Partnership for Defence and Cyber Shields

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The U.S‭. ‬and its allies are using a new forum started by the Pentagon’s top artificial intelligence office to work toward developing Artificial Intelligence‭ (‬AI‭) ‬systems that can connect in the future to help them fight better together‭.‬

The Partnership for Defense‭, ‬started by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center last September‭, ‬is laying the groundwork for future AI-enabled joint war-fighting capabilities‭.‬

An Ever-Changing Dynamic

Such efforts would help restore the role of defense industry that was once a byword for innovation‭. ‬Thus‭, ‬conflicts had driven technology path‭. ‬However‭, ‬in many new digital technologies like Cybersecurity‭, ‬Internet of Things‭ (‬IoT‭), ‬cloud and data collation‭, ‬the defense industry now lags compared to other sectors‭.‬

Today‭, ‬trends such as asymmetric warfare and the digital battlefield force new thinking‭. ‬Manpower is no longer the dominant factor in conflicts‭. ‬Those with the most resources will not necessarily prevail over those who innovate most effectively‭.‬

Now‭, ‬an increasing number of governments and public-sector bodies have realized that effective digital transformation holds the‭ ‬key to their long-term defense plans‭.‬

For example‭, ‬the Defense Innovation Initiative has driven hundreds of millions of Euros/Pounds into cultural and technological innovation‭. ‬However‭, ‬success still ultimately hinges on the ability to focus strategically and work within pre-defined budgets‭. ‬As such it is critical that defense organizations choose the right strategic partners to deliver meaningful‭, ‬long-term change‭. ‬Money is now being funneled into areas such as automation‭, ‬mobile communications and cybersecurity‭, ‬where focused research and strategic alliances drive significant rewards‭.‬

Going on Challenges‭ ‬

The defense industry has faced challenges throughout its history‭, ‬but today those challenges are on an unprecedented scale‭.‬

Financial pressure sustained budget cuts over much of the last decade mean current European defense spending is at roughly the same level as it was in 2008‭. ‬Many fear the economic impact of the COVID-19‭ ‬pandemic will force further cuts to defense budgets in the near future as well‭.‬

A reduction in personnel of a significant number of Western European military forces have shrunk dramatically since the end of the cold war‭. ‬For example‭, ‬the number‭ ‬of German combat battalions has fallen by 84%‭, ‬Italian battalions by 67%‭ ‬and British battalions by almost half over the past 30‭ ‬years‭.‬

As warfare becomes more advanced‭, ‬so too does the complexity of the equipment‭, ‬resulting in longer Research and Development‭ (‬R&D‭) ‬lead-times‭, ‬bigger supply chains and more expensive manufacturing processes‭.‬

New Challenges to Arise‭ ‬

Every new conflict changes the playing field‭, ‬creating a raft of‭ ‬‘unknowns’‭ ‬that require a reinvention of strategy and tactics‭.‬

The ongoing rise of asymmetric warfare‭, ‬though the concept of asymmetric warfare is not new‭, ‬it is becoming more prevalent‭. ‬Where once manpower gave a presumed advantage‭, ‬today’s winners are increasingly those who innovate efficiently and make the best use of technology/tools at their disposal‭.‬

Digital Transformation

With technology playing an ever-increasing role in modern conflict‭, ‬effective digital transformation is becoming one of the most‭ ‬important tasks defense sectors can ever undertake‭. ‬However‭, ‬herein lies a problem‭, ‬given that defense sector is synonymous with innovation in certain areas like weapons and defence systems and digital communications‭, ‬it is behind the curve in adopting many‭ ‬‘consumer’‭ ‬technologies that hold the key to effective digital transformation‭. ‬There is much speculation about why the defense sector finds itself in this predicament‭. ‬A deep-rooted resistance to change is often cited‭, ‬but lack of direction and focus on technological investments are equally to blame‭, ‬creating a scattergun approach to innovation that costs a lot but achieves little‭. ‬

In the face of both old and new challenges‭, ‬it has become increasingly clear that effective digital transformation holds the key‭ ‬to the future of the defense industry‭. ‬An eager to develop and change mentality‭, ‬combined with lessons learned from the private‭ ‬sector‭, ‬is slowly starting to take effect‭. ‬

Eminent Changes

With a new mentality towards innovation and digital transformation coming to the fore‭, ‬there are a number of key areas that are‭ ‬expected to benefit most from fresh investment and a tech-led approach‭. ‬

Automation‭:‬‭ ‬Greater utilization of digital technologies such as automation can quickly transform operations‭, ‬saving resources and boosting‭ ‬efficiency‭. ‬The growing use of automated drones in the field is a great example of how this kind of technology is already being‭ ‬used to improve situational awareness without putting soldiers’‭ ‬lives at unnecessary risk‭. ‬Away from the field‭, ‬drones can speed up vehicle and building maintenance tasks through faster visual inspections and secure report logging via the cloud‭.‬

Mobile Communications‭:‬‭ ‬The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most critical assets for any soldier in the field‭, ‬leading to a heavy focus on Command‭, ‬Control‭, ‬Communications‭, ‬Computers‭, ‬Intelligence‭, ‬Surveillance and Reconnaissance‭ (‬C4ISR‭) ‬as part of the drive towards digital transformation‭. ‬The rise of asymmetric warfare‭, ‬alongside the growing requirement for flexible interoperability of‭ ‬systems and networks to support operations‭, ‬has further compounded this need‭.‬

Encryption‭:‬‭ ‬In recent years‭, ‬with the threat of cyber warfare‭, ‬system hacking‭, ‬and infiltration‭, ‬at an all-time high‭, ‬data security is now‭ ‬a top priority for any digital transformation discussion‭. ‬In order to meet stringent military standards‭, ‬data must be protected‭ ‬against attack when at rest‭, ‬in use‭, ‬or in transit‭. ‬This means both hardware and software must be encrypted‭, ‬extending to system‭ ‬hardening‭, ‬peripheral control and central management‭.‬

In a Hostile Rugged Environment

As digital transformation begins to reshape modern defense strategies‭, ‬the concept of 360-degree defense is becoming increasingly prominent‭. ‬Digital transformation helps combining all components to create a fit-for-purpose‭, ‬fully connected‭, ‬defense network‭ ‬that improves operations through superior safety‭, ‬reliability and efficiency‭.‬

Connecting every aspect of land‭, ‬sea‭, ‬air and central command not only delivers superior situational awareness throughout the entire defense network‭, ‬but it also allows for simultaneous real time communication and decision making across large volumes of personnel‭.‬

Any conflict creates a harsh and rugged environment‭. ‬The focus of C4ISR recognizes this in seeking to enhance every soldier’s capabilities‭, ‬using technology as a force multiplier‭.‬

Strategic Partnerships‭ ‬

While the benefits of effective digital transformation are clear‭, ‬they cannot be achieved overnight‭. ‬Despite ground-breaking new‭ ‬programs such as the Defense Innovation Initiative‭, ‬trying to achieve too much too quickly‭, ‬without a strategic plan and roadmap in place‭, ‬will almost certainly result in failure‭.‬

For this reason‭, ‬outsourcing and strategic partnerships will play a pivotal role in effective digital transformation plans‭, ‬in a‭ ‬way that may boost efforts of countries to collaborate on other AI-backed activities‭, ‬such as sharing data from sensors that track how machines run to predict when maintenance is needed before parts fail‭, ‬possibly during a mission when there’s no time to lose for repairs or replacements‭. ‬Or the allies could use AI for data about shipping and supply movements to improve logistics efficiency‭. ‬The end goal is for the allied nations to be ready to cooperate easily on AI-driven projects in the future‭.‬

Partnership for Defense

But first‭, ‬the U.S‭. ‬and partner countries must start at a basic level of readying data for AI‭, ‬viewing the information as a war‭-‬fighting resource‭. ‬That starts with keeping and storing all of the facts and figures that AI needs to work‭.‬

The U.S‭. ‬and its allies‭ ‬“messed up in‭ ‬‮…‬‭ ‬not using data or looking at data over the last several decades as a resource‭,‬”‭ ‬said Stephanie Culberson‭, ‬head of international AI policy at the JAIC‭. ‬“For instance‭, ‬if we were to go to war again in Afghanistan‭, ‬would we have all the data that we pulled in the last 20‭ ‬years‭? ‬You‭ ‬can probably guess the answer to that‭.‬”‭ ‬The partnership came from smaller discussions that the JAIC had with like-minded nations‭. ‬After several interactions‭, ‬it became‭ ‬clear that the nations struggled with the same challenges around scaling AI efforts‭, ‬educating and training the workforce on AI‭, ‬and overcoming internal cultures resistant to technological change‭, ‬Culberson said‭. ‬“We started to realize that many of us are grappling with the same hard problems in implementing AI into our defense organizations‭,‬”‭ ‬Culberson said‭. ‬“Instead of staying within those siloes on our own‭, ‬I thought‭, ‬‘Well‭, ‬why don’t we pull together some of the strongest nations that are really focused on this in their defense sector and do this together‭?‬’”‭ ‬Thus far‭, ‬the partnership includes defense representatives from Australia‭, ‬Canada‭, ‬Denmark‭, ‬Estonia‭, ‬Finland‭, ‬France‭, ‬Israel‭, ‬Japan‭, ‬Norway‭, ‬the Republic of Korea‭, ‬Sweden and the United Kingdom‭. ‬The group has twice gathered to identify common challenges‭, ‬and meetings are expected three times a year‭.‬

The Partnership for Defense is not working on co-development of AI systems‭, ‬rather it’s focused on preparing allied militaries to be‭ ‬“AI-ready‭,‬”‭ ‬as Culberson puts it‭. ‬The meetings are different than typical international conversations with foreign militaries‭, ‬which can be‭ ‬rigid‭, ‬Culberson said‭. ‬The partnership meetings encourage open dialogue‭, ‬including roundtable discussions and TED talk-style presentations describing how ministries tackle challenges and analysis of case studies for lessons learned‭. ‬In the next two years‭ ‬of the partnership‭, ‬Culberson said that she‭ ‬“really wants to have a solid foundation”‭ ‬for AI-readiness‭, ‬developing a way to assess whether members have achieved that readiness‭. ‬In a few years‭, ‬she said‭, ‬the countries could consider co-developing a data aggregation capability‭. ‬The Partnership for Defense has an‭ ‬“open door”‭ ‬to adding more allies‭, ‬Culberson said‭. ‬While other nations have expressed interest‭, ‬members plan to set admission standards before expanding‭.‬

US-Russian-Sino Race

US‭, ‬Russian and Chinese armed forces‭, ‬with efforts of their science and technology arms‭, ‬are racing in the field to test emerging capabilities in simulated threat environments‭, ‬which a foe can tactically use to break down communications during military operations‭.‬

NATO Digital Endeavour‭ ‬

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization‭ (‬NATO‭), ‬like any multinational organization‭, ‬knows it must digitally transform its operations or risk becoming irrelevant‭. ‬To achieve this‭, ‬the NATO Communications and Information‭ (‬NCI‭) ‬Agency‭, ‬NATO’s technology hub‭, ‬is working to deliver the critical tools‭, ‬technology and infrastructure needed to ensure all 29‭ ‬Nations can collaborate as effectively and securely as possible‭. ‬The effort‭, ‬known as the Digital Endeavour‭, ‬will be incredibly important to the future of the organization‭. ‬Alongside communications and mobility‭, ‬security is also central to the Digital Endeavour‭. ‬Accordingly‭, ‬one of its flagship projects is the centralization of multiple‭, ‬decades-old server rooms across NATO into three state-of-the-art data centers‭. ‬Doing so will not only improve the efficiency of the entire communications network‭, ‬it will significantly strengthen overall cybersecurity by reducing exposure to online threats‭.‬

According to‮ ‬Dr Michael Street‭, ‬Head of NATO’s Innovation and Data Science‭, ‬in many cases‭, ‬we cannot afford to fail‭. ‬Our solutions ensure NATO troops can communicate and work together‭. ‬But we need to‮ ‬change our culture to move at the speed of relevance‭. ‬We need to advocate for new methods of acquiring technology‭, ‬where we can work at the same speed as dynamic‭, ‬innovative businesses‭.‬

Next Generation Networks

Such advanced technologies are likely to be set as part of communication capabilities in the near future‭, ‬as next generation iteration of networks’‭ ‬new tactical tools‭, ‬that focus on increasing throughput‭, ‬bandwidth and network resiliency‭. ‬The race emphasizes the importance of effective digital transformation‭, ‬side by side with initiatives‭, ‬similar to Partnership for Defense‭, ‬as well as any endeavor aiming at coping with expected breakthroughs in future battlefield‭, ‬where technology and counter-measures are expected to play a‭ ‬pivotal role through communication networks‭, ‬radio resiliency‭, ‬waveforms and satellite communications side by side with remote sensors‭, ‬autonomous and other items on the list of highly-advanced tools‭. ‬

Sources and references








‮»‬‭ ‬By‭: ‬Gamal Nazi
‭(‬Military Affairs‭’ ‬Researcher‭)‬

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