Data Packets

The latest developments in the areas of open-source software, knowledge management, social-media policy, communications equipment and battlefield sensors

New rules promote use and sharing of open-source software

New Defense Department guidance puts open-source software on the same level as commercial software and urges DOD agencies to evaluate it on an equal basis with proprietary offerings. The guidance also encourages services to share copies of open-source software internally, whenever possible.

"To effectively achieve its missions, the Department of Defense must develop and update its software-based capabilities faster than ever to anticipate new threats and respond to continuously changing requirements," wrote acting DOD Chief Information Officer David Wennergren, in a cover letter to the guidance that was issued Oct. 16. "The use of open-source software can provide advantages in this regard."

The guidance answers a variety of questions that have arisen in the military about the use of open-source software, particularly about procurement and sharing. It supersedes earlier guidance issued by then-CIO John Stenbit.

When military services procure software, they should regard open source as just another form of commercial software, the guidance states. When evaluating possible software choices, the service should consider the benefits of open source, such peer reviews of code, the freedom from relying on a single vendor, potential licensing issues about reusing the software, and potential cost savings.

"While these considerations may be relevant, they may not be the overriding aspects to any decision about software," the guidance states. "Ultimately, the software that best meets the needs and mission of the department should be used, regardless of whether the software is open source." The memo also warns that services should not use open-source software without a support contract.

The guidance also states that the programming code of open-source software qualifies as data, as defined by DOD Directive 8320.02. Because "open-source licenses authorize widespread dissemination of the licensed software," the military can share open-source programs across the department.

The guidance clarifies that any changes that a service makes to an open-source program do not necessarily need to be shared with the public, though the services should strive to share changes that do not compromise national security, such as code fixes and enhancements, whenever possible.

Questions about the memo can directed to Daniel Risacher, who handles enterprise services and integration issues for the office.

— Joab Jackson

Evolving defense environment takes center stage at Milcom

The evolving combat environment has rendered the traditional strategies of the Defense Department ineffective, and the need for a joint effort across the military services is the chief catalyst for developing new approaches, according to DOD officials speaking at the Milcom 2009 conference held in Boston in October.

Integrating communications networks and defense systems will not be easy but is necessary, several senior military leaders said. The toughest challenges include quickly fielding new technology, managing all the elements of the international coalition effort in Afghanistan and Iraq, and finding funding to facilitate the transition.

“Today it’s a constant fight. The good old days of traditional warfare, when it was us vs. them” are over, and the center of power has shifted from military might to communications, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, commander of the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. With modernization struggles and grim budget realities, “we’re going to have to be a lot smarter with doing what we can with what we’ve got.”

In a networked world, the greatest challenge relates to data solutions, Bowlds said. New technologies can quickly become outdated, and the military needs to stay current with the latest technologies that quickly deliver information capabilities to service members on the ground.

“If we aren’t careful, our [technology] will become a dinosaur because the technology moves so fast,” Bowlds said. “We do everything we can to get the technology in the hands of the warfighter in less than 12 months, because if we don’t get it there in less than 12 months, that technology is worthless."

Achieving that goal will require a shift in traditional defense thinking, several military leaders said.

Conference speakers called for joint communications and coalition operations and a renewed strategic approach to defense.

“We can no longer afford to go it alone. We have to work together,” said Army Lt. Gen. Dennis Via. He also highlighted the need for common standards, centralized governance, improved command and control, and speedy deployment of capabilities.

They said the need to evolve military strategy emerges from a dynamic threat that is constantly changing. “No longer can we believe threats can be easily categorized," said former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "We have to tear down these categories and rebuild” an approach that engages terrestrial and cyber warfare.

Chertoff added that modern threats require a coalition that includes military services, government, industry and the general public. “Since we never know how the threat will come, we need everybody to be involved in homeland defense,” he said, calling for convergent tactics to address national security. “Technology will be a major part of tackling the evolving threat."

— Amber Corrin

Knowledge management poses cultural challenges

Defense Department officials are finding that knowledge management often does not fit easily into daily operations.

The goal of knowledge management is to develop organizational strategies for culling and disseminating information, experience and insight and administration. Meanwhile, DOD has compartmentalized operations, security worries and other distinctive needs.

“Commanders want to tackle [projects] that can be completed on their watch, which doesn’t work with knowledge management,” Ronald Simmons, director of knowledge management integration at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said Oct. 15 at the DOD Knowledge Management Conference in Washington.

Meanwhile, agency officials should not say they've achieved knowledge management because it's an ongoing discipline.

“If you think you’ve [succeeded in knowledge management], you aren’t doing knowledge management,” said Robert Neilson, knowledge management adviser at the Office of the Army Chief Information Officer. “There is no timeline.”

Also, often the difficulties with knowledge management are less about governance and more about the work styles of employees.

“People are not accustomed or trained for collaboration. It’s a cultural issue,” added Bobby Caudill, solution architect at Adobe's Global Government Solutions division.

Business consultant Art Schlussel advises officials to develop a plan that integrates knowledge management into their organization at multiple levels, looking at strategic viewpoints, daily operations and tactical applications. “It’s a discipline, and it needs to be approached as such in order to be effective and sustained,” he said.

However, industry executives say the benefits of knowledge management make it worth the difficulties.

“This is an opportunity to tap into the next frontier. This is a game-changer,” said Kay Adams, vice president of talent and organization performance at Accenture National Security Services. “This is a new work environment, and in this world, people can work whenever, from wherever,” she said.

If done well, knowledge management can lead to better productivity because employees will spend less time searching for the information they need, Adams said. “On average, knowledge workers spend two hours a day looking for information to do their job,” she said.

— Amber Corrin

Mobile radio business competition stays heated

As the Joint Tactical Radio System’s Ground Mobile Radio moves closer to Defense Department testing, Harris is demonstrating that many of the capabilities sought from GMR are available now with its Falcon III AN/PRC-117G radio. However, Boeing’s GMR project team is defending GMR’s role.

The military services, including the Air Force’s Special Operations Command, already are acquiring the 117G. It has been certified by the National Security Agency for Type-1 information security. The GMR radio, the official JTRS radio for the ground domain, is now entering the testing phase of development and is expected to enter limited user testing sometime next year, Boeing officials said.

Boeing’s GMR program manager pointed out in a press briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in October that its radio system exceeded the capabilities of the 117G. “The [Boeing GMR] was the only radio to meet all of the requirements of the JTRS GMR program. No alternative system meets all the GMR requirements,” said Boeing’s Ralph Moslener, program director for Boeing’s JTRS GMR team, which includes Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins and BAE Systems. The team had to meet more than 37,000 individual requirements from the Joint Program Executive Office for JTRS’ GMR program, he said.

Meanwhile, on the expo floor at the AUSA conference in October, Harris product managers and engineers demonstrated the 117G running a fully routed, digital broadband network, using Harris’ Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) on one segment and early releases of the JTRS Wideband Networking Waveform and Soldier Radio Waveform, bridging the two together with a router connected to two 117G radios. As part of the demonstration, Harris linked handheld and laptop PCs running the Tactical Ground Reporting System, traditional push-to-talk communications circuits, a voice-over-IP telephone network, video and other situational awareness data across radios configured with both ANW2 and JTRS waveforms.

Harris also demonstrated that the 117G could be connected via a mobile satellite antenna to Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network in places where line-of-site communications don’t work, even though the BGAN connectivity could not be demonstrated from inside the Washington Convention Center. The configuration demonstrated by Harris allowed the 117G to switch to satellite communications when it could not establish a terrestrial radio network connection.

— Sean Gallagher

Army fuses sensor lab with ground networks

At the Army’s C4ISR On-the-Move Event 2009 in September, Lockheed Martin demonstrated its new Airborne Multi-Intelligence Laboratory. The AML aircraft, a repurposed Gulfstream III corporate jet, was converted to a test platform for evaluating the integration of multiple intelligence-gathering sensors on board a single aircraft. The flight team includes analysts who correlate the intelligence data and make it available to ground units via a network connection.

“A little over 10 or 11 months ago, Lockheed Martin made investment decisions in particular that looked at where the customer set was going — some of their higher priority needs,” said Jim Quinn, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Services-Defense. These decisions were driven by defense priorities around the globe, particularly in the realm of intelligence,  surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he said.   

Lockheed Martin first intended AML to provide the company's civilian and defense customers a way to evaluate how well technologies worked together and provide a test bed for connecting sensors to enterprise service-oriented architectures, such as the Distributed Common Ground System, Quinn said during a press briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in early October. The company is considering whether to partner with aviation companies to lease the capability to the Defense Department and other government agencies on a contingency basis, he said.

The AML is part of a cooperative research and development agreement with the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate of the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Command (CERDEC) as part of I2WD’s Persistent Surveillance test bed that is operating at the Naval Air Engineering Station in Lakehurst, N.J.

In a short amount of time for testing, Lockheed Martin and I2WD were able to integrate the AML’s systems into a Distributed Common Ground System-Army intelligence-sharing network. “They used their [communications intelligence] system to geolocate and map communications emitters that were involved in the exercise,” said Charlie Maraldo, the I2WD project manager for the Persistence Surveillance Testbed. “They had an [electro-optical and infrared] imagery asset on their aircraft. And they connected with our ground station via a Common Data Link system provided by L-3 Communication Systems West in Salt Lake City. [For] their ground station component, we integrated [it] into our test bed [ground station] shelter, and we federated their DIB — their DCGS Integration Backbone.”

The C4ISR On-the-Move event came only a few weeks after Lockheed Martin had taken delivery of the aircraft from a company that was refurbishing it, said John Beck, a business development manager at Lockheed Martin, who was on site at Lakehurst for the event. “So as a first event right out of the door, we were very happy with it. Because of the exercise and the threat environment they were portraying on the ground, we worked a lot of communications intelligence, cuing our electro-optical on board sensors to get a real targetable location very rapidly from an initial [communications intelligence] fix, or a direction-finding location.”

“We also had a lot of success interacting with the Army ground processing architecture, their Distributed Common Ground System-Army,” he said. “We had a DIB operational on the aircraft, we had a ground station for AML with a DIB operating, and the Army inside of the ground area there at Lakehurst had another DIB working. And we were able to federate all those.”

Maraldo said that although there are no immediate plans by the Army to do further work at CERDEC with the AML, “We definitely plan on continuing this relationship with them. Lockheed has stated an interest in that, as they had literally just finished the aircraft, so we only used a portion of its potential sensor capability. We’ve expressed interest in continuing this type of relationship and exploring the possibility of putting third-party sensors onto their platform for research and development.”

— Sean Gallagher

Army sees benefits in social-media presence

Social-networking tools are playing an increasingly important part of the Army’s strategy for communicating with the public, despite the inherent security risks, said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, director of the Army’s Online and Social Media Division.

Those security risks continue to be the subject of considerable debate in the Defense Department, but the Army sees important benefits in using social-media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, Arata said.

Those benefits include the ability to establish a presence on social-networking sites and “provide the official Army voice,” he said.

Arata, who spoke about the use of Web 2.0 tools in government at the 2009 American Council of Technology/Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference Oct. 26, said as many as 500 people were speaking on behalf of the Army on various social-networking sites.

“We need to be out there,” he said.

However, he cautioned, it’s important for agencies to have a clear social-media strategy.

For the Army, that means ensuring that interactions with social-networking site audiences are relevant, that the Army’s information is accessible to as many people as possible, and that it is establishing a dialogue with audiences rather than simply delivering information.

Arata said more than 66,000 people had signed up as fans on the Army’s Facebook site, and nearly 15,000 were receiving messages on the Army’s Twitter site. The Army also uses YouTube.

The social-networking tools also play a role in supporting communications within the Army, Arata said, with more than 250 official social-media sites across the Army.

Arata said he and the Army have learned several lessons about working with social-media sites.

  • Think strategically, but don’t wait for the perfect plan.
  • Emphasize education, not regulation, for Army users.
  • Mix your messages with traditional media and bloggers.
  • Concentrate on tactics, techniques and procedures. Teach what can be done and how to do it.
  • Brand your organization across all sites.
  • Check out organizations similar to yours who are successfully using social media.
  • Find at least one person who works above you who is — or can be made into — a social-media believer.
  • With Facebook, remember, dialogue is audience-to-audience, in addition to Army-to-audience.
  • Be willing to assume risk.

Arata also outlined some of the challenges the Army faces with using social media, including:

  • The importance of explaining what you are doing and why. Your information technology, legal and public affairs professionals might not understand.
  • The need to get skeptics to sign up for social-media accounts to help build experience.
  • Promoting operations security and common-sense use. Ask users if they would post the information they’re thinking about in their own front yard.
  • Resource management and the need to match resources to engagements.
  • Relevancy. Everyone wants to play with social media but not everyone needs to engage directly.
  • Measuring and assessing impact and deciding what actions to take.

— Wyatt Kash

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