SIGNAL Online Exclusives

December 29, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The U.S. military can get a bird’s-eye view of a battlefield or humanitarian mission via use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Now, it wants to get into buildings without having troops actually step foot inside.

The Pentagon’s main research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), circulated a Broad Agency Announcement for its Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, focused on acquiring algorithms that would let small, autonomous assets access buildings and navigate the “labyrinth of rooms, stairways and corridors or other obstacle-filled environments,” according to the agency.

December 5, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Behavioral analytic tools might just open new horizons for better cybersecurity that would let experts better prioritize alerts and collect actionable intelligence, giving them an advantage for more rapid responses to breaches. Or might they open new doors for hackers?

While it’s still too early to deliver a definitive verdict on emerging behavioral analytical tools, cyber experts who led various security workshops and delivered speeches at Raytheon’s annual cybersecurity symposium touted such programs as the way forward.

November 18, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published for public review draft recommendations to ensure the confidentiality of sensitive federal information residing on the computers of contractors and other nonfederal organizations working for the government.

November 14, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
Michelle Dennedy (r), chief privacy officer for Intel Security, talks about a new program to teach children safe cyberpractices in partnership with Discovery Education, led by Bill Goodwyn, (c). Penny Baldwin, CMO of Intel Security, moderated the discussion.

Intel Security (formerly McAfee) partnered with Discovery Education to launch a three-year national education initiative with a goal of reaching at least 35 million students with a new program to teach safe cyberpractices.

Think Before You Link” is the first and only Discovery Education-supported initiative to focus on cybersecurity education with a first of its kind digital safety curricula, Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO of Discovery Education, said during a kickoff luncheon this week.

November 18, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Technology plays a central role in helping the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) work smarter, not harder, to medically treat veterans, particularly those who live in rural areas of the nation.

The Veterans Health Administration steered the use of telehealth technology, which now lets cardiac patients heal at home, and might one day help cancer patients avoid long drives to VA hospitals for follow-up care, says Tom Klobucar, deputy director for VA's office of rural health. “Our office of telehealth services actively engages in looking for enterprise-level technological solutions to the questions of access.”

November 6, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

If it’s said good things come in small packages, imagine the edible delights that might come from a 3-D printer.

One day, it might not be left to the imagination as scientists from the U.S. Army’s Natick Research Center are studying just that—printed food. (We wonder if the heated toner smell will be optional.)

The Army has not begun printing food; in fact, it does not yet have a printer. But it has the idea and the funding for next year to research the potential capabilities of 3-D food printers.

October 28, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
Northrop Grumman Corporation and DARPA are recognized by Guinness World Records for developing the world's fastest integrated circuit amplifier and reaching an operating speed of 1 terahertz. Pictured from l-r are Dale Burton, Arati Prabhakar, Philip Robertson, Dev Palmer and William Deal.

A five-year project funded by the Defense Department’s research arm and developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation has netted the world’s fastest integrated circuit amplifier and a place in the record books.

October 29, 2014
George I. Seffers

Terry Halvorsen, the Defense Department’s acting chief information officer, is expected very soon to release a new policy revising the role the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) plays in brokering cloud services. The changes are designed to speed cloud service acquisitions by preventing bottlenecks created by having only one agency act as broker. DISA no longer will be the sole acquisition agency, but it will continue to ensure network access to cloud service providers is secure and reliable, agency officials say.

October 16, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Might the recurring data breaches plaguing one large retailer after another be a dress rehearsal for a catastrophic attack that could cripple, if not destroy, the United States and its critical infrastructure? The doomsday rhetoric presented by cybersecurity experts at an issue forum Thursday, while not so calamitous, served as a wake-up call to the enduring cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

October 14, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF), which quickly fields technologies to meet urgent warfighter needs, intends by the end of November to open an office in Kuwait that will serve warfighters in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Furthermore, officials are considering the possibility of opening an office in Iraq.

October 15, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
An unmanned boat from Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock operates autonomously during a demonstration of swarmboat technology being developed by the Office of Naval Research.

With its developing fleet of autonomous “guard dogs,” the U.S. Navy is becoming more lethal and protective using the same technology.

The sea service is capitalizing on a first-of-its-kind autonomous technology, with software originally developed by NASA for the Mars Rover, which can transform just about any surface vessel into an unmanned platform able to protect other ships or “swarm” hostile vessels, officials say.

October 7, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
U.S. Air Force troops from the 633rd Medical Group load onto a C-17 Globemaster at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, on September 26. They packaged and delivered a modular medical treatment center as part of a U.S. government-wide effort to support humanitarian relief operations in Ebola-stricken West African nations.

A Defense Department-backed research effort seeks emergency expert input and advice on ways to help combat the Ebola epidemic. Sharing to Accelerate Research-Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support, better known as STAR-TIDES, seeks input on methods that can help health care workers better protect themselves while providing better care to patients infected with the deadly virus.

October 8, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

After much anticipation and preparation, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), along with the U.S. Army and Air Force, successfully migrated network traffic through the first of several Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) at Joint Base San Antonio, according to an agency press statement released Wednesday.

The JRSS upgrade is a step toward the realization of the colossal concept of connecting the entirety of the Defense Department’s network system under the Joint Information Environment (JIE).

October 10, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

The recent rash of cyber attacks on major U.S. companies has drawn renewed focus on network vulnerabilities, both in commercial and governmental sectors, and not just on external attackers but on potentially more ominous threats posed by insiders.

September 23, 2014
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Army officially activated its Cyber Protection Brigade earlier this month, marking the first time the service has had such a unit. It falls under the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command, commonly called NETCOM. As the defensive operations enabled by the brigade ramp up, the Army now also has a cyber branch operating provisionally, which will change the way soldiers are assigned to cyber career fields.

September 23, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Having a single agency act as the cloud broker for the whole of the U.S. Defense Department's migration to commercial cloud services slowed the process too much, prompting a policy change to divvy up the duties among the services, says the department's acting chief information officer (CIO).

“The current status is [the Defense Information Systems Agency] DISA is still officially the cloud broker, because the memo is not out,” acting CIO Terry Halvorsen said Tuesday during a media roundtable discussion. “But we are going to make changes to DISA’s cloud broker role. The memo should be out by the end of October, maybe even a little sooner.

September 24, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
DARPA unveiled Wednesday its intention to launch the Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program, which could give prosthetic limbs a sense of feeling.

The primary research branch of the U.S. Defense Department is developing technology to make advanced arm prosthetics even more lifelike for amputees—technology that experts hope will send signals to the brain to indicate what the limb is actually feeling.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) unveiled Wednesday information on its new Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program, the first program for the nascent Biological Technologies Office, which opened in April. 

October 2, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
The tri-agency managed Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite in the cleanroom for inspection. With funding from Congress in the fiscal 2014 appropriations, it is slated to launch in January.

U.S. Congress has approved full funding for the prelaunch processes to continue on the tri-agency Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite system, developed to help monitor for potentially disastrous sun storms. The funding ensures systems are a go for a January space launch. It is set to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9, built by the private space technology company founded by Elon Musk.

September 19, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
The $1.4 billion JPSS program includes a series of advanced spacecraft, three satellites and a versatile ground system that controls the spacecraft, processes collected data, and provides information to NOAA's National Weather Service and the National Hurricane system.

If a key weather satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) goes down before its replacement launches, the agency needs to mitigate the forecasted gap in data collection by relying on commercial weather data, according to a U.S. congressman.

September 16, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

NASA has awarded its long-awaited Commercial Crew Development contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to build the next generation of spacecraft that will deliver astronauts to the International Space Station beginning in 2017. The two firms will build, deliver and launch space capsules of their own design to provide human access to low Earth orbit. Currently, U.S. astronauts can reach the space station only by purchasing seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft for $70 million each.

The total potential contract value will be $6.8 billion for spacecraft certification over the life of the contracts, according to Charlie Bolden, NASA administrator. Boeing will receive $4.2 billion, and SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion.

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