Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 14 – Planning– Major General Mike Fenzel

We just held our fourteenth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was Strategy, Plans and Policy in the Joint Staff.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous thirteen classes here.


Some of the readings for this week included CNAS “The Next Defense Strategy” series, Sustaining the Future of Indo-Pacific Defense Strategy, Enhancing Forward Defense: The Role of Allies and Partners in the Indo-Pacific, Make China the Explicit Priority in the Next NDS, the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, Lessons for a Future War

Our guest speaker was Major General Mike Fenzel, Vice Director for Strategy, Plans and Policy, J5 for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Chiefs are advisors to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff submits a national military strategy biennially to Congress. The Joint Chiefs have no operational authority over troops. The chain of command for military operations goes from the President to the Secretary of Defense directly to the commanders of the combatant commands.

The mission of the Joint Staff J5 is to propose strategies, plans, and policy recommendations to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to support his provision of military advice to the President and other national leaders across the full spectrum of national security concerns. The J5 ensures these recommendations are informed by a larger strategic context–coordinated with interagency and alliance partners; account for the view and requirements of the combatant commanders; and assess risk in executing the National Military Strategy. The J5 is one of eight primary staff directorates in the Joint Chiefs of Staff organization, which is depicted below.

The diagram below is a summary of the DoD’s Adaptive Planning and Execution Enterprise. The top right shows the civilian-military dialog that gives the military direction for the development and execution of military plans. The purple box in the middle is where the Joint Chiefs of Staff – and General Fenzel’s group — help develop the National Military Strategy (NMS), Joint Strategic Campaign Plan (JSCP), Joint Military Net Assessment (JMNA) and the Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO). These plans drive the detailed military plans and courses of action.

A major emphasis of this course is appreciating that developing technologies is not what directly impacts modern war but how these technologies are adopted by militaries to develop new operational concepts, doctrines and strategies. Given this, we thought the class would benefit hearing from one of the top officers in the U.S. military responsible for developing our military’s strategies and plans for conducting future wars.  I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of General Fenzel’s key insights and urge you to read the entire transcript here and listen to the audio of his complete talk.

How is Defense Policy Formed?
Policy is formed starting at the Joint Staff with advice. It’s referred to as the best military advice. That’s what we as a Joint Staff tee up for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since he is a principal military advisor to both the President and the Secretary of Defense. Most of our time is spent ensuring that that advice can be formed and offered in a concerted and thoughtful way. And that it takes into consideration all of the conditions, circumstances and opinions of the combatant commanders.

You’re sitting through what’s called an operational deputies meeting, which is the precursor to something that’s referred to as a Tank (the nickname given to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Conference Room in the Pentagon). And that’s where all the service chiefs and all the Combatant Command commanders and all the Joint Staff directors come together. And they decide how they should proceed before a recommendation goes to the Secretary of Defense. It’s a very big deal.

There is a painting on the wall of the Tank with Abraham Lincoln and his commanders; it’s called The Peacemakers. I think it’s important that painting is on the wall because that reflects how we all feel. Those who experienced war are the ones that hate it the most.

Global Integration of Operational Plans
In the past, when we talked about Operational Plans for combatant commands like Central Command, or INDOPACOM, or a European Command, we didn’t think about global integration. We would be developing those Plans in isolation because it was us against one adversary or another. Now it’s not that neat. It’s not limited to a given region, or area of operation. There’s cyber, there’s space. There has always been the nuclear issue. But cyber and space alone demand global integration. If there is a threat in one region, there are implications in other regions as well.

We refer to this as a “global integration framework.” We’re developing a framework for how to think about the problem, instead of launching right into a given course that might be irrelevant the moment the plan is completed. There’s a lot of effort involved in thinking about what can be done early, what can be done as the crisis is brewing, to get us to what we call “off ramps” — a position where we steer away from conflict. And that’s an area that I’m most obsessed with and most interested in — off ramps to conflict, rather than moving to conflict because of the far-reaching complications associated with any conflict that might erupt.

There’s a Need for AI in Operational Planning
We have a desperate need for artificial intelligence to be brought to bear in this environment. We have something called operational plans. We have an operational plan for just about every scenario you can think of. Every adversary, every condition, every circumstance, we have an Oplan that’s numbered. I have them on my desk. I’m looking at them. It is an eight and a half by 14 sheet of paper, with size 10 font. It’s all the way filled up with all of our Operational plans.

But each one of those Operational plans is for essentially a moment in time. That means, this is how many forces are applied against it, how many tasks have to be accomplished, this is the way the flow is going to go, these are the phases. All brilliant, except as soon as you’re done with it, it’s almost irrelevant, because things aren’t going to go the way you plan them to go. The very first minutes of any battle are going to change that. It’s going to change the requirements as well. So if we had that ability to knock back down these silos and take the variables, input them and then collate them quickly based upon the way the Chairman or these commanders would like to think about it. Or what if we change this variable or that variable, we would be in a much stronger position. So that’s something we need help with, to provide us greater agility. But there must be a way to develop a mechanism by which we can think through these things quicker, and change variables in order to provide additional options.

What’s your process to try to predict what’s going to happen so far down the road?
The short answer is that it’s challenging. Not a moment goes by without us considering how we should test or evaluate one of those concepts. We have an entire Joint Staff Directorate that is devoted to thinking about the future. The Office of Net Assessment in the Office Secretary of Defense (it used to be run by Andy Marshal and now Jim Baker) is focused on thinking out to 50 years. But the bridge between where we are today, and where we’re going to be in 30 years, that’s the J-7 (Joint Force Development) thinking hard about developing a concept, that’s considered in iterations and critiqued.  In these Tanks and other forums, over and over again, we consider what are the tenets of this future concept going to be?”

Once it’s established it’s immediately going to be tested in the form of tabletop exercises and in global integrated exercises — where all the Combatant Commands and all the services are involved. And then after each one of those tabletop exercises, and after those integration exercises, which last about 10 days or longer, we take the lessons learned, and we put them right back and correct the concept as it’s developed. The feedback we get from the regional commands and the services is obviously at the heart of it. Their lifeblood is to determine what the requirements are going to be in terms of weaponry. What are the requirements are going to be in terms of technology? Where are we are going to be potentially fighting so that we’re in a position to respond? And things like hypersonics, things like directed energy, all of those things are being worked quite actively.

But if they’re not applied against a concept that addresses how we how we fight, then it’s disjointed and then not effective in the end. So it’s the synchronization of those two — the commands and their perspectives, the services and their responsibility to train and equip the force — coupled with how we press forward as a joint force, which is how we refer to all the services and all of their roles, that’s the glue. And that’s what happens up here at the Joint Staff.

How has your thinking changed in the last couple years realizing that we don’t have 30 years to deploy exquisite systems? Might we want to get back to these fast, disposable things that we could deploy rapidly, or have we not gotten there?
We’re moving in that direction purposefully. What we’re concerned with on the Joint Staff and across the combatant commands and the services, is how we leap ahead. What is it going to look like? And what are those things that we’ve been doing, because the military industrial complex is so powerful, that we don’t need to be doing anymore? What are systems that are no longer connected to the way we’ll fight in the future? Those things that are going provide us future dominance on future battlefields of whatever variety, whatever shape. We want to move purposefully in that direction, but not walk away from the potential for a shooting fight to develop and us not be in a position to respond with overwhelming force.

You see what’s going on in the Nagorno Karabakh right now. And you realize that this is moving in a clear direction, but perhaps not at the pace that we might believe. So we’ve got to create a balance between that high-end fighting and cyber warfare, and some of these other things that are clearly going to develop and become far more important in the future.

If the US military has a conflict where would we fail?
It’s the issue of force projection. It’s the time and distance. If you’re talking about a European Theater you’re talking in terms of hours. When you talk about Indo Pacific, you’re talking about days. Then there is the concomitant challenge of logistics. And as you start to distribute your forces, they are almost by definition, they begin to be cut off. So how is it that you project force, maintain force and supply the force? Working through those challenges, that is crucially important.

So we need to speed up the cementing of these alliances and coalitions. Otherwise, there’s simply no way to bridge these distances. No way to effectively address the overwhelming requirements for force projection. And by that, it can be sea lift, air, you pick the type, it’s just not possible to do it on our own. And it’s not possible to do it with previous alliances alone. They’ve got to expand. Because if we go to war in the future, we’re certainly going to go to war as an alliance, as a coalition. The development and cementing of past close relationships and then bringing in other strange bedfellows into this alliance is something critically important to consider. There are the traditional partners, like Australia and New Zealand and the Philippines. There are others that we’d welcome to be brought in as well, like Vietnam, like Indonesia. That sort of work is diplomatic to be sure, but that is going to be the most important thing.

What should future American global alliances look like?
In the Indo Pacific, the thing that I believe has to be addressed much more intensively is the Indo part of Indo Pacific. India and the potential to cooperate more closely with United States to advance shared interests is a critical step to take. The timing is right, as you’ve watched some of the events unfold on the border between India and China. But that’s one that is going to take time. Because it’s moving away from what was a more solitary approach that they’ve taken up until recently, to where perhaps it can go.

We have to be more strategic in the way we consider it right now. What you see now is a sort of hyper-focused obsession with China. And I’m not saying that’s the wrong approach. But I am saying it can be limiting. We’re expanding beyond just the Indo Pacific because China has expanded far beyond the Indo Pacific.

A Global Alliance has to consider where China is located. They’re in Africa, they’re in South America, they are globally represented. And they’ve done so quite strategically, I just believe in the development of alliances and whether that be through countering the Belt and Road initiative and engaging those countries, when it comes to overflight, basing, and things like that. Those things are critically important to consider. And it can’t simply be limited to IndoPacom. Because China is not limiting themselves to their region.

Obviously, their backyard is what China focuses on the most. And the Taiwan Straits are a hot-button issue. And the South China Sea is something there’s great intensity about when we talk about freedom of navigation operations. But of course, in our own back yard China is also engaging countries within our Western Hemisphere. And so, as we develop these alliances, we have to give as much thought to their development as was given to NATO in the development and its origins as well. I understand there are some that exist already. There’s ASEAN, there’s others. There’s a number of those that are related directly to the Western Hemisphere. But we can be more thoughtful about how we knit these together.

Should the Joint Staff have a structure for the acquisition of capabilities, making sure it matches the modernization of our operational concepts?
Embedded in that question is this issue of how long it takes to get anything done. If you decide something is worthwhile purchasing. It can 10 years before it becomes a fielded requirement, which is not acceptable. That’s where we need to take a page from the private sector and apply it. We have to find a way to cut through the bureaucracy and move more quickly. There is an entire command that cuts through bureaucratic friction very, very quickly. And that’s Special Operations Command.

Why and how that hasn’t been expanded and become more pervasive I’m not entirely sure. There are Congressional limitations and legal issues associated with it. But I believe that’s a model that that needs to be replicated. I also believe, and perhaps this is what you’re suggesting, that there should be some level of capability pushed down well below the major command level. So from the four-star level, perhaps down to at least the two-star level, which is normally between 10,000 and 20,000 troops, to address their needs. Because as you deploy troops, whether it be a task force, or a ground force, they all have unique capabilities. And the inability for us to adjust to the new threats as they present themselves quickly, is critical.

We have to build into the systems for acquisition a method by which we can be far more agile. It needs to be pushed down to an appropriate level to allow for units to be more agile and to adjust if there’s a change of mission. If you’re going into Africa, and that’s your focus one month, but then you’re moving to into INDOPACOM and another you’re must be able to then shift your focus and prepare yourselves quickly for what might come whether that be off the shelf, or otherwise. But the future is going to demand that we become more agile as it pertains to acquisition.

How do you view the balance between conventional versus Special Operations Forces and how does that translate in a conflict with a near peer competitor?
I think the operative word is balance. I don’t think there’s any conflict we should ever be involved in — whether it be near peer or otherwise — without having a combination of the forces where they’re complementing one another – where one or the other is reinforcing. I’ll give you an example and it’s rather an emotional example, but it’s illustrative.

Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan that led to the death of four of our Navy SEALS you may have seen the movie Lone Survivor. I was the acting Brigade Commander in what was Regional command East at the time. The commander was on leave. A group of five SEALS came in to coordinate on an operation they were going to be doing up in the hills above the Korengal Valley. We had a conversation, they walked through the mission they were going to be conducting. I suggested they delay the operation for about four days. A full battalion of Marines – 900 Marines – were going to be operating in that same area by then and they would have been in a position to be a QRF. The SEALS opted to stick with their planned timeline.

Three days later, you had the MH-47 (helicopter) crash. You had the loss of four SEALS. To me that has always stood out as a demonstration of the imperative of the complementary nature of both conventional and special operating forces. And when you’re talking about fighting a near peer, and having been in in Desert Storm, you had special operations forces working in a very different way. They were focused on SCUD missiles at the time. But what they were doing was preparing the way for the conventional forces to flow forward.

There are 1,000 different permutations of that. But if the relationship between the conventional force and special operations forces is not close, if there isn’t true integration, then you’ve got a much more difficult problem set as it pertains to whatever conflict with whatever enemy force you’re speaking about. And then there are cases with this two plus three; we talked about the three – the last one being violent extremist organizations. Special Operations Forces, they can’t go anywhere without conventional support. Whether to provide security, quick reaction force, or whatever the case may be. So I think defining and cementing this approach to complementarity and reinforcement, that is at the at the center of what all future plans should consider.

Do you think that the State Department should also be expanded to meet that increased need to cultivate greater cooperation?
You’ve just put your finger on a hot-button issue for me. I worked there for a year and a half. The commitment and the investment in the State Department and frankly in diplomacy, is about 1/20th of what it should be. I’m not suggesting the military should be drawn down and the diplomatic force should be expanded. I am absolutely suggesting that the State Department should be expanded to a point where it’s commensurate with the demands that are placed upon it.

When I traveled it was clear to me how overstretched each Country Team at our embassies was. It didn’t matter what country or embassy we were in. Every person had four or five jobs, all of which are critical for the conduct of diplomacy in that country. I was overwhelmed at how hard they were working to keep things moving forward to support US interests. Overstretched and underfunded.

The military prides themselves on the close relationship they have with their diplomatic counterparts. We depend on one another. Certainly, the diplomats depend on the military for protection, but it’s far, far beyond that. It goes into the complementary nature of our respective missions. And that is precisely what prevents conflict. I think in the places where we don’t have engagement, those are the places where the greatest threat exists.

A dramatic expansion, both to the funding and to the infrastructure to support it, is terribly important. I know, you’ve heard the quote of Secretary Mattis, “I far prefer for my diplomatic counterparts to do the work they have to do than me to have to expend one bullet.”

Advice to students?
Don’t ever lose the level of learning you feel right now and the intensity by which you’re pursuing it. That in my experience differentiates those that move up quickly whether in the military or private sector. It’s the intense curiosity, the intellectual curiosity, that demand for more information. One of my closest friends, I find him online on a regular basis, taking online courses with MIT, just trying to figure out some aspect of AI that he didn’t understand. And he pursues it zealously. That, I think, is one of those character traits that you’re going to have to maintain throughout your entire career if you want to get to the level that you’re driven to.

Read the entire transcript of General Fenzel’s talk and listen to the audio.

Lessons Learned

  • There’s an Operational Plan for everything
    • Today they’re all drawn up by hand
    • Wars and contingencies never play out as they are planned- but planning is still critical.
    • There’s a real opportunity for AI in planning
  • Force projection in Indo-Pacific is a time and distance problem
    • How it is that you project force, maintain force and supply the force when it would take days?
    • The answer is more fully leveraging the potential of our allies and partners
  • Alliances matter
    • The State Department is the military’s partner in building and maintaining alliances and coalitions
    • But it is woefully underfunded and understaffed
  • Acquisition is not meeting DoD requirements, but Special Operations Command has seemed to find a way around it

Steve Blank

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 13 – ONR– Rear Admiral Lorin Selby

We just held our twelfth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was The Navy and Modern War.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous twelve classes here.


Some of the readings for this week included Defense Primer: Dept of the Navy, Navy Lasers and Railguns, Navy Large Surface Combatants, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans, Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles, China’s Navy Modernization.

Our guest speaker was Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, Chief of Naval Research, United States Navy.

Admiral Selby is responsible for the Naval Research Enterprise. It is the “venture capital” of the Navy and Marine Corps. It’s made up of ONR – the Office of Naval Research, ONR Global, the Naval Research Laboratory, and Special Projects (PMR 51.)

His insights on the future of the Navy and reimagining Naval power are insightful, innovative and exciting.

(ONR played a seminal role in the formation of Silicon Valley. Founded in August 1946 in the aftermath of World War II, ONR provided support of research projects at universities when government funding to universities had dried up. That same year, Fred Terman became Stanford’s dean of engineering, and he received four ONR research contracts for electronics and microwaves. These grants formed the heart of the Stanford Electronics Research Laboratory.)

I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of Admiral Selby’s key insights and urge you to read the entire transcript here and watch his video.

The Naval Research Enterprise
This picture is a way I divvy up my Naval Research portfolio:

  • On the left is the division that’s home to cyber and electronic warfare. A little bit of AI but really, mostly electronic warfare.
  • The next area is ocean battlespace. This includes unmanned underwater vehicles – UUVs. And we do submarine applications and oceanographic research in that division. We take a great deal of pride in really understanding and knowing the ocean environment. Of course, the submarine is critical, but really everything from the weather, to the way our forces must flow, optimizing transit routes, all depends on currents, winds, weather. We use those factors to help us also determine what potential adversaries might or might not do. All that goes into the calculus of how we position our forces.
  • In the middle are mission capable, persistent, survivable naval platforms. This division looks at the systems that are on our platforms, i.e. pumps, valves, materials science, corrosion. There’s science to be done in perfecting some of those, and they’re critical in the operation of these platforms. This branch looks at maintenance practices, trying to make sure we protect those.
  • Warfighter performance looks at how the human body responds to stress. How we can optimize performance of the human body in combat, or in other stressful scenarios? How does the human brain work? How do we think? When I look at reimagined Naval power, I think a lot of that is not about things, it’s about processes. It’s about how we present information. It’s about how we process information, how we use machines to help us make decisions. This group traditionally has not had as much focus as the others. But I think it’s something we really need to go after.
  • The far right is aviation. Jets, missiles, also directed energy, railguns, hypervelocity projectiles and hypersonics.
  • And across the bottom is the Naval Accelerator run by Rich Carlin. This group figures out how do we go faster in getting things to the fleet. From an ideation to a thing to a Warfighter. How do we do that faster than anybody else?

Reimagining naval power is about the way we think and organize, not about hardware
I know you were assigned to read The Kill Chain. Fascinating read. As I read through this book, it really resonated with me because this is the world we’re in today. Naval officers still tend to think of the solution to the problem set as “I’ll just get a better destroyer.” Or, “I’ll just get another aircraft carrier, or a bigger, faster submarine.” And I don’t think that’s the solution.

This quote out of the book I thought was interesting, “Military innovation is less about technology than about operational and organizational transformation.” I hear you thinking, “You’re the Chief of Naval Research, and you’re saying that it’s less about technology?” Yeah, I am. When I say reimagined naval power, I’m not necessarily talking about new big gray ships or black submarines. I’m talking about changing our processes, changing about the way we think, and the way we are organized. I think a lot of the problems we have in acquisition today, in trying to go after these new technologies, is because of the way we’re organized. The way the Navy is established – separate system commands, one for Air, one for Sea systems, one for cyber systems, supply over here. They’re separate, you get stovepipes, and you get barriers. There’s friction between them. And all these differences come because of that, and that impedes progress. If we want to reimagine Naval power, we have to look in a mirror, recognize we need to change some things organizationally. We’ve got to change the way we do business.

What do you hope the fleet looks like 10 years from now to make it relevant in a fight with a near peer competitor? Is that a 355 ship Navy? Is it squadrons of unmanned vessels? Is it something in between?
I think that it’s something in between. I think that you will see more unmanned, unattended things. They’ll be networked together. I think initially, what you’re going to see, and again, this is just the way we just tend to do things as human beings. When it comes to new tech,  we take the new tech, and we jam it into a form factor of something we recognize and know. So what you’re going to see are unmanned surface vessels that look like the Sea Hunter. It looks like a catamaran. It looks like something you recognize and know. That thing, whatever it is, whether its underwater, surface, air, will initially operate in tandem with a manned platform.

I think the answer is not just to go build bigger, faster gray-hulled ships or black submarines. We still need this for a while. We’re not going to stop, go to zero and do something else. It’s going to be a gradual thing. But I think there needs to be a plan with a trajectory of slowly weaning us off of these very highly complex and expensive vessels that takes us into something else. And some of that something else might be unmanned/uncrewed. Uncrewed vessels, unattended sensors, highly networked together, passing tracking information back and forth. I think that’s more of the future, combined with how we make decisions in a more efficient, faster manner than the adversary.

You’re going to have these things as kind of wingmen that’ll be arrayed around your platform. And you may be able to send it a couple hundred miles out front to go do some probing of the adversary. Maybe it’s got some decoys and other things it can do while it’s out there, then it will then come back. You have to refuel it at some point, because it’s still going to have limited range. I think in 10 years, you’ll find many, many more unmanned things out there, but they will be operating close to the gray hull or the black hull submarine, able to go out and do things but come back. So I think that’s step one.

But over time, it’s going to be driven by the younger generations, people like you who are not constrained by thinking it’s got to be a gray hull or a black hull thing. And they will come in and look at us and go, “If you’d change the form factor, you can make that thing….” It could be a surface thing, but could also be a semi-submersible, when it needs to be. Make it so it just drops below the surface a foot. And it can still cruise along slowly. Things like that will happen. Because, again, this does happen all throughout history as technologies have been introduced. We always try to take it and make it do what the old thing did.

An Example of New Tech First Looking Like the Old – Photonics Masts on a Submarine
Submarines traditionally have a periscope. You look into the barrel; it’s got the mirrors and the glass and a prism at the top looking out. And you’re looking through a circle. That’s the world for a submariner. That’s what I looked at for 20 years, 25 years. Today, we’ve got these new, cool electronic photonics masts. Guess what? When you look at that picture in the control room of a submarine, you may be on a big flat screen, you may control it with a joystick, but it’s still looking at a slice of the world.

We didn’t go, “Hey, if I put just four cameras or six cameras up there, and I was able to set them around looking, I can have a 360-degree camera all the time.” Well, we’re just now starting to do that. We started some R&D on that several years ago and it petered out because they didn’t have the money to keep it going. But now we’re back to, this is ridiculous, let’s get 360 out of that. That’s the challenge with new tech.

The problem today is, it’s going so fast that if you wait a generation to make those kinds of advancements, you’re so far behind anybody — adversary, other companies — that you’re irrelevant. We’ve got to break that pattern. And some of that is changing those organizational constructs that still have us back in 1994. We’ve got to get to 2020, or 2018, or 2015. I’d be happy with that. But we’ve got to get out of 1994.

As far as size, you may have seen the press. The SecDef just announced the Battle Force 2045. It talks about between 120 and 240 unmanned things in concert with a bunch of manned things. And it talks about a much bigger Navy. We’ll see what happens. A lot depends what happens with Congress.

How do we find a balance between funding exquisite equipment that costs a lot of money, and that’s very hard to replace, with building lots of low-cost equipment, but that’s less capable, but easier to replace?
We have this very big appetite for highly complex, which are exquisite, phenomenal, best in the world. No question about it, costs a lot of money to build. And oh, by the way, they cost even more money to maintain over the life of a 30-, 40- or 50-year platform. We need to get away from that. Part of the answer is a lot of these uncrewed surface or underwater vessels. But even those, when we send a design over to my friends in the Pentagon to develop requirements, what they come back wanting is exquisite, too. You take this thing that should cost $ 10 million or $ 20 million, and it comes back costing $ 100 million, or $ 200 million, or worse.

I think if you could build cheaper, in more numbers that are maybe complicated, but not complex, that would be just fine. And I would build them so that they’re semi-disposable. You run them hard for 10 years, but you don’t spend a mint to refurbish them. You take them back to some yard, you recycle them. You take all materials out and build another one. That’s the way you’ve got to do it.

Another thing we have to do is recognize that we’ve got some constraints. We’ve only got a certain number of shipyards that can build these highly complex destroyers, submarines, aircraft carriers. Our industrial base is very fragile. Since we are going to still build some of those for the foreseeable future, let those yards build those exquisite things. But we need to go the nontraditional yards down along the Gulf Coast, Pacific Northwest, and other parts of country – even to boat builders, yacht builders. Let’s go to those folks to build some these unmanned things. And let’s give them some money. Let’s move some defense industrial base money around. And we can develop new expertise in different pockets that we’ve never developed before. And let’s do that at scale. And build a lot. I think that’s one of the keys to this reimagined naval power. Because again, we just cannot afford to keep building the same things.

If you went right now and asked the submariners what they want, they want SSNX, which is the next generation of submarine in roughly 2035. You talk to my aviator friends; they want the next-gen fighter about the same time. You talk to my surface warfare friends; they want the large surface combatant about the same time. Well, first of all that’s 15 years from now. So by our traditional design, build standards, that means you’ve got to start like right now, for all three. And we can’t afford that. There’s no way we can afford that.

You may have noticed the SecDef’s Battle Force 2045 came out saying you need to go to three submarines per year. So there’s a tremendous recognition that we still own the undersea. And we need to maintain that dominance. But Battle Force 2045 doesn’t call for as many surface ships, it does call for next-gen fighters. And there’s a lot of reasons for that, which we can’t talk about here. But it does not call for the large ships. At least not in numbers, and not at the same time. We’ve got to deconflict these things, and we need to build different things that are much less expensive.

How has acquisition has changed? What specifically, if anything, has changed to make us move faster?
Some of what’s changed is it we are using OTA’s – other transaction authorities. We’ve been talking about this for a long time. We’re finally really trying to drive this hard. And we’re finally getting contract shops in different parts of the Navy using them. Up until probably only a couple years ago, it was only places like ONR that would do these nontraditional ways of buying things. We’ve now got the big SYSCOM acquisition shops and contract shops, realizing, “Hey, there’s something to that.”

How do you think about the development of technologies that cross traditional functional bounds?
How do you get these folks together to solve these hard problems? We go inward, we try to find our smart folks in our own organizations that are somewhat constrained and tainted by the problem set already because they lived it. They’re inside of it.

General Stanley McChrystal in his book Team of Teams talked about how he organized to fight in the Middle East. What McChrystal realized was the value of the team of teams. The answers are not all inside my team, they may be in your team, or your team, or your team. The value or the power is how you net them all together. And so he used to do the same every single day. He would have this video teleconference. And he had one guy who ran the meeting. They would have a bunch of topics they would go over every day, a set of stuff you would do, an ops brief. And then they would have someone give a problem statement, and maybe a little bit of a brief. But then they let it go to the teams. The teams, not the team. And the synergy, the interactions of thought, it was incredible.

That is the model I’m trying to figure out how to bring to my own ecosystem, and then net in all the other teams around me. Whether they’re different warfare centers, or different parts of the Navy, Army, Air Force, whoever industry, academia. Because that’s the power.

I’m curious to hear more about why Warfighter performance wasn’t as emphasized as the other areas.
Traditionally, most of the money went to build those high-end destroyers and submarines and next-gen fighters. So that would be my vernacular in code 32, 33 35, not 34, which is human performance. That’s the code that was on the right side of that graph. As a result of that, those other high-end things got all the money, that’s also where most of the R&D money went. And most of that was focused on either another submarine, another aircraft carrier, another fighter. And because of that, there was very little left to go do, kind of human forward stuff. I still contend that that is really where we as Americans have our advantage.

How do you recruit those people who are traditionally looking at the private sector as their career over to the Navy and to your research center?
The way we traditionally do this is that someone like yourself, someone who’s in a grad program somewhere, gets involved in research sponsored by ONR, or NRL and you get your doctorate and will become a postdoc. And you continue to do that research in some field of study that we are sponsoring. And then at some point, back in DC, a vacancy opens and they say, “Hey, you can apply for this job.” Next, you get a job. A lot of Ph.Ds in my headquarters building came out of academia where they got their doctoral degree in some program sponsored by ONR.

COVID Has Changed Our Thinking About Recruiting for ONR
COVID has taught us a lot of things about how to work. Today, for instance, I was at work, but only about 30 to 35% of the workforce was there. Most people are working from home. We do some classified work, but we do enough unclassified work that you can do a lot of work from home. I told my team: “I don’t want to go back to whatever was called normal back in March. Let’s find something good that comes out of this pandemic.” I want to be able to hire people in California, in Washington State, in wherever and tell them, “Hey, you can stay there and still work for me. I may ask you to come to DC once a quarter to do some required training and just to do something else where we want to get together. But I will let you stay remote.”

Because I think we were missing out on talent. A lot of people don’t come to DC and I don’t blame them.

How Can the Navy Attract More Diversity Into It’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) Fields?
There’s a lot of concern in the DoD that we have some issues trying to attract STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) talent. So I’m trying to find ways to really amp up our STEM programs. I’m trying to find ways to attract more women, more diversity into our STEM field. Whether it’s undergrad internships or graduate internships. And I’m trying to find ways to get more people involved that we traditionally don’t get.

We put together a panel to give us some thoughts on how to attract the kind of talent we’re not traditionally attracting. We found it’s in middle school where we lose a lot of kids. Most elementary school kids think science is cool. I think for most kids, there’s a wow factor in science, but somewhere in middle school to high school it stops being cool. And that’s really tragic.

So we are figuring out ways to develop a cadre of mentors to go into the schools and help teachers and students, to pull them across that valley of death where we lose them. I think there’s far too many that we lose early for the wrong reasons. They don’t see someone that looks like them, they don’t think it’s cool, whatever. So we’re trying to figure that out.

Read the entire transcript of Admiral Selby’s talk and watch the video below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Lessons Learned

  • The U.S Navy is a historic crossroads
  • We are going to start seeing uncrewed ships and submersibles
    • First as “wingmen” to existing surface ships and submarines
  • We can get more ships if build these new types of vessels so that they’re semi-disposable.
    • You run them hard for 10 years, but you don’t spend a mint to refurbish them, you recycle them
  • We can build these new types of vessels in numbers by using non-traditional shipyards
    • Keep the existing shipyards building traditional ships/submarines
    • This will create new expertise in different pockets that we’ve never developed before.
  • This is in conflict with the existing major acquisition plans for future surface ships and submarines

Steve Blank

Can you trademark a name in same class if it is already registered but they are using it for different service?

I have a great distinct name in my mind for an app idea but while running trademark search I found it has been already registered by a movie director in my country, India.

Since class 9 (under NICE classification) deals with downloadable mobile app, can I use the same name for my app and marketing or I stand no chance?

submitted by /u/do_something_big
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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 12 –The Space Force– General John Raymond

We just held our twelfth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was The Space Force and Modern War.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous eleven classes here.


Some of the readings for this week included: CRS Report on Space ForceSummary of the Defense Space Strategy, Space Force’s Capstone Doctrine “Space Power”, State of the Space Industrial Base 2020, Space as a Warfighting Domain, Russia gears up for electronic warfare in space, Chief of Space Operations Planning Guidance

Our guest speaker was Gen. John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, United States Space Force.

It’s amazing to think that it’s been 75 years since the U.S. created a new service, which was when the Air Force spun out of what was the Army Air Force post-World War Two. The creation of the Space Force is an indication of everything we’ve been talking about in this class – about the changes in technology and threats, the speed at which those are happening simultaneously and the new organizational models needed to counter them.

I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of General Raymond’s key insights and urge you to read the entire transcript here and watch the video.

Formation of the Space Force
Last year, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the birth certificate, if you will, for the United States Space Force. And I’ve been privileged and honored to lead that group of folks, some very sharp space professionals in establishing this force. There’s no checklist on how to do this. There’s really no history to go back to. But we are moving out with great speed, to be able to establish this force.

Why do we need a Space Force?
The strategic environment we face today is rapidly changing. And the nature of warfare is changing. We’ve been involved in the space business in the military since the 1950s when space was a great power competition. And what started out as nation state versus nation state has evolved to where we have students building satellites. We started developing capabilities as part of that great power competition with the Soviet Union. I’ll highlight a few demarcation points where I think there was some significant shifts.

Desert Storm and Space
In 1991 we went to war in Desert Storm to evict Iraq out of Kuwait. And that really was the first space war. It’s the first war where space was integrated into theater operations. The U.S and coalition forces did a left hook through the desert at night on a featureless terrain to maneuver against the adversary. And the way we did that was using a GPS constellation that wasn’t even fully up and operating. Iraq was also launching Scud missiles and we used Strategic Missile warning capabilities that we have (in space) to detect ICBMs, and we used them to be able to give warning of these smaller rockets.

Since that time my whole career has been focused on integrating space capabilities and everything that we do as a joint and coalition force. And today there’s nothing that we do that isn’t enabled by space, whether it’s humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and all the way up through conflict.

China’s Anti-Satellite Demonstration
The next demarcation was 2007, when China launched a missile that blew up one of their own satellites into about 3000 pieces of debris. That was the wakeup call that space may no longer be the peaceful, benign domain we hoped, or we wished it would be. It was no longer just using our space-based capabilities and integrating those capabilities into operations. Now we had to worry about protecting and defending those capabilities. Everything from jamming of GPS and communication satellites, to laser threats, to on orbit activities, to cyber threats, to missiles that can be launched from the ground that that can blow up a satellite.

Defending Space – Part 1 – Space Command
Because of this changing strategic environment, the United States over the course of the past few years has been in a dialogue on what’s the best way to organize for space.

Space had long been part of the Air Force and the thought was, we really need to elevate space to a level commensurate with its importance to national security. In the Department of Defense, we’re organized two ways. One part of the organization -the eleven combatant commands – are focused on warfighting. There used to be a command called U.S. Space Command, but it was stood down shortly after 9/11 and the responsibility for space moved underneath U.S. Strategic Command. In August 2019 we reestablished Space Command as its own combatant command.

Setting up Space Command as its own combatant command was one part of that equation. And I was privileged to plan it and then be its first commander.

Defending Space – Part 2 – The Space Force
A few months later, in December 2019, the United States decided to elevate what we call the “organize, train and equip” part of the military. That’s what services like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and now the Space Force do. And space moved from underneath the United States Air Force to become its own independent service. I served as both the Commander of U.S Space Command and was the The Space Force chief until August 2019, when we split the hats and now there’s a new commander for U.S Space Command, and I’m solely focused on the organize, train, equip, part – the Space Force.

As a Dual-hatted Commander it Must Have Been Fun Writing Memos to Yourself
It’s interesting when you’re dual-hatted as a service chief and a combatant commander, you get to write yourself a letter saying, hey, dummy, why did you do that? And so it’s kind of fun. But a combatant commander has a much more narrow, short-term focus. He or she has to conduct operations today. A service chief tends to think longer. I want to build the service for the future. And that tension between near term and future is why that structure in the Department of Defense is so important. Where you have two different, two distinct functions, that provides a healthy tension.

In the stand up of the U.S. Space Command and the Space Force, I think Congress got it exactly right, when they said that the commander of Space Command could be the service Chief for up to a year. Because when we were standing these organizations up, I was able to make organization or enterprise level trades between the two organizations. And it was much easier. And now that we have those structures built and we have the staffs designed, almost all those trades are done. Now it’s time to split those hats and get two distinct four stars with separate focus  running fast.

Organizing the Space Force as an Independent Service
Let me give you a few thoughts on what an independent service needs to do and some of the things we’re thinking through.

There are five things we have to do to set up Space Force:

  1. Developing our own people is a big piece of what we’re focusing on. We’re inventing this service, because we don’t want to just build what we had, we want to invent something new, that’s purpose built for this domain, to be able to get after the challenges that this domain provides us.
  2. We have to have our own doctrine. And so we just published our first independent space force doctrine called “Space Power.”
  3. We have to have our own budget. We took all the dollars that were associated for space from the Air Force and brought them into the space force.
  4. We have to design our forces to be able to operate in a contested environment and to reduce duplication of effort, enhance our speed and reduce costs.
  5. We have to present those forces to a warfighting commander.

There are several lines of effort that we’re focusing on:

  1. We’re working to build the Space Force as a very Lean and Agile service. We don’t want to be big and slow, we want to go fast. The domain that we operate in is huge, it’s 100 kilometers above the surface and higher. And so that vastness of space and the speed at which things move is significant.
  2. We also want to be able to build capabilities at speed and acquire capabilities at speed.
  3. We’re developing this service as the first digital service; to have a digital headquarters, a more fluent digital workforce. Everybody that comes into the space force will learn coding and adopt digital engineering standards as our as our standard for acquisition.
  4. We’re also focusing on partnerships. We believe that with this service, we can develop closer ties to our allies around the globe and to commercial industry, and be on the cutting edge of innovative industries going forward.
  5. We need to develop space experts that understand how to operate in the contested domain. Today, we’ve got the world’s best space operators, but train them to operate in a benign domain. We’re shifting to train them to operate in a contested domain.

How Did You Organize Space Force Staff Functions?
The plan was to have over 1000 people on the staff. I thought that was going to be too clunky, too big and too slow. We’ve whittled that staff size down to less than 600. However, having said that, you have to be able to operate inside the Department of Defense. And there’s overhead that’s required just to be able to do that and to do that well. You need somebody to be able to pick up the phone and be able to understand who they’re talking to. And you don’t want to get too different so that people don’t know how to plug into you. So we came up with critical functions that we had to have to operate inside the Department of Defense.

For example, if you’re going to be a member of the Joint Chiefs, you have to have a three-star that can interact for you on your behalf with the other services. And so we stood up a three-star called the S3, so everybody understands that nomenclature inside the Pentagon. We have a hybrid approach where we have the S3 bit combined with some other functions, because we wanted to have a reduced leadership structure, so we made it the S2,3,6 and we call them the Chief Operating Officer to drive a different mindset for that position.

We’ve done the same thing on the resourcing side. And we’ve done the same thing for our human capital development where we have a hybrid approach. And then we also stood up a Chief Technology and Innovation Officer and made that a direct report to me as well. That’s the leadership team.

What’s the Role of the Space Force in Promoting Positive Norms of Behavior in Space?
Space is a warfighting domain just like air, land and sea. We do not want to get into a conflict that begins or extends into space. We want to deter that from happening. We are working to develop norms of behavior to address what is safe and professional behavior in space. We want to develop those by demonstrating good behavior on how we act. We’re very transparent, we share data broadly across the globe.

A lot of people talk about space deterrence. I just talk about deterrence – the calculus of imposing costs and denying benefits. All combatant commands have a deterrence role, U.S. Space Command does as well in the capabilities that we provide, help feed into that deterrence.

How Will You Bring in Talent from Commercial Companies?
We’ve developed a human capital plan that’s really innovative. We want to be able to bring people in from industry, laterally into the service. We want to be able to send people from the Space Force and have them go work at a company and come back. We want to do things differently. There are a lot of authorities that that we have that are underutilized; we want to use all of them.

Our first 10 months have been about building the processes to get people into the Space Force. On 20 December 2019, when the President signed the law, I was the first one. And then we got a command senior enlisted advisor, that was number two. Next, we got 86 cadets coming out of the Academy. That made 88. And then we held boards and who at the Air Force is going to apply to come in? We had ~ 9,000 applicants for 7,000 positions. Now we’re looking at doing the innovative pieces. This human capital plan will be the model for others going forward. We built the plan, we built the strategy, and now we’re focusing on implementing that.

How are You Tackling Classification?
Classification is an issue that we’re working through. Space has largely been in the classified realm. In my opinion it is overly classified. And we’re working hard to develop a strategy. If your goal is to deter conflict, you want to be able to message any potential adversary to be able to change their calculus. It’s kind of hard to do that when you can’t talk about things. 

What is the Space Force Doing Differently in Innovation- With Commercial Partners and Internally?
First, one of the big things we’re doing is adopting digital engineering as our standard. And it’s more than just the digital engineering of the thing. It’s all the way from requirements, to acquisition, to developing the capability, to testing the capability, to operating the capability. We want to have that digital thread.

We’ve worked hard over the last couple years to expand our defense industrial base. I’m not saying that the partners that we have aren’t good. They provide great capabilities, but we want to expand that. The work we’re doing with what we call SpecOT is trying to get others involved.

We are looking to build a Space Systems Command that will have disruptive innovators sitting side by side with more traditional innovators. We think there’s room and value for all. If you look at the domain and where it’s headed, and where industry is headed, there are a lot of opportunities to come up with a hybrid type of architecture. Not just a one size fits all. And we think expanding that industrial base is going to be important to us.

We’re also looking at developing a relationship with industry that is closer than the relationship that we have today. That’s going to require some different rules for operating under. We’re really focusing on pushing decision-making down to the lowest level. I want folks managing their programs, not managing the Pentagon bureaucracy. We’re really trying to delegate down to the lower levels. And if we do this right that will be another model for others to emulate.

One of the things that you can’t do: You can’t go out and kill somebody for making a mistake. We want to be able to fail forward. And we want to be able to move at speed. I think you have to do that in a domain that’s so big and where operations happen so fast.

How Does the Space Force Approach Cybersecurity?
One of those threats on that spectrum of threats is a cyber threat. And so if you look at who we’re bringing into the space force, one of the career fields that we’re bringing in are cyber professionals. We need to understand the cyber terrain to be able to operate in this contested domain. We’ve actually integrated cyber professionals on our operations floors as part of our crews to be able to protect our ability to operate. We’ve really put a lot of focus on this over the last few years to harden ourselves from any kind of cyber threat. And it’s a constant, constant vigilance thing for us. And it’s something that we take very seriously.

What Did you Think of the Netflix Show About Space Force?
No matter what you think of the show, it shows the excitement and the imagination that is going across the country about space. I think it’s going pay dividends for us. Again, it’s not just about military space, it’s about all the different sectors of space.

When I was a little kid, I remember sitting on the living room floor in West Point, NY, where my dad was a teacher and watching man first walk on the moon. And then going to the dining room table and building Apollo models. I think that with what we’re seeing, there’s going to be this enthusiasm for space that is going to help our country. If you look across the board at schools, the schools that I have engaged with over the last few months, they’ve all told me that their interest and their applications for space types of engineering things have gone up. So I think there’s value there for our country.

How Receptive Are the Other Services to Reimagine and Fix Old Organizational Structures?
First of all, we’re just beginning, we’re just creating this. It’s probably a little early to say what have you built that others our now are emulating. For example, when we did the organization for Space Force, we collapsed two layers of command. I know there’s value to us already.

And you’ll hear the department talk a lot about JADC2, joint all domain command and control. The data part of that was designed and built by the Space Force that has now been integrated into JADC2.

And if you look at the challenges that we face in the space domain today, they’re largely Big Data challenges. We track 20 or 30,000 objects in space and probably a half a million objects that we don’t track because they’re because of their size. A small portion of those are actually satellites. Though that number is growing significantly with these proliferated LEO constellations. We take 400 or so observations a day to make sure that nothing collides with other space objects, and we keep the domain safe. Those are all big data challenges. And so we’ve spent a lot of a lot of time building the data infrastructure.

How Can Students Get Involved in Space?
As we’re building the service, if anybody wants to do a research project, I can give you a laundry list of topics where we could really use your brain bytes to help us think through. And I think when you graduate, I think there are plenty of opportunities to get into the space business, including through commercial segments that traditionally haven’t been involved in the space business.

We’d love to have you in the Space Force. A lot of parents come up to me and say, “I wouldn’t want my son or daughter to join the military, but I want them to join the Space Force.” And we think there’s an opportunity to tap into a broader population. I’m excited for the opportunity to build a relationship with Stanford and other schools.

Read the entire transcript of General Raymond’s talk and watch the video below.

If you can’t see the video click here.

Lessons Learned

  • Historically the U.S. treated space as a safe haven for the few exquisite, billion-dollar national assets that we owned (imaging, communications, navigation) that no one else could approach
    • They became the backbone of how our DoD functions
  • Space is now a contested domain
    • Potential adversaries have targeted all our existing assets
  • Space Force was started as a separate military service to own everything 60 miles above the earth
  • It is trying to do things differently, building a lean and agile organization
    • Flatter organization, with a COO and CTO
    • Deeper partnerships with commercial providers
  • Space Force has the excitement of NASA, but with the mission focus of keeping us safe and secure at home
  • In an existing organization, when you when you have something disruptive and new almost everybody wants to strangle it in its crib
    • General Raymond has managed to thread the needle to make this a service

 

Steve Blank

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 11 – Cyberwarfare –– Sumit Agarwal

We just held our eleventh session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was Military Applications of Cyber.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous ten classes here.


Some of the readings for this week’s included:

DoD Cyber Strategy, How to compete in cyberspace, Defense Primer: Cyberspace Operations, Geopolitical Impact on Cyber Threats from Nation State Actors, Divided by a Common Language: Cyber Definitions in Chinese, Russian and English.

Our guest speaker was Sumit Agarwal, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Senior Advisor for Cyber Innovation. Out of MIT, Sumit joined the US Air Force as part of Cyber Command and was one of the first officers in network warfare. He’s spent almost 20 years in the National Guard. But in the private sector he’s done a number of amazing things; he headed up mobile at Google, then went back into the Pentagon where he was the youngest Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense ever in the Pentagon. Then most recently, he co-founded Shape Security, one of the leading cybersecurity companies in the country. Earlier this year, Shape Security was sold to F5 for over a billion dollars.

I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of Sumit’s key insights and urge you to read the entire transcript here and watch the video.

Safety and Security Online
The way we are going about creating safety and security online in cybersecurity and defending against cybercrime isn’t quite rational. In cybersecurity, any individual, any business of any size, from a small business all the way up to a giant bank, is at the end of the day subjected to the worst that adversaries of any sort – foreign nations, organized criminal gangs – can throw their way. And that makes no sense.

The thinking about online security is absolutely at odds with how we think about security on the land, sea, air and space. Our Army, Navy, Air Force defend our borders. So the result of no defenders in cyberspace is what one would predict. It’s a mismatch. The result is that we are less secure. You end up with companies that are losing more money online, losing more assets that belong to them and more customer data that they’re in trusted with, than they would ever lose in an offline context. And so that’s a really strange thing in the domain that we created, we are having a harder time safeguarding and securing ourselves than we do in the national domains.

I think that it’s a matter of understanding who has the authorities and the norms to defend. Who has the right to defend? Who has the obligation to defend? So that was my thesis when I left the Pentagon in 2011.

How Would You Architect a More Secure Environment?
It’s not okay the way it is. it’s as if the military said, “Hey, we protect U.S. citizens as long as they’re hanging out on a military base. I’m sorry, but if you’re not on a military base, you are totally exposed to any form of threat that can possibly exist in the world.” That is absurd in the real world.

I think that there are two or three fundamental components to it. The first one is, we as a society have spy agencies like NSA that have the preponderance of cybersecurity expertise and capability. At the national level, there really are not a lot of other agencies that have that level of expertise. What you end up with is a choice that we as a society have been unwilling to make. Which is, do we let a spy agency safeguard us domestically at home on the internet? Or do we say, it’s the DHS, the Department of Homeland Security who is the only one chartered with the mission and has the authorities to safeguard U.S. persons or people at home?

That choice is profoundly broken because DHS does not have the necessary level of capability. So with the benefit of hindsight, I think what we need is an agency that has every bit the level of technological expertise that NSA does in the area of cybersecurity, that is not a spy agency. And that agency would need to have the titles and the authority, and the charter to protect U.S. persons. And you see that same dichotomy in the FBI versus the CIA. The CIA is externally facing, it’s effectively a spy agency. FBI is all about domestic issues that exist primarily at home. So that is a very clear, bright shiny line, which we didn’t really realize in the ‘80s and ‘90s, was going to become such a problem. But at this point, we have two unpalatable choices. You can let a spy agency be in charge. Or you can let DHS which has the charter be in charge but doesn’t have the expertise. And so what you end up with is no defense. So that’s what I would do at the national level in terms of creating an agency and organizing things differently and better.

On the second piece, which is how do you create a little bit more clarity between what’s real and what’s fake? That is very challenging, because anonymity is a key, cherished belief system and value online. We all prize privacy and anonymity. So if you swing the pendulum over to say, we would have a lot more secure online experience if everybody had a hard identity. And you needed to basically jack your driver’s license into a little key card reader in order to get online, you would have a more secure environment. (A CAC card for civilians.) You would have a lot less vitriol, you’d have a lot less trolling, you’d have a lot less of the nasty things that we don’t like online, including crime. But what you would lose is anonymity and privacy. A CAC card is what we use in the military.

I’m not sure if there’s a good answer to how would I balance the reality that it’s a totally insecure, wild, wild west on the Internet, with the idea that the privacy and anonymity of the Internet, in many countries, is really important. It’s allowed the Internet to be a tool of great good, not just great bad.

What Trends Are You Seeing That Attackers Are Doing?
Attackers are always going after the softest targets. So in many ways, the softest target is everybody in society. The people who are least capable of defending themselves against sophisticated attackers are not the large corporations that have billion-dollar cybersecurity budgets, that have IT staffs and teams of professionals. It’s either small businesses, or individuals.

The number one thing that we see attackers doing is emulating real people. This is my work in identity and the idea of real versus fake on the Internet. You know, in 1993, there was that old New Yorker cartoon with the dog logging onto a computer and it said, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.“ But ironically, 27 plus years later, on the Internet, no one knows if you’re Joe dot Felter at Gmail, or Raj Shah, at diux.co, or whatever.

Identity and Truth on the Internet.
Online you can be almost anybody you want to be. And it is so easy to social engineer, to phish, to put malware on someone’s machine and to gain access to the things that represent their identity. If you know someone’s username and password, you’ve effectively got their identity. There’s no holographic mark in the upper left corner. There’s no signature in the background, there’s no watermark, there’s no special place that can validate those photos. I mean, it’s literally less secure than college kids cutting photos out to get into bars with identities that don’t belong to them on a driver’s license. It’s that insecure.

And so amazingly, the Internet still works despite this profound lack of true security. But the trend that I always follow is, how do you tell what’s real from what’s fake? Is the thing interacting with you a human or a nonhuman? So much of what criminals do is really about writing programs and bots that simulate human behavior to do human-like things. They then use those stolen identities to have what is truly a fully synthetic actor.

It’s a little bot that has some aspect of your identity, and it will run around on the Internet trying to log into something or trying to represent itself as you. And the impact of this is far worse than the economic harm of losing $ 1,000. Banks are probably losing hundreds of millions of dollars on a quarterly basis. No consumer knows about it, because those funds are silently put back. No bank wants you to know how porous the banking environment is. They simply want to absorb those losses so that you don’t lose confidence. And that’s actually okay from a societal point of view.

Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior
A far worse aspect of the usage of synthetic identities is what we call Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior, CIB. For example, bad actors getting on Facebook, Twitter or TikTok and creating what appears to be a groundswell of activity and effort and belief around a particular ideology, a particular idea or a concept, none of which are true.

Even right now in our election there is coordinated inauthentic behavior that is pushing ideas and concepts that are driven by actors that are trying to interfere in our election. (In 2016, it was absolutely rampant. There’s less of that happening in 2020.) So what happens when there’s interference by Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior? When there are millions of actions, likes and posts and clicks and forwards that are inauthentic, you end up with a perversion of democracy. So this idea of real versus fake is incredibly pernicious. And it’s something that I think, is worthy of a lot of time and attention by anybody that that wants to pursue a career in cybersecurity.

Deep Fakes
Deep fakes are a really, really challenging problem. So far, there are a few technological solutions that can do frame-by-frame and pixel-by-pixel comparison and figure out when various kinds of algorithms are being used to make a mouth move saying words other than what was said in the original video. Same for images.

I’m not aware of what the fundamental long-term defense is going to be against deep fakes. However, we can create more security around official communication. If I wanted to have an official White House video, or even an official video from me, I could create that. There are long-standing concepts that have nothing to do with cyber security that you could use.

I think what we’re going end up with is the following: Official communication, like a video of Biden or Trump is eventually going to have enough watermarking and fingerprinting technology, that the major social media platforms will be able to verify authenticity. You could even use blockchain-related concepts to say, here’s the original source of that video that’s been uploaded to the public blockchain. And we know how to verify against that.

The part I have a lot more difficulty with is user-generated content. What if the video we care about is not necessarily that of a famous person? How do you solve the problem that there is no real authentication mechanism when a video or a photo is being shared and propagated and virally explodes on social media? There is no one thing to say, is this authentic? Does it have the right watermarks and digital fingerprints? When it is content that’s being generated by individuals I think it’s going to be hard for us to decide whether that video is real or fake. So a very, very complicated space that’s still emerging.

What Are Some Developments in Cyber That Might Change Offense and Defense?
I think there are two. The first one is homomorphic encryption (fully encrypted communication, without having to decrypt the underlying data.) We’re getting to the point where the compute burden on being able to take two numbers – just take the number one and the number two – and let’s encrypt them. We don’t want anyone to know what two numbers we’re adding together. And we want to add them to get the solution, which is three. In the traditional way you share keys, exchange secrets with whoever you want to be able to perform that computation. They decrypt the two numbers, add them up and get the solution – three. And they encrypt the answer and then they transmit that back to you. So that’s the old school way of doing things. And it has two fundamental problems. One, it’s vulnerable, because you have to decrypt the things that were meant to be secret. And anywhere in the process, if you have to decrypt them, that’s problematic. And the second is, you have to exchange secrets with anybody that you want to do business with.

That is fine at a limited scale, when you have a small number of partners. But when you want to have a heterogenous environment, maybe an international coalition, it doesn’t scale very well. So for a long time, DARPA has been chasing after this idea of being able to perform computation on encrypted data without decrypting it. And the problem was that as of 2010, when I was at DoD, there was a 10 to the sixth compute penalty. So a million x compute penalty on adding the number one and the number two together if you left them encrypted. And so over the last 10 years, we’ve been knocking down that exponent, and I think we’re right on the verge of being at the level of 10 to the first or ten the second. And that’s a very tolerable cost for fully encrypted compute, without having to decrypt the underlying data. That’s one exciting area.

And the other one is quantum computing. We’re getting very, very close to the point that quantum computing, certainly for defense may be available. And that is going to change everything about security online. Because at the core of security online today is about computational expense of factoring very large prime numbers. And quantum computing gives you so much more capacity, that you can in fact find many more such primes.

Do our Constitutional Protections in the U.S. Put Us at a Disadvantage Compared to Adversaries That Don’t Share Our Values?
I think the answer is 100% yes, at a tactical level, some of those constitutional freedoms put us at a slight disadvantage. But the answer is less about cybersecurity and more about liberal democracies. I think that the question that is, do liberal democracies do better than more authoritarian regimes over a much longer period of time? Because when it comes to getting something done, you don’t need to develop political will in an authoritarian regime to the same degree as in a liberal democracy.

What Do You Think Needs to Happen for Liberal Democracies to Prevail and Feel Safe?
I think that the future of warfare is going to be less and less overt, less and less hot. It’s going to be less and less about putting kinetics on a target. It’s going to be about influencing large numbers of people in very subtle ways. If you can influence people, it’s that old thing about winning hearts and minds. If you can just influence them in a certain direction, you may be able to win without fighting at all. And so you end up with a war of ideology and a war of culture in open countries.

I think that the big challenge for liberal democracies is, how do we ensure that the conversation we’re having is a real and authentic conversation with the people we think we’re having it with? I think the conversation happening on Facebook right now is incredibly polluted by people who have ill will and Ill intention. And I worry. I’m going to devote a large number of my career years to figuring out how to kind of stem that tide of inauthentic.

In terms of what the government can do, I think we’re going to have to take a more active role. We’re going to have to figure out a contract with American society that does that in a way that you’re comfortable letting us help create a lot more safety and security.

There’s a distinction between policing what happens on a social media platform – that seems very active and heavy handed – versus saying, we can ensure authenticity without compromising security and privacy. There are a lot of companies that are failing to take steps that are readily attainable that would help with this problem. And so I think that there’s also a regulatory component that says, you have to safeguard yourself using these technologies that we’ve identified. We need a much more robust framework that says, if you’re going to have an online system, this is what security means.

I’ll give you one of my favorite examples. The doors that separate your bedroom from the hallway, or the hallway from the garage are rated for a certain number of hours that they can burn in the event of a fire. So the idea of safety and security in the real world is baked into every component of the physical world with which we interact. That level of intensity has got to go into constructing a major website or a major web platform if you have any hope of it being safe or secure. Instead of the current regime, which is really everybody do their best and we’ll hope it doesn’t turn out too badly.

What Gives You the Greatest Optimism Looking Forward?
Over the long haul a freer and more open, more liberal society can suffer a lot of bruises and bumps but can find its way back to a civil discourse. As much as the brand-new tools of communication and aggregation and finding community are creating craziness like QAnon and extremist behavior. I think that there’s still an opportunity for some better version, some good version of communication, collaboration and people coming together to exist. It’s hard to point to quantitative examples of that right now, but I do believe that we will get there. These are growing pains, and growing pains take a decade or two to work their way through the system. But the entire Internet, the way we know it, is barely 25 years old. So it’s barely a young adult. There’s a lot of stories still left to be told.

Read the entire transcript of Sumit Agarwal’s talk here and watch the video below.

 

If you can’t see the video click here

Lessons Learned

  • Cybersecurity for U.S. civilians and business is not protected by the government
    • The U.S. military protects only its systems and people
  • Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior
    • Ideas and concepts that are driven by bad actors around a particular ideology, a particular idea or a concept, none of which are true
  • Deep fakes are a really challenging problem
    • Solvable for official communications through watermarking and fingerprinting
    • Really hard to solve otherwise for user-generated content.
      • Worse when it goes viral
  • The future of warfare is going to be less and less overt
    • It’s going to be about influencing large numbers of people in very subtle ways
    • if you can just influence people in a certain direction, you may be able to win without fighting at all.
    • And so you end up with a war of ideology and a war of culture in liberal democracies

Steve Blank

Technology, Innovation, and Modern War – Class 10 – The DOD and Modern War –– Michèle Flournoy

We just held our tenth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was The DoD and Modern War.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous nine classes here.


 

Some of the readings for this week’s introduction to AI and modern war included: War on Autopilot? It Will Be Harder Than the Pentagon Thinks, Considering Military Culture and Values When Adopting AI, Swarms of Mass Destruction, Joby Aviation raises $ 590 million led by Toyota to launch an electric air taxi service, Linking combat veterans and Valley engineers.

With Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy joining us, we also assigned her recent article in Foreign Affairs, “How to Prevent a War in Asia”and CNAS report “Sharpening the US Military’s Edge: Critical Steps for the Next Generation”

Michèle Flournoy is rumored to be Joe Biden’s candidate for Secretary of Defense.

She served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. She was the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations; and led the development of the Department of Defense’s 2012 Strategic Guidance. She’s currently Co-Founder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors, and former Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a bipartisan national security think tank.

I’ve extracted a few of Michèle’s key insights and I urge you to read the entire transcript here and watch the video.

On China
Throughout the 1990s, we were focused on how to integrate China into the global system so that it would become a responsible stakeholder.

And we did everything we could, WTO membership, all kinds of collaborative efforts. That worked for a while, but at a certain point, particularly under President Xi, China decided that the hide-and-bide strategy was over. It was time to take their claim, their rightful place in the international community. Be more assertive in pursuing their agenda in an international forum. And in particular in the Asia Pacific. And it became clear then that we have a number of areas where we really don’t see eye to eye – our interests and objectives are in conflict. Whether its economic, technological, military there are very important competitions that we’re going to have with China over the coming years that will determine the US ability to protect its own economic vitality, but also our security and that of our allies.

That said, there are also problems when you look around the world, whether it’s the next pandemic or climate change or Non-Proliferation where if the United States and China don’t figure out how to cooperate with one another we will both be in deep trouble. So there has to be a cooperative element of the relationship as well. And so that’s why I don’t like the Cold War frame. I think the name of the game is managing this competition, fostering cooperation where we can. Really focusing on deterring conflict between two nuclear powers, which by definition would be a disaster.

Is China becoming more confident in their capabilities and doubt of our own?
They definitely are becoming more confident in their own capabilities. They’ve invested a lot in an anti-access/area denial strategy. And you see thousands and thousands of different kinds of precision munitions, rockets and missiles. They are doing a pretty good job of trying to create a situation where it will be very costly for us to go inside the first island chain or even a second island chain. But they’re not 10 feet tall; they have a lot of challenges as a military as well.

But the thing that worries me most is the narrative that’s taking hold in in Beijing about the United States, particularly in the wake of our mishandling of the pandemic, the onset of another recession, the sort of divisions and protests you see on the streets. It’s given rise to a narrative of US decline. US self-preoccupation. US turning inward. And to the extent that Chinese leaders start to believe that and really believe that we have not done what is necessary to counter their A2/AD system, they could gain a sense of false confidence that might get them to take more risk-taking behavior. To push the envelope a little too far. A little too fast. Maybe cross some red lines they don’t know they’re crossing.

So it’s on us to be very clear – the United States – about our resolve, our commitment to defending our interest and allies, and how we define those. And to make really clear investments in the capabilities that will ensure our ability to project power and protect those interests in the future.

How Should the DoD Spend Smarter?
I think the real long pole in the tent is in developing new operational concepts, in light of a clear-eyed assessment of what we’re going to face from either China or for example Russia’s A2/AD network in Europe.

It forces us into an uncomfortable position. We like to be dominant in every domain. We like to be the one to beat. Here in every case, we’re going to have to be the asymmetric challenger. You’ve got a resident power with a huge set network of capabilities. They’re going to have more quantity than us. We’re going to have to figure out how to fight it asymmetrically for our advantage.

And so that means, first and foremost, that we really do have to think about new concepts. We have to have much more competitive processes for developing those concepts. Not sort of building consensus on lower common denominator, concepts where everybody gets an equal share of the pie. Not interested in that. We have to link that to a lot of prototyping of new capabilities, experimenting with those new capabilities. See how they can inform the new concepts and vice versa.

And so this very agile, iterative process of bringing new technologies and prototyping systems. Playing them in war games, playing them in simulations, playing them in different experiments taking that feedback, those learnings. Bringing it back to inform the next iteration of the design and so forth. This is the process that’s going to get us to the right place. And it’s something that’s just really, really hard for the Department of Defense to do. We’re not set up to do that quickly or well or at scale.

How Should the DoD Realign its Concepts, Culture, Programs and Budgets?
Well first, the sense of urgency you do hear at the top among the Pentagon leadership is not necessarily fully shared throughout the bureaucracy – surprise, surprise. We’ve started to adjust our acquisition approach. And the departments have put out some very useful new guidance on how to approach software acquisition in a very different way than hardware acquisition. But we haven’t necessarily trained our acquisition people, incented them to have a greater risk tolerance that’s required for this agile development of emerging technologies. Nor have we created real rewards promotion paths career paths for that.

And so there’s a huge human capital effort to be done here to raise the overall tech literacy of all of the folks- from the program managers to the operators. But also, to bring more tech talent into government to really help speed the transformation process.  And that requires again some culture change. You’re not going to keep tech talent if they walk into a typical Pentagon office today. You got to create a different operating culture. And I do think there’s some great examples – Kessel Run in the Air Force or the Joint AI center and parts of SOCOM. These are pockets where they’re trying a different approach, different culture, and having some success attracting the kind of tech talent the department needs. We just need to do all that at a much greater scale and with greater urgency.

Innovation Versus Innovation Adoption
Thanks to organizations like DIU we’ve gotten much better at tech scouting; finding promising technologies that might have a military application, getting them on that initial contract – on a SBIR contract or an OTA prototyping contract.

But the real problem is that almost everybody hits the famous “valley of death.” So you’ve done a great prototype, you’ve won the demonstration, everybody loves you. And then they say, “Well, the next time we can actually insert you into the program and for a production contract is 2023, two and a half years from now.” And for a startup that’s like, “What do you mean? I’ve got to have access to recurring revenue to survive until then.” And so they get pressure from their investors to forget the national security side, just go commercial. It’s this terrible situation. So what do we need to fix that?

Number one, you need a more flexible set of funding authorities to bridge that gap. One idea is to allow the services to have some greater reprogramming authorities within mission areas or across portfolios, so that at the end of the year, when they’d have something that didn’t work, they can scrape up money there and put it into the next iteration of development for the thing that does work, and maybe get another year of bridge funding to get to that production contract.

That obviously requires some working with Congress to get them comfortable that they’ll have the transparency and oversight, but they need to give the department that kind of flexibility. I also think it involves bringing the ultimate end user into the earliest contact. So you have a program manager who’s watching this thing like a hawk from the beginning. And is already thinking about how it’s going to disrupt and be integrated into something he or she is responsible for. And you have to incent that. Rather just rewarding this rigorous, we only care about cost and schedule. You’ve got incent program managers if you can get better performance at lower costs, you got to be a disrupter yourself. You got to bring new ideas into what you’re managing to do that – which is a very different approach. It’s not easy to do. But we have to try to figure that out.

How Can We Work More Closely with Allies and Partners?
For each of the key priority areas, whether it’s AI or robotics or Quantum or hypersonics, whatever it is, we could do some mapping of which of our allies really has cutting edge work going on, either in their research universities or in their innovation base. And look for opportunities of where we perhaps get farther faster by sharing some of that. There are all kinds of ways to do this. One is to cross invest. I know In-Q-Tel has started investing in UK companies, Australian companies, for example, with certain priorities in mind. I would love to see DIU get into the business of starting to bring some of those allied companies in.

I think this needs to be a topic of policy discussion of where we collectively go after some of these areas with joint ventures or joint technology development and more efforts like that at scale. It’s a very important area. Particularly given that both China and Russia are going to be leveraging these technologies in ways that are really counter to our Western values in terms of surveillance systems and without respect for personal privacy and all kinds of things. And I think the more we have a common values-based approach to technology with our allies, the stronger we can be in showing up at an international forum where standards are being set or norms are being set and so forth.

What Legacy Programs Should be Downsized to Fund Investment in Emerging Technologies?
It’s a great and necessary question, because the DoD always has more programs than budget. But I think with COVID and with the recession whoever wins the White House in November, you’re going to see a flattening of the DoD budget. The sort of assumptions of 3% to 5% growth over and above inflation, that’s not going to hold no matter who is in the White House. So you’re going to have to make some tough tradeoffs. I can’t give you an answer off top my head, but I can tell you how I would think it through.

I think we need to look mission area by mission area and look across services at portfolios of capabilities to ask, “What is the mix that we need so that we have the platforms we need, but also the money to invest and incorporate the emerging technologies that will make those legacy platforms survivable, relevant, combat effective in the future?” And so it really has to happen on a mission area basis.

I think in some cases you may find redundant capabilities within or between services. Sometimes you’ll say, I don’t want that redundancy. I’m going to make a determination and one is going to be a winner and the other is going to be a loser. But sometimes, for the sake of resilience, for the sake of complicating adversary attack planning, you may want redundancy. You may want multiple different ways to accomplish a particular task. So this has to be done with very strong analytic grounding. Looking at both performance and capability, but also cost, and so forth.

My bias is that we have to be much more aggressive in going down the road of human/machine teaming and in gaining mass, gaining capacity and complicating the other side’s planning process by incorporating unmanned in all domains. More unmanned undersea, on the sea, in the air and beyond. If we can crack the code on that integration that is going to give us for the cost of the system a lot more capacity and capability.

What Should be Done to Enhance the Recruitment and Retention of a Technologically Superior Defense Workforce?
We’re finding one of the most important things we’re doing – who knew – is creating a handbook for the DoD folks to say, “Here are all the authorities, you may not know you have for bringing tech talent is. Here are the best practices in terms of how to approach the hiring process. Here are the kinds of things you need to have in place to make those folks successful.” And give them the tools they need to really contribute. So trying to take all the learnings of where it’s been tried and failed, or where it succeeded and why. And put it in a handbook for the DoD hiring authorities to say, here’s your own learnings that you can build on to get that tech talent in at greater scale and with greater speed.

One of the key barriers is still the clearance process. That seems to hold people up for a bit. But I think the department is seriously working on trying to reduce some of those barriers. Then the second piece, I would say, is career path. The services are actually sitting on a lot of STEM talent, but they don’t manage them as STEM talent. You know they forced the young captain who is the Air Force AI specialist to leave and go out and be on a squadron staff in order to check the box, so he can get his next promotion. The services need to design career paths for technologists, so that they can get rewarded, promoted, and reach leadership positions as technologists. Otherwise, we will under leverage the people who are already in the force.

What are Some Potential DoD Problems or Operational Concepts That You Would Like Our Best and Brightest Here At Stanford’s Address in Class – Now and in the Future – and Why?
I think the long pole in the tent is this notion of joint all domain command and control in an environment that will be constantly contested. So the analogy is how do you build the equivalent of a resilient electrical grid as your command and control network? So that if on part of it you have an electronic warfare attack and one end of it goes down, the system automatically reroutes and is connecting shooters and sensors in a different way that allows them to keep operating without missing a beat.

So it’s coming up with how the key elements of stitching together a network of networks that has that resilience and an ability to connect and operate at the edge, even during periods where there’s disruption and you can’t call back to headquarters. That to me is the long pole in the tent for  future multi-domain operations this very distributed approach to warfare, that will be necessary.

The second piece is the technical aspects of human machine teaming, and how that really works – and again, in multiple domains, whether it’s undersea or on the sea or in the air or above. That is another key point. And then just lots of applications that can increase the accuracy and speed of our decision-making faster than that of the other side. Just humans still making the decisions, but getting the right information, the right analysis to them at the right moment in time, where we can make the decision and gain that advantage in the cycle of competition.

How Can the Defense Department, and Our Leadership Unify the US Against These Threats in a Highly Partisan and Divided Political Environment?
It’s a great question, and it points to this question of leadership. We need a president and a commander in chief to step forward and provide a vision to make the case, to provide the sort of nature of the challenges, the threat assessment, why it’s important to the prosperity and security of Americans at home. And what we need to do to go after it. I would love to see a moonshot moment kind of speech, a Kennedy speech that sort of says, We’re in this competition, and this is really going to matter to our way of life. But we’re America, we know how to do this. We came out of the Great Depression. We came out of World War Two. We came out of Vietnam. And we have good done this before. We are we are in crisis. We’re going to come out of this, and we’re going to be stronger and all of us need to help. So how are you going to help drive investment in the drivers of American competitiveness?

And some of it will be by doing great work in STEM in our research universities. Some of it will be investing in 21st century infrastructure. Some of it will be developing these new technologies that can transform both our society and our economy and our military. But really inspiring Americans to say, we need your talents. We need everybody to step up and help. That’s what I’m looking for. And, and I haven’t seen it recently, but I’m looking for that kind of leadership.

What Advice Would You Give America’s Best and Brightest, at Universities Across the Country on How They Can Serve and Make a Difference – Short of Joining the Military or Other US government Organizations?
I think we should all feel some desire, but also an obligation to serve. I mean, to be partaking of all the incredible freedoms and benefits of this country. What can we give back? For some of us, it’s going to be going into government service or serving in the military.

But there are ways to serve in other parts of the US government. There are ways to serve in nonprofits. There are all kinds of ways to get involved in enriching society and helping to serve the United States. And so find whatever that area of passion is for you, find the time to do that. Maybe it’s going to be through your work, but maybe it’s going to be through some of the activities you do when you’re not at work. If we all stepped up to that, sort of drive to serve, it doesn’t have to be in government, we’d enrich our society so greatly.

So the homework assignment is – find that passion and that path to service, whether it’s going into government for a stint, advising or helping or investing in some other way that’s going to make your community or the country or the world a better place.

Read the entire transcript of Michèle Flournoy’s talk here and watch the video below.

 

If you can’t see the video click here

Lessons Learned

  • Michèle Flournoy is an experienced former senior defense official who is thinking deeply and critically about how to best address emerging national security challenges
  • She would be a great SecDef

Steve Blank

St. Louis-based Eemerg among 10 startups in Techstars Chicago’s latest class – St. Louis Business Journal

St. Louis-based Eemerg among 10 startups in Techstars Chicago’s latest class  St. Louis Business Journal
“startups when:1d” – Google News

Technology, Innovation and Modern War – Class 9 – Autonomy – Maynard Holliday

We just held our ninth session of our new national security class Technology, Innovation and Modern WarJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed a class to examine the new military systems, operational concepts and doctrines that will emerge from 21st century technologies – Space, Cyber, AI & Machine Learning and Autonomy.

Today’s topic was Autonomy and Modern War.

Catch up with the class by reading our summaries of the previous eight classes here.


Some of the readings for this class session included Directive 3000.09: Autonomy in Weapons Systems, U.S. Policy on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems, International Discussions Concerning Lethal Autonomous Weapon SystemsJoint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), A New Joint Doctrine for an Era of Multi-Domain Operations,  Six Ways the U.S. Isn’t Ready for Wars of the Future.

Autonomy and The Department of Defense
Our last two class sessions focused on AI and the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (the JAIC,) the DoD’s organization chartered to insert AI across the entire Department of Defense. In this class session Maynard Holliday of RAND describes the potential of autonomy in the DoD.

Maynard was the Senior Technical Advisor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistic during the previous Administration. There he provided the Secretary technical and programmatic analysis and advice on R&D, acquisition, and sustainment. He led analyses of commercial Independent Research and Development (IRAD) programs and helped establish the Department’s Defense Innovation Unit. And relevant to today’s class, he was the senior government advisor to the Defense Science Board’s 2015 Summer Study on Autonomy.

Today’s class session was helpful in differentiating between AI, robotics, autonomy and remotely operated systems. (Today, while drones are unmanned systems, they are not autonomous. They are remotely piloted/operated.)

I’ve extracted and paraphrased a few of Maynard’s key insights from his work on the Defense Science Board Autonomy study, and I urge you to read the entire transcript here and watch the video.

Autonomy Defined
There are a lot of definitions of autonomy. However, the best definition came from the Defense Science Board. They said, to be autonomous a system must have the capability to independently compose and select among different courses of action to accomplish goals based on its knowledge and understanding of the world, itself, and the situation. They offered that there were two types of Autonomy:

  • Autonomy at Rest – systems that operate virtually, in software, and include planning and expert advisory systems. For example, in Cyber, where you have to react at machine speed
  • Autonomy in Motion – systems that have a presence in the physical world. These include robotics and autonomous vehicles, missiles and other kinetic effects

A few definitions:

AI are computer systems that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence – sense, plan, adapt, and act, including the ability to automate vision, speech, decision-making, swarming, etc. – Provides the intelligence for Autonomy.

Robotics provides kinetic movement with sensors, actuators, etc., for Autonomy in Motion.

Intelligent systems combine both Autonomy at Rest and Motion with the application of AI to a particular problem or domain.

Why Does DoD Need Autonomy? Autonomy on the Battlefield
Over the last decade, the DoD has adopted robotics and unmanned vehicle systems, but almost all are “dumb” – pre-programmed or remotely operated – rather than autonomous. Autonomous weapons and weapons platforms—aircraft, missiles, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), unmanned ground systems (UGS) and unmanned underwater systems (UUS) are the obvious applications.

Below is an illustration of a concept of operations of a battle space. You can think of this as the Taiwan Straits, or near the Korean Peninsula.

On the left you have a joint force; a carrier battle group, AWACS aircraft, satellite communications. On the right, aggressor forces in the orange bubbles are employing cyber threats, dynamic threats, denied GPS and comms (things we already see in the battlespace today.)

Another example: Adversaries have developed sophisticated anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities. In some of these environments human reaction time may be insufficient for survival.

Autonomy can increase the speed and accuracy of decision-making. Using Autonomy at Rest (cyber, electronic warfare,) as well as Autonomy in Motion, (drones, kinetic effects,) you can move faster than your adversaries can respond.

Autonomy Creates New Tactics in the Physical and Cyber Domains
The combatant commanders asked the Science Board to assess how autonomy could improve their operations. The diagram below illustrates where autonomy is most valuable. For example, in row one, on the left, you don’t need autonomy when required decision speed is low. But as the required decision speed, complexity, volume of data and danger increases, the value of autonomy goes up. In the right column you see examples of where autonomy provides value.

The Defense Science Board studied several example scenarios.

Some of these recommendations were invested in immediately. One was the DARPA OFFSET (Offensive Swarm Enabled Tactics) program run by Tim Chung. He holds the record for holding a hundred swarms. And he took his expertise to DARPA to run a swarm challenge. Another DARPA investment was the Cyber Grand Challenge, to seed-fund systems able to search big data for indicators of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation.

Can You Trust an Autonomous System?
A question that gets asked by commanders and non-combatants alike is, “Can you trust an autonomous system? The autonomy study specifically identified the issue of trust as core to the department’s success in broader adoption of autonomy. Trust is established through the design and testing of an autonomous system and is essential to its effective operation. If troops in the field can’t trust that a system will operate as intended, they will not employ it. Operators must know that if a variation in operations occurs or the system fails in any way, it will respond appropriately or can be placed under human control.

DOD order 3000.09 says that a human has to be at the end of the kill chain for any autonomous system now.

Postscript – Autonomy on the Move
A lot has happened since the 2015 Defense Science Board autonomy study. In 2018 the DoD stood up a dedicated group – the JAIC – the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, (which we talked about in the last two classes here and here) to insert AI across the DoD.

After the wave of inflated expectations, deploying completely autonomous systems to handle complex unbounded problems are much harder to build than originally thought. (A proxy for this enthusiasm versus reality can be seen in the hype versus delivery of fully autonomous cars.)

That said, all U.S. military services are working to incorporate AI into semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles into what the Defense Science Board called Autonomy in Motion. This means adding autonomy to fighters, drones, ground vehicles, and ships. The goal is to use AI to sense the environment, recognize obstacles, fuse sensor data, plan navigation, and communicate with other vehicles. All the services have built prototype systems in their R&D organizations though none have been deployed operationally.

A few examples; The Air Force Research Lab has its Loyal Wingman and Skyborg programs. DARPA built swarm drones and ground systems in its OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program.

The Navy is building Large and Medium Unmanned Surface Vessels based on development work done by the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO). It’s called Ghost Fleet, and its Large Unmanned Surface Vessels development effort is called Overlord.

DARPA completed testing of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel prototype, or “Sea Hunter,” in early 2018. The Navy is testing Unmanned Ships in the NOMARS (No Manning Required Ship) Program.

Future conflicts will require decisions to be made within minutes, or seconds compared with the current multiday process to analyze the operating environment and issue commands – in some cases autonomously. An example of Autonomy at Rest is tying all the sensors from all the military services together into a single network, which will be the JACD2 (Joint All-Domain Command and Control). (The Air Force version is called ABMS (Advanced Battle Management System).

The history of warfare has shown that as new technologies become available as weapons, they are first used like their predecessors. But ultimately the winners on the battlefield are the ones who develop new doctrine and new concepts of operations. The question is, which nation will be first to develop the Autonomous winning concepts of operation? Our challenge will be to rapidly test these in war games, simulations, and in experiments. Then take that feedback and learnings to iterate and refine the systems and concepts.

Finally, in the back of everyone’s mind is that while DOD order 3000.09 prescribes what machines will be allowed to do on their own, what happens when we encounter adversaries who employ autonomous weapons that don’t have our rules of engagement?

Read the entire transcript of Maynard Holliday’s talk here and watch the video below.

If you can’t see the video click here

Lessons Learned

  • Autonomy at Rest – systems that operate virtually, in software, and include planning and expert advisory systems
    • For example, Cyber, battle networks, anywhere you must react at machine speed
  • Autonomy in Motion – systems that have a presence in the physical world
    • Includes robotics and autonomous vehicles, missiles, drones
  • AI provides the intelligence for autonomy
    • Sense, plan, adapt, and act
  • Robotics provides the kinetic movement for autonomy
    • Sensors, actuators, UAV, USVs, etc.
  • Deploying completely autonomous systems to handle complex unbounded problems are much harder than originally thought
  • All U.S. military services are working to incorporate AI into semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles and networks
  • Ultimately the winner on the battlefield will be those who develop new doctrines and new concepts of operations

Steve Blank