Sponsored by Exensor
26 May 22. Updated autonomous weapons rules coming for the Pentagon: Exclusive details.
“We want to make sure, of course, that the directive still reflects the views of the department and the way the department should be thinking about [autonomous] weapon systems,” Michael Horowitz told Breaking Defense in an exclusive interview.
The Defense Department is updating its guidance on autonomous weapons to consider advances in artificial intelligence, with a revised directive slated for release later this year, the head of the Pentagon’s emerging capabilities policy office told Breaking Defense in an exclusive interview.
DoD directive 3000.09 [PDF], signed by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Nov. 21, 2012, established policy, responsibilities and review processes for the “design, development, acquisition, testing, fielding, and employment of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems, including guided munitions that can independently select and discriminate targets.”
But in the decade since its release, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies have made a massive leap forward, and it’s “entirely plausible” there may need to be revisions that reflect the Pentagon’s “responsible AI” initiative and other ethical principles adopted by the department, said Michael Horowitz, DoD director of emerging capabilities policy.
“Autonomy and AI are not the exact same thing,” Horowitz told Breaking Defense on May 24. “But given the growing importance that AI plays, and thinking about the future of war and the way the department has been thinking about AI, I think ensuring that’s reflected in the directive seems to make sense.”
It’s important to note that, based on the definition inscribed in DoD directive 3000.09, the military currently does not operate any weapon systems that qualify as an autonomous weapon — and at least publicly is not currently developing such a weapon. The department characterizes an “autonomous weapon” as an autonomous or semi-autonomous system that can choose its own targets and apply lethal or nonlethal force without a human in the loop.
The directive does not apply to unarmed drones or armed drones like the MQ-9 Reaper, whose flight path and weapons release is controlled by a human pilot sitting at a remote location. It also doesn’t apply to systems like the Switchblade loitering munitions the US has provided to Ukraine, which are programmed by a human operator to hit specific targets and can be called off when needed.
“It was the first national policy published on autonomous weapons systems, and actually remains one of the only publicly available national policies,” Horowitz said. “It set the standard essentially for the global dialogue that followed and demonstrated America’s responsible approach to the potential incorporation of autonomy into weapon systems.”
In a 2012 interview with Defense News, David Ochmanek, then the deputy assistant secretary for policy force development, described the doctrine as “flexible” and stressed the imposition of a “rigorous review process” that would now be in place before any future autonomous weapon could be approved.
But that promise has done little to assuage opponents, who raise comparisons to Terminators and have organized into efforts, such as the eponymous Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, to preemptively ban the technology. Horowitz — a longtime drone expert who once authored a paper titled “The Ethics & Morality of Robotic Warfare: Assessing the Debate over Autonomous Weapons” — is well aware of the debate around such systems, and while avoiding commenting on those concerns directly, he noted that the department’s increased focus on autonomy and AI in recent years has always been with the idea of a human being involved in the process.
“I would say the one of the things about the approach of the United States to the role of AI and autonomous systems has been imagining these systems as a way to enhance the warfighter,” he said. “It’s why, dating back a couple of administrations, the United States has talked about things like human-machine teaming, because it tends to think about AI and autonomous systems as things that work synergistically with the best trained military in the world to improve its capacity.”
The update is occurring not because a major technological breakthrough is on the horizon, but because of a department standard that requires directives be updated every 10 years. Right now, it’s unclear exactly how much of the original directive will need to be revised, but Horowitz seemed to downplay massive rewrites.
“Our instinct entering this process is that the fundamental approach in the directive remains sound, that the directive laid out a very responsible approach to the incorporation of autonomy and weapons systems,” Horowitz said.
“But we want to make sure, of course, that the directive still reflects the views of the department and the way the department should be thinking about [autonomous] weapon systems,” he continued. “You know, it has been a decade. And it’s entirely plausible that there are some updates and clarifications that would be helpful.”
Horowitz declined to go into details about where he thinks changes may be needed, but did highlight that the document reflects the Pentagon of 2012, which has morphed over the course of the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations. For instance, the review process laid out in the original directive references the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics — a position that no longer exists, whose responsibilities are now split between the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.
He also underlined that this directive would be focused on the specific subject of autonomous weapons, and not the broader AI efforts that exist throughout the department.
“When this directive was published in 2012, the notion of the way that algorithms, how algorithms might impact the military seemed pretty futuristic, or seemed further away. And autonomous weapon systems were a specific thing that the department chose to write a directive about,” he continued. “I think it’s important that the department consider the way that should then also influence this directive … given the intersection between AI and autonomous systems, and I say autonomous systems as opposed to autonomous weapon systems deliberately.
“There’s so many AI applications that can or are already influencing the American military and will influence the American military that, you know, that have nothing to do with this.”
While Horowitz’s office — only recently established — will seek out input from the relatively new defense organizations that have been stood up in the past decade, such as the office of the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAO), other organizations that may be relative to the revamp of DoD Directive 3000.09—the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Defense Digital Service and Office of Advancing Analytics—are slated to become part of the CDAO office on June 1, Breaking Defense reported earlier this week.
He also expects to get inputs from the services, Joint Staff and other stakeholders — of which, he noted, there are significantly more now than a decade ago. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
25 May 22. Defense firms push Congress for Pentagon budget increase over inflation. U.S. defense and aerospace firms are asking Congress for a defense budget for 2023 that exceeds inflation by 3 to 5 percent and challenged lawmakers to pass their annual defense bills by Sept 30.
The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group for defense firms, said in a letter to leaders of the appropriations and armed services committees that Congress should pass defense spending and authorization bills before the start of the fiscal year — a rarity — to signal “resolve in the face of Russian and Chinese aggression.”
“Three to five percent growth above the inflation rate is the level of investment required to support America’s global force, maintain our competitive edge over adversaries, and catch up technologically in areas where we are falling behind,” AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning said in the letter. He argued that amount would hew to the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the Biden administration’s unreleased strategy, which is expected to be similar.
“While there is record bipartisan support for three to five percent growth, no credible analysis can support the strategy at a lower resource level,” Fanning’s letter said.
President Joe Biden requested $813bn in national defense spending for fiscal 2023, which is 8 percent over the previous year’s request and 4 percent more than Congress approved. With inflation exceeding 8 percent, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and other Pentagon officials have acknowledged the military may need more than requested.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fueled added defense spending already. Biden recently signed a $40bn Ukraine-related supplemental spending bill containing $3.9bn to fund U.S. forces in Europe and $500 m to replenish the U.S. critical munitions stockpile.
But House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., indicated earlier this week that he supports the Biden administration’s top-line FY23 budget request as it currently stands.
“I am 100 percent confident that we can do an outstanding job of meeting our national security needs for $813bn,” Smith told the Council on Foreign Relations, using a figure that reflects the budget for the Pentagon and other defense programs.
“I have no doubt whatsoever,” he added. “We’ve got to get better at how we spend it.”
Smith’s comments foreshadow an upcoming fight with Republicans and some centrist Democrats, who like the Aerospace Industries Association, have called for a 5 percent defense budget increase over the record 40-year-high rate of inflation.
“Overall, we are concerned that the Department is not taking a proactive stance to mitigate the harmful effects of inflation,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking members of the Armed Services Committees in both chambers said earlier this month. “It doesn’t seem that the Department has a good grasp on how inflation is hurting our service members and their families — and how this is in turn impacting recruiting and retention.”
The Pentagon indicated earlier this month in a letter to Inhofe and Rogers that inflationary pressures have caused one defense contractor to request to cancel a long-term agreement with the Defense Department.
As the Pentagon request seeks to divest from a number of legacy systems to reinvest in forward-leaning technologies, the industry trade group warned that, “legacy systems and capabilities and emerging technology are equally crucial to the conflict on the ground.”
The group also called for accelerated innovation at the Pentagon and for lawmakers to revamp the “antiquated and slow-moving” requirements, budgeting, and acquisition processes. It also calls for private-sector intellectual property rights to be protected, the reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, program and strategic investments to secure critical materials and production capabilities.
To attract diverse talent to the sector’s shrinking labor pool, the group called for Congress to reform the Federal Work-Study Program to reach more students from low-income backgrounds, particularly those at community colleges and other institutions that serve minorities.
The group also linked dealing with inflation to support for the industrial base workforce.
“Without these men and women and the critical skills they possess, our ability to deliver for our customers and America’s competitive edge will dull quickly,” the letter reads.
“To foster those skills and continue attracting the best and brightest to the country’s defense, we must first address inflation and the outsized impact on our ability to attract and retain employees for important positions, including welders, pipefitters, machinists, and other skilled trades.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
24 May 22. USMC seeks ‘information command’ in Force Design 2030 update.
The U.S. Marine Corps commandant wants to forge a new command focused on information operations and improved coordination.
The creation of the Marine Corps Information Command, or MCIC, was included in a May 9 update to Force Design 2030, Gen. David Berger’s plans, criticized by some for being out of touch, to optimize the Corps and counter contemporary threats.
“We believe that in a conflict with a peer adversary, first moves may be in space and cyber, so we must enable our stand-in forces,” expeditionary units and expeditionary forces “to integrate with, and have access to, those capabilities now,” the document states.
Force Design 2030 was first published in March 2020 and was amended a little more than a year ago. The latest update, arriving this month, placed particular emphasis on reconnaissance, data collection and maintaining a low profile. The information command could streamline collaboration and reduce burdens “at the headquarters level,” it said.
The document directs officials to develop options for the creation of the MCIC, among other instructions. No specific timeline was provided.
“Although we began three years ago heavily focused on lethality, which remains important, now coming to the fore is the importance of the hider-finder, reconnaissance-counter-reconnaissance, screening-counter-screening, whatever term you’d like to use — the importance of winning that upfront and always,” Berger said earlier this month, according to Defense News.
“It doesn’t diminish the importance of lethality, but you can’t use the lethality if you can’t find them,” he said. “Or, said another way, if you’re so big and fat and immobile and vulnerable to their sensors, all the lethality in the world ain’t going to help you.”
The MCIC concept comes as complex competitors, including China and Russia, invest in cyber and other digital capabilities that may put U.S. military forces and critical infrastructure at risk. The Marine Corps expects to come up against forces with substantial computer, cyber, networking and surveillance skills.
Recent war games and demonstrations, including Enigma and Expeditionary Warrior, tested concepts for operations in what were deemed the information environment and the gray zone, competition below the level of traditional armed conflict.
“Virtually every exercise that we’re doing now, that we’re involved in, we insert some component of force design,” Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said May 4 at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.
Force Design 2030 has driven a wedge into some military communities, with retired generals, analysts and other leaders criticizing its divestitures and pivots.
“In the end the Corps will have more space experts, cyber warriors, influence specialists, missileers and others with unique skills — many of which already are provided by other elements of the joint force,” Paul K. Van Riper, a retired lieutenant general, wrote in an opinion piece published by the Marine Corps Times in March. “But it will only have them because it gave up Marines prepared to close with and destroy the enemy.”
Arguments have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, National Review and additional publications. (Source: Defense News)
23 May 22. Congress and Pentagon seek to shore up strategic mineral stockpile dominated by China. Congress has repeatedly authorized multi-million-dollar sell-offs of the U.S. strategic minerals stockpile over the past several decades, but Washington’s increased anxiety over Chinese domination of resources critical to the defense industrial base has prompted lawmakers to reverse course and shore up the reserve.
The House Armed Services Committee will seek to bolster the National Defense Stockpile of rare earth minerals in the fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill, Defense News has learned. And earlier this week, the Defense Department submitted its own legislative proposal to Congress asking the committee to authorize $253.5 m in that legislation to procure additional minerals for the stockpile.
The stockpile includes valuable minerals essential to defense supply chains, such as titanium, tungsten and cobalt.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who sits on the armed services committee, is also trying to convince the powerful defense appropriations subcommittee to provide additional funding for the National Defense Stockpile. The stockpile is managed by the Defense Logistics Agency and funded by the Treasury Department.
“Right now, the stockpile is reaching insolvency, so we can’t even operate to simply maintain salaries and maintain the stockpile,” Moulton told Defense News. “The second broad issue is that the stockpile has been reduced dramatically in size over the past several years [as] the stockpile’s been sold off.”
The stockpile was valued at nearly $42 bn in today’s dollars at its peak during the beginning of the Cold War in 1952. That value has plummeted to $888 m as of last year following decades of congressionally authorized sell-offs to private sector customers. Lawmakers anticipate the stockpile will become insolvent by FY25.
“A lot of what happened is Congress just getting greedy and finding politically convenient ways to fund programs that they weren’t willing to raise revenue for,” said Moulton.
These sell-offs have included 3,000 short tons of titanium, used in building military airframes, and 76 m pounds of tungsten ores and concentrates, used in military turbine engines and armor-piercing ammunition. They have also included more than 2 m pounds of tantalum, used in electronics, as well as 26m pounds of cobalt and 62,881 short tons of aluminum.
“It was just ignorance on our part that we allowed that to happen,” Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., told Defense News. “I don’t see any other reason for it.”
Burchett was one of seven Republicans to sign onto Moulton’s letter to the defense appropriations subcommittee last month asking appropriators to provide an additional $264m in funding for the stockpile for FY23.
“While these drawdowns were appropriate when the Department of Defense mainly focused on counterterrorism, the current stockpile is inadequate to meet the requirements of great power competition,” the lawmakers wrote. “The [National Defense Stockpile] is no longer capable of covering the Department of Defense’s needs for the vast majority of identified materials in the event of a supply chain disruption.”
Furthermore, China monopolizes much of the global rare earth mineral market, raising the prospect Beijing could cut off access to critical minerals in the event of a conflict with the United States.
“China in particular does a remarkably good job of hoarding these materials,” said Moulton. “China clearly has a comprehensive global strategy to corner the market on these materials and we’re behind and we’re playing catch-up.”
China has the world’s largest trove of titanium and exports a significant quantity of tungsten to the United States. The nation also dominates the mining and mineral trade in developing countries that export large quantities of critical minerals. For instance, it has a majority ownership of 70% of the cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s largest supplier of the metal.
“Communist China is definitely not a friend of this country and they will continue to bleed us with this,” said Burchett. “They go into these countries and offer to subsidize something for them at a ridiculously low price.”
Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., both of whom sit on the armed services committee, have also introduced legislation to create a separate reserve of strategic rare earth minerals while restricting the use of Chinese rare earth minerals in advanced defense technology.
Kelly told Defense News the additional rare earth mineral reserve would be akin to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
“If we do wind up in a conflict with a country which is where we’re getting our lithium or cobalt, for instance, or other rare earths, we could go to the strategic reserve,” Kelly told Defense News.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm praised the idea during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday while thanking Congress for including funding for rare earth minerals as part of the $40bn Ukraine aid package the Senate passed the same day.
Congress allocated $600m in funding in that legislation for President Joe Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to expand access to critical minerals and expedite missile production.
Last year, Biden signed an executive order to shore up U.S. supply chains that included a directive for the Defense Department to submit a report identifying risks in the critical mineral supply chain. That built upon a 2020 executive order from former president Donald Trump authorizing grants and loan guarantees in the procurement of critical minerals. (Source: Defense News)
23 May 22. Biden says he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan against China.
- White House official says no change in policy
- China says U.S. should not defend Taiwan independence
- U.S. wants to toughen policy without provoking Beijing – analyst
- Biden in Japan for first Asia trip of presidency
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday he would be willing to use forceto defend Taiwanagainst Chinese aggression in a comment that seemed to stretch the limits of the ambiguous U.S. policy towards the self-ruled island.
While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
After Biden made the remark at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, an aide said the president’s statement represented no change in the long-standing American stance to the island that China claims as its own.
A reporter asked Biden if the United States would defend Taiwan if it were attacked. “Yes,” the president answered.
“That’s the commitment we made,” said Biden, who helped build an international coalition trying to thwart Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We agree with a one-China policy. We’ve signed on to it and all the intended agreements made from there. But the idea that, that it (Taiwan) can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not, is just not appropriate,” he said.
Biden added it was his expectation that such an event would not happen or be attempted.
But the comment was likely to be closely watched in a region worried about China’s rising influence. China has been a key topic for Biden on his inaugural trip to Asia.
A White House official later said there was no change in policy towards Taiwan.
China considers the democratic island its territory, under its “one China” principle, and says it is the most sensitive and important issue in its relationship with Washington.
China has no room for compromise or concessions on matters relating to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry thanked Biden for his support.
Biden’s national security aides shifted in their seats and appeared to be studying Biden closely as he responded to the question on Taiwan. Several looked down.
Biden made a similar comment in October, saying “Yes, we have a commitment to do that” when asked if the United States would come to the defence of Taiwan. At that time, a White House spokesperson said Biden was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and one analyst referred to the comment as a “gaffe”. read more
Despite the White House insistence that Monday’s comments did not represent a change of policy, Grant Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and now a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, said the meaning was clear.
“This statement deserves to be taken seriously,” Newsham said. “It is a clear enough statement that the U.S. will not sit by if China attacks Taiwan.”
‘TOUGHEN THE POLICY’
Biden made other tough comments about Beijing’s increasingly assertive posture in the region, saying he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a price for his invasion of Ukraine in part to show China what it would face if it were to invade Taiwan.
“They’re seeking to toughen their policy but without necessarily provoking China,” said James Brown, an associate professor at Temple University Japan.
Biden’s remarks are also likely to overshadow the centrepiece of his Japan visit, the launch of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a broad plan providing an economic pillar for U.S. engagement with Asia.
During his time in Tokyo, Biden is also scheduled to meet the leaders of India and Australia – the other members of the Quad, an informal security grouping formed to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japanese premier Kishida emphasised Tokyo’s readiness to take a more robust defence posture, something the United States has long welcomed.
Kishida said he told Biden that Japan would consider various options to boost its defence capabilities, including the ability to retaliate. That would include a “considerable increase” in its defence budget, Kishida said.
Japan’s role in any conflict over Taiwan would be to enable a U.S. operation and help the United States defend its assets, said Yoji Koda, a retired Maritime Self Defense Force admiral and former fleet commander.
“Japan’s role in that would be substantial. Japan is an enabler of that security deterrence,” he said.
Kishida said that he had gained support from Biden on Japan becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council amid growing calls for reform of the council. China and Russia are permanent members.
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Homeland Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company