What the warrior needs: a fused real-time, true representation of the warrior's battlespace and the ability to order, respond, and coordinate horizontally and vertically to the degree necessary to prosecute his mission in that battlespace.
-Adm Richard C. Macke
In 1992 Adm Richard C. Macke understood what war fighters since Alexander the Great wanted. Information operations is a legitimate and increasingly important military mission that seeks to satisfy Admiral Macke's requirement.34 Perfecting this capability should allow US military leaders to achieve information dominance and control the momentum of military operations. This vision does not merely provide information, but also empowers users with the ability to leverage information to conduct warfare. This paper refers to this vision as the Cyber Situation. The Cyber Situation is necessary for the US military to maintain its competitive edge against future adversaries.
Technology will provide the means to achieve a complete battlespace picture and the ability to affect it instantly with the Cyber Situation concept. This chapter lays the technological foundation which could achieve this capability. Five broad technology areas should contribute to reaching this goal. Some solutions appear to be evolutionary; some will likely be wildcards-scientifically plausible achievements that will require a technology leap.35 While this chapter describes the technologies, the next chapter applies these technologies and assesses their contribution to a single system to achieve the Cyber Situation vision.
The Cyber Situation will require five technology areas to evolve and
synergize by 2025 to achieve OODA Loop integration. First, collection
platforms should provide a detailed global awareness, giving decision
makers a complete situational picture.36
This parallels the observe function of OODA. Second, communications
systems should advance to allow in-time access to virtually any available
database. Communications will permit information flow around the loop.
Third, computer-processing power and, fourth, intelligent software will
provide the ability to integrate and correlate disparate types and sources
of information and aid in decision making, contributing to the orient
and decide functions. Fifth, human systems and biotechnology advancements
will make the man-computer interface seamless. The end result should
be an improved ability to access and direct weapons.37
Figure 3-1 illustrates these essential technologies.
Source: Microsoft Clipart Gallery© 1995, courtesy of Microsoft Corporation.
The following sections address each of these broad technology areas. Within each section, the discussion first relates the particular technology to the required capability in terms of the OODA tasks and attributes (tables 1 through 4). Next, it assesses the current state of the technology and notes which are on evolutionary or revolutionary tracks. It then evaluates various research and development (R&D) trends, focusing on the time and cost needed to achieve the desired technological capability. Most of the development will be in the commercial arena. Special recognition will be made for those developments that require a military investment.
Collection is the process of capturing information from all sources to present an in-time "picture" of the battlespace. In this case, picture refers to more than an image. It is all surveillance and reconnaissance data, including imagery, signals intelligence, weather data, aircraft radar navigation equipment transmissions, cellular telephones and communications devices intercepts, and data in-transit between computers. The list is virtually endless. All information is potentially useful to the Cyber Situation. However, it is not this paper's purpose to exhaustively review all collection technologies. Rather, it will focus on the platforms from which the data and intelligence is received.
Presently, overhead and air-breathing assets collect information. Overhead assets refers to satellite-based systems. They include surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition systems as well as environmental monitoring assets.38 While many are classified programs, civil and commercial agencies are increasingly able to collect more timely and detailed data. This is particularly true for such environmental monitoring satellites as the French SPOT satellite which can provide multispectral imagery with 10 meter resolution.39 Air-breathing assets are aircraft, manned or unmanned.
By 2025 collection platforms will exploit the complete electro-optical frequency spectra. Some systems will be deployed for long-durations. These systems will observe such standing requirements as military communications traffic, logistics, and computer interfaces. Some of this capability currently exists. However, the military still lacks sufficiently broad coverage.40 Other systems may be used on a contingency basis. These systems will use two emerging technologies: miniaturized satellites and uninhibited reconnaissance aerial vehicles (URAV).
The most compelling satellite technologies advances include miniaturization and decreased launch expense.41 These two complementary advances are important to the system effectiveness of the Cyber Situation. Increased miniaturization of individual satellites allows for less costly construction per unit and easier deployment while at the same time making them harder to detect and track. Miniature satellite constellations have great applicability in terms of flexibility and deployability.
Miniature satellites could fill coverage gaps to supplement long-duration systems. The miniature satellite constellations would carry payloads optimized for specific contingencies. The payloads may focus on specific static, mobile, or moving targets. This option offers a compelling, inexpensive, and rapidly deployable solution to "customize" collection efforts to meet the contingency needs.42 The satellites may be constructed en masse and be on hot alert.
While decreased cost for space access is forecasted, miniature satellites are unlikely to garner significant commercial investment. This is not to say miniature components will not be commercially available. Commercial technology initiatives will shrink everything from the solar panels and batteries to the sensors. However, the military must press forward with the R&D to package miniature satellites and make them available for immediate use.
The other emerging technology area for collection platforms is URAV. These systems would provide the data not accessible to either the long-duration assets or the miniature satellite constellations. URAV would reduce the risk inherent in manned collection platforms and allow the flexibility to maneuver rapidly to specific locations which may be obscured from space-based sensors.43
The Department of Defense has operated URAV since the Vietnam conflict. Their usefulness will push development of less costly, more reliable, and more flexible systems.44 One area of flexibility will include more varied sensors that collect all-source information. This area will predominately require military R&D.
The combination of deployed long-duration satellites, small satellites, and URAV could enable the military to achieve broad coverage of an area of interest virtually all of the time, thus providing the user the most updated Cyber Situation possible.
To achieve information dominance requires high-capacity, secure, accurate, reliable, robust, and easy-to-use communications. Indeed, data and information movement is the track upon which the decision cycle runs. A highly mobile war fighter must be able to maintain an in-time "picture" of the battlespace, formed by vast amounts of information from multiple sources. The user must also be able to communicate with others who are observing the same battlespace picture. Of particular importance is the ability to access and direct weapons at a moment's notice.
Communications must work anywhere and everywhere. Current limitations include narrow bandwidths and insufficient ground-based and satellite infrastructure. In 2025 these limitations will likely be resolved as bandwidth and communications capacities continue to expand.45
Although bandwidth is a limiting factor, it has grown dramatically in the last 10 years. The key breakthrough was fiber-optic cabling, which geometrically increased available information flow. Economics drove the development of fiber-optic capability. The marketplace demanded increased throughput, and the private sector responded with a quantum leap over twisted pair (copper wire) technology. Demand will continue to push increased access throughout the country and around the world.46 Fiber-optic cable will likely be the predominant communication carrier for the foreseeable future, although wireless and satellite communications connectivity also will be required.47
Satellite communications are tremendously important because of the need to move large amounts of the information from collection platforms. Current capabilities are inadequate to provide full connectivity and functionality to provide coverage for any given desired place and time. Here, too, technology advances will greatly enhance and improve the ability to move vast amounts of data quickly.
As noted in the previous section, the most compelling satellite technologies advances include miniaturization and decreased launch expense. A significant amount of work has already has been done on the miniaturization of relay and broadcast satellites. To date, experiments have centered on deploying these small satellites over a location where the telecommunications infrastructure is lacking.48
On the ground, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) technology use will release commanders and decision makers from the bonds of landlines. It is a fully man-portable satellite receive and transmit ground station. DBS is commercially available at reasonable cost. DBS groundstations will be able to accommodate large bandwidth and be fully deployable.49 This is a distinct advantage in terms of flexibility for decision makers at all levels. DBS technology allows on-scene commanders to forward in-time inputs through the system and up the chain of command. Future DBS technology will continue to advance and miniaturize, producing greater capabilities in smaller packages. One challenge is to be able to provide portable power that is not a weight and size burden. Nevertheless, the commercial industry will produce miniaturized, low-power communication devices. As this type of technology improves, DBS might allow human links to satellites. The human body could potentially become a part of the system. "With a little digital help, people's ears could work just as well as 'rabbit ears.'"50
Mission accomplishment requires the communications architecture to accurately transmit complete media spectra. More important is the Cyber Situation's need for secure communications. This is a broad category requiring a more detailed discussion.
Since security affects all elements of the OODA Loop, it is best addressed under the communications section. Data must be secured in three different areas: storage, transmission, and dissemination.
Because of the tremendous storage capacity required, archival databases likely will be secured much as they are now, in a vaulted building on shielded media (magnetic, or some evolutionary storage media not yet developed). Storage is discussed in the computer power section below.
The compromise potential is much higher during data transmission, occurs during information collection and routing by way of communications infrastructures. Resident safeguards must protect transmissions from interruption and intercept. Experts expect that this should be easily attained by way of commercially available encryption packages that are nearly unbreakable.51
The final security concern involves the process to retrieve, display, and use data. Dissemination security exists to ensure that only those with the appropriate access and need-to-know may use the most sensitive databases. Some promising technologies are already used in this area. Among the most viable are retinal scanners and fingerprint validation technologies developed by the private sector.52
Technology could plausibly lead to the use of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) samples to validate individual access requirements. The validation system will include each user's DNA imprints, which must be checked before the system allows access. Today, this technology is in its infancy, but, will continue to evolve and likely become the fool-proof way to validate user authenticity for access and employment.
The second type of dissemination security involves technology known as multilevel security (MLS) network management.53 Upon entering an information system, the system grants access based on the user's authorization. Ideally, MLS allows users with various classification levels to share the same communication architecture and even the same sensors. The difference lies in what each user is able to access in each situation. Since the mid-1980s, the civilian and military communities have conducted R&D in MLS technology. However, the state of technology does not currently allow ideal MLS use. It is reasonable to expect a perfected system by 2025.54
In large measures, the commercial and military communities already have established necessary communications infrastructure with the National Information Infrastructure (NII) and the Military Information Infrastructure (MII). Both NII and MII are structured to move information in the most expeditious manner, taking advantage of the best of commercial and military communications links. "The MII must able to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, whether induced by the military or by the commercial world. . . It becomes more important to learn to use existing and emerging capabilities in the domain of military applications than it is to develop the capabilities themselves."55 Thus, the groundwork is already laid for expansion and evolution.
Nevertheless, to fully achieve the 2025 Cyber Situation, a global infrastructure must provide the user a desired view anywhere on earth. Therefore, the 2025 information infrastructure must incorporate both NII and MII-leading to a Global Information Infrastructure (GII).56
Effective communications architectures must be robust to accommodate the considerable bandwidth requirements and to harness the full capability of military and civilian communications advances. This leads to the next topic, computer power.
If communications is the track on which the OODA Loop runs, powerful computers is the engines pulling the train. Computers will play a key role in any decision support system to integrate the collected data and present it for orientation and decision making.
Powerful computers with massive storage capacity will be essential in the Cyber Situation. Fortunately, the rapid increases in processing speed and storage, combined with decreased size and energy consumption, will likely continue unabated.57
While silicon circuit technology remains viable for the near future, eventually the number of circuits that can be etched will reach a limit.58 However, researchers are pursuing alternative technologies that should result in even more amazing improvements. They include such exotic concepts as quantum dots and nanomechanical gates.59
Biological computing is another promising field which might yield a potential thousandfold computational improvement for one ten-millionth the energy.60 The concept includes using genetic material from insects to self-assemble into computing elements. House flies and grasshoppers have pattern-recognition abilities which could be applied directly for military and commercial purposes, including cryptography and navigational computation. Initial payoffs to molecular biology computing research may occur in five to 10 years, especially for sensor applications.61
Increased speed requires improved data storage media. Again, research shows promise. Holographic memory may allow storage of 64 billion bits on a crystal the size of a compact disk. Activated by a small laser, a single "disk" could contain over 600 hours of music or 30 million pages of double-spaced, typewritten text.62 Since the data is contained in the laser, it makes it easy to transmit in optical cable as well.63
Clearly, by 2025 nearly infinite computations with unlimited storage will be available on tiny machines. It should come with negligible military investment although the New World Vistas (NWV) Information Technology Panel warns that defense should continue to fund basic research to keep the "pump primed," else risk less innovation as private research focuses on highly directed problems.64 However, the challenges of storage capacity and capability are not the only areas where researchers are trying to stretch the limits. More importantly are increasing the cognitive abilities of the software running on these powerful machines.
The most important technology area is the continued advancement of intelligent software. The previous technologies explained how vast quantities of information will be readily available to the war fighter. Without some assistance in managing the load, the commander will suffer from information overload.
Intelligent software is broadly defined as the component programs and algorithms executing on various computer systems. While primarily related to the human's use of the program, it also may operate independently of the user. For example, the collection systems will be able to recognize and identify features, identify information gaps and task a sensor to "fill in the gap," fuse multiple data sources to present an integrated picture, and prompt a user of significant events, all without human assistance. Other software agents will respond to human taskings or augment humans in decision processes.65 Attributes include the ability to organize and interpret information, simulate and model potential actions, weigh alternatives, and recommend courses of action.
The following paradigm applies for all intelligent systems (biological or computational). This paradigm helps identify and measure the broad intelligent software tools needed for the Cyber Situation.
All intelligent systems continuously engage in five activities:
Note the elements of Boyd's OODA Loop in this concept. Many of today's experts envision technological advances will occur in all activities to assist the decision maker. Indeed, the Cyber Situation assumes double-leap improvements in the ability to observe, act, and communicate. The concept focuses on the interpretation and planning activities and how to make the best use of information to plan and execute a military operation.
Intelligent software can be broken down into four broad core technologies:67
Image understanding (IU) seeks to develop mechanisms to create a "description" of the world from sensor images, suitable for particular purposes. The challenge is identification "despite object occlusion, shadows, reflections, and other disturbances."68 Applying contextual information may be one mechanism to improve the IU process.
IU is a key technology because the Cyber Situation must generate and communicate situational awareness to the user. Within five years, the DOD's Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) expects "to carry out applications-directed research on machine vision, provide a suitable IU software environment, and further develop IU capabilities for specific applications." The long-term goal is to "develop computational theories and techniques for use in artificial vision systems whose performance matches or exceeds that of humans, exploiting sensing throughout the breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum, in all environments."69 Commercial applications include industrial part recognition, visual inspection systems, and indoor robot navigation. However, because of the predominance of military applications, this is a technology requiring DOD investment.
Intelligent integration of information (I3) is the technology to "intelligently process, compile, and abstract useful knowledge from multiple data sources with different interfaces, query languages, data structures, terminology, and semantics."70 This ability has applications throughout the Cyber Situation. I3 is needed to provide the fused, deconflicted view of the battlespace.
Many valuable applications have been developed. An example is the Air Campaign Planning Tool where planners can now locate high-priority targets in a fraction of the time previously required.71 However, much work remains to achieve large-scale applications which abstract data from the entire GII. Although commercial applications will push the technology (resulting, for example, in personal assistant agents sorting increasing amounts of daily electronic mail),72 the military must invest to obtain the ability to index and then retrieve images based on military semantics.73
Planning and decision aids (PDA) tools develop representation and reasoning techniques to generate and analyze plans and schedules. These tools are necessary to help the user (or users) make correct and timely decisions, thus deconflicting information overload. The tools will "reduce problem solving time by orders of magnitude while at the same time increasing the number of options considered by orders of magnitude."74
The concept of PDAs is well understood, as it is simply an implementation of such decision theories as linear programming and quantitative analysis. What is new is the ability to employ these techniques on a high-speed computer. Many techniques already exist, both in private and military use. One example is the Dynamic Analysis and Replanning Tool which was used in Desert Storm.75 Commercial applications, both executive and group support systems, also are being adapted for military use. The military must focus on ensuring more than one user can use them simultaneously and that the tools capture the planning rationale.76
Human computer interaction (HCI) will "develop techniques and environments to provide informative, intuitive, and taskable access and control over complex software."77 This environment is another key area for the Cyber Situation--being able to "interact in a natural fashion with speech, gesture, and other advanced interaction techniques." Eventually, it should include brain activated control. A goal is for many users able to interact over computer networks.
Initially, human language system advances will be where the most significant work is done. However, the NWV Information Technology Panel suggest handwriting recognition will become prevalent as well as speech recognition capabilities within 10 years. While the currently dominant keyboard-display-mouse configuration will remain, newer generations of users will become more comfortable with more natural interfaces. By 2025 technology will have matured such that handheld, portable "personal assistants" will be available. Additionally, virtual and augmented reality systems and telepresence models also will be in use. Telepresence models allow a human access to otherwise inaccessible locations. Applications include microsurgery, space system repair, and microelectronic machine assembly.78
The NWV Human Systems and Biotechnology Panel describes neuroscience as a promising research area. As science improves our understanding of the brain and how it functions, it makes it possible to direct equipment to respond to our thoughts, without any verbal or written command. Already, preliminary research using an 128-sensor array electroencephalograph (EEG) pressed against a subject's skull can "influence information content and display designs on a computer screen.79 This concept is discussed further in the next section. Commercial and medical organizations will take the lead in developing this technology. Neuroscience developments will continue.
The human-computer systems integration is a vital lead-in to the final technology area. Human systems and biotechnology offers the potential to create a seamless flow of information between human and computer. By exploiting the human cognitive process, it can be tailor information to present precisely what is needed.
This section is divided into two parts. The first is understanding information flowing to and from the brain. The second is how to present that data using visual-imaging techniques. Mastering these technologies will allow users to select information for direct input into their brains. However, regardless of how advanced a decision system becomes, a human will be in the loop. The best technology can only help, but in the end, the person, not the machine, ultimately makes the decision.
Thirty years ago little was known about the brain. Great advances have been made in the last 10 years, and much has been learned about information flow out of the brain and the way it interacts with the neural network.80 Understanding how information enters the brain and how it is processed will form the foundation for the ultimate in human-computer interface. "Success in transducing and translating brain waves allows people to interface with specific systems, perhaps sensed through transducers in a headband or another such brain-machine connection."81
Two research areas are critical to the human computer interface. The first of these is, charting and understanding information flow out of the brain. The second, and more applicable, is information flow into the brain. Understanding of human systems such will enable more rapid processing of data and more efficient use of the provided information.
Charting information out of the brain is a complex effort. However, much work has been done in this area.82 Mechanical methods have been fielded to emulate, and in some case replicate, these complex processes.83 Intelligent materials, including fiber-optics and piezioelectric materials, are two techniques under development to try to replace damaged or destroyed neuron-actuation sensor networks in humans.84
In principle, data flowing out of the brain is in the form of electronic impulses which actuate the neurostructure within humans.85 Recent research has charted the source of some basic impulses within the brain, identified precisely what neuron network is actuated by electric impulses, and determined what action is completed by the network.86
Charting information flow into the brain and how the brain processes
it once inside is even more difficult. This effort requires understanding
how the brain formats the data to make decisions. Each human's information
process is unique, based on such factors as experiences, learning, intelligence,
and personal biases.87 Science
is attempting to understand the commonalities between humans.88
Some work has been done to chart the essentials of human information
processing fig. 3-2.89
Figure 3-2. Human Information Processing Flow90
Computers can play a significant role in nearly every area of human-information processing. Their potential lies in organizing information to assist human decision making. They can produce more options than a human brain can recall.91 In fact, computers have become the preferred medium for information storage and recall.92
However, a gap still exists in the information flow between humans and computers. Information is processed by a human looking at a screen, reading the data, and translating it into something useful through internal thought. "We talk longingly about human-computer interactions and conversational systems, and yet we are fully prepared to leave one participant in this dialogue totally in the dark. It is time to make computers see and hear."93 Users should "converse" with computers. Intelligent systems outlined above provide only part of the answer to improve human-computer interaction. The missing piece is a better way to format and transmit information from the digital computer processor in the computer chip to the analog human processor in the human brain.
Instead of formatting a cathode ray tube (CRT) to more easily access and display data, a computer can be designed and programmed to bypass the CRT and format information which can be immediately processed by the brain. The logical extension would be to place the human computer interface directly in the brain. Some significant progress already has been made in this area by the Stanford University research center and their development of a nerve chip.
It is an electronic interface for individual nerve cells to communicate with a computer. This human-machine linkage will. . . enhance human capability in many ways. If artificial eyes can convert video to nerve signals, won't it be possible to use the same technique to superimpose computer-generated information in front of one's field of view?94
This capability will have extraordinary commercial applications from medical advances. These advances will help restore patients with damaged neural, audio, and visual systems as well as enable individuals to achieve the "ultimate virtual reality trip."95
This second broad category encompasses a realm of the cyberspace essential to the concept. Developing technologies are based around the idea of virtual projection systems that evolve into holographic image projection. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications Virtual Reality Laboratory "is a research facility engaged in the exploration of new methods of visualizing an interfacing with scientific data and simulations."96 To further their objectives, they have created the CAVE a "surround-screen surround-sound, projection-based virtual reality system."97 Multiple participants can enter the CAVE and interact by wearing stereo glasses rather than a helmet. "The CAVE can be coupled to remote data sources, super computers and scientific instruments via high-speed networks."98 The NWV Information Technology Panel considers significant virtual reality advancements in the next 10 to 20 years. However, the display mechanism will primarily involve a helmet.
Commercial applications are easy to envision, witness the growing entertainment market for virtual reality games. This appears to be the next step from video teleconferencing. Another useful application will be for training systems-especially simulations.99 This has wide commercial applications, especially as future systems will require such high-knowledge levels to use them as transportation and manufacturing.
A more specific military application of this type of technology is the DOD simulation network (SimNet). This capability allows a simulator to emulate a battlefield precisely. Trainees sit in their own aircraft or tank simulator and are able to "view" the battlefield from their own perspective. "Army tankers in trainers in Fort Knox can look out of their sites and see the same location-only from each of their individual perspectives. Air Force pilots in California can 'fly' missions . . . at the same time."100
A combination of brain processes and visual imaging already has been developed in the laboratory. The California Institute of Technology has developed an energy efficient computer chip which emulates the analog thinking of the human brain. It is specifically modeled on the construction of the human brain, specifically the cerebral cortex.101 When this capability is fully mature, this chip could provide the baseline for a brain implant hooked to the all the sensory segments of the brain, not just the eye.
Figure 3-3. Development Lines for System Elements
Collection. Collection capability will be complete when there is no want of information. The various constellations of permanent satellites complimented by the mini satellites will provide coverage of the entire world in every spectrum. Collection development should continue to grow until about 2015, when the complete link between the small satellites and the permanent constellations should be seamless, and the small satellite development will be commensurate with the requirements.102
Communications. Communications capacity will peak when the entire globe is accessible at all times and there is absolutely no restriction on the size or type of transmission available to the customer. The web of commercial, government, and military networks will be seamless, and only the speed of light will delay information movement. There is much effort underway, both in the commercial and military sector, to achieve this connectivity. Development of new systems and new capabilities should reach this goal by 2010.103
Computing power. Computing power will continue to grow in capacity, doubling every 18 months for the near term.104 As noted, analysts have frequently thought the silicon chip had reached its maximum capacity, then discovered through increased micronization that more capacity could be obtained. However, most analysts believe that the silicon chip will hit its peak between 2015 and 2020.105 If true, R&D efforts will continue to search for other media to store and process data.
Intelligent Software. Intelligent software is increasing in its availability but has yet to fully meet the requirements of the Cyber Situation. More effort is required to allow full capability of intelligent systems and bring that technology to bear on an advanced decision tool. Current intelligent software development is not well articulated, and the specific capability of the software is left to systems designers and engineers meeting the demands of a specific program.106 Thus, much of the development of intelligent systems is linear and relates only to the requirements of a specific program. Such a design is not conducive to interaction and broader application.
Human Systems and Biotechnology. This area requires the most work to achieve the Cyber Situation. Work is expected to continue at a modest pace until a breakthrough in the this technology is achieved.107 Like many advanced research areas, work here will require one big leap over a single chasm. In this case, the chasm is understanding the way information is formatted in the brain and how it is used. Once this chasm is achieved, progress in human computer interaction will grow exponentially and quickly catch up with the other technology areas.
By 2025 the five technology areas will be effectively linked to develop the Cyber Situation to enable commanders to achieve information dominance. The next chapter will describe the Cyber Situation system, its components, and how it meets the attributes of the OODA Loop tasks.
Contact: Air Force 2025
Last updated: 11 December 1996