DOD raises bar on security in space

Designing the Transformational Communications Architecture for the Defense Department's Global Information Grid will take 'stable funding and a stable vision of a common architecture,' the National Reconnaissance Office's Michael P. Regan says.

'We will have to build a generation of people to see it through' as administration policies and personnel change, said Regan, who heads NRO's Communications Functional Integration Office. He spoke late last month at the Satellite Application Technology Conference and Expo in New York.

Congress has authorized NRO director and Air Force undersecretary Peter Teets to set up a common framework for national security in space, Regan said. His office is cooperating with NASA, intelligence agencies and DOD to formulate 'a set of standards and technical baselines for space communications that will serve for the next 15 years.'

Information assurance is the toughest part. 'NASA is all public,' he said, 'but the intelligence community wants nobody to know they exist.'

Yet all three groups' security requirements must be satisfied, and the Homeland Security Department and emergency responders also will need to share some of the GIG's information securely.

Satellite communications for weather sensing, the Global Positioning System, and command and control are undergoing 'continuous growth across the government,' Regan said. 'Force restructuring will increase the demand'when there are fewer personnel in the field, they use more reachout and reachback.' Their satellite services will need 'high survivability.'

End to end, he's concerned 'not just about bandwidth, but where the bandwidth connects. The government is not going to invest a lot in compression technology for the big pipes in terrestrial networks,' he said.

But at the network edge, lack of compression technology makes the users feel 'stuck on dial-up' trying to exchange imagery and other tactical information, he said. 'They have a tremendous desire for network responsiveness, much like users in the wireless world.'

'Net-centric doesn't make sense everywhere,' Regan said. 'Bulk point-to-point transport is better in some places. You want IP for bursty traffic.'

Managing bandwidth and the IP transition are serious challenges for NRO, he said. So the agency is trying to put many types of communications on a single transport.

Hooking up

The military services all provision their own satellite communications, and the Defense Information Systems Agency leases 3.2 Gbps commercially. 'How do you hook all that up?' he asked.

Moreover, DOD's plan for launching transformational satellites by 2020 will form a laser backbone in space, operating at tens of gigabits per second'a space Internet analogous to the terrestrial one.

'We have a fairly clear vision for space technology,' he said. 'We need better waveforms for high data rates and better security against jamming. The software environment changes so fast that the TSAT software will have to be maintainable and even reprogrammable in space.'

Air Force Col. Thomas D. Shearer, chief of NRO's Strategy and Planning Integration Office, said NRO is 'starting to see threats' to the government's increasing satellite use.

'People have actively tried to jam satellites,' he said. 'We want integrated, agile, protected communications,' and how well protected a particular communications channel is can be a discriminator for national security purposes.

In an ongoing re-examination of satellite and services procurement, he said, NRO is meeting with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration, DISA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Strategic Command.

'We will come up with an action plan to protect our satellite systems, but we can't change processes overnight,' Shearer said. 'We'll work with industry to raise the bar' for security.

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