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May 2014

Industry Needs Mobility in Technology and Processes

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Successful JIE implementation will require industry to be agile in providing key capabilities, particularly mobile communications. Gen. Bowman says reliable secure wireless and mobile command and control are the most important technologies needed from industry. “We’re talking about command and control devices on a tablet or some other handheld device—as well as helping us through the security wickets,” he expresses. In the security realm, these devices come down to a risk-based decision; the department must ensure that the right people are taking the right risk with the right information, he maintains. This might entail less than a 100-percent secure solution, as long as the risk is acceptable to the user.

Gen. Hawkins emphasizes mobility is the key capability that DISA is focusing on with industry. He says this goes beyond mobility devices to include “all things mobile,” including how information is moved. Another focus area is unified capabilities tied to collaborative tools that are in use now. “I believe the next command and control tool will be some type of collaborative tool that industry’s going to deliver, and we will use that in much the same way that we have grown to use video teleconferencing, for example,” he imparts.

DeVries says industry should look at providing capabilities both from a technology perspective and as a licensing and funding issue. Industry should aim to provide these capabilities in a way that does not take five years of planning and three years of building, by which time the capability is obsolete and the customer wants something new.

And, industry needs to help the department move off what it has built over the past 20 years onto “something more agile and modularized in terms of what types of data I need, how do I store it and how do I transmit it—and with more lightweight applications that I can secure and innovate quickly and use on any kind of platform, mobile or very thin clients,” he says.

Military Services Join Forces on JIE—to an Extent

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The individual services are pursuing different aspects of JIE development in what planners hope will be a synergy of capability and expertise. However, not all the services are sold on the JIE approach.

Gen. Hawkins believes the services are working well in concert with DISA. The agency is working with them on the single security architecture, which he describes as “a piece of an enterprise-level capability.” Tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) must be tied to how security is handled at the enterprise level, and all the services are working through the JIE executive committee, in which DISA is a partner.

The Air Force is partnering well with the other services, Gen. Bowman allows, and that is benefitting domestic JIE implementation. He expects to see a single security architecture at Joint Base San Antonio two years ahead of schedule, in large part because of Air Force/Army JIE efforts there. The Air Force “is jumping on enterprise services,” he says.

The Army “is all in” with enterprise solutions and a single security architecture, Gen. Bowman continues. The service is looking at what is has to spend money on, and then it strives to fulfill JIE requirements.

The U.S. Marine Corps already is focusing on consolidating its networks into the Next Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN (SIGNAL Magazine, August 2013, page 47, “Marines Set the Stage …”), and the Marine Corps Enterprise Information Technology Services (MCEITS) center offers many opportunities for hosting data for the JIE. Also, the Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Center will serve as a backup for the enterprise operations center in Europe.

Cultural Change Poses Greatest Hurdle for JIE Implementation

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

JIE leaders offer that the biggest impediment to its success is the cultural change the JIE is bringing to the Defense Department. DeVries describes the department as a very large organization with processes built into it over a long period of time for defining requirements and then coming up with a recommendation of how to meet those requirements. Traditionally, the focus has been on buying a system to satisfy those requirements, and the services often had their own unique needs and methods of operation. “That culture is changing, and now we have to get away from meeting requirements with systems and instead toward capabilities, which might be fulfilled by services, the changing of procedures or even capitalizing on what your neighbor has and scaling that up to use across a broader front,” DeVries says.

Gen. Bowman agrees that cultural difficulties are among the biggest hurdles to be overcome, and he cites the unwillingness of some to share the view of how the network is running. “We all know when it’s performing right or not right, but it would be nice to know when it’s looking like it’s going to go south and have people in different locations looking at it from their view.” Having this shared view would be the equivalent of having a group of sensors scattered across the enterprise providing updates.

Another flaw is the concept of network possession, which manifests itself in the control culture that afflicts many people and organizations. “We need to be able to share; we need to focus on whose core competency [something] is, and then let them do it,” Gen. Bowman states. “Senior leaders get it; it’s getting people to let go that is one of the biggest concerns.”

That effort can begin at the top. “We need to see a Joint Base Pentagon,” the general declares. “We don’t have it now. We have several help desks in the Pentagon, for example, and we need to collapse those and move them together.

Cyber Age Spawns Complexity for Homeland Security Mission

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Dealing with the world’s increasing complexity is the primary challenge to keeping the homeland secure, according to Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton and former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. He lists border security, the cyberthreat, information sharing, terrorism, criminal organizations and climate change as elements adding to that complexity.

“We have to start understanding that the root problem we’re trying to deal with is to defeat complexities that inhibit working across boundaries to deliver solutions,” he said while serving as the morning keynote speaker on the first day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., in March.

Adm. Allen set the tone for the conference. Speakers and panelists conveyed that the U.S. government and the private sector have made dramatic progress in keeping the homeland secure since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Information is more easily shared among government agencies and the private sector. Network security is better understood. Technology advances at a dizzying pace. But for all the progress made, many challenges still remain, the experts agreed.

Adm. Allen related terrorism to “political criminality” and declared that transnational criminal organizations constitute the real problem. “I don’t make a distinction between counterterrorism and transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking. They’re all connected,” he stated.

Regarding border security, he said borders no longer are managed in a traditional sense and should not necessarily be equated to a physical border. “The fact of the matter is we have migrated to what I call functional borders,” he offered. A container leaving central Europe, for example, for Omaha, Nebraska, may never be opened and inspected, but it will be fully vetted, and the potential for threat thoroughly assessed.

Having the Guts to Say No

May 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

As a group, generals tend to be relentlessly positive. The pre-eminent U.S. soldier of recent years, Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), likes to remind us that, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” War and military operations are hard enough, but gloom and defeatism only make things harder. In combat, a morale edge sure helps. It is not by accident that Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy’s outfit, the U.S. Army’s famous 15th Infantry Regiment, has as its motto, “Can Do.”

As the more skeptical Mr. Murphy (he of the law, not Audie) reminds us, a great deal can and will go wrong in all human endeavors, especially war. But dwelling too much on potential problems surely will paralyze a military leader. Such hesitation spreads like a choking miasma. It stymies subordinate commanders and confuses the rank and file. Half-hearted attacks fail. In contrast, the side that knows its business and hangs in there for one more hard push often carries the day. That last winning surge can come from the will of a general who seizes an opportunity by seeing even a cracked, dirty glass as half-full. Winning in battle is all about positive action.

Sometimes senior commanders must size up the situation in minutes and pull the trigger. Under those conditions, seeing a chance and taking it may work just fine. At other junctures, particularly at the strategic level, there is time to consider conditions more fully. When regarding any strategic glass du jour, it is wise to recognize the real water level and not kid yourself, your peers or your bosses if it is lacking. An optimistic outlook helps a person find opportunities, but sometimes those opportunities just are not there, no matter how much anyone hopes for them. There is a responsibility for even the most positive people in uniform to tell superiors, military and civilian, the limits of “can do.”

Just How Important Is the Joint Information Environment (JIE)?

May 1, 2014
by Kent R. Schneider

Anyone following the progress of the Joint Information Environment (JIE) knows by now that it is not a program of record. No one will see large procurements to provide the JIE. It definitely is a framework: it defines standards and architectures for consistency across the defense environment. It defines a core environment and interfaces for the connection of networks and systems to the core. The JIE leverages initiatives to consolidate networks and data centers, to establish enterprise services and to implement transitional technologies such as cloud implementations, mobility, security solutions, big data and analytics, and the Internet of everything. It is a coordinating effort, using existing and planned programs, contracts and initiatives to provide a common operating environment rather than start with new acquisitions.

It is important to understand the JIE extends well beyond the boundaries of defense. It provides the path for better information sharing with other federal, state, local and tribal networks and systems. It is vital to achieving interoperability and ease of information sharing along with security with U.S. coalition partners.

Recently, I was in Europe attending AFCEA TechNet International and NATO C4ISR Industry Days, which are fully integrated in a single program. Key to this conference is AFCEA’s partnership with the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency. An important element of this conference was reporting on the state of development of the Federated Mission Network (FMN), an evolution of the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), the information sharing environment created in Afghanistan to support the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The FMN is intended to institutionalize the AMN experience to provide an adaptable framework for information sharing in future NATO engagements, whether combat or humanitarian assistance.

Ask the Expert: Contract Consolidation and Bundling—Good for Government but Bad for Small Businesses?

May 1, 2014
By Staci Redmon

Question: Are contract consolidation, contract bundling
 and the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative good for the government but bad for small businesses?

Answer: Consolidating and bundling contracts may result in unintended bad consequences for small businesses. The extent of these consequences
is immeasurable due to government
information systems’ reported data limitations.
 

The U.S. federal government spends in excess of $500 billion annually to procure goods and services. In facing reduced budgets, the government is increasingly consolidating, bundling and strategically sourcing contracts that were previously set aside for small businesses. The size and scope of the new contracts can make it difficult for a small business to win, and by definition, when consolidation results in a contract likely to be unsuitable for small business award, the consolidated contract also is considered bundled. In all cases of consolidation, bundling and strategic sourcing, agencies must justify their actions for contracts above certain monetary thresholds and agencies must coordinate acquisition strategies with their small business specialists for substantially bundled contracts.

The Air Force Networks its Networks

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Air Force networking that links its air assets has extended its reach into the rest of the service and the joint realm as it moves a greater variety of information among warfighters and decision makers. This builds on existing networking efforts, but it also seeks to change longtime acquisition habits that have been detrimental to industry—and, by connection, to the goal of speeding innovative capabilities to the warfighter.

The Air Force has broadened some of its research to apply to other networks such as the Joint Information Environment (JIE). One vital effort is the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, or BACN. It provides airborne links aboard crewed and unmanned aircraft, and future iterations may take the form of pods attached to combat aircraft. Other networks and capabilities are being developed or expanded.

This method is in line with the overall Defense Department approach to networking. “We’re starting to think much more ‘system of systems,’ but we need to graduate to ‘enterprise of enterprises,’” says Dr. Tim Rudolph, chief technology officer (CTO) at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “It is that much of an integration of different features of different platforms.”

Rudolph also supports the Program Executive Officer (PEO) Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks (C3I&N) as CTO and chief architect, and he is a senior leader/technical adviser for integrated information capabilities. He explains that networking air assets includes domains such as terrestrial, space and cyber.

“Networking is like plumbing,” Rudolph analogizes. “Most people don’t hire plumbers because they like cast iron or copper [pipes]; they do it because they want to move something through the pipes.” The Joint Aerial Layer Network (SIGNAL Magazine, June 2013, page 52, “Joint Aerial Layer…”) provides a construct that allows a great deal of interoperability among assets in various domains, he observes.

What Worked in War, What Lies Ahead

May 1, 2014
BY Rita Boland

Technologies including voice over Internet protocol, high-definition video and satellite communications altered the battlefield during years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as combat operations draw to a close, different challenges are emerging. Technical, fiscal and personnel changes all are shifting, forcing decision makers to reevaluate activities.

The military is in a transition period, and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is at the heart of the shift. Funding and human resources will be far more limited than in the past decade. Communications experts have put powerful capabilities in place in the command’s region, but the retrograde and alterations in operations mean different methods of employing and understanding them are necessary.

Brig. Gen. John Baker, USA, J-6, CENTCOM, has overseen a series of changes in the area of responsibility and in garrison during his tenure, including a tremendous expansion in the use of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP)/everything over Internet protocol. The move has been a significant advantage, he explains. In addition to that massive alteration in infrastructure came the deployment of black core measures throughout the region. Results of the changes included bandwidth savings with improved security for users. Gen. Baker states that putting black core into theater allows people to employ bandwidth better and with more agility.

The benefits are important as CENTCOM communicators have extended their networks significantly, especially in embassies, to help support security cooperation officers. With the exceptions of Syria and Iran, the United States has an embassy in every country in the command’s area, all of which now connect through VoIP services.

Robots Learn With Heads in the Cloud

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Researchers working on multiple projects in Europe and the United States are using cloud computing to teach robotic systems to perform a multitude of tasks ranging from household chores to serving hospital patients and flipping pancakes. The research, which one day could be applied to robotic systems used for national defense, homeland security or medical uses, lowers costs while allowing robots to learn more quickly, share information and better cooperate with one another.

Cloud robotics is an emerging research field rooted in cloud computing, cloud storage and other technologies centered around the benefits of converged infrastructure and shared services, according to researchers with the recently completed RoboEarth project, which was funded primarily by the European Commission. Cloud robotics allows robots to benefit from the powerful computational, storage and communications resources of modern data centers. In addition, it lowers costs for maintenance and updates and reduces dependence on custom middleware.

Researchers with the RoboEarth project envision an Internet for robots that will allow systems to share information and learn from each other about their behavior and their environment, paving the way for rapid advances in machine cognition and behavior and, ultimately, for more subtle and sophisticated human-machine interaction.

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