DARPA Director Unveils AI Next Initiative to Focus on Third-Wave Artificial Intelligence

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Steven Walker said Friday the agency will double-down on the next wave of artificial intelligence via its “five-year, almost $2 billion” AI Next initiative, which looks to use AI technology to solve some of the toughest national security challenges. Walker made the announcement during his closing remarks at the agency’s D60 Symposium in National Harbor, Md., which commemorated the agency’s 60th anniversary. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

Air Force Cancels Chicago Firm’s Contract, Alleging Foreign Ties

The Air Force is ending a contract with a Chicago company for casings for BLU-137/B penetrator warheads because of its apparent ties to a Russian oligarch. Bloomberg broke the story Wednesday in an article linking to an Aug. 30 Air Force letter to the Government Accountability Office setting out its decision. That letter cites a July protest by Ellwood National Forge of Irvine, Pa., against the award to A. Finkl and Sons Co. of Chicago. The protest alleged that Finkl “is under Foreign Ownership, Control or Influence [FOCI],” according to the Air Force letter. The letter also states that the Air Force had concluded “Finkl is a U.S. company that is under FOCI” and thus ineligible for award. Bloomberg describes Finkl’s parent company, Schmolz + Bickenbach, as having links to a Russian billionaire, Viktor Vekselberg, who has been targeted by US sanctions in response to Russian actions in Ukraine and Crimea. Similar concerns were raised July 27 by 10 Republican House members from Pennsylvania in a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. That letter raised concerns that one of the companies awarded the contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though foreign-owned, -controlled, or –influenced companies were barred from the contract. They also raised concerns not only that a wholly owned subsidiary of a Swiss company won the contract, but that the Swiss parent company is “partially owned and influenced by Victor Vekselberg and his Renova Group, both of which the U.S. Treasury Department listed in April as Specially Designated Nationals prohibited from doing business in the U.S.” The Air Force told Air Force Magazine Friday it had no immediate comment on the story. —Steve Hirsch

Air Force Participates in Colombian-led Search-and-Rescue Exercise

The Air Force is participating in a Colombian-led international search-and-rescue training exercise involving a dozen countries, which is aimed at both disaster response and combat techniques. Two Air Force aircraft and more than 90 airmen are participating in the Sept. 3-14 Angel de los Andes exercise being staged at Air Combat Command number 5 unit at Arturo Lema Posada Air Base. This is the second time Colombia’s Air Force has conducted the exercise, the first having been 2015. A C-17 Globemaster III from the 14th Airlift Squadron at Charleston AFB, S.C., and a C-130 Hercules from the 133rd Airlift Wing with the Minnesota Air National Guard are among the eight Air Force components participating. US participation also includes the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron at Travis AFB, Calif., and the 48th Rescue Squadron, 306th Rescue Squadron, 612th Air Operations Center, 943rd Aerospace Medicine Squadron, and 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), all stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. The exercise is divided into a week focused on responding to natural disasters and to an aircraft crash, and a week focusing on close air support and combat search and rescue. Other countries participating include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay. —Steve Hirsch

GAO Reports on Air Force Program to Open Officer Course to Senior Enlisted Personnel

Senior enlisted airmen who attended a 10-month Air War College officer in-residence course as part of a USAF pilot program were advanced their careers faster than their counterparts. Of the 11 chief master sergeants who graduated from the course, which began in 2016, one was assigned and two were scheduled to be assigned to strategic-level Air Force posts faster than the chief’s usual 18- to 24-month developmental progression period, the Government Accountability Office found in a Sept. 5 report. The GAO report, required under the Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, assessed and supplemented a report by the Air Force also required in the law, and addressed requirements regarding attendance of enlisted personnel in the course. Among the findings in the Air Force’s April report, the GAO said the impact on the availability of slots for officers and resources needed for enlisted personnel to attend was negligible. The GAO echoed that conclusion in its own findings, saying not all of the openings for the officer in-residence training for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 years were filled, even after being offered to enlisted Air Force personnel and other services’ officers. A total of 182 Air Force officers and enlisted personnel graduated from the course—91 in 2017 and the same number in 2018—leaving 18 Air Force-funded slots unfilled, the GAO said. The GAO said it was not making recommendations in the report. Developing joint leaders is one of Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein’s top priorities as Chief. —Steve Hirsch


—A disoriented Japanese man on Friday drove onto Kadena AB, Japan, and crashed into another vehicle waiting in the ID check line: Stars and Stripes.

—It’s now technically possible for a person to use a chip embedded into their brain to control a drone swarm or even a fighter jet: Defense One.

—Col. Gina “Torch” Sabric is the Air Force Reserve’s first female F-35 fighter pilot: AFRC release.

—Pacific Angel 2018, a US-led joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief engagement, will run from Sept. 10-15 in Quang Nam province, Vietnam: PACAF release.