Figure 1. This image provides the base data representing a sample scenario in which viewers learn about the potential risks that may be encountered by building a factory (dark blue box) near our nation's embassy (light blue circle) in Bogota, Colombia. Critical data has been aggregated, filtered and analyzed to provider users with a greater understanding of not only the environment, but also relevant events that have occurred in the past such as kidnappings, bombings, violent crime and major traffic choke points.

Information Warfare

A Mission-Critical Vital Segment in Defense and Civilian Intelligence

Mark Dumas
Founder and CEO
McLean, Va.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the world changed, altering the kind of warfare our country will be engaged in for many years to come.

While terrorism wasn't new to our nation, facing a "stateless" enemy cap-able of executing the largest attack on civilians within our borders dramatic-ally altered our national priorities and our thinking on modern warfare needs. Suddenly, we were at war with an enemy that didn't have a capital, a flag, a province or even specific targets. The "game" had changed. The era of Information Warfare was born.

Fighting Back with Information and Technology

Industry responded to meet the demands of this new kind of warfare, developing technology that could be applied successfully to support military and intelligence communities, as well as federal civilian organizations, state governments and even commercial markets.

Different people and organizations have different descriptions of the growing area of Information Warfare. Some of them wrongly assume it's the version we most often see and hear about from Hollywood: scenarios that depict how the count-ry might perform in response to a network attack on the Pentagon or on U.S. intelligence systems information technology infrastructure. But Information Warfare, in its broadest sense, is the fight against all hazards, man-made or natural, through the processing of all relevant, available information using technology that helps us prepare for, prevent and respond to the worst that man and nature can unfold.

Data Collection and Fusion: Keys to Combating Terrorism and Insurgency

The individuals powering the war against us immerse themselves in the fabric of communities of the relatively good, and hide weapons behind curtains of innocent children, schools, hospitals and family homes. To combat an unseen enemy in this modern age, the keys are data collection and fusion.

Information Warfare uses data collection, fusion and distillation techniques to obtain accurate and timely information, thereby creating an advantage for the U.S. and its allies. Conduct of the war in Iraq provides a good example. Concrete knowledge is required in times when decisions are crucial, such as determining what house contains the bomb-making team that is intent on further destruction and loss of life.

In a civilian neighborhood where we can't afford to send soldiers or government law enforcement personnel to go blindly door to door—for both practical and political reasons—spatial information technology can play a critical role. The result is faster, actionable intelligence through predictive analytics. Reports and rumors and the analysis of social networks are distilled and fused to narrow down options.

New Technologies Keep Us One Step Ahead

In September, GeoEye sent up its satellite GeoEye-1, the world's highest resolution commercial Earth-imaging satellite. As more devices are developed and launched to listen, watch and communicate, and the frequency of collection increases, so does the quantity of data that requires distillation and analysis. For example, new technologies are now available that allow for data collection wirelessly, regardless of weather. The crucial role technology plays in the back-end management, distillation, assessment and analysis of this huge mass of relevant data is growing daily.

Conversely, the analytical capability and expertise of our nation is changing. A generation of intelligence analysts is beginning to leave their posts, with expertise built up during the Cold War. At the same time, the intelligence methods used are changing. The industry has moved away from Cold War types of analyses, and the technology and tools are becoming more complex.

Today, we have technologies that help analysts cut through the clutter, such as Signature Analyst, developed and released by SPADAC earlier this year. Signature Analyst is a decision support system that delivers enhanced objectivity by discerning subtle yet powerful and actionable insights, maximizing likelihood of success. Combining predictive analytics with spatial information, as well as human terrain and social networking elements, Signature Analyst delivers effective consequence modeling and improved confidence in decisions for a range of global operational and business challenges.

The goal of implementing these new technology systems is to stay ahead of the threat. It's about preventing another 9/11 disaster—being able to pre-empt and disrupt the plans of those with nefarious intent who would do us harm. It's about trying to get ahead of the curve. Information fusion and distillation make achieving that goal possible.

Intelligence to Prepare and Respond

Computer technology can be used not only to visualize, interpret and filter, but also to help prepare and react to occurrences.

Even for intelligence preparation for the environment, spatial intelligence technology can be used to develop relevant, effective operational and tactical plans to help visualize the battlefield and develop the course of action prior to ever leaving the briefing room. When preparing for the battlefield, whether it is a city block, mountain terrain or jungle, we can develop a 3D model of locations, identify what could happen, determine distances for escape routes, identify speed limits, assess how quickly vehicles can move across any given terrain, and more. All these predictive analytics can help even a relatively small operation be more successful, particularly those involving discrete teams of the special operations community who depend on information to ensure relative superiority over their typically larger adversaries.

Of course, this technology is equally valuable in assessing various forms of risk for non-military applications. For example, if a commercial or governmental organization were considering building a factory in Bogota, Colombia, that organization would need to complete an analysis of personnel and asset protection risk, based on their chosen location (see Figures 1 and 2). In this example scenario, to understand the potential threats, a wide variety of disparate data would be identified as relevant, correlated and ingested to provide decision makers with actionable intelligence on the status of risk. Data that might be included in such an analysis may include incidents of kidnappings, car bombings or other criminal activity in the surrounding area, potential choke points in roadways that would hinder escape routes, and other environmental factors.

Evolving Needs Dictate Increased Funding

As the nature of armed conflict and administrations change, demand will continue for cutting-edge Information Warfare initiatives and programs in the intelligence arena, including geographic information service (GIS) requirements as part of the Information Warfare landscape. Tremendous opportunities for innovative technology companies will abound in this field. Beyond the battlefield, GIS and related technologies and solutions also bring great value to civilian and commercial applications.

As funding has grown in this niche, the solutions and technology supporting the Information Warfare era have continued to evolve. The critical nature of Information Warfare makes it relatively immune to funding reallocation. Even if we have an aggressive defense funding cut, the area of Information Warfare should continue to increase.

Unlike jeeps or tanks—hardware required to support the forward warfighter—Information Warfare technologies are capable of fighting adversarial networks. When the right solutions and tools are implemented to allow teams to apply resources more surgically, to better position troops and equipment, and to help increase overall safety, the ability to minimize the loss of life or injury can create a significant return on investment.

Currently, appropriations supporting this segment are hard to quantify because the services and solutions that support Information Warfare strategies run throughout a cross-section of the federal government's budget. While the overall segment is still very minor compared with overall defense and civilian total budgets, a ceiling in the future is unlikely.

What the Future Holds

We've seen the efficiencies that result from predictive analytics tools, and we've been working to fill in the gaps. For example, we've been exploring solutions that are predictive in nature, such as location analysis and timeline analysis. We're also looking at unique solutions involving changes and patterns in time. Going forward, we will see those types of functions and technologies becoming more and more mature.

Technologies that can connect to databases to find non-obvious relationships are also becoming more and more valuable. As the quantity of information available to digest continues to build, computer technology will catch up. Already, the technology we're creating today is ingesting data in ways we couldn't have imagined 10 years ago.

For example, tools for collecting data are going to continue to increase in quantity and functionality. As a result, we'll likely see more collective device types, leading to more information we can cross-correlate for rapid non-obvious relationship discovery.

Also, there's a new generation of soldiers who are digitally friendly today. Let's face it: most soldiers have iPods in their flak jackets and laser i-sights on their weapons. More intelligence tools are being forward deployed every day, and that will continue, whether to soldiers in the field, to law enforcement in the city, or to safety workers during natural disasters.

Figure 2. By analyzing a wide variety of multi-variate data sources, each with their own relationship to environment, predictive analytics systems can help teams better understand the tactics, techniques and procedures of adversaries to enhance situational awareness and mitigate risks of all kinds. For example, this sample map generated by SPADAC's Signature Analyst tool illuminates hotspot areas that are geospatially similar to locations where past events of interest have occurred, allowing decision-makers to better anticipate threats and respond accordingly.

Ultimately, therefore, the future technologies will be tools that can be used by smart users—a broader group of users that will include even the warfighters themselves. There still won't be any magic buttons you can press to solve all problems or answer all questions automatically. However, the tools will do more of the heavy lifting and filtering for the subject matter experts and analysts, enabling analytical success through faster, more efficient data processing, information location, and knowledge discovery. There is still no way to replace that human factor, but we'll take tools another step further, making them more user-friendly and creating new form factors (dashboard or GUI interfaces) that enable use of complex information technology with minimal training.

Asking the Right Questions

The questions to be asked in developing future technologies for these tech-savvy individuals and groups will be more like these: "What do they need?" "How forward does it need to be?" "Which part of the solution needs to be done from D.C.?"

Opportunities for small businesses to play an important role to address certain deficiencies in existing systems and to come up with solutions will continue to be significant. SPADAC, for example, is working with an outstanding cadre of intelligence, defense, civilian, and commercial organizations to develop the most advanced tools available today. We look forward to continuing to help those and other organizations move the technologies and solutions within the Information Warfare segment further into the future.

Sensors & Systems | Monitoring, Analyzing and Adapting to Global Change | Stay in tune with the transformation. Subscribe to the free weekly newsletter.