DOD advancing high-tech projects

Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration descriptions

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The Defense Department has approved funding for 15 new technology projects, ranging from miniscule unmanned aerial vehicles to homeland security coordination among the nation's first responders, as part of a program designed to rapidly field these advanced concepts.

Sue Payton, deputy undersecretary of Defense for advanced systems and concepts, announced the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) projects for fiscal 2002, and said about 30 past ACTD products are supporting the nation's counterterrorism initiatives.

"The primary role of my team at the Pentagon is to rapidly transition technologies from the defense and commercial developers into the hands of the warfighter," she said during a March 5 Pentagon briefing.

One new program that will be tested soon is a homeland security package designed to coordinate the efforts of state and local first responders with DOD personnel.

The ACTD homeland security project will provide secure, interagency network connectivity to ensure that emergency workers don't face the radio, telephone and digital communications breakdowns that occurred after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Payton said.

"This is basically a communications project, but it's also about getting data together for situational awareness," Payton said. She added that a demonstration would take place next month in New Orleans with assorted government agencies responding to a terrorist attack scenario.

Three ACTDs selected for initiation in fiscal 2002 are classified, but Payton identified three others as being the most likely to be fielded in the next six months to a year:

* Micro Air Vehicle — An autonomous 6- to 9-inch disposable vehicle designed to provide small ground combat units with situational awareness of enemy activity, which could be especially useful in urban areas.

* Pathfinder — An integration of unattended ground vehicles, unmanned air vehicles and smart sensors in a mobile network providing enhanced situational awareness, command, control and communications to commanders and assault forces for urban reconnaissance.

* Agile Transportation — A system that shows transportation requirements and assets, similar to the commercial capabilities of companies like Federal Express.

The remaining information technology-intensive ACTD projects include:

* Coalition Information Assurance Common Operational Picture — Details the information system security status of all mission-critical systems on a near- or real-time basis in support of commander-in-chief and coalition missions.

* HYCAS — A hyperspectral collection and analysis system with sensors integrated onto operational platforms and into existing architectures in support of deception intelligence operations.

* Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal-Knowledge and Technology Operational Demonstration — A system that provides a new integrated capability for joint and coalition explosive ordnance disposal forces and will include an always-on telelink from field officers to experts via a handheld device.

* Language and Speech Exploitation Resources — A system that automates the translation of spoken or written languages, for quickly translating documents, debriefing witnesses and supporting communication in coalition operations.

The total funding for the 15 approved ACTD projects is $159 million from the advanced systems and concepts office but will significantly increase when the military services decide what their contributions will be, Payton said.

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