Defense Operations

November 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
Panelists discuss modernizing U.S. military networks at MILCOM 2016. Photo by Mike Carpenter

Efforts to modernize U.S. Marine Corps networks might have begun when the service worked to blur the lines between garrison and tactical networks, according to its deputy chief information officer. Nearly two decades of continuous war has left the military with little opportunity for modernization beyond what troops needed immediately on the battlefield, says Kenneth Bible, who serves as the Corps' deputy director of command, control, communications and computers (C4).

November 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray is one example of the Defense Department's pursuit of autonomous systems.

Over the next decade—if not sooner—the U.S. Defense Department wants more of its military systems to operate autonomously, capable of independently determining the right course of action no matter the situation. The Defense Science Board predicts the department will get there. 

Autonomous systems address several problem areas, and reasons to pursue the technology are numerous, according to a technical panel presenting this week at the MILCOM 2016 conference in Baltimore.

November 1, 2016
By George I. Seffers
U.S. forces in the Pacific need robotic systems capable of operating in tunnels and underground facilities. U.S. Army researchers in the region have coordinated an effort to modify existing systems to counter subterranean weapons of mass destruction.

A U.S. Army research and development organization in Tokyo is forming partnerships across the Asia-Pacific region—including in India, Malaysia and Vietnam—to help support warfighter needs and strengthen ties to neighboring nations.

One partnership involves multiple U.S. organizations that collaborated to modify and field a robotic system capable of working in tunnels or underground facilities to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Researchers have fielded an interim solution, and a program of record is possible.

November 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

While the world’s attention seems to be focused on the Middle East and the spillover effects of its conflicts, the Asia-Pacific region is enduring stresses that could have far-reaching consequences. The area, which comprises half the Earth’s surface and two-thirds of its people, is facing threats to peace and economic growth that must be addressed by the one country that largely is viewed as an honest broker for security: the United States.

November 1, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
The HMAS Ballarat, USS Mobile Bay, CNS Cochrane, INS Satpura, HMCS Calgary and USS Shoup prepare for a live-fire exercise during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. Interoperability in the Pacific theater is a constant challenge for U.S. forces that are relying more and more on new information technologies.

Military communications systems around the world are being asked to do more with less, but U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region face an even more complex challenge. Lacking a regionwide multinational alliance such as NATO, the U.S. Pacific Command is working to improve interoperability in bilateral arrangements with allies and partner nations amid an increased threat to the very networks forces rely on during crises. 

November 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
A U.S. soldier with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, explains training scenario options to a Filipino counterpart conducting a dismounted assault rehearsal as part of the Army’s Pacific Pathways training exercise this year.

A new type of force is being designed to respond to the unique conditions that define the vast Asia-Pacific region. The tyranny of distance has compelled the U.S. Army to structure a division capable of meeting operational demands that include greater maneuverability and flexibility amid a changing communications environment.

The intensifying perils that are triggering palpable tension in the East exemplify the need for more agile and rapidly deployable Army units, especially as the U.S. military makes a strategic pivot toward Asia, says Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, USA, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific.

November 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

Several years ago, I served as a director of communications and information in a major U.S. Air Force command. The director of operations called me in one day to discuss some of the actions we were taking within my directorate. While the general appreciated my proactivity, he told me I was crossing the line between my support role and his operational business. That was hard for me to understand because I always had believed communications and information were operations. Today’s thinking seems to bear that out, and today’s requirements demand that we do things differently.

October 19, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
DARPA transitioned its space surveillance telescope (SST) from an agency-led design and construction program to ownership and operation by U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), which has announced plans to operate the telescope in Australia jointly with the Australian government. SST, imaged here on its mountaintop perch at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, is redefining what telescopes can do and could revolutionize space situational awareness.

The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday inherited a next-generation telescope capable of detecting and tracking space debris with unprecedented fidelity. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, transferred to the U.S. Air Force Space Command its space surveillance telescope (SST), a revolutionary device designed to track objects in Earth’s orbit.

By Joe Kim

Ensuring that deployed U.S. troops can communicate and exchange information is critical to the military’s missions. That said, there are numerous challenges in deploying the high-speed tactical networks that make this communication possible. How, for example, do you make sure these networks are available when needed? What is the best way to maintain data integrity? The accuracy of the data—such as troop location—is just as important as network availability.

Network security of course also is critical. Specifically with tactical Wi-Fi networks, it is crucial to ensure our military personnel are the only ones accessing the network and there is no exfiltration going on undetected.

October 1, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
A brigade combat team with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division employs tactical vehicles with advanced networking systems. The Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications–Tactical (PEO C3T) is aiming to simplify network setup and operation as new technologies and capabilities are added.

As the U.S. Army brings even more advanced information technologies into the force, the service also strives to simplify training and use of these highly capable tools. Making increasingly complex systems simpler to operate now is a core function of the office tasked with designing, fielding and maintaining command, control and communications in the warfighting realm.

October 1, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman

The primary fielding priorities for Gary P. Martin, U.S. Army PEO C3T, include the Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, which serves as the backbone network for the Army’s mobile network capability. It is being fielded first to active components, while Increment 1 still dominates Guard and Reserve forces. Only about 20 percent of active-duty forces have Increment 2, and its full fielding probably will take another 10 years, Martin says.

October 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

New communications and information system technologies being designed and deployed for tactical use are doing more than simply changing the way warfighters communicate. They are helping to shape the very nature of operations with game-changing capabilities. This trend is likely to continue and even accelerate as new innovations in information technology move into the battlespace more quickly. 

October 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

Since World War II, the U.S. military largely has borne the cost of preserving peace around the globe, which also has helped secure homeland prosperity. Boots on the ground in foreign lands have allowed us to form strong economic ties with our allies, establish a presence in critical regions and fight “over there” should a conflict arise. We adopted this strategy in the years following World War II and accepted its cost as the price of being a world leader. That strategy frequently has been under fire, with many calling for more reductions in our overseas presence to focus on problems at home. 

September 27, 2016
By Sandra Jontz

DARPA is hearing voices. And now, so can you. The Defense Department’s renowned research arm has launched a new podcast series, Voices from DARPA.

The series will offer revealing and informative insight into the works of program managers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA. In each episode, a program manager from one of the agency’s six technical offices—Biological Technologies, Defense Sciences, Information Innovation, Microsystems Technology, Strategic Technology and Tactical Technology—will discuss in informal and personal terms why they work at DARPA and what they are up to, according to an agency statement.

September 19, 2016
By George I. Seffers

The After Active Duty blog series examines the challenges, rewards and lessons learned for those who have transitioned from active duty to the private sector and the role AFCEA played in this progression.

Former Navy lieutenant Ryan Cox is a non-techie who thrives in a technical world. His secret to success: connecting wherever he goes.

By Joe Kim

There is no escaping the barrage of technology and devices ever-present in our modern lives. Consider that many middle school kids today are iPhone-wielding and Fitbit-wearing youngsters.

The public sector workplace is no different. Federal IT professionals must consider the sheer volume and variety of devices connecting to their networks—from fitness wearables to laptops, tablets and smartphones. The Internet of Things and the cloud also significantly impact bandwidth and present security concerns, spurred by incidents such as the Office of Personnel Management breach of 2014.

September 1, 2016
By Jim Loerch
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington and ships from the U.S. Navy, the Indian navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force participate in trilateral naval field training. Carrier strike groups may be increasingly vulnerable to antiship missile systems and could be better protected with the use of an integrated electronic warfare capability.

Integrated electronic warfare is the best and most efficient form of defense against the growing antiship missile threat that targets deployed U.S. carrier strike groups. Some experts may even argue that an integrated electronic warfare system of systems is the only capability that can protect the U.S. fleet from this threat.

September 1, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman

This is the last installment in a series of interviews with signaleers, one for each of SIGNAL Magazine’s seven decades, to commemorate AFCEA International’s 70th anniversary.

1946-1955

August 29, 2016
By George I. Seffers
Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.), receives her second star. The retired general says she was glad to find the same can-do attitude in industry as in the Army.

The After Active Duty blog series examines the challenges, rewards and lessons learned for those who have transitioned from active duty to the private sector and the role AFCEA played in this progression.

Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.), vice president, Defense and Intelligence Group, Unisys Federal Systems, says she respects people willing and able to accomplish the mission regardless of obstacles.

August 15, 2016
By George I. Seffers
Master Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Allen III, USMC (Ret.), ponders his next career move after transitioning from the U.S. Marine Corps following a decorated 31-year career.

The After Active Duty blog series examines the challenges, rewards and lessons learned for those who have transitioned from active duty to the private sector and the role AFCEA played in this progression.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Allen III, USMC (Ret.), left active duty this past summer after a 31-year career that included deployments to Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. He does not yet know what his next professional position will be, but he knows his life after active duty will include volunteer work.

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