Surviving the Invisible Commons

This article originally featured at the USNI Blog

In his piece, “Imminent Domain,” ADM Greenert suggests that the EM and Cyber spectrums need now be considered a stand-alone domain of conflict. Respectfully, we’re already there. The electronic environment, wired and unwired, is an obsession for defense planners. In CYBERCOM, the EM-Cyber spectrum practically has its own unified command. The navy’s component of CYBERCOM, the “10th Fleet,” in name harkens back to ADM Greenert’s example of the rise of sub-surface warfare. From the military’s fears over an assassin’s mace style EMP attack to the public’s obsession in movies like Live Free, Die Hard and games like Black Ops 2, the awareness is more than there. While we may have recognized this new environment, ADM Greenert is right in that we have not taken this challenge to heart.  If forces are going to operate as if the EM-Cyber spectrum is a domain of warfare, they must act as they would in the physical battlefield on the tactical level, not just the strategic: take cover, stay organized, and interrupt the enemy’s OODA loop.

 

TAKE COVER

 

In a battlefield, soldiers take cover to avoid detection and enemy fire. In the EM-cyber realm, we’ve made a habit of unnecessarily exposing ourselves to vulnerability. The US Navy has created an entire web of centralized databases that require not just mere control of the EM environment, but also a stability that often doesn’t exist at sea.

The Ordnance Information System-Retail (OIS-R) is the perfect example of unnecessary exposure to EM spectrum weakness. The system, designed to manage all ordnance administration, accounting, and inventory, requires a command to sign in to a shore-side database requiring uninterrupted connection through a Java interface. To access a ship’s ordnance data, one MUST have a functional internet connection either hard-wired or satellite. If account problems exist, troubleshooting must be done through other wireless means (phone, email, etc…) with land-based facilities. Each step requires a series of exposures to a very particular type of EM-Cyber connection to operate effectively.

The old system, Retail Ordnance Logistics Management System (ROLMS) was a stand-alone database that would update parallel shore-side databases through message traffic. The old system, while potentially harder for a single entity to manage, didn’t open the whole system to multiple weaknesses by environmental interference, enemy interference both kinetic and cyber, and equipment errors shore-side that a ship cannot trouble-shoot. It might be easier to keep all your ordnance (admin) in a huge pile, but to require warfighters to make a run through the open plains of TRON to get it is not a good idea.

 

STAY ORGANIZED

 

The drive to create centralized databases is often driven by a lack of organization on the part of the end-user. Properly organized supplies (data) minimize loss and the need to reach back into the logistical chain for material already packed. If the networks on ships are any indication, the average sailor enters the EM battlefield with absolutely no organization whatsoever. Sign in to a ship’s NIPR network and one will likely find  decade old files, repeated, in over a dozen similarly named folders: Operations Department, Ops, Operations, Ops Dept, OS1’s Folder, etc… Perhaps, those folders will have subfolders of the same name down 20 deep in series. Poor organization leads to inefficiency; inefficiency requires time, bandwidth, and exposure that should go towards the survival of the force and the success of operations. Ships need to treat their networks as they do their home desktops, organizing their material in a sensible way and deleting wrong, obsolete, or useless files.

Organization becomes the key to minimizing the need to go off-ship: well organized tech pubs, updated instructions in intuitive places, and personnel willing to spend the minute to search . A badly organized NIPR network is a reflection of how the navy treats the rest of its data: sloppily. We have seventeen sources pinging a ship for the same information that is held in 8 PowerPoint trackers, 2 messages, at least one call over the voice circuits, and 30 emails. Today, we expect every sailor to be at least an LS1 of the data-GSK, without giving them the tools or support to be so. One could drastically decrease the need to go off-ship for information by teaching sailors how to do a proper “ctrl-f” search or assigning an IT2 to deleting the ¾ of the network dedicated to obsolete files, animated .gifs, and 12 years of sea-and-anchor PowerPoints. Better training must exist not only in how to use data and of what kind, but how to properly disseminate/find it as well.

The battlefield equivalent of how we treat our data is sending soldiers into combat with a dozen different weapons from over the past century, but hiding them, their magazines, and their ammunition randomly throughout the base in mis-labeled boxes.  Like a poorly organized supply system, perceived “lost items” that are merely hidden end up wasting bandwidth on downloads, emails, and voice traffic as sailors work to solve the problems whose answers are merely in the 20th sub-folder down or in the inbox of the department head who doesn’t read his email. We must worry almost as much about the organization of our data as we do our organization of physical objects.

 

DOMINATE THE OODA LOOP

 

Survival often depends on an ability to use the enemy’s expectations of your methods against them. Some have suggested the navy embrace a wider range of bandwidths for communication; while true, more drastic measures are necessary to navigate the EM-cyber commons. In 2002, LtGen Paul Van Riper became famous for sinking the American fleet in a day during the Millennium Challenge exercise; he did so by veiling his intentions in a variety of wireless communications. We assume wireless to mean the transfer of data through the air via radio signals, but lights, hand signals, motorcycle couriers, and the like are all equally wireless.  These paleo-wireless concepts are just what we need for flexibility and security in the EM environment.

Combot vulnerabilities to wireless hacks are of particular concern to warfighters. Data connections to operators or potential connections between combots and ships serve as a way for enemies to detect, destroy, or even hijack our assets.  While autonomy is the first step in solving the vulnerability of operator connections, combots in the future must work as communicating teams. Fewer opportunities should be provided for subversion by cutting the long link back to the operator while maintaining the versatility of a small internally-communicating team. However, data communication between combots could still be vulnerable. Therefore, combots must learn from LtGen Van Riper and move to the wireless communications of the past. Just as ships at sea communicate by flags and lights when running silent or soldiers might whisper or motion to one another before breaching a doorway, combots can communicate via light, movement, or sound.

Unlike a tired Junior Officer of the Deck with a NATO code-book propped open, computers can almost instantly process simple data. If given the capability, a series of blinking lights, sounds, or even informative light data-transmissions  could allow combots of the future to coordinate their actions in the battlefield without significantly revealing their position. Combots would be able to detect and recognize the originator of signals, duly ignoring signals not coming from the combot group. With the speed and variation of their communications, compressed as allowed by their processing power, combots can move through the streets and skies with little more disruption than a cricket, lightening bug, or light breeze. High- and low-pitch sounds and infrared light would allow for communications undetectable to the average soldier or an enemy EW platform.

One must also accelerate faster than the enemy’s OODA loop can process. In the cyber realm, the enemy is often software long-ago released by its human creators. Like the missile warfare that inspired AEGIS, cyber warfare is both too vast and too fast for human reaction. Capital investment would concentrate more money in autonomous and innovative defensive programs: 10th Fleet’s AEGIS. Proactive patrol and detection can be done with greater advancements in adaptive self-modifying programs; programs that can learn or understand context are far more appropriate.  Recent developments in computing systems point to organic systems that could “live” in the systems they defend. Biological processors and organic computing allow for hardware that thinks and learns independently, potentially giving defensive networks the added advantage of an instinct and suspicion. Imagine the vast new horizons in the OODA loop of defensive cyber systems with hubs sporting the defensive animal instinct and the ability to re-wire their own hardwareQuantum computing also hovers over the horizon, with not only vast consequences for computing speed, but he whole cryptological offense-defense equation. The image painted is dramatic and far-off, but modest investment and staged introduction would serve as a better model than the dangerous possibility of a “human wave” mode of thinking. With fluid cyber-defense systems guarding more disciplined communicators, the US Navy can crush ambushes in the invisible commons.

 

ACTING LIKE IT

 

We will never be able to completely control the invisible commons; it is too heavily populated and easily influenced. Those conflicts held within vision are often confusing enough; the invisible becomes infinitely harder to master. However, if we minimize unnecessary exposure, organize ourselves well, and move with aggressive speed and unpredictability, our convoys of data will survive their long mili-second journey across the EM-cyber sea. ADM Greenert is right in saying the EM-Cyber world is a new field upon which battle must be done. However, while we may have realized it, we must start acting like it.

Matt Hipple is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy.  The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity.  They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

 

April Analysis Week

DDG Flights of Fancy
                                                                                DDG Flights of Fancy

 

The votes are in and the topic for our April Analysis Week will be “Alternatives to the DDG Flight III” (full results below). Please help make this week a success and consider jotting down and submitting a few thoughts on the possibilities – in this case for the U.S. Navy – whether it be alternative platforms, technologies, organizations, tactical concepts, or something else entirely. If you’re interested in submitting or have any questions, please email me at director@cimsec.org.

The week will kick off April 29th. 
 
Alternatives to the Flight DDG III:                                                          25%
Lack of an amphibious navy and IR policy implications:             19%
What would a drone-carrier look like:                                                 19%      
Shaking up a Navy’s personnel system:                                                14%
Replacing the function/role of a carrier with a system of tech: 7%
What are the navy’s core capabilities:                                                   7%
Russia:                                                                                                                  7%
Directed energy weapons – second-order effects:                           4%
Cyber security:                                                                                                 0%

Constructive Disruption: The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum

DEFOne year ago today, an oft repeated, maligned and admired phrase kicked off a broad dialogue, bringing together a growing, widespread, and once-disparate community of defense innovators. Put simply, the idea of Disruptive Thinking was a call to question the status quo, to leverage existing innovative civilian institutions and to find crossover applications for use by the military. In the year since, however, a necessary question has been asked many times: What is Disruptive Thinking, really, and how do you put it into action? How do we link creative, emerging military leaders with the senior decision makers that can actually put their ideas to use?

We believe a compelling answer is the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. Rank has no monopoly on innovative solutions, and DEF2013 will be the engine to match warfighters “in the arena” with senior mentors hungry for ideas generated by creative, emerging leaders. This three day event, to be held at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business over Columbus Day Weekend 2013, will be a significant departure from conventional military conferences.

The Forum

DEF2013 is not associated with any traditional Defense entities, but instead produced of, by, and for emerging military leaders. The only agenda is creating practical solutions to enable more flexibility for senior commanders, and to impart a sense of involvement and empowerment to warfighters brimming with valuable tactical and strategic contributions. It leverages the power of diverse, short presentations with the creative ideation of hack-a-thon weekend events. These aspects are designed to tackle those issues most pressing to the current generation of military leaders and veterans.

There are two main elements to the weekend: The first consists of 20-30 minute talks by emerging military leaders, both officer and enlisted, with robust audience engagement. The Saturday morning session will feature a variety of topics presented by a diverse crowd of Disruptive Thinkers. Sunday’s morning session will showcase military entrepreneurs – both veteran and currently serving servicemembers – as they explore the connection between building an actual business and serving one’s country.

The meat of DEF2013, however, is in the hack-a-thon like afternoons. Ideas, generated pre-conference by actual attendees, will be discussed at length, and solutions proposed in a collaborative, freeform way. To support these breakouts, professors from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business will give two roundtables on marketing and sales, as well as be placed as mentors within the ideation groups. At the end of the weekend, each of the self-assembled teams will have come up with a comprehensive, relevant solution to whatever military problem they set out to tackle.

Integral to this is the engagement of senior leaders. Coming up with good ideas by emerging leaders is one thing – but guiding them through institutional inertia to reality, and providing mentorship to ensure they are implemented, is something uniquely suited to tested leadership. We are recruiting current and recently retired senior mentors to come on board to hear out, and perhaps champion, the ideas generated from the deckplates. Such great minds as LTG (ret) James Dubik and LTG Frederick “Ben” Hodges have already joined up, and we’re working to bring two to three more flag officers from each service.

Finally, Monday morning will culminate with a venture capital-like panel of local, Chicago-based entrepreneurs and Flag Officers. They will judge the best idea, solution and presentation, and in return for identifying the best solutions, engage on behalf of the winning team to get their project implemented.

The Reason

Why do we believe this is needed? What value does this add to the already ongoing discussion?
More than ever, recent battle-tested leaders, both emerging and senior, have had to adapt under incredibly challenging and unforeseen circumstances. Capturing their agile minds and putting them to use in solving current fiscal and strategic problems is necessary for the continued progression of our services. Without a doubt, the current century will become more complex as technology evolves, unforeseen threats emerge, and fiscal constraints set in. More importantly, we need to create a dialogue that elevates the professionalism and creative capabilities of our services as a whole.

Those of us writing today believe the next step in the evolution of Disruptive Thinking is not just through increased online interaction or relying upon status quo bureaucratic processes. Rather, it will be accomplished by bringing the most agile and innovative minds from across the military together in one place for a lively exchange of ideas and solutions. This is the heart of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum.

The Spark

While the original article on Disruptive Thinking was focused on leveraging education, we recognize that warfighting must always come first in any conversation about innovation and the military. This is inimically tied to the fact that people, not tech, are our greatest assets.

Immediately after the publication of the aforementioned article, members of what are now the DEF Board observed incredibly informative and coherent arguments related to military strategy and innovation over social media. Through many conversations via Twitter and Facebook, it became apparent that disparate networks of individuals, spanning all ranks and services, were effectively fleshing out the most pressing issues of the day in non-traditional ways.

It also became apparent that innovators have inherent ways of finding each other. As their distributed networks grow, cross-cultural (and cross-rank) engagement increases. Though they never meet, some even become close friends. There is a unique power in informal networks created by personal interactions, even if they begin in cyberspace.

Yet something was missing in this process. That element was the intangible benefit of seeing your intellectual sparring partner face to face. The discussions on Twitter, Facebook and various national security forums for emerging military leaders needed to come out of the virtual world and into the physical one.

While discussing this power of networking and the need for an in-person forum to build the relationships required to effect change, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum was born.
Soon after inception, our personal networks pointed us towards the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, where they not only found a world class institution, but a strong veterans group. Leveraging the military experience and entrepreneurial education of recent veterans who are still engaged in national defense dialogue was a perfect fit.

Subsequently, the Executive Board was recruited and, quite inadvertently, spanned the armed services. Many were asked to join based on their disruptive writings – others because they were known practitioners of innovation. All are focused on creating a compelling experience that will unite, excite and build relational networks that will span careers.

The Call

And so, on Columbus Day weekend 2013, Saturday October 12th through Monday October 14th, we encourage the brightest and most creative emerging and senior military leaders to descend upon the Windy City. While there, we will discuss ways to push forward innovative and disruptive ideas, while doing so alongside senior mentors willing to consider our proposals.

We’ve lined up a great cast of speakers and professors to push this event forward. What we still need is you – your intellectual capital and your time – to engage with fellow innovators. We need both senior and emerging leaders to participate.

DEF2013 will be more than a conference to mingle and hand out business cards; it will be a unique opportunity to interact and connect with fellow military and veteran entrepreneurs to push your ideas forward. Sign up today at DEF2013.com, follow us on Facebook, and become a part of putting Disruptive Thinking into action.

LCS – Playing with Modularity

LCS: Trade-Offs and Tribulations
                                                           LCS: Trade-Offs and Tribulations

 

The U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship is now at an interesting but dangerous point of development. At least that’s one impression from reading Chris Cavas’s article in DefenseNews. The controversies surrounding LCS are not surprising taking into account the words of Sir Julian Corbett:

The truth is, that the classes of ships which constitute a fleet are, or ought to be, the expression in material of the strategical and tactical ideas that prevail at any given time, and consequently they have varied not only with the ideas, but also with the material in vogue.

LCS represents perhaps too radical a detachment from the dominating views in the Navy. So what is the right way to proceed? From the article in DefenseNews three options emerge:

1. Stop LCS orders at 25 ships. This would mean that the original need for an affordable littoral combatant, operated in packs, remains unfulfilled. This is an acceptable course if the need is no longer important, but is that the case? Some form of affordable and smaller combatant is still desired, I believe.

2. Turn LCS into “micro-Aegis”. This would mean attempting to make LCS into something it was never intended to be. Sooner or later it would lead to more balanced, but more expensive, frigate design. This would be like having an answer for a question never posed. To illustrate the problem and sharpen opinions — what attribute of the ship is more important for the Navy? One with a frigate’s capabilities, or an affordable one? Designing an affordable frigate is a very challenging task for naval architects and the history of modern Royal Navy is worth studying to understand this.

3. Fine-tune LCS’ design and concepts, aiming to minimize identified deficiencies while preserving affordability. The most criticized features seem to be weak armament, excessive modularity, and the inefficiency of having two different designs. Choosing this option would mean improving the answer for the known need. It is also an attempt to converge the concept of the littoral corvette with the “prevailing strategical and tactical ideas” within the Navy.

The proposal below is the result of admittedly amateurish play with module-like LEGO bricks and intends to achieve the desired effect by changing the base configuration as well as assigning missions in pairs to two different platforms. It means that instead of multi-mission or reconfigurable-but-single-mission ships, there would be “1.5 – 2 mission” ships, with one mission permanent and one modular. Which module should be assigned to which platform is a question of not only effectiveness but also safety. The following statement comes from an analysis of the U.S. Navy’s experimental twin-hull Sea Fighter (FSF-1):

The RHIB is launched and recovered at ship speeds not exceeding 5 kts. At speeds less than 15 kts Sea Fighter’s ride quality is reduced. Ship motions at 5 kts sometimes causes the end of the stern ramp to emerge from the water, which makes recovering the boat a challenge at best and dangerous at worst. A missed approach (to the ramp) could result in the boat being trapped under the water-jet guards.

If that is an inherent feature of multi-hull ships, then launch and recovery of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) or Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs) should be the domain of the classic monohull design, in spite of the larger bay in the trimaran. Based on such an assumption, Independence would perform two roles – Maritime Security Operations in low-level threat environments and ASW corvette in wartime, while Freedom’s envisioned role would be anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and mine warfare. Both versions could operate together in pairs. I propose extending the base configuration of the trimaran including SeaRAM along with 30mm guns and a mine reconnaissance UUV like Bluefin 21. Replacing the Griffin launcher with vertically launched RAM Block 2 in the extensible launching system (ExLS) offers improved self defense against multi-axis attacks while retaining flexibility in mixing RAM with Griffin, which is possible to fire from modified Mk 49 launcher.

For Freedom, I propose replacing the 30mm guns with Harpoon missiles, an action already put forward by both Chris Cavas and Bryan McGrath in Information Dissemination. Such configuration is intended to be fixed, while ASW and MIW remain in module form. This way we get a classic ASW corvette and much bigger Visby-like littoral combatant. Applying 8- or 16-cell vertical launchers is welcome, but its cost should be checked against affordability criteria. In fact such a move means extending modularity into the ammunition area rather then limiting it. This is a case for developing a VLS Harpoon and Bryan McGrath makes a good point about it in Information Dissemination. It makes sense however only if there is a large number of smaller combatants to carry such weapon.

Operating two different variants may be a “glaring inefficiency”, but only from an economical point of view. Tactically, having a variety of features could be advantageous. The interesting side effect of above LEGO bricks play is turning LCS into a model littoral corvette, which could become of some interest for other navies considering procurement options.

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland.  His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.

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