US National Intelligence Strategy, 2019 edition, is out.
The Director of National Intelligence this past month released the 2019 US National Intelligence Strategy, outlining a host of "diverse and interconnected" threats posed by "traditional adversaries" as well as "evolving threats." It warns that emerging technologies will "enable new and improved military and intelligence capabilities for our adversaries," and that, "despite growing awareness of cyber threats and improving cyber defenses, nearly all information, communication networks, and systems will be at risk for years to come."
Space and cyber are called out at the beginning of the document as the areas of greatest concern. "No longer a solely U.S. domain, the democratization of space poses significant challenges for the United States and the IC. Adversaries are increasing their presence in this domain with plans to reach or exceed parity in some areas." In this context "democratization" means not only more capable programs by nation-state rivals, particularly Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, but also more sophisticated, affordable, and widely available commercial products and services. The strategy sees the US in a similar position with respect to cyber operations: confronting an increasingly complex and effective range of actual and potential threat actors. And space and cyber have this in common: they're both now inextricably intertwined with the way societies now live, and conduct business. The capabilities found in these two domains bring fragility with their benefits.
The strategy lists seven mission objectives—three foundational and four topical. The foundational objectives include strategic intelligence to address issues relevant to "enduring national security interest," anticipatory intelligence to address "new and emerging trends, changing conditions, and underappreciated developments," and current operations intelligence. The topical mission objectives include cyber threat intelligence, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and counterintelligence and security.
Space competition, again.
The National Intelligence Strategy isn't alone in seeing renewed competition in space. Many observers have been considerably more blunt. Foreign Policy calls it "a new Cold War" (and counsels American patience with its rival). China's successful robotic mission to the far side of the moon isn't exactly a Sputnik moment, but it's widely seen as inaugurating a new space race, one that a Washington Post op-ed sees as a race the US is losing. Beijing's space exploits are, in the short-term, a way of consolidating China's status as a great power: Xinhua says that China plans to deploy more than fifty spacecraft in at least thirty launches during 2019, which is a clear gesture in that direction. In the mid-term it seeks to establish a permanent presence in space. In the long-term some see a competition over off-earth resources (South China Morning Post).
This competition has at least three parties: Russia is also playing. Russia's position as a leading space-faring nation may be fading, especially as the US approaches its return to routine human spaceflight and deprecates its partnership with Moscow (Ars Technica), but Russian leaders, who blame the Americans for the erosion of bilateral cooperation in space, are by no means prepared to go into quiet decline. TASS quoted Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin's brief, direct statement of Russia's strategic goal: "to regain Russia’s leadership in space, pure and simple."
Peer competition elsewhere (both cyber and kinetic).
Much of the direct, physical confrontation among major powers this month has been maritime. The US and the UK have conducted joint exercises in the disputed South China Sea (Navy Times), and the US Navy has returned to the Black Sea, a response to Russian actions against Ukraine in those waters during the last two months of 2018 (Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty).
In cyberspace China continues its long-standing program of industrial espionage (at which the US and its allies are striking back with sanctions and lawfare). Russian cyber operations continue to concentrate on information operations directed toward disruption and influence (Infosecurity Magazine).
Emerging technological capabilities.
China has begun conducting drills involving anti-satellite weapons, which suggests a growing operational kinetic kill capability (National Air and Space Intelligence Center). Both Chinese and Russian anti-satellite systems and ambitions are among the space threats presently concerning US policymakers (Space Daily).
US missile defense programs appear to be undergoing a revival, as a missile defense review calls for a mix of ground and space-based systems, some of which would employ directed-energy weapons. Foreign Policy calls it the most ambitious missile defense plan since the Cold War. It envisions tighter coupling of offensive, in some cases preemptive, capabilities with such existing systems as THAAD and Aegis cruisers and destroyers. The F-35 is currently being tested to see whether it could be used as a boost-phase interceptor.
The US Missile Defense Review added cruise missiles and hypersonic glide weapons to the threats the program would address. These additions are seen as a direct response to recent Russian and Chinese developments. The plan's most significant feature, however, may be its advocacy of a new sensor layer: space-based sensors in low earth orbit deployed to detect and track missile launches. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes, with approval, the Review shows good continuity with earlier missile defense planning, but makes significant departures in its urgent appraisal of technological superiority as fragile, and its commitment to positioning missile defense as a contributor to international stability. How the plans may be realized in actual appropriations, of course, remains to be seen.
One interesting sidelight on missile defense: the US Navy appears to see an opportunity to shed this particular mission, and may regard the Review as affording an opportunity to get out of the missile defense business (Breaking Defense).
Space Force begins to take shape.
Space Force is moving closer to becoming a reality. Space Command, the combatant command reestablished at the end of 2018, already is a reality, and is widely seen as a harbinger of the separate military service that Space Force is expected to become. Organizational details about Space Force are expected to become clear in 2020 appropriations, that is, in the next budget. Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan says he already has a candidate for the Force's first commander in mind, but he intends to keep that selection to himself (Defense News). One of the effects of planning for the new Space Force is expected to be high demand for, and spending on, new satellites (Defense News). The Defense space budget in general is trending upward (Space News).
Space Force may not yet have Federal money appropriated for it, but a television show about it, called, obviously, "Space Force," has Netflix money and is under preparation. Steve Carrell will star in a reunion with the creator of "The Office," which suggests popular culture will encounter the new sixth service in a workplace comedy as opposed to Roddenberrian space opera (Mashable).
Army Cyber Command, looking almost a decade out, thinks it will become Information Warfare Operations Command by 2028 (Defense Daily).
The Air Force is pursuing its plans to merge IT and intelligence functions at the Air Force Staff level (Federal News Network).
The US Army has now clearly pushed electronic warfare and cyber capabilities down to brigade level. It's establishing two organizations built around the 17th and 41st Field Artillery Brigades to, as Breaking Defense puts it, "hack, jam, sense, and shoot." Hacking and jamming increasingly go together, as cyber operations and electronic warfare continue to converge. Sensing is a natural, and necessary for both electronic and kinetic attack. The shooting would be done, for the most part, by rockets, specifically HIMARS High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. The hacking and jamming would be the work of battalion-strength Intelligence, Information, Cyber, Electronic Warfare, & Space Detachments, one per brigade, inevitably to be known by their acronym I2CEWS. The organizations are a serious sign that the US at least is prepared to delegate significant cyber capability down to surprisingly low tactical levels. One of the new detachments is now operational with the 17th Field Artillery Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington State. The other is destined for the 41st Field Artillery Brigade, now reestablished at Grafenwoehr, Germany.
Notes on procurement and prototyping.
There appear to be two distinct but, one hopes, complementary paths to overcoming slow Defense procurement. One, represented prominently by big cloud contracts like JEDI, aims to find and transition leading-edge but well-established civilian technologies to military use. The other looks for the breakthrough, unexpected innovation that offers the promise of operational transformation. Here are some examples of programs designed to take the Pentagon down those two paths.
US Army Futures Command, now almost half a year old, represents that service's attempt to break out of an acquisition system that has long seemed too sclerotic, too preoccupied with the niceties of contracting and the avoidance of the appearance of fraud or favoritism, to keep pace with technological change and operational needs. Futures Command intends to foster rapid prototyping to get articles into the hands of operators who can give them a swift, realistic assessment before the Service commits to large-scale production and fielding (Breaking Defense).
DISA has also established an office designed to get new technologies fielded more quickly. Its new Emerging Technologies Directorate will seek, as so many other Defense organizations do, to bridge the gap between discovery and invention on the one side and operational capability on the other (SIGNAL).
The Air Force is taking a venture capitalist's approach to finding innovative start-ups and securing the use of their technologies. It's going to hold a live-pitch day in March, where the best ideas will compete for $40 million in funding (Nextgov).
Whatever disruptive innovations the Air Force finds among its start-ups, we hope they're compatible with a military version of a civilian cloud.
The small satellite market is in a minor (at least) boom phase, with demand driven by both commercial (satellite internet, maritime applications) and government (missile defense, surveillance) needs. Some companies, General Atomics among them, are seeing earlier acquisitions of small satellite firms paying off.
One start-up, Swarm, has raised $25 million in a Series A round to fund its projected deployment of a smallsat constellation (Space News).