The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) requested that the National Research Council (NRC) establish the Committee on Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Forecasts and Reviews to conduct meetings with the intelligence community (IC) in order to develop study topics relating to technology warning (see Box ES-1 for the overall statement of task for this effort).
The committee was asked to produce a report, based on its discussions with the intelligence community, that discusses capabilities upon which U.S. warfighters are dependent and to identify the potential for adversaries to threaten those capabilities through the exploitation of evolving technologies (see Box ES-2 for the report statement of task).
It is the intent of both the DIA Technology Warning Division as sponsor and the National Research Council that this first report, which is limited in scope, will establish the foundation for a long-term collaborative relationship to support the examination of technology warning issues. It is expected that such examination will be useful not only for the DIA but also for other members of the intelligence community who might need such analyses. It is intended that the current ad hoc committee be disbanded subsequent to the publication of this report and that a standing committee be formed to work with the IC to keep abreast of issues relating to technology warning and to develop specific statements of task for independent ad hoc committees of the NRC to perform.
SCOPE AND ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
U.S. military strength is built on a foundation of technological superiority that grew from a position of global leadership in relevant technologies and innovative capabilities. That leadership position is no longer assured. The synergistic forces of globalization and commercialization of science and technology are providing current and future adversaries with access to advanced technologies as well as the expertise needed to exploit those technologies.
The ability of the U.S. intelligence apparatus to warn of evolving technologies that, in the hands of adversaries, may threaten U.S. military preeminence is vital to the ability of the nation’s leadership to make good decisions. The genesis of this report was the recognition by the DIA Technology Warning
The National Research Council (NRC) will:
For the first report, the National Research Council Committee on Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Forecasts and Reviews will:
Division, which sponsored the study, of the need to tap into new sources of information and expertise that exist in the nongovernmental scientific and technical communities.
Various lists exist that identify high-impact technologies projected to advance rapidly in the coming years. Virtually every such list contains some permutation of information technologies, biotechnologies, and nanotechnologies. From those lists it is relatively easy to identify a number of evolving technologies likely to impact national security. It is more difficult to identify those specific technologies that are potential “game-changers” in the hands of enemies of the United States, and even harder to envision potential innovations that may derive from the integration of multidisciplinary technologies to yield disruptive capabilities. These are the tasks levied on the technology warning community.
Owing to the study’s time constraints, the technologies selected for inclusion in this report represent a sampling derived from the collective experience of committee members rather than from a comprehensive survey. The committee made no effort to rationalize its selection from among the broad array of evolving technologies of potential interest.
Therefore, rather than creating yet another list of potentially important technologies for the technology warning community to track, the committee chose to establish a framework that would enable ongoing identification, assessment, and prioritization of emerging technologies in terms of their potential impact on U.S. military capabilities. It is hoped that the methodology presented as a prototype in this report will provide the foundation for the ongoing collaborative relationship envisioned by the DIA Technology Warning Division.
Chapter 1 describes the challenges confronting the technology warning community, focusing on the impact of globalization and commercialization of the technology marketplace.
Chapter 2 outlines the methodology proposed by the committee. This methodology is “tested” in subsequent chapters. To provide focus, the committee’s approach was anchored by the following question: What capabilities does the United States have that, if threatened, impact U.S. military preeminence? Subsequent steps in the methodology identify and assess emerging technologies and/or integrated capabilities that, in the hands of U.S. adversaries, could be used to defeat that U.S. military capability. The basic methodology is summarized Box ES-3.
Chapters 3 through 6 describe high-level U.S. military capabilities and potential threats to those capabilities. The focus of Chapter 3 is information superiority, which is identified in Joint Vision 2020 as a vital enabling capability (JCS, 2000). In Chapter 3, the committee identifies a number of generic vulnerabilities of information-technology-enabled systems and applications (including, in principle, those that might be used by BLUE (denoting U.S. military) forces to endeavor to maintain information superiority). These generic vulnerabilities could be attacked via evolving technologies and methodologies that, in most cases, are increasingly available to U.S. adversaries in the form of low-cost, commercial commodity products.
The committee focused specifically on potential pathways for disruption, denial, or degradation of communications and sensing capabilities. It considered system and/or network attacks as well as sensor attacks. The committee also identified, for each technology identified, potential observables that the technology warning community could use to analyze the intentions and/or capabilities of U.S. adversaries to employ these technologies and methodologies. Additional background information relating to Chapter 3 is provided in Appendix D.
Chapter 4 discusses air superiority, which underpins several of the Joint Vision 2020 operational concepts, with a focus on potential challenges in urban warfare. Future threats to U.S. airpower in urban warfare owe much to two factors—the trend toward globalization in aerospace and electronics, coupled with what has been observed to be the best way to defeat U.S. airpower: that is, not necessarily the head-to-head, platform-to-platform approach of the Cold War, but rather the exploitation of asymmetries.
One pillar of U.S. airpower in the past has been the capabilities of its major platforms. These sophisticated platforms now require investments of tens of billions of dollars spread over decades—investment levels that few foes can match. However, the life of the advanced technology in these platforms can now be less than the development cycle. Small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer a counter to large platforms; although they are much less capable than large platforms at the moment, they can have much shorter and less costly development cycles. These factors contribute to the proliferation of such vehicles around the world, especially at the smaller sizes (Munson, 1996).
The committee describes a variety of technologies that may enable adversaries to diminish the advantage currently held by U.S. airpower. The technologies are described in terms of the system characteristics that they would provide. The characteristics considered include increased range and/or reduced signature; enhanced guidance, navigation, and/or targeting; enhanced lethality; and other techniques that directly counter U.S. capabilities.
Chapter 5 discusses challenges relating to the needed ability to discriminate between friends, foes, and neutrals, as well as among various targets—key capabilities for precision engagement—and again
focuses on the urban warfare environment. The committee addresses new technology developments that might assist enemy combatants by allowing their identity and that of innocent noncombatants to be intermixed. Appropriate “spoofing” or other types of misidentification could cause the warfighter to engage a group of noncombatants, thus causing political and/or psychological damage to U.S. forces.
The committee notes that U.S. leadership can no longer be assumed for a number of the technologies discussed in Chapter 5. Japan, for example, is extremely strong in many areas of nanotechnology and in optical and electronic devices. China is, in many cases (such as photonics), the country with the best combination of high-technology manufacturing and design, and its expertise is increasingly employed by many high-technology U.S. firms. Europe has excellent research capabilities in the areas of semiconductor materials and devices; these can be and have been translated into start-up corporations.
As a result of this shift to offshore commercial vendors, important indicators of technological developments are likely to appear in open source literature, including commercial Internet sites, and at industrial fairs, particularly in Asia and Europe. Monitoring of key corporations is important. However, in many cases small or obscure start-ups are also of vital importance (suggesting that the tracking of venture capital may offer yet another set of relevant observables). In certain cases, the observation of critical manufacturing items (raw materials and/or equipment) may be useful.
Chapter 6 describes a number of prospective capabilities related to biotechnology and focuses on potential challenges to battle readiness and communications superiority. Biotechnological capabilities are rapidly expanding and becoming more and more readily available to scientists throughout the world. Emerging biotechnologies that may enable functional brain imaging, covert communications, the spread of disabling infections, and sensor spoofing are likely to affect the conduct of military operations and the status of national security in the future, as highlighted in Chapter 6.
The neuroimaging techniques of electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and near-infrared spectroscopic imaging (NIRS) provide direct measurement of brain function. The technology underlying these modalities is advancing rapidly and will allow a multitude of measurements. This technology may in the future provide a better understanding of behavior, performance, readiness, and stress that is relevant to troop readiness, the understanding of cultural differences in motivation, and prisoner interrogation.
There are many opportunities on the horizon for biology to play a role in covert communications. These include protein cube holography and bacteriorhodopsin solid-state devices for storing high-density information, and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequences as a medium for hiding covert messages.
Although infectious diseases are a continuing concern, offer opportunities for a wide range of genetic modifications, and could be deployed in many different ways, they are not a primary focus of this report. Lastly, the current emphasis on weapons of mass destruction has led to the development of sophisticated sensors that, when activated, trigger responses that can be costly in time and can limit troop responses. A release of materials that trigger the sensors while not being actual threats is one way of decreasing battle readiness in U.S. troops. The area of application of biotechnology to military purposes is currently wide ranging and will expand very rapidly over the next decade.
Chapter 7 provides general recommendations to the Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Warning Division that stem from the evolving nature of the global science and technology environment. The chapter also offers suggestions relating to the envisioned ongoing collaboration with the NRC. The committee’s findings and recommendations are summarized below.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Need for New Collaboration and Engagement
Finding 1: There is a multitude of evolving technologies for which advances are being driven by the nongovernmental, global, scientific and technical communities.
The information technology, biotechnology, microtechnology, and nanotechnology families will increasingly provide foundational building blocks for militarily relevant capabilities for RED (adversary) and BLUE (U.S.) forces alike. The fact that significant advances in these technologies will be driven largely by commercial demand—on a global scale—versus military-specific investment suggests the need for the technology warning community to establish a sustained relationship with the non-governmental scientific and technical community in order to bolster its understanding and anticipation of technology trends.
Recommendation 1: The Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Warning Division, together with the related intelligence community components that focus on technology warning, should establish an ongoing collaborative relationship with the scientific and technical communities in the industrial and academic sectors.
The committee believes that the National Academies, through the National Research Council, provide both a window into these communities and an appropriate institutional mechanism that could assist in this endeavor.
Need for New Indicators
Finding 2: New intelligence indicators are likely to be needed to provide technology warning for the diverse spectrum of evolving technologies that are being driven by commercial forces in the global marketplace.
Traditionally, the United States has assumed that it leads the world in science and technology. This perspective leads the technology warning community to look for indications that external actors are trying to “catch up,” or to exploit known technologies in new ways. Projected future trends suggest that it should no longer be automatically assumed that the United States will lead in all relevant technologies. This revised perspective imposes a new burden on the technology warning community, generating the need for it to search in different places and in different ways to be able to warn against technological surprise.
Recommendation 2: The Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Warning Division, in collaboration with the related intelligence community components that focus on technology warning, should establish, maintain, and systematically analyze a comprehensive array of indicators pertaining to globalization and commercialization of science and technology to complement and focus intelligence collection and analysis.
The committee believes that the observables identified in this report provide a useful baseline. However, it acknowledges that the first step in a more disciplined approach in technology warning should be to decompose the broad trends into potential observables more systematically and then to evaluate the utility and applicability of analytic techniques for technology warning already in use in Open Source Intelligence analysis. The committee also acknowledges that since not all relevant advances will stem from the global commercial open source environment, such an approach should complement but not supplant other collection techniques.
Need for Framework Methodology
Finding 3: The landscape of potentially important evolving technologies is both vast and diverse. A disciplined approach is thus needed to facilitate optimal allocation of the limited resources available to the technology warning community.
While it is relatively easy to create lists of technologies that will have military significance in the coming years, it is harder to identify those specific technologies that are potential game-changers in the hands of U.S. adversaries. The committee reviewed a diverse array of lists of technologies—each prioritized from a different perspective. Some lists focus on potential “disruptive” technologies that could have catastrophic consequences in the hands of adversaries, while others focus on technologies with significant commercial potential that may erode this nation’s technological edge. The committee believes that the technology warning community would benefit from a disciplined approach to the identification and prioritization of the evolving technologies that may threaten U.S. military preeminence.
Recommendation 3: The Defense Intelligence Agency Technology Warning Division, in collaboration with the related intelligence community components that focus on technology warning, should adopt a capabilities-based framework within which to identify and assess potential technology-based threats.
The committee believes that a capabilities-based methodology enables a systematic approach to technology warning while reducing the tendency to focus only on advances in discrete technologies. The methodology presented as a prototype in this report was derived from the operational concepts and enablers described in Joint Vision 2020. It is offered as a starting point; the committee acknowledges that additional refinement is needed.
The technology warning community, which plays a vital role in advising military leadership, is facing unprecedented challenges. BLUE force strategies are increasingly dependent upon technology-enabled capabilities assembled from building block technologies in which U.S. technological leadership is no longer assured. Foreign governments and nonstate actors are gaining access to the same building block technologies—often via the commercial marketplace. The committee applauds the Technology Warning Division’s recognition that unprecedented challenges require new approaches and commends the efforts already underway.
JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff). 2000. Joint Vision 2020. Director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J5, Strategy Division. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. June.
Munson, Kenneth, ed. 1996. Jane’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Targets. Jane’s Information Group, Coulsdon, Surrey, United Kingdom.