You’ve probably already heard about the Space Force–centric news regarding its ban on AI tools after the story rapidly garnered headline–level attention in mainstream media this week. This news is covered below naturally, but we also tell of the new “System Delta” concept released just a day after Space Operations Command’s establishment of its integrated mission deltas, the ambitious plans of the National Reconnaissance Office and more. Read on for this week’s USSF news…
USSF temporarily bans use of web–based AI tools
It isn’t often that the Space Force makes mainstream news headlines by way of a trendy topic of discourse, but this was the case this week with the revelation that the USSF has suspended Guardians’ use of web–based generative AI tools.
Though the memo calling for the suspension of such AI software was issued on September 29, only on Wednesday, October 11, did news services such as Bloomber and Reuters actually get access to and report on this memo.
Written by USSF chief technology and innovation officer, the memorandum “prohibits personnel from using such AI tools, including large–language models, on government computers until they receive formal approval by the Chief Technology and Innovation Office [CTIO].”
While acknowledging AI as a tool that “will undoubtedly revolutionize the way we work and enhance the Guardians’ ability to operate at high speeds,” the CTIO calls for the as–yet temporary ban “due to data aggregation risks.” Also noted was the forming of a taskforce with on using AI tools “in a responsible and strategic manner.”
The Reuters news service further quoted USAF spokesperson Tanya Downsworth as stating that the ban “has been implemented as we determine the best path forward to integrate these capabilities into Guardians’ roles and the USSF mission. …This is a temporary measure to protect the data of our service and Guardians.”
Yahoo Finance reported that the ban would impact some 500 USSF members.
The Bloomberg news service quoted former USAF/USSF Software Officer (CSO) Nicolas M. Chaillan as calling the decision “short–sighted.” Chaillian, who is also CEO of the AI software company Ask Sage, claimed that his software, until the ban set in, was actively used by some 10,000 individuals in the Department of Defense (DoD) alone.
Failing to use AI tools such as Ask Sage would “put us years behind China,” reiterating the beliefs he had previously expounded upon in his resignation letter of early September subsequently posted to LinkedIn. He wrote then in part: “20 years from now, our children, both in the United States’ and our Allies’, will have no chance competing in a world where China has the drastic advantage of population over the US. If the US can’t match the booming, hardworking population in China, then we have to win by being smarter, more efficient, and forward–leaning through agility, rapid prototyping and innovation.”
Nevertheless, the ban will now hold in its present form at least until November, at which time more information about the policy will be given, according to Costa’s memo. Sources: Reuters, International Business Times, Air & Space Forces magazine, LinkedIn, Futurism.com, Decrypt.
Saltzman memo details new “System Delta” concept
On the subject of memos, another notice of note was sent out this week, this by USSF Chief of Space Operations (CSO) Gen. Chance Saltzman on the service’s new “System Delta” concept. The idea is to “complement and maximize” the current Mission Deltas by organizing them around new functional areas such as intelligence, operations and cybertech.
“These units will directly complement IMDs by developing, acquiring, and fielding capability that satisfies operational needs,” Saltzman wrote in part. “Organizing the Space Force so [integrated mission deltas (IMDs)] in [Space Operations Command (SpOC)] that have a clear SYD counterpart in SSC will streamline the feedback and focus the reach–back support between capability development and readiness generation.”
Further, “Our processes must generate the effects our Joint Force needs to successfully implement the [National Defense Strategy] in the face of our pacing threat. That’s what forging a purpose–built space service is all about.”
Saltzman speaks at UAS Summit, visits North Dakota bases
On Thursday, October 12, USSF Chief of Space Operations (CSO) Gen. Chance Saltzman delivered the keynote address at the 17th annual Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Summit and Expo in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
“The technology that supports the UAS enterprise is very similar to the technology that supports space operations now and in the future,” Saltzman stated in part during his speech. “With very few exceptions, satellites are remotely piloted and we have to figure out the technology and user interfaces to make sure we can effectively operate our remotely piloted platforms. We have to be very cognizant of how we take advantage in terms of lessons learned and best practices.”
“You’ll hear a lot of discussion of what’s called Joint All Domain Command and Control [JDAC2],” said Saltzman. “How do you domain ‘all’ operations? You start with the two most critical — space and air — and you make sure they can work seamlessly together. The UAS community and space operations community are very tightly linked in this regard. It’s important we keep this community robust and continue to share capabilities.”
After the address, Saltzman went on to visit the Guardians of the 10th Space Warning Squadron based at Cavalier Space Force Station as well as Grand Forks Air Force Base.
“We have this theory in the Space Force about success, about protecting what we need to protect in space and providing the joint force space capabilities; but then also denying the enemy the use of space capabilities to target our forces — that’s the conundrum we are in now in space,” Saltzman said at Cavalier. “Avoiding operational surprise is one of the things that’s at the heart and soul of the mission at Cavalier. If we can’t see things happen, if we can’t attribute irresponsible behavior, things can escalate very quickly and we can find ourselves in a crisis.” Source: Grand Forks AFB official website.
NRO deputy director: 10x more ISR data expected by 2030
National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) deputy director Maj. Gen. Christopher Povak spoke at the Schriever Spacepower Series forum hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies on Tuesday, October 10, where he informed listeners and viewers of future upgrades to NRO capabilities going forward.
According to Povak, the NRO seeks to increase its number of on–orbit satellites by some 300% by 2030, and “These satellites will deliver over 10 times as many signals and images that we’re collecting today.”
Povak spoke of the NRO’s data–collecting with regard to the Russo–Ukrainian War and touted the September launch of the first satellite in the Silent Barker system: “Silent Barker will give us indications and warnings to detect anything out of the norm, and enable us to figure out where our competitors are and their intent. It will also help defend our assets in space and deter aggressions.”
Povak also addressed the current challenges of recruitment and retention to the CSO. “One of the main ingredients of our success is our amazing workforce. Our blended team of military, DoD and intelligence community civilians is the reason the NRO has set the standard for space–based [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)] for the past six decades. We’re committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, ensuring that we have a pipeline of talent to maintain our intelligence advantage.”
To this end, Povak cited the NRO’s cadre workforce, its internship program, a new NRO recruitment–based website and efforts on social media platforms.
After his opening remarks, Povak commented on a number of issues, including the recent USSF mission Victus Nox and its demonstration to quickly launch satellites from a cold–start status and, more generally, responsive–space efforts. “Responsive space to us means that we want to be able to be prepared to launch a payload as soon as that payload is ready. And we want to make sure we have enough flexibility in our launches so that we can integrate the right requirements for a launch and risk tolerance to that payload.”