Defense Operations

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?

January 12, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
DISA officials present agency needs to industry during an AFCEA DC Chapter breakfast that included (l-r) Tony Montemarano, David Mihelcic, John Hickey and Alfred Rivera. Photo by Mike Carpenter.

Not all the news surrounding shrinking federal budgets is bad news. Dwindling coffers mean the government increasingly relies on ready-made products and services from private industry for solutions to both carry out day-to-day operations and prepare for the future.

December 30, 2015
By Lesley M. Rahman
Airmen from the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida clear and secure the Eastern Range for the 2013 United Launch Alliance-built Delta IV Heavy liftoff from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket was carrying the sixth WGS satellite for the U.S. military.

Satellite communications have never been more vital to the security of our nation, or under such assault. Recent increases in aggressive and targeted interference have put the continuous connectivity of government satellite communications in question. As an example, slightly more than a year ago, the Chinese accessed a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data systems for more than 12 hours—imagine how damaging this could have been if they controlled a more critical mission asset.  

January 6, 2016
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center will host a two-day technical interchange meeting with industry to identify and align mutually beneficial research and development investments, officials announced.

The meeting, beginning March 31 and held at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, seeks to enhance government-and-industry communication and provide industry with critical information to quickly respond to emerging requirements, according to the FedBizOps announcement.

January 1, 2016
By George I. Seffers
A U.S. Army soldier kneels atop a cliff overlooking the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan to provide security for his squad members as they climb up the cliff from the valley below. Army researchers aim to identify and develop persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies to provide tactical-edge warfighters the data they need for rapid-fire decision making.

U.S. Army researchers recently kicked off a concept development effort designed to improve the ability to monitor an area for long periods, enhancing the means to provide soldiers at the tactical edge with the critical situational awareness intelligence needed for rapid-fire decision making.

January 1, 2016
By Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.)

Global discussions about maritime issues tend to focus on the Atlantic Ocean, with its attached Mediterranean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, with the South China Sea. Endless conversations take place about the emerging conflicts, the flow of refugees, the competition over vital hydrocarbons and the geopolitical impact of the two “major oceans.” Yet the 21st century will be more about the Indian Ocean than either of the other two—and the sooner we fully realize that in the United States, the better.

December 8, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
A diver descends along a deep water mooring buoy off of the coast of Guam to conduct inspection, maintenance and repair of various underwater assets.

Move over Charlie, the seas could be getting a new kind of tuna.

LGS Innovations secured a contract to support a program launched by the Defense Department’s futurist research arm to develop the Tactical Undersea Network Architectures, or TUNA, program.

December 10, 2015
By Cyndi Thomas
With electronic attack, adversaries now can deny use of command and control systems across all domains. Illustration courtesy NCI Inc.

The United States' dependence on valuable space assets and the nation's critical need to maintain superiority in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) disciplines have also made these fields somewhat of an Achilles' heel. The country had long held technological and capabilities advantages over the rest of the world. Those days are gone.

December 1, 2015
by Lt. Col. Dave Waller, USAF, Maj. Ernest Jenkins, USA, and Lt. Cmdr. Christina Hicks, USN

Think back to a recent deployment—of having to use multiple email accounts for each and every classified network and what a chore it was to move even unclassified information between these networks. This process is frustrating and inefficient, but it is exponentially more vexing for network and system managers.

U.S. personnel and coalition partners alike feel the brunt of an information bottleneck caused by an antiquated system that impedes combat operations and has prompted calls to U.S. Defense Department leaders to improve information-sharing capabilities for successful collaboration among coalition partners.

December 1, 2015
By Robert K. Ackerman
A Marine Corps F-35B taxis during night flight operations at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. With its advanced sensor suite, the F-35B may assume an additional role serving warfighters on the ground as an information source for the Marine Corps Enterprise Network.

The U.S. Marine Corps is working to network its force for connectivity on the move in all domains—land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. With all these elements required to work together during operations, the Corps is tasked with establishing this networking en masse instead of piecemeal. Information elements and capabilities as diverse as streaming video and cybersecurity must be integrated so that no weak links hamper operations anywhere in the battlespace.