76. “Top Ten” Takeaways from the Learning in 2050 Conference

On 8-9 August 2018, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies in Washington, DC.  Leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and the government gathered to address future learning techniques and technologies that are critical in preparing for Army operations in the mid-21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces.  The new and innovative learning capabilities addressed at this conference will enable our Soldiers and Leaders to act quickly and decisively in a changing Operational Environment (OE) with fleeting windows of opportunity and more advanced and lethal technologies.

We have identified the following “Top 10” takeaways related to Learning in 2050:

1. Many learning technologies built around commercial products are available today (Amazon Alexa, Smart Phones, Immersion tech, Avatar experts) for introduction into our training and educational institutions. Many of these technologies are part of the Army’s concept for a Synthetic Training Environment (STE) and there are nascent manifestations already.  For these technologies to be widely available to the future Army, the Army of today must be prepared to address:

– The collection and exploitation of as much data as possible;

– The policy concerns with security and privacy;

 – The cultural challenges associated with changing the dynamic between learners and instructors, teachers, and coaches; and

– The adequate funding to produce capabilities at scale so that digital tutors or other technologies (Augmented Reality [AR] / Virtual Reality [VR], etc.) and skills required in a dynamic future, like critical thinking/group think mitigation, are widely available or perhaps ubiquitous.

2. Personalization and individualization of learning in the future will be paramount, and some training that today takes place in physical schools will be more the exception, with learning occurring at the point of need. This transformation will not be limited to lesson plans or even just learning styles:

Intelligent tutors, Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven instruction, and targeted mentoring/tutoring;

– Tailored timing and pacing of learning (when, where, and for what duration best suits the individual learner or group of learners?);

– Collaborative learners will be teams partnering to learn;

Targeted Neuroplasticity Training / Source: DARPA

– Various media and technologies that enable enhanced or accelerated learning (Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT), haptic sensors, AR/VR, lifelong personal digital learning partners, pharmaceuticals, etc.) at scale;

– Project-oriented learning; when today’s high school students are building apps, they are asked “What positive change do you want to have?” One example is an open table for Bully Free Tables. In the future, learners will learn through working on projects;

– Project-oriented learning will lead to a convergence of learning and operations, creating a chicken (learning) or the egg (mission/project) relationship; and

– Learning must be adapted to consciously address the desired, or extant, culture.

Drones Hanger / Source: Oshanin

3. Some jobs and skill sets have not even been articulated yet. Hobbies and recreational activities engaged in by kids and enthusiasts today could become occupations or Military Occupational Specialties (MOS’s) of the future (e.g., drone creator/maintainer, 3-D printing specialist, digital and cyber fortification construction engineer — think Minecraft and Fortnite with real-world physical implications). Some emerging trends in personalized warfare, big data, and virtual nations could bring about the necessity for more specialists that don’t currently exist (e.g., data protection and/or data erasure specialists).

Mechanical Animal / Source: Pinterest

4. The New Human (who will be born in 2032 and is the recruit of 2050) will be fundamentally different from the Old Human. The Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) in 2050 is currently a young Captain in our Army today. While we are arguably cyborgs today (with integrated electronics in our pockets and on our wrists), the New Humans will likely be cyborgs in the truest sense of the word, with some having embedded sensors. How will those New Humans learn? What will they need to learn? Why would they want to learn something? These are all critical questions the Army will continue to ask over the next several decades.

Source: iLearn

5. Learning is continuous and self-initiated, while education is a point in time and is “done to you” by someone else. Learning may result in a certificate or degree – similar to education – or can lead to the foundations of a skill or a deeper understanding of operations and activity. How will organizations quantify learning in the future? Will degrees or even certifications still be the benchmark for talent and capability?

Source: The Data Feed Toolbox

6. Learning isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up. More and more things are becoming instantaneous and humans have no concept of extreme speed. Tesla cars have the ability to update software, with owners getting into a veritably different car each day. What happens to our Soldiers when military vehicles change much more iteratively? This may force a paradigm shift wherein learning means tightening local and global connections (tough to do considering government/military network securities, firewalls, vulnerabilities, and constraints); viewing technology as extended brains all networked together (similar to Dr. Alexander Kott’s look at the Internet of Battlefield Things [IoBT]); and leveraging these capabilities to enable Soldier learning at extremely high speeds.

Source: Connecting Universes

7. While there are a number of emerging concepts and technologies to improve and accelerate learning (TNT, extended reality, personalized learning models, and intelligent tutors), the focus, training stimuli, data sets, and desired outcomes all have to be properly tuned and aligned or the Learner could end up losing correct behavior habits (developing maladaptive plasticity), developing incorrect or skewed behaviors (per the desired capability), or assuming inert cognitive biases.

Source: TechCrunch

8. Geolocation may become increasingly less important when it comes to learning in the future. If Apple required users to go to Silicon Valley to get trained on an iPhone, they would be exponentially less successful. But this is how the Army currently trains. The ubiquity of connectivity, the growth of the Internet of Things (and eventually Internet of Everything), the introduction of universal interfaces (think one XBOX controller capable of controlling 10 different types of vehicles), major advances in modeling and simulations, and social media innovation all converge to minimize the importance of teachers, students, mentors, and learners being collocated at the same physical location.

Transdisciplinarity at Work / Source: https://www.cetl.hku.hk

9. Significant questions have to be asked regarding the specificity of training in children at a young age to the point that we may be overemphasizing STEM from an early age and not helping them learn across a wider spectrum. We need Transdisciplinarity in the coming generations.

10. 3-D reconstructions of bases, training areas, cities, and military objectives coupled with mixed reality, haptic sensing, and intuitive controls have the potential to dramatically change how Soldiers train and learn when it comes to not only single performance tasks (e.g., marksmanship, vehicle driving, reconnaissance, etc.) but also in dense urban operations, multi-unit maneuver, and command and control.

Heavy Duty by rOEN911 / Source: DeviantArt

During the next two weeks, we will be posting the videos from each of the Learning in 2050 Conference presentations on the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment (OE) Enterprise YouTube Channel and the associated slides on our Mad Scientist APAN site — stay connected here at the Mad Scientist Laboratory.

One of the main thrusts in the Mad Scientist lines of effort is harnessing and cultivating the Intellect of the Nation. In this vein, we are asking Learning in 2050 Conference participants (both in person and online) to share their ideas on the presentations and topic. Please consider:

– What topics were most important to you personally and professionally?

– What were your main takeaways from the event?

– What topics did you want the speakers to extrapolate more on?

– What were the implications for your given occupation/career field from the findings of the event?

Your input will be of critical importance to our analysis and products that will have significant impact on the future of the force in design, structuring, planning, and training!  Please submit your input to Mad Scientist at: usarmy.jble.tradoc.mbx.army-mad-scientist@mail.mil.

73. Keeping the Edge

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by returning guest blogger and proclaimed Mad Scientist Mr. Howard R. Simkin, hypothesizing the activities of an Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) deployed on a security assistance operation in the 2050 timeframe.  Mr. Simkin addresses how advanced learning capabilities can improve what were once cognitive load limitations.  This is a one of the themes we will explore at next week’s Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference; more information on this conference can be found at the bottom of this post.]

This is the ODAs third deployment to the country, although it is Captain Clark Weston’s first deployment as a team leader. The rest of his ODA have long experience in the region and country. They all have the 2050 standard milspec augmentation of every Special Operations (SO) Operator:  corneal and audial implants, subdural brain-computer interfaces, and medical nano-enhancement.

Unlike earlier generations of SO Operators aided by advanced technology, they can see into the near-infra red, understand sixty spoken languages, acquire new skill sets rapidly, interface directly with computers and see that information in a heads up display without a device, and survive any injury short of dismemberment. However, they continue to rely on their cultural and human skills to provide those critical puzzle pieces from the human domain which technology and data science alone cannot.

No matter what technologies are at play, the human element will still be paramount. As the noted futurist and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku observed in his discussions of the ‘Cave Man Principle’, “whenever there is a conflict between modern technology and the desires of our primitive ancestors, these primitive desires win each time.”[I]

The sound of an onrushing thunderstorm briefly distracted CPT[II] Weston from the report he was compiling. His eyes scanned the equipment hung on wooden pegs protruding from the white plastered walls or scattered on the small wooden desk adorned by a single switch operated lamp. He couldn’t help smiling. The wooden pegs, plastered walls, and primitive lamp were a good metaphor for the region. His apartment back home sported the latest in technology, adaptive video capable walls, a customized AI virtual assistant, and lighting and HVAC[III] that operated without human intervention. Here, it was back to basics.

His concentration broken, he stood up and stretched. Dark of hair and eyes, of medium height and slender build, he could easily pass for a native of the region. As for fluency in the local language, it had been baked into his neural circuitry through rigorous training, cognitive enhancements, and experience. A student of history, Weston had been surprised during his attendance at the SOF[IV] Captains Career Course when he read articles and papers that had heralded the death of language training.

Source: Language Landscapes Blog — http://blogs.fasos.maastrichtuniversity.nl

He wondered. Didn’t the people who wrote those articles pause to consider that no technology works all the time? Either as a result of adversary action or the arrival of mean time between failures, a glitch in a technology-dependent language capability could be at best embarrassing and at worst catastrophic. Didn’t they realize that learning a new language alters the learner’s neural networks, allowing a nuanced understanding of a culture that software had not been able to achieve? Besides, around 65 percent of human communication is non-verbal, he reasoned. Language occurs in a shifting cultural context, something even the best AIs still couldn’t always tackle.

He paced around the room, reflecting on the past few months. Things had definitely taken a turn for the better. With very few exceptions, the Joint security assistance efforts he was aware of were going well. He was very proud of what his ODA had accomplished, training the Ministry of the Interior’s capitol region paramilitary force (CRPF) to what Minerva[V] had deemed a sufficient level of competence in a wide range of tactical skills.

Source: CIO Australia

More importantly, as his Team Sergeant Abdel Jamaal had observed, “We got them to believe in themselves as protectors and to stop acting like bullies.” This had led to the development of an increasing number of information sources which in turn had led to the arrest of a number of senior narco-terrorists.  He and Sergeant Jamaal had advised and assisted in those arrests in a virtual mode. To the local population, it looked like the CRPF was doing all of the work.

The team medical/civil affairs specialist, Sergeant First Class Belinda Tompkins and the team cyber/additive manufacturing authority, Sergeant DeWayne Jones had achieved quite a lot on their own. After consulting with the Nimble Griffin[VI] team, they had employed their expertise to upgrade the antiquated in-country hospital 3D Printers to produce the latest gene editing drugs and fight the diseases still endemic to the region. They had done this in the background, having the CRPF collect the machines quietly and then return them to the hospitals with great fanfare. The resulting media coverage was a public relations bonanza. The only US presence was virtual and invisible to the media or public.

A loud peal of thunder shook Weston from his thoughts. The lights flickered in his room, then steadied up. He sat back down at the table to finish his report. All in all, things were going very well.

[Note that any resemblance to any current events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]

If you enjoyed this post, please read Mr. Simkin’s article Technological Fluency 2035-2050, submitted in response to our Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas and hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Other Learning in 2050 Call for Ideas submissions include the following:

Soldier Learning 2050, by Charles Heard

Thoughts on Military Education, Training and Leader Development in 2050, by Jim Greer

Cyber Integrating Architecture, by LTC Brett Lindberg, LTC Stephen Hamilton, MAJ Brian Lebiednik, and CPT Kyle Hager

Please also plan on joining us virtually at the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference.  This event will be live streamed on both days (08-09 August 2018). You can watch and interact with all of the speakers at the conference watch page or tag @TRADOC on Twitter with #Learningin2050.  Note that the live streaming event is best viewed via a commercial internet connection (i.e., non-NIPRNet).

Howard R. Simkin is a Senior Concept Developer in the DCS, G-9 Concepts, Experimentation and Analysis Directorate, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He has over 40 years of combined military, law enforcement, defense contractor, and government experience. He is a retired Special Forces officer with a wide variety of special operations experience.
________________________________________________________
[I] Kaku, M. (2011). Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Random House (Kindle Edition), 13.
[II] Captain.
[III] Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
[IV]Special Operations Forces.
[V]Department of Defense AI virtual assistant.
[VI]A Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force.

61. Base in a Box

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to publish the following guest blog post by Mr. Lewis Jones. Originally a “Letter Home” submission to the Call for Ideas associated with the Mad Scientist Installations of the Future Conference (see more information about this event at the end of this post), we hope that you will enjoy Mr. Jones’ vision of a mid-Twenty First Century forward deployed base.]

Hey Dad, guess who got new PCS orders!  From March 2042 I’ll be assigned to Joint Base Harris in Japan.  You spent your early career in Japan, right?  I’ll never forget your stories about Camp Zama, a sprawling installation housing hundreds of soldiers and civilians. I  used to love hearing about the 2020s, when enemy sensors, drones, and artificial intelligence first wreaked havoc on operations there.

Source: John Lamb/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Remember the Garrison commander whose face was 3D-scanned by a rigged vending machine near the gate? The enemy released that humiliating video right before a major bilateral operation. By the time we proved it was fake, our partners had already withdrawn.




What about the incident at the intel battalion’s favorite TDY hotel with a pool-side storage safe? Soldiers went swimming and tossed their wallets into the safe, unaware that an embedded scanner would clone their SIPR tokens. To make matters worse, the soldiers secured the safe with a four digit code… using the same numbers as their token PIN.

Source: CNN
Oh, and remember the Prankenstein A.I. attack? It scanned social media to identify Army personnel living off-base, then called local law enforcement with fake complaints. The computer-generated voice was very convincing, even giving physical descriptions based on soldier’s actual photos. You said that one soured host-nation relations for years!

Or the drones that hovered over Camp Zama, broadcasting fake Wi-Fi hotspots. The enemy scooped up so much intelligence and — ah, you get the picture. Overseas bases were so vulnerable back then.


Well, the S1 sent me a virtual tour and the new base is completely different. When U.S. Forces Japan rebuilt its installations, those wide open bases were replaced by miniature, self-contained fortresses. Joint Base Harris, for example, was built inside a refurbished shopping mall: an entire installation, compressed into a single building!

Source: The Cinephile Gardener

Here’s what I saw on my virtual tour:

  • Source: Gizmodo UK

      The roof has solar panels and battery banks for independent power. There’s also an enormous greenhouse, launch pads for drones and helos, and a running trail.

 

  The ground level contains a water plant that extracts and purifies groundwater, along with indoor hydroponic farms. Special filtration units scrub the air; they’re even rated against CBRN threats.

  • Source: tandemnsi.com

      What was once a multi-floor parking garage is now a motor pool, firing range, and fitness complex. The gym walls are smart-screens, so you can work out in a different environment every day.

 

  Communications are encrypted and routed through a satellite uplink. The base even has its own cellphone tower. Special mesh in the walls prevent anybody outside from eavesdropping on emissions— the entire base is a SCIF.

Source: fortune.com

  The mall’s shops and food court were replaced by all the features and functions of a normal base: nearly 2,000 Army, Air and Cyber Force troops living, working, and training inside. They even have a kitchen-bot in the chow hall that can produce seven custom meals per minute!

 

  Supposedly, the base extends several floors underground, but the tour didn’t show that. I guess that’s where the really secret stuff happens.

Source: Gizmodo Australia

By the way, don’t worry about me feeling cooped up:  Soldiers are assigned top-notch VR specs during in-processing.  During the duty day, they’re only for training simulations. Once you’re off, personal use is authorized. I’ll be able to play virtual games, take virtual tours… MWR even lets you link with telepresence robots to “visit” family back home.

The sealed, self-contained footprint of this new base is far easier to defend in today’s high-tech threat environment. Some guys complain about being stuck inside, but you know what I think? If Navy sailors can spend months at sea in self-contained bases, then there’s no reason the Army can’t do the same on land!

Love,
Your Daughter

 

If you were intrigued by this vision of a future Army installation, please plan on joining us virtually at the Mad Scientist Installations of the Future Conference, co-sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (OASA (IE&E)); Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI); and Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC),  at GTRI in Atlanta, Georgia, on 19-20 June 2018.  Click here to learn more about the conference and then participate in the live-streamed proceedings, starting at 0830 EDT on 19 June 2018.

Lewis Jones is an Army civilian with nearly 15 years of experience in the Indo-Pacific region. In addition to his Japanese and Chinese language studies, he has earned a Masters in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University. He has worked as a headhunter for multinational investment banks in Tokyo, as a business intelligence analyst for a DOD contractor, and has supported the Army with cybersecurity program management and contract administration. Lewis writes about geopolitics, international relations, U.S. national security, and the effects of rapid advances in technology.

59. Fundamental Questions Affecting Army Modernization

[Editor’s Note:  The Operational Environment (OE) is the start point for Army Readiness – now and in the Future. The OE answers the question, “What is the Army ready for?”  Without the OE in training and Leader development, Soldiers and Leaders are “practicing” in a benign condition, without the requisite rigor to forge those things essential for winning in a complex, multi-domain battlefield.  Building the Army’s future capabilities, a critical component of future readiness, requires this same start point.  The assumptions the Army makes about the Future OE are the sine qua non start point for developing battlefield systems — these assumptions must be at the forefront of decision-making for all future investments.]

There are no facts about the future. Leaders interested in building future ready organizations must develop assumptions about possible futures and these assumptions require constant scrutiny. Leaders must also make decisions based on these assumptions to posture organizations to take advantage of opportunities and to mitigate risks. Making these decisions is fundamental to building future readiness.

Source: Evan Jensen, ARL

The TRADOC G-2 has made the following foundational assumptions about the future that can serve as launch points for important questions about capability requirements and capabilities under development. These assumptions are further described in An Advanced Engagement Battlespace: Tactical, Operational and Strategic Implications for the Future Operational Environment, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

1. Contested in all domains (air, land, sea, space, and cyber). Increased lethality, by virtue of ubiquitous sensors, proliferated precision, high kinetic energy weapons and advanced area munitions, further enabled by autonomy, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with an increasing potential for overmatch. Adversaries will restrict us to temporary windows of advantage with periods of physical and electronic isolation.

Source: Army Technology

2. Concealment is difficult on the future battlefield. Hiding from advanced sensors — where practicable — will require dramatic reduction of heat, electromagnetic, and optical signatures. Traditional hider techniques such as camouflage, deception, and concealment will have to extend to “cross-domain obscuration” in the cyber domain and the electromagnetic spectrum. Canny competitors will monitor their own emissions in real-time to understand and mitigate their vulnerabilities in the “battle of signatures.” Alternately, “hiding in the open” within complex terrain clutter and near-constant relocation might be feasible, provided such relocation could outpace future recon / strike targeting cycles.   Adversaries will operate among populations in complex terrain, including dense urban areas.

3. Trans-regional, gray zone, and hybrid strategies with both regular and irregular forces, criminal elements, and terrorists attacking our weaknesses and mitigating our advantages. The ensuing spectrum of competition will range from peaceful, legal activities through violent, mass upheavals and civil wars to traditional state-on-state, unlimited warfare.

Source: Science Photo Library / Van Parys Media

4. Adversaries include states, non-state actors, and super-empowered individuals, with non-state actors and super empowered individuals now having access to Weapons of Mass Effect (WME), cyber, space, and Nuclear/Biological/ Chemical (NBC) capabilities. Their operational reach will range from tactical to global, and the application of their impact from one domain into another will be routine. These advanced engagements will also be interactive across the multiple dimensions of conflict, not only across every domain in the physical dimension, but also the cognitive dimension of information operations, and even the moral dimension of belief and values.

Source: Northrop Grumman

5. Increased speed of human interaction, events and action with democratized and rapidly proliferating capabilities means constant co-evolution between competitors. Recon / Strike effectiveness is a function of its sensors, shooters, their connections, and the targeting process driving decisions. Therefore, in a contest between peer competitors with comparable capabilities, advantage will fall to the one that is better integrated and makes better and faster decisions.

These assumptions become useful when they translate to potential decision criteria for Leaders to rely on when evaluating systems being developed for the future battlefield. Each of the following questions are fundamental to ensuring the Army is prepared to operate in the future.

Source: Lockheed Martin

1. How will this system operate when disconnected from a network? Units will be disconnected from their networks on future battlefields. Capabilities that require constant timing and precision geo-locational data will be prioritized for disruption by adversaries with capable EW systems.

2. What signature does this system present to an adversary? It is difficult to hide on the future battlefield and temporary windows of advantage will require formations to reduce their battlefield signatures. Capabilities that require constant multi-directional broadcast and units with large mission command centers will quickly be targeted and neutralized.

Image credit: Alexander Kott

3. How does this system operate in dense urban areas? The physical terrain in dense urban areas and megacities creates concrete canyons isolating units electronically and physically. Automated capabilities operating in dense population areas might also increase the rate of false signatures, confusing, rather than improving, Commander decision-making. New capabilities must be able to operate disconnected in this terrain. Weapons systems must be able to slew and elevate rapidly to engage vertical targets. Automated systems and sensors will require significant training sets to reduce the rate of false signatures.

Source: Military Embedded Systems

4. How does this system take advantage of open and modular architectures? The rapid rate of technological innovations will offer great opportunities to militaries capable of rapidly integrating prototypes into formations.  Capabilities developed with open and modular architectures can be upgraded with autonomous and AI enablers as they mature. Early investment in closed-system capabilities will freeze Armies in a period of rapid co-evolution and lead to overmatch.

5. How does this capability help win in competition short of conflict with a near peer competitor? Near peer competitors will seek to achieve limited objectives short of direct conflict with the U.S. Army. Capabilities will need to be effective at operating in the gray zone as well as serving as deterrence. They will need to be capable of strategic employment from CONUS-based installations.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the following items of interest:

    • Join SciTech Futures‘ community of experts, analysts, and creatives on 11-18 June 2018 as they discuss the logistical challenges of urban campaigns, both today and on into 2035. What disruptive technologies and doctrines will blue (and red) forces have available in 2035? Are unconventional forces the future of urban combat? Their next ideation exercise goes live 11 June 2018 — click here to learn more!

57. Our Arctic—The World’s Pink Flamingo and Black Swan Bird Sanctuary

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following post by returning guest blogger Mr. Frank Prautzsch, addressing the Black Swans and Pink Flamingos associated with our last terrestrial frontier — the Arctic.  Mr. Prautzsch has previously posted on how the future of vaccines is in nano-biology and convergence with the immune system of the body.]

By now, all Mad Scientists and understudies of history are familiar with the conditions for the unknown, unknowns (i.e., Black Swans) and the known, knowns (i.e., Pink Flamingos).  Perhaps no place has a greater collection of these attributes than the Arctic. The Arctic Region remains arguably our last international frontier.  Over the last 20 years, climate change, unexplored energy reserves, short transpolar navigation, eco-tourism, and commerce (with and without indigenous populations) are taking center stage among stakeholders.   This focused international interest in the Arctic has pronounced security implications.

Source: CNBC

To start our Arctic flamingo category, potential energy reserves take center stage. The US Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic holds 18-23% of the untapped oil reserves remaining on the planet. Alaska and West Siberia are estimated to hold 30% of the world’s remaining gas reserves. Russia has attained strategic deals with Exxon Mobil, Eni, and Statoil for securing up to $500B in investment over the next 30 years. Shell paid $2.1B for 275 blocks of off-shore drilling plots northwest of Alaska, but has encountered difficulties in the harsh climate. The United States and Norway are building stronger partnerships on Arctic drilling.[1]

Perhaps the largest flamingo, and also the leader of the flock (or flamboyance), is the Russian military. Most of the Arctic Ocean littoral states are modernizing their military forces in the Arctic. With countries rebuilding their Arctic military capabilities, in concert with vague territorial zones, rich natural resource options, and no real enforcement of maritime law, some concern should be paid to any Russian attempt to have prime sectors of the Arctic become a “new Crimea”. This is a particularly acute topic should Russia model its behaviors after China and the lack of a concerted international community response to China’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

Source: The Drive

In August of 2007, two Russian mini-subs planted a Russian flag on a titanium mast 14,000 feet below the North Pole. This was tied to their interpretation of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allowing nations to claim sub terrain beyond 200 nautical miles if they prove that such a location is part of their continental shelf.

In the summer of 2014, “Putin broke away from talking about the Ukraine, and indicated that Russia’s future really didn’t lie to its west, but instead in the north. ‘Our interests are concentrated in the Arctic…. And of course, we should pay more attention to issues of development of the Arctic and the strengthening of our position [there].’”[2]

Source: Foreign Policy Magazine
Source: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

For the past 4 years, Norway, Finland, and Sweden joined much of the international community to overtly criticize Russian representatives and share their disappointment over Russian violation of international and maritime law by invading Crimea and the Ukraine. Finland and Sweden are exploring NATO membership. The volume of Russian TU-97 Bear C4ISR over flights of Finland’s and Sweden’s waters has gone up exponentially. The bombers are flying C4ISR missions but could easily be armed to follow through with their primary mission.[3]

Source: NY Daily News, Vadim Saviskii/Sputnik via AP)

The day after sanctions were placed on Russia for the invasion of Crimea and their activities in the Ukraine, President Putin moved an expeditionary naval fleet into the Arctic. The ships were dispatched to deliver personnel, equipment, and supplies to the New Siberian Islands where a permanent base was constructed. Central to this operation are revitalized military bases at Kotelny and Wrangel Islands, which were abandoned in 1993.  Kotelny now has an airbase and is permanent home of the 99th Arctic Tactical Group. Another new air base was commissioned at Cape Schmidt. Additionally, an expanded airstrip at Novaya Zemlya can now accommodate fighters supporting the Northern Fleet. These moves have prompted serious criticism from Canada.

Source: Digital Trends

In addition to Kotelny, the Russian Northern Fleet has expanded operations from the Russian town of Alakurtti, Murmansk, which is 50km from the Finnish border. Large portions of the rest of the Northern Fleet are now there with a full complement of 39 ships and 45 submarines. Alakurtti is the new garrison for the Russian Arctic Command with 6000 + Arctic-trained ground troops. Russia maintains a fleet for 54 icebreakers and 78 icebreaker-hulled oil/gas supertankers, while the US maintains one heavy breaker and has hopes of acquiring three more. Russia feels that they have to move to the Arctic Ocean to secure their energy future, and to protect the economic interests of their country. The Russians intend to “homestead”, realizing that global energy supplies will again favor their geographical posture someday.[4]  From this strategic position, they maintain multiple black swan options, for which the West will have little to challenge.

Source: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Reinforcing these energy efforts in the Arctic, Russia deployed its first floating nuclear power plant in April 2018.  Moving slowly from St. Petersburg, its final destination is Pevek on the Arctic coast, where it will replace a land-based nuclear power source.[5] This position is 86km from Alaska and the installation uses similar reactor technology to that of Russian icebreaker ships.[6] The primary concern of the international community is the potential for a nuclear accident, but this new power plant could serve a broader Russian purpose in sequestering and dominating the Arctic and its resources.

Source: How We Get to Next / airbase.ru

One of the baby black swans in the Arctic is our unknown ability to generate a clear national will and investment for heavy icebreakers. The US Coast Guard seeks to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers of US lineage. The entire world (including Russia) seeks the help of Finland in icebreaker building and development. With a lack of port construction facilities and a Request for Proposal for three heavy icebreakers from untested US designs, this cygnet will fight for survival against cost, schedule, performance, and risk. While it all looks good on paper, the operational risks to Arctic operations between now and 2025 are pronounced. At the end of the day, the US should consider modular multi-role heavy icebreaker oil/gas tanker hulls that could be tailored to support multiple US missions and interests, including ship escort duty, refueling, C4ISR, vertical lift support, contingency maneuver asset delivery, oil recovery, medical, SAR, and scientific missions…not just icebreaking.

Source: Gamezone

Another indigo black swan is the US Army’s and its Sister Services’ cold weather climate equipment and training. We must improve our survival techniques, mobility and transport, and combat capabilities in cold weather. In a recent Arctic exercise, the US Marine Corps borrowed arctic tentage and soldier wearables from Sweden and NorwayUS Arctic tentage has not changed since the mid 1950s. A recent Request for Information introduces the USMC to its first change in cold weather hats and gloves in decades. It is also important to understand the lack of available C4ISR, the performance of commercial off the shelf C4ISR systems subjected to heating and condensation cycles, and the effects of cyber on C4ISR and transportation. Failure in any of these mission areas will render a highly capable force almost useless.

Source: Wall Street Pit

Finally, the most enormous black swan on the planet resides in the Arctic tied to climate change. The introduction of pronounced Arctic sheet ice melting over the past eight summers has opened up the potential for at least seasonal trans-polar shipping and also selected air routes. While we are in love with pretty pictures of polar bears on ice floes and satellite imagery of an ever-shrinking mass, the true story is 3D. We soon will not have Arctic ice of any accumulated age. This is due to warm subsurface ocean thermoclines and high densities of chlorophyll not before seen. Certain NOAA models predict “Ice Free” Arctic Summers by 2047. The impact on climate, fish/wildlife, weather severity, sea levels, and of course human beings is far from being understood. The ice shelves of Greenland are losing one cubic mile of fresh water per week. This is the equivalent of all of the drinking water consumed by Los Angeles in a year.

So, what do we know going into the unknown? (National Geographic, April 2017)

1. The earth’s temperature goes up and down, but it’s gone up 1.69 deg. F consistently since the end of WWII.

Source: NOAA

2. CO2 warms the planet and we have increased the amount of CO2 by almost half since 1960.

3. 97% of scientists and 98% of authors fault humans for global warming.

4. Arctic sea ice is shrinking and glaciers are receding worldwide.

5. The number of climate-related disasters has tripled since 1980.

6. Retreat and extinction of various plants and animals is starting to occur.

7. Albeit noble, the switch to renewable energy does not offset the world appetite for energy.

Source: NOAA
Source: Scenic Tours

While the green-think world worries, commerce is casting an eye on how the Northwest Passage can cut shipping distances between Asia and Europe by up to 3500-4500 miles. A French cruise line is preparing for trans-polar cruises during optimal weather and navigation times. Russia will seek transit and escort fees over its sovereign territories. Reykjavik, Iceland is labeled as the Singapore of 2050. The truth is we will all have to challenge the unknowns of this great swan over time, and we are ill prepared for this confrontation. While Russia looks like a flamingo, its Arctic behaviors can be totally swan-like. If we are looking into the future, we must fear our drift towards fair-weather Clausewitzian warfare while the rest of the planet sees otherwise. Enjoy the birds!

In his current role as President of Velocity Technology Partners LLC, Mr. Frank Prautzsch (LTC, Ret. Signal Corps) is recognized as a technology and business leader supporting the government and is known for exposing or crafting innovative technology solutions for the DoD, SOF, DHS and Intelligence community. He also provides consult to the MEDSTAR Institute for Innovation. His focus is upon innovation and not invention. Mr. Prautzsch holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a distinguished graduate of the Marine Corps Signal Advanced Course, Army Airborne School, Ranger School, and Command and General Staff College. He also holds a Master of Science Degree from Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California with a degree in Systems Technology (C3) and Space.

______________________________________________________

[1] CNN Money, July 19, 2012, http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/17/news/economy/Arctic-oil/index.htm

[2] The Washington Post, Aug 29, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/08/29/putin-thinks-of-the-past-when-talking-ukraine-but-the-arctic-is-where-he-sees-russias-future/

[3] Minutes of Arctic Circle Conference, Reykjavik Iceland, Oct 2014.

[4] The Guardian, 21 October 2014, http://theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/21/russia-arctic-military-oil-gas-putin

[5] NPR, April 30, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/30/607088530/russia-launches-floating-nuclear-power-plant-its-headed-to-the-arctic

[6] Live Science, May 21, 2018, https://www.livescience.com/62625-russia-floating-nuclear-power-arctic-alaska.html

56. An Appropriate Level of Trust…

The Mad Scientist team participates in many thought exercises, tabletops, and wargames associated with how we will live, work, and fight in the future. A consistent theme in these events is the idea that a major barrier to the integration of robotic systems into Army formations is a lack of trust between humans and machines. This assumption rings true as we hear the media and opinion polls describe how society doesn’t trust some disruptive technologies, like driverless cars or the robots coming for our jobs.

In his recent book, Army of None, Paul Scharre describes an event that nearly led to a nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States. On September 26, 1983, LTC Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet Officer serving in a bunker outside Moscow was alerted to a U.S. missile launch by a recently deployed space-based early warning system. The Soviet Officer trusted his “gut” – or experientially informed intuition – that this was a false alarm. His gut was right and the world was saved from an inadvertent nuclear exchange because this officer did not over trust the system. But is this the rule or an exception to how humans interact with technology?

The subject of trust between Soldiers, Soldiers and Leaders, and the Army and society is central to the idea of the Army as a profession. At the most tactical level, trust is seen as essential to combat readiness as Soldiers must trust each other in dangerous situations. Humans naturally learn to trust their peers and subordinates once they have worked with them for a period of time. You learn what someone’s strengths and weaknesses are, what they can handle, and under what conditions they will struggle. This human dynamic does not translate to human-machine interaction and the tendency to anthropomorphize machines could be a huge barrier.

We recommend that the Army explore the possibility that Soldiers and Leaders could over trust AI and robotic systems. Over trust of these systems could blunt human expertise, judgement, and intuition thought to be critical to winning in complex operational environments. Also, over trust might lead to additional adversarial vulnerabilities such as deception and spoofing.

In 2016, a research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology revealed the results of a study entitled “Overtrust of Robots in Emergency Evacuation Scenarios”. The research team put 42 test participants into a fire emergency with a robot responsible for escorting them to an emergency exit. As the robot passed obvious exits and got lost, 37 participants continued to follow the robot and an additional 2 stood with the robot and didn’t move towards either exit. The study’s takeaway was that roboticists must think about programs that will help humans establish an “appropriate level of trust” with robot teammates.

In Future Crimes, Marc Goodman writes of the idea of “In Screen We Trust” and the vulnerabilities this trust builds into our interaction with our automation. His example of the cyber-attack against the Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges highlights the vulnerability of experts believing or trusting their screens against mounting evidence that something else might be contributing to the failure of centrifuges. These experts over trusted their technology or just did not have an “appropriate level of trust”. What does this have to do with Soldiers on the future battlefield? Well, increasingly we depend on our screens and, in the future, our heads-up displays to translate the world around us. This translation will only become more demanding on the future battlefield with war at machine speed.

So what should our assumptions be about trust and our robotic teammates on the future battlefield?

1) Soldiers and Leaders will react differently to technology integration.

2) Capability developers must account for trust building factors in physical design, natural language processing, and voice communication.

3) Intuition and judgement remain a critical component of human-machine teaming and operating on the future battlefield. Speed becomes a major challenge as humans become the weak link.

4) Building an “appropriate level of trust” will need to be part of Leader Development and training. Mere expertise in a field does not prevent over trust when interacting with our robotic teammates.

5) Lastly, lack of trust is not a barrier to AI and robotic integration on the future battlefield. These capabilities will exist in our formations as well as those of our adversaries. The formation that develops the best concepts for effective human-machine teaming, with trust being a major component, will have the advantage.

Interested in learning more on this topic? Watch Dr. Kimberly Jackson Ryan (Draper Labs).

[Editor’s Note:  A special word of thanks goes out to fellow Mad Scientist Mr. Paul Scharre for sharing his ideas with the Mad Scientist team regarding this topic.]

55. Influence at Machine Speed: The Coming of AI-Powered Propaganda

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present the following guest blog post by MAJ Chris Telley, U.S. Army, assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School, addressing how Artificial Intelligence (AI) must be understood as an Information Operations (IO) tool if U.S. defense professionals are to develop effective countermeasures and ensure our resilience to its employment by potential adversaries.]

AI-enabled IO present a more pressing strategic threat than the physical hazards of slaughter-bots or even algorithmically-escalated nuclear war. IO are efforts to “influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making of adversaries and potential adversaries;” here, we’re talking about using AI to do so. AI-guided IO tools can empathize with an audience to say anything, in any way needed, to change the perceptions that drive those physical weapons. Future IO systems will be able to individually monitor and affect tens of thousands of people at once. Defense professionals must understand the fundamental influence potential of these technologies if they are to drive security institutions to counter malign AI use in the information environment.

Source: Peter Adamis / Abalinx.com

Programmatic marketing, using consumer’s data habits to drive real time automated bidding on personalized advertising, has been used for a few years now. Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook targeting made international headlines using similar techniques, but digital electioneering is just the tip of the iceberg. An AI trained with data from users’ social media accounts, economic media interactions (Uber, Applepay, etc.), and their devices’ positional data can infer predictive knowledge of its targets. With that knowledge, emerging tools — like Replika — can truly befriend a person, allowing it to train that individual, for good or ill.

Source: Getty Creative

Substantive feedback is required to train an individual’s response; humans tend to respond best to content and feedback with which they agree. That content can be algorithmically mass produced. For years, Narrative Science tools have helped writers create sports stories and stock summaries, but it’s just as easy to use them to create disinformation. That’s just text, though; today, the AI can create fake video. A recent warning, ostensibly from former President Obama, provides an entertaining yet frightening demonstration of how Deepfakes will challenge our presumptions about truth in the coming years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a project this summer to determine whether AI-generated Deepfakes will become impossible to distinguish from the real thing, even using other AI systems.

Given that malign actors can now employ AI to lieat machine speed,” they still have to get the story to an audience. Russian bot armies continue to make headlines doing this very thing. The New York Times maintains about a dozen Twitter feeds and produces around 300 tweets a day, but Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) regularly puts out 25,000 tweets in the same twenty-four hours. The IRA’s bots are really just low-tech curators; they collect, interpret, and display desired information to promote the Kremlin’s narratives.

Source: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

Next-generation bot armies will employ far faster computing techniques and profit from an order of magnitude greater network speed when 5G services are fielded. If “Repetition is a key tenet of IO execution,” then this machine gun-like ability to fire information at an audience will, with empathetic precision and custom content, provide the means to change a decisive audience’s very reality. No breakthrough science is needed, no bureaucratic project office required. These pieces are already there, waiting for an adversary to put them together.

The DoD is looking at AI but remains focused on image classification and swarming quadcopters while ignoring the convergent possibilities of predictive audience understanding, tailored content production, and massive scale dissemination. What little digital IO we’ve done, sometimes called social media “WebOps,” has been contractor heavy and prone to naïve missteps. However, groups like USSOCOM’s SOFWERX and the students at the Naval Postgraduate School are advancing the state of our art. At NPS, future senior leaders are working on AI, now. A half-dozen of the school’s departments have stood up classes and events specifically aimed at operationalizing advanced computing. The young defense professionals currently working on AI should grapple with emerging influence tools and form the foundation of the DoD’s future institutional capabilities.

MAJ Chris Telley is an Army information operations officer assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School. His assignments have included theater engagement at U.S. Army Japan and advanced technology integration with the U.S. Air Force. Chris commanded in Afghanistan and served in Iraq as a United States Marine. He tweets at @chris_telley.

This blog post represents the opinions of the author and do not reflect the position of the Army or the United States Government.

54. A View of the Future: 2035-2050

[Editor’s Note: The following post addresses the Era of Contested Equality (2035-2050) and is extracted from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, published last summer. This seminal document provides the U.S. Army with a holistic and heuristic approach to projecting and anticipating both transformational and enduring trends that will lend themselves to the depiction of the future.]

Changes encountered during the Future Operational Environment’s Era of Accelerated Human Progress (the present through 2035) begin a process that will re-shape the global security situation and fundamentally alter the character of warfare. While its nature remains constant, the speed, automation, ranges, both broad and narrow effects, its increasingly integrated multi-domain conduct, and the complexity of the terrain and social structures in which it occurs will make mid-century warfare both familiar and utterly alien.

During the Era of Contested Equality (2035-2050), great powers and rising challengers have converted hybrid combinations of economic power, technological prowess, and virulent, cyber-enabled ideologies into effective strategic strength. They apply this strength to disrupt or defend the economic, social, and cultural foundations of the old Post-World War II liberal order and assert or dispute regional alternatives to established global norms. State and non-state actors compete for power and control, often below the threshold of traditional armed conflict – or shield and protect their activities under the aegis of escalatory WMD, cyber, or long-range conventional options and doctrines.

It is not clear whether the threats faced in the preceding Era of Accelerated Human Progress persist, although it is likely that China and Russia will remain key competitors, and that some form of non-state ideologically motivated extremist groups will exist. Other threats may have fundamentally changed their worldviews, or may not even exist by mid-Century, while other states, and combinations of states will rise and fall as challengers during the 2035-2050 timeframe. The security environment in this period will be characterized by conditions that will facilitate competition and conflict among rivals, and lead to endemic strife and warfare, and will have several defining features.

The nation-state perseveres. The nation-state will remain the primary actor in the international system, but it will be weaker both domestically and globally than it was at the start of the century. Trends of fragmentation, competition, and identity politics will challenge global governance and broader globalization, with both collective security and globalism in decline. States share their strategic environments with networked societies which increasingly circumvent governments unresponsive to their citizens’ needs. Many states will face challenges from insurgents and global identity networks – ethnic, religious, regional, social, or economic – which either resist state authority or ignore it altogether.

Super-Power Diminishes. Early-century great powers will lose their dominance in command and control, surveillance, and precision-strike technologies as even non-state actors will acquire and refine their own application of these technologies in conflict and war. Rising competitors will be able to acquire capabilities through a broad knowledge diffusion, cyber intellectual property theft, and their own targeted investments without having to invest into massive “sunken” research costs. This diffusion of knowledge and capability and the aforementioned erosion of long-term collective security will lead to the formation of ad hoc communities of interest. The costs of maintaining global hegemony at the mid-point of the century will be too great for any single power, meaning that the world will be multi-polar and dominated by complex combinations of short-term alliances, relations, and interests.

This era will be marked by contested norms and persistent disorder, where multiple state and non-state actors assert alternative rules and norms, which when contested, will use military force, often in a dimension short of traditional armed conflict.

For additional information on the Future Operational Environment and the Era of Contested Equality:

•  Listen to Modern War Institute‘s podcast where Retired Maj. Gen. David Fastabend and Mr. Ian Sullivan address Technology and the Future of Warfare

•  Watch the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise’s The Changing Character of Future Warfare video.

53. Critical Juncture in DoD Manufacturing Technologies

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present a new post by returning guest blogger and official Mad Scientist Dr. Richard Nabors, addressing the importance of DoD Manufacturing Technologies (MANTECH). In this future-focused story, critical decision points are interspersed throughout the narrative, illustrating the ramifications of DoD MANTECH investment decisions in ensuring military superiority for future operations.

Dr. Nabors’ previous guest posts discussed how:
Integrated sensor systems will provide Future Soldiers with the requisite situational awareness to fight and win in increasingly complex and advanced battlespaces;
Augmented and Mixed Reality are the critical elements required for these integrated sensor systems to become truly operational and support Soldiers’ needs in complex environments); and
• The recently completed Third Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3rd Gen FLIR) program can serve as a use case for successful future innovation via four key practices.)

Source: Future War Stories (FWS) Blogsite

Four men crouched behind an air conditioning unit mounted on the roof of the townhouse, guns aimed and ready. US Army Sergeant Johnson, the unit leader, could sense the others’ tension as a truck drove down the street below them. He glanced toward Rodriguez, the fifth man of the team, who lay belly down on the roof in front of the air conditioner box, peering over the edge. The enemy truck appeared a tempting target, but the continuous, live reporting Johnson was receiving from the Soldier Support Artificial Intelligence Unit (SOSIA) that they had just spent the morning setting up indicated there were civilians in the area. “Hold,” he whispered into his helmet mike.

SOSIA was a powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer program that connected to an Integrated Sensor Architecture of millions of commercial and military sensors which processed and sent real-time analysis and imagery directly to soldiers. SOSIA used everything from city overhead street cameras, to in-the-road seismic sensors, and the tens of thousands of military sensors fielded, such as Sargent Johnson’s personal Short-Wave InfraRed (SWIR) imager. The bone conducting speaker in Johnson’s helmet chirped the vital statistics of the truck as it approached. Johnson activated his mic again and whispered, SOSIA says the truck is full. Too many for us to take on without compromising the mission. Also, there are civilians in the area.”

Rodriguez wriggled back to the shelter of the air conditioning unit and glared at Johnson.  SOSIA says,” he growled, sarcasm dripping from each word. Is SOSIA in command, Johnson?”

Johnson studied him a minute, and then each of the others before responding. He knew that the waiting and inactivity were telling on the men. They wanted action. They had seen too many of their buddies fall, too many dead civilians, too many wounded children. They wanted to destroy the base from which the enemy operated.

“What’s eatin’ you, Rod? Don’t you trust all of the techno stuff we’ve been deploying?” Johnson asked as calmly as he could, given his own tension.

“Sure,” Rodriguez shrugged. “I just don’t like a bunch of electrons and wires tellin’ a thinking human bein’ what to do.”

“You know that I am in command of this mission.” Johnson glared at him with an icy stare. “I am the thinking human being behind every decisive action we take. Don’t ever forget it.”

Rodriguez dropped his eyes. “Sorry, Sarge,” he mumbled.

The plan to attack the enemy’s temporary command post by a small assault team was totally contingent on the element of surprise. Their mission was dependent upon the information generated by the sensors they had laid around the enemy’s post. They had to know what they were getting into. Were the enemy holed up in the post or were individual outposts spread out in the surrounding structures? The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drones that had already been deployed in combination with their compact lidar imagery systems had swept the landscape for enemy and friendly sensors while creating a 3D terrain of the urban space around the enemy’s command post. Johnson had been briefed on the data and the maps were available on his helmet display. Now SOSIA’s data had been added to mix.

What next was his judgement call. Command Central had given unit leaders the ability and responsibility to be autonomous and to make decisions based on the immediate situation. The lives of his men, the enemy, and the civilians between them depended on what he called next. Outside of the truck below, the sensor data indicated that the area had been cleared of all enemy combatants. Should he trust the data from the sensors and proceed with the original plan?

No:  Because the number of sensors available for the US Army to use were limited, Johnson could not trust that the area was clear and that his small team would have the element of surprise they would need to survive an assault on the base. Without this confidence, the risks were too high and the mission would need to be abandoned.

Yes:  Because of DoD Manufacturing Technology investments into sensor manufacturing, the US Army was able to field an incredible volume of low-cost, complex sensors across the battlespace, ensuring that systems like SOSIA and Johnson had enough information about global awareness to feel confident with the real-time data that they had access to. Being able to trust in the sensor network that provided critical, in the moment information enabled Johnson to manage the risks and make the call.

Johnson jerked his head and motioned the men to go down the staircase off of the roof. “All data indicates that the area is clear,” he stated firmly. “SOSIA is tracking the truck to the possible base site. Any questions before we go?”

“Sarge,” Boskar piped up hesitantly, “how do we know that the data is not compromised? Are we certain the enemy isn’t hacking into our systems and feeding us false information like we did to them?”

Johnson nodded. The scenario was possible. The sky was full of satellites, spying on each other. Whose was the most updated? It did seem a bit odd that the scans did not find many enemy security and/or sensors to prevent hostile forces from sneaking up on their base. Maybe their security was depending on the anonymity of being embedded in a residential area of townhouses and small stores. But was our technology protected from a hacker? he thought. Was the information he received accurate? Should he trust it?

No: With majority of sensors and networking components being manufactured outside the USA, security could definitely be an issue with compromises pre-built into the technology, not to mention the risk of possible hacking.

Yes: Because of investments into US sensor and networking manufacturers, technology from USA manufacturers has been continually updated with reliable safeguards against possible hacking or intrusion.

“Nothing is a certainty,” Johnson stated flatly. “But we can be confident that everything possible has been done to ensure the security and reliability of our intel. All any soldier can do is to trust the instructions he has been given,” Johnson reminded himself as well as his men.

Source: Reuters

“Besides, we have a surprise for them.” Reaching into the pouch at his waist, Johnson removed two small objects, one a micro-drone the size of a large beetle, the other a small touch pad. Carefully he thumbed the pad on his palm. The micro-drone darted off to follow the truck, setting down on the canopy just as the truck turned the corner and was lost from sight. “It’s embedded with an electronic disruption device,” he explained. “We’ll activate it when we are ready to go in.”

Moving quietly in their armored suits, they quickly followed the truck to the base site. Each suit had its own power pack which supplied power to all their communication and sensor devices.

Source: DeviantArt.com / LordHayabusa357G

The unique optical communication signals between their powered suits allowed continuous communications even when under electronic jamming attacks by the enemy.

The intel from the drones and SOSIA had been right. There was no complex network of perimeter sensors, at least nothing sounded an alarm, as the team got into their hold position just a short distance from the base. They took cover in an abandoned storefront building that was still home to a number of civilian refugees. “Landis, set up our jammers and get this area under a communications blackout,” Johnson commanded. “Once that is done, Boskar and Simon, round up the civilians and get them to the safe area we identified, quickly and quietly. We want them out of here before any enemy shows up. Oh, and immediately confiscate any electronic devices, just in case,” he added with a grim smile.

After the men had secured the area, Johnson once again reviewed the plan. The plan was simple. For weeks, Central Command had leaked false information that they still had no idea where the enemy command post was. Intercepted enemy communications gave every indication that they believed the false reports. Now a small attack team was to approach the base, evacuate any civilian population still in the area, and then destroy the base. All without the enemy noticing what they were doing and all without injury to or protests by civilians. What could be simpler than that?

Although the attack team had the advantage of the latest in armored suits, the enemy had the advantage of numbers and being in a defensive position. Using security codes that had been hacked from the enemy’s satellite phone system, they planned to open the base doors. Their explosives expert, Rodriguez, would proceed to lay explosives around the building while the rest of the team were to protect him by taking out any threat.

Johnson looked around at his men. Could they, the five of them, do it? They had the will. Did they have the technology to achieve this objective? There was still time to take the civilians with them and make a dash for the Command Post. Should they proceed?

No: What limited sensor intel they had could not provide the confidence necessary that a small team would be successful in overcoming the odds and disadvantages stacked against them. Without real-time information that could be acted on immediately by the squad and its leadership, it would be far too dangerous to attempt any type of decisive action where flexibility and adaptability would be required.

Yes: Because of sustained investments in high performance sensor development and manufacturing within the USA. The US Army has maintained global technology overmatch and superiority in fielding critical intelligence at the farthest echelons. Teams such as Johnson’s can trust that they will maintain combat overmatch even while outnumbered and working in complex environments because of the situational understanding achieved through the use of sensors and their enabling technologies.

“We belong to the best military in the world. We have the best weaponry, the best intel, the best technology,” Johnson said, “and we have the best men. Let’s go!”

Source: DeviantArt.com / LordHayabusa357G

[Editor’s Note: The narrative above is a work of fiction; the names of the individuals portrayed in it are not based on real people.]

Dr. Richard Nabors is Associate Director for Strategic Planning and Deputy Director, Operations Division, U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate.