Defense Operations

March 22, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
Members of the Air Force's Task Force Cyber Secure talk about challenges to securing weapons systems during the TechNet Air symposium.

Cyber right now is the the cat’s meow—a notion sure to keep funding flowing for technological solutions, at least in the near term, to counter the emerging threats, according to Col. Gary Salmans, USAF, senior materiel leader of the Cryptologic and Cyber Systems Division within the Air Force Materiel Command.

March 8, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
SBIRS High features a mix of four geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) satellites, two highly elliptical earth orbit (HEO) payloads and associated ground hardware and software.

In its enduring space race to narrow the materializing gap between the United States and peer competitors, the Air Force’s fiscal year 2017 budget emphasizes sustaining mission capabilities and improving space resilience by investing in command and control programs, situational awareness technologies, expendable launch systems and satellite communications.

March 2, 2016
By Sandra Jontz

As the air superiority gap narrows between the U.S. military and its pursuing adversaries, airpower and information dominance will command center stage for discussions at this month’s TechNet Air 2016 symposium in Texas.

Air operations not only require accurate information and effective communications, coordination and security, but they must also be better than challengers campaigning to usurp the lead once commanded by the United States.

March 1, 2016
By Rory Welch
Operators staff the East Coast Satellite Operation Center (ESOC) in Northern Virginia. The ESOC flies the majority of Intelsat’s global satellite fleet, which provides mission critical support for the full range of the company’s government and commercial customers.

Growing threats to national security in the space domain have prompted U.S. Air Force leaders to revamp plans and programs to adapt to a new reality of reinforcing system and network resiliency and shifting its people and resources to focus on warfighting functions. Government space capabilities, augmented by commercial systems, will play critical and active roles to secure U.S. and allied interests in and through the increasingly contested domain of space, requiring the Air Force and the Defense Department to proactively plan how to enable more coordinated and integrated space enterprise operations.

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

The long period of air supremacy enjoyed by the United States and its allies may be coming to an end. Advances in capabilities by potential adversaries place our air forces at a crucial point in their existence. Increased investments in acquisition and innovation are necessary to once again widen what now is a contracting gap in air power.

February 26, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber, now designated the B-21, is designed to exploit technologies from its progenitor the B-2, according to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. Some design similarities are apparent in the artist’s concept of the B-21 just released by the Air Force.

“The B-21 has been designed from the beginning based on a set of requirements that allows the use of existing and mature technology,” James stated.

February 19, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
Key sea service leaders comparing perspectives in a town hall format are (l-r) Vice Adm. Charles D. Michel, USCG, vice commandant, U.S. Coast Guard; Adm. John M. Richardson, USN, CNO; Gen. Robert B. Neller, USMC, commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; and moderator Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

West 2016

The SIGNAL Magazine Online Show Daily, Day 3

Quote of the Day:
“Innovation is a contact sport; it is not for the weak of heart.”—Jay M. Cohen, principal, The Chertoff Group, former chief of naval research

The U.S. Navy is counting on industry and academia to generate new capabilities that can meet sea service needs rapidly in a dynamic threat picture. Achieving this goal effectively will require overcoming cultural inertia and an acquisition architecture that is stacked against speed and innovation.

February 18, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
Vice Adm. Ted N. Branch, USN, deputy CNO for Information Warfare, describes how the Navy is embracing that warfighting doctrine in his morning keynote address on Thursday at West 2016 in San Diego.

West 2016

The SIGNAL Magazine Online Show Daily, Day 2

Quote of the Day:

“I want industry to look at the Pacific Fleet as a laboratory.”—Adm. Scott H. Swift, USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet

The book on establishing and maintaining naval supremacy may need wholesale revision as planners confront the challenges facing the U.S. Navy. What worked in the past might be, at best, obsolete, and at worst, counterproductive as the Navy deals with two potential peer rivals and possible conflicts ranging from asymmetrical sparring to overt maritime control.

February 17, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and former supreme allied commander Europe (SACEUR), describes the global threat picture to attendees at the opening keynote address in West 2016.

West 2016

The SIGNAL Magazine Online Show Daily, Day 1

 Quote of the Day:
“We assume the information environment is a contested space.”—Lt. Gen. David H. Berger, USMC, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force

The threat picture facing the United States and the Free World continues to grow in size and complexity, while funding to address its multifaceted nature remains tight. The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps are struggling to meet modernization needs as they concurrently deal with new requirements such as cyber capabilities.

February 18, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman

The stresses facing the U.S. Navy are magnified in the Asia-Pacific region where most of the forward-deployed fleet will find itself in the near future. Two peer rivals, maritime challenges to international law and diverse threats confront the Pacific Fleet to an increasing degree.

Adm. Scott H. Swift, USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, described some of these challenges and potential solutions to the Thursday luncheon audience at West 2016, being held in San Diego February 17-19. Adm. Swift noted that 60 percent of the Navy will be forward in the Pacific as a result of the U.S. strategic shift.

February 10, 2016
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Defense Department's fiscal 2017 budget carves out the same appropriation that it did last year for its futuristic research arm, asking Congress to again allocate $2.97 billion to pay for a range of seemingly science fiction endeavors, such as launching swarms of autonomous drones to a program to turn chemical weapons into fertilized dirt and efforts to address memory deficits caused by traumatic brain injuries.

The annual funding pays for hundreds of ongoing programs that leaders at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, have placed into three key strategic areas driving their work, said director Arati Prabhakar. The three are:

February 17, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy can expect to receive from 87 percent to 94 percent of its funding every year through 2021, according to the deputy chief of naval operations (CNO) for integration of capabilities and resources. However, this also means the sea service will not receive full funding, and it must make do with carefully selected priorities.

Vice Adm. Joseph P. Mulloy, USN, described the budget conundrum during his keynote luncheon address at West 2016, being held in San Diego February 17-19. The Budget Control Act will inhibit funding until 2021, which comes amid a time of challenges.

February 17, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman

Countries must abandon a fortress mentality and reach out to each other to confront international threats, according to the former supreme allied commander Europe. Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, decried old defense thinking during his keynote address opening West 2016, being held in San Diego February 17-19.

February 17, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman

In a complex world rife with a plethora of threats, North Korea looms as the worst, according to the former supreme allied commander Europe. Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, described the Hermit Kingdom in harsh detail during his keynote address opening West 2016, being held in San Diego February 17-19.

“They have a young, untested, untried, morbidly obese leader that has nuclear weapons,” Stavridis said in referring to Kim Jong Un.

February 9, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
Technicians test systems in the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic's Common Submarine Radio Room (CSRR) production area. The curved design of the facility mimics the hull designs of four Navy submarine types, which allows for streamlined integration before systems are installed aboard the subs, and reduces cost and installation time.

Non-submariners can get a rare sneak peek into the bowels of a submarine’s control centers during the upcoming sea services conference in San Diego next week. Well, sort of. It’s not a peek into an actual boat's radio control room, for example, but an opportunity to see and touch equipment that simulates a variety of shipboard systems.

February 1, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
The U.S. Navy’s newest destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, departs its dry dock at Bath Iron Works, Maine, prior to conducting at-sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean. The technology-rich Zumwalt may serve as a template not only for future Navy ships but also for a highly skilled crew capable of handling multiple tasks.

The modern technology-intensive fleet the U.S. Navy is putting to sea will require a new skill set for sailors who increasingly will be harder to recruit. The Navy needs the same high-technology talent coming out of high schools and colleges that the commercial sector seeks rigorously, and this competition likely will intensify for the foreseeable future.

February 2, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
A U.S. sailor of Coastal Riverine Squadron 10 mans a crew-served weapon aboard a patrol boat in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti. (U.S. Navy photo)

It has been less than smooth sailing of late for the U.S. Navy as the superiority gap the sea service once held over adversaries rapidly narrows, its top officer says.

The onus to secure the maritime domain, both in a militaristic approach as well as commercially, falls to the United States as it jockeys to fortify global sea-based activity in an increasingly complicated environment. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, USN, penned a strategy that directs renewed focus on how the Navy might outmaneuver and outsmart its competitors.

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

The United States always has been a maritime nation, but now more so than ever. The globalization of the world’s economy and communications has increased the importance of maritime operations. The multitrillion-dollar international economic engine that has brought prosperity to billions of people moves most of its international commerce by sea.

February 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Michael Basla, USAF (Ret.)

One of today’s leading topics of discussion is the government-industry relationship. Simply put, will we ever get it right? I now have had the chance to look at this question from both sides of the fence, and the picture is no prettier from the industry vantage point.

January 28, 2016
By Sandra Jontz

Slide over cyber commands, the Defense Department could bear a new warfighting domain. The DOD is tinkering with the notion of recognizing the electromagnetic spectrum as a new warfare domain.

Such a policy change would come on the heels of the paramount decision in 2006 when the DOD added a fifth domain—cyberspace—to its arsenal. Though it has been a decade, cyber warfare is an area in which operators still wrestle with daunting guidelines to carry out warfare in the manmade field.

Given that, is the Pentagon ready for a sixth domain?

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