Tech at the Tip of the Spear

United States Special Operations Command has requested a Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation base budget of $427 million for Fiscal Year 2013 to prepare for the challenges of future conflict and to maintain SOCOM’s role a world leading fighting force. In their own words, ”USSOCOM is always interested in new ideas and evolving technologies generated by industry.” While some of the technologies Special Operations Command is looking into are weapons, vehicles, armor, and camouflage, a large portion of their “capabilities of interest” include advanced information technology.

For their biometric and forensic capabilities, SOCOM seeks mobile solutions to collect, compare, and match data as well as to exploit enemy networks in real time. They also seek portable field methods and systems to sense, detect, measure, and identify explosive composition and purity of explosive materials. Portable devices are also needed to detect hidden chambers, persons, or material. While such devices would be advanced sensors, they would also require mobile computing solutions.

USSOCOM is seeking research and development in numerous Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (c4) capabilities. These include high bandwidth technologies for secure imagery, full-motion video, sensor feeds, and multi-layered data bases and robust accredited devices for secure, self-forming, mobile ad-hoc networks. To secure these networks, the Command is looking for multi-level security systems that allow SOF to transmit voice, data, and full motion video to the lowest possible levels. As part of their Next Generation c4 initiative, SOCOM is also seeking to develop Big Data capabilities. These include synchronization, fusion, mining, indexing and dissemination of data from diverse sources and capabilities that fuse ad correlate battlefield information in numerous formats for advanced situational awareness in all environments. All together, Special Operations Command aims to “develop the ability to process, display, disseminate and exploit diverse information sources and databases through the use of multi-level security systems that employ advanced data mining and data warehousing techniques.”

U.S. Special Operations Command is also seeking advanced analytics. They want network analysis techniques for comparing and contrasting networks, groups, and individuals as well as well as detecting and analyzing network changes through space and time. They are seeking technologies for geospatial pattern trends that can show socio-cultural, economic, and demographic factors. SOCOM also wants analytics for measuring effectiveness, detecting changes in behavior or belief over time along with the factors that caused them, and analytical modeling of social networking media.

Though most don’t associate computer networks with special operations forces, SOCOM is seeking technology for cyberspace operations. It is looking information assurance throughout worldwide enterprise systems that also connect to joint, coalition, and partner networks. SOCOM is also interested in offensive and counter-threat capabilities, wanting to globally identify, attribute, geo-locate, monitor, interdict, and defend against threats while simultaneously being able to access, control, and disrupt enemy networks.

Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements also hinge on information technology, analytics, and Big Data. SOCOM seeks to identify and track targets using biometrics, unique mechanical defects, and augmentation of natural signatures. They want advanced processing techniques for the intelligence they gathered with secure data warehousing and data mining. Special Operations Command also seeks to improve communication and navigation technology on unmanned vehicles and data transmission on sensors.

Information technology is even central in the R&D for Special Operations Forces small unit dominance. SOCOM is seeking virtual weapons training that adapts to trainee skill level and experience, and situational awareness enhancing technologies to reduce casualties. SOCOM also seeks enhanced information operations and electronic attack capabilities for its weapons programs.

In Fiscal Year 2013, industry has a wide array of opportunities to help America’s leading warriors through research, development, testing, and evaluation of advanced information technology. U.S. Special Operations Command’s extensive requests for network, cybersecurity, Big Data, and analytic technology also proves that cyberspace is an increasingly important element of the battle space rather than a separate plane.

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