Data Packets

Air Force publishes UAS blueprint

The Air Force has published a detailed plan for fielding an entire family of unmanned aircraft during the next 40 years, including the need for a range of information technology and communications based on open systems.

Those include creating standard unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) interface data rights needed for the service-oriented architecture the Air Force will use on the future network-centric battlefield, in addition to the development of new command and control systems based on open architectures.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009 to 2047, issued July 15, also calls for the creation of new simulators that will enable what eventually will be simulator-only operator initial qualification for the pilots that will fly the unmanned aircraft.

The plan is a template for how the Air Force will look on its 100th anniversary in 2047, Gen. William Fraser, Air Force vice chief of staff, said at a July 23 Pentagon briefing.

The plan describes the need for a wide set of unmanned vehicles, ranging from small vehicles that can be carried by people, including “micro- and nano-sized” vehicles to medium fighter-sized and large tanker-sized aircraft, and special vehicles with unique capabilities.

All the vehicles would be built on a common set of airframes, will carry modular and interoperable payloads using standard interfaces, and will be capable of operating autonomously.

Among other near-term actions, the plan calls for a migration away from a reliance on satellite communications to a tiered network system that can support current operations while providing a bridge to the UAS vision through technologies such as the open systems-based advanced tactical data link.

Developing personnel who are experienced in UAS employment and operations is also a prime focus of the plan, and it lays out the options that could be used for the career paths of UAS officers and enlisted aircrew.

— Brian Robinson

Forge.mil, SIPRnet collaboration begins

The Defense Information Systems Agency has announced its Forge.mil collaborative software development tool is now available on the Defense Department’s Secure IP Router Network.

DISA’s granting of Interim Authority to Operate for Forge.mil on SIPRnet will give developers in DOD access to a host of software development and testing tools for open-source and DOD community-licensed software in a classified environment, the department said July 20. The move will allow developers to build applications for use with data classified up to secret, significantly broadening the types of applications that can be developed in the Forge.mil community in DOD.

The secure Forge.mil site already has active projects being built on it, said Rob Vietmeyer, Forge.mil project director. “The SIPRnet capability was driven by some work [the Strategic Command] and the Army were doing,” he said. “The first project on board [the SIPRnet Forge.mil] was Strategic Command’s.”

"This was a remaining crucial capability to offer our DOD development community,” Vietmeyer said. He said he expects about 500 users for the SIPRnet side of Forge.mil in the first few months, growing to a few thousand as capabilities are added. He said most of these projects will most likely focus on command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications that require data on SIPRnet.

Forge.mil is a Web-based software collaboration tool based on TeamForge software from CollabNet, provided to DISA by Carahsoft Technology. The service is hosted on servers owned by the Navy, but Vietmeyer said work is being done to move Forge.mil to DISA’s Rapid Access Computing Environment, a cloud computing platform DISA is offering to services through its Defense Enterprise Computing Centers. “It’s a RACE-like service right now, but it’s not in the RACE cloud,” he said. “We’re working this summer to move it into a RACE environment — that’s scheduled for October release.”

Forge.mil, previously available for free on the Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network, is available to the U.S. military, DOD government civilians, and DOD contractors for new and existing software projects. All users must provide their code to rest of the community. There are 500 contributors working on 93 registered projects on Forge.mil, with more than 2,200 users total registered to access and download code.

Because it offers a way to manage projects collaboratively and allow users to contribute and distribute code, Forge.mil helps development projects save money, improve efficiency and deliver software better and faster to DOD users. In addition to the TeamForge software, DISA executives plan on deploying four more components to Forge.mil in future releases:

  • CertificationForge, a tool for the certification of software.
  • ProjectForge, a service that will provide organizations that pay DISA for the service with private project development and management portals.
  • StandardsForge, which will drive collaborative standards development.
  • TestForge, which will provide on-demand software testing tools.

Forge.mil also provides a way to rapidly distribute projects to early users. The top download on Forge.mil, Vietmeyer said, is the Common Access Card interface for the Firefox Web browser, which has had more than 300 downloads so far by registered users.

— Sean Gallagher

Air Force boosts e-mail security

All Air Force network directory and e-mail service will be controlled by a centralized authority under a new chief of staff directive, providing what officials expect will be a significant boost to the security of the Global Information Grid.

The service, called Active Directory and Exchange (ADX) is the most visible immediate effect of the directive signed by Gen. Norton Schwartz, which granted the Air Force Network Operations commander with overall order issue authority over the operation, defense, maintenance and control of Air Force networks.

That move is a part of the Air Force’s program to transform cyber operations servicewide. Individual commands will no longer own their networks, Schwartz said in a broad e-mail to Air Force personnel, though they still are responsible for their portion of the Air Force GIG.

ADX will substantially boost network security by doing away with all of the different setups that the various commands have used to manage their own e-mail and directory services.

Implementation of ADX “is one building block we must [put in place] to streamline management and configuration of our network,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Schissler, director of Air Force cyber operations.

At the personal level, Air Force personnel and contractors will now use only a single e-mail address no matter where they work. Until now, addresses have been based on the site and organization they were assigned to.

The new ADX service follows an initiative called E-mail for Life (E4L) that the Air Force launched in early 2007. In addition to setting up the process for single e-mail addresses, E4L was designed to provide senior leaders with the ability to directly e-mail members of the Air Force.

E4L addresses have existed alongside site-specific addresses, but the new ADX service will do away with the latter.

The Air Force said it expects to move all 750,000 Air Force e-mail users at 240 locations around the world to the new service by the end of 2010.

— Brian Robinson

DOD to launch Web 2.0-intensive site

The Defense Department will launch a new home page Aug. 15 that incorporates Web 2.0 technologies as part of a militarywide and governmentwide effort to use new media capabilities, a DOD official said recently.

The Web site, at www.defense.gov, will be a complete overhaul of the existing site, said Les Benito, public Web director at DOD’s Defense Media Activity office. The site will include new modes of user participation, and interactivity will be a significant factor, he said. Benito outlined the plans for the new site at the Open Government and Innovation Conference in Washington.

Users will be able to post questions for high-ranking military officers or the defense secretary, give their own feedback about DOD services, and take advantage of other similar interactive features, he said.

“We’ll be basing a lot on things like user feedback and search results,” Benito said. “It’s like a portal to the Defense Department — how to do business with us, how to get involved. Some of it will be similar to Google monitoring,” a feature that tracks Internet traffic.

Benito said he hopes the new features will tap into social media’s explosive popularity and help capture the coveted demographic of people who are 18 to 24 years old, a group that has eluded DefenseLink, DOD’s departmentwide home page. Users in that age group account for only about 4 percent of DefenseLink’s visitors, while most fall into the age range of 48 to 54 years.

“These new technology tools change the way people look at the organization, the way people look at information and how collaboration takes place,” said Michael Piller, experiential learning manager of the Information Resources Management College at the National Defense University. “These tools are incredibly powerful,” he added.

— Amber Corrin

DISA private cloud serves as personnel system

The Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, is preparing to move its personnel support applications to a software-as-a-service model hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency. DISA will host the Air Force's personnel customer service and self-service applications from RightNow Technologies at its Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECC). RightNow will maintain the applications in a similar fashion to its privately hosted SaaS offering.

The AFPC effort is the largest to use the DISA private-cloud system for human-resources management thus far, but it’s not the first, said Col. Glenn Rattell, director of personnel data systems at AFPC. “The U.S. Army [human resources] system has already moved to the DISA platform — in a smaller scale than us,” he said. “But we were not the first service to do this. This is going to be a DOD-wide effort.”

The Air Force uses an on-site installation of RightNow Technologies' RightNow customer relationship management to handle an Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network-based, Web self-service system for airmen and civilian employees of the Air Force to manage personal information changes and other personnel office requests, and a call-center application for agents at AFPC to assist with over-the-phone requests. “Those requests can be as simple as changing their duty title, all the way to when their time in service has come to an end, they can come into the site to retire or separate from our Air Force,” said Col. Bill Foote, director of personnel services at AFPC.

The new, DECC-based platform will allow RightNow to maintain the software centrally and upgrade the software quarterly, as it does for its customers using its own private data center. The Air Force will be able to add licenses for customer-service agents as required instead of purchasing a block of licenses in advance.

The AFPC has been using RightNow for more than seven years on-site, said Kevin Paschuck, vice president of public sector at RightNow. “They have nearly a thousand agent [licenses] to date, and they'll be growing that to well over 5,000 over the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.

The immediate benefits of switching from a local installation of RightNow to a DISA-hosted cloud version of the software, are twofold: providing continuity of operations and modern technologies, Rattell said.

The RightNow partnership with DISA also means that the applications have already gone through the Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process. “Traditionally, before DOD goes live with a system, they have to buy the hardware and get it accredited,” Paschuck said. “That could take anywhere from three to 12 months, depending on what level program it is. Once you do that, you've got to implement the software — usually a 12-month process — and then have to go through another certification process of six to 12 months. With this model at DISA, it's a truly approved solution. You get a full license, it's fully accredited, and now that business problem is really getting solved in 90 days.”

— Sean Gallagher

Dugan named new DARPA director

The Defense Department appointed Regina Dugan, president and chief executive officer of RedXDefense, as the new director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Dugan was a program manager at DARPA from 1996 to 2000, where, among other projects, she led the Dog’s Nose Program, which focused on developing an advanced, field-portable system for detecting the explosive content of land mines.

“Regina Dugan is precisely the dynamic leader DARPA needs to open new technology frontiers and transition revolutionary technologies to serve our nation’s interests,” said Zachary Lemnios, director of Defense Research and Engineering.

After leaving DARPA in May 2000, Dugan served in executive positions at several companies before co-founding RedXDefense in 2005. The company develops defenses against explosive threats.

During her time at DARPA, she received several awards, including Program Manager of the Year, the de Fleury Medal and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Exceptional Service.

Dugan has participated in studies for the Defense Science Board, the Army Science Board and the National Research Council and Science Foundation, and she sits on the Naval Research Advisory Committee and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Science and Technology Panel.

She earned her doctorate in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology and her master's and bachelor's degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Dugan is the 19th director of DARPA, DOD's central research and development office.

— Kathleen Hickey

Industrial base must be part of defense review

The Defense Department should begin incorporating in its budget and policy decisions factors that affect the U.S. industrial base to ensure that weapons-making capabilities are available in future years, according to a new report from the Aerospace Industries Association.

Specifically, the report urges DOD to address industrial base issues in its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) now under way, the report states. DOD will submit the report to Congress early next year.

Because the industrial base is “highly vulnerable to market conditions and decisions by the Defense Department” it is imperative that top DOD officials address its needs, Marion Blakey, AIA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement July 13.

The QDR gives a long-term, strategic view of DOD and what capabilities it will need to maintain U.S. national security. The secretary of defense provides direction for the QDR, while the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provide direct oversight.

DOD has not considered the industrial base in past QDRs, and continuing on such a course might have dire consequences, AIA said.

Future strategy decisions should be made with an appreciation of the likely effects on industry capability to avoid situations that could take decades to resolve, the report states.

The report also states that a significant gap has opened between DOD’s view of industry as an always-ready supplier of military weapons and equipment and how industry makes decisions on what capabilities to offer. This gap continues to widen as military technologies become more specialized, industry consolidation continues, and DOD procurement and research budgets decline, AIA said.

To remedy the situation, AIA said DOD should:

  • Institutionalize defense industrial base consideration into strategic processes, such as the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and future QDRs.
  • Better account for defense industrial base considerations in the acquisition and planning, programming, budgeting and execution processes.
  • Restore the Secretary of Defense/Industry CEO Forum.
  • Continually assess the industrial base from a more strategic perspective.
  • Reinvigorate congressional oversight and review of defense industrial base issues.
  • Ensure that the military services and industry focus research and development on competitive design and development and efficient production.

— William Welsh

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