24 août 2023 | International, C4ISR

Pentagon must close technology gap, get AI right to win on battlefield

A former deputy chief of staff to then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says U.S. squad leaders deserve the best technology.


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  • COVID-19: Help Fleets Of Innovators Make 3D Printed Face Masks

    8 avril 2020 | International, Aérospatial, Naval, Terrestre, C4ISR, Sécurité

    COVID-19: Help Fleets Of Innovators Make 3D Printed Face Masks

    By JOHN QUIGG Next month we'll celebrate the 80th anniversary of Operation Dynamo, better known as “the Miracle of Dunkirk.” In the course of three days, hundreds of British civilian boats crossed the Channel to save their Army from starvation and the advancing Germans. Why? The Royal Navy did not have enough ships to transport the troops nor the right type of boats to operate in the shallows of the French coast. The key to the operation's success was governmental agility, masterful logistics, and realizing that the only solution to saving the entire force was a never-seen-before public/private partnership and lightning fast decision making (along with favorable weather and air cover). Our first responders and medical heroes are trapped on a figurative beach as the crest of the COVID-19 epidemic looms with too few supplies, thus facing illness and possible death. Supply chains ravaged by years of creating just-in-time global networks are not up to this challenge. The “Little Ships” in our modern story to the rescue will be 3-D printers. The air cover will be shielding from tort lawyers, and the civilian volunteers the remarkable talents comprising the nation's maker community. I confess that this is personal — my youngest brother is an EMT in suburban Atlanta. He tells me that his coworkers and emergency room staff are already down to handmade masks and are begging for supplies. The need is clear – top priority must be placed on vetting and publishing designs, finding out where the nation's supply chain can't satisfy projected demand, and the command and control required to match makers with the needs of the nation's first responders. For example, the Seattle Children's hospital was running critically low on masks several weeks ago and was desperate for help. Enter Rory Larson, a talented CAD designer who spent two caffeine fueled days and nights designing and testing a printable version of an N-95 mask with replaceable filters which were enthusiastically embraced by the hospital staff. His father, Garr, connected him with Jonathan Roberts, a veteran of Microsoft and Innovation Partners. Roberts helped scale the availability of the design, enlisted production partners and reached out to people who could help them leap over the many administrative hurdles — and set up a website. Now anyone with a printer can download the design and print their own masks. The military is already headed down this path. US Forces Korea tasked their science advisors from the Office of Naval Research and Army Futures Command to start an internal effort given the shortages of masks and other supplies in Asia. They designed, produced and disseminated a face shield for gate guards and are exploring the techniques for other medical shortfalls however the design and approval process is still problematic. One of their largest challenges is procedural – sharing military-manufactured equipment falls foul of all sorts of regulations and they will need process changes at a pace no earthly acquisition official could normally achieve. This problem is replicated across the defense enterprise as installations around the world wrestle with the red tape surrounding helping their neighbors and host countries. To help, the Department of Defense Manufacturing Innovation Institute for additive manufacturing (www.AmericaMakes.us) initiated a fast track certification process to breach the monolith of government approvals. ONR Global's Mark Buffum tells me that they are working with ONR/USFK legal to check that the validation coordination between the FDA and AmericaMakes will allow designs that have passed Clinical Review to be moved to production at DOD installations globally. The end state for now is a tested design placed on the NIH's 3D design exchange that is approved for manufacture. The government is working on the dispensations needed to take a mask printed on a Navy ship in Korea, an Army logistics train in Iraq, or an Air Force base in Colorado. Similarly, 3D makers near Active Duty/Reserve/National Guard installations should be integrated into their supply chain. If worst case scenarios come to pass and civilian logistics fail then we have an exercised plan to connect military supply and transport capabilities to the manufacturers and vice versa. Much as the Royal Navy executed the plan to flag and man the Little Ships during Dunkirk, we must figure out how the military can leverage local, regional, and national maker capabilities to get those printers humming. A case in point is the Belgian chemical company Solvay, partnering with Boeing, to leverage its extensive expertise in thermoplastic materials—and especially medical-grade plastics—to support various efforts aimed at fighting the pandemic. Their support centers located around the world are ready to support material selection, manufacturing support, relevant testing and regulatory certifications. They are offering to put makers in touch with their extensive network of distributors, molders and machine shops.Additionally, Boeing is working with Solvay to design/produce more durable face shields for healthcare workers. Boeing announced last week it would be shifting some of its manufacturing capacity, including its in-house 3D printing, to produce thousands of face shields per week for medical workers. At the local level, community leaders like Todd Spain are talking to their local hospital to determine shortfalls, and are working with a regional maker group, Colorado Makers Unite (MakerUnite.co) to produce their own masks and ventilator adapters to protect the staff and enable equipment sharing. They are prepared to make anything their first responders need. One of the biggest roadblocks is the administrative state: the only readily available plastic is not approved for medical use, the approved plastic is on a 3-week wait list and costs 10X more, shipping of vital feed-stock and machines is not on the prioritized list, and the usual hurdles of liability, etc.... One can only imagine the potential legal hurdles to using something that hasn't been tested in countless lawsuits unless a company gets regulatory relief. A partnership with the local National Guard unit or military installation could bring their concerns to light and allow the Defense Department to take on the job of connecting the capability to the population and while providing emergency protection from the trial bar. We must move heaven and earth to give the brave people trying to build an ad hoc network of 3-D mask makers our best and ensure that the “small ships” of the 3-D printing world and its makers are allowed to give it their best shot. I can only hope that history looks back at this time with wonder that we were able to pull it off. John Quigg, a retired Army officer, was one of America's first cyber warriors. He is a senior advisor to Spurrier Capital Partners, a New York investment bank, and a senior staffer at Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab. https://breakingdefense.com/2020/04/covid-19-help-fleets-of-innovators-make-3d-printed-face-masks

  • Corruption in China’s military is no excuse for American complacency

    22 janvier 2024 | International, Terrestre

    Corruption in China’s military is no excuse for American complacency

    Opinion: American policymakers should not bet on corruption to hamstring PLA modernization.

  • Panel: Navy May Have to Choose Between New Ballistic Missile Subs or 355 Ship Fleet

    28 novembre 2018 | International, Naval

    Panel: Navy May Have to Choose Between New Ballistic Missile Subs or 355 Ship Fleet

    By: John Grady The Navy could be forced to make hard choices sooner rather than later when it comes to finding the money to replace its aging ballistic missile submarines or reach its goal of having a fleet of 355 warships, a panel of security and budgetary experts said this week. When asked by USNI News what the future holds for fleet size and ballistic missile submarines now that the Democrats control the House, Frank Rose, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former assistant secretary of state for arms control, he said: “There is not enough money” for both, and “priorities need to be taken.” Rose and Jim Miller, a former undersecretary of Defense for policy, came down firmly on the side of building the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, the replacements for the current Ohio-class, in setting priorities for Navy spending. For the U.S., the ballistic missile submarines “secures the second strike” in event of a nuclear attack. “It really is the backbone of our nuclear force now and for the next 70 to 80 years,” Rose said. The Navy shouldn't be allowed to say, “sorry, we ran out of money” when it comes to paying for the ballistic missile submarine because the shipbuilding account was used for other kinds of warships. “The Navy needs to step up to that bill,” Miller said. That line of thought is not confined to think-tanks. Rep. Adam Smith, (D-Wash.), who is expected to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee when the new Congress convenes in January, has long expressed skepticism over the Navy's shipbuilding plan leading to a fleet of 355 warships. He has several times at recent public events referred to it as “simply a number thrown out there.” A sense of how the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee will line up on fleet size and modernizing the nuclear triad could come Tuesday when the full panel looks at the recommendations of the commission on the National Defense Strategy and that afternoon its sea power subcommittee looks at current and future shipbuilding plans. In his presentation, Miller said a fleet of 355 ships, meaning a growth of about 70 from the current size “are numbers that should be challenged” as should those increasing Army end strength from about 450,000 soldiers to 510,000. If all the services force structure numbers were challenged there would be funds for readiness and modernization, including the nuclear triad. “Will this administration put its money where its strategy [of deterring new-peer competitors — Russia and China] is?” he asked rhetorically. There is some concern that the Trump administration will pull back from long-term, continually rising Pentagon budgets. The Defense Department was planning for a request for Fiscal Year 2020 of $733 billion, but it has now been told by the Office of Management and Budget to work with a $700 billion top line. The question for all the services is: “can they get by with current force structure” if missions are also re-examined to free money for readiness, modernization and investment in the future like cyber resilience and space, especially sensors for missile defense. Michael O'Hanlon, who moderated the session at Brookings in Washington, D.C., added in answer to the USNI News question that for the Navy it means looking at the missions its accepts critically. For example, does the lack of an aircraft carrier strike group presence in the Persian Gulf upset security in the region. Or is it a way to free money for other things. He pointed out that when there was no carrier present there for months Iran did not act more aggressively. “The Middle East was a mess before; the Middle East was a mess after. [The Navy] can be more flexible [and that] could be with a smaller fleet,” he said. Miller said during the presentation and later with USNI there was a tradeoff that needed to be understood between “quantity and quality.” Following the presentation, Miller said the Navy “is in a bind” when it has to choose between large capital surface ships, like carriers, “and places where it has an advantage, like submarines — boomers and attack and unmanned undersea vessels. He added modernizing the amphibious fleet remained a priority to meet the need for rapid response of Marines and special forces. Overhanging all this discussion of where the Pentagon should spend its money is the old bugaboo — sequestration, the automatic across-the-board cuts in defense and domestic spending if deficits are not offset, as required by existing law. Maya MacGuiness, president of the Committee for a Responsible Budget, said unless Congress reaches a spending agreement Pentagon spending would automatically fall back to $576 billion because the Budget Control Act of 2011 remains in place. As it has in the past, Congress has reached an agreement to lift the caps, but is no longer trying to offset those hikes in spending with comparable cuts in other programs. With a trillion dollar deficit and national debt “the highest it has been since World War II,” she said the United States “faces incredible fiscal challenges,” but administrations and Congress aren't making the choices in where to cut, where to spend, how to find revenue to pay for programs, cover entitlements — in and out of the military, and meet the interest payments on the debt. Instead, there has been “a doubling down” on spending and cutting taxes. The reality has become “I won't pay for mine; you won't pay for yours.” MacGuiness said, “We have to stop the notion we can have it all” in federal spending on guns and butter. She did not predict whether the new Congress would make those decisions. While expecting House Democrats to exercise more executive branch oversight, Elaine Kamerck, of Brookings, said didn't see their approach come the New Year as an all-out assault on Pentagon spending. The party's leadership is concerned about keeping its majority having taken seats in more conservative suburban areas after 2020. A more interesting question come January will be “how does the Republican leadership in Congress take the lessons from the elections” that saw “them decimated in the suburbs” and their winning margins cut in rural areas, she said, and apply them to the budget. https://news.usni.org/2018/11/23/panel-navy-may-choose-new-ballistic-missile-subs-355-ship-fleet

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