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21 Jan 21. AlphaDogfight should scare the Air Force straight into scaling AI efforts. A few months ago, an AI pilot trounced an elite U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in a simulated dogfight. Sound like the stuff of sci-fi nightmares? If the Air Force continues on its current path, it is.
When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) concluded the AlphaDogfight competition in August, the Air Force experienced just how advanced AI systems have become.
AlphaDogfight pitted AI companies against one another’s dogfighting algorithms in a tournament-style competition, with the winner earning the chance to face off against a human fighter pilot.
The final tally: 5-0 in favor of the algorithmic “pilot.”
That result reinforces a trend in AI vs. human contests: Humans are losing their edge over machines in more and more tasks. And the trend is accelerating. It’s a question of when, not if, AI will change everything about the way the Air Force must do business.
To make that transition, the Air Force must accelerate its efforts to ready itself for the AI revolution. Otherwise, as Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown put it when calling for accelerating change: The service will lose.
Senior leaders such as Brown are saying the right things. The 2018 National Defense Strategy pushes for “an unmatched 21st century National Security Innovation Base.” The 2019 USAF Annex to the DoD AI Strategy and DoD Data Strategy `recognize that AI will shape the battlefield of the 21st century, and the Air Force must invest in a data-centric ecosystem to facilitate AI capability. The recent National Defense Authorization Act even includes measures to direct focus on AI development in critical areas.
This direction has produced initiatives like the Air Force/MIT AI Accelerator, unit-level Spark Cells, the advanced battle management system (ABMS) initiative, and software development organizations such as Kessel Run and Kobayashi Maru.
Do you know how the government fights drones?
These innovation hubs have incrementally proven out a series of best practices for changing the culture and practices of the service to prepare for the AI age.
Unfortunately, these exceptions prove the rule: Despite evidence that AI is going to radically change the way the Air Force must operate, and quickly, the service is still only sprinkling innovation, and AI efforts more specifically, across the service.
Bold initiatives such as ABMS and JADC2 proclaim an envisioned service that leverages advanced analytics and decision intelligence algorithms to build situational awareness and the ability to act on it quickly, but how does the Air Force take the next step on its journey toward true AI-enabled capability (and prepare for the myriad business process changes that AI will bring), at a pace that will ensure it isn’t left behind? The answer is multifaceted and complex, but the first step should be to scale validated practices from Air Force innovation units and adopt a few overdue changes. These steps should focus on the areas any organization needs to make change to ready itself for AI: people, data and culture.
- People: Reform talent management for digital skill sets.
In 2020, Kessel Run demonstrated effective ‘digital’ (referring to digital age skill sets critical to AI development like software development and data engineering) talent management by allowing an almost completely remote workforce, moving to virtual hiring, and finding new ways to foster the skills of its people. These moves allowed the organization to pull from a much larger talent pool.
To scale recruiting success demonstrated in the innovation ecosystem, the Air Force needs to allow remote work wherever feasible and maximize its participation in virtual recruiting events, hackathons, career fairs and tech conferences to build more bridges to these communities.
To scale success in building organic Air Force talent already in the service, the assignment selection process should (finally) improve how it tracks, incentivizes and assigns digital talent to appropriate organizations and positions. Tagging skillsets and providing financial compensation will improve retention. The service must also expand continuous learning opportunities outside the professional military education and technical schools.
- Data: Set the stage for artificial intelligence by becoming data-centric
The service must accelerate its efforts to become more data-centric. The work and advocacy done by Kessel Run, Kobayashi Maru and the Air Force Chief Data Office’s VAULT program embody data-centric efforts. They emphasize data sharing and focus on enforcing healthy data management standards and practices.
Kessel Run’s ODIN effort, the suite of applications replacing the F-35 ALIS maintenance system, demonstrates the importance of valuing data. The ALIS system was plagued by insecurities, prone to error, and left much to be desired in the “user-friendly” category. Within a year of standing up a data team, which was empowered to make appropriate decisions about how to gather and utilize data, Kessel Run deployed a replacement suite of applications that strengthen the F-35 data ecosystem by enforcing standards, creating data stores for analytics, and optimizing maintenance schedules. The new system brings vast data improvements, leading to less maintenance time and more efficient scheduling.
The service faces big challenges to scaling data-driven systems across the Air Force, such as the availability and sharing of data across silos, and archaic methods used to manage huge data sets. Leaders must require and enforce informed data sharing in every digital system, support good IT infrastructure to enable data movement, hire and support software development capabilities to collect and analyze the data, and demand security to protect it. Integrated and operational AI is a system of systems, requiring much more than just algorithms — the right people, data, infrastructure and tools are needed to establish and maintain it.
- Culture: Embrace and espouse an agile digital mindset
The Air Force innovation ecosystem has demonstrated the value in challenging the status quo, failing fast and iterating continuously. These components, which collectively comprise an agile mindset, have driven these units’ ability to deliver capability to the war fighter. The Next-Generation Air Defense Program recently reported to the world that 6th-gen fighters have been developed, simulated and flown on an incredibly condensed schedule, thanks to sophisticated digital engineering and modeling like that seen in modern Formula One racing design and engineering. These methods simulate real-world conditions with extraordinary fidelity and give designers and engineers the ability to run a huge number of experiments and simulations at an unprecedented pace. A mindset that combines the iterative power of the agile process and the transformational power of digital-first design and evaluation is foundational to integrating AI algorithms.
To scale this across the Air Force, leaders need to publicly and consistently embrace this agile mindset. This means consistently communicating Brown’s “Accelerate Change or Lose” effort and acquisitions chief Will Roper’s call for disruptive agility and a new digital paradigm for Air Force spending. It means taking a cue from Space Force Chief John Raymond’s public push for guardians to help him stand up a lean and agile service. It also means championing success stories like the innovation efforts by the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale, which implemented radically new processes and demonstrated an ability to provide solutions at speed in the recent U-2 mid-flight software update and AI co-pilot demonstrations.
To recognize and reward these efforts, commanders must discover, then insist on metrics that demonstrate solving problems iteratively with digital solutions, and track speed and efficacy of capability delivery.
The service cannot lose this competition. In an era of renewed great power competition, when peer competitors China and Russia are clearly prioritizing AI development, and the capabilities that come with it, that could be a fatal mistake. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
21 Jan 21. US Army Needs ‘Unified Network’ Linking Tactical & Home-Base Systems: G-6. The US Army must link its tactical networks with its “enterprise” networks at home base, Lt. Gen. Morrison said, passing data on everything from artillery bombardments to cyber attacks.
To win the fast-moving battles of the future, the Army must connect its separate networks for tactical units — which are designed to deploy abroad — and its enterprise networks, which is based at home, the service’s chief communications officer told an AFCEA conference today.
“If you buy into the notion of multi-domain, which the Army has, it is our operational concept of the future, you must have a unified network,” said Lt. Gen. Morrison, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for command, control, communications, and computers, aka staff section G-6. “Cyber effects almost always will be delivered from infrastructure that resides on the enterprise side, but may have tactical effects inside tactical formation. We must have that be seamless.”
In other words, the Army needs to employ cyber weapons on the battlefield — but its most powerful cyber weapons, both offensive and defensive, are based back in the United States. It needs to fire battlefield precision weapons over hundreds or thousands of miles — but the satellites to spot targets at such ranges are largely controlled by command centers in the US. Current networks aren’t adequate to coordinate US-based cyber and space operators with frontline tactical units.
This kind of network integration, between distant effects and local impacts, extends beyond launching packets of hostile code at enemy systems. It extends, too, to directing explosions on a battlefield.
“You have long-range precision fires, where you have a cannon that can fire hundreds of miles, that’s not going to be supported by a tactical network, that’s going to have to be supported by a unified network,” said Morrison.
The challenge, as Morrison described it, is ensuring that relevant data flow easily and securely through this unified network, without imposing such strict cybersecurity and classification that different organizatiosn can’t share data swiftly, but also without insufficient classification and cybersecurity, which could leave the information more easily exposed to an adversary.
“The enemy only has to be right once. On the NIPRNet, it’s like playing whack-a-mole,” said Morrison. “We have to make the right balance between what is on mission [networks] and what is on unclass[ified].”
Getting this right will be part of the task of the Integrated Operational Planning team the Army is putting together. With that guidance, the Army will be able to allow a fast and vital flow of intelligence from where it is collected to the people who need it on the tactical level. This, in turn, will support the Joint Tactical Grid, the Army’s big contribution to the future all-service Joint All Domain Command & Control (JADC2) system, and its goal of putting any shooter on any target.
This unified network is meant to ensure commanders have all options available and that no desired effect, be it a cyber attack or artillery strike, is cut out of the process through a lack of communication. Morrison pointed to new satellite constellation in Low- and Medium-Earth Orbit as a way to keep communications resilient and redundant. Beyond that, the Army has some promising experiments with battalions plugging into existing wifi and cellular networks to enhance battlefield communications.
“If you buy into this notion of unified network, I should be able to plug into just about anything,” said Morrison. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
21 Jan 21. Top Navy IT office planning how to speed up software development. The U.S. Navy will soon have a plan for how to implement the accelerated DevSecOps software development process across the service, the chief information officer announced Thursday.
A new internal task force will deliver recommendations for how the Navy can improve its use of DevSecOps to make the practice “foundational and economical to our way of securely delivering software,” according to a memo dated Jan. 15 from Navy CIO Aaron Weis and James Geurts, then-assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. Geurts, a political appointee, resigned his position after the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
“The challenge before us is to determine the most effective and efficient implementation across our diverse landscape of operating environments that optimizes limited resources and minimizes impact to innovation and agility,” the memo stated. “Institutionalizing DSO across the DON requires the adoption of industry best practices, standards and processes enterprise-wide.”
The task force will present its recommendations to the Navy Information Superiority Executive Steering Group, and the plan will serve as an “authoritative roadmap” for enterprise implementation of DevSecOps. The task force has 60 days from Jan. 15 to deliver its recommendations.
The memo directs the task force to identify recommendations including a framework for DevSecOps infrastructure, potential obstacles to scaling the process, and methods to keep the execution plan affordable.
The task force leader is Jane Rathbun, Navy chief technology officer and deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for information warfare and enterprise services.
“The DSO TF shall leverage industry best practices and the work of successful DOD/Naval DSO efforts underway. DSO TF recommendations shall span the diverse ecosystem of DON computing environments and conditions,” the memo states.
The Navy CIO’s office released several memos in recent months, including one in December that updated a policy aimed at accelerating cloud adoption across the service. The Navy also announced a review of its $4bn IT portfolio to gain a better understanding of its IT portfolio and where its resources are being spent.
The memos align with the Navy’s information superiority vision, released last February, that outlined the Navy’s plans to modernize and secure its networks. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated the Navy’s IT plans, including a Microsoft Office 365 roll out. Weis doesn’t want the Navy to lose that momentum when work from home end, he told C4ISRNET.
“Now that we know that we can fly, you know, we don’t settle for ground travel,” Weis said in December. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
21 Jan 21. DOD Incorporating AI Ethics Into Systems Engineering, Official Says. Artificial intelligence is one of the Defense Department’s top technology modernization priorities. Because AI enables autonomy, decision making and system execution at incredibly fast speeds, department officials felt strongly that ethical considerations should go into its design and employment, Alka Patel, head of artificial intelligence ethics policy at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said today at the Defense One Genius Machines 2021 virtual summit.
These ethical principles build on the department’s long history of ethical adoption of new technologies and rules of engagement and warfare, she added.
The Defense Innovation Board spent months developing the principles and consulted with leading AI and technical experts, as well as current and former DOD leaders and the American public, she said.
Those principles state:
- DOD personnel will exercise appropriate levels of judgment and care while remaining responsible for the development, deployment and use of AI capabilities.
- The department will take deliberate steps to minimize unintended bias in AI capabilities.
- The department’s AI capabilities will be developed and deployed such that relevant personnel possess an appropriate understanding of the technology, development processes and operational methods, including transparent and auditable methodologies, data sources and design procedures and documentation.
- The department’s AI capabilities will have explicit, well-defined uses, and the safety, security and effectiveness of such capabilities will be subject to testing and assurance within those defined uses across their life cycles.
- The department will design and engineer AI capabilities: (1) to fulfill their intended functions while possessing the ability to detect and avoid unintended consequences, and (2) to disengage or deactivate deployed systems that demonstrate unintended behavior.
Now that the principles have been established, the department is going about operationalizing them to AI applications across the services, she said, adding that it’s a tall but necessary order. Training and education of ethical AI practices across the department also goes hand-in-hand with that.
Another important part of AI ethics is sharing the conversation with allies and partners, so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to how ethics comes to play in interoperability, she said.
Sharing the conversation with corporations that are helping the department in its AI efforts is also important, Patel said. Companies and their employees need assurance that what they are helping to build will be used in an ethically responsible manner and, in turn, that they need to build it to ethical standards. (Source: US DoD)
21 Jan 21. TrellisWare Demonstrated Full Duplex Radio Capable of 200 Mbps Throughput Developed Under U.S. Army Program. TrellisWare Technologies, Inc. today announced the successful completion of the Military Full Duplex Radio (MFDR) program that developed a spectrally efficient high-data rate communication system for civilian and military use. With this capability, we are now able to transmit and receive data on the same frequency at the same time. This is driving the need for much higher efficiency radios that use less bandwidth.
Under the $15.7m contract awarded by the National Spectrum Consortium (NSC) in 2017, TrellisWare led a multi-vendor team to design a Same Frequency Simultaneous Transmit and Receive (SF-STAR) prototype radio that significantly reduces the amount of spectrum required to deploy civilian and military high-data rate communications. With rapid expansion of commercial wireless services, there is increased pressure for the Department of Defense (DoD) to vacate or share spectrum currently reserved for tactical radio systems.
The SF-STAR radio was developed to Technology Readiness Level 6 (TRL-6) and supports simultaneous transmit and receive functionality on the same frequency from ultra-high frequency (UHF) to S-band, with receive sensitivity comparable or better than half-duplex systems. SF-STAR technology enables a radio system to simultaneously transmit and receive data on the same frequency at the same time instead of utilizing traditional Time Division Duplex (TDD) or Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) methods. SF-STAR technology has the promise of delivering a higher data rate in the same spectrum bandwidth, or the same data rate in smaller spectrum bandwidth. This is an extremely challenging design problem because the transmitter’s high power traditionally leaks into the receiver and makes simultaneous transmit and receive on the same frequency impossible.
TrellisWare leveraged advanced Interference Cancellation (IC) technologies developed over the past twenty years to cancel that leakage and enable a viable SF-STAR system. TrellisWare developed the SF-STAR radio and inline cancellation module which demonstrates two times the spectral efficiency compared to other FDD systems and delivers 200 Mbps of full duplex data rate on a single 20MHz channel. This represents a spectral efficiency of 10 bits/Hz/sec.
“This problem space was a huge under taking, and this program successfully addressed these challenges through capability demonstrations,” said Herald Beljour, CIV US Army CCDC C5ISR. “TrellisWare was able to demonstrate [that] this technology works, and the efficacy of this technology in the commercial and military domain. Having this capability fills a significant technology gap for efficient spectral occupancy and management.”
“TrellisWare’s advanced IC technology enables a transmit power of 50 watts while receiving a distant weak signal that is 130dB lower than the transmitted signal,” said Louise Borrelli, director of technology development. “This demonstrates TrellisWare’s expertise in IC technology that can be applied in many different interference mitigation applications. This high power, high dynamic range design has great potential for tactical radio relay systems and commercial base station applications. TrellisWare plans to continue making improvements to the SF-STAR technology to support even higher spectral efficiencies. Our next goal is to support 1Gbps full duplex data rate during the next two years.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
22 Jan 21. SOIO to roll out military cyber courses. The training and education provider is set to deliver a short course tailored for military audiences to address the cyber workforce skills shortage.
The School of Information Operations (SOIO) — a collaboration between DEWC T&E and global defence prime Leonardo — has developed a military cyber operations short course to be offered from 2-4 February in the Adelaide-based Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre (A3C).
The ‘Introduction to Military Cyber Operations’ entry course is set to be run four times per year, with the first course in February tailored for military audiences.
The course is designed to provide students with the basic cyber security principles associated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory agency of the United States Department of Commerce.
The course aims to provide students with an understanding of the Commonwealth government’s cyber security policies, reinforced by practical demonstrations of cyber threats on the A3C’s cyber range.
According to SOIO, the course was developed in response to the federal government’s recent commitment to bolster investment in the cyber security space.
The Morrison government plans to spend $1.35bn over the next 10 years to enhance Australia’s cyber security capabilities through the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
Included in the investment is $470m in funding to expand the cyber security workforce, with over 500 new jobs created within ASD.
Glenn Murray, chief executive of SOIO, said the group’s short course would help ensure the Australian government meets its objectives.
“Australia needs more highly skilled EW and cyber security workers,” he said.
“The bigger question is, does our current cyber workforce have the required knowledge or even basic knowledge in Military Cyber Operations?
“Will the Australian Signals Directorate be able to fulfil their requirement of over 500 new jobs in the next decade if there is a skills shortage in Australia?”
Murray concluded: “There is an urgent need to address this cyber shortage and this is why DEWC T&E is collaborating with Leonardo so SOIO can offer a new range of cyber security courses in Australia.” (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Jan 21. Saudi Arabia makes artificial intelligence a cornerstone of its 2030 vision. As Saudi Arabia moves forward with an ambitious economic plan, the country’s data and artificial intelligence authority released a multiphase strategy that aims to position the nation as a global leader in the field by 2030.
“Data and AI are at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. By developing our own AI strategy and policies, we have developed the skills and resources that we wish to share with other nations to ensure that all countries are equally prepared to harness the value of AI,” said Majid AlShehry, a spokesperson for the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, a government office linked directly to the prime minister.
At the GITEX trade show, the organization showcased three developments:
- The Boroog platform, a secure government videoconferencing system, used for the G-20 summit. SDAIA disclosed in November that the authority has repelled more than 2 million cyberattacks using special protections it had developed.
- The Tawakkalna app, designed to support government efforts aimed at countering COVID-19. It facilitates the issuance of movement permits electronically during curfews for government and private sector employees.
- AI Artathon, the first international artificial intelligence art competition held in Saudi Arabia.
AlShehry stressed SDAIA is helping during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the economic and defense sectors, by tracking data.
“SDAIA has responded to COVID-19 by creating the operations center for supporting the security and health sectors in tackling the coronavirus pandemic,” he said. “The center has helped decision-makers to develop effective strategies based on data and facts and supported the nation’s precautionary measures to combat the spread of the virus.”
The operations center has utilized the datasets from the National Data Bank (NDB), together with its Estishraf platform’s advanced capabilities, to help analyze data, he added. In addition, the group makes use of platforms from its operational arm, the National Information Center (NIC), when required.
“These efforts have played a significant role in helping to contain the virus and reducing its impact on people and the economy,” AlShehry said.
SDAIA, established in 2019, is a government body directly linked to the prime minister. It is chaired by the board of directors deputy prime minister.
“Saudi Arabia is at the crossroads of three continents. We believe that our experience in placing AI at the center of the kingdom’s transformation, together with our position between the East and the West, makes Saudi Arabia an ideal place for the world to come and partner with us in our journey to move AI in the right direction for the benefit of humanity,” AlShehry said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
15 Jan 21. Pentagon testing office finds problems — again — with network security system. For the fourth year in a row, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester recommended Thursday that components stop migrating to a fraught network security system until the department proves that the system can effectively help defend against cyberattacks.
The department’s Joint Regional Security Stacks program faces numerous shortfalls, continuing to provide insufficient network defense capabilities, according to the annual report from the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation office. Components should look to other cybersecurity programs in the department’s pipeline, including work on zero trust, the report recommended.
The security system is supposed to improve cyber situational awareness of DoD network defenders by increasing their ability to continuously monitor and analyze network traffic on the DoD information network (DoDIN). The program, managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency, is supposed to be deployed on both the Nonclassified Internet Protocol (IP) Router Network (NIPRnet) and Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet). Its capabilities include firewall functions, intrusion detection and prevention, enterprise management, and virtual routing.
Migrations to the NIPRnet’s security stacks system have continued “despite DOT&E recommendations to suspend them until the stacks are shown to be effective in operational testing,” the report said. Assessments since 2016 found that the security system for NIPRnet hasn’t helped network defenders protect against realistic cyberattacks, the report said.
SIPRnet deployment, meanwhile, was postponed to fiscal 2023 after a test last year showed poor cybersecurity findings, leading the program office to shut down existing joint stacks systems on the secret infrastructure and delay full deployment. The 2021 defense policy law bars DISA from spending funds on SIPRnet deployment after lawmakers expressed concern about its “limited cybersecurity capability and the existence of alternative capabilities to execute its network functions.”
Though SIPRnet capabilities were deployed in 2016, the report noted that no users had migrated to it.
The report made seven recommendations to the department’s chief information officer and components, including that the DoD continue to develop alternative cybersecurity programs and halt adding new users until the system proves that it can aid cyber defenders. Additionally, DOT&E pointed to the department’s work on zero-trust pilots, stating that components should track that work and forgo Joint Regional Security Stacks deployment on SIPRnet if those pilots prove viable.
The program, which is not a program of record, is also missing an operational requirements document, according to the report. That document is needed in part to “improve the N-JRSS defense against nation-state threats,” a timely recommendation after Russian-linked hackers breached unclassified systems of several federal agencies using their software supply chains.
“In order to fully address users’ and mission owners’ needs during testing, operational requirements must be documented,” the report said.
As the years-long list of problems continue to pile up, members of Congress are showing skepticism about the program. In addition to banning spending on SIPRnet deployment, the defense policy law directed the Defense Department to decide by Oct. 1 whether the effort should become a program of record or get phased out.
Despite their concerns, lawmakers fully authorized the department’s $88.7m budget request.
DISA, meanwhile, appears to still view the system as a core part of it security architecture moving forward. The agency’s strategic plan for 2021 and 2022 outlined how it will sustain the program and update the stacks through refreshes. (Source: Defense News)
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