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Technology is reshaping warfare

by Bong Pico

New and emerging technology is changing how wars are fought, even the nature of war, and the United States needs to embrace these changes, according to a new report from the Special Competitive Studies Project, a bipartisan nonprofit with the goal of strengthening American competitiveness in technology such as artificial intelligence.

Technology including cyber warfare, constant data collection, and artificial intelligence is changing traditional ideas of frontlines and battlefields and bringing global conflicts closer to home. For example, China and Russia have leveraged technology in the form of cyberattacks, theft of intellectual property, sabotage, and disinformation to wage a persistent, but often invisible conflict with the United States.

In addition to cyberattacks and intellectual property theft that costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually, this “persistent conflict” could ultimately include micro-targeting of leaders, diplomats, warfighters, and their families with smear campaigns, psychological pressure or, even biological warfare, the report notes. Additionally, anything that relies on computer systems and the internet could be vulnerable. However, there are no international guidelines or conventions to restrict technology attacks. 

An example of the new style of warfare is on display in Ukraine, the report observes. The Ukrainian government works with civilians to track Russian forces on messaging services and apps, uses AI to identify soldiers, raises money with Internet-based, non-fungible tokens and connects to the Internet via the Elon Musk-developed satellite service Starlink. 

To help combat the use of technology in a “technology war,” the United States must step up and counter these tech tactics, the report says.

The report recommends 10 initiatives as part of a plan to “offset” high-tech threats. These initiatives include pursuing software advantages in every aspect of military activities and capabilities, and creating human-machine collaborations. 

“‘Offset’ means that we will never try to match our opponents or our competitors tank for tank, plane for plane, person for person,” says Robert O. Work, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense and board member of the Special Competitive Studies Project. “So, what we do is we seek ways in which to ‘offset’ our potential adversary's advantages.”

This year’s military and defense budget has the largest budget request ever made for technology research and development and calls for more government partnership with private sector tech companies to support American troops and prepare them for the new generation of technology-focused war and peacekeeping.

Visit scsp.ai to learn more.

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