Are Bugs the Key to Efficient AI

Defense Department researchers think tiny bug brains might be key to developing new and more efficient artificial intelligence computational frameworks and strategies. DARPA is offering a total of $1 million to researchers to study the intelligence and neurosystems of miniature insects and then to take those lessons learned to develop prototypes potentially highlighting fundamental new ways of thinking about information processing. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

Chewning Appointed New DOD Chief of Staff

Eric Chewning, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, has been named Chief of Staff to the Defense Secretary, the Pentagon announced Tuesday. Chewning replaces retired Navy Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, who stepped down from his post shortly after Patrick Shanahan became the acting secretary on Jan. 1. Chewning enlisted in the Army following 9/11 and was later commissioned as an intelligence officer. He earned a Bronze Star, the Humanitarian Service Medal, and the Army Combat Action Badge before leaving the Army and joining management consultant McKinsey & Co. He returned to the Pentagon in October 2017. President Trump has not yet nominated a permanent replacement for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned in December, and has indicated on Twitter he is in no rush. One name that may be in the mix: Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Just before Christmas Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, floated Wilson ’s name in a tweet, suggesting she “would make a great Secretary of Defense and make our country proud.” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) seconded the Dec. 23 tweet: “Wilson embodies the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.” —Amy McCullough

The New Space Race

The United States hasn’t lost its edge in space yet, but China is rapidly developing new capabilities and the US needs to pick up the pace on new space-based innovations if it wants to maintain its lead. “China is integrating certain new technologies and fielding those capabilities faster than the US,” said Chris Shank, director of DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office, during a presentation hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in San Diego. “That means we have to be more responsive.” Shank said China conducted eight more launches than the US last year—39 compared to 31—and recently made history when it landed on the dark side of the moon. Russia wasn’t far behind, having conducted 20 space launches. But Shank also noted that the same week China was conducting its robotic mission on the moon, NASA’s New Horizons probe was observing an object some 4 billion miles from the sun—”the farthest object ever explored in space,” according to a DOD release. The new Space Development Agency will go a long way in helping the US “rapidly develop and field the next generation of space capabilities,” Shank told the audience. “I think that a Space Development Agency will represent a real investment in experimenting and prototyping of the rapid field of capabilities. So, … buckle up—2019 is going to be busy.” —Amy McCullough

Former A-10 Pilot Becomes First Female F-35 Test Pilot

Maj. Rachael Winiecki, from the 461st Flight Test Squadron, completed her flight test mission last month, becoming the first female F-35 developmental test pilot, according to a USAF release. After the flight, Winiecki said the number of women in the test community is increasing, noting several female test directors, conductors, discipline engineers, and flight test engineers within the 461st FLTS. Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, 461st FLTS commander, said Winiecki was chosen for the role because of her “exceptional flying ability” and her background as an A-10 pilot. “I really do appreciate the perspective that I can bring coming from the A-10 and the F-16 to hopefully bring some influence from that perspective. As testers, the contacts we have back in the Combat Air Force are valuable,” she said. “We can reach out to our networks to solicit feedback, solicit information on how we could and should accomplish our mission sets in the future. That’s really where we can open doors.” Winiecki will be part of a developmental team working on all three variants of the Joint Strike Fighter, according to the release. —Amy McCullough



Defense Companies Starting to Feel Effect of US Government Shutdown

Firms working for NASA, DHS, and other shuttered federal agencies are taking hits to their cash flow. As the partial government shutdown moves into its third week, some American defense firms are starting to get multi-million-dollar IOUs instead of payments. Defense One

Independent Study Raises Red Flags About Space Force as a Separate Military Department

CNA proposed designing a Space Force with a “lean headquarters” but that still would require 400 additional staff and resources such as information technology, business systems, training and education, outfitting and rebranding, and expert advice from private consultants — at a cost of up to $4.5 billion over five years. Space News

Trump Wanted a Big Cut in Troops in Afghanistan. New U.S. Military Plans Fall Short.

The U.S. military is drafting plans to withdraw a few thousand troops from Afghanistan while continuing all major missions in the longest war in American history, U.S. officials said, three weeks after President Trump sought options for a more drastic pullout. The Washington Post

Airman Pleads Innocent to Murdering His Roommate During Deployment to Guam

An Air Force airman has pleaded innocent to a murder charge, accusing him of stabbing and slitting his roommate’s throat while they were temporarily assigned to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on March 26, 2018. Air Force Times

China Sends Military to Intercept US Navy in the South China Sea as Tensions Rise

The Chinese military has moved to intercept U.S. warships sailing through the contested South China Sea in the latest of what has been a series of tense encounters involving the two powers in the Asia-Pacific region. Newsweek

U.S. Envoy Working on Qatar Dispute Resigns from State Department

Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine Corps general and former head of U.S. Central Command who has been working as an envoy for the Trump administration to resolve a dispute with Qatar, has resigned from his position with the State Department. He is the latest four-star general to exit the administration. CBS News

One More Thing …

Listen to This Incredible Audio of Isreal F-15 Pilots Losing Their Canopy at 30,000 Feet

The Israeli Air Force has revealed a harrowing mishap occurred last week in which an F-15 combat jet’s canopy broke off while the plane was flying a training mission at 30,000 feet. Amazingly, the two pilots, who you can hear talking with ground controllers in audio that the Israel Defense Forces released, were able to maintain control of the plane and make an emergency landing. The Drive