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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs 2 Background An NRC review of DOD’s IS&T for air and space asserts the following:1 The pervasiveness of information systems in military systems and in visions for future warfighting and the accelerating threat information technology poses require that [the Department of Defense] have a strong information systems S&T program. The committee found the opposite to be the case, however, in its review of the Air Force S&T investment. Since at least the mid-1990s, the Air Force S&T investment in information systems has declined steadily, despite recurring annual plans to increase it. Later, on pages 29 and 30, that report notes as follows: Future Air Force concepts are driven by information and information systems, which are becoming the “force multiplier” for the Air Force of the future. The increased emphasis on information and associated trends are reflected in Air Force warfighting concepts. These concepts include:* Dynamic aerospace command Joint battlespace infosphere Information operations Integrated aerospace operations The Expeditionary Aerospace Force Effects-based operations * Defense Science and Technology Advisory Group, “Air Force strategy in infor 1 National Research Council, Review of the U.S. Department of Defense Air, Space, and Supporting Information Systems Science and Technology Program, National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. (2001), p. 4.
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs mation,” briefing by John A. Graniero at the Information Systems Technology (IST) Technology Area Review and Assessment (TARA), Air Force Research Laboratory, Rome, New York, March 13-17, 2000. On pages 31 and 32, the NRC report notes that commercial IS&T will not, no matter the size and strength of the investment, address all of the IS&T needs of DOD: Leveraging commercial information technologies is difficult, however, because industry rapidly changes direction to meet rapidly changing customer demands and because the time to market must be as short as possible. Fierce competition dictates limited, short research and development cycles and near-term investment strategies. Very little funding is being invested in basic research, which is usually outsourced to academia.* Industry’s short-term needs cannot support the longer-range visions of the services. Although commercial technologies show promise in providing significant near-term capabilities, leveraging them could require much effort (and significant resources) to adopt, adapt, or reengineer them. … Another caveat about using commercial information systems is that they are becoming available to all nations and interest groups. If the services depend on commercial technologies for advancing the state of the art in their information systems, potential enemies may come close to achieving parity (or even asymmetrical superiority) with U.S. forces. … DOD needs to expand its basic research to explore the frontiers of science in search of new technological approaches for maintaining military superiority. … The committee believes that DOD should continue to explore the frontiers of science and that basic research has never been more important to DOD. * National Research Council, Trust in Cyberspace, National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. (1999). It is certainly desirable to use commercial technology wherever it fulfills Air Force needs, meaning when the Air Force requirements are in some sense close to those of the commercial sector. However, the Air Force, like all the services, has requirements that are not significant drivers in the commercial sector—requirements in security (e.g., being multilevel in many cases), in the complexity of its command and control systems, in the real-time requirements of some systems, and in the need for robustness and resilience in the face of broken network or communications links or of captured nodes. That 2001 report ultimately reaches (p. 36) the following recommendation for Air Force IS&T research funding: The committee believes that the Air Force should increase its science and technology (S&T) budget for information systems technology (IST). The basic research (6.1) program should support long-term air and space IST
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs needs, surpass previous-year levels, support a strong in-house program (with appropriate researchers), and compensate for limited long-term commercial investment. The DOD investment in basic research in IS&T has not improved in the 4 years since that report was issued. While the committee did not develop a detailed estimate of the level of effort required for Air Force basic research in IS&T, its general sense is that it is small in relation to the challenges identified in Chapters 3 through 6. The Air Force roadmap for transformation is described in the Air Force Flight Plan.2 Though not intended as a primer on Air Force needs for IS&T, it describes deficiencies in current capabilities as well as desired new capabilities that require new information technologies. The three main new capabilities are information superiority, persistent precision strike, and battlespace awareness. Assuring information superiority is a critical part of the Air Force mission. Issues requiring advances in IS&T include secure and survivable command and control systems, the rapid evolution and adaptation of command and control systems, decision aids based on rapidly changing operational needs, and increased capabilities in information operations. Information operations3 include all offensive and defensive actions necessary to ensure full access to timely and accurate information and to deny the same to adversaries. Precision strike refers to the ability to place munitions with minimal error anyplace required to achieve a military objective. Persistence, a relatively new desired capability, refers to the ability to maintain precision targeting for long periods. Open goals for R&D revolve around decreasing the time from sensing to shooting to less than 10 minutes, providing actionable intelligence in a useful (i.e., decision-ready) form, and timely and accurate damage assessment, which is particularly difficult when nonkinetic weapons are used. A report from the National Intelligence Council4 notes as follows: The use of precision-guided munitions will increase. The accuracy of these systems will improve. Targeting will remain the critical factor in determining success or failure of these missions. Having eyes on target … must be a core mission. 2 Available at http://www.dtic.mil/jointvision/af_trans_flightplan.pdf. 3 Available at http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/pubfiles/afdc/dd/afdd2-5.pdf. 4 John B. Alexander, “The evolution of conflict through 2020: Demands on personnel, machines, and missions,” CIA Conference on the Changing Nature of War (2004), pp. 9-12. Available at http://www.cia.gov/nic/NIC_2020_2004_05_25_intro.html.
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs Actionable intelligence is essential. In recent conflicts commanders at all levels have lamented the shortfalls of actionable intelligence. Operation Iraqi Freedom was initiated prematurely when it was reported that Saddam Hussein would be located at Dora Farms in Baghdad. A phone call from an agent in the area began the process. Because this was the beginning of the conflict the decision rested with President Bush. The reaction time was too long, and if Saddam ever was there, he left before the target could be hit. By 2020 we should be able reduce the time from which a target is detected until it is hit to under ten minutes. Currently, for DOD elements, target identification and release must cycle back to the US for approval. This is simply too slow. Battlespace awareness implies the ability of a commander and his or her staff to fully understand the plan of action and its execution in real time and to rapidly assess and anticipate necessary changes to the plan. The deficiencies that motivate current research are summarized from an Air Force report on information operations:5 Battlespace awareness information is often reactive in nature and rapidly loses relevance. Targeting decisions often are made too far away from the warfighter to effectively engage mobile targets. … It is still very difficult to integrate rapidly expanding data streams from multiple sources in a timely manner. … Commanders often do not have a clear, accurate real-time picture of the battlespace. … The military still cannot assess, plan, and direct air and space operations from anywhere or from multiple locations in near real-time, something the Air Force believes will be necessary in the future to give the commander the greatest flexibility to meet national tasking. The Air Force needs take into account that our potential adversaries have access to the same commercial IT as we do and that those adversaries can field IT systems at commercial rates, typically much faster than possible under current DOD acquisition practices. Hence, Air Force IS&T research must be focused on capabilities that fill Air Force needs, will probably not be provided by the commercial sector, and will give superiority over the enemy. In the abstract, to fully address Air Force needs, IS&T research must yield new capabilities that satisfy the four S’s—speed, security, scalability, and smartness. “Speed” means IT-based systems need not only to operate in real-time environments but also to be built and delivered much faster and to be extensible in the field by end users. Such systems must also be 5 Available at http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/pubfiles/afdc/dd/afdd2-5/afdd2-5.pdf.
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs secure and scalable. Lastly, they need to be smart. Getting there requires a better approach for sponsoring and conducting IS&T research. The AFOSR, which is the Air Force’s prime agent for the conduct of 6.1 research, is well aware of these issues. As part of its investigation, the committee examined a 1996 NRC review of AFOSR programs in mathematical and computer sciences and found that some of the observations still pertain and are helpful for setting the context of the current study.6 That study reviewed the size, scope, and quality of the erstwhile AFOSR mathematical and computer sciences program. (Many of the elements of that program, and some of the program managers, are now part of AFOSR’s IS&T program. The IS&T program, though, does not map directly onto any AFOSR unit. Most of the IS&T research is managed today within the AFOSR Mathematics and Space Sciences Directorate, but only about half of that unit deals with IS&T. In addition, AFOSR’s research in human-computer interfaces is managed jointly with its Chemical and Life Sciences Directorate.) The following observations, paraphrased from the 1996 report (pages 1-3), appear to have withstood the test of time: AFOSR program managers in mathematical and computer sciences have a great deal of autonomy and compete for funds among themselves in a relatively cooperative way. They are self-motivated to promote their areas in order to gain an adequate share of the available funds. The majority of funds go to principal investigators (PIs) at universities, but the Air Force is successful at teaming these PIs with researchers at Air Force laboratories. Prior collaboration with Air Force laboratories is not essential for obtaining program support, but collaboration subsequent to an award characterizes the best and longest-lived research projects. During the early 1990s, these program managers were under increased pressure to fund projects with short- rather than long-term payoffs, although there appears to have been adequate flexibility to resist such pressure. In determining program priorities, emphasis should be given to research that clarifies Air Force problems, has an impact on operational procedures, and advances the state of the art in areas of interest to the Air Force. 6 National Research Council, Review of AFOSR Programs in Mathematical and Computer Sciences, National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. (1996).
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs OVERVIEW OF AIR FORCE GOALS THAT RELY ON IS&T RESEARCH The Air Force is already heavily dependent on IS&T, and its ongoing transformation is critically dependent on the successful fielding of new IS&T products. Many of those new products will be specific to military needs, and many require basic research. A good summary of Air Force IS&T goals is contained in the pamphlet “S&T Planning Review.”7 This pamphlet presents six long-term challenges identified in 2001 to provide focus and motivation for Air Force science and technology over the next 20 to 50 years. The emphasis is on basic and applied research that will enable critical future Air Force capabilities: Finding and tracking. Provide the decision maker with quality information from anywhere in near real time. The needed capabilities include reliable assessment and monitoring, sensor placement and sustainment, and information systems. Command and control. Monitor, assess, plan, and direct aerospace operations anywhere from multiple locations in near real time. Capabilities to support this goal include monitoring and assessing global conditions and events, planning and executing military operations, and information assurance. Controlled effects. Rapidly create precise effects with the ability for quick retargeting. The needed capabilities include measured global force projection and dominant remote control. Sanctuary. Protect the total force from natural and manmade hazards and threats while permitting operation with lowest possible risks. Rapid aerospace response. Quickly respond to peacetime operations or crises. Required capabilities include rapid global reach, on-demand space surge, and aerospace power network. Effective aerospace persistence. Sustain the flow of equipment and supplies as well as the application of force as required. Capabilities include space awareness and control, space access, and operations. It is clear that information systems pervade all of these capabilities and that sustained basic research in IS&T will be required to meet these challenges. It is also clear that there are Air Force-unique aspects to most, if not all, of this basic research. More recently, the Air Force released the latest statement of its mission, which encompasses not only air and space operations but also informa- 7 Available from the AFOSR.
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs tion operations.8 The latter includes the union of electronic warfare, both defensive and offensive; offensive and defensive cyber operations (that is, disruption of, or tampering with, computing and communications or defense against the same); and “influence operations,” actions intended to lessen an enemy’s resolve to fight.9 Influence operations was given special emphasis when the study committee met with the Air Combat Command, which is exploring a range of means to lessen adversaries’ will to fight, their negative impressions of the United States or U.S. forces, or otherwise reduce the need for traditional military action. The principal goal of all information operations is to ensure decision dominance over adversaries. Key challenges from an IS&T perspective include integration of, access to, and fusion of disparate data and information sources; conversion of information to actionable knowledge; basic modeling of human behaviors; and so on. The ways the Air Force achieves its vision and accomplishes its mission are changing. This change is the process DOD calls transformation, and it relies in a central way on information superiority. The Air Force roadmap for transformation is described in Air Force Flight Plan, 2003, which on pages 51-56 expands the notion of information operations described in the vision statement to the notion of information superiority:10 Information superiority is a key enabler of the type of revolutionary change described by RMA [revolution in military affairs] advocates including effects-based operations and parallel warfare. … There are still many obstacles to achieving the full potential of information superiority under many circumstances today: There is still significant progress to be made in rapidly getting timely, accurate, and relevant intelligence from sensors-to-shooters (actionable intelligence in a usable format) in single-digit minutes. Battlespace awareness information is often reactive in nature and rapidly loses relevance. Targeting decisions often are made too far away from the warfighter to effectively engage mobile targets. It is still very difficult to integrate rapidly expanding data streams from multiple sources in a timely manner. Commanders often do not have a clear, accurate, real-time picture of the battlespace. The military still cannot assess, plan, and direct air and space operations from anywhere or from multiple locations in near real-time, something the Air Force believes will be necessary in the future to give the commander the greatest flexibility to meet national tasking. 8 Available at http://www.af.mil/library/posture/vision/vision.pdf. 9 Available at http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/pubfiles/afdc/dd/afdd2-5/afdd2-5.pdf. 10 Available at http://www.dtic.mil/jointvision/af_trans_flightplan.pdf.
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs Computer network and information systems are often vulnerable to attack. There is limited ability to disrupt adversary C4ISR [command, control, computing, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] assets and information flow. “Tribal” platforms and procedures within the Air Force still must be integrated using information technology. New and planned C4ISR systems require a lot of additional bandwidth. Lack of data standards inhibits use and exploitation of Artificial Intelligence capabilities. The Air Force has not developed all necessary protocols for machine-to-machine interfaces. The Air Force lacks a scalable C4ISR system that can support operations across the spectrum of conflict. The Air Force still needs to evaluate its current systems and determine what they can contribute to its capabilities and what tools are necessary to transform those systems from a collection of platforms into a networked system that is greater than the sum of its individual parts. THE R&D RESPONSE: CURRENT DIRECTIONS The AFRL’s Information Directorate (AFRL/IF) is a major performer of applied research and development for Air Force IS&T, and the committee spent considerable time with researchers there to learn about their programs and their strategy for addressing Air Force IS&T needs. Northrup Fowler, chief scientist (at the time), told the committee on February 24, 2005, that the directorate’s main R&D thrusts were Global awareness. Methods to acquire, exploit, fuse, and reason about information. Dynamic planning and execution. Methods for rapidly exploiting knowledge of the battlespace and fostering better informed and more accurate decisions. Global information enterprise. Methods to move, process, manage, and protect information throughout the Global Information Grid (GIG) and provide assured information to decision makers. The underlying science and technology focus areas identified by AFRL/IF are these: Information exploitation, which involves estimation and prediction of signals from electronic intelligence, imagery, audio, and speech processing.
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs Information fusion and understanding, the process of combining information to estimate and predict the state of the battlespace. Information management, the harnessing of information resources and capabilities of an organization to accomplish its objectives. A framework for developing and demonstrating information management technology solutions. Advanced computing architectures, R&D focused on fundamental models of computation and on engineering techniques for the design of computing systems. Cyber operations, encompassing technologies for information assurance, computer network defense, and computer network exploitation. Connectivity, addressing the need for high-capacity C4ISR networking and enterprise management and control. Command and control, involving decision support, adversarial modeling, and battlefield simulation. AFRL/IF and AFOSR have a joint strategic planning process to help them align 6.1 investments with AFRL/IF program needs. The process involves AFOSR program managers in strategic deliberations with AFRL/ IF and input from AFRL/IF on AFOSR’s 6.1 investments. The committee concluded that the AFRL/IF program, though certainly not exhaustive, is well matched to the long-term challenges outlined above, and it also concluded that the success of the AFRL/IF program is critically dependent on a number of basic research advances that are well within the purview of AFOSR. Final background information was provided to the committee in a briefing by Shankara Sastry of the University of California at Berkeley, who chaired an IS&T review panel for the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board that issued a report on November 21, 2003. That review identified several key IS&T areas for investment: the scalability of the information management systems under investigation, security and real-time capability, mission management technologies for unmanned air vehicles in mixed manned/unmanned environments, and embedded software and systems. AFOSR’s current response to these various challenges is suggested by these excerpts from its ongoing Broad Agency Announcement 2005-1,11 which invites IS&T proposals in the following areas: Dynamics and Control The … program is interested in … guidance, navigation, and control of autonomous aerial vehicle systems and teams; image tracking and robust feedback control in high scintillation environments; … and … hybrid
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs control systems that can intelligently manage actuator, sensor, and processor communications in complex, spatially distributed systems. … Interest in control of complex, multi-scale, highly uncertain nonlinear systems is increasing. … Interest exists in the development of control concepts applicable to single and multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and micro air vehicles (MAVs). Areas of interest include cooperative/collaborative control of a team of UAVs conducting operations such as cooperative combat ISR, electronic attack, urban warfare, wide area search/attack, and persistent area denial. Real-time, adaptive acquisition, classification, prosecution and assessment of geographically dispersed targets is envisioned, requiring cooperation amongst UAVs. … A cooperative decision and control theoretic framework is of interest to address robust dynamic control of distributed UAVs executing multiple, strongly coupled tasks with a high degree of decentralization. A long-term goal of the Dynamics and Control program is control for intelligent autonomy, in order to achieve a higher level of autonomous control. … Providing UAVs and MAVs with faculties of wide field-of-regard perception will be a significant step toward the realization of autonomous control, and in this area research in vision-based guidance, navigation and control is of interest. Optimization and Discrete Mathematics Target tracking environments include multiple maneuvering targets in clutter, targets with low [signal-to-noise ratios], and cooperative tracking platforms. Computational complexity for real time applications is a key issue. … Research includes discrete event systems, especially as it relates to Air Force transportation, target tracking, command and control systems, and battlefield management. Signals Communication and Surveillance This … activity is concerned with the systematic analysis and interpretation of variable quantities that represent information, or convey information physically through a channel. Communications signals, enabling command and control, and surveillance images are of special importance. … An outstanding need in the treatment of signals is to develop resilient algorithms for data representation in fewer bits (compression), image reconstruction/enhancement, and spectral/frequency estimation in the presence of external corrupting factors. … These … hold promise in the detection and recognition of characteristic transient features, the synthesis of hard-to-intercept communications links, and the achievement of faithful compression and fast reconstruction for audio, video, and multi-spectral data. 11 Available at http://www.afosr.af.mil/pdfs/BAA2005-1.pdf, dated October 2004.
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs Software and Systems The goal is … basic research needed to enable development of advanced computing science methods to support future Air Force needs in worldwide, 24-7 battlespace information management. … Research is … to meet … challenges including collection, control, and integration of the vast amounts of information flowing through battlespace information networks, protection of friendly information resources, and complexities in software and algorithm development in support of large information systems. Some specific areas of Infospheric Science research follow: Models of Information Flows Metrics for Information Flow Hierarchical Flow Models Information Dynamics Managing Massive Numbers of Triggers Information Pedigree/Certainty Stream Data Processing Automated Downgrading of Sensitive Information Preventing Self-Inflicted DoS Attacks Audit Data for Damage Assessment Steganography Detection Secure Code Composition Distributed, Assured Pipelines Application Layer Multicast Encryption Seamless Integration of Wireline-Wireless Networks Network Monitoring, Measurement, and Inferencing Ad Hoc Wireless Networking Middleware Joint Battlespace Infosphere (JBI) System Stability Dynamic System Management JBI Information Metadata and Structure Evolvable Components The need to collect, integrate, and disseminate information from widely disparate sources will be crucial. … Information extraction from all sources of data is … of interest. … Network protection … detection of intrusion, forensics, and an active response and recovery from an attack on information, are needed. Basic research that anticipates the nature of future information system attacks is critical. … Research on effective security policies across large, heterogeneous infospheres is of high interest. Techniques to automatically detect deceptive data or information are of interest … [as are] mathematical approaches for the specification, design, and analysis of distributed software systems. Approaches for overcoming the increasing computational complexity of these systems are essential. Artificial Intelligence Mathematical foundations of information fusion must be established—robust, integrated fusion architectures for handling increasing diversity
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Basic Research in Information Science and Technology for Air Force Needs of input sources. … Research is sponsored into how to make the best use of uncertain information; share and disseminate information; increase the accuracy, speed, and economy of the recognition and identification process; and aid the intelligence analyst. … Research is needed to develop large-scale intelligent systems that can address practical Air Force needs. … Means are sought to scale up those methods that work for small knowledge-based systems. … Formalisms need to be developed for the representation of and reasoning with uncertainty, in handling corrupt information, identifying deceptive information, and effectively using experiences. … We seek means to combine numeric and symbolic inference methods. … The program seeks to develop technology that will support decision-making. … Intelligent agents are needed [that are] capable of gathering information, reducing data to a manageable amount of essential information, and cooperating with other agents to solve problems. Research is also needed to combine artificial intelligence methods with operations research tools to overcome inefficiencies in solving some mission-critical Air Force problems (e.g., scheduling in a distributed, dynamic environment). To cover this range of research, AFOSR has an annual budget of some $25 million for IS&T: approximately $16 million for academic grants, $7 million for multidisciplinary university research initiatives (MURIs), and $2 million for in-house research at AFRL/IF.12 Although it did not examine the current IS&T portfolio in any depth, the committee’s sense is that the resources are not adequate for the broad scope of the challenge identified earlier. While many of these topics are clearly important, the committee also found gaps and recommended changes of emphasis, which are reflected in Chapters 3 through 7. In the next chapters, the committee offers recommendations for the top-priority basic research in IS&T to help the Air Force meet its IS&T goals. The recommendations fall into four very general areas: research to enable network-centric warfare, including networking, communications, security, real-time embedded systems, and other topics; research to support improvements in software development, including the ideas developed in Chapter 4; research in information management, including integration of complex databases, publish-subscribe systems, signal processing, and information fusion; and research into the interface between humans and IS&T, including human-computer interfaces, human-system integration, decision-support tools, and information fusion. 12 Figures supplied by Clifford Rhoades, head of the AFOSR Mathematics and Space Sciences Directorate, in discussions with the committee on February 27, 2005, in Rome, N.Y.
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