This year's Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration was just as much about evaluating the event itself as it was about evaluating technologies. Although the 2006 format mirrored previous years' activities, the lessons learned during the first time the execution phase was hosted outside the United States could help improve the annual undertaking by broadening the focus to boost international interoperability. Event leaders are recommending several changes for future demonstrations, including increasing the number of countries that participant; linking the demonstration to Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics programs; and improving the coordination between the U.S. and NATO's Allied Command Transformation.
Despite years of discussion on the topic, the U.S. Defense Department is keeping its focus on interoperability. However, the department has undergone a shift from efforts directed primarily at developing the technology necessary to make broad intercommunications possible to work that concentrates on establishing the policies and doctrine necessary for communicators to use available resources.
Succeeding in the new strategic environment requires levels of responsiveness and agility never before demanded of our forces. The U.S. Defense Department must transform from its historical emphasis on ships, guns, tanks and planes to a focus on information, knowledge and actionable intelligence.
Daring the world's robot builders and visionaries to design autonomous ground vehicles that could traverse the treacherous terrain of the Mojave Desert was not enough for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Always on the lookout for new ways to solve persistent problems, it is now taking its quest to the streets-the city streets, that is. Dubbing its latest competition Urban Challenge, the agency is enticing the mechanically inclined dreamers of the world with substantial cash awards to develop a driverless vehicle that can master the roads of a metropolis.
Binoculars may become the U.S. Navy's next tactical communications system. A prototype technology allows optical viewing systems to transmit voice, video and data communications on a beam of non-laser light. The equipment can be easily fitted to any commercially available binoculars and provides warfighters with a way to coordinate operations without relying on radios.
Military and humanitarian relief personnel now can reach out from the field more easily with a product that combines voice and data communications capabilities in a single box. The approximately 65-pound kit is field portable, ruggedized and self-cooling. It uses open architecture standards and can be applied to hastily formed networks, military operations, disaster response and medical relief efforts.
NATO nations are incorporating new military and commercial technologies to extend both the capabilities and the reach of the alliance's communications and information systems. But, many technological challenges lie ahead before the alliance and other allied nations can interoperate in coalition operations. And some cultural barriers found at the heart of intelligence and military operations remain to be overcome.
Throughout its nearly 50 years in existence, NASA has taken great pride in operating at the cutting edge of technology in conducting important exploration and research missions for the nation. Now, with its new strategy to lead the way in extending the presence of human civilization throughout the solar system-beginning with the return of humans to the moon as early as 2018 and leading to the eventual human exploration of Mars-NASA will certainly be counting on a number of advanced technologies to go forward with its exploration activities.
The rush of innovative information technologies is both mandating a greater need for advanced security and spawning a new generation of potential solutions. The explosion in networking and wireless communications brings with it greater security requirements, and computing advances offer the potential for a range of new information assurance approaches.
While information technology experts have been hard at work securing the national infostructure, other key sectors in the United States' vital infrastructure may be vulnerable to attack through their own information systems. Critical elements such as ports, railroads, the electrical grid, fuel pipelines and hazardous materials facilities may be equipped with information systems that are virtual open doors to malicious marauders ranging from rookie hackers to al-Qaida terrorists.