Feature Article

May 1, 2021
By Kevin Tonkin
U.S. Marines assigned to the Defensive Cyberspace Operations–Internal Defensive Measures Company, 9th Communications Battalion, review network configurations in the current operations tent at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. The company executes defensive cyberspace operations for the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. Photo by Cpl. Cutler Brice, USMC, I Marine Expeditionary Force

The massive cyber attack on the United States via information technology vendor SolarWinds continues to send shockwaves through the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security as well as other agencies. Damage assessments are ongoing. If the U.S. government in general and Defense Department in particular are to successfully defend against attacks by well-funded, patient and highly motivated enemies, they will need to change their approach to defending their networks and systems.

May 1, 2021
By Michael Grebb, David Nolan and Gabriel Martinez
Managing access to information systems involving data about drug overdoses, federal threats, criminal justice information, geographical information system (GIS) mapping or physical access to a crime scene is central to today’s public safety information technology environment. The Tennessee Dangerous Drug Task Force is part of a pilot program to advance federated ICAM initiatives for first responders. Credit: Shutterstock/Victor Yang

Public safety agencies are seeking ways to reliably grant mission-critical information access to authorized users while also ensuring security and data integrity. Technical pilot projects sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency demonstrated cross-domain federated identity, credential and access management for secure information sharing for first responders in Texas and Tennessee.

May 1, 2021
By George I. Seffers
Air Surveillance and Interface Control technicians provide radar, radio and tactical data links to support the Sentry Savannah exercise at Hunter Army Airfield in February 2016. The Joint Tactical Networking Center supports interoperability among the military services and seeks to add new waveforms to the Department of Defense Information Repository.  U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Chelsea Smith/Released

Personnel with the U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Tactical Networking Center continually push to improve interoperability of waveforms used jointly across the military to save costs, enhance communications and ultimately fight more effectively.

May 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
Collaborative small diameter bombs are launched from the wing of an F-16 fighter. Four of the bombs were dropped during the second flight demonstration of the Air Force Golden Horde Vanguard in March.  U.S. Air Force

For some time, engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory have been developing network collaborative autonomous technologies. Munitions that operate in coordination with unmanned aerial vehicles, decoys and other systems make decisions, shift course and achieve a mission. The researchers have successfully designed platforms to support such capabilities, as well as developing and integrating the complex subsystems that support the networking, collaborative operations and autonomy.

May 1, 2021
By Robert K. Ackerman
A forward observer reports during an exercise with the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System. This system will benefit from the multidomain operation capabilities under development by the PEO IEWS.  U.S. Army

The U.S. Army is pursuing research into advanced technologies to further the service’s ability to conduct multidomain operations. Some of this research aims to improve existing capabilities by exploiting innovations, while others work toward basic breakthroughs in exotic areas. Many of these Army research efforts aim to draw from industry advances as they evolve.

For largely tactical multidomain operations (MDO), research underway at the Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEWS) focuses on the office’s specialties as stated in its name. Yet, these efforts would have far-reaching effects throughout the Army and the defense community as a whole.

May 1, 2021
By Shaun Waterman
The F-35, shown here in April 2017 on the production line at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility, was conceived as a joint project, the result of interservice collaboration, and continues to integrate some of the world’s most advanced avionics technologies.  Photo by Alexander H. Groves, provided courtesy of Lockheed Martin

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence published its final report this spring, grimly declaring that “America is not prepared to defend or compete in the AI [artificial intelligence] era,” and warning that “within the next decade, China could surpass the United States as the world’s AI superpower.”

May 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
An F-16 Viper takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in March 2020. F-16 Vipers from the 20th Fighter Wing have played a primary role in demonstrating agile combat capabilities in joint all-domain command and control (JADC2) experiments. Leaders from the Joint All-Domain Strategist course visited Nellis in March to learn firshand from the military’s JADC2 efforts.  U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Gutierrez

To prepare, operate and fight in joint warfare against near-peer adversaries across all domains will take adroit leaders who provide effective decisions in near or real time. The Air Command and Staff College, or ACSC, has set a course to do just that: prepare leaders to thrive and fight with joint operations in a contested environment on a global scale using joint all-domain command and control, or JADC2. Leaders in the class learn to plan and execute multidomain operations against possible threats on land, sea, air, space and cyberspace to lead through the challenges of the expected future operational environment in 2030 and beyond.

May 1, 2021
By George I. Seffers
The modernized Expeditionary Signal Battalions-Enhanced can move faster and communicate more effectively, Army officials say.  Andrey Suslov/Shutterstock

The new, lighter-weight equipment being delivered to the Army’s prototypal enhanced signal battalion allows the unit to move faster and communicate better, which ultimately should enable warfighters to shoot more effectively.

The 50th Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced (ESB-E) is an immediate response force that provides worldwide contingency, force projection and forced-entry signal support to the XVIII Airborne Corps for power-projection operations during war and operations other than war.

April 1, 2021
By George I. Seffers
With the National Institute of Standards and Technology expected next year to select quantum-resistant algorithms for encryption and for digital signatures, an NSA official warns that departments and agencies should begin preparing now to protect national security systems in the quantum era. Credit: sakkmesterke/Shutterstock

The national security community needs to prepare now for the possibility that U.S. adversaries could develop and deploy quantum computers, which would render useless most conventional encryption algorithms, says Adrian Stanger, senior cryptographic authority, Cybersecurity Directorate, National Security Agency (NSA).

April 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
Lt. Col. Brian Wong, USA, chief of market research for the Army’s Network Cross Functional Team (c), assesses the waveform strength of several mobile ad hoc network radio signals during a Rapid Innovation Fund capstone event in 2019 in Yakima, Washington. Engineers at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Research Lab are looking into how to build a large scale network of intelligent radios, among other tactical communications efforts.    USA/PEO C3T Public Affairs

Software-defined networks, commercial satellite communications, cognitive electronic warfare, intelligent radios and artificial intelligence applications all potentially offer the military advanced capabilities for the tactical environment, say Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s (APL’s) Julia Andrusenko, chief engineer, Tactical Wireless Systems Group, and Mark Simkins, program manager, Resilient Tactical Communications Networks. 

April 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood and Robert K. Ackerman
U.S. Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) 2nd Marine Regiment stationed in Kuwait perform live fire training. The 22nd MEU supports the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, from the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean. On the Joint Staff, the J-6 leader is preparing a strategy to guide the necessary development of joint all domain command and control, for operations anywhe

The U.S. military services are meeting the challenge of upgrading without losing needed capabilities as they march toward the goal of a common command and control system. By focusing on this approach, they are positioning themselves for convergence under an all-encompassing strategy formulated by The Joint Staff. In effect, their efforts represent a devolution from multiple branches to a single outcome that will unify all elements of the military.

April 1, 2021
By Shaun Waterman
NASA astronauts Shannon Walker (l), Victor Glover (second from l), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi (second from r), and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins (r), walk toward their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The November launch was the first time NASA personnel had traveled into orbit aboard a commercial space vehicle.  NASA/Joel Kowsky via Flickr

Ever since the Sputnik scare of 1957, space has been front and center on the U.S. national security agenda. Successive administrations have highlighted the essential role of space-based capabilities such as GPS, satellite imagery and real-time global communications in undergirding U.S. military power.

April 1, 2021
By Jörg Eschweiler
Nations participating in the Coalition Warrior Interoperability eXploration, eXperimentation, eXamination, eXercise (CWIX) communicated through the Joint Force Training Center Battle Laboratory.  NATO

Standardization in communications equipment benefits multinational troops in an international environment by enabling them to communicate, increasing situational awareness for all. NATO’s Federated Mission Networking capabilities, currently in various stages of development, have been paramount in providing consistency within coalition partners in recent missions such as Afghanistan. The lines of communication remain strong because of the joint contribution of the Federated Service Management and Control capability Germany led.

April 1, 2021
By Matt Toth and Richard Chitamitre
Training sessions, such as Cyber Shield 19, provide cybersecurity analysts opportunities to train, exchange best practices and test their cyber mettle. Credit: Army Staff Sgt. George B. Davis

The nature of military permanent change of station assignments can create gaps in the U.S. Defense Department’s protected posture to cyber assets. The current approach allows valuable institutional knowledge literally to walk out the door, often being replaced with inadequately prepared personnel walking in. This practice runs contrary to the Pentagon’s stated strategic goals that aim at building and maintaining a skilled workforce rather than solely acquiring new tools.

April 1, 2021
By George I. Seffers
DARPA’s Squad X program has taught researchers that artificial intelligence offers advantages not related to faster decision-making, and that electronic warfare systems can behave smartly without being equipped with artificial intelligence.  DARPA

Researchers have learned some surprising lessons from the technologies developed under the Defense Department’s Squad X program, which will end this year. For example, artificial intelligence may not help warfighters make faster decisions, but it does provide a planning advantage over adversaries. Furthermore, when it comes to detecting and electronically attacking enemy signals, systems can make smart decisions without artificial intelligence.

April 1, 2021
By Miroslav Nečas
The NATO Ministers of Defence meet in February to prepare for its summit later this year. Among the topics socially distanced attendees discussed were progress on burden sharing and missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Credit: NATO

NATO is at risk of losing its technology edge because of emerging and disruptive technologies increasingly developed within the civil sector. The growth of peer competitors’ determination, especially China, and the decline of technology education in Western countries are eroding the advantage they once skillfully held.

To address this state of affairs, the organization’s defense ministers are examining a number of activities. As a part of this initiative, the NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG) conducted a study to provide the industry view of the implications of emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) and Chinese advances in defense operations and military capability development.

February 1, 2021
By Mark S. Sincevich
Senior Airman Rose Li, USAF (l), and Airman 1st Class Eric Gardella, USAF, 86th Communications Squadron wing cyber readiness technicians, monitor malicious network activity during exercise Tacet Venari at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in 2020 to prepare local cyber defenders in safeguarding critical technological infrastructures. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer

The federal government has been taking zero trust more seriously. Although a significant part of it has yet to be implemented, some initial work has been completed with zero trust network access, yet the outside-in approach to zero trust and complexity remains. But the more important aspect of zero trust relates to application and workload connections, which is what attackers care about and is not being protected today.

This “other side” of zero trust and a host-based micro-segmentation approach will lead to greater security and will stop the lateral movement of malware. Constituting multiple pilot projects is the best way forward in the inside-out approach to zero trust.

February 1, 2021
By Robert K. Ackerman
A sailor keeps watch aboard the USS John S. McCain as the guided missile destroyer asserts navigational rights and freedoms under international law in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) routinely conducts freedom of navigation operations as part of its mission to ensure free and secure passage in the vast region.  7th Fleet

The push toward multidomain operations is geared toward meeting the multifaceted threat U.S. forces face worldwide, but its effects already are being felt in the Indo-Pacific region. Three nation-state adversaries, each with its own flavor of threat, are influencing U.S. efforts in that vast region to maintain peace and security.

February 1, 2021
By Robert K. Ackerman
A U.S. Navy operations specialist communicates with bridge wing watchstanders aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Sterett. The Navy is moving full speed ahead on its modernization efforts, but it needs more rapid insertion of information technologies into the fleet and ashore.  U.S. Navy photo

The U.S. Navy is looking for speed—not speed of platforms or vehicles, but of innovation. Introducing new capabilities into the force rapidly is vitally important to maintain the combat edge necessary to deter or defeat adversaries that are building up steam in their efforts to confront the U.S. military.

This will require tapping industry for innovative information technology advances. Ensuring that speed of capability may require working with the commercial sector to steer it into the right areas to suit naval needs. Ultimately, software-defined systems may hold the key to keeping ahead of the deployment curve in technology-based systems.

February 1, 2021
By George I. Seffers
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) successfully tests a solid-state laser weapon system demonstrator. Directed energy weapons, along with hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence and other advanced systems, are on the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s priority list.    U.S. Navy photo

The potential proliferation of hypersonic weapons highlights the need to advance a wide range of other technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, laser weapons and fully networked command, control and communications systems, says George Kailiwai III, director, requirements and resources (J-8) for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

February 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
An eight-ship joint coalition formation flies over Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, during exercise Cope North 2020 in February 2020. Guam is proving to be a strategic hub for the United States’ efforts in the Indo-Pacific region, the military’s priority theater.  U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.

Always strategic, the island of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean in Micronesia is playing a growing role in the contested, troublesome, near-peer competition environment. The Defense Department is investing more into the military facilities of this U.S. territory, including adding networking and bandwidth solutions; joint all-domain command and control; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance solutions as well as additional U.S. forces. The measures will add key communications and advanced capabilities to the island as well as increase the military’s power projection abilities.

February 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
The director of operations of the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron speaks to the aircrew of a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer during a Veterans Day flyover at Asan Invasion Beach on Guam, November 11, 2020. Communications capabilites, whether they are for a ceremonial flyover or for vital military operations are necessary to Guam and the vast and remote Indo-Pacific region, and are something that the Defense Information Systems Agency is investing in heavilly.  U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Owsianka

Given the remoteness of the Indo-Pacific region and the growing role of Guam in the theater, the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, has been heavily investing in information technology and communications capabilities for the U.S. territory.   

February 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
Sailors deployed with the expeditionary mine countermeasures capability of Task Force 75 and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen recover a MK 18 Mod 2 unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) onto a combatant craft in Pago Bay, Guam in November. The Navy is working to add considerable unmanned capability to the fleet with UUVs and unmanned surface vehicles of all sizes to support a number of naval missions.  U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Brock

In the last few years, the Naval Sea Systems Command, or NAVSEA, has made great progress in advancing the Navy’s vision of developing a family of unmanned surface vehicles and unmanned undersea vehicles, says Capt. Pete Small, USN, program manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS-406), Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants, NAVSEA. The service is pursuing an aggressive effort to add unmanned vessels, as well as improve autonomous capabilities and the supporting open architecture that enables autonomy across various platforms.

February 1, 2021
By Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, USN (Ret.)
Researchers are tackling maritime situational awareness challenges on multiple fronts. This traffic graph and density map, extracted from automated identification system data of ship routes in the Ionian Sea, aids in establishing a baseline for maritime traffic analysis and prediction.  Artwork by Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation/ Data Knowledge and Operational Effectiveness

Mariners can obtain situational awareness of surface maritime traffic by looking out to sea and by using devices such as radars and automated identification system transponders on ships. These systems can identify vessels along with pertinent data about their voyage. But these methods have limitations. Master mariners with powerful binoculars can tell a lot just by looking at a ship far off in the distance; however, they can’t see beyond the horizon, in bad weather or at night. The horizon even limits radar and transponder data can be manipulated or deleted.