Tag Archives | Pentagon

Pentagon Lays Out Blueprint For Robot Wars Of The Future

Pic: USDOD (PD)

Pic: USDOD (PD)

Prepare for more drone warfare.

Via Christian Science Monitor:

At a NASCAR racetrack in Miami earlier this month, teams from NASA, Google, and 14 other groups of engineering gurus put cutting-edge robots through some challenging paces.

The aim was to see how well the robots could tackle tasks that may sound simple, but are tricky for nonhumans – including, say, climbing a ladder, unscrewing a hose from a spigot, navigating over rubble, and steering a car.

The contest was dreamed up by the Pentagon’s futuristic experimentation arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and senior defense officials were watching it carefully – well aware that the Pentagon is growing increasingly reliant on robotics.

The Defense Department will become even more reliant on such devices in the decades to come. That’s the conclusion of a new blueprint quietly released by the Pentagon this week, which offers some telling clues about the future of unmanned systems – in other words, drones and robots.

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Since 9/11 Private Contractors Have Made $385 Billion From Overseas Bases

baseworldVia TomDispatch on the staggering sum being passed from U.S. taxpayers to a handful of contracting corporations in the name of maintaining the Pentagon’s global “baseworld”:

Outside the United States, the Pentagon controls a collection of military bases unprecedented in history. With US troops gone from Iraq, it’s easy to forget that we probably still have about 1,000 military bases in other peoples’ lands.

The Pentagon has dispersed around $385 billion to private companies for work done outside the US since late 2001, mainly in that baseworld. That’s nearly double the entire State Department budget over the same period. Almost a third of the $385 billion has flowed into the coffers of just 10 top contractors, [with the largest amount going to] KBR, the former subsidiary of Halliburton.

Once upon a time, however, the military, not contractors, built the barracks, cleaned the clothes, and peeled the potatoes at these bases. This started to change during the Vietnam War, when Brown & Root, better known to critics as “Burn & Loot” (later KBR), began building major military installations in South Vietnam as part of a contractor consortium.

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Pentagon Working On Tattoos That Track Soldiers

What does your tattoo say about you? Wired writes:

In its ongoing quest to measure every aspect of U.S. troops’ physiology, the Pentagon’s esoteric research enclave DARPA wants to develop a durable, unobtrusive device that can track the body’s physical response to stress. Military scientists believe that using the device — preferably a tattoo — to track heart-rate, temperature or bio-electric response during various training situations will help them crack the code of combat fatigue.

Advanced materials make it possible to integrate everything from the sensors to the transmitter into thumb-sized membranes that can stick to skin — like temporary tattoos. These tiny arrays combine the necessary sensor — be it EKG, heart rate, or temperature — with a short-wave antenna and transmitting capability.

Isolating the factors that make these stress levels spike is part of a larger initiative to understand and control the different triggers of the body’s physiological responses.

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The Dangers Of The Growing Malware-Industrial Complex

Via the MIT Technology Review, Tom Simonite writes:

A freshly discovered weakness in a popular piece of software, known in the trade as a “zero-day” vulnerability, can be cashed in for prices in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from defense contractors, security agencies and governments. This trade in zero-day exploits is poorly documented, but it is perhaps the most visible part of a new industry that in the years to come is likely to swallow growing portions of the U.S. national defense budget.

It became clear that this type of assault would define a new era in warfare in 2010, when security researchers discovered a piece of malicious software known as Stuxnet. Now [known] to have been a project of U.S. and Israeli intelligence, Stuxnet was carefully designed to infect multiple systems needed to access and control industrial equipment used in Iran’s nuclear program.

No U.S. government agency has gone on the record as saying that it buys zero-days.

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Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Says He Was Told ‘Not To Acknowledge Existence’ Of Drones Program

Appearing on MSNBC, Robert Gibbs, Barack Obama’s press secretary for much of his first term, on the administration’s concern with keeping drone killings out of public knowledge: “When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, you’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.”

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Pentagon Unveils New Honorary Medal For Heroic Drone Operators

The previously discussed ‘Distinguished Warfare’ medal for the people pressing the kill button for unmanned drones is now a reality, CNET News reports:

This would be a first. The Distinguished Warfare Medal, a nearly two-inch-tall brass pendant below a ribbon with blue, red and white stripes, will be handed out to people judged to have racked up “extraordinary achievement” directly tied to a combat operation but at a far remove from the actual battlefield. This is said to be the first new combat-related award since the 1944 creation of the Bronze Star.

In taking this step, the Pentagon is explicitly recognizing the increasing importance of cyberwar and drone activities to the nation’s defense complex. Indeed, the U.S. Air Force is on record predicting that by 2023 one-third of its attack and fighter planes will be drones.

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The All-Seeing Eye Of DARPA’s Drones Revealed

Surreal dystopian science fiction come to life: from the PBS Rise of the Drones series, the Pentagon’s ARGUS 1.8-billion-pixel surveillance sensor allows airborne drones to capture unending, minutely-detailed video streams of everything occurring far down below on Earth. The idea is to avoid “mistakes” like the killing of 23 Afghan civilians because a drone detected that one was holding an indeterminate object shaped somewhat like a rifle:

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U.S. War On Terror Shifts Towards Africa With Plans For Drone Base

Uh oh. The New York Times reports:

The U.S. military is preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa so that it can increase surveillance missions on Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region.

The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in the country of Djibouti. If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in Niger.

A handful of unarmed Predator drones would carry out surveillance missions in the region and fill a desperate need for more detailed information on a range of regional threats, including militants in Mali and the unabated flow of fighters and weapons from Libya. The plan could face resistance from some [officials] who are wary of committing any additional American forces to a fight against a poorly understood web of extremist groups in North Africa.

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