Objectives: Focus Air and Space ISR professionals on winning today, while preparing for tomorrow. The RTF shall pursue research to discover new and innovative ways to increase operational agility and more fully realize multi-domain integration.
More specifically, the ISR Task Force should work toward:
1) Revitalizing integration of ISR at the Squadron Level – Air, Space, and Cyber.
2) Developing Air and Space ISR professionals to lead joint operations, to include evolving composition and training of ISR organizations to deploy as a JTF HQ.
3) Reaching Next Generation ISR Dominance through exploitation of Publically Available Information.
4) Mastering ISR command and control in the multi-domain battlespace; and
5) Transforming the ISR Enterprise to perform automation, machine learning, and deep learning.
“The Joint Force should fully integrate ISR into operations, leveraging it as a force multiplier to increase the effectiveness of other military capabilities.” Martin E. Dempsey, CJCS
Description: As one of the Air and Space Force’s five enduring core missions, ISR is integral to Global Vigilance and foundational to Global Reach and Global Power. With the continuing challenges of the 21st Century, it is imperative senior leaders fully leverage the vast array of national capabilities along with those of the Total Force, our sister Services, the Intelligence Community (IC), and our international partners.
Thesis and scope: The course focuses on Air and Space Forces' ISR capabilities and joint ISR capabilities at the operational-strategic level by critically examining “what to expect,” and “what not to expect,” from intelligence. Against this backdrop, the course enhances future leader abilities to critically analyze and synthesize ISR capabilities to improve decision making.
The course provides guided study and development of research projects that meet the requirements of this research seminar, supports professional development for Air Command and Staff College and assist larger Air and Space Force requirements. The final research product is a 3,000+ word research paper.
HAF A2/6 ISR Guidance Memo
Captain Aigerim T. Akhmetova
The Nagorno-Karabakh territorial dispute is one of the longest inter-ethnic conflicts from the former Soviet Union, devastating Azerbaijan and Armenia since 1988. The geographic location complicates the situation from a geopolitical perspective by bringing several outside stakeholders to the discussion table. The efforts of one key organization to mitigate the conflict, the Minsk Group, have been questioned by both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Minsk Group was established in 1992 to provide a peaceful resolution to this territorial dispute by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Competing regional and international interests further complicate this stalemate and finding a single resolution that fits all involved parties’ interests has been an arduous path. This paper explores the complexities of this conflict, discusses if Minsk Group should continue leading negotiation efforts, and proposes possible courses of actions for the international community to take with these countries.
Captain Joshua M. Carter
Russia's current message is one of re-achieving world power status by leveraging information, mainly through social media platforms, to propagate disinformation and exploit weaknesses of the United States and our Western allies. Moreover, Russia's capacity to do so has radically altered the battlespace, as witnessed by their involvement in the 2016 United States Presidential Election and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. In an era where access to information is widespread and cell phones have become a common household commodity, Russia's opportunities to further their influence in social media, misinformation, and propaganda broadcasting are ever-growing. To successfully disseminate a global message of the United States and Western weakness and relative Russian strength, Russia must engage in domestic censorship and quelling of dissidents that counter this intended message. For the United States and our Western allies to seek further success against Russia's virtual strength, we must apply a concerted effort towards public awareness of their actions and build corporate partnerships to combat and mitigate their capabilities.
Captain Mathew Mansell
Incirlik, AB has played a key role for American strategy in the middle east since the fall of the Soviet Union, providing a staging point to spread western influence in the region. This western influence has come largely in the form of emerging unmanned technology, filling a vital role in American conflicts but arguably, more importantly, Turkish security. Turkey has continually looked towards the U.S. to provide them these planes along with the training to employ them effectively against the growing Kudish threat at their borders. America, owing to concerns regarding accusations of human rights violations at the hands of these drones has decided to withhold support and bar the procurement of the systems. This decision has created an expanding divide leading to the turkish hunt for industrial independence, and more agreeable partners in the Arab world. In the past 30 years Turkey has used this drive to become one of the largest, most advanced producers and exporters of UAVs in the world. Due to this advancement, a whole region is developing new technology, strategy, and tactics absent U.S. collaboration and support. If America were to exit this strategic location it’s waning influence would completely fade, pushing a one time ally farther away; potentially leading to a future conflict in which the U.S. is unprepared to fight.
Captain John J. Forgione
Turkey’s advancement, use, and sales of armed Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) is proliferating throughout the Baltic, Middle East, and North African regions. More specifically, the most recent Armenian and Azeri war, that re-ignited in September 2020. The decades old conflict over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh, located in internationally recognized Azerbaijan, has been fought over since both countries became independent of the Soviet Union. Turkey’s support to Azerbaijan in the form of financial aid and combat proven unmanned armed ISR, was a game changer, tipping the scales for the Azeri forces. The war was concluded in just 44 days after Armenian forces sustained enormous losses to equipment and personnel. Turkey is leveraging sales of their fleet of affordable and highly capable drones that are relatively easy to operate. This capability is changing the dimension of war for those who can afford it. The combat effectiveness of Turkey’s Baykar Defense and Turkish Aerospace RPAs in Northern Syria and Armenia have proven that asymmetric warfare is relatively inexpensive. Sales have been reported to Libya, Tunisia, Ukraine, Qatar, and Pakistan over the last two years. These aircraft are flexible in their utilization regarding all weather capability and anti-jamming survivability. The U.S.’s current fleet of armed RPAs are less flexible or survivable. The Air Force should look at how to employ affordable, highly attritable armed unmanned aircraft to keep up with the competition continuum, with nations like Turkey. The United States is unprepared to deploy effective armed ISR in regions, like the Baltics, where Turkish UAVs dominate the airspace.
Captain Andrew Fuerst
An Arctic State since the days of Imperial Russia, the Russian Federation recently embarked upon a systematic re-establishment of Arctic presence designed to ensure that Russian economic, defense and geopolitical interests are secured through an uncertain future of intense environmental change. Many of these interests run counter to the vision of the United States and our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners of a free and open Arctic. Safeguarding this vision depends on American and NATO ability to execute Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) in the ‘High North’1. Use of such a flexible strategy, in turn, underscores the importance of maintaining situational awareness over the region through the use of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.2 To improve ISR capability at providing effective and actionable Arctic battlespace awareness and threat warning, this paper will examine the traditional pillars of ISR sensor evaluation (Access-Fidelity-Accuracy-Timeliness, AFAT) and apply them in a broader, operational context to breakdown methods by which ISR can be optimized to support Arctic operations.3 This mixing of tactical doctrine with strategic planning demonstrates how the US and NATO may effectively posture, procure and process ISR forces and information to support a free and open Arctic.
Captain Benjamin Pearson
Russia’s intervention in Syria was able to achieve high returns at a relatively low cost. Through the use of private military and security contractors and advanced arms deals, Russia was able to project power without incurring high military casualties while keeping a plausible deniability of interference. By reinforcing a regional autocrat in Syria, Russia became a political force in the Middle East, challenging the United States regional hegemony. Russia is adapting its Syrian strategy in Africa. In Libya and the rest of the continent, Russia’s use of private security contractors and arms exports provides support to African states in exchange for exclusive access to natural resources, and influence in the region. Russia’s idea of combating Western dominance through a multipolar world order means Russia does not need to become the leading political force in Africa, just offer an alternative partnership. Due to the Syrian strategy’s dependence on low cost for high returns, raising the cost to Russia will hinder its efforts with Africa. Through engagement with African nations, lowering Russia’s international prestige by exposing regionally destabilizing activity, and effecting the political and economic calculus of local African leaders working with Russia, the United States can prevent Russia from gaining its desired power in Africa.
Captain David A. Rempe
Russia relies on its military exports of both equipment and services as a stepping stone for expanding its interests and influence on the global stage. In Venezuela, through multiple arms sales and services over the last decade, this has complicated the current crisis through both direct and indirect influence on the government and military. The military‐government relationship in Venezuela is symbiotic in that both are dependent on support from the other to retain their power and authority. This has led to widespread corruption within both entities which is exacerbated by support from Russia. The military‐technical relationship between Venezuela and Russia has allowed Russian energy corporations access to the country’s energy resources and introduces further corruption of trade and financial agreements in a circular loop at the expense of the general population. This has led to increased instability in the region, including security concerns, humanitarian issues, mass emigration, regional arms races, and degradation of US policy initiatives.
Captain Kate E. Lee
As technology and warfare have evolved, space-based capabilities and the architecture that enables them have become exponentially more important to national security. Accordingly, space warfare will become a key component of future conflicts. However, current United States (U.S.) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) space architecture suffers from poor cybersecurity. Left unaddressed, this will become an unprecedented weakness that adversaries such as Russia can exploit if given the opportunity. Over the next decade, space warfare is likely to be conducted predominantly in the cyber and electronic realms. The biggest threat to U.S. and NATO space architecture will not be from kinetic weapons, but from cyber operators on the other side of the world. This is especially true of the U.S.’s primary challenger in space, Russia. Given Russia’s approach to modern warfare, which involves extensive use of non-traditional means, cyberattacks are likely to become Russia’s preferred method of warfare in the space domain. The U.S. and NATO therefore need to invest in reinforcing the cybersecurity of their space architecture and develop mandatory cybersecurity standards for implementation in future technologies and assets.
Captain Reid “HOJO” Hottel
The United States Air Force remains unrivaled in its kinetic core competencies: Air and Space Superiority, Global Attack, Rapid Global Mobility, Precision Engagement, and Agile Combat Support. This dominance has been established for so long that no currently serving Airman has experienced an Air Force where it has not been assumed without second thought. However, as recent actions by our adversaries during the 2016 U.S. elections and beyond have highlighted, our non-kinetic core competency of Information Superiority is highly contested, and it is where we are currently being outcompeted.
Captain Thomas Jun Hong
Information is one of the key essential elements to win in a future all-domain battlespace. Nevertheless, the discourse on Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) has been limited to identifying the importance of information and offering salient solutions to alleviate a few select symptoms. There is no consolidated framework with which to evaluate the Joint Force’s information advantage or to design its future. This paper proposes the concept of information firepower as such framework and will demonstrate how the concept supports the requirements in doctrine and RAND study findings.
Captain Katelynne Baier
Information Advantage (IA) within the information environment (IE) is one of the most critical focal points of Joint All Domain Operations (JADO)i. China and Russia recognize this and are prioritizing Information Warfare (IW) to counter US strengths and military might. These adversaries are focusing on effects in the information environment, specifically the information and cognitive dimensions with physical actions to support, posing a direct threat to US, allied, and partner forcesii iii. Identifying and characterizing threats to JADO in the information environment is a difficult process. How do we evaluate adversary capabilities, intent, and historical actions to create adversary courses of action? How do we identify these threats at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels? This paper will propose a new comprehensive analytical framework for IW specialties within the Air Force to holistically evaluate threats in the information environment at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.
Captain Natalie L. Howie
This Air University Advanced Research paper focuses on intelligence support to units employing Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) networks that are exposed to an adversary’s non-lethally employed exploitation effects in contested environments. A 2020 RAND corporation study defines JADC2 as “connecting distributed sensors, shooters and data from and in all domains to all forces to enable distributed mission command at the scale, tempo, and level to accomplish commander’s intent - agnostic to domains, platforms, and functional lanes”.1 Non-lethally employed effects are those identified as executed through cyber, space, influence operations, and/or electronic warfare enabled methods to deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy and/or manipulate the data integrity or function of forward deployed devices. The current JADC2 network employed in contested environments potentially leaves communications equipment vulnerable to adversary exploitation means, and/or subjects mission data traversing the network to exposure. This paper highlights requirements for: 1) centralized databasing of adversary non-lethal threats (both assessed and confirmed capabilities or methods), 2) compiled threat trend analysis reporting based on threats observed, 3) advanced research conducted on intelligence gaps present in intelligence requirement(s) submitted by supported units (threat database relevance maintained), and 4) use of the intelligence threat data acquired to implement technical solutions, mitigation techniques, and/or changes to how equipment and connections are established in contested environments.
Captain Michael C. Mastalski
Russia, through the years, has been perfecting and implementing Hybrid Warfare on their adversaries. This paper will identify commonalities between Russia’s engagements with Estonia, Georgia, and Crimea. Russia’s hybrid warfare strategies are broken down into three characteristics; economize the use of force, persistence, population-centric. And three typical objectives; capture territory without conventional forces, create a pretext for conventional military action, and hybrid measures to influence politics and policies. Estonia, Georgia, and Crimea all experienced Russia’s hybrid mix of cyber and information warfare, while Georgia and Crimea saw it escalate to conventional military action. These actions are persistent with gaining experience to apply methods on Western governments, specifically the U.S.
Captain Ronald Malloy
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a diversity of missions: from combating a refugee crisis to fighting the battle on terrorism. Additionally, NATO has gained 18 countries to its ranks since 1949, expanding organizational interests. The past decade has been tumultuous for NATO. The 2008-2009 banking collapse, failures in Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis, and Russia’s annexation have all tested NATO’s resilience. In the complexity of today’s environment, it can be easy to forget why NATO was formed in the first place. NATO was birthed with the sole mission to halt Soviet Union aggression. This paper argues why NATO should return to its origins and firmly commit to Russian deterrence and de-escalation.
Captain Daniel Ince
With the increase of Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014 and the lessons learned that have stemmed from that conflict, North American Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders have become more concerned about a Russian incursion into the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities that Russia could bring to that conflict. Shortly after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, tensions have increased in the Baltic region. Coupled with Russia’s naval incursions into NATO-ally territorial waters, aggressive air maneuvers, and exercises, Russia has increased its military presence in the Baltics with “state-of-the-art missile systems” that are designed to prevent NATO air, ground, and naval forces from supporting the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian militaries in a conflict with Russia.
Captain Josiah Cline
In order for the United States (US) to maintain supremacy in all domains of warfare and outpace Russian efforts in Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), the US must prioritize vertical procurement processes in acquisition, but horizontal implementation and employment of military efforts within its democratic government to prioritize and ensure interoperability amongst all within the Department of Defense (DoD).
Captain Rick Rutter
Putin’s Russia breathed new life in the NATO alliance and encouraged introspection on the part of NATO’s members. This paper investigates the organizational structure of the alliance and whether it advances or hinders its ability to compete and defeat Russia in conflict. NATO’s collective decision-making process affect response times, but the alliance’s “strength in numbers” garners the resources to counter and defeat Russia. In contrast to the NATO alliance with 30 members, Russia often operates alone on the world stage. Russia’s lack of allies constrains its operations and presents different challenges than what individual member states face in NATO. Russia’s sees the value of alliances and is working to overcome its isolation after 30 years of going it alone.
Captain Patrick "HOWLER" Meissner
In the context of the National Security Strategy’s conception of “great power competition” (Trump 2017), perhaps no nation-state has been as aggressive within the cyberspace domain as the Russian Federation. Furthermore, following two Russian campaigns to seize portions of Ukraine and Georgia’s sovereign territory, the question may not be if, but when will Vladimir Putin choose to annex another neighbor’s land. The Baltic states, for example, have received much of the same pre-crisis attention from Russia that Ukraine and Georgia did, and their annexation would further Putin’s apparent strategic goal to re-establish buffer states between Russia and NATO (Galeotti 2019). An escalatory crisis scenario in the Baltics will most likely follow the pattern exhibited in both Georgia and Ukraine. Building on pre-existing divisions within a region, such as between Russian-speaking minorities and the central government, Russia will utilize both real and imagined incidents to further increase tension. As the tensions escalate and inevitably erupt in violence, Russia will seize the opportunity to maneuver ground forces onto key terrain. These maneuvers will be simultaneously denied, misattributed to local ‘patriots’ and claimed as mere ‘peacekeeping’ forces meant to protect Russian speaking minority groups. Then, with their strategic end state all but achieved, Russian leadership will call for peace and diplomacy. This sequence of operations appears to be Vladimir Putin’s playbook to rebuild the Soviet era buffer states and ‘Sphere of Influence’ in eastern Europe (Cunningham 2020). Given that Russian cyber capabilities have demonstrably created strategic advantage via the information domain, tactical advantage by exploiting network-centric nature of adversaries, and operational advantage by creating asymmetric opportunities for conventional force maneuvers, US commanders and planners must be
prepared to contest the information domain, fight in a degraded information environment, and train both with and against realistic, meaningful cyber effects to prevail in future conflicts.
Captain Dahlia Andreadis
Examining the history of the former Soviet Union’s Biological Weapons Program and their relationship with private research institutes that developed potential sources for covert biological weapons developments, one may recognize there is a real potential for application of these deadly agents today. Furthermore, applying this information to recent events in China and COVID-19, it is evident that there is a dearth of accountability and oversight from the Biological Weapons Convention member states. National and private entities may be conducting testing and research on pathogens for biological warfare, which highlights the need for the United States to begin practicing the “trust, but verify” method for accountability of member states. Without a succinct way of monitoring and ensuring compliance, we risk continued accidental or purposeful releases with little to no recourse. The lack of accountability within the biological weapons community is a danger to all.
Captain Christopher Reinecke
When planning contingency operations for a Baltic scenario against Russia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) must carefully consider how best to tackle the stronghold in Kaliningrad Oblast. The nuclear-capable and anti-access and area denial (A2AD) forces stationed in the region present a significant roadblock to NATO efforts to engage in the Baltics and are of great strategic value to Russia. Russian statements, policy, and signaling indicate that likely any conventional attack against the Kaliningrad forces will check boxes for a nuclear response. It is uncertain if such retaliation is guaranteed, but the possibility cannot be ignored. It is recommended to consider diplomatic and cyber warfare options in a Baltic scenario to mitigate the risk of nuclear warfare.
Captain John D. Watson
Russia has a long history of exploration in the Arctic region. Exploration of the region first took place before Russia became the country-state as we know it. The Cossacks established a trade route to the region before the end of the 16th century, and Vitus Bering first mapped the west coast of the Bering Strait in the early 18th century. The northernmost border of its country is home to vast quantities of oil, natural gas, nickel, copper, and other metals. These are resources Russia desperately needs as it has cornered itself into an energy and natural-resources dependent economy. The dwindling polar icecap makes transit north from the region more accessible year by year. This situation provides Russia an opportunity for increased trade routes and new avenues to project power towards the United States, Canada, and their Scandinavian western-European neighbors. Further, Russian advancements in the region serve as a source of national pride, which is dwindling after 20 years under Putin’s tenure in Moscow. There are avenues for the United States to counter Russian efforts in the Arctic, running the gamut of economics, diplomacy, and military options.
Captain Brian K Johnston
Russia’s reemergence on the world stage in the last two decades has been a slow but steady progress towards furthering their goals of creating a multipolar world dictated by multiple actors dominating their periphery while vying for global ambitions. Since 2008, Russia has reorganized their military to create more flexible and competent force capable of sustaining multiple military operations simultaneously. The increased scope and complexity of Russian exercises over the last half-decade showcase the success of Russian efforts to reinforce Russian influence over its periphery. Both the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 showcase Russian efforts of using exercises to achieve strategic goals. The previous three exercise iterations – VOSTOK 2017, TSENTR 2019, and KAVKAZ 2020 contain key principles the U.S and NATO should be aware of – Chinese participation, further integration with FSU militaries, and conducting simultaneous exercises in multiple military districts.
Captain Angelo DeArco
Russia has demonstrated effective use of hybrid threats to increase its influence on global affairs. Most recently, Russia leveraged the Libyan Civil War to refine its hybrid threat capabilities to decrease Western and European influence for the benefit of the Kremlin. These hybrid threats include private military companies (PMC) and information warfare (IW). PMCs provide a physical Russian presence in Libya without the costs of active Russian conventional forces. Information warfare (IW) enables Russia to guise its agenda by leveraging preestablished media to sow pro-Libyan National Army messages and disseminate disinformation to taint the Government of National Accord’s reputation. Each of these hybrid threats have enabled Russia to gain regional political and economic influence while maintaining plausible deniability of its involvement. Lessons learned during the Libyan Civil War will be leveraged for current and future Russian foreign affairs, including increasing Baltic States.
Captain Joseph P. Dolan
Russia’s control of information and rhetoric promoting their military capabilities can be viewed as an additional component of their anti-access/area-denial strategy in the Baltics. By pushing rhetoric and propaganda relating to specific capabilities, they have the potential to deter or influence US and NATO courses of action in the region. Analysts and planners should, then, consider Russian capabilities from the Russian perspective when determining the most effective courses of action to ensure NATO freedom of movement in the area. Characterization from the Russian perspective starts with examining where a 175% increase in defense spending has been allocated to over the last 20 years, which shows heavy spending on in air surveillance and fighter procurement. Emphasis on these core functions of A2/AD is also reflected in state media which advertises weekly and annually the number of enemy aircraft tracked by the Russian air defenses, as well as the number of intercepts conducted. In 2020, Russian state-controlled media outlet TASS claimed that total number was close to 5,000, with 170 intercepts and no border incursions allowed. Russia is also vocal about the successes of its primary military exercise in the region, Ocean Shield. Results from this exercise are lauded in the media by Putin himself, praising the Russian military for integrating dozens of air and naval assets along with ground-based point defense systems in order to protect strategic SAMs in Kaliningrad. Russia makes no secret that the construct of Ocean Shield aims to counter NATO’s own regional exercise, NATO BALTOPS. Observation of how the Russians interpret this exercise, the successes they advertise countering it, and their boasting of specific capabilities should be considered along with classified reporting in order to mitigate the rhetoric arm of Russia’s A2/AD strategy.
Captain Brett Estes
Developing a quasi-AI, or advanced pattern recognition program (APRP) processes and associated technologies for the ISR realm could herald the 3rd Offset. A spirally developed open-architecture minded collection of APRPs communicating and generating targets IAW CCIRs and geographically relevant EOB could lift the fog of war for the U.S. and her allies. The process does not aim to replace humans-in-the-loop, but instead filter high volume data to increase chances or target generation to give CCDRs real-time options to maneuver against. The layout process highlights the augmentation to current practices with ways forward while calling for specific requirements. Barriers are also highlighted and drive the pragmatic approach and specificity of the model. The end game result would be to fuse data faster than operators can today. This should enable increased strategic, operational, and tactical objectives met for friendly forces. If executed ahead of peers and protected properly, this could buy the U.S. and her allies deterrence from peer threats via lightning-fast proportional and surgical strikes with the current conventional munitions we have today. He who knows where to strike first, will likely land the blow that counts.
Captain Patrick Burns
Examining the military posture of NATO and Russia within the Baltics. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania regained their independence for the first time since 1945. Less than 14 years later all three nations were formally admitted into the NATO alliance and the European Union in 2004. To Russia, the expansion of NATO and the EU to their western border is viewed as nothing less than a direct threat. Russia does not trust the West and holds nothing but contempt for the independence of the Baltic states.
Captain Josephy M. Hays Jr
Russia poses a significant threat to the Baltics. Through hybrid warfare means, Russia has set the stage for invasion and occupation in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. This paper starts by exploring the motivations and history Russia has for occupying the Baltics by primarily addressing the issues of energy dominance and the Baltics’ precedence for insurgency. The Baltic states have whole-of-nation defense strategies in conjunction with NATO interoperability which should most likely deter a full-scale invasion on the part of Russia, despite Russia possessing military superiority. However, Russia has a history of sewing dissent through information operations. This paper addresses how Russia could theoretically occupy an ethnically Russian city of a Baltic country and explores what measures Russia may take to hold onto that territory. Specifically as it pertains to a nuclear response, Russia may invoke an “escalate to de-escalate” strategy, threatening nuclear war with intermediate-range warheads. This escalation would take place through lose interpretation of Russian doctrine and policy that is supposedly designed to protect the very existence of the Russian state. This paper concludes by discussing ways forward with research, specifically addressing NATO’s full spectrum of response to Russia’s escalation through hybrid warfare.
Captain Casey Riggs
The progression of Russian military cyber capability, increasing complexity and frequency of malicious cyber action, and the threat to civilian populous through cyber effects on both military and civilian architectures garners increased attention by the NATO Alliance. NATO must doctrinally change their approach to cyberspace operations in order to effectively posture forces against Russian threats in this domain. While NATO maintains a focus on information sharing and promoting cybersecurity practice in the civilian sector, NATO must adopt an active defensive posture that can project cyber effects to stop them at their source. Additionally, NATO must also be prepared to actively defend critical national infrastructure, augmenting passive cybersecurity and cyber-hygiene measures which won’t, by themselves, defend against advanced national actors. Lastly, NATO and the EU must continue to cooperate in development of legal frameworks that balance the national sovereignty of cyberspace networks while still allowing asymmetric military advantage via execution of cyberspace operations in grey space.
Captain Beth Klingele
2017: War with Russia is a “future history” set after the invasion and annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. In the book, Russia launches a fictional invasion of the Baltic States and NATO is forced to launch a counter offensive to free the Baltics after their attempts to deter Russian aggression fail. The author, General Sir Richard Shirreff, takes a critical look at the actions and in-actions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) prior to and during this fictional wartime scenario. Shirreff uses the scenario to bring light to a number of issues NATO must face if it is to survive a real Baltic invasion scenario, namely a lack in proper definition of an “attack on NATO” in a world of non-traditional warfare, complacency in policy towards European defense, a degradation in NATO conventional military forces, and political hurdles that could delay NATO’s reaction to a real Russian invasion. The book is presented as a warning to NATO policy makers and senior military leaders, but it contains a number of lessons learned that the command and control community can take into consideration when planning contingencies and operations against future Russian aggression.
Capt Matthew McConnell
U.S. and NATO face a growing threat of Russia on eastern European NATO countries.Priorities for NATO countries to pursue
include increased ISR capabilities and preparing for cyber attacks and media manipulation.
Capt William Theurer
The AF ISR enterprise must ruthlessly tackle institutional challenges it will face as the DoD shifts its focus away from CT efforts and towards GPC. The enterprise must address the very real manpower limitations that exist, exploitation bottlenecks and historical production standards that no longer meet warfighter needs, and in the case of a potential Baltic crisis, a lack of placement and access as well as institutional expertise due to years of limited prioritization. This white paper addresses such challenges as well as ongoing and potential future efforts that could result in a more responsive force that provides enduring relationships with regional partners and a new generation of subject matter expertise.
William Heitshusen, Major, USAF
The United States Air Force (USAF) must leverage truth to defuse adversarial claims to plausible deniability. A fictional scenario of an RC-135 shootdown by a Russian private military company (PMC) conveys the implications of failure with information warfare (IW). Today, the USAF lacks the ability to counter plausible deniability in the information environment with the tempo and speed required to outpace and outthink its adversaries. Three recommendations are offered. First, the USAF should operate outside of current geographic constraints. Second, the USAF should shift to a problem-centric strategy independent of intelligence collection platforms. Lastly, the USAF should shift its information warfare posture from reactive to proactive in today's dynamic information environment.
Jonny Hoang, Major, USAF
The threat of nuclear weapons proliferation to the United States, its allies, and the greater international community extends beyond the traditional great power competition with Russia and China. Former non-nuclear nations and those with relatively nascent capabilities, especially Iran and North Korea, are developing and enhancing their nuclear weapons capabilities, despite international objections. With the low-level conflict the US is in with these autocratic nations, there is great interest in knowing what actual capabilities they possess. Uncertainty to the exact infrastructure and fissile material output related to the development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems impedes assessments of their nuclear capabilities. In part, this can be attributed to illicit activities stemming from undisclosed sites or covert operations of said facilities. However, this uncertainty mostly stems from the eroding nuclear weapons proliferation intelligence capability of the US Intelligence Community (IC) since the end of the Cold War.
Joseph Watson, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
In September 2020, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chair of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), General John Hyten articulated a significant problem for the warfighting into the future. He said, “I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to document what information advantage really is.” At face value, this may disturb many, if not most, military members who have grown in their careers expecting precise definitions of terms and vision statements of what future warfare will look like to flow from the Joint and Service Staffs. It can also be disturbing that perhaps there is not a concise definition of information advantage after decades worth of researchers have published a virtual mountain range of digital content extolling the urgent requirement for the United States and the Defense Department to prioritize how we leverage information to maintain American global supremacy.
Andrew S. Bailey, Major, USAF
Cyber protection of weapon systems is necessary in order to avoid introducing unnecessary risk to multidomain command and control, a capability that will be critical in a battle against a peer competitor. Many systems are interconnected and a risk to one system is a risk to all systems participating in the network. The interconnectedness of weapon systems rely on cyberspace and this domain is capable of affecting the physical domain. The Air Force should use a three-pronged cyber defense initiative consisting of aircrew and intelligence operator training, improved Mission Defense Team (MDT) integration, and system hardware and/or software upgrades to ensure cyber domain protection for C2ISR assets. Doing so will help increase the resilience of our weapon systems and allow them to be safely interconnected to achieve the benefits of multidomain command and control.
Ricardo D. Colón, Major, USAF
The impending wave of artificial intelligence (AI) will soon permeate every aspect of modern warfare, and its impact will be particularly sweeping in the field of intelligence. With regard to processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) of intelligence data, the central claim is that these technologies will take over routine, codifiable tasks that currently dominate the majority of an intelligence analyst’s time. As AI assumes these responsibilities, the analyst gains time to focus on uniquely human aptitudes requiring cognition and interdisciplinary problem solving. Preparing human analysts for human-machine teaming demands a fundamental re-evaluation of how these analysts are educated and trained, shifting the prevailing paradigm from “what to think” to “how to think.” Moreover, it requires the deliberate dismantling of the historically rigid governing structures of the DCGS, as well as purposeful movement toward a comprehensive culture change that inculcates an “analyst first” mindset within every intelligence Airman.
Travis T. Patterson, Major, USAF
The US Air Force’s heavy reliance on space capabilities makes it vulnerable to potentially crippling asymmetric multi-domain attacks in the near future. While Air Force leaders have identified the importance of maintaining dominance in the space domain, their goal of attaining resilient and survivable systems in the future is not immediately attainable. Peer competitors and potential adversaries already possess several operational and developmental capabilities, which place critical US space assets on the losing side of a cost-exchange battle. An option to mitigate many of these risks exists in an airborne mobile-mesh network hosted initially by the Air Force’s high-altitude ISR platforms.
Christopher L. Workinger, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
Distributed teams are a foundational element for today’s Air Force Intelligence Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and global operations in support of combatant commands and coalition commanders are executed regularly by geographically separated teams. In the 25th Air Force more than 29,000 total force Airmen serve at 75 locations around the globe executing ISR missions for the joint force. Lt Gen David Deptula, former Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR, described this environment as a “rapidly evolving paradigm, called distributed ISR operations, links platforms and sensors, forces forward, and human ISR warfighting experience around the globe in ways that make networked combat operations routine.” Leading in a globally distributed teams environment can prove extremely challenging for myriad reasons and this environment – geographically separated and highly interdependent teams – calls for leadership theory and practice that match this paradigm.
Rodney Brickell, Col, Virginia Air National Guard
The technological capabilities of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) are converging with the state’s needs for emergency response. The National Guard can utilize RPA’s to support Domestic Operations (DOMOPS). RPA’s, although not optimal for all conditions, are valuable assets and can provide enhanced support to operations. Through an understanding of the legal approval process and their operational capabilities and limitations, a state will be prepared to weigh the costs and benefits of RPA support to any operation. States will need to practice the way they operate in an emergency by including RPAs in future exercises, thereby by improving the level of understanding and confidence in these emerging capabilities. Planning and preparation are key to a state’s improved response options. Disasters are not planned, but responses to them are. RPAs warrant consideration for inclusion and response to DOMOPS.
Michael D. Holmes, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
The Air Force Future Operating Concept (AFFOC) identified Globally Integrated Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (GIISR) as one of five core missions in 2035.1 The AFFOC called for “ISR professionals, with deep expertise in information fusion.”2 However, when exploring current intelligence specialties and their respective training and preparation to execute fusion intelligence, rather than moving toward professionals with “deep expertise in fusion intelligence,” intelligence specialties currently receive limited formal training regarding fusion intelligence, leaving the bulk of training and preparation to perform fusion intelligence to field units. This results in intelligence personnel with disparate baseline knowledge and abilities with an unpredictable and unreliable capability. Additionally, there is evidence that rather than creating personnel with “deep expertise,” the Air Force is creating generalists or jacks-of-all-trades. To develop the desired “ISR professionals, with deep expertise in information fusion,” the Air Force should establish a program to purposefully train select personnel who possess experience in intelligence and aptitude for advanced intelligence work in multi-source fusion intelligence, and then staff positions requiring the production of fusion intelligence with this cadre of trained personnel.
Nicholas A. Nobriga, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force
The unpredictable and complex global strategic environment the United States currently faces has stretched U.S. military forces thin around the world. The 2015 National Military Strategy emphasizes the importance of adapting to the changes in the global strategic environment, by suggesting the United States cannot afford to focus on only one area at the exclusion of others or attempt to be everywhere all at once. The United States must employ its limited resources with agility and flexibility in order to counter trans-regional threats seamlessly. This is especially true for the Air Force’s fleet of U-2, RQ-4, RC-135, and E-8 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft it refers to as Low Density/High Demand (LD/HD). Current worldwide demand for LD/HD ISR outstrips available supply and spreads assets too thinly across Combatant Commander (CCDR) Areas of Responsibility. With worldwide threats regularly crossing Combatant Command boundaries, the process for managing operational control (OPCON) for Air Force, LD/HD ISR needs modification. The Air Force needs an OPCON arrangement giving it the authorities to actively manage assets and arbitrate disagreements between CCDRs for ISR collection priorities worldwide.
Brent J. Cantrell, Major, USMC
In 2014, the CJCS published the DOD’s ISR Joint Force 2020 White Paper detailing his vision for how the Joint Force will shape, grow, and integrate ISR capabilities to remain effective in future operations. Of the eight initiatives identified, he emphasized that the most important was the development of a joint PED architecture that will replace the multitude of currently-fielded, expensive, and inefficient service-unique, platform-centric PED architectures.
Christopher D. Crouch, Major, USAF
The draft FY17 NDAA highlights the transregional, multi-domain, and multi-functional reality of current operations.1 Congress proposed to modify sections of the Goldwater-Nichols Act to facilitate transfer of forces among combatant commands. This bold move by the military’s civilian leadership highlights their commitment to facilitate flexibility in transregional operations and should act as a charge to the military to provide similarly novel, flexible solutions. Strategic C2ISR platforms including the U-2, RQ-4, RC-135, and E-8 are inherently agile with their ability to traverse multiple geographic locations in a short time. This paper proposes to answer the military’s civilian leadership call to maximize flexibility by rethinking the assignment of operational control (OPCON) of those agile, strategically significant platforms.
Ezra B. Caplan, Major, USAF
The alignment of limited ISR resources against GCCs’ highest-priority requirements is a complex problem, and current processes are not ideally suited to manage operations of allocated capabilities nor do they offer essential responsiveness to the demands of a complex and dynamic battlespace. To resolve these disconnects, this research examines the current methods of assessing airborne ISR operations and feedback mechanisms, and recommends a taxonomy of ISR roles to inform a mission-centric employment model. This strategy-to-task model links the ISR Role to a given operational context and provides a structure for assessment based on accomplishing tasks, creating effects, or achieving Commander’s objectives. Effective ISR assessment compares projected outcomes with operational events to determine mission effectiveness and provide operational feedback. This assessment and feedback should inform resourcing decisions and guide future employment of ISR assets.
Nicholas J. Hall, Major, USAF
In a contested war, the joint force will need to identify, nominate, and strike a greater number of targets in a shorter amount of time than currently required. These conditions will stress the current command and control of a dynamic targeting process characterized by lengthy target development timelines that allow for high-confidence, centralized decision making.
The traditional Air Force solution to this problem is to increase the targeting manpower and scope of responsibility at the AOC. However, the AOC will not likely achieve the desired level of “fullspectrum awareness” against a massed enemy at the speed required to support centralized decision making. Additionally, centralized decision making tends to increase decision time but also decreases risk. This essay proposes an alternate course of action that relies less on increased manpower and improved information technologies such as big data analytics, and more on decentralizing authorities to multiple, distributed entities. To shorten the dynamic targeting kill chain in a contested war, the Air Force should accept risk and adopt a flexible command and control concept that decentralizes target engagement authority by placing target identification, nomination, and strike tasking functions as close to the source of intelligence as possible.
Rebecca N. Breiding, Major, USAF and Erin K. Brilla, Major, USAF
To keep pace with changing operational requirements and dynamic threat environments, the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) community needs adaptable intelligence collection capabilities to ensure the warfighter is equipped with the right tool for the right fight. Historically, the Air Force has relied on two distinctly separate systems to deliver new capabilities: a streamlined process to rapidly meet urgent needs and a slower, more deliberate process to acquire all other capabilities.1 Customarily, the “rapid acquisition” programs are heralded for their ability to meet urgent ISR collection requirements in a matter of mere months. In contrast, more traditional ISR programs often struggle to meet warfighter needs and are plagued by years of cost overruns and schedule delays.2
Christopher R. DiNote, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
In a February 2015 memorandum, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work issued a call to the department and the military services to reinvigorate the use of wargaming across the defense enterprise. He connected wargaming directly to innovation in technology, as well as new operational and organizational concepts to avoid strategic surprise.3 The secretary’s guidance emphasized the urgency of this task, explaining that the United States faces an era of constrained resources and rapid global change.4 This essay contributes to the Air Force response to this call to action, including a game design-in-progress, from the perspective of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) strategic decision-making.5
Philip O. Warlick, II, Lieutenant Colonel, USAFR
According to the Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) published by the United States Department of Defense in 2012, “Events of recent decades have demonstrated the decisive results U.S. joint forces can achieve when allowed to flow combat power into an operational area unimpeded...and U.S. operational access during that period was essentially unopposed.” However, the next time the nation calls for US military intervention, the operational environment may not be so permissive. Many potential adversaries are developing technologies and tactics to prevent such permissive environments.