The Indo-Pacific region continues to increase in importance and activity. A broad range of actions must be taken to preserve democracy and freedom in this most critical region. The threat to the democratic ideals respected around the world is not abstract but real, and it comes from multiple sources. Stopping the march against human rights violations, promotion of destructive economic, geopolitical activity and threatening military actions requires proactive, not reactive, measures. These measures must be thoughtfully and rapidly implemented.
This new year marks the 75th anniversary of AFCEA’s founding. The storied history of this organization is defined by accomplishments and changes, many of which occurred in 2020. Since its founding at Fraunces Tavern in New York, the purpose remains the same; if anything, the recent events have increased the association’s importance.
Most experts agree: defense information technologies increasingly will come from the commercial sector. Traditional contractors will continue to manufacture systems requested by the military, but now nontraditional firms will be providing the defense community with systems fueled by innovative capabilities. The result will be hybrid information systems and hardware that will owe their origin to the private sector.
So, if the commercial sector is to be the source of military communications capabilities, why do we need a defense organization such as the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) dedicated to providing information system services to the defense community? The answer lies in two words: defense and community.
The U.S. military is striving to develop concepts supporting broad-spectrum joint operations for future conflicts, yet hurdles remain. Military operations today are much more complex than ever before. Technology is driving change, and threats are evolving rapidly. U.S. forces could find themselves in an increasingly reactive role rather than one that drives the agenda for future operations.
The microscopic biological particle that has altered the way of life for 7 billion people worldwide also has had a major technological impact. It has brought the importance of information technology to the fore, in terms of both working to alleviate the virus’ effects and supporting the lives of people impacted by the pandemic. The vitality of information technology has been put on display, and changes it has wrought are going to help define the new normal.
Intelligence challenges are continually evolving, but the challenges of the past pale in comparison to the depth and breadth of today’s trials. The problem is not a shortage of data or information; rather, the test is sifting through the unfathomable amounts of data and determining its veracity and relevance amidst both organized and anarchistic disinformation. Diogenes would be hopelessly befuddled in his search for truth in today’s society, but intelligence cannot afford to allow mistruths to shape its findings.
For many, the issue of cyber resilience conjures up thoughts of conducting military operations in a denied environment. But the COVID-19 pandemic has added another dimension. The importance of cyber resilience to everyday activities has been illustrated through the changes wrought by the coronavirus. As the need for online telework and related efforts continues to expand, so do the attack vectors leveraged by cyber marauders.
In 1991, as part of an education program I was taking, I had an opportunity to visit several factories that were using robotics. That included visits to an automobile assembly factory in Kentucky and a Hitachi assembly plant in Japan. I was impressed with the precision and efficiency of the robots I saw in those plants. At the time, factory robots performed mostly routine, repetitive or dangerous tasks. They saved time and money, provided precision assembly and improved productivity, in part by reducing human errors. They precisely drilled every hole for every rivet.
The onslaught of COVID-19 is changing society in an unprecedented manner, and AFCEA is fully enmeshed in preparing for what will likely be a changed new world. In addition to taking major steps to safeguard its staff, its members and its broad range of partners, the association has begun planning for the post-COVID-19 virus age. This new era will be characterized by changes in technology and in methods of operation.
The coronavirus has justifiably prompted deep concerns over the security and stability of the U.S. supply chain and major portions of the critical infrastructure upon which our nation and our partner nations have become so dependent. Prompted by the shift to globalization, over time this has led to the outsourcing of many products, services and technologies that were once considered core national capabilities. Consequently, we have created dependencies and vulnerabilities that conflict with our national security. Some of these liabilities are evident in our efforts to bring the necessary resources to bear against the coronavirus.
Many people looking at the technology of the future have focused on electronics and software. While these two have fueled the information revolution, another technology is poised to impose significant changes on life at large. Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has the potential to alter the way items are made and economies of scale are leveraged.
The electronics supply chain is the aorta to the global economy. Both the military and the commercial sectors rely on it to provide the lifeblood necessary to flourish, yet the security of that same supply chain, with its ubiquitous importance, potentially holds the key to their demise.
Various threats menace the security of the electronics supply chain. It is susceptible to attacks from many different vectors and from a diverse set of actors. These attacks can serve any number of purposes and take on many guises.
The current National Defense Strategy looks at the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Consequently, the military services are thoughtfully making strategic adjustments and adapting their operational concepts to meet new and emerging threats. Those changes are especially significant in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
Advances in sensor mechanics and the advent of artificial intelligence have cleared the way for robots to play an increasingly greater role in military operations. Their growing versatility allows them to serve multiple functions in the military, from basic assistance to assumption of full combat roles. They can inter alia, lighten a warfighter’s load, provide search and rescue capabilities, perform surveillance missions, engage in casual evacuation, provide resupply and conduct hazardous route reconnaissance. Within 10 years, we may see them driving supply vehicles in convoys.
Key moments in history are often determined after the fact. But today, we have the luxury of knowing that we are at an important nexus in geopolitics. We stand at a crossroads in the Indo-Pacific region, and the actions we take now may well determine the future of the region and beyond.
Issues abound. India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers, have witnessed an increase in hostility along their common border. Terrorist organizations flow from Southwest Asia into the archipelagos of southern Asia, and North Korea remains a secretive puzzle with a massive potential for violence.
Every modern military today owes a major portion of its capabilities to electronics-based technologies that have automated or improved warfighting capabilities. Defense electronics have promoted and driven a revolution in military affairs that shows no signs of abating, and their impact is likely to increase in the coming years. Further, commercial electronic technologies are taking an ever-expanding role in the national security market. But this revolution brings with it potential hazards that go beyond conventional threats.
The intelligence community is in for major changes as it confronts new and emerging threats across the entire spectrum of operations. While the challenges have developed over time, the intelligence community’s changes must be revolutionary, not evolutionary.
As different as the war on terrorism was from the Cold War, so is the current threat picture from traditional conflict profiles. Kinetic operations vie with cyber and social media activities for dominance in the new battlespace. Often, all three act in concert. Intelligence must focus not only on determining enemy activities before they have an effect, but also on waging operations that prevent or neutralize adversarial operations.
The discovery and taming of fire changed the way humans lived. Its broad range of uses came with both benefits and hazards. It could enable life in harsh environments, but it could also serve as an instrument of destruction. The same dichotomy holds true with social media today, but its ill effects cannot be easily extinguished.
Technology has given U.S. forces an immutable edge for more than three decades. No nation dared confront the most powerful military in the world head-on. But over time, the technological benefits enjoyed by our military have waned, and adversaries are rapidly cutting into our technological warfighting strength.
Both the economy and education are national security issues. A nation cannot be strong militarily if it is not strong economically. Nor can a nation expect to prevail against adversaries over the long term if it does not continuously generate a trained and educated populace.
One of the biggest challenges facing industry, government and academia is the ability to recruit, develop and maintain a skilled and effective cybersecurity workforce. Businesses in the information technology realm must add skilled cyber and information technology workers to generate innovation.
The phrase, “These are critical times for the NATO alliance,” has been used so often it is almost a cliché. But these times are not defined by a cliché, as the alliance faces multiple challenges within and without. Deliberate discussion has always been the method of determining NATO policy and direction, but the window for that approach is narrowing. NATO must decisively confront several challenges.
Information has long been a tool of learning, an agent of influence and a weapon of conflict dating back to Darius I and the Persian Empire. Just as Gutenberg’s printing press fueled the promotion, expansion and spread of dogma and new ideas during the Renaissance, today’s information technologies and their inherent capabilities have enabled information, disinformation and misinformation to be disseminated more rapidly to a much broader audience than ever before. Enabling technologies such as the Internet and artificial intelligence allow more rapid and effective targeting in terms of message content and selection of recipients.
All elements of the military play a crucial role in maintaining peace and security, and all domains are challenged by a diverse set of adversaries. Given this understanding, the maritime domain faces unique challenges that could conceivably hamper efforts in other domains and areas of vital national interest. Necessary resources must be provided and appropriate capabilities developed.
The coming year will be full of activity and progress for AFCEA. The association continues moving in a positive direction, and the efforts that initiated this progress will persist.
We are not going to simply stay the course. Internal changes will be assessed, and the professional expertise inherent in our community will address many of the national and global challenges facing the United States, its allies and partner nations.
The past three decades have seen technologies rapidly transform the face of society. Robots, coupled with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other developing capabilities such as the Internet of Things (IoT), are among the latest technologies to offer the promise of labor-saving capabilities, improved efficiency in manufacturing, better precision in the medical field and enhanced capabilities in national security, to name just a few applications.
In a rapidly changing and dynamic world, we are lacking a most important ingredient for policy making: honest, constructive political debate. Civil discourse, in which responsible and thoughtful people discuss proposed policies and events based on facts, logic and reason in an atmosphere of mutual respect, has all but disappeared. It is being replaced by one-sided, confrontational politics wrapped in narrowly focused biases that give no quarter to opposing views. Emotion and deception have ousted integrity and truth. Moderate voices are being driven to the sidelines or silenced altogether.
China is at the heart of many key geopolitical issues confronting the Indo-Pacific region. It has seen dramatic and unprecedented economic growth in the last three decades and is embarked on a path supporting that growth with a major expansion in military capabilities. China is a nation on the move, and its strategic behavior underscores a long-term goal of seeking hegemony over the vast Indo-Asia region where it resides and likely exerting extraordinary influence over global affairs.
China’s growth continues apace. Having surpassed Japan in gross domestic product, China is poised to overtake the U.S. economy as the world’s largest in the next decade. By some widely accepted standards, it has already done so.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, offers the promise of being the next great disruptive technology. Its reach and value seem limitless. But as with any disruptive innovation, it has the potential for negative effects when put in the hands of nefarious actors. And to prevent potential adversaries from exploiting the capability, the free world must commit to a concentrated effort on AI research and development.
Advances in technology and improvements in understanding cognitive science have led to a rediscovery of key elements of information warfare (IW). This once-arcane topic has re-emerged as a vital component of international security that must be closely considered and comprehended in the context of geopolitical objectives, military operations and the daily events of our lives.
As global security becomes more uncertain, NATO only grows in importance to its members. We’ve seen the repeated bad behavior of Russia, the continued chaos of the Middle East, the influence of Iran moving throughout the region and beyond, the increasingly bellicose activity of North Korea, and the ceaseless threat of ISIS all affecting NATO’s strategic interests. The alliance represents a unique set of international political and defense standards, values and norms that form the basis for rules-based order in Western civilization. Further, member nations underpin each other’s economies with dynamic trade and security.
The new National Defense Strategy recently released by the U.S. Defense Department represents a refreshing change. Unlike many of its predecessors, this strategy focuses on the world as it is rather than what we wish it could be. It sheds much of the naiveté that characterized the recent past, and it removes much of the political masking and kabuki that has negatively affected national security.
The United States cannot adequately secure its entire critical infrastructure. The infrastructure is too broad and complex. Much of it consists of highly vulnerable legacy software running older supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. But the nation can take steps to address vulnerabilities in key areas and mitigate losses in others.
As 2018 begins, we find ourselves in what may be the most challenging era of our lifetimes. The rapid rise of near-peer competitors, coupled with new and emerging adversaries enabled by advanced technology and science, pose major international security threats.
Government cannot handle these challenges alone. Its organizations simply are unable to keep up with the pace and scope of technological change. As a result, the model for generating creative thought, innovation and research long ago shifted dramatically away from government and toward the commercial and academic sectors.
When the public thinks of Special Operations Forces (SOF), the vision that usually comes to mind is of gun-blazing commando raids such as the one that brought justice to Osama bin Laden. Yes, certain elements of SOF receive considerable public attention and accrue celebrity-style glamour. While this attention is well-deserved, most of what SOF does is hidden from the public eye and is far more important than many realize.
Electronic warfare (EW) is one of the most complex, least understood and difficult operating environments we face. U.S. forces in Southwest Asia did not encounter a consistently serious EW challenge, and in some ways, EW has become a forgotten capability. Since the end of the Cold War, when we concentrated on defending and waging EW against the Soviets, attention has turned elsewhere. Now the Soviet heirs in Russia, as well as other adversaries, have refined and sharpened their EW skills. If we engage in a higher level of conflict than we have faced in the recent past, then we will likely confront a foe wielding a vastly improved EW capability that could threaten the success of our operations.
The Indo-Asia-Pacific area is diverse, expansive and challenging for the United States and our international partners. The 36 countries within the U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility encompass about half the Earth’s surface and contain half the world’s population. The region lacks a common culture, religion or language. In fact, about 3,000 languages are spoken there. It hosts the three largest global economies—the United States, China and Japan—and the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia. Furthermore, it is now home to five nuclear powers: Pakistan, India, China, Japan and North Korea. The region has seven of the world’s 10 largest armies, accentuating centuries of deeply held animosities.
The challenges facing the intelligence community (IC) have never been greater in both degree and diversity. New threats are emerging constantly, old threats are becoming more serious, and capabilities menacing national security are increasingly innovative. The greatest impediment to addressing these dynamic challenges may be internal rather than external: insufficient resources.
Possessing the ultimate weapon, the infantryman, the U.S. Army now is marching foursquare into cyberspace and electronic warfare operations. It is doing so not as a latecomer to the digital fight, but as one of the thought-leading pioneers in a rapidly expanding, cohesive domain.
The ground service, along with the other services, is integrating cyber, electronic warfare (EW) and other elements of information warfare into combat operations to more effectively assimilate information age technology. The effects of cyber and EW can move at the speed of light. They can enable or inhibit each other depending on how they are used, so it is only natural that these aspects of warfighting are tightly bound.
Robots, drones, automated devices—they are but a few of the names given to unmanned systems proliferating across the military and the commercial sector. The sky’s the limit for unmanned aerial vehicles, and no ocean is too deep for their underwater counterparts. Yet the potential for these devices, which seems unlimited, is being hindered by the human element they support. Planners must abandon convention and explore disruptive approaches that will allow unmanned systems to reach their full promise.
The challenges of cyberspace permeate just about everything we do—whether in defense, critical infrastructure such as banking systems or utilities and any other major commercial enterprise or individual pursuit. The ability to shape, change and manipulate data in an unauthorized and undetected manner can severely undermine confidence in the systems that depend on that information. Consequently, the ability to secure cyberspace is critical.
The need to secure data never has been greater, and that need is growing. Encrypting data is one of the main methods of securing information at the source, in storage and in transit. With data breaches becoming more common and more serious, organizations and individuals increasingly are encrypting information. This trend ultimately could lead to significant changes in the data security realm.
Fraud, theft and information corruption have become a way of life in cyberspace. Vital information such as health care data has joined financial and personal data as a prime target of hackers.
A significant level of effort and commitment is needed to restore the U.S. military to where it can appropriately address the country’s many national and international security responsibilities. The new administration has pledged to rebuild the nation’s defense capabilities, proposing billions more in defense spending for badly needed improvements. This initial hike in funding, while a much-needed and welcome first step, will require reinforcement in the Future Years Defense Program to truly position the military to meet our global commitments.
One of the more intriguing information technology trends sweeping the globe is the Internet of Things, or IoT. Its inevitability is clear, and the military is hoping to leverage the IoT for gains in situational awareness and logistics, among other areas. Yet an increased reliance on the IoT offers potential liabilities, such as security challenges and availability, along with a heavy dependence on technology in what is sure to be a contested or denied future warfighting environment.
All the U.S. military services have had to do more with less, but the Navy is facing a challenge that strikes at the heart of its raison d’être. Simply put, the Navy is underequipped. It does not have the number or types of ships it needs to adequately address its global role. Maintenance is backlogged, and because the supply of ready forces does not meet demand, deployments are longer. This downward curve in operating capability is reciprocal to the growth in its missions. The cost to re-establish the dominance of the Navy is significant, but it must be met—and in several areas. Further delay only adds to the expense and the risk to national security.
Our next adversary likely will use far more sophisticated technologies against our command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities than the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have employed. U.S. armed forces will face significant radio jamming, cyber attacks, misinformation, elaborate deception operations and denial of access to radio frequency spectrum. My concern is that some of the military’s best technical capabilities could be unavailable or degraded. To counter this, a renewed effort to double down on mission-oriented training is needed.
Athletes and coaches alike constantly study game film of opposing teams and players, identifying patterns and collecting intelligence that can provide insights into the opposition’s tendencies and overall game plan. This allows a team to formulate a strategy to exploit an opponent’s weaknesses.
Sports present an apt analogy for predictive intelligence. Achieved largely through the tools of big data analytics and augmented by other types of intelligence, a predictive capability takes on many forms. At its core, it assists in promoting timely and actionable information to identify trends or behaviors that enable the prediction of events. As a result, officials can act in a prompt and decisive manner.
New communications and information system technologies being designed and deployed for tactical use are doing more than simply changing the way warfighters communicate. They are helping to shape the very nature of operations with game-changing capabilities. This trend is likely to continue and even accelerate as new innovations in information technology move into the battlespace more quickly.
AFCEA International marks its 70th anniversary this year. While much has changed as the association evolved over the decades, the founders’ guiding principles still hold true and are even more relevant now.
Established after the end of the most destructive war in human history, AFCEA today serves the Free World as it deals with burgeoning threats amid an uncertain future. The challenges that faced the postwar world then have their counterparts in this millennium, and AFCEA is uniquely positioned to help respond to them.
The United States and the entire world owe a great deal to technology and the pace of technological change. The standards of living that define advanced societies, along with the advanced national security elements that guarantee their freedom, are the result of a constant march of technological innovation that characterizes the last century and continues at breakneck speed. The United States must continue to promote and enable technology development to meet new challenges and ensure continued freedom, prosperity and security. This tenet applies to all facets of national security.
Innovative uses for geospatial systems are exploding across the government and commercial landscape. What once was largely the purview of military planners and operators now is creating adherents in fields where geospatial systems can help understand the past, comprehend the present and predict the future.