Silicon Valley may be the hub for technical innovation but that’s not impressive to the Pentagon’s director of the Defense Digital Service (DDS), Brett Goldstein. He’s recruiting rapid-response ‘SWAT teams’ in-house to conquer threats posed by enemy drones. The team assembled for the first project is tasked with detecting, hacking, and jamming signals from pint-sized planes that are easy to build but difficult to detect – making them a significant threat.
How Goldstein intends to track these particular threats, primarily from terrorists, isn’t immediately clear. However, he tells Breaking Defense that ‘one of the things that I’ve been doing over the past few months is bringing in some new skill sets. It’s an interdisciplinary, multi-modal group ranging from electrical engineers to radio frequency experts to software engineers — and that is real today.’
‘We have this team, they’re working on these types of problems as we speak,’ he continues. The question remains: why not draw on everything the tech world has already built? The idea is to solve critical issues in real-time instead of waiting for solutions from the commercial sector. This approach is atypical for the DDS, who usually brings in Silicon Valley contractors. Goldstein, who succeeded founding director Chris Lynch last April, thinks that real innovation will only be accomplished with the type of long-term commitment found in developing teams with existing DDS employees.
The DDS, which is made up of 70 people, has merged with the 14 members of Rogue Squadron – part of the Defense Innovation Unit based in Palo Alto. While small by Pentagon standards, the collective consists entirely of in-house experts on small-drone threats. Goldstein will assign a half-dozen experts to work with Rogue Squadron. Goldstein plans to incrementally add on more team members.
‘We are top-notch engineers, and every engineer I assign to anything is a critical decision. That is a big investment to us and that level of engineering and technical talent… will be very high impact,’ Goldstein emphasizes. The task of getting members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps coordinated to combat threats from small drones is one the Pentagon’s top priorities. The resulting project is called Joint All Domain Command & Control.
If it all works out, members of the different forces listed above will be able to effectively communicate over land, sea, air, and cyberspace. The tech created from these efforts will be used for other threats besides targeting rogue drones. ‘This isn’t just about S-UAS; this is about broader DoD (Department of Defense) systems,’ Goldstein concludes.