BATTLEFIELD COMMUNICATIONS

JUST IN: Northcom Experiment to Validate New AI Software

8/17/2021
By Meredith Roaten

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tommy Grimes

The U.S. military’s Northern Command intends to use an upcoming experiment to validate new software capabilities that incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, with the hope that they can be fielded quickly, the head of Northcom said Aug. 17.

The Pentagon needs to field new software capabilities to better detect threats against the homeland as quickly as possible, said Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, who also serves as the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is manned by U.S. and Canadian personnel.

“I don't want to be shooting down cruise missiles or other capabilities over our homeland as a starting point,” VanHerck said. “My goal is to give that decision space to our senior leaders, decision space that they can utilize to create … options” for how to respond.

The results of three “Global Information Dominance Experiments” over the past nine months demonstrated that the military could leverage emerging data analysis software to give leaders more time to react to threats, he said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The most recent event, which wrapped up in July, incorporated 11 combatant commands as well as allies and partners such as Canada, according to an Air Force press release.

Because of the experiments’ success, VanHerck said he wanted to further validate some of the capabilities in another exercise slated for spring of 2022 and field the capabilities “as quickly as possible.”

“I think we can move forward to field this quickly with a next spring validation through one of our globally integrated exercises,” he said.

Combatant commanders, in debriefs after the Global Information Dominance Experiments, have asked VanHerck if it was possible to field some of the experimental capabilities now, he noted.

The data needed to gain “decision dominance” is currently available through existing sensors and radar but has fallen through the cracks of traditional analysis, he said. That’s where new software capabilities can help.

“When you take that raw data and you combine it with other data such as from the Federal Aviation Administration or the Secret Service [or] Capitol Police ... now you're able to create a much better picture and you're able to see the threat much sooner,” he said.

In the latest experiment, NORAD and NORTHCOM partnered with the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the Air Force and officials from Project Maven — the Pentagon’s AI pathfinder effort that utilizes machine learning to better analyze drone footage.

The experiment had three main areas of focus: cost-effective data solutions; deterrence options and dynamic contested logistics planning; and JAIC’s “Matchmaker” capability for machine-enabled crisis deterrence and conflict defense options.

“What we saw is having the data and the ability to collaborate globally across all combatant commands in real time is invaluable,” VanHerck said.

The acquisition process for software needs to change so the military get the latest technology more quickly, he said. “I think we're ready to go faster.”

VanHerck said he will discuss plans for future Global Information Dominance Experiments in an upcoming meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Canada recently signed a joint agreement to invest in modernized equipment to defend the North American continent, according to an August 17 press release. Key investment priorities include: situational awareness tools to replace the aging North Warning System with new capabilities including over-the-horizon radar systems; upgrading infrastructure to support NORAD’s Arctic operations; modernizing command-and-control systems; creating a network of sensors from the sea floor to outer space; and supporting research-and-development activities.

The Pentagon and Canada’s Department of National Defence “intend to move forward deliberately with coordinated investments that reflect the continuing importance of the role that NORAD plays in North American and allied deterrence,” according to the press release.

Topics: Acquistion Reform, Artifical Intelligence, Intelligence and Surveillance

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