New Army Weapons and Tactics Will Require AI-enabled GEOINT

Army AI Task Force director describes the fast-paced future of warfare


Brig. Gen. Mark Easley described how the future of war will demand speed with new weapons, capabilities, demands, and tactics.

Brig. Gen. Matt Easley, Director, Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force, Army Futures Command, spoke Tuesday morning.

Speaking Tuesday at GEOINT 2019, Easley discussed standoff warfare and the nature of different battlefields where “there are no rear areas.”

“In my career, there has been an incredible revolution in military affairs,” he said. “Precision-guided weapons, GPS, stealth technology, and a small thing called the internet. And these will be accelerating in the 21st century.”

He looked out at the audience.

“We need your help,” he said. “We need to modernize, but our challenge is, specifically, how?”

“There are no easy answers,” said Easley, who is director of the Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force under Army Futures Command, charged with envisioning the effects of AI on future warfare.

“With artificial intelligence, not only will the speed of battle be extremely fast, but AI-enabled ISR systems also will make it difficult to hide military formations for very long,” Easley said.

He then quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley: “If you stay in place for more than two hours to three hours, you will be dead.”

Battle survival and success will involve amass, disperse, amass, disperse.

“Underpinning conflict at its very core is GEOINT,” Easley said.

The speed of battle will require knowledge of threats and obstacles along one’s path, and support systems to be established and reestablished quickly.

Longer-range and faster weapons will require more intelligence to be produced, faster. Two operative terms are “speed of relevance” and “speed of decision,” Easley said, adding, “the speed of decision-making with the volume of raw data available now would overwhelm our equipment.”

This is why he’s asking for help. And why he frequently travels between Washington, D.C., and the task force’s hub at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. The Task Force is also collaborating extensively with the Department of Defense’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the Army Research Lab.

Easley said his group is examining a system of rapid prototyping for potential AI equipment.

“We want to build, fail, learn, build again,” he said.

AI is also necessary for the Army to operate under “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028,” a strategy that envisions the necessity of multi-domain (space, cyberspace, air, land, and sea) operations against adversaries using anti-access/area denial tactics.

Those tactics include “standoff,” according to an Army video Easley showed during his remarks. In standoff, an adversary remains at a distance, in effect trying to deny U.S. multi-domain capabilities.

With advanced weaponry, multi-domain operations, and standoff tactics, the scope of information necessary for the service to succeed means GEOINT is going to be paramount, Easley said. It also means AI enablement will be crucial in dealing with the plethora of data generated.

In standoff, for example, U.S. joint forces will seek to exploit available opportunities—attacking, prevailing, and then fighting in a position of increased advantage. Finding those opportunities will rely upon intelligence, and geospatial intelligence in particular.

“GEOINT will take a more direct and fundamental role than it ever has before,” Easley said. “Focused operations will be predicated on knowing the [capability] of the enemy.”


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