Defense Operations

July 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Air Force’s newest secure satellite communications terminal draws from existing U.S. Army and Navy systems already in operation. The new production for the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals, or FAB-T, evolved from technologies established in the Army’s Secure Mobile Antijam Reliable Tactical Terminal (SMART-T) and the Navy’s Multiband Terminal (NMT).

July 16, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Lab this week wrapped up an Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE) in the jungles of Hawaii, which tested a total of 16 systems including unmanned ground vehicles. The experiment was part of the July 9 -14 Rim of the Pacific exercise and could help determine how future Marine forces will fight and which technologies they will use.

The experiment included Marines aboard Navy ships as well as three company landing teams, a relatively new organization construct for the service. The company landing teams are altered rifle companies and represent a different approach to the Battalion Landing Team.

August 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
Engineers demonstrate live hardware, a radio in this case, being emulated and tested in a lab setting while the adjoining image shows a drawing of the radio used in the field.

The U.S. Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center has created a system to streamline testing, rid unneeded and redundant analysis and even eliminate duplicative spending. The new system addresses the challenge of how technological advances to some Army tactical equipment have outpaced improvements program managers can use to test changes to equipment before fielding.

August 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

Recent reverses in Iraq and Afghanistan have led some experts, both appointed and self-designated, to complain that the facts on the ground may be bad enough—and they are—but far worse is the ignorance of the U.S. citizenry on what supposedly is really at stake in sand-blasted Mesopotamia or on the stony heights of the Hindu Kush. Despite 12-plus years of terrorist-hunting, nation-building and counterinsurgency, somehow the word never got back to Joe and Jane Sixpack. Average U.S. citizens do not mind striking hard at those who attack us—indeed, the public rightly expects strong military responses to outrages such as 9/11.

August 1, 2014
By Rita Boland
Virtual Battle Space (VBS) 3 offers options for advanced customization of avatars including physical fitness levels and special skills.

Virtual training for U.S. Army soldiers advanced in both capability and fidelity recently with the release of Virtual Battle Space 3. Designed for units at the company level or below, its flexibility makes it applicable to the range of Army missions, reducing costs and logistics needs for users.

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army officials envision a future in which ground and air platforms share data and where soldiers at a remote forward-operating base easily can access information from any sensor in the area, including national satellites or reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead. To achieve this big data vision, the service has initiated three pilot projects designed to provide Google-style access in a tactical environment to the lowest echelon without overwhelming soldiers with unnecessary data.

August 1, 2014
By M. Thomas Davis

The United States had a pressing need for a new defense capability. That was what many thought, but as is often the case in a democracy, not all agreed. The debate went on for some time, but it finally was settled, and Congress approved a large sum of money to design and field the new system.

August 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Army’s current tactical network delivers a wide range of capabilities for warfighters, including unprecedented communications on the move. But the complexity can overwhelm commanders who have countless critical tasks to complete and soldiers’ lives in their hands. Future tactical networks will automate many processes and may be smart enough to advise commanders, similar to JARVIS, Iron Man’s computerized assistant.

July 3, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) newly released strategic priorities for the next four years differ little from its vision in the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) of 2010, though officials recognize the need for tweaks to mission points as it works to address emerging threats to national security.

The department’s in-house assessment, mandated by Congress, spotlights its five security missions as combating threats of terrorism, both foreign and domestic; securing and managing U.S. borders; enforcing immigration laws; safeguarding cyberspace; and strengthening national preparedness and resiliency.

July 9, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

One by one, U.S. Army engineers are updating legacy cryptographic equipment in an effort to catch up, and then keep pace, with 21st century technological advances already made to the service’s tactical networks.

The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is expediting delivery of modernized cryptographic products to bases around the world, swapping out legacy systems and bundling technology so fewer devices are needed to perform the same tasks, according to a command news release.

August 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Future wars will be fought not over territory, not over ideals nor even over prestige. Future wars will be based on what creates wealth, according to a former Defense Department official who helped usher the department into the information age.

“What will be the wealth people are going to want to fight over?” asks Linton Wells II, a public servant who has dedicated 51 years to service of the United States. “Certainly, the whole issue of information in society, the … trends of technology are going to be major wealth generators,” he says, echoing a theory first pitched to him by colleague Bill Eliason.

July 2, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The Instant Eye small unmanned aerial system received approval last Thursday from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be used by an energy company, which will conduct research, development and training to see if the system is practical for inspecting infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines and insulators on towers. It is the first unmanned quadrotor to receive FAA certification and may be the lightest aircraft ever certified. The approval opens the door for the system to be used for a wide range of commercial applications.

July 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF (l), director, Defense Information Systems Agency, and Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J-6, The Joint Staff, offer presentations at the JIE Mission Partner Symposium.

The shrinking military cannot achieve mission success without the advances promised by the Joint Information Environment, U.S. Defense Department leaders say. Yet the effort itself depends on innovative advances that may lead to changes in doctrine and operations if—and when—they are incorporated into the force.

June 23, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

This is your brain on DARPA. Sort of.

While the latest in brain research technology, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), might not be as catchy as the televised iconic anti-drug public service announcement from 1987 (in which an actor displays an egg to symbolize a brain, then cracks it into a frying pan to illustrate a brain on drugs) the field work could revolutionize how brains are studied in the future.

A new research protocol developed at Stanford University in California improves on their previous technological breakthrough and lets neuroscientists visualize a brain across multiple scales, says program manager Dr. Justin Sanchez.

June 24, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Significant changes to the federal acquisition process can come when better attention is paid to the people who make up the work force—or so was the dominate theme expressed Tuesday from a panel of defense acquisition experts who testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

Federal employees and program managers need more and better training to keep pace with ever-changing technologies and the market, for example, and less micromanagement, more process transparency with private industry partners and better incentives to stay on the job, the panelists told lawmakers.

July 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

You don’t hear much old-school military radio traffic anymore. Except for a few front-line radio nets, most radio chatter has been replaced by the endless, silent interplay of text messages, emails and Web postings. With that shift, we have lost an entire dialect of martial radio-speak. Sure, the approved terms—roger, wilco, prepare to copy, say again—remain in the training curricula. But the unofficial lexicon has dried up. You rarely hear today’s sergeants and lieutenants asking “how do you read this station?” That certainly is a tribute to the crystal clarity offered by modern digital equipment. And you certainly never hear the old standby before rendering a report: “Be advised.” Nobody is advised of anything in today’s U.S.

June 17, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The Defense Department unveiled a first-of-its-kind program that acquisition leaders say will promote better competition, help control program costs and achieve affordable programs; and could lead to an overhaul of the government's Better Buying Power acquisition process.
 The nascent Defense Department-wide measure is based on a year-long U.S. Navy pilot program it called the Superior Supplier Incentive Program (SSIP), tantamount to a listing of its top-performing defense business units with consistent histories of good performance. Last week, the Navy released the list. The top tier included defense giants General Dynamics, General Electric Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Rolls-Royce.

July 1, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
A U.S. Navy cryptologic technician monitors the electromagnetic spectrum of air and surface contacts in the combat information center aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage.

The Defense Department is putting crucial emphasis on fresh ideas from private industry as it shapes the task of better managing the electromagnetic spectrum needed to assemble mission-tailored capabilities to meet military leaders’ needs—all the while coming under federal pressure to possibly renounce valuable wireless frequencies for commercial use. While the Defense Department and private communication industry are concerned about the possible crippling impact of the dwindling spectrum, their conflicting goals and needs that spurred a battle for spectrum also created partners of otherwise would-be adversaries.

July 1, 2014
By Rita Boland

The next big breakthrough to affect the U.S. military might come from a different country or industry altogether, and discovering it in emerging stages could provide advantages. Developers with the Defense Department have launched a pilot system that aims to find these potential game changers before they become full-blown trends. Along the way, the research will explore what criteria are necessary to perform such a task.

July 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers
DARPA’s Advanced Radio Frequency Mapping (RadioMap) program seeks to provide real-time awareness of radio spectrum use across frequency, geography and time.

U.S. Defense Department officials intend to complete a departmentwide spectrum strategy road map this month, which will make more frequencies available to warfighters, provide greater flexibility—especially for international operations—and ultimately allow warfighters to conduct their missions more effectively. At the same time, however, some are suggesting a nationwide strategy to allow for more innovative and effective spectrum management and sharing across government and industry.

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