'Red Team' exposing Army technology vulnerabilities

'Red Team' exposing Army technology vulnerabilities

by David Vergun
U.S. Army

SPRINGFIELD, Va. (March 24, 2015) -- Operations, a few years ago in Afghanistan, were a wake-up call to the Army's force-protection vulnerabilities, said Mary J. Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for research and technology.

Two small outposts, Camps Keating and Wanat, were nearly overrun, she said, speaking at a National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored Army Science and Technology seminar here, March 24.

Although the Army placed a lot of capabilities in those outposts, there were "collections of pieces that didn't integrate well together and the enemy watching," she said. "They found and exploited those seams" in methods and technologies.

That wake-up call was heard by the Army's nearly 12,000 scientists and engineers, some of whom were tasked to ensure something like that would never happen again, she said.

Therein was born the Deployable Force Protection Adapter Red Team, or just Red Team for short.

"Red Team must be a really fun place to work because they get to break all the rules," she said. "They take on the persona of the adaptive enemy. We give them a lot of latitude - as much as the lawyers would allow."

They are instructed to think and act like the enemy and, they can even go outside the rules of engagement in gaming vulnerabilities, she said.

Red Team took the mission and ran with it, devising "non-conventional ways of coming at our technology and exploiting 'black hat' capabilities," she said. It was no-holds barred.

They exposed weaknesses in the armor, illustrating that "we as scientists and engineers think we have a great solution and ha-ha moments, thinking Soldiers will love this" new piece of gear. Then the Red Team would show up and show all the weaknesses, she said, so "we started solving those problems."

From that point on, anything deployed to small forward operating outposts of 300 people or less gets a Red Team going over from "the construct of the operational perspective, technology perspective, and how we could integrate it in such a way not to create inherent vulnerabilities. It's been very effective."

The Red Team approach was so successful, she said, that they began gaming vulnerabilities in systems very early in the materiel development lifecycle, she said.

ARMY OF 2040

As the Red Team was doing its work, personnel, under the leadership of Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, started looking beyond the five-year program objective memorandum, or planning cycle, she said.

Shyu used her industry experience as an engineer to develop long-range investment requirements, or LIRA, which look 30 years out into the future, Miller said.

Using LIRA as a blueprint, the Army looked at total lifecycle costs of all its programs, from research and development to production and sustainment. The picture illuminated funding problems in distant years, meaning after the five-year cycle, where the Army had exceeded its investment capabilities.

This in turn, she said, forced planners, budgeters and others to take a realistic look at costs and programs and this led to some interesting and sometimes heated exchanges, as everyone was in favor of eliminating programs, as long as it was not their own.

In the end, the planners had to get real and ask themselves what they needed to give up and what the tradeoffs and cost-benefits were, she said. The data showed the stark reality, especially as modernization is funded at 40 percent less this year than what was planned three years ago.


But Shyu was not yet completely satisfied, Miller said. So she gathered a group of science fiction writers, not the ones who just want to sensationalize, but those who weave a story grounded in science and physics.

They were asked to help the Army identify the future environment. Their predictions were then collected and a trend analysis was conducted to see converging and diverging viewpoints. Then, that information was crowd-sourced with industry and academia and then war-gamed. Miller said that in turn caught the interest of Army Training and Doctrine Command, which tries to forecast the battlefield of the future.


The Army science and research community does not exist in a vacuum, Miller said. They collaborate with sister services and the Defense Department to come up with joint solutions and to avoid repeating each others work.

Miller gave a shout-out to Dick Urban, an analyst from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, who spoke in a seminar just before hers. She said the Army leverages and exploits their work as they do the Army's.

Urban said when a person does a Google search, the sum of all the results that come up are only 5 percent of the Internet. The other 95 percent is "dark" or "black." He said DARPA is looking to see that 95 percent, which would be of use to Army cyber efforts.

As well, DARPA is trying to come up with a programming language for scientists who are not programmers so they can speed up their research work without having to find someone versed in C++ or some other language. That would help scientists at the Army Research Lab and other Army research facilities.

To protect Soldiers on the ground, DARPA will test the feasibility of launching tiny 100-pound satellites from jet aircraft, saving weeks or months of time waiting for a launch window at one of the few space launch sites.

On the topic of space, Miller said her Army researchers are exploring ways to create "pseudo-satellites" operated from the ground or aircraft, that can be deployed should the GPS system crash or fail in a worst-case scenario.

(For more ARNEWS stories, visit www.army.mil/ARNEWS, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArmyNewsService, or Twitter @ArmyNewsService)

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