WASHINGTON — The art mosaic will soon include the art of warfare, if the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has its way.
And DARPA — the super-slick, research, innovative “no-bad-ideas” wing of the military — usually gets its way.
Celebrating its 60th birthday with a three-day extravaganza of next-generation ideas, reflective deep thought and hallway conversations in a babel of highly intercultural tongues, DARPA said the idea of just being first and the best is no longer good enough.
Now the U.S, military, and by extension U.S. society, must be the fastest and its tools interchangeable.
“The world around DARPA has not remained constant,” Dr. Steven Walker, DARPA director, said in an address to open the three-day event. He said the world “is experiencing significant technological, economic and geopolitical shifts that pose real threats” and “raise the stake for America.”
Walker said DARPA will use its next 60 years to “make sure these trends do not undermine America’s stability.” He promised a surprise announcement regarding artificial intelligence as the last thing he says at the conference on Friday.
Typical of the shift is the concept of mosaic, or fusion, warfare. That essentially means smaller weapons systems that are coordinated, can be developed and built quickly and brought to use, and offer a complexity of interchangeability that would baffle adversaries.
Current systems were dubbed jigsaw systems by Dr. Tim Grayson, DARPA’s director of the Strategic Technology Office. That means if one piece is missing the puzzle cannot be completed and is essentially useless. It reflects the historically long timeline and high cost associated with developing new, large-scale, complex military capabilities, and stand-alone weapons systems.
By creating a mosaic of “dynamic, coordinated and highly autonomous composable systems,” the U.S. can impose “massive complexity on adversaries, creating new types of strategic advantage via asymmetric means,” Grayson and other speakers said Wednesday. The smaller systems can scale and quickly upgrade, they said.
Grayson said DARPA must pivot its foundations from dominance to lethality, predictability to surprise, and deliberate inertia to continuous speed. He said it is time to move “to a mission centered” philosophy and that “a new approach is needed and we believe that approach is mosaic warfare.”
Walker said DARPA has to be highly adaptive and agile to anticipate new threats and have the right people in place to turn ideas in realities.“Only then can DARPA truly remain the global vanguard leading in science and technology,” Walker said.