A tactical technology support organization that has been serving the U.S. Marines for decades is beginning to find a role in the cyber domain. The group offers a broad range of services, including test and evaluation, engineering and network integration. It also supports users across the Defense Department, U.S. government and allies.
The U.S. Air Force is using big data analysis tools to create a picture of a battlefield or area of interest that can be monitored in real time as well as stored and replayed. By merging sensor streams with data tagging and trend detection software, this capability will allow analysts and warfighters to observe, track and potentially predict enemy force operations based on their observed behavior.
The rise of new global flashpoints along with a strategic rebalancing are presenting the U.S. Navy with a new set of challenges and obligations concurrent with significant force reductions. The sum of the budget cuts would be enough to tax the service under any circumstances, but they are being implemented against a backdrop of a broader mission set and increased activities by potential foes.
U.S. Marines are testing novel solutions to provide the necessary security and legal safeguards that will allow commercial, personally owned devices on their networks. If successful, the service could recognize a substantial monetary savings in mobile phone expenses and open the door to future cost decreases in other areas.
The government’s overall mobile strategy should reduce total ownership costs in the mobile space. The Marine Corps alone could save $3 million a year by changing the way it executes mobility in garrison. Those command operations and maintenance dollars then could be funneled to other needs such as training, fuel, ammunition or batteries.
Over the past decade, I have participated nearly each year in the Association of the U.S. Army Industry Day at the United States Army War College. In the afternoon, an industry representative spends about three hours in each student seminar of about 20 officers. I have always participated in this seminar portion. One item that has emerged over the years in these meetings is that many who spend their professional careers in the public sector have an uncomfortable sentiment about the concept of profit. In general, the feeling persists that companies providing goods and services to the armed forces should make at most a modest profit.
Open source intelligence, which is gained from the public domain, is certainly not new. Intelligence professionals have used open sources as long as intelligence has been gathered and utilized. So what is different today? Why is open source intelligence (OSINT) getting more attention and the commitment of more resources?
First, the volume of available open source information has increased dramatically as technology has made the creation and dissemination of content easier. The Internet is the source of much of this growth. Traditional newspapers have been digitized all over the globe.
Nuclear weapons are back in the news. Those concerned about the Middle East watched warily as the United States and others labored to rein in Iran’s budding nuclear ambitions. Interested citizens heard of low morale and troubling disciplinary issues afflicting our nuclear missile launch teams. On a somewhat lighter note, film fans marked 50 years since the premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s satiric gem, Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. We sure do not love the bomb—we never did, really—but we also do not worry much about it these days. Perhaps we should.
The U.S. Marine Corps has combined two signals intelligence programs as part of its efforts to drive efficiency and enhance expeditionary operations. Streamlining activities for manpackable and vehicle-borne versions of similar capabilities increases both flexibility and redundancy in the field for the users.
To address a changing mission amid broader challenges, the U.S. Marines are implementing the service’s future warfighting strategy this year through training, war gaming and experimentation. The strategy calls for forces to be dispersed over wide areas and will require technologies that enhance warfighters’ effectiveness over greater distances.
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 open source domain has a set of vulnerabilities unique in the intelligence world in terms of both what enemies can misuse and critical pieces that might be absent. Because of the public nature of open source, some experts tend to discount its value, while that same feature means that patient malefactors can put together different sources of data leaking through various measures until they develop a comprehensive, damaging picture. Different technologies are helping to mitigate the dangers as the public and private sectors also work to educate their people on safer practices.
Researchers working on behalf of the U.S. intelligence agencies can use reams of open source, anonymous data to foretell social turmoil such as disease outbreaks or international political unrest. Once fully developed, the capability to predict coming events may allow U.S. officials to more effectively respond to public health threats; to improve embassy security before an imminent attack; or to more quickly and effectively respond to humanitarian crises.