Defending U.S. Forces Against Enemy Drones

Enemy use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is a growing threat to U.S. forces because of their low cost, versatility, and ease of use, according to a recent U.S. Army doctrinal publication.

“The UAS is the most challenging and prevalent threat platform to combined arms forces and therefore, a logical choice for enemy use.”

See Techniques for Combined Arms for Air Defense, Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 3-01.8, July 29, 2016.

As is the case with U.S.-operated drones, enemy UAS can be used to perform a range of functions from battlefield surveillance and targeting to precision strike, the Army document said. “The enemy will use UAS to fulfill multiple attack roles.”

The drone may deliver a weapon or be used as a weapon itself. “As an indirect attack platform, the UAS has the ability to carry the improvised explosive device or become the improvised explosive device.”

“Perhaps the most dangerous COA [course of action]… is the Swarm” in which “clusters of UAS” are used by an adversary simultaneously for surveillance, indirect attack and direct attack.

What to do about this? The answer is not fully articulated in the Army manual.

“Proper planning by leaders will ensure that units employ adequate force protection measures to counter the UAS threat. Units must develop tactics, techniques and procedures to counter this threat in their respective areas of operation.”

Simply destroying the enemy drone is not necessarily the right move, the manual said.

“Defeat does not equate [to] kinetic means; however, it is an option. Other defeat solutions could be limiting a surveillance threat from gaining information or following the air path of the UAS to the operator.”

Islamic State forces have used drones bearing explosive devices, the New York Times reported this month. See “Pentagon Confronts a New Threat From ISIS: Exploding Drones” by Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, October 11.

Just last week, the U.S. Air Force detected and destroyed a drone “in the vicinity” of U.S. forces, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said yesterday. See “Air Force: Small, weaponized drones a growing combat problem” by Jacqueline Klimas, Washington Examiner, October 24.

Interdiction and Deep Operations

Military doctrine has been defined as “fundamental principles that guide the employment of U.S. military forces in coordinated action toward a common objective.” Some of those fundamental principles are elaborated in two U.S. military documents that were made public this month.

A newly revised Pentagon publication addresses Joint Interdiction (Joint Publication 3-03, Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 9, 2016).

Interdiction here refers not simply to interception (as in the case of aircraft interdiction). Rather, it encompasses a broad range of military actions taken “to divert, disrupt, delay, or destroy the enemy’s military surface capability before it can be used effectively against friendly forces, or to achieve enemy objectives.”

“The purpose of interdiction operations is to prevent adversaries from employing surface-based weaponry and reinforcing units at a time and place of their choosing.” The new Pentagon publication explores the planning, execution and assessment of interdiction actions.

It notes along the way that “Cyberspace forces can employ offensive cyberspace operations capabilities to divert, disrupt, delay, or destroy enemy capabilities in support of interdiction operations.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has issued new doctrine on what it calls, somewhat mysteriously, Deep Operations (ATP 3-94.2, September 2016).

“Deep operations extend operations in time, space, and purpose. . . . They involve efforts to prevent or limit uncommitted enemy forces from being employed in a coherent manner. Deep operations involving air and ground maneuver forces in the deep area may be high risk activities. Commanders should carefully consider and balance the potential benefits with the risks associated with deep operations.”

On closer inspection, it turns out that the two new doctrinal publications are related, and that the Army’s “deep operations” overlap with the Joint Chiefs’ concept of “interdiction.”

Thus, the Army document says at one point that “The joint community refers to deep operations which are not in close proximity to friendly ground forces as interdiction.”

The importance of national security terminology in facilitating common understanding — or generating needless confusion — is an underlying theme of a new book which also serves as a lexicon of current terms. See Intelligence and Information Policy for National Security: Key Terms and Concepts by Jan Goldman and Susan Maret (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

How Big Should the Army Be?

In its version of the pending defense authorization bill, the House of Representatives said that the U.S. Army should consist of 480,000 soldiers at the end of FY2017. That would be an increase of 5,000 over the current year level of 475,000.

But the Senate said that 460,000 soldiers would be sufficient, a decrease of 15,000.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense itself is proposing to reduce Army “end strength” down to 450,000 soldiers by the end of FY 2018.

So how big should the Army be?

The answer is– it depends. What it depends on is, among other things, what the Army is for in the first place, what resources are available, what competing priorities need attention, and what changes in the threat environment can be foreseen.

These issues are illuminated in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. Instead of proposing its own answer to the question, the CRS report examines the premises underlying the diverse positions on the subject, helping to explain how different people could arrive at different conclusions. It is unclear that congressional leaders have any appetite for this kind of analysis, but others who are not already ideologically committed to a position might benefit from it.

“For many observers, questions regarding the appropriate end strength of the Army are related to the changing international security landscape, and the perception that those changes are resulting in heightened threats to the United States and its interests abroad. For others, the cost of increasing the size of the Army is the predominant factor,” the report said.

In any case, “Although the international security environment is arguably becoming more challenging and complex, the role of ground forces–relative to other services–in helping the nation meet those challenges is somewhat unclear.”

One threshold question, therefore, is: “What are the tasks that the Army, specifically, needs to accomplish for the nation?” See How Big Should the Army Be? Considerations for Congress, September 2, 2016.

Some related official resources include the following.

Report of the National Commission on the Future of the Army, report to the President and the Congress of the United States, January 28, 2016

Notification to Congress on the Permanent Reduction of Sizable Numbers of Members of the Armed Forces, US Army report to Congress (via FOIA), July 2015

Force Structure and Force Design Updates, Army G3/5/7 briefing (FOUO), August 2015

Stability [on joint stability operations], Joint Publication 3-07, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 3, 2016

Autonomous Military Technology at a “Tipping Point”

Autonomous military technologies that are capable of independently selecting a course of action to achieve a goal are maturing rapidly, the Defense Science Board said in a newly published study.

“Autonomy, fueled by advances in artificial intelligence, has attained a ‘tipping point’ in value,” the DSB study said.

“Autonomy will deliver substantial operational value–in multiple dimensions–across an increasingly broad spectrum of DoD missions, but the DoD must move more rapidly to realize this value. Allies and adversaries alike also have access to increasingly rapid technological advances occurring globally,” the study said.

The Board recommended that the Department of Defense undertake a series of pilot projects “intended to demonstrate the range of benefits of autonomy for the warfighter.”

The Board did not consider catastrophic failures modes associated with autonomous technologies in any depth.

But the study did say that “an autonomous system must be designed so that humans (and/or machines) can straightforwardly determine whether, once it has been deployed, it is operating reliably and within its envelope of competence — and, if not, that appropriate action can be taken.”

See Summer Study on Autonomy, Defense Science Board, June 2016.

Knowing the Enemy: DoD Identity Activities

The Department of Defense is devoting increased attention to what it calls “identity activities,” which seek to identify individuals who may pose a threat on or off the battlefield.

“Identity activities are a collection of functions and actions that appropriately recognize and differentiate one person or persona from another person or persona to support decision making,” according to a new DoD publication on the subject.

“Establishing and characterizing the identity of persons of interest, known adversaries, and other relevant actors across time and space is an operational imperative that improves a commander’s full understanding of the OE [operational environment].” See Identity Activities, Joint Doctrine Note 2-16, August 3, 2016, Unclassified.

The growing need to identify individual adversaries corresponds to the rise of anonymous, dispersed and concealed threats, DoD said. “Global disorder is increasing while the comparative US military advantage has begun to erode.”

“Because VEOs [violent extremist organizations] and TCOs [transnational criminal organizations] prefer to conduct operations by, with and through the populace, while maintaining a level of anonymity by blending in, employment of identity activities to separate adversaries from civilians and assist in positively identifying threat actors and their networks increases in significance.”

Paradoxically, identity is not a constant. “Identity is not static…. [It] is the culmination of multiple aspects of an entity’s characteristics, attributes, activities, reputation, knowledge, and judgments — all of which are constantly evolving.”

Accordingly, collection of a range of identity-related data is desired, including biographical, biological, behavioral, and reputational information.

“The breadth of identity information, if analyzed and navigated expertly, can be used confidently to make positive identifications across time and space, identify and assess patterns and anomalies, and better anticipate the capability and intent of actors of interest,” the DoD document said.

Once acquired, such data is retained for future reference.

“While some identity information (e.g., attributes contained on an identity credential) can be used immediately at the point of collection, most collected data and materials are sent to authoritative data repositories or local, regional, or reachback facilities or laboratories for appropriate processing and exploitation.”

The potential for misuse of this data was not explicitly addressed, but identity activities are likely to encounter legal and policy barriers, DoD acknowledged.

These barriers include US statutory limitations on the collection of information regarding US persons, as well as foreign laws affecting DoD operations abroad. “HN [host nation] law governing an individual’s right to privacy could significantly affect how and what identity activities can be employed during a military operation; limiting certain uses, requiring specific handling conditions for identity information, and/or restricting the means of collection.”

“Identity activities” is a new term in the DoD lexicon, and it does not appear in the latest (February 2016) edition of the official DoD dictionary (although “identity intelligence,” one of its components, is listed).

The rise of identity activities is presented as a DoD response to the changing security threat environment.

“As conflicts continue to become more irregular and asymmetric in nature, the need to identify, deter, deny, and degrade an adversary’s mobility, anonymity, and access to the populace and enabling resources increases in significance,” the DoD document said.

Defense Support of Civil Authorities: Overview

The conditions under which U.S. military capabilities can be brought to bear in domestic civilian affairs are explained in a new threevolume manual published last week by the Department of Defense.

As a rule, DoD intervention comes “in response to a request for assistance from civil authorities for domestic emergencies, law enforcement agency support, and other domestic activities. The most visible support is provided during major natural and man-made disasters and other incidents.”

Except in cases of imminent loss of life or similar extremes, requests for military assistance are supposed to undergo a threshold review to establish their legality.

“A key factor in determining whether DoD should provide support of non-DoD entities is identifying the authority that directs or allows the support. U.S. law, Presidential Executive Orders and directives, federal regulations, and DoD policies provide the framework and authorities for DoD to provide support of non-DoD entities…. Responsibilities also may be reflected in memorandums of agreement (MOAs).”

The new DoD manual details the elements of that legal and regulatory framework. It identifies the six standing Execute Orders (EXORDs) that authorize DoD support to civilian authorities, the relevant presidential directives, and the array of other instructions, regulations, statutes and directives that constrain or empower the U.S. military in domestic civilian matters.

The manual addresses DoD rules for the use of force (RUF), and describes a wide range of potential DoD missions in the civilian arena, including: search and rescue, explosive ordnance disposal, response to chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incidents, pandemics, acts of terrorism, mass migration emergencies, and civil disturbances, as well as support to National Special Security Events and to national and international sporting events, among other missions.

See DoD Manual 3025.01, Volume 1Defense Support of Civil Authorities: Overview, August 11, 2016

DoD Manual 3025.01, Volume 2Defense Support of Civil Authorities: Incident Response, August 11, 2016

DoD Manual 3025.01, Volume 3Defense Support of Civil Authorities: Pre-Planned DoD Support of Law Enforcement Agencies, Special Events, Community Engagement, and Other Non-DoD Entities, August 11, 2016

Red Teams Needed to Critique Military Operations

U.S. military commanders would do well to make use of “red teams” composed of independent experts to evaluate and critique U.S. military operations as they are being planned, according to a new publication from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Red teams can “help commanders and staffs think critically and creatively; challenge assumptions; mitigate groupthink; reduce risks by serving as a check against complacency and surprise; and increase opportunities by helping the staff see situations, problems, and potential solutions from alternative perspectives.” See Command Red Team, Joint Doctrine Note 1-16, 16 May 2016.

This may seem like a common sense approach, and it’s not hard to think of current or past military operations that would have benefited from “alternative perspectives.” But deliberately soliciting a critical evaluation of one’s own efforts is not very common at all, inside or outside of military organizations.

A prerequisite to a successful red team effort is the independence of the red team from the primary planners and from the intelligence staff, said the non-binding Joint Doctrine Note.

“Red teams should be organizationally, physically, and intellectually separate from the intelligence function in order to ensure that products are not shaped by the same institutional factors that influence the output of the intelligence analysts. Even when the red team and the intelligence staff examine the same problem set, their products should be reviewed and approved through different product approval chains,” the Note said.

The theory and practice of red teams were explored last year in the book Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy by Micah Zenko.

Other noteworthy new military doctrinal publications include:

Implementation of, and Compliance with, the Treaty on Open Skies, Air Force Instruction 16-604, updated 31 May 2016

Implementation of, and Compliance with, the New START Treaty, Air Force Instruction 16-608, updated 31 May 2016

DoD Biometric Collection, and More Military Doctrine

Department of Defense procedures for collecting biometric data are presented in a newly updated manual, which also provides some insight into the military and intelligence applications of such data.

“Biometrics are the measurable physical and behavioral characteristics that can establish and verify an individual’s identity,” the manual explains.

“Operators currently collect facial images, fingerprints, iris images, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) samples, palm prints, voice samples and associated contextual data (i.e. elements of biographic data and situational information) from individuals encountered during operations.”

The data are stored in multiple databases, including the Biometric Identity Intelligence Resource, or BI2R. That system “is designed to provide the DOD, intelligence community, and coalition communities with authoritative, high-pedigree, biometrically base-lined identities, and advanced tools and technologies necessary to analyze, collaborate, produce, disseminate, and share biometric identity intelligence.”

See Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Tactical Employment of Biometrics in Support of Operations, ATP 2-22.85, May 2016.

The challenges of mountain warfare are explored in another newly updated doctrinal manual. Mountainous terrain and cold weather can “negate U.S. technological advantages in information collection and firepower.” And 16 of 20 “states of interest” identified as potential areas of instability have regions with elevations greater than 8,000 feet. A chapter of the manual discusses the “specific effects of mountainous environments on intelligence operations.”  See Mountain Warfare and Cold Weather Operations, ATP 3-90.97, U.S. Army, April 2016.

Intelligence support for space operations is addressed in a new U.S. Air Force publication. “Intelligence roles within the space domain encompass multiple mission areas with varied and unique mission needs,” including defensive and offensive space control. See Space Unit Intelligence Procedures, Air Force Instruction 14-2SPACE, May 12, 2016.

“Offensive space control” means “the negation of adversary space capabilities through deception, disruption, denial, degradation, or destruction.” The most expansive official discussion of the subject may be this 2012 Air Force document (which is part of an Air Force annex to JP 3-14 on Space Operations).

HASC Favors Classified National Military Strategy

The forthcoming National Military Strategy, unlike previous versions of the Strategy, should be a classified document, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) said in its markup of the FY2017 defense authorization bill.

Paradoxically, the Committee said that classifying the Strategy would enable increased disclosure of information– to the Committee, not to the public.

“The committee understands the importance of the Department publicly communicating its defense strategy to the American people, Congress, other U.S. Government agencies, and international partners and allies. However, the committee also recognizes that the classified assumptions and analysis underpinning the strategy, as well as the subsequent programming, budgeting, and contingency planning guidance that implement the strategy, are also important oversight tools for the committee and help to frame the annual budget request.” (Section 904)

“The committee believes that the NMS [National Military Strategy] should be re-focused to provide a strategic framework for the development of operational and contingency plans by the combatant commands, and to provide joint force and joint capability development guidance to guide resource investments by the military services.” (Section 905)

“To provide such guidance, the committee believes that the NMS should be a classified document,” the Committee markup said.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, recently stated that the next National Military Strategy will in fact be classified, as the House Armed Services Committee desires.

The House Committee did not adopt a DoD proposal for a new exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for certain military tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as rules of engagement, that are unclassified but considered sensitive. The proposed FOIA exemption was excluded from the pending bill without comment.

Recent DoD policy and doctrinal publications of interest to some include the following.

Management of DoD Irregular Warfare (IW) and Security Force Assistance (SFA) Capabilities, DoD Instruction 3000.11, May 3, 2016

DoD Nuclear Weapons Personnel Reliability Assurance, DoD Instruction 5210.42, April 27, 2016

DoD Identity Matching Engine for Security and Analysis (IMESA) Access to Criminal Justice Information (CJI) and Terrorist Screening Databases (TSDB), DoD Instruction 5525.19, May 4, 2016

Department of the Army Polygraph Activities, Army Regulation 195-6, April 21, 2016

Questions for the Record: Arctic Camouflage

The camouflage netting used by the U.S. Army in the Arctic region is obsolete and ineffective, Army officials told Congress in response to a question for the record in a newly published hearing volume.

“The existing Arctic camouflage system has not been upgraded since its inception in the mid-1970s. The Army’s current camouflage system, the Ultra-Lightweight Camouflage Net System (ULCANS) was developed in the late 1990s and only included Woodland and Desert patterns. Due to improvements in technology, these variants are now ineffective against current and emerging advanced sensor threats and are in need of updates,” the officials said.

“The next-generation ULCANS capabilities add three new variants (Arctic, Urban, and Aviation) and upgrade the existing systems (Woodland and Desert). The next-generation ULCANS will provide concealment from visual, near infrared, short-wave infrared through long-wave infrared, ultraviolet, radar, and multi-spectral/hyper-spectral detection.”

“Ultimately,” but not yet, “these systems will provide U.S. forces detection avoidance and sensor defeat capabilities as a low-cost force multiplier,” they said in response to the question submitted by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK). See FY2016 Defense Authorization: Airland, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 19, 2015 (published April 2016), at page 95.

Questions for the record (QFRs) constitute a valuable though unpredictable and often neglected genre. At their best, they serve to elicit new information in response to focused, sometimes unwelcome questions. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees are now among the most interesting practitioners of the form. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing volumes used to be a must-read for their QFRs alone, but that Committee ceased publishing them over a decade ago.