Bowl, viewers caught a glimpse of U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, ready for the game. The clip marked only the second high-definition shot broadcast out of the country.
Walk up to a terminal, swipe a card and log in to a single, consolidated network architecture. That is the future the Navy envisions for its sailors when they disembark after a deployment and want to use a network on land, or vice versa—something that is difficult to do in today’s environment of cluttered legacy networks.
The dynamic environment that defines trends from social development to technology innovation is wreaking havoc on attempts to plan an effective national security structure. Coupled with severe budget limitations arising from the global economic crisis, this rapidly changing milieu is revolutionizing warfighting in ways that cannot be countered—or even predicted—on short notice.
More than 70 percent of U.S. casualties on the battlefield result from attacks with improvised explosive devices, frequently controlled by a radio link. The weapons likely will remain a persistent threat worldwide for years to come, but work is ongoing to counter them. Already, upgrades to current capabilities are entering battle zones, and development is underway on a complex system of systems to advance defeat tactics. During the next few years, military members can expect improved protection that includes the jamming of more frequency bands and a networked toolset connecting dismounted soldiers, vehicles and fixed installations, all focused on bringing troops home safe and sound.
A future U.S. Coast Guard acquisition strategy may owe its design to social media such as a wiki and an interactive blog site. That is not to say that those activities will define the architecture of the new acquisition strategy; that particular decision is well in the future. What the Coast Guard is doing right now is using social media to develop its new acquisition strategy transparently and collaboratively.
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.
The U.S. Army is giving soldiers who have lost limbs a higher quality of life, including allowing some to remain on active duty or to return to combat if they choose. In part because of research conducted through the Army’s Advanced Prosthetics and Human Performance program, individuals who have lost limbs are jumping out of airplanes or commanding troops in combat.
In the late 1990s, the U.S. Navy decided it needed to change the way it handled information technology. So, it created the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI. Yes, for many, it was seen as a four-letter word. With the NMCI, the Navy elected to outsource the entire program to industry—the company EDS. The process took many years of study and analysis, as well as dealing with policy, procedure, culture wars and a host of other common barriers to any new concept. From congressional oversight to acquisition nightmare, every potential roadblock emerged. Yet, the NMCI was implemented, and one lesson from that implementation applies very much today as the Navy seeks to upgrade its information technology.
The road to stability in Afghanistan is being paved with telecommunications systems. Through the strategic use of technology, the country already is experiencing improvements in connectivity that will continue to progress until the governance, industrial and the socio-economic state of the country all reap the benefits. If plans, activities and cooperation continue as they have for the past few months, Afghanistan will be poised by the middle of this decade to take its place among the most economically stable and technologically savvy countries in the world.
The U.S. Coast Guard plays a vital role helping tie together pieces of the national security community. The Coast Guard is unique in that, while it is a military service, organizationally it sits within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and clearly has homeland security/counterterrorism, public safety and law enforcement roles. This positioning within several national security communities allows the Coast Guard to provide an invaluable coordination and linking function.
A forest of antennas is making life even trickier than usual for military signalers at Regional Command–South in Afghanistan. In addition to dealing with a harsh environment, deadly enemies, battle-zone operations and the regular hiccups inherent in systems and networks, communicators in the combat area are fighting against the very tools designed to help them. Personnel in the information-sharing realm have discovered that international signal towers set up in the area are proving to be one of the most time-consuming problems of their deployment.
The U.S. Army National Guard is continuing down a path blazed by other institutions to create counter-improvised explosive device training lanes around the country. Citizen soldiers will use the locations to improve their tactics against the oft-fatal threats, and partners also can take advantage of the ranges to upgrade their skills. The goal is to increase the number of rehearsals warfighters participate in while requiring less time away from home and less money outlay for travel.
The key to defeating improvised explosive devices may lie in attacking the network that procures, develops and emplaces the weaponry rather than focusing on the device itself. Eight years of combating both the devices and their effects has broadened the mission of those tasked with rendering these weapons null in the realm of asymmetric warfare.