Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: How to Manage a Swarm

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: How to Manage a Swarm

Our interview for the April – June Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre—he’s a Ranger vet who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is now a robotics expert at the Center for a New American Security—covered so much good material, but we didn’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here’s Scharre on how to manage a swarm. Scharre: [You could see] area coverage in this way where there are super rules—like don’t get too close or too far away from other agents. And that uses a swarm of agents to cover an area. Those sort of work for all sorts of military problems, whether it’s reconnaissance or […]

Collaborative Autonomy: A Tactical Offset Strategy

Collaborative Autonomy: A Tactical Offset Strategy

ARL intelligent systems S&T is leading to a tactical offset strategy for operations in a range of challenging settings. by Dr. Brian M. Sadler The desire for a third offset strategy has been a major focus of DOD science and technology (S&T) discussion for the past few years. While the Navy and Air Force primarily face issues related to large-scale, extended-range operations, the Army must address a different set of long-term challenges in complex operational scenarios. These notably include megacities and other perplexing domains such as subterranean and jungle environments. It is not difficult to envision a megacity in a developing nation facing a quicksand of natural disaster, failing infrastructure, […]

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Humans Out of the Loop

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Humans Out of the Loop

Our interview for the April – June Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre—he’s a Ranger vet who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is now a robotics expert at the Center for a New American Security—covered so much good material, but we didn’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here’s Scharre on humans out-of-the-loop. Army AL&T: What work is being done on armed unmanned systems (without a human in the loop)? Scharre: There’s a very robust discussion going on internationally and within certain sectors of the U.S. defense community, particularly among lawyers, about this idea of autonomous weapons that would do targeting on their own and are […]

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Predicting the Future

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Predicting the Future

Our interview for the April – June Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre—he’s a Ranger vet who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is now a robotics expert at the Center for a New American Security—covered so much good material, but we didn’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here’s Scharre on how DOD should pick which advances in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to pursue. Army AL&T: It’s a high-stakes game of predicting the future, better testing and lower barriers to entry and innovation for the work of research labs and outside industry. Scharre: It’s just so hard to predict what technologies are going to matter. […]

The Jungle Boot

The Jungle Boot

A good jungle boot is one of a Soldier’s bare necessities—and the system for providing those necessities would make Mowgli’s head spin. Mowgli had to deal with jungle cats; he never had to deal with an ACAT III. Unfortunately, Soldiers do. by Donald Schlomer, Lt. Col., USA (Ret.) Mowgli, the hero of Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 classic “The Jungle Book,” did perfectly well without boots or even shoes. U.S. Soldiers, however, have different needs. Soldiers in the U.S. Army have not had a new jungle boot since the Vietnam era, and with the request for a new jungle boot—well, therein lies a tale, but a tale far less straightforward than Kipling’s […]

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Army Challenges

Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre: Army Challenges

Our interview for the April – June Critical Thinking with Paul Scharre—he’s a Ranger vet who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is now a robotics expert at the Center for a New American Security—covered so much good material, but we didn’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here’s Scharre on challenges to automation and artificial intelligence (AI). Army AL&T: If the Army’s main challenge is finding the right places to use robots, automation and AI … what are those places? Scharre: The fundamental problem with automation is that it’s brittle. You can design really specific machine intelligence tools to solve very specific problems, like playing […]

Been There, Done That Preparation for Operational Testing

Been There, Done That Preparation for Operational Testing

Rapid and evolutionary acquisition bring some change to OT, but some things will remain constant—like surprises. by John T. Dillard, Col., USA (Ret.) Many years ago, Dr. Philip E. Coyle III, the long-experienced, former DOD director of operational test and evaluation, cautioned program managers (PMs) about program risk in the new era of evolutionary acquisition, fielding capabilities in sequential increments. What he suggested back then was that even with evolutionary acquisition, we would likely be fully testing each of the system capability blocks individually. In that vein, he presented some salient points about past programs’ readiness for what he called the binary or pass/fail environment of operational testing, and how […]

The Multilingual PM

The Multilingual PM

An acquisition program office brings together a multitude of professional specialties, each with its own specialized language. It’s the PM’s job to understand, interpret, translate, and unite. by Col. Joel D. Babbitt People use many languages in the course of a day. In military families, for example, it is not unusual to hear a smattering of German or Korean picked up from assignments overseas, mixed liberally with a base of English or, for some, Spanish. At work in the office of a program manager (PM), there could be a half dozen or more languages in use, each with its own vocabulary, conceptual framework and rules of usage. They are as […]

Technically Speaking: You’re Saying What?

Technically Speaking: You’re Saying What?

Writing in plain language saves time and money while earning trust from taxpayers, Soldiers and businesses. Plus, it’s the law. by Ms. Mary Kate Aylward Writing in plain language is: (a) Easy: Say what you mean to say. Type. Proofread. Run spell check. Hit “send.” (b) Hard: Choose from among the 171,476 words (according to the Oxford English Dictionary, second edition) of the English language and arrange them according to seemingly arcane rules. (c) Your duty: Government regulations require you to explain what you spend the taxpayers’ money on and why, and an explanation that the taxpayer can’t understand doesn’t count. (d) The law of the land since the passage […]

Been There, Done That: Strategic Acquisition

Been There, Done That: Strategic Acquisition

Does DOD set PMs up for failure with impossibly complex mega-programs built on immature technology? After a career in uniform supporting Army acquisition followed by a second career teaching acquisition, a former PM takes a final pulse check and outlines four best practices for keeping programs big and small on track. (The fourth in a series of commentaries by former program managers on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School) by Michael W. Boudreau, Col., USA (Ret.) I am recently retired from government service, after 28 years in the Army and then 20 years of teaching at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). I have been fortunate to see acquisition from […]