Recent insider security breaches have put increased scrutiny on the U.S. intelligence community’s cloud computing plans. But cloud computing initiatives remain unchanged as the technology is expected to enhance cybersecurity and provide analysts with easier ways to do their jobs in less time.
TechNet Augusta 2013 Online Show Daily, Day One
As often happens when discussions focus on military technology, talk during the first day of TechNet Augusta 2013 zeroed in on people, not capabilities. Leaders today shared their ideas on human resources and how they would make all the difference modernizing the Army network during a time of lean budgets.
TechNet Augusta 2013 Online Show Daily, Day Two
TechNet Augusta had a different feeling Wednesday than is normal for military communications conferences. This fact is unsurprising; it was September 11. The people at this event are not those who simply wear yellow ribbons. These are the men and women who have fought the fights that have raged because of those hijacked planes. Until you spend the anniversary of terrorist attacks in a convention center full of military members and veterans, it is difficult to grasp fully the impact of more than a decade of foreign war or the dedication of some human beings to ideals such as freedom or country.
Officials at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, are developing a program that allows students from any academic discipline to work closely with the U.S. intelligence community in a variety of actual national security-related problems. The university is on track to begin offering a minor in intelligence analysis in the relatively near future and a major in the next five years.
Two ongoing military programs, one getting ready to deploy and another still in the prototype stage, aim to connect troops at the very tactical edge back to larger military data and communications networks. These programs—one service-oriented, the other an agency effort—are part of the Defense Department’s thrust to make warfighters, especially individual soldiers in small units, more connected.
Bureaucracies are slow to change, and few may be more anemic than the military services. With a foundational and personnel structure optimized for the Cold War and the industrial age, this unfortunate reality is acutely evident as the information age accelerates into ever more complex manifestations.
While some leadership principles remain constant regardless of the era, quite a few must be adapted to the realities of their time. Some of the characteristics already have defined, and will continue to define, effective 21st century military leadership.
Scientists are enabling DNA analysis to function as a virtual sketch artist to figure out who people are and what they look like even in situations with no eyewitnesses. The developments have particular application to counterterrorism but could affect a wider array of fields as well. Even more importantly, the personnel are developing bioinformatic software solutions databases to manage quick interpretation of data for usability.
The FBI is on schedule to finish implementing next-generation biometric capabilities, including palm, iris and face recognition, in the summer of next year. New technology processes data more rapidly, provides more accurate information and improves criminal identification and crime-solving abilities.
NATO officials are laying the groundwork for a centralized enterprise networking architecture with invitations to bid expected to be released by year’s end. The new approach is expected to offer a number of benefits, including cost savings, improved network reliability, enhanced cybersecurity and greater flexibility for warfighters.
A massive telecommunications infrastructure modernization effort in Afghanistan is designed to contribute to socioeconomic development; provide entry into the global information society; and support national prosperity, sustainability and stability. A key part of that effort is coming to fruition: officials with a telecommunications advisory group in that country expect the completion very soon—possibly this month—of a fiber-optic ring around the nation’s perimeter.
In his June interview with SIGNAL Magazine, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, USA, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, advocated bringing together the signal community, signals intelligence and the cyber community. In that interview, he said, “We need to think of ourselves not as signals, not as intelligence, not as cyber, but instead as a team that puts us all together.”
The exponential expansion of geolocation technology throughout all levels of society is presenting a range of challenges for policy makers eager to take advantage of the benefits while protecting personal privacy. Unfortunately, much of the discussion surrounding the challenges is fragmented or lacking in authority.
The U.S. Army Signal Corps is expanding the work its personnel conduct while dealing with technology and operational challenges that both help and hinder its efforts. On the surface, Army signal is facing the common dilemma afflicting many other military specialties—it must do more with fewer resources.
The U.S. Army should subject new technologies to developmental testing before moving them into operational testing at its Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs), according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Another recommendation, which is under consideration by the Defense Department, is for the Army to correct issues that arise during an NIE before buying and fielding systems.
The working group that helped solve the coalition interoperability puzzle in Afghanistan is working across the U.S. Defense Department and with other nations to ensure that the lessons learned will be applied to future operations around the globe. Experience in creating the Afghan Mission Network may benefit warfighters worldwide, such as those in the Asia Pacific, and may even be applied to other missions, including homeland security and humanitarian assistance.
My reflections on C4ISR are flavored by my recent reading of the book “From Pigeons to Tweets” (SIGNAL Magazine, April 2013, page 66) by Lt. Gen. Clarence “Mac” McKnight, USA (Ret.). In his book, Mac recounts the changes in every aspect of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the defense environment over the course of his long and distinguished career. Most prominent among these changes were the evolution of technology and capability, and what this meant to command and control and intelligence over time. If you haven’t read Mac’s book, I recommend it.
With the nation facing a new atmosphere of austerity and mandated budget cuts, now would seem to be the absolute worst time to target the federal government for defense-related technology contracts. Yet, for one business, tight government funding is more of an opportunity than a challenge.
One of the most frequent platitudes given by senior commanders to their subordinates is that “people are our most valuable asset.” While this very well may be true in the abstract, the U.S. Defense Department at large prefers to focus its efforts on more tangible items—namely, expensive weapons systems. Even in an era of rapid technological change, the human being remains the linchpin that determines victory or defeat. Yet, despite billions of dollars spent every year on cutting-edge research and development projects for equipment, very few programs are focused on optimizing the physical, psychological and intellectual capabilities of our warfighters.
The U.S. Army is working to ensure the future of autonomous air platforms by reaching out to the emerging talent in the academic world. Earlier this year, soldiers signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Alabama in Huntsville to engage students with work in this field as part of their education. The program aims to develop an innovative and prepared workforce in the future. Graduates not only will have had a more specific focus for their studies, but they also will be prepared better for the job market. Shaping studies now helps ensure that necessary skills are available to and even present in the Army later, according to officials from both the military branch and the institute of higher education.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing new control software to reduce the vulnerability of unmanned systems to cyber attack. This effort is relying on new methods of software development that would eliminate many of the problems inherent in generating high-assurance software.
Unmanned vehicles suffer from the same vulnerabilities as other networked information systems. But, in addition to their data being co-opted, unmanned systems can be purloined if adversaries seize control of them. This problem also applies to human-crewed systems with computer-controlled components.