February 29, 2012
Gabriel testifies before House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities
In testimony presented today before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, DARPA Deputy Director, Kaigham J. Gabriel, eschewed the opportunity to highlight many of the Agency’s achievements from the past year, opting instead to use his time before the subcommittee to reinforce National Security threats looming on the horizon.
One such vulnerability lies in the pace at which technology is advancing and accessible within the global commons. “Computing, imaging and communications capabilities that, as recently as 15 years ago, were the exclusive domain of military systems, are now in the hands of hundred of millions of people around the world,” explained Gabriel while holding up his smartphone.
The benefits of access to such widespread commercially available technology—much of which has roots in DARPA programs from decades past—is significant, but also introduces potential danger. According to Gabriel, today, nearly a dozen countries are producing electronic warfare systems using mostly commercial off-the-shelf technology (COTS). And the pace at which these systems, formerly the purview of a few peer adversaries, are being developed is increasing. “From a new system every 10 years decades ago,” Gabriel stated, “to one every 1.5 years today.”
These analytic insights into the state of electronic warfare, cybersecurity and many other areas of conventional and new battlefields are guiding DARPA’s investments, as evidenced by programs like DARPA’s Adaptive RF Technologies program, which seeks to extend the range of military radar and radios by developing high power transmit-and-receive modules. An area that “commercial industry has no use for,” said Gabriel and, thus, “where COTS won’t go.”
Controlling for time was a theme heard throughout Gabriel’s testimony, as he also explained that “Modern warfare demands the effective use of cyber and kinetic means. That requires DoD cyber capabilities matched to our kinetic options.”
To create cybercapabilities with the diversity, dynamic range and tempo of DoD operations, DARPA has launched programs like Cyber Fast Track (CFT), which taps a pool of nontraditional experts and innovators—many of whom operate in the white-hat hacker community. In the past 7 months, CFT has received more than 100 proposals and made 32 awards. Of these awards, 84 percent were to small companies and performers who have never done business with the Government before. CFT, according to Gabriel “is expanding the number and diversity of talent contributing to the Nation’s cybersecurity.”
DARPA’s analytic frameworks do not predict the future, said Gabriel. Instead they guide investments to ensure that DARPA is building the future in support of its mission to prevent and create strategic surprise.
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