‘It’s a race’: Air Force IT director ‘confident’ FY24 budget boosts IT

Lauren Knausenberger, Air Force Chief Information Officer. (US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali Stewart)

WASHINGTON — With the Defense Department increasingly focused on upping its game in the information space, both before conflict and during combat operations, the Air Force’s chief information officer said she remains convinced that the fiscal 2024 budget request year will include a significant budget increase for related technologies.

Today, during an online discussion with the Mitchell Institute, Lauren Knausenberger was asked if she Forecast for August “unexpected” in the Pentagon’s FY24 five-year spending plan, known as the Program Objectives Memorandum (POM), to develop foundational technologies for future “information warfare” — including the Defense Department’s rationale Joint Domain-wide Command and Control (JADC2) strategy.

“I’m even more confident, but I can’t tell the numbers until it’s in the presidential budget,” she replied.

Knausenberger, in particular, noted that cybersecurity, information technology (IT) and communications capabilities are a focus for future investment.

“POM has taken cyber, IT and communications very seriously. And we continue to have additional iterations that continue to fill in the gaps as we look away “zero trust” world and how we are laying the groundwork for JADC2,” she said. “So, I would say that our country is now very serious about investing in this technology. I remain confident, and I have a lot of people who are working very, very hard to make sure that the day those dollars come down, we spend them very wisely.”

Zero trust refers to a cybersecurity stance that assumes a network is always at risk of intrusion and requires all users to be authenticated and authorized at multiple levels. Ministry of Defense just last week released the Zero Trust Strategy, which outlines near-term goals to be implemented by 2027 aimed at slowing adversary penetration of military networks, as well as long-term goals for “advanced” defenses.

Knausenberger explained that information and the ability to use it to one’s advantage would be the key to winning future wars.

“I expect information to be a major part of any future battles. I think most countries want to avoid, you know, the attrition that comes from kinetics in favor of quieter cyber warfare,” she said. “As the Chinese would say, ‘keeping harmony.’

Knausenberger explained that creating “information warfare or information warfare or the use of information for military purposes” involves mastering many interrelated capabilities and connecting them as quickly as possible.

“You have to do a lot of things very well to get the information you need. You must have a connection. You have to have computing wherever you need it, and networking. You should be able to get data from any region anywhere. You have to have software that makes it easier for the warfighter to interpret that picture and make a decision,” she said.

Each of these capabilities is also at the heart of JADC2, Knausenberger noted.

“I will say that the day we can really say we have JADC2 is the day we’re working towards Ender’s Game” she said, referring to Orson Scott Card’s seminal 1985 sci-fi novel featuring fully immersive computerized combat. “I would say that not only is IT critical to JADC2, but JADC2 just doesn’t exists without the whole … tech stack I think basically if you take the tech stack and add the constructs [concepts of operations] and, like, the needs of the warfighter, at that point you have JADC2.”

But mastering information warfare is not the end goal of JADC2 and DoD’s efforts to dominate future battlefields, she added.

“Indeed, the next step is ‘smart war.’ And the Chinese are increasingly writing about it. That’s when you take that whole foundation, that technology stack, and those concepts that you apply to that technology stack in the information environment, and you start using artificial intelligence,” Knausenberger said. “[O]Once you start using artificial intelligence to bring all these things together into a converged battlespace, then you really have the more intelligent battle environment that we’re all striving for right now.”

She explained that the “huge significance” is the fact that the US military is competing with its competitors – in particular the Chinese PLA – to develop these technologies and be able to best use them.

“The macro issue is that it’s a race. Who can invest wisely and perform very well? Who has the best cannabis? Who else can work best on a bad day?” she said. “It’s a race to see who can get that decision-making edge, that cognitive edge — who can have the fastest literal and proverbial kill chain. So we have to get it right. We know that. We are investing and doing our best to row together.” ‘It’s a race’: Air Force IT director ‘confident’ FY24 budget boosts IT

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