When security professionals think of information warfare, most think of offensive attacks that occur in cyberspace. These attempts by potential adversaries to exploit the digital battlespace range from denial-of-service attacks on networks and inserting malicious code into government and industry systems, to burrowing into government networks to steal information and manipulating social media to influence elections and other events.
But while these information warfare threats are serious, there is another issue that is potentially more vital and that cries out for increased attention from security and defense officials: The ability of the U.S. military to use information is not keeping pace with the vast amounts of information it collects—at great effort and expense. Most agree that no amount of effort by even the most motivated humans will enable them to curate and exploit the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) data reservoir. We can only begin to make effective use of the data military platforms collect by fully leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. And for a variety of reasons, the U.S. Navy should lead this effort.
1. Norman Friedman, “Netting and Navies: Achieving a Balance,” paper presented at the Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Conference, Sydney, Australia, February 2006.
2. Loren Thompson, Networking the Navy: A Model for Modern Warfare (Arlington, VA: Lexington Institute, 2003).
3. VADM Arthur Cebrowski, USN, and John Garstka, “Network-centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 124, no. 1 (January 1998).
4. ADM Vern Clark, USN, “Sea Power 21: Projecting Decisive Joint Capabilities,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 128, no. 10 (October 2002).
5. Thompson, Networking the Navy.
6. Keynote Address, 22nd Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium, Los Angeles, CA, 7 November 2017.
8. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, “Mad Scientist” Blog, 23 November 2020.
9. The ISR “tipping point” has been noted in a tasking, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination (TCPED) study by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Battlespace Awareness and Information Operations Program Office, an independent Navy Cyber Forces study, and the NRAC study from summer 2010.
10. See Gabe Harris, Cynthia Lamb, and Jerry Lamb, “Surf the Data Tsunami,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 144, no. 2 (February 2018).
11. See Jonathan Vandervelde, “Disrupt the Spectrum with AI,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 143, no. 5 (May 2017), and Connor McLemore and Hans Lauzen, “The Dawn of Artificial Intelligence in Naval Warfare,” War on the Rocks, 12 June 2018.
12. Testimony of U.S. Secretary of Defense nominee Mark Esper before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, 16 July 2019.
13. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Interim Report, November 2019.
14. House Armed Services Committee, The Future of Defense Task Force Report (Washington, DC, House Armed Services Committee, 2020).