On Thursday, March 18, 2010, Daniel "Fig" Leaf, vice president for Full Spectrum Initiatives at Northrop Grumman Information Systems addressed the 2010 Spring East Coast Irregular Warfare conference, sponsored by the American Institute of Engineers (AIE) in Washington, D.C.

The Challenges of Irregular Warfare/h3>

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on a topic that I know each of us is deeply interested in: Irregular Warfare, or IW. I know I’m the one thing between you and lunch, so I’ll keep my remarks brief.

Today, I’d like everyone to walk away with an industry perspective of IW, and what you can do to help. Being in the defense contracting business means looking at IW from a business angle; so the industry perspective is really a business perspective.

The doctrinal definition of Irregular Warfare, with which we’ve been working, goes like this: "a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations." Such an amorphous definition does indeed leave room to include a wide variety of conflicts, adversaries, threats or capabilities within its rubric. And the inclusion of "stability operations" – which involve security forces using a wide range of means to restore and maintain order among these populations – means that with its specification of "violent struggle," even that definition is not broad enough.

So perhaps a better way to bring some focus to the discussion of Irregular Warfare is to zero in instead on the irregular threats against which it is targeted. For example, one clear challenge is the involvement of non-state actors – guerrillas, terrorists, thugs – who seek to "blend into" or shelter themselves within the civilian population. Our friendly "blue" forces must distinguish between our red force enemies and the surrounding gray civilian population among which our enemies are often hiding. A widely dispersed enemy, operating in small bands or gangs, or even as individuals disguised within the civilian population, exacerbates the surprise and uncertainty is always present in the "Fog of War" and requires the ability to make sometimes instant analysis and judgments. This capability is so important to the effectiveness of our IW operations – to minimizing collateral damage and protecting, rather than harming, friendly populations – which we need to look for everything and anything that will aid in this discrimination.

The unstructured, unregulated nature of our enemies' activities introduces another dynamic: their capacity for rapid adaptation – often using simple, readily available civilian technologies in imaginative and deadly ways. Addressing this threat requires the capability to achieve at least equally rapid adaptation, if not anticipation, by our own forces.

And, of course, a third challenge involves the need to address the threats to US and global security that arise from instability. The same strategy of blending into or calling on elements of civilian populations makes it vital that the mission of our defense forces include winning the hearts and minds of those populations. At the same time, sources of instability even outside the theater of war or armed conflict – from disaster to humanitarian need to political or social unrest – can present threats to our security. By definition, instability too involves rapid changes and deteriorations of situations, again putting a premium on instant analysis, adaptability and flexibility.

So to narrow down an extremely broad but still useful concept, at least three very specific challenges for IW stand out and need to be addressed from an industry perspective:

  • The ability to identify friends, foes and others
  • The accelerated delivery of the capability to respond or anticipate rapid adaptation into the field to our war-fighters – in the form both of technology and training, and
  • The willingness and readiness to mobilize both our forces and our technology for operations addressing ever-changing threats to regional or global stability and thereby security.

Because of the urgency and rapid evolution of these challenges, IW tends to put a premium on "75 percent solutions." There is no time to develop technologically elegant capabilities providing 99 percent of potential or desired performance. "Good enough for today" has never been our motto – but we’re going to have to learn to do business that way if we're going to get the capabilities our war-fighters need into their hands in time.

Businesses must demand the necessary answers, too. We should ask, "Seventy-five percent of what?" The requirements for irregular warfare capabilities need to be clear for businesses to help the warfighter.

Joint Urgent Operational Needs (JUONS) are today’s most common manifestations of these "75% solution" needs. To respond to JUONs and the irregular threats they address, the contractor community will need the ability to see radically new applications for existing technologies, and to collaborate quickly to get a solution to the field. This requires some real mind-set and production model changes for us in the defense contracting community, who are used to developing near-perfect solutions over many years to meet distant, future requirements.

Northrop Grumman’s Commitment
So my central message today is this: at Northrop Grumman, we get it when it comes to Irregular Warfare. I know you do, too. A passion to meet IW challenges permeates us from top to bottom – and we share the urgency for the IW mission that is felt by OSD, the military services, and the mothers and fathers across America whose sons and daughters are bearing the brunt of the fight.

IW Capabilities
Moreover, our efforts are focused like a laser on the key "irregular threats" I’ve laid out. Let's consider first the capabilities needed to distinguish "blue" from "red" from "gray." Northrop Grumman has been privileged to play a key role in bringing to the troops one near-revolutionary capability in this domain: Blue Force Tracking (BFT). Our BFT experience is quite remarkable. This capability was originally developed for use in Bosnia and Kosovo to keep track of small numbers of small units operating in fairly close proximity to their bases, conducting patrols and other peace-keeping activities.

Its ability to find, track and counter the "bad guys" in real time, and provide our forces the situational awareness to minimize exposure and casualties while maximizing combat lethality, is what IW is all about.

Another key tool in distinguishing friend, foe and other is the ability to establish a one-to-one correspondence between an individual and his biometric signature.

In situations like Iraq and Afghanistan, where we need to know for certain who is coming onto a base or into a camp on friendly government facility – or to be able to trace someone’s involvement in a terrorist episode after the fact – biometric identification is key. Northrop Grumman’s Automated Biometric Identification System will make a key contribution in this area. In addition to these Biometric identification (ID) systems, useful in cooperative environments where ID information can be taken, sorted and utilized, we're looking at technologies to assist with non-cooperative settings, involving large crowds of "un-registered" people.

Furthermore, Northrop Grumman's Battlefield Airborne Communications Node – called BACN – is a good example of a program that began as a technology demonstration but became a strategic priority for the Air Force, thanks to the persistent advocacy of the operator community. Utilizing the Air Force’s current standard data links and voice communications equipment, BACN is able to relay and disseminate situational awareness information across a wide range of Joint Forces despite incompatibilities in their respective communications gear.

Non-Combat Capabilities and IW
We at Northrop Grumman are focused on addressing the third "irregular threat" I mentioned, instability. In particular, we recognize that Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, or HADR, play a critical and often unheralded role in successful Irregular Warfare efforts. These HADR capabilities depend on the same mobility, persistent ISR, and command and control capabilities that we require for Irregular Warfare and for the conventional fight.

Today, another terrific example of how peacetime HADR capabilities advance US interests, promote our national security and prepare us for their use in wartime – and of the adaptation of Northrop Grumman technologies in this area – is playing out in Haiti. It's hard to believe, given the incredible loss of life and human suffering in Haiti, but the Administration faced criticism in the early days of the crisis for its prompt deployment of military forces to aid in the relief effort

Military participation in disaster response is the right thing to do. Thecapabilities of US forces were greatly needed given the lack of infrastructure to deliver supplies and personnel and the increasing lawlessness on the streets. And, from a security perspective, addressing the desperate needs of the Haitian people on their shores is far preferable to dealing with a flotilla of boat people attempting to negotiate the Caribbean and arriving on our shores. Not to mention that the still deployment of U.S. forces to Haiti, not all that long back, underscores the importance we attach to maintaining stability there.

Northrop Grumman is proud to be supporting the Haitian relief effort.

As a final point, the industry needs to meet the challenges of irregular warfare by influencing the acquisition process. Right now, the acquisition process cannot support the fast-changing needs of irregular warfare situations. The process may be too focused on the acquisition customer, rather than the end user. We need the Department of Defense to know that we need to interface with the end user.

As I mentioned at the outset, I've had houseguests the last few days. One is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel; the other is a 24-year old young man from Kosovo. Eleven years ago, during Operation Allied Force, Muharrem Alija's 17-year old sister Filloreta was accidentally killed, along with two uncles and several other innocent civilians from their village, by pilots who worked for me, who were under my command. I later met "Rrem" and was surprised to find that despite that tragedy, he was deeply grateful for all the U.S. and NATO had done to stop the terror and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. As you know, we face similar challenges in Afghanistan, and despite Rrem's gratitude, we MUST stop killing the wrong people! That is both a moral and mission problem, and industry has to do better at providing capabilities for Identification Friend, Foe and Other and reduce the likelihood of collateral damage.

Muharrem's tragedy happened because we couldn't see and couldn't hear. That's what we need to work on.