The ability to fly reconnaissance and combat missions without placing a pilot in harm's way has made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) the darlings of the defense and intelligence communities.

The Air Force's Predator has emerged as the star in the government's UAV program, but several others exist in the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and intelligence agencies.

Now, the Interceptor hears that the Defense Department is forming a one-stop clearinghouse for all UAV projects.

The Pentagon already has a joint UAV office at Nevada's Naval Air Station Fallon, which sponsors the joint test and evaluation program. That office, however, is limited to systems already in production, while the new office also would include research and development efforts.

The new office's operational structure has yet to be determined, and it may apply only to Navy and Air Force programs but could include all four services, according to officials familiar with the plan.

When it comes to information sharing, the defense and national security structure operates in a "need to know" environment, while the law enforcement communities are focused on a "need to prosecute," but Northern Command's chief information officer wants to mesh those cultures into a "need to share" information environment.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose, Northcom's CIO, said the "need to share" approach is the only choice at the new command, which is responsible for homeland defense.

"We're starting small," Meyerrose said last month at the E-Gov Homeland Security 2002 conference, sponsored by FCW Media Group. "We've gone the extra step of having face-to-face contact and mapped out the lowest common denominator of data and information exchange requirements at the tactical level."

In addition to first responders, another Northcom partner is Strategic Command's Joint Task Force-Computer Network Operations (JTF-CNO), which is in charge of defensive and offensive operations for all DOD networks.

Meyerrose said Northcom and JTF-CNO officials are identifying the common information elements among the organizations and adding Northcom as an addressee on message traffic and other data flows. That also means accessing JTF-CNO databases, but only those related to Northcom's domestic area of responsibility and not those pertaining to Stratcom's global mission, he said.

Perhaps no project in development as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has caused such intense public scrutiny and debate as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Total Information Awareness (TIA) system.

In theory, TIA will enable national security analysts to detect, classify, track, understand and pre-empt terrorist attacks against the United States by spotting patterns in public and private transaction and surveillance methods, including credit card and travel records, biometric authentication technologies and more.

But since speaking at numerous public forums last year to introduce TIA to the world, officials at DARPA's Information Awareness Office (IAO), including Director John Poindexter, have slipped out of the spotlight, taking themselves off the circuit and refusing requests for interviews.

But that's not all. DARPA's IAO Web site used to have biographies on Poindexter and other officials, as well as an in-depth description of the TIA program. The bios were removed late last year, and the program description has been simplified.

"We review and adjust our Web site periodically," said a DARPA spokeswoman, adding that IAO officials would not be doing any interviews until March.


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