The increasing nature of computing capabilities, the number of technologies that are interconnected to the cyber world, the amount of data generated, and the speed at which data is reported are all reshaping everyday life. To harness this new dynamic, the commercial computer industry has already switched to a more agile way of developing software. More and more, the military is moving to advance the development of cyber-based infrastructure under this changing environment.
Battlespace Information Systems
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency is only interested in mobile communication if it allows the agency to perform functions it could not perform otherwise, Mark Borkowski, component acquisition executive and assistant commissioner with the CBP Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition, told the audience at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday. "We're not interested in mobility for mobility's sake but because it allows us to do something we haven't done before," Borkowski said, while participating in a panel on mobility and interoperability.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced that the U.S. Army has committed to a multivendor, multiaward acquisition process—set to be finalized by the end of this month—that will allow multiple companies to compete for the Joint Tactical Radio System Manpack and Handheld Rifleman Radio contracts. The new acquisition approach also will allow the Army to select multiple contractors to each make a percentage of the radios. Prior to this decision, the Army was pursuing a single-vendor process for each of its next-generation radio contracts.
10th Mountain Division U.S. Army Rangers and soldiers on the battlefield are now wearing commercial smartphones to communicate with each other and higher commands. Nett Warrior is a Samsung Galaxy Note II with its commercial memory wiped clean and Army-developed software loaded. It displays the locations of fellow soldiers, allows placement of location digital chem-light markers, and enables warfighters to communicate through texting. This information is then relayed to commanders over encrypted tactical radios.
The U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, is training with Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 capabilities for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. The nodes will provide the division’s on-the-move network, delivering situational awareness information and enabling mission command. In addition to connecting ground soldiers, the network allows company commanders in vehicles to receive orders in real time from higher headquarters.
As the U.S. Navy modernizes information systems across the fleet, one organization is responsible for researching, developing and fielding the full range of technologies in the Asia-Pacific region, providing complete life cycle development and support for systems, from concept to fielded capability.
The U.S. Army is extending advanced communications to disadvantaged users, fielding a series of capabilities to various groups in an effort to give soldiers at the pointy end of the spear the connectivity they need. With the rollout, forward-deployed troops should be able to access classified networks via wireless 4G long-term evolution connections. National Guard units also are acquiring the tools to aid their troops in disaster response scenarios.
Despite substantial research and investments, widespread interoperability continues to elude the Defense Department, the joint force and their partners. Some of the hurdles are inherent in the current acquisition and budgeting process. Others loom because of long-standing approaches to operation and training. Progress has been made, but the goal has not yet been attained.
The widespread use of mobile devices on the battlefield, which may have seemed an improbability just a few years ago, may become an actuality within the next few. A recently released strategy document supports that pending reality, which is expected to increase situational awareness, improve operational effectiveness and enhance the operational advantage for U.S. forces.
“I don’t think it’s going to be 10 or 15 years before these devices are going to be the preponderance of what we see on the battlefield. We’re probably three to four years away from that,” says John Hickey, Defense Department mobility portfolio manager, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).
A small form factor device that will allow communications from low-level unclassified networks up to high-level secret classified networks has completed the development stage and is in the process of transferring to its new program. Created at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), the Tactical Army Cross Domain Information Sharing (TACDIS) tool is an easy-to-connect cable that will enhance situational awareness at the top to protect troops at the tactical edge.
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.
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.
The complexities of the U.S. Army’s networks and spectrum allocation processes interfere with the need to reassign units to different tasks, creating major delays and presenting serious challenges. To solve the issue, researchers intend to deliver a wide range of technologies, including automated spectrum planning and allocation tools and smarter radios, that will use spectrum more efficiently, network more effectively and provide commanders the flexibility to reorganize as needed.
The ability to communicate en route directly with ground elements during an airborne theater insertion has taken a giant leap forward with a communications system boarding a C-17 Globemaster III. A long-distance deployment across the vast Asia-Pacific region has opened the door to en route command and control over secure or unsecure links.
Technologies including voice over Internet protocol, high-definition video and satellite communications altered the battlefield during years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as combat operations draw to a close, different challenges are emerging. Technical, fiscal and personnel changes all are shifting, forcing decision makers to reevaluate activities.
The U.S. Air Force networking that links its air assets has extended its reach into the rest of the service and the joint realm as it moves a greater variety of information among warfighters and decision makers. This builds on existing networking efforts, but it also seeks to change longtime acquisition habits that have been detrimental to industry—and, by connection, to the goal of speeding innovative capabilities to the warfighter.
Warfighters on foot equipped with night vision systems now can give their commanders a real-time glimpse of what they’re seeing in the field. A new system that combines a portable radio with night vision goggles allows the optical imagery to be captured and sent across the same radio channels used for voice and data communications.
Each piece of hardware—the portable radio and the night vision system—is in service with the armed forces of several countries around the world. Engineers basically combined the two functions to produce a single system that allows commanders to remotely view a night scene from the warfighter’s eye view accompanied with geolocation information.
The success of Operation Damayan, the massive Philippines typhoon relief effort by the U.S. Pacific Command, owes as much to preparation as to execution, according to a U.S. official involved in the operation. Military communications equipment designed for easy entry and quick activation provided essential networking capabilities. Longtime multinational and bilateral exercises laid the groundwork for interoperability, both technological and organizational, between U.S. and Philippine armed forces. Commercial technologies, such as local cell systems that survived the storm, proved invaluable for onsite communications. And, U.S.
Future defense information technology is likely to focus on a set of services instead of specific elements. Accordingly, bidders likely will consist of industry teams bringing diverse expertise to the acquisition table.
This view was offered by Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, at the breakfast during the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Halvorsen cited the Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) acquisition as an example of the future. The winning bidder was a consortium that comprised several different companies
An increasing number of missions combined with more diverse settings offer a major challenge to establishing needed communications throughout the Asia-Pacific region. U.S. forces cannot count on having necessary communications links in place with they respond to a new mission, noted a panel of military officers.