Defense Operations

April 16, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Defense Department will decide on a path forward within 30 days.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told members of Congress on April 16 that he is personally committed to solving the database interoperability problems between the Defense Department (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that have left thousands of veterans waiting months while benefits claims are processed.

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Declining defense funds and the rise of China may hinder strategic rebalancing efforts.

Whatever the threat; wherever the conflict; whatever the mission; the future U.S. military largely will be defined by forced budget constraints. The ongoing fiscal crisis, haunted by the twin specters of sequestration and continuing resolution, will have a greater say in shaping the future force than either adversaries or advances in weapon technologies.

April 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

As conflicts become more complex and uncertain in the 21st century, quick pivots to new technologies will become increasingly important. The starting point for this rapid fielding must begin with more frequent, and more relational, lower level warfighter-technologist interaction.

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
The U.S. Army is striving to develop a multifunction electronic warfare, or MFEW, system that will provide a defensive electronic attack capability.

Melding the disciplines of spectrum combat will enable greater flexibility and more capabilities.

The growth in battlefield electronics has spurred a corresponding growth in electronic warfare. In the same manner that innovative technologies have spawned new capabilities, electronic warfare is becoming more complex as planners look to incorporate new systems into the battlespace.

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
A U.S. Army soldier communicates inside his vehicle during the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 12.2 in spring 2012.

Force support will change with both stateside relocation and a new way of functioning.

Support to the U.S. Army warfighter’s communications and electronics assets will be taking a new direction as the Army redeploys back to the United States following more than a decade of combat deployments in Southwest Asia. Years of field maintenance will transition to base support, and the many commercial devices incorporated into battlefield operations will require a new approach to service and sustainment.

April 1, 2013
By Rita Boland
A radio operator for Combat Logistics Battalion-31, 31st Expeditionary Unit (MEU) communicates with the command element during a mass casualty evacuation exercise in Japan.

Looking past the alligators close to the boat, scientists prepare for the wars of tomorrow.

Distributed operations are the future of the U.S. Marine Corps, and its premier science and technology organization is laser focused on the capabilities to make such missions a success. Enabling communications for mobile troops across long distances is a priority as battles continue in Afghanistan while the focus shifts toward more maritime environments. Success will give lower echelons better access to command and control, enhancing the fight in any theater.

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas
The 2013 Capstone Concept assumes the U.S. Army will continue to be a land-based force, but one that will adapt to changes in technology and uncertainty in future battlefields.

Technology plays a key role in helping the service adapt to a coming decade filled with uncertainty.

U.S. Army futurists believe that events such as last year’s Arab Spring predict a future that includes fighting not only on land but in cyberspace as well. The Army must do it with a renewed emphasis on using technology to empower commanders and their troops during a looming period of significant fiscal restraints.

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas
MARSOC Marines, above, prepare to board CH-47 Chinook helicopters as part of a two-day presence patrol with Afghan Commandos in Farah province.

After a special operations deployment, handling state-of-the-art communications technology tops the list.

Back from a nearly year-long deployment to Afghanistan, the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion already is working to apply lessons learned to training for the next deployment. As the battalion prepares for its next mission, it is reflecting on what its Marines learned about how they train, how their equipment worked and how they will prepare themselves for the future.

April 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
A modernized and fully digitized unmanned aerial system could be performing vital missions over the Asia-Pacific region in the coming years. The upgraded Shadow system fielded by the U.S. Marine Corps could potentially play a major role in the region.

The upgraded RQ-7 could play a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. Marine Corps could potentially begin fielding newly upgraded RQ-7 Shadow systems as early as next year, according to experts. The new version of the combat-proven aircraft is fully digitized, improves interoperability, can be teamed with manned aircraft and provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to a broader range of warfighters, including manned aircraft crews. The upgraded system is intended to serve as an interim capability until the Marine Corps can field a larger, more capable unmanned aircraft.

March 26, 2013
By Max Cacas

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has begun internal discussions regarding a multiaward contract for cloud computing services.

Anthony Montemarano, DISA’s director of strategic planning and information, told a briefing of industry leaders Monday that he and his agency are firm believers in cloud computing. “When you look at some of the functions that we perform in government, a lot of it can be provided in the commercial cloud. We have to come to grips with the value proposition,” he explains. He believes that the Defense Department’s cloud computing strategy must include DISA cloud resources, commercial cloud services and privately owned cloud services where appropriate.

April 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
Future U.S. Army vehicles may be designed to carry common components that will decrease the size, weight and power consumption of electromagnetic systems while reducing costs and improving interoperability.

An upcoming demonstration could lead to a giant leap in common electromagnetic components.

U.S. Army researchers intend to demonstrate in the coming weeks that some components, such as antennas and amplifiers, can perform two functions—communications and electronic warfare. The ultimate goal is to use the same components for multiple purposes while dramatically reducing size, weight, power consumption and costs. The effort could lead to a set of common components for electromagnetic systems across the Army, the other military services and even international partners, which would be a boon for battlefield interoperability.

March 25, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, are continuing to develop a robotic technology that can transform into a virtually infinite number of shapes. In fact, the breakthrough has led to some surprising spin-off projects, including research into aircraft control actuators and medical devices.

March 15, 2013
By Max Cacas
NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory flies over the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility, Palmdale, California. The  DC-8 is participating in ACCESS flights measuring the emissions and performance of biofuels in jet engines.  (NASA Photo)

NASA is in the midst of its first phase of flight tests to determine the effects of alternative biofuels on the emissions and performance of jet engines flying at altitude.

The program is called the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions, or ACCESS, according to Dr. Ruben Del Rosario, project manager of NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing project. The goal is to investigate how biofuels perform compared with traditional jet fuel and also to measure the environmental impact of biofuels. The results of the tests are significant because of the growing popularity of biofuels for both the U.S. Air Force and Navy as well as private sector aviation.

March 5, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The United States quickly must adopt a segmented approach to its military forces to ensure that key elements can survive a comprehensive cyber attack, according to a recently released Defense Science Board (DSB) Task Force on Resilient Military Systems. This approach entails a risk reduction strategy that combines deterrence, refocused intelligence capabilities and improved cyber defense. The effort must constitute “a broad systems approach … grounded in its technical and economic feasibility” to face a cyber threat that has “potential consequences similar in some ways to the nuclear threat of the Cold War,” the DSB report says.

March 1, 2013
George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference 2013 Show Daily, Day 3

Although many in government are moving as quickly as possible to adopt new technologies, such as cloud computing and mobile devices, individual agencies still face cultural challenges that sometimes prevent them from moving forward, according to officials speaking as part of the Chief Information Officer Council at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C.

March 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Significant fuel savings and operational efficiencies are some of the benefits of an intelligent power management system that includes multiple energy sources.

The U.S. Army has tested a proof of concept for a smart electrical grid that would support tactical operations in the field. The concept, which was tested last summer, could save potentially billions of dollars in fuel use at remote forward positions. By eliminating the need to transport fuel for generators at such encampments, the new Tactical Operations Smart Grid also carries with it the potential of saving the lives of warfighters.

March 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers
The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical equipment is set up during a Network Integration Evaluation at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.

Officials work to provide a new cloud approach across 
the service as well as the Defense Department.

U.S. Army officials estimate that by the end of the fiscal year, they will go into production on a new cloud computing solution that could potentially be made available across the Defense Department and could eventually be used to expand cloud capabilities on the battlefield. The platform-as-a-service product incorporates enhanced automation, less expensive software licensing and built-in information assurance.

March 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
Racks of gear provide Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) capability for the JOIN facility. The network can debug software upgrades as well as resolve interoperability issues.

The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts in a networked software engineering realm.

A network built after its major move to a new base is allowing the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command to link diverse communications systems into an overarching network. This enables capabilities ranging from debugging software updates before they are sent to the front to a multinational exercise for validating operational activities.

March 1, 2013
BY Robert K. Ackerman
A Soldier from 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division uses the Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) during a U.S. Army Network Integration Evaluation (NIE). The successor to the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system, the JCR will be a bridge to the Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P.

Aberdeen Proving Ground becomes the home of high-techology development, validation and deployment.

Consolidating its communications-electronics assets in a single location has given the U.S. Army vital resources and flexibility that it needs to address its changing information technology demands during a time of transition. This transition is twofold: not only is Army communications absorbing new commercial technologies and capabilities, the Army itself also is facing substantial changes as a force that has been overseas for more than a decade is redeploying back to its U.S. bases.

March 1, 2013
By Rita Boland
Artist’s rendering of the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System scheduled for fielding to the U.S. Army in 2014. The system will provide enhanced connectivity to the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, the service branch’s premier intelligence enterprise.

The plug-and-play technology will close large capability gaps in the field.

The U.S. Army is developing the first airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform fully enabled to connect analysts with the Distributed Common Ground System-Army. That system will help remedy problems currently hindering soldiers from having all data feed into a single repository. With the new aircraft, the process will be streamlined from the flying support, so information reaches ground commanders faster to facilitate more timely decision making.

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