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Assessing Deterrence in the Gray Zone



PROPOSALS ACCEPTED: Phase I and DP2. Please see the 16.3 DoD Program Solicitation and the DARPA 16.3 Direct to Phase II Instructions for DP2 requirements and proposal instructions.

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Information Systems

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate technologies to enable measuring and explaining the success of deterrent strategies and tactics in “Gray Zone” conflicts.

DESCRIPTION: Deterrence is a strategy intended to dissuade an adversary from undesirable action. Our nation is entering a period where adversary action and our response to those actions will frequently take place in a segment of the conflict continuum that some are calling the “Gray Zone,” characterized by intense political, economic, informational, and military competition more fervent in nature than normal steady-state diplomacy, yet short of conventional war. A core impediment to studying deterrence in this realm lies in the fact that success is defined by the absence of an adversarial action. Success is difficult to demonstrate because absence of actions could result from alternative variables not always attributable to the deterrent strategy itself. To confound observation further, the presence and absence of conflict is no longer black and white. There exists a continuum of action between war and peace comprised of (but not limited to) propaganda distribution, unconventional warfare, cyber harassment, covert operatives, diplomatic aggression, economic warfare, terrorism, and proxy forces. Adversarial actors often tune strategies to weaken their opponent, or cause them to spend political or economic capital, without triggering a repercussion threshold, further complicating assessment of a deterrent counter strategy.

This topic seeks new technologies that can measure and explain the effectiveness of deterrent strategies in the Gray Zone leveraging open source data. To assess the success of a deterrent, it is necessary to establish evidence that the deterrent effect was achieved, and that the deterrent action taken was a primary cause of the achieved effect. The first requires identifying evidence of a change in intentions on the part of the adversary, and the second requires identifying and assessing alternative explanations for that change in intent. Both require advances over the state of the art in ability to model threat intentions and to explain observations based on data, and require a systematic perspective that examines the complex set of conditions, actors, tactics, strategies, and outcomes across conflict holistically.

PHASE I: Create a notional framework that captures and incorporates the significant factors associated with deterrence in the “Gray Zone.” The goal is to provide a notional framework with a practical number of significant entities, conflict/competition types, and deterrent strategies to allow a commander or analyst to understand the system and what affects change and how. Basic capability must be demonstrated to build a portion of the proposed framework in software demonstrating the ability to measure effects of selected deterrent strategies in a relevant scenario. Define metrics and thresholds for successful assessment and demonstrate ability to measure those metrics. Phase I deliverables will include a demonstration to the government; a report documenting research results, the design for the deterrence framework, and results of testing against the identified scenario; and source code developed under the Phase I effort.

PHASE II: Leveraging the framework derived in Phase I, complete the system design and build a prototype that further enhances and develops the capabilities in Phase I to a level of capability that can be assessed for operational utility. The prototype should demonstrate successful performance against the metrics defined in Phase I using scenarios and data sets identified in conjunction with an operational partner such as a combatant command. Conduct testing in conjunction with the partner to assess utility of the prototype capability. Phase II deliverables will include demonstrations to the government in each year of the Phase II program; and an interim report each year but the final year documenting research results, the design of the demonstration prototype, and results of testing against relevant scenarios; a final report at the end of Phase II documenting research results, the design of the demonstration prototype, results of testing against relevant scenarios, and a plan for Phase III transition; and source code for each demonstration prototype.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The envisioned end state of the research is a capability that can provide a robust capability for operational (combatant command) users to assess and understand the effectiveness of deterrent strategies against adversaries in “Gray Zone” conflict situations. This capability should be able to be deployed to a combatant command in conjunction with, or integrated as part of, a suite of command and control applications in use by an operational command. Specifically, this research should result in a commercializable technology for assessing and explaining adversary intentions and actions from open source data. This technology should find dual-use applicability to strategic business decision-making applications in highly competitive industries such as information technology.



KEYWORDS: Gray Zone, Conflict, Deterrent, Explanation, Open Source, Threat Intent, Modeling

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