After the winds of Hurricane Katrina subsided, the U.S. government launched a massive rescue and recovery effort in the devastated parishes and counties of Louisiana and Mississippi. The U.S. Defense Department played a major part in these operations, providing troops for law enforcement as well as supplies and equipment to aid beleaguered state and local governments. A key part of the military's mission was restoring communications to first responders across the region.
A Texas-based U.S. Army unit drew on Iraq experience to provide hurricane relief in its neighboring state. The group dropped into New Orleans, Louisiana, set up vital communications, and then redeployed to another location and expanded its network without missing a byte.
The United States and its allies face adaptable enemies in the ongoing war against terrorism and religious extremism. Finding solutions to counter these threats was the focus of a symposium that brought together experts from the military, government agencies and the commercial sector.
Joint and service concepts of network-centric operations continue to inspire leadership and are spawning an impressive array of technologies seeking to connect decision makers at all levels. FORCEnet, the naval component to network-centric operations and the U.S. Navy's contribution to the Global Information Grid, is one of the concepts that articulates how maritime forces will support joint operations in an information-based environment.
From its start as an adjunct to warfighting to its expanded role in all forms of military activities, the discipline of information operations has steadily increased in importance to the modern force. The concept has grown in size and scope, and it now finds itself occupying an important seat at the table of force projection. Yet this evolution did not come about without difficulty, and challenges still remain before the true effectiveness of information operations can be realized.
An expendable one-way gateway buoy that provides a paging system for submarines is undergoing technology demonstrations in the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy considers the buoy to be a possible near-term interface between radio frequency satellites and acoustic communications. This paging system is designed to ensure submarine communications at speed and depth.
Calling a help desk when the computer refuses to boot up or when e-mail is blocked can be a frustrating experience. But with the help of industry, U.S. Air Force communications personnel in the Asia-Pacific region have taken steps to alleviate some of the aggravation. By employing commercial best practices and standardizing processes, the directorate in charge of ensuring that warfighters can connect is now more efficiently and effectively employing its resources. As a result, it expects to reduce the time needed to resolve technical issues by 20 percent.
U.S. warfighters soon may power their battlefield electronics with a lightweight water-based fuel cell system. Consisting of thin metal alloy plates soaking in salt water, the technology allows soldiers to replace heavy disposable batteries with lightweight rechargeable ones. Because the devices have no moving parts and are made of readily available materials, they may provide troops with a simple and robust reserve or primary power supply.
An advanced microelectronics technology may allow future communications equipment to receive and process multiple high frequency waveforms easily. Relying on superconducting processors in a sealed refrigerated container, the system translates analog radio signals directly to digital information, preventing the data and efficiency losses found in semiconductor-based applications. Unconstrained by performance-limiting issues such as thermal interference, the frigid superconducting chips permit prototype devices to receive, sample and transmit gigahertz-range signals across much of the military's spectrum.
Transformation will be essential to NATO's new missions in the post-Cold-War global war on terror, according to the alliance's leadership. And, as in the United States, government and industry will need to partner to achieve the individual goals that must be reached for that transformation to succeed.