Pocket Glider

The Navy needs contractors to build prototypes of Dragon Eye, a 4-pound reconnaissance plane described as "low-priced, hip-pocket aerial reconnaissance for the troops."

The Naval Research Laboratory has built and demonstrated a model of the robotic airborne sensor system. It is equipped with a video eye and designed to be carried by Marine Corps scouts in backpacks. It can be assembled and launched in less than five minutes and comes with a portable control station. Although considered expendable, it will come when called and has the radar signature of a bird.

The new motto for Marine Corps scouts: A bird in the backpack makes you better in the bush.

Cyberwar Shortfall

Although the Pentagon has cranked out many documents in recent years outlining computer-warfare doctrine and instructions, it has yet to establish an effective policy for protecting software-controlled weapon systems, such as the next-generation F-22 fighter jet, from computer attacks. That's the opinion of Lt. Col. Lionel Alford, a computer programmer and aeronautical test policy manager with Air Force Materiel Command.

In an article in CrossTalk, an authorized Defense Department journal for those in the software community, Alford pointed out that most modern weapon systems are controlled by software and, therefore, vulnerable to intruders. But DOD doctrine focuses on information systems, especially those used for command and control. "The F-22 is not a closed system; external information systems update and integrate F-22 combat op-erations during flight," Alford writes. And yet "current doctrine does not address software as the major element of a military fighting system."

Contents of CrossTalk are not necessarily the official views of DOD. In this case, it must be true.

Gone Fishing

More than a few eyebrows were raised earlier this month when two senior Navy officials were seen strolling around California's Mojave Desert looking — dare I say it? — like fish out of water. The pair observed the Army's massive Division Capstone Exercise, starring the service's first digitized division from Fort Hood, Texas.

Rear Adm. James Strav-ridis, a member of the joint requirements board, which has a say in buying multiservice systems, explained that the Army's networking initiatives have implications for all the services to better share battlefield information. One system the board is especially interested in is the next-generation narrowband UHF satellite, Strav-ridis said, noting: "Coming out here and seeing the Army operations very much helps me appreciate how important that system is and will help frame the decisions we have to make about when to put up the satellite, what kind of capabilities they will represent for the services."

Aura-metrics? Forget It

DOD always wants the latest, greatest information technologies being developed in the commercial world. Biometrics technology, for example, is an area of growing interest. Biometrics is the use of such things as fingerprint or iris scans to identify those with access to facilities or networks. But DOD will likely never invest in some technologies, according to Jeffrey Dunn, chief of the Identification and Authentication Research Branch for the National Security Agency.

Vendors have approached him hoping to sell biometrics technologies using the pattern of blood veins in fingers, fingernails, body odor and even personal auras, those shimmering patterns of light that psychics claim surround each of us. Although it wasn't clear if Dunn was joking, he stressed that the Pentagon's interest in biometrics obviously doesn't extend to the "outer limits."

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