The Damocles Agenda Official Trailer

Many writers write novels about warfare. Some of them write about the future of warfare. Sadly, most base what they write about on fantastical, made up scenarios that bear no connection with reality. Jeff Edwards is not one of them, His latest thriller follows a long line of riveting, and convincing military thrillers and are informed by his decades of service as U.S. Navy professional. The Damocles Agends is a book you won’t want to miss.

The Next Revolution in Military Affairs? – Review of AI at War

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05/31/2021

By Robbin Laird

Recently, USNI press has published a book edited by Sam J. Tangredi and George Galdorisi entitled AI at War: How Big Data, Artifical Intellignece and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare.

The book provides a useful overview to various perspectives on how AI and autonomous systems might shape the way ahead with regard to the evolution of warfare.

I would suggest the might shape point.

In effect, the art of warfare is changing under the impact of several forces for change, not simply how data is managed or how machines might operate as force extenders for manned platforms.

In reality, the book really focuses on command and control, and many of the chapters focus on that subject.

The shift from the land wars back to peer competitor warfare is built around the return of mission command and C2 as the heart of shaping the way ahead for distributed forces.

The standup of Second Fleet in Norfolk and the associated commands under VADM Lewis’s leadership are being crafted into a warfighting force around mission command and distributed C2 and reworking task force concepts.

Autonomous systems and better information management will enhance the lethality, survivability and capability of such a force, but that is the mid-term.

But without working the core concept of operations shifts, adding new machines will not have the impact they might have.

A good way to look at this dynamic is provided in the chapter by Harrison Schramm and Bryan Clark.

“A more disaggregated and reconfigurable force structure would enable a wider variety of potential force presentations. An AI-enabled control system could exploit the composability of a disaggregated force to create greater adaptability for the U.S. military and impose more dilemmas and complexity on an adversary, thereby increasing the opponent’s uncertainty.”

In my work with the Australian Defence Force and the recent Williams Foundation Seminar on Next Generation Autonomous Systems this is a key focus of attention for the ADF.

Reshaping the maritime force to operate as a fleet, and to do so in terms of blue water expeditionary operations is the foundation from which a transition to use effectively autonomous systems within which AI would play a decision guidance role is foundational.

There are several thoughtful chapters on C2 as the U.S. Navy turns its focus to peer warfare.

But as it does so there are three very important considerations which affect big data, AI and its use.

The first is that the peer competitors we are talking about are nuclear powers, so that any consideration of how to manage attacks upon peer adversaries must consider how those attacks affect the calculations of adversaries.

The second is that understanding of how adversaries think and how they might act is part of the calculation which AI processing of data can assist if we indeed have the knowledge to know what we are looking for and what we are looking at.

This is a huge gap as we turn from being Middle East experts to calibrating how authoritarian leaders in Russia and China under the global stress of COVID-19 and the post-globalization era looks like and how best to use military tool sets?

The third is the question of targeting.

There is a good treatment of the targeting or fires solution problem by Michael O’Gara.

He provides a cautious and careful assessment of how AI can help in the decision process to make a fires solution.

As he notes: “AI holds promise in handling resource priorities across domains more seamlessly while being capable of initiating responses based on more accurate and timely threat assessments.”

But of course, the core targeting problem is not simply the speed to attack but also target selection in a crisis management setting.

But if confidence in both the speed and accuracy to attack is high and can be assisted by more rapid and effective data management and decision tools, then that can assist in providing for a wider set of crisis management options, from the standpoint of decision-making confidence as well.

The book does consider as well the problem of ability to spoof AI-enabled systems.

But there is as well the potential for distributed fleets to develop packages which they can deploy to deceive the adversary as well, even in terms of effective operating location.

The US Navy’s Nemesis program is suggestive of such a possibility.

And in considering the future, it is important not to ignore the warfighting advantages our force already has that the adversary does not.

For example, the ability of an 8-ship F-35 formation to fight as a wolfpack, suggests what swarming could deliver in the midterm future.

The ability of U.S. and allied F-35s to operate over large areas like the North Atlantic and the Mid-Pacific to shape a COP and target identification has barely been scratched. These are harbingers of things to come, but they are here now.

The future is now.

The mid-term and long-term future are just that and mostly unknowable.

How well did the forecasters in 2019 do in forecasting 2020?

The book provides a very useful collection of essays which frame ways to think about AI, big data and C2 might change the future of warfare. It is well worth reading.

https://www.usni.org/press/books/ai-war

Author’s Note: In a recently published Australian study on AI and the military, Peter Layton provided an interesting look at how to consider different ways AI-enabled assets might play out on future battlefields. 

The conclusion to his study provides a very helpful and balanced look at the way ahead with regard to AI and warfare:

In the near-to-medium term, AI’s principal attraction for military forces will be its ability to quickly identify patterns and detect items hidden within very large data troves. AI will make it much easier to detect, localise and identity objects across the battlespace. Hiding will become increasingly difficult.

However, the technology of contemporary AI has inherent problems. It is brittle, in being able to operate only in the context it has been trained for; it is unable to transfer knowledge gained in one task to another and it is dependent on data. Accordingly, AI when used in real-world situations needs to be teamed with humans. The strengths of AI can then counterbalance the weaknesses in human cognition and vice versa….

As a general-purpose technology, AI is becoming all-pervasive and will over time infuse most military equipment. Such ubiquity though means AI is likely to be initially employed within existing operational level thinking. In the short-to-medium term, it will enable the battlefield, not remake it.

In simple terms, AI’s principal warfighting utility can be expressed as ‘find and fool’. With its machine learning, AI is excellent at finding items hidden within a high-clutter background. In this role, AI is better than humans and tremendously faster. On the other hand, AI can be fooled through various means. AI’s great finding capabilities lack robustness.

AI’s ‘find’ abilities further provide mobile systems with a new level of autonomy, as the AI can analyse its surroundings to discern important operating data. This means that ‘find and fool’ tasks can be undertaken using in-motion and at-rest, AI-enabled systems featuring varying levels of autonomy. AI can bring to modern warfighting enhanced sensors, improved kinetic and non-kinetic kill systems, more convincing deception techniques and a wide array of ways to confuse. In this, it is crucial to remember that AI enlivens other technologies. AI is not a stand-alone actor, rather it works in combination with numerous other digital technologies, providing a form of cognition to these.

If being used for defensive tasks, a large number of low-cost IoT sensors using AI edge computing could be emplaced in the optimum land, sea, air, space and cyber locations in a territory in which an attacking force may move across. From these sensors, a deep understanding would be gained of the area’s terrain, sea conditions, physical environment and local virtual milieu. Having this background data accelerates AI’s detection of any movement of hostile military forces across it….

For Layton, the operational shift which AI-enabled warfare entailed could be understood as a shift from the kill chain to the kill web.

The kill chain model used by contemporary military forces tightly integrates the sense–decide–act logic flow. In contrast, the data flow across the large Internet of Things (IoT) field in the mosaic warfare construct creates a kill web, where the best path to achieve a task can be determined and used in near real-time. The use of the IoT field is then fluid and constantly varying, not a fixed data flow as the kill chain model implies. The outcome is that the mosaic warfare concept provides commanders with highly resilient networks of redundant nodes and multiple kill paths. Moreover, the mosaic concept aims to be scalable; the size and elements of the IoT field can be varied as battlefield circumstances demand.

OUR NEXT WAR AND HOW IT MIGHT UNFOLD By Reginald Blackstone

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San Diegans, living in the midst of a heavy military presence have daily reminders that the potential of warfare is something that we simply cannot just ignore. Indeed, as noted philosopher, essayist, and novelist George Santayana famously commented, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”.

Coronado resident and former naval aviator George Galdorisi has his focus on the horizon trying to intuit what future wars might be like in order to help the United States better prepare for a conflict that might one day force the nation’s hand. His latest novel, Fire and Ice, published by Braveship Books is another entry in an increasingly popular genre known as FICINT (Fictional Intelligence), which melds narrative and non-fiction. In essence, it is imagining future warfare scenarios based on the realities of high-end combat and real-world intelligence, not fantasy – the U.S. national security community has now embraced this new genre as a useful instrument to discern how tomorrow’s wars will be fought.

Fire and Ice is an engrossing thriller focused on the political-military tensions created by a modern-day Russia at its vindictive worst. Vladimir Putin emerges as a central character that uses the fulcrum of Belarus to hold Western Europe hostage by strangling their oil and gas supplies. Fire and Ice poses the plausible and highly realistic question: Can Putin and his rogue nation be thwarted through the combined efforts of EU and US political and military might?

Central figures Rick Holden and Laura Peters find themselves thrown together by their parent agencies — the CIA and the DoD’s European Command — respectively. Their mission to rescue an American captured by Putin’s henchmen is successful, but then they must shift gears and race against time to thwart vengeful Chechen terrorists from getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction and starting a nuclear war in Europe. Drawing on cutting-edge military technology developed in recent years, and referred to as AI (Artificial Intelligence), Galdorisi leverages both his decades of experience as a naval aviator and his current work at a U.S. Navy laboratory creating innovative technology to inject a new and harrowing level of future warfare reality into the-for the moment-fictional Fire and Ice.

Whilst reading, I was struck by how prescient this book truly is given the fact that it was conceived in 2018, and without revealing the plot, the narrative of a larger country invading a smaller, the blockage of the Suez Canal, and cyber-attacks on energy facilities do populate today’s headlines.

Author George Galdorisi is a Coronado resident, career naval aviator, and New York Times bestselling author. His thirty years of active duty service included four command tours, five years as a carrier strike group chief of staff, and leader of the delegation for military-to-military consultations with the Chinese Navy. He is the Director of Strategic Assessments and Technical Futures at the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific in San Diego.

Writing FICINT: George Galdorisi’s Rick Holden – Fire and Ice Review

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05/27/2021

By Robbin Laird

I have just finished reading George Galdorisi’s latest novel featuring Rick Holden, a Navy Seal and Naval Intelligence officer, engaged in helping resolve an East-West crisis. The scene of much of the action takes place in a country which I visited in the early 1990s, Belarus. The author has placed Belarus at the center of an East-West confrontation, which the recent Belarusian hijacking of a European aircraft to offboard a Belarusian dissident, reminds us of their potential to do so.

The book is of a genre which has been labelled FICINT or a genere of military-themed works of fiction. In such fiction, future warfare scenarios are shaped and played out and allow the reader to operate within the confines of those scenarios. What such an effort allows the reader to do is to imagine how crises can play out, what tools are most useful to resolving the crises, and how easily the world can spin into significant crises as well.

As Galdorisi has noted: “As one indication of how FICINT is having an impact, a number of U.S. military commands and think tanks focused on military matters such as The U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the U.S. Naval War College, the U.S. Army War College, the Atlantic Council, the Center for International Maritime Security, the U.S. Naval Institute, and others, now sponsor fiction writing contests to tease out good ideas from FICINT writers.”

Recently, I had a chance to interview Galdorisi with regard to his latest Holden novel. He explained that with his lifetime of work in and with the U.S. Navy provides a backdrop to understanding how military operations roll out in the real world. But how might such military operations roll out in future contexts, with a changing global security environment?

In his Holden novels, he places military and political leaders in different strategic contexts and imagines how those leaders might react to different crisis settings. In the current novel, he crafted a crisis in which loose nucs in the hands of brokers willing to sell them to terrorists intersects with a significant hijacking of a an American important to the sitting Administration. These two events are woven into a narrative where the European Union and the United States need to work together to constrain the Russian leader from leveraging the crisis to gain a significant advantage.

This means in his piece, the Holden special ops team works within the U.S. military structure and the Washington-based policy team, to deal with events on the ground, European leaders and finding a way to deal with Putin directly, while working to deal with events on the ground in Belarus. Working through the novel reminds you of how many things have to go right to attenuate a crisis; they also remind you of how they might spin out of control as well.

The book is a good read and provides an opportunity to think through how crises can unfold in the evolving context of global disorder.

What Does the Future Hold?

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Every once in a while you read something that really makes you think. As a writer, I often wonder why those of us who write in the political-military sphere do what we do.

 

I resurrected an article I read almost ten years ago: “Novelists Predict Future With Eerie Accuracy.” Here is how the author begins:

 

Last year, he had described, in his dystopian comic novel “Super Sad True Love Story,” a near future world in which economic chaos followed the United States’ default on its debt, and Chinese creditors scolded America for its profligate ways.

 

Now the story seemed to have an echo in real life. Washington’s extended impasse over raising the debt ceiling was resolved with a last-minute vote, but the nearness of the miss and the subsequent credit downgrade by Standard & Poor’s sent markets on a wild ride. The admonition from China’s official Xinhua news agency — “The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone” — might as well have come from Mr. Shteyngart’s laptop.

 

That was then, this is now, and this general idea of looking to the future through fiction has evolved into a new genre called FICINT—imagining future warfare scenarios based on the realities of high-end combat and real-world intelligence, not fantasy. My most recent novel, Fire and Ice, is a engrossing thriller focused on the political-military tensions created by a modern-day Russia at its vindictive worst. It leaves the reader wondering not if, but when, such a cataclysmic scenario might play out in our lifetimes.

 

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here:

A link to Fire and Ice on Amazon is here

Whither America?

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The world was changing dramatically before Covid-19 hit early last year, and the pandemic has accelerated those changes.

What does all this mean for how America deals with this changed world? I wonder about that subject, and that is why I enjoyed Andrew Bacevich’s review of two new books “Losing the Long Game” and “Isolationism.” Here is how his review, “Where Does American Foreign Policy Go From Here?” Here is how he begins:

LOSING THE LONG GAME

The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East

By Philip H. Gordon

ISOLATIONISM
A History of America’s Efforts to Shield Itself From the World

By Charles A. Kupchan

Having made a hash of things over the last several decades, our self-described Indispensable Nation is looking pretty dispensable, not to mention confused and adrift. So there is a pressing need to understand how things went wrong and how to make them right. Each in different ways, this is the task that Philip H. Gordon and Charles A. Kupchan set for themselves.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

BOOK REVIEW: AI AT WAR

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Originally Published: April 18, 2021 by Hugh Taylor on Journal of Cyber Policy

AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare

Edited by Sam J. Tangredi and George Galdorisi

AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning are Changing Naval Warfare, the new book from Naval Institute Press, offers an ambitious discussion about the US military’s adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technology. Edited by Sam J. Tangredi and George Galdorisi, former US Navy officers who now work in naval officer training and strategic planning, AI at War is not a traditional book. Rather, it is a collection of 18 papers on the many aspects of the subject matter.

As one of the contributors put it, soldiers have been wondering what’s on the other side of the hill for thousands of years.

Reading this book is a bit like attending a symposium with 18 panel discussions. Tangredi and Galdorisi have done a great job in curating the material and presenting it in an order that takes the reader through the byzantine collection of interlocking policy issues that surround the technologies. Starting with a quite helpful comparative definition of AI and Machine Learning (ML), the book orients the reader to the underlying technologies, as well as the pre-technology philosophical issues that drove the development of AI and ML in the first place.

This is not a scholarly digression. Rather, as the editors understand, it is impossible to grasp the potential of AI and ML in the military if one doesn’t have a sense of how their foundational ideas have permeated military thinking for centuries. As one of the contributors put it, soldiers have been wondering what’s on the other side of the hill for thousands of years.

The material can be slow-going in places, but this is not a beach read. It’s a serious discussion of what are arguably some of the most significant challenges to have faced the US military in a generation. The book discusses AI and ML as a matter of global great power competition—providing some fascinating insights into the different ways that Russia and China, the USA’s two main adversaries, might use the technologies. In this, the contributors challenge the reader’s assumptions about military use of technology in general. Russia and China have different relationships between their governments and their militaries, so their use of AI and ML will be different. In China’s case, for example, AI is most likely being used as a mechanism to monitor the political loyalty of junior officers.

The book also takes the reader into important dialogues about the realities of developing new AI and ML for the military and implementing them at the level of naval operations. The contributors point out how AI and ML policy will have to navigate the complex institutional and political aspects of the Navy and other service branches. Congressional pork barreling, influential defense contractors and inter-service tensions will very much be a part of AI and ML coming into the mainstream of the Navy. Realism is a must in any discussion of the technologies.

AI and ML policy will have to navigate the complex institutional and political aspects of the Navy and other service branches.

Along the way, the book covers potential AI and ML use cases in the Navy. In this, the contributors highlight areas where AI and ML can make an impact on and off the zone of combat. For example, AI and ML might help with supply logistics, a less sexy but vital area of naval operations that can help win battles. The book also delves into the thorny moral and command issues raised by autonomous weapons.

As the contributors point out, AI and ML are already in use in the Navy. And, new AI and ML tools will be added to the naval technology landscape whether policy planners want them there or not. It’s simply coming in all sorts of new technologies being acquired by the service every year. The challenge will be to identify and pursue a strategically coherent and advantageous overall strategy.

This is a necessary book, because, as the editors explain, there has not been enough discussion of AI and ML in naval circles separate from requests for funding. As the editors and contributors seem to understand, if the matter is not well understood by the leadership of the Navy, the funding of AI and ML research will not be well spent.

Overall, AI at War is a worthwhile and useful contribution to a serious dialogue about the best way to employ emerging AI and ML technologies in the defense of the United States.

Looking to the Future

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National security and defense officials have begun to recognize that, while it is impossible to accurately “predict” what conflict will look like in the future, one way to avoid assuming that the next war will look precisely like the last one is to mine works of fiction. In novels, authors can spread their wings unencumbered by existing doctrine.

This fairly new phenomena has been dubbed “FICINT,” as it combines fiction writing with current intelligence to envision future warfare. This writing is strongly grounded in reality and not fantasy and that is what makes it so valuable.

While anyone can write FICINT, periodically, one or more writers with the strongest possible “street creds” produce a work of fiction that imagines war in the future. 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis is one such work – and one that was recently highlighted in the New York Times Book Review “Shortlist.” Here is an excerpt:

This fast-paced military thriller details the horrifying aftermath of a mistaken encounter between an American naval patrol and a potent Chinese weapon. The weapon’s power — to destroy all computers on board the American ships, rendering them utterly isolated — works as a kind of metonymy for the book’s argument about America’s waning global influence. The military’s isolation finds a twin in the novel’s political problem, in which American operators must reimagine their allies not as helpers to boost their might but as saviors.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

Best Sellers

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Asked the question, “Who is the most powerful person in publishing,” most would not guess correctly, but they would likely assume that it was a man – and they would be wrong. That honor goes to Madeline McIntosh, the U.S. chief executive of Penguin Random House.

I was taken by a recent article describing her accession to this position – at an atypically young age – because it did a deep dive into her career path, while also addressing the important question regarding book sales. The title of the piece, “Best Sellers Sell the Best Because They’re Best Sellers,” sums up the business side of the article.

What surprised me is that her climb was not a straight climb up the corporate ladder, but rather a series of twists and turns, zigzags and lateral moves, many of them quite risky, but all of them invaluable in preparing to lead the biggest of the big-five publishing houses. Indeed, Penguin Random House is larger than the remaining top four publishers combined!

You will find her story fascinating and enriching. Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here

No Time to Write?

How I Wrote Five Novels While Commuting - WSJ

Most people who write yearn for more of one thing. No, it’s not inspiration, or an uber-quiet office, or a better agent, or a more fabulous publisher. It is one thing alone: time!

That is why I was drawn to a recent article by Ken Wells, “How I Wrote Five Novels While Commuting.” It inspired me to make time. Here is how he begins:

When I took a job in New York City at the age of 44, I had work I loved, a growing family and a secret disappointment. I had always wanted to write a novel.

For eight years I’d dragged a manuscript around and fitfully pecked away at it. But mornings with my wife and young daughters were busy, and my job as an editor and writer at this paper was demanding. By the time I slogged home after eight to 10 hours at the office, I was usually too beat to write another sentence.

How would I ever find the time and energy to write?

My move came with a commute. I was captive to a train that shuttled me back and forth from my home in suburban New Jersey, to Hoboken, N.J., where I hopped a ferry to my job in lower Manhattan. The train ride was about 50 minutes each way.

A week or two into my commute, two things had become clear: I would be spending a lot of time on the train. And the ride was pretty comfortable. One day it hit me: Could I write a novel on the train?

I started doing calculations. If I subtracted, say, 10 weeks a year for vacation, business travel and sick days, that meant I’d have 42 weeks, or 210 weekdays a year, to work on my novel. If I could write two single-spaced pages a day, or about 1,000 words—which didn’t seem that ambitious—surely at the end of 12 months I could end up with close to a 400-page manuscript.

Want more? You can read the rest of the piece here