A Strong IT Industry for Defending Australia
For: The launch of
at Internet World'99,
2 August 1999
23 August 1999
Exploring the Networked Nation
The support for these proposals is in my book, "
Net Traveller: Exploring the Networked Nation
", published by the Australian Computer Society, this week. You can order the
book from the ACS, read it free on the web and there is a
brief slide show
also on-line. The on-line version of this presentation contains links to the
relevant chapters of the book.
An IT project to help Defend Australia
Abolish the Defence Science and Technology Organisation
Abandon Defence work on X.400 e-mail and other GOSIP technology
Establish a small Australian Defence Research Agency (ADRA)
Have ADRA fund research on robust and secure Internet networking and computing
Test the products developed in rural Australia
Export these products to the world
Establish the Australian Defence Research Agency
The Internet was developed with research money from the US Defence Department.
The level of funding used was very modest, when compared to projects, such as
the space program. If properly directed, the Australian Department of Defence
has sufficient funding to invent the next Internet.
According to the Defence Annual Report 1997/98 the Defence Science and
Technology Organisation (DSTO), is spending $230.3 million a year on R&D and
has 2,406 staff. However, DSTO research scientists are public servants and
subject to secrecy provisions. This is not an environment conducive to
collaboration with the private sector, or spin-offs of commercial products.
Several years ago, the US, UK, Australian and other western governments
developed the Government Open System Interconnection profile (GOSIP). This was
intended to provide a standardised way for government computers to communicate.
But the Internet came along and overtook GOSIP. Defence is about the only part
of Government still trying to get GOSIP to work. Our allies are not really
taking it serious and Australian Defence should give up on GOSIP and put its
efforts into making Internet technology secure and reliable.
In place of DSTO an Australian Defence Research Agency could be established.
This would be modelled on the US DoD's Defence Research projects Agency (DARPA)
and would work by contracting research to external R&D organisations. DSTO's
current budget could be cut to return a 20% productivity bonus to Government
and 10% of the remainder retained for administration (with 10% of the current
staff level). The remaining 70% of budget, would provide $161 million for
grants to Australian organisations to conduct research and development.
There is a strong synergy between the needs of defence IT and that of
Australia's rural community. Both need products which will operate in remote
areas, a long way from service and support, away from high speed permanent
network links and under demanding conditions.
Technologies developed for defence applications in Australia could have
immediate spin-off application for the rural community. In addition this would
be a good test ground for products for developing countries which lack a fixed
Below are some ideas for short term projects (six months to three years) which
would be likely to product large benefits for the Australian Defence Force,
products useful for the Australian rural community and export products.
CDMA Internet clients:
Telstra and other telecommunications companies have announced they will
provide CDMA mobile telephone access for rural areas. While not yet proven in
Australia, CDMA appears to be very suitable for Australian country areas for
mobile telephony. CDMA also provides a low speed data service (slightly faster
than GSM). This could be enhanced with smart client applications to provide a
very useable Internet service for rural areas. The same bandwidth techniques
could be applied for battlefield data networks. Some examples:
: This would be a wizard (helper application) to shrink the size of MS-Power
Point and similar slide presentations. Power Point is used for
, but can produce data files too big to send over a wireless network.
would shrink the file to between one tenth and one hundredth the size for
transmission. This can be done with no perceptible change in the displayed
: The web pages can display very slowly over low bandwidth links, such as
mobile phones and military data nets.
would provide a range of facilities to reduce the bandwidth required. Web
worker would also maintain an on-line session during breaks in the radio link.
: A slow link can be clogged by a few large e-mail messages.
would allow important messages to be selected for receipt and large ones to be
: The Internet is good for non-secure, non-reliable communications. However,
more work is needed to make it reliable and secure, particularly for wireless
networks, such as CDMA. Research could be aimed at the very demanding military
communications application, with spin-offs for commercial use.
: Research to help people in rural areas (and military commanders) to quickly
and efficiently find the information they need on-line, could be done.
Australia is already advanced in its use of on0-pline search technology. An
example is the Australian National University
technology, launched on Thursday.
Field Computer Usability
: How do you work a computer in a badly lit, noisy environment, perhaps while
wearing protective clothing and being bounced around by vehicle motion? The
military research this problem for use of computers in armoured fighting
vehicles. The same results can be applied to making computers in agricultural
equipment easier and safer to use. The same techniques can also be applied for
hand-held computers and for people with disabilities.
Low Cost Surveillance Platform:
In place of high cost surveillance aircraft, the use of
small pilot-less aircraft
could be developed. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology already has done work
in this field.
There currently exists a gap in the military market for surveillance aircraft
for military and civilian use. There are large, long range, long duration
surveillance aircraft (based on civilian passenger aircraft design) and small,
short range pilot-less craft (which look like model aircraft). However,
technology now makes possible small, long range, long duration pilot-less
craft. The BoM's
Aerosonde robotic aircraft
, has flown non-stop 3200 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean.
Small long range aircraft could be used for military observation, early warning
and communicates relay, in place of large manned aircraft. They would also have
application for civilian crop observation, bush fire and flood observation.
: One neglected aspect of use of the Internet is the need to retain the sense
of community between people. This applies as much to a military organisation,
as to a local community or rural produce group. Research is needed as to what
training, tools and techniques are best to allow for group cohesion.
About the author
is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of
Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University.
He is an electronic business consultant, author and information technology
professional, with 17 years experience in information technology, including
nine years on high level IT policy and five in Internet applications.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: 0419 496 150
Author's home page
Media Reports of the Talk
NSW: Secret Defence Organization should be scrapped expert
, By Chris Fogarty SYDNEY, Aug 1 AAP
Dump Science Unit, Adviser Urges
, By Bruce Juddery, Sunday Times, 1 August 1999, Page 2
Attack on Defence Department
, The Australian Financial Review, Tuesday 3 August 1999, Page 45
Defence Scientists Slam `Bizarre Suggestion' to Scrap Their Unit
, By Veronica Burgess, Canberra Times, 6 August 1999, Page 7
Research funding proposal "in the realm of the bizarre"
, Media Release 16/99, 3 August 1999, Defence Science and Technology
Organization (Internet Archive copy)
Cut 2000 DSTO jobs, says expert
, News Ltd. The Australian, Aug 10, By: SIMON HAYES