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14 May 20. USSOCOM details HEO progress. US Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM’s) Hyper Enabled Operator (HEO) concept will focus on the support of partnering and unconventional warfare operations, service officials disclosed this week. Addressing delegates at the virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) on 12 May, USSOCOM Director of the HEO Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF), Colonel Ryan Barnes described how the HEO would provide the internet of things (IoT) and data analytics to operators at the ”edge”.
Hyper Enabled Operators could soon be supported by rear echelon command and control stations featuring machine learning algorithms designed to enhance decision-making processes.
Reiterating the JATF’s latest mission statement, Barnes described the current focus of the programme is to “enable partner nation operations competing below the level of armed conflict … using commercial/government off-the-shelf [COTS/GOTS] sensors and communications devices on an industry based architecture to increase shared awareness of the battlespace.
“We are looking to do that in partner nation operations and unconventional warfare scenarios, which all ties back to the National Defense Strategy,” Barnes added.
He noted that advanced analytics generated on board the operator could be processed and exploited at a “higher echelon” before being returned to the operator in near real-time to assist in situation awareness and the decision-making process.
Specific lines of effort include: “Operator Worn Computer Kit; sensors and edge computer processing; application development; software-defined, mission, and hardware agnostic architecture; human machine interfaces; information realisation; and beyond line of sight communications”.
According to USSOCOM Acquisition Executive Jim Smith, partnering operations can be limited by language translation as well as voice to text and text to voice capabilities. (Source: Jane’s)
13 May 20. The US Army network plan to ‘compete everything.’ The US Army recently conducted a critical design review for technologies it plans to deploy for Capability Set ’21, one of the first pieces of its battlefield network modernization. In the review, the Army tested various elements of Cap Set ’21, such as tactical radios and satellite terminals. Now, the service is making a series of capability trade offs — assessing affordability, technical maturity and density across formation. For example, the Army is weighing trade-offs between how many of its two-channel Leader radios and more affordable single channel radios will ultimately end up in an infantry brigade.
Col. Garth Winterle, project manager for tactical radios at the Army’s Program Executive Officer for Command Control Communication – Tactical, and Lt. Col. Brandon Baer, program manager for helicopter and multi-mission radios (HAMMR), talked with C4ISRNET about the decisions made during the critical design review and what these choices mean for the next batch of equipment known as Capability Set ’23.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
C4ISRNET: What decisions were made during the critical design review (CDR)?
COL. GARTH WINTERLE: We went from a 100 percent classified network, hard to get people security clearances, very expensive, NSA-certification required for everything as part of the network architecture, to 75 percent secure but [with an] unclassified architecture at battalion and below. That really adds a lot of flexibility — not only in the addition of affordable commercial technologies that really add capability rapidly because that shaves about 24 months off potential fielding timeline if you don’t have to go to NSA — but it keeps a very strong encryption using some of the same algorithms you use for NSA certified radios.
It’s secure. It’s not unsafe. While it’s unclassified, it’s still very well encrypted. It’s just a different way of doing business. So it really opens the door for a lot of different things. Plus, it really improves the ability to share data with coalition and multinational partners, who are also operating at that security level.
C4ISRNET: Can you explain the Terrestrial Transmission Line of Sight (TRILOS) radio and the capability trade off you made?
WINTERLE: The quantities were adjusted in order to afford more flexible, more expedient and pretty much more affordable options at the brigade level and below. There’s a system called TRILOS. Think of a big dish on a portable tower. If you can line it up with another big dish on a portable tower over pretty long distances, you can get very high data throughput very quickly … It’s purpose is to connect large command nodes together and enable them to share data much, much better. So one of the things we looked at as part of the CDR, and we experimented with, is a new smaller expeditionary version.
I talked about a giant dish on a portable tower. We went to the company we worked with called Silvus. They have a smaller, little four antenna radio, it’s about the size of your home WiFi router [and] does the same thing in slightly less bandwidth. It’s not as capable, but it performs that same function. And it’s much, much lighter, much easier to pack out and we’re actually putting those under quadcopters, like a drone, that are tethered [so] they operate off a line. So you can raise that up in the air and hold that radio up in the air and get really good range to connect two of those radios together to share data. By trading out one system of those large dishes on the tower, we’re able to buy a significant quantity of the smaller systems.
TRILOS, those dishes on towers, still remain in the architecture. But just by reducing the quantity marginally, we’re able to really add a much more expeditionary much, much lighter, easier to set up. And we can buy it in larger quantities to increase the quantity out in the architecture to increase that capability.
C4ISRNET: Can you describe how the Army intends to procure some of the Integrated Tactical Network components?
WINTERLE: The intent is to compete everything. Single channel radios are a prime example. We’re getting ready to invite vendors that have conforming radios to an industry day to basically have a radio run off. [We want them to] provide us enough radios so we can get them integrated and start assessing them against each other and against the current offering from the vendor that actually went through the experiment. It’s going to be a fully competitive action.
It is important to note though that I can’t just go out and buy a new radio and, boom, I can field it. There is an amount of time where we are going to have to procure a limited quantity of the systems that went through the experiment until I can get those other radios through enough lab-based experimentation and integration, so that I know they work on the network. So even though they might be very similar [to] what we experimented with, there will be a delay so I can actually start fielding those to operational units. But [our] intent is to start that as soon as possible as part of the procurement fielding next year — this competitive run off of single channel radios. Anywhere else where there was a stand-in capability where we know from market research that there’s other vendors, we’ll perform the same sort of competitive actions.
C4ISRNET: What are some of the lessons learned from Capability Set ’21 that can be applied to Capability Set ’23?
WINTERLE: We’re going to have a design review every year. The year prior to the preliminary design review, which is the year we’re in right now for Cap Set ’23, focuses on small-scale experimentation and a kind of assessment of ‘what are those technologies that going to compete to be added to the architecture as part of the preliminary design review’ in April of next year. So we picked April. We just did this CDR in April. So the preliminary design review for Cap Set ’23 is next April. We’ve partnered with the network cross functional team to help conduct research and development funded activities of certain key technology that they want to see added to the architecture in Cap Set ’23.
C4ISRNET: How has the Army’s capability set testing structure been suited for COVID-19?
- COL. BRANDON BAER: Traditionally, we do a large operational type test, where our approach has been lab-based testing, [cyber]-based testing, and then doing what we’re calling soldier touchpoints. They’re smaller experiments, but we’re doing more of them. It gives us an opportunity to capture data, soldier feedback at different points of time. We call it developmental operations or DevOps. We can go back and tweak the stuff, fix any problems, get it back out there and continue to collect feedback.
But I think it’s extremely important due to current conditions with COVID-19, and everything else. Because everything has kind of gone into a large pause. And if we would have had a large pause during operational tests, it could be six months or a year before we have another opportunity to do that, where when you’re doing multiple events … we’re capturing data at different times and different soldier feedback, you’re not reliant upon one event. As we move forward, I see continuous benefits through that. (Source: Defense News)
11 May 20. US Risks Losing 5G Standard Setting Battle To China, Experts Say.
“We need some coherency around what we’re actually doing on the public policy front, and we need some more technical coordination … so we could at least be at the stage where we’re still on the field, versus sitting on the sidelines trying to figure out how to catch up,” said Brookings fellow Nicol Turner Lee.
The United States needs to take a stronger role in setting international standards for 5G networks or risk losing the international market to China and undercutting US national security.
Washington is faltering due to a lack of coherent policy on a wide swathe of foundational issues such as spectrum management for 5G usage, network supply chain security, infrastructure development and data sharing, experts say.
As Breaking D readers know, the question of spectrum access is at the heart of DoD’s fierce battle to overturn the FCC’s approval last month of a plan by Ligado to convert L-band spectrum for satellites to build a terrestrial 5G mobile communications network that DoD and many other US agencies say will jam GPS receivers.
“The US-China competition is essentially about who will control the global information technology infrastructure and standards,” said Frank Rose, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution and former assistant secretary of State for arms control, during a Brooking’s webinar on Friday. “I think an argument can be made that in the 21st century, whoever controls the information infrastructure will dominate the world.”
The webinar, called “Global China: Assessing China’s technological reach in the world,” was based on a new series of Brookings’ papers on topics ranging from Chinese plans for 5G, its progress in developing artificial intelligence (AI) weapons systems to biotechnology.
The panel discussion echoed the concerns raised by a group of powerful Republican senators in an April 14 letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe, the senators worried that the Trump administration’s moves to blacklist Chinese 5G behemoth Huawei (about which Sydney has written extensively) are in effect pushing the US into international irrelevance as Washington struggles to set a unique domestic path for network development.
Commerce put Huawei on its so-called entity list last May citing national security concerns, and in August expanded its list of related entities subject to restricted US sales. Despite President Donald Trump’s wild swings on whether to keep or lift the ban, those restrictions still stand.
“Since Huawei’s designation on the Department’s Entity List in May 2019, U.S. technology leaders have been constrained from full participation in 5G standards-setting bodies because of uncertainty over whether such participation is prohibited by the Commerce Department’s export control regulations. We are deeply concerned about the risks to the U.S. global leadership position in 5G wireless technology as a result of this reduced participation, and the economic and national security implications of any diminished U.S. role in 5G,” the senators wrote.
Such standards bodies include the influential private-sector Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the widely-recognized International Standards Organisation (ISO) and the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that sets global standards for spectrum usage. China’s Houlin Zhao currently holds the ITU Secretary-General post, and China has been extremely active in ITU work to establish standards for 5G — an issue that the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission raised in its 2018 report to Congress.
To remedy this, the senators called on the White House “to issue regulations as soon as possible confirming that U.S. participation in 5G standards-setting is not restricted by export control regulations.” And according to a May 6 article by Reuters, the Commerce Department is currently figuring out how exactly to do just that. Commerce, however, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Nicol Turner Lee, a Brookings fellow specializing in Internet governance issues, told the panel while it was Europe that set the standards for 3G communications technologies, the US learned from losing that battle and so “stepped up” to lead the world in developing the technologies and standards for 4G LTE communication. US leadership on 4G in turn allowed it dominate the information revolution that underpins today’s “digital sharing economy,” enabling tech giants Google and disruptive firms such as Uber.
But the US now risks losing the 5G race to China, she argued, which will be at the heart of the next technological revolution. Mobile 5G cellular networks will provide the high speed and low latency (the time between data being broadcast and received by a user) communications capabilities required by the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI, both technologies hotly pursued by the US the Chinese militaries alike.
In her paper, “Navigating the U.S.-China 5G Competition,” Turner Lee explained:
“The United States and China are in a race to deploy fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless networks, and the country that dominates will lead in standard-setting, patents, and the global supply chain. While some analysts suggest that the Chinese government appears to be on a sprint to achieve nationwide 5G, U.S. government leaders and the private sector have been slowed by local and federal bureaucracies, restrictive and outdated regulations, and scarcity of available commercial spectrum.”
The “current national security concerns of Huawei and ZTE, which are integral to the global supply chain for 5G equipment and software” not only are hindering the ability of US tech firms to play a leading role in international standard setting bodies, she said, but also cramping their ability to cooperate with firms in allied nations — leading to US market isolation.
“To date, only five other partners have followed the U.S. lead in banning Huawei equipment in their communications infrastructures: Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand.25 Other U.S. allies, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the U.K., are moving forward with their deployments with some restrictions,” Turner Lee wrote.
Key to China’s success in development of 5G networks has been the use of low- and mid-band radio frequency (RF) spectrum, according to experts, that for reasons of domestic regulation the US has been unable to match.
Meanwhile, the US has been “spectrum stuck” — unable to move rapidly to figure out how different RF user communities — including military and commercial satellite operators and US military radar systems — can share the limited resources.
Low-band spectrum, which includes the 600 megahertz (MHz), 800 MHz, and 900 MHZ bands, can cover longer distances and penetrate through walls of buildings. Mid-band spectrum is in the 2.0 gighertz (GHz) 6 GHz range, works at a higher speed and in some instances provides higher fidelity.
Indeed, the mid-band includes portions of the L-band spectrum, in the 1 GHz to 2 GHz range, at the heart of DoD’s battle with the Federal Communications Commission over Ligado. L-band signals, used by GPS, are less likely to be degraded by clouds, fog and rain and can pass through heavy foliage.
DoD, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation — and a wide range of private sector companies ranging from satellite operators to truckers — are convinced that Ligado’s planned network will jam GPS receivers.They are supported by a number of powerful members of Congress, including Inhofe and SASC Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, as well as the leadership of the House Armed Services Committee.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry, together with 20 other members representing both political parties, weighed in last Thursday in a letter to the FCC Commissioners questioning the Ligado decision and expressing concern:
“Section 1698 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 prevents the commission from approving commercial terrestrial operations in these bands until 90 days after the commission resolves concerns of widespread harmful interference by such operations to covered GPS devices. We are concerned that your approval of any mitigation efforts not rigorously tested and approved by national security technical experts may be inconsistent with the legislative direction to resolve concerns prior to permitting commercial terrestrial operations. We urge the commission to reconsider and impose additional mitigation steps to address the concerns of these users.”
HASC intends to hold a classified hearing to focus on the issue, including both DoD and the FCC.
However, the Trump administration is divided on the worthiness of Ligado’s plan — with the spat pitting Esper and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao against Pompeo, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, and Attorney General William Barr.
Kudlow, Pompeo and Barr, who all are close Trump political allies, have praised the FCC’s decision to approve Ligado’s network — along with many in the terrestrial wireless industry — as a move towards helping the US gain primary over China in the 5G race. And the need for the US to move out quickly to establish 5G networks figures prominently in Ligado’s various FCC filings.
In a marathon SASC hearing last Wednesday, DoD CIO Dana Deasy and Research and Engineering head Mike Griffin strongly pushed back against that assessment.
Griffin told the SASC that “5G is about capacity, latency, and scale. The Ligado proposal has absolutely nothing to do with latency and scale, and its capacity is on the order of three-and-a-half percent of the total spectrum capacity. Ligado’s existence, plus or minus, makes absolutely no difference to the involvement of the US in the so-called 5G race,” he said bluntly.
Deasy chimed in to back up Griffin, telling the SASC that “Ligado does not provide a 5G solution.” He explained that “the band in which Ligado operates is not even part of the FCC’s 5G FAST Plan, which is the commission’s blueprint for advancing US interest in 5G. The non-continuous bands that Ligado could bring the market are both fragmented and impaired.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last April approved the FAST Plan — for “Facilitate America’s Superiority in 5G Technology — to free up some designated low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum now assigned to other uses use by 5G networks, as well as some spectrum currently unlicensed. That effort, however, has been complicated by squabbling among various operator communities.
Deasy stressed that DoD “clearly recognizes the huge value of 5G not only for commercial use, but across the US military as well.” And for that reason, he said, DoD not only has a plethora of 5G projects underway, but also has launched a pilot project on how best to share mid-band spectrum being used by DoD radar systems with commercial 5G networks. DoD is partnering on the pilot with the National Spectrum Consortium, he said, which involves government, industry and academia.
“The geopolitical battle is standard setting,” Turner Lee summed up during the Brookings’ webinar. “We need some coherency around what we’re actually doing on the public policy front, and we need some more technical coordination … so we could at least be at the stage where we’re still on the field, versus sitting on the sidelines trying to figure out how to catch up.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
13 May 20. Op-Ed: Why our defence sector needs a different approach to cyber security. When you think about Australia’s defence forces, it’s easy to focus on big-ticket items such as planes, ships and submarines. However, while these items are vital, attention also needs to be placed on cyber resources, explains Steve Coad, Cohesity country manager for Australia and New Zealand.
Australian government spending to mitigate potential cyber attacks and threats has been bolstered in recent years with the creation of “cyber sprint teams” within the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), increasing coverage of security vulnerabilities across government systems, as well as the creation of the Cyber Security Response Fund.
This all comes in the wake of last year’s setback for the government when a major attack on systems caused havoc, and a subsequent proactive and coordinated upscale of systems followed.
Modern government and defence forces have become increasingly reliant on information technology. Equipment and software underpin everything from planning and management, and now even in-the-field combat and unmanned patrol aircraft.
Until last year’s spending announcement, cyber defences were somewhat struggling to keep up with the constantly evolving threat landscape. Any successful attack could leave systems dysfunctional and the country exposed.
Much of the cyber security challenge stems from the fact that increasing numbers of devices and systems are being interconnected every day. This means that a vulnerability on one can allow an attacker to gain access to others.
Everything from the power grids and water treatment plants to defence equipment and weaponry is increasingly becoming internet connected. There are now devices with inbuilt surveillance and intelligence capabilities that stream information in real time. Such devices are becoming a vital component in any war or defence effort.
Defence force leaders are recognising the need to protect these systems. They also need to have the capability to recover them quickly should a cyber attack take place.
The important role of backups
With the amount of data being generated and used by defence forces growing every day, ensuring this data is secure at all times has become critical. Production systems need to be fully and regularly backed up so that, if one is compromised, the data is not lost.
Unfortunately, achieving accurate and complete backups is often not an easy task. The job is made difficult by two particular factors: the presence of legacy solutions and extensive data fragmentation.
Many of the systems being used within Defence were designed and deployed many years ago. This often means they are not compatible with current backup systems and require complex workarounds.
At the same time, systems were often designed to store their own data rather than make use of a central resource. This means that there ends up being multiple data stores that must be backed up individually, and this makes the process of restoring systems after an attack particularly difficult.
A better approach
Taking a more holistic approach to data backups will assist our defence forces in becoming more cyber resilient. There are a number of steps that should be taken, and these include:
- Remove data fragmentation: By making use of centralised data stores, it becomes much easier to spot the early signs of a cyber attack. It also makes it much easier to get critical systems operational following an incident. Take the time to review all data stores and work to bring them together.
- Deploy a robust backup system: The selection of an appropriate backup system is a critical step. Ensure it can cope with existing volumes of data as well as expected growth in coming years. A good system will offer a high degree of automation to ensure that all data is captured on a regular basis.
- Install software patches: Software vulnerabilities are a key way cyber criminals gain access into systems to mount an attack. Constantly review all software and ensure patches are applied as soon as they are released.
- Restrict access: Require different credentials to access backups from production systems. This provides an additional layer of security and ensures they can only be accessed by those in authority.
- Train staff: While IT teams may be aware of security issues, many other people within the organisation may not. Take the time to run training sessions to highlight the risks and the steps people can take to minimise them.
Resilience is key
The spending announcement last year followed some significant cyber security incidents in Sydney and Melbourne in recent years and a concerted effort for Australia to be prominent in the Pacific, where China is figuring more regularly and expanding its influence. But the bottom line is that the more barriers there are between an infected system and its backups, the harder it will be for a cyber criminal to gain access.
Over the next four years, $41.7m will be invested to pilot skills in organisations across the nation in human services care and digital technologies, including cyber security. But if the humble backup is adhered to, modern best practices are implemented as standard and our defence forces take the time now to assess and improve their backup strategies, the result will be a much more resilient position to not just defend themselves, but the country at large, too.
Unfortunately, it’s not so much a question of whether a new attack will occur but when. For this reason, having the ability to recover and continue operations rapidly is vital – especially in the area of defence. The training initiatives planned are a superb and important step in initial resilience.
Whether you’re a government or a business, backups and data protection are a critical part of ensuring an organisation is fit to withstand an attack, but can also quickly recover when one occurs.
Steve Coad is Cohesity country manager for Australia and New Zealand. Based in Melbourne, he is responsible for accelerating adoption of the company’s disruptive software that empowers enterprises to back up, manage and extract value from their data across on-premises, cloud and edge environments.
Coad is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of sales management and leadership experience. During this time, he has been responsible for successfully establishing market entry for new companies and products as well as accelerated regional sales momentum across the Asia-Pacific region for companies including Cisco, EMC, VMware, Aruba Networks, Good Technology and IBM. (Source: Defence Connect)
12 May 20. US Army C3T directorate shifts to address comms, networking demands for pandemic response. US Army leaders from the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) have stood up a ‘one-stop shop’ for all the networked communication capabilities required by US armed forces units engaged in response operations for the Covid-19 pandemic.
C3T, headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, has supported units from US Army North, the National Guard, and the Army Corps of Engineers that have been assigned to assist local, state, and federal authorities combat the spread of Covid-19, said Army Major General David Bassett, programme executive officer at PEO-C3T.
“I think [our] team has been very responsive to their requirements as things have come up, and that really cuts across all the capabilities we provide – gateway solutions, radios, satellite capabilities and perhaps most important, providing situational awareness for those. (Source: Jane’s)
08 May 20. Amazon challenges the Pentagon’s revised JEDI solicitation directly to the department. The Pentagon’s JEDI cloud is facing yet another protest. Amazon Web Services filed a bid protest directly to the Department of Defense challenging “ambiguous aspects” of the Pentagon’s revised solicitation for its embattled enterprise cloud contract.
AWS’ challenge is in response to a revised solicitation from DoD regarding a specific technical requirement of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract that AWS had challenged. Back in mid-April, a Court of Federal Claims judge granted the department’s motion allowing DoD to “reconsider certain aspects” of the JEDI award.
“AWS is committed to ensuring it receives a fair and objective review on an award decision that the court found to be flawed,” an AWS spokesperson said. “AWS repeatedly sought clarity from the DoD around ambiguous aspects of the amended solicitation and the DoD refused to answer our questions. We simply want to ensure a common understanding of the DoD’s requirements and eliminate ambiguity that could impact a fair evaluation.”
The JEDI cloud, potentially worth $10bn over 10 years, was awarded to Microsoft in October last year. Amazon protested the award in the Court of Federal Claims in December and won a temporary restraining order in March preventing the DoD and Microsoft from building out the cloud infrastructure after the court decided that AWS was likely to show that DoD erred in its technical evaluation.
AWS also opposed the DoD’s motion to reconsider specific aspects of the JEDI award because the DoD’s request didn’t account for all six technical errors Amazon alleged were made during the contract’s evaluation process.
“Even if taken at face value, DoD’s proposed corrective action fails to address in any meaningful way how it would resolve the technical issues AWS has raised, or which specific technical challenges it intends to address,” Amazon lawyers wrote in a March 24 court filing.
In response to Amazon’s protest, the content of which is not publicly available, Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw wrote in a blog post that the filing by AWS was “disappointing but not surprising.”
“The only thing that’s certain about Amazon’s new complaint is that it will force American war fighters to wait even longer for the 21st-century technology they need – perpetuating Amazon’s record of putting its own interests ahead of theirs,” Shaw wrote May 7.
A spokesperson for AWS called Shaw’s post “not surprising,” and touted AWS’ cloud computing capabilities.
“We’re eager to see the full array of mistakes considered and assessed,” the spokesperson said.
Lt. Col. Robert Carver, Department of Defense spokesman, said in a statement that the department is trying to get the JEDI capability to war fighters quickly.
“DoD continues to execute the procedures outlined in the Motion for Voluntary Remand granted last month with the intent of delivering this critically-needed capability to our warfighters as quickly as possible,” Carver said. (Source: Defense News)
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