BRYAN WHITMAN (Pentagon spokesman): Well, good morning, and thank you for joining us today. Some of your colleagues may be joining us shortly, but let's go ahead and get started.
Many of you know that the use of unmanned systems has grown at what some would say a staggering rate over the past decade, and the use of unmanned aerial systems has certainly proven themselves in recent combat operations as technology advances. How these systems are employed, development, the future operational needs have been laid out in two previous roadmaps, but this year in 2007 the department has developed a roadmap that incorporates not just the aerial systems but land and maritime systems also.
And today, it's my privilege to introduce to you somebody that most of you probably know, but if you don't, Dyke Weatherington, who is the deputy director of Unmanned Aerial Systems Task Force and has had a major role in writing and developing the roadmap that will guide this department and its efforts on these systems well into the future.
With that, I'd like to ask him to come up. He's got a brief overview for you, and then we'll certainly take your questions.
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's my privilege on behalf of Mr. Young, AT&L and the department to announce the publication of the department's newest unmanned systems roadmap that's currently now posted on the AT&L. And at the end of this presentation, we'll have a couple handouts that provide you the URL [http://www.acq.osd.mil/usd/Unmanned%20Systems%20Roadmap.2007-2032.pdf] for that.
This is a significant event and accomplishment from the department's perspective. As many of you know, the department and AT&L specifically has taken a leadership role in the organization and the strategic planning of the department's use of unmanned systems to include unmanned aircraft systems, but also unmanned ground systems and unmanned maritime systems, and the publication of this most recent roadmap will further our strategic planning and our overall objective of developing, procuring and integrating unmanned systems into the force structure of the Department of Defense to support our various military mission capabilities.
This roadmap is a compilation over 18 months of hard work by the department, the services and specific DOD and other government agencies to provide a comprehensive and integrated plan for the continued development, acquisition and procurement of these various systems. In the past, this roadmap was primarily focused on unmanned aircraft systems, and certainly a significant amount of this roadmap is focused on that area. In funding terms, unmanned aircraft systems still comprise the largest share of the budget. But it is the department's firm belief that the integration of all the unmanned domains, air, ground and sea, are the future of DOD integrated operations, not only from a systems perspective but from a joint service perspective and, in many cases, a coalition perspective.
So this roadmap attempts to identify successes the department had, has had in the acquisition and use of these systems. It also identifies many capability gap areas and recommends activities to close those gaps -- in some cases, technology developments; in many cases, policy developments that allow better integration among the services or better integration among our coalition and allied partners.
With that, I will -- I'll open it up for any questions that you have, and hopefully I can answer those.
Q How are you addressing the Army and Air Force issues that were raised in the England memo -- Gordon England memo a few weeks ago? And he asked for some sort of task force -- integration of Army and Air Force UAVs, and how is that reflected in the roadmap?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Actually I happen to be the responsible individual with AT&L that is running that task force that Mr. Young set up at the direction of the deputy secretary. That general activity falls in a couple of our goal areas. One of our goal areas is to consistently reduce cost where possible. The integration of the Air Force Predator and Army Sky Warrior program meets that goal, and that we're attempting to better synergize and coordinate those development and procurement activities. It also attempts to address goal one, which is the better integration of the forces among our joint forces. And so the short answer to your question is, that activity is ongoing and it is fully consistent with our roadmapping activities.
Q Any specific actions that you anticipate from this task force in the near future?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: There are a number of ongoing activities. Some of those have been mentioned previously. The next major event in that activity is a defense acquisition executive review, at Mr. Young's level, that will take place in the springtime. That will codify the current developmental plans that are currently under way at the Air Force and the Army level.
Q In the roadmap, it says that some of the more specific metrics, and maybe even budget things, are going to be in the next roadmap. Who is putting those together? Is that AT&L working with the services? Or how is that going to come about?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: As in previous roadmaps, and this one is no exception, we have six very top-level goals, very broad goals, that are then broken down in the roadmap to more specific goals. For the development of the next roadmap, that activity has actually already started. As in previous roadmaps, AT&L will kind of be, will generally operate, in a coordination and tasking role. We will task information requirements out to the services. We'll task capability gaps out to the Joint Staff and to the combatant commanders and then we'll integrate all that information together.
Typically we write the first rough draft of the document and then provide it out to the services and agencies for comment and further work, finally resulting in a final document that we coordinate here within the department, get the principals to sign and then, as we just did last week, post on the Web for our various users.
Q What are some of the gaps that you were talking about?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Well, I will make an attempt to answer that today. In the short version, I would recommend that all of you go out, download the roadmap. The core of it is about 60 pages. It takes maybe an hour to read through that. There's a number of graphics, some pictures, and so it's not 60 pages of core reading.
But to answer your specific question on capability gaps, today ISR -- information, surveillance -- or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance -- is still the number one capability shortfall that the combatant commanders have.
Now, how that translates to a capability gap is that in many cases DOD is collecting information, but because of the limitations that our architectures have, it's not always discoverable to the broad user base. And so one of the specific recommendations out of the roadmap -- it's really captured in goal one, the better integration among the services and agencies -- is improvements to architectures and improvements to methods that allow discovery more readily. For example, tagging of data, metadata, as it's sometimes called, to raw information products allows a much broader user base to surf those databases, find that information and then make it more readily accessible to them.
Other technology shortfalls that we've addressed are in the area of mines. We summarize this at a very top level not just for ground- based mines, but sea mines have traditionally been the most significant source of damage and death to maritime forces. And so the development of new technologies, in many cases sensor technologies, that allow better identification of threats, whether it be ground- based IEDs or sea mines or subsurface -- or sub -- underwater mines, contribute to closing that capability gap.
Q And so these are technologies that you feel to be on unmanned systems to bridge that gap, or --
MR. WEATHERINGTON: For the purposes of unmanned systems, because many unmanned systems provide extended persistent, they are ideal candidates for carrying these types of sensors. We're not suggesting that only unmanned should carry them. It's just that by integrating these on an unmanned platform we get greater persistence. We also get the reduced risk of human life. In the case of an IED, for example, if you can go explore that IED or that potential IED with an unmanned system, either an airborne system or a ground system, and it happens to be detonated, then we don't risk the loss of life in doing that.
Q The integration of land and sea that's a pretty ambitious goal. What guidance have you given to the services to do that?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: As one of the deputy secretary's activities that were directed recently by his memo, AT&L has stood up and integrated IPTs [Integrated Product Team], specifically focused on air space integration. The focus today is primarily air space integration. Now we're hoping in that activity we will learn some lessons that allow better integration for surface and maritime activities also. But today the primary focus air space integration, air space among unmanned systems and air space integration among manned and unmanned systems.
We believe that is an absolute requirement for unmanned aircraft systems to deliver their full capability. As many of you know, today there are significant limitations in air space operations both in military-controlled air space, but we typically have in theater today and also in domestic air space, especially when DOD operates out of special-use air space typically called for DOD restricted air space.
And so the IPT is currently working on recommendations to bring forward the deputy secretary specifically in technology development. That is usually focused on systems that sense and avoid the environment around the aircraft, but it also includes development of more robust policies from a policy side on how DOD acquires air space either domestically or internationally, and then there are some regulatory activities on how DOD certifies its systems.
Q So there's going to be some mandatory policies that are sort of -- just will have to comply to the air space compliance?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Well, the recommendations -- out of the task force there will be recommendations to the deputy secretary. If the deputy secretary chooses to act on those recommendations, yes, they will become requirements for the services and agencies.
Q You're saying that you're looking at about 20-25 years out. Number one, are you looking at some of the autonomous uses -- usages of this technology, wireless remote control? And are you looking at artificial intelligence down the road?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Absolutely. Obviously, 25 years is a long time span, especially at the pace that this technology area is working. If we look back 25 years, there are virtually no Unmanned Aircraft Systems operating in DOD 25 years ago. Today, there's a very large and robust inventory, especially on the unmanned aircraft side and the -- on the unmanned ground systems side.
Your specific question about autonomy, many of DOD's systems today have autonomy beyond what is typically found in like a remote- controlled system, although many of our ground robotic systems are still teleoperated. But certainly the roadmap projects an increasing level of autonomy and to fulfill many of the most stressing requirements. Let me just pick one for example. Air-to-air combat -- there's really no way that a system that's remotely controlled can effectively operate in a(n) offensive or defensive air combat environment. That has to be -- the requirement of that is a fully autonomous system.
Now we don't have that level of autonomy yet, and frankly, in the roadmap we project that will take many years to get to. But as the autonomy level increases, we do believe that that will open the avenue for additional mission areas. For example, suppression of enemy air defenses is one of the mission areas, one, because it's a very high- risk mission area for manned aircraft, and two, because we believe we either have today or will soon have the sensing capability that allows us to find those targets, geolocate those targets, and then, if we choose to, attack those targets with unmanned systems.
Q One more question, of space. There is a possible future application for this technology in space, I assume.
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Absolutely. And in fact today there is a term, typically called near space, which is pushing the envelope either up for manned -- or for air-breathing systems or down for traditional space-borne systems. And so there is -- especially in the Air Force, there is a significant amount of work looking at the near space applications of platforms. Typically most of those systems are unmanned because of the harsh operating environment they have and because of the extended persistence you can get out of systems that can operate in that environment.
Q To what extent are you looking at international cooperation, especially in terms of interoperability and standards?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: There's a significant amount -- work going on there. In fact, the last three pages of the core roadmap identify all the cooperative activities that DOD has under way with our coalition and allied partners. I would give you the page numbers, but the page numbers that you'll see on the Web are a little different than I have here in the hard copy. But it's the last four or five pages of the core document before the appendices.
Specifically on standards, DOD has put specific and heavy emphasis in the development of standards not just for DOD use but for coalition allied partners. Most of that has come through either the improvement or the development of standardization agreements within NATO, typically called STANAGs. And in fact, in the standards section of the roadmap you'll see reference to many STANAGs that apply to unmanned systems' standardization activities.
Again, we're a little further along on the unmanned aircraft side, but we're -- again, we're trying to use that expertise and that learning to also apply that either uniquely to the other domains -- for example, ground systems or maritime systems. We're -- also have industry participating with us to look at opportunities to combine different standards that would cross domains.
For example, one is command and control activities. Today we have a command and control STANAG. For unmanned aircraft systems, the ground robotics community also has a standard called JAUS [Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems] that they use for ground systems. We have an activity looking at what is the right merging of those two requirements. Does it make sense to merge those into a single requirement? Is it better to leave them separate but, for example, harmonize some of the elements of those standards, so that allows us better interoperability among air and ground?
And the answer is, or I would like to say, we don't have a final answer on that but we are certainly exploring those opportunities.
Q You commented earlier about the integration of Army and Air Force UAV platforms. But as far as the roadmap is concerned, are there any plans looking out towards the Navy BAMS system or any other service UAV programs that could be on the horizon, maybe kind of putting that interoperability kind of emphasis on those programs, maybe merging them together?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Let me answer your question in two parts.
First, from a standards and interoperability perspective, there has always been a heavy emphasis, and will continue to be a heavy emphasis at the department level, on the use of standards that allow us the maximum level of interoperability that we can achieve through any of our systems. That doesn't apply just to unmanned systems. BAMS [Broad Area Maritime Surveillance] specifically, if you look at the RFP [Request for Proposal], it has, I think, over 600 identified interoperability standards that were put out for reference. Now, obviously those will not all become mandatory standards. But certainly from my perspective, I would say that the Navy has done a significant amount of work in designing BAMS, so it achieves the appropriate measure of interoperability.
From an acquisition perspective, similar to the activity that the department went through for Air Force Predator and Navy Sky Warrior, when the Navy SAE [Service Acquisition Executive] makes a recommendation on an acquisition solution for BAMS, AT&L will look at that for opportunities, for collaboration, for coordination, for integration, for other ongoing DOD programs. Until the Navy makes that decision, however, it's premature for me to comment on any specific activities that might come about from that.
Q My question, going back to the mission effectiveness of autonomous air-to-air combat, I was wondering if maybe an interim goal would be integrating manned squadrons with UAVs? And if that's the case, when might we be looking at something like that?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Specific CONOPS [Concept of Operations] are really the service's responsibility. The roadmap is identifying capability gaps that we currently have and capability gaps we project to have in the future, and then the corresponding technology gaps that go along with those.
For your specific question, I think that's probably better focused at the Air Force. Certainly, there are modeling activities that are modeling manned systems with unmanned systems, and the synergy of those two capabilities provide the war fighter -- again, I'll go back to my seed example. If the department did have a capability that -- unmanned capability that would provide suppression of enemy air defenses and that was integrated with manned systems, as you might expect it might, that would provide -- with the appropriate capabilities, of course, that would provide a much greater capability than the department could achieve simply with manned systems alone. It would allow those unmanned systems to operate in a higher threat environment, potentially persist for a longer period of time. In some cases, stimulate an enemy air defense system typically called an IADS [Integrated Air Defense] that then would provide information for both the unmanned systems and the manned systems.
Q Related to that, the question of enemy air defense, do you have to have -- (off mike) -- for release of a weapon, or what would be sort of the legal implications of that?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: At some part of the process there happen -- every weapon has to have a human associated with weapons release authority. For manned systems, if that weapon is coming off a specific platform, obviously the pilot has weapons release authority. In the example of unmanned systems -- for Predator today -- as many of you know, Predator is armed and is conducting strike operations in theater today. There's a pilot with weapons release authority associated with that weapon. For any further iteration of that capability, there would still be at some point in the process a human that had -- was responsible for the weapons on board that platform.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. WEATHERINGTON: Let me get back to you on that. Certainly, it's a Pentagon requirement, and I also believe under the law of international law it's also a legal requirement. But if you'll allow me to take that for the record, I'll get back to you on that.
Q (Off mike) -- Air Force about how to decide whether future bombers should be manned or unmanned. Does the roadmap provide any guidance or input on that or as to the core technologies that could be pulled into that program?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: The roadmap talks extensively about the technologies associated with a variety of mission areas, including long-range strike. Now, the roadmap doesn't make a specific recommendation on what systems should be manned or unmanned. What the roadmap does is it says as a general policy rule that we want to reduce the threat level to humans, and if we can do that by employing unmanned systems, and those systems still meet the requirements of that system, that that should be the preferred option. It doesn't say we'll always go that way, but it certainly says that the preferred method, given that you can meet the system level requirements, would be unmanned.
Q Okay. Just a follow-up -- (off mike) -- with regard to weapons release, is there a DOD policy on weapons release for nuclear weapons and UAVs?
MR. WEATHERINGTON: I'm not a nuclear weapons expert, but if you'll allow to take that for the record, we can go back and research that for you also.
MR. WHITMAN: All right. Thank you.
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AN WHITMAN (Pentagon spokesman): Well, good morning, and thank you for joining us today. Some of your colleagues may be joining us shortly, but let's go ahead and get started.