A European army's battlefield digitalization initiative has reached maturity with the wide-scale production of a networked command, control, communications and intelligence system for its mechanized forces. The equipment provides commanders with a near-real-time representation of the theater of operations and marks the location of all known allied and enemy forces on a digital interface. It also allows units such as infantry, artillery, armor and attack helicopters to share information to enhance situational awareness and reduce decision-making time.
A new World Wide Web-based service allows emergency first responders to access government databases, conduct live online collaborative meetings and send encrypted e-mail in the event of a terrorist attack. Designed to serve a variety of user communities, the secure network service's home page provides links and information on terrorism, disaster mitigation and homeland security issues.
Federal agencies responsible for citizen safety are utilizing the latest in technology to improve delivery of disaster assistance information and services to citizens and the emergency responder community. As Americans began using the Internet for everything from managing bank accounts to buying groceries, some U.S. government agencies realized that they were not meeting the needs of their computer-savvy constituents. Although citizens could find a plethora of information on the Web, critical government-held information that could save lives and property after a natural or man-made disaster was lacking.
While the U.S. Defense Department continues its quest for transformation, federal agencies are undergoing a transformation of their own. Earlier this year, a task force, under the direction of the Office of Management and Budget, launched 24 e-government initiatives that will change the way citizens interact with agencies and bureaus. The goals of the effort are to make it easier for individuals and businesses to work with government agencies and to cut costs by eliminating procedural and information systems redundancy.
The U.S. Air Force is undergoing a change in its operational capabilities as significant as when missile-armed jets replaced gun-bearing propeller aircraft. Information technologies, which long have enhanced weaponry and improved capabilities, now are taking their place alongside other key types of hardware as defining elements in Air Force operations.
Industry is focusing on how to reduce computer system complexity by modeling the human body's autonomic nervous system. From servers to software, researchers are building all components of the infrastructure based on the same characteristics-regulation and protection of key functions without conscious involvement. Autonomic computers will make more decisions on their own and require less human intervention.
Information systems are an important part of U.S. military transformation, but they are only one component of a complex continuous journey for the armed forces. Culture, processes and concepts also must change, and government agencies across the board must transform as well for the United States to retain its leadership role.
The success of operations in the Persian Gulf indicates that advanced communications systems are sure to be among the crucial assets put to use by military and government agencies as they work to ensure homeland security. TechNet International 2003 speakers reiterated this point as they shared their views about the importance of information systems in the war on terrorism and in government agency cooperation. Changes continue to take place in technology, policies and procedures, they agreed.
Military and federal government leaders agree that information systems will be key enablers in forming the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and protecting the nation. Speakers and panelists at TechNet International 2003 shared information and insight about the road ahead for the department and how industry will support its work. One chief concern is how to facilitate coordination and collaboration between federal agencies, among various levels of the government and within multiple emergency response organizations.
Everything is "transforming" these days. Our economy, our military, our nation and our place in the world are all under immense pressures to change, to dramatically alter what we are to keep up with what we need to be.
The U.S. Air Force is moving its communications and command and control systems to an on-demand, Internet-based model. This will consist of wired and wireless data pipes connecting ground installations, aircraft and satellites in a seamless architecture. However, while many parts of this structure are in place, the service still faces the challenge of establishing and managing what will become a massive system of systems.
Within the next decade, the U.S. Air Force plans to field a rapidly deployable satellite launch capability to support joint and coalition operations around the world. By working with the national research and development community, the service aims to identify and nurture technologies that will enhance the nation's military space efforts.
A new generation of autonomous, problem-solving robots will soon be entering commercial service. Recent advances in computer processing power have allowed researchers to design prototype machines that can navigate in unfamiliar surroundings unassisted. Using a variety of sensors, the robot creates a constantly updated three-dimensional map as it goes through its routine. It is this self-navigation that is finally placing mobile robotic systems on the verge of commercial viability, scientists say.
Ken Dahlberg sometimes likens his burgeoning high-technology business to a high-speed ride at a Disney theme park. No, he is not being sarcastic-far from it.
In just six years, Dahlberg's information systems and technology (IS&T) group at General Dynamics has become one of the largest and most respected outfits selling technology services to the nation's defense and civilian agencies.
U.S. Defense Department science and technology investment is transcending the requirements model of the past in a shift from threat-based to capabilities-based thinking. While researchers are examining areas such as avionics, materials and nanotechnology, military leaders are exploring how cutting-edge developments can move more quickly from the laboratory to the field.
During the past 18 months, the topic of security has been explored in the pages of SIGNAL Magazine in dozens of articles and in at least a half dozen commentaries. Security also has been a priority for AFCEANs worldwide whose responsibilities range from ensuring network security to offering professional training, to enforcing disciplines and compliance and investing in technology. We know that we must set the bar very high and demonstrate that intrusions or disruptions of our networks is not an option. As information technology professionals, we recognize that security is a social, legal, technical and cultural issue and are working hard to cover all the bases.
An increasing emphasis on information security is prompting experts in the technology industry to follow the lead of the medical and legal professions, which feature a system of specialties and subspecialties. One major accreditation organization is taking a closer look at the government sector and addressing the distinct circumstances of information security specialists in that arena. Once specific issues are identified, they could affect the certification process as well as influence public policy.
A review of U.S. Defense Department information systems using a code analysis process has found no evidence of deliberate infusion of vulnerabilities into applications, but it has found instances of bad coding practices and programmer shortcuts that have left systems open to attack. The vulnerabilities found would not have been easily detected by an outside source, but they were open doors for an insider who wished to exploit them. The systems were hosted on extremely critical networks where a breach could have catastrophic consequences.
One of the key factors inhibiting the growth of the wireless fidelity market is security. The attractive wireless technology that offers a wide range of applications also is generating a wave of uncertainty about the fidelity of its connectivity.
U.S. Army communications facilities in Okinawa, Japan, are using an automated alarm management system to monitor legacy equipment that is not interoperable. Consisting of an easily installed remote unit and management software, the system permits administrators to control multiple proprietary devices from a single on-screen interface.