May 20, 2021
This month, the Pallas Foundation for National Security Leadership hosted a conversation with Major General Peter Gallagher, then-Director of the Network Cross-Functional Team at Army Futures Command, where he shared insights on how N-CFT drives modernization priorities, key artificial intelligence and emerging technology priorities, and provided advice for young professionals in national security. More on the conversation below.
The technologies that Army Futures Command decides to focus on are a result of the problem set that they face—and that they are trying to solve. The first step in deciding what technology to invest resources in, according to MG Gallagher, is constructing a set of problem statements. In order to do so, Army Futures Command collaborates with key stakeholders to target and determine existing problems, and then focuses on aligning resources to solve those problems. The alignment of resources included reaching out to private industry to help shape and influence the technology they are developing. Eventually, AFC brings the technology into the Joint Systems Integration Laboratory to test whether it could withstand rigorous threats, and to get feedback directly from warfighters.
The Army Futures Command views artificial intelligence and machine learning through three key lenses: accelerating the sensor-to-shooter kill chain, self-healing networks, and rapid integration of functions. MG Gallagher believes that the most important function for AI was its acceleration of the kill chain, which is the process of identifying a target, dispatching a force to the target, deciding whether to attack, and, finally, destroying the target. A core theme mentioned throughout the fireside chat was the concern of network capabilities in near-peer disruption scenarios. The threat of a disrupted network leads to MG Gallagher’s second AI priority: self-healing network. If a network is contested or congested, can the AI heal itself—or, in other words, adjust to the challenge accordingly to remain functional. Finally, MG Gallagher stressed the importance of converging operations intelligence and logistic functions in order to leverage AI’s ability to help warfighters integrate war fighting functions to make faster decisions.
According to MG Gallagher, attitude is everything. In advice to young professionals, MG Gallagher stressed the importance of being in the right place, at the right time, in the appropriate attire, with the right attitude. Although he claimed that you might be able to overcome showing up late or being under-dressed, Gallagher emphasized that attitude is the most important thing, and you could never overcome having a negative attitude. In order to be the best at your craft, MG Gallagher urged the audience to master the fundamentals of what you have learned in school and the key functions of your current role. He went on to explain that elite units in the armed forces can solve the nation’s most complex problems because they are trained to master fundamentals. In addition, MG Gallagher stressed the importance of relationships, adding that by taking care of the people around you (and never burning a bridge), it is possible to build a powerful and authentic network of professionals that enable you to solve complex problems.