Friday, November 27, 2020

This Week in Operation Warp Speed - Nov. 27, 2020

 Nov. 27, 2020


Below is a compilation of initiatives, actions and accomplishments across Operation Warp Speed (OWS)’s primary efforts in the past week. To learn more about OWS, visit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website and Department of Defense (DOD) website

VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: 

AstraZeneca announced early results of its vaccine candidate based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil. AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report late-stage data for potential COVID-19 vaccines. 

While authorized COVID-19 vaccines are likely forthcoming, research continues and clinical trials are still enrolling volunteer participants. Clinical trials need people from all age groups, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Large studies especially need volunteers over age 65, people with underlying medical conditions and members of minority populations. 

THERAPEUTICS DEVELOPMENT:

Regeneron announced its monoclonal antibody cocktail - casirivimab and imdevimab administered together – received Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. Operation Warp Speed began distribution of the new drug cocktail this week where it is needed most around the country. The treatment is authorized for mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients at least 12 years old who weigh at least 40 kg or 88 pounds and are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 or hospitalization.

Operation Warp Speed’s Deputy Lead for Therapeutics Col. Deydre Teyhen discusses the types of treatments, ongoing research and the continued importance of ongoing research to treat COVID-19 in a video interview

As COVID-19 infections spike nationwide, the demand for convalescent plasma is outpacing donations. Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last three months can donate now. Go to your local blood collection center, American Red Cross or America’s Blood Centers or visit www.TheFightIsInUs.org to become a donor.

MANUFACTURING, DISTRIBUTION AND ADMINISTRATION:

Operation Warp Speed partnered with Pfizer and McKesson for a series of trial shipments to delivery locations to test processes and systems. While shipments did not include actual vaccines or ancillary kitting, they provided recipients a first look at the shipping processes and containers, as well as temperature monitors that will be used for distributing the Pfizer vaccine. The shipments will continue to go to state-identified locations, which include both public health departments and administration sites, such as hospitals. Additional rehearsals are scheduled in the coming weeks, which will expand shipments across nearly all jurisdictions. 
  
KEY ENGAGEMENTS/OUTREACH:

In a continued effort to synchronize efforts with states, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and OWS leaders including Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gus Perna and Vaccine Development Lead Dr. Matt Hepburn, held a call with governors this week to discuss the distribution strategy with a highlight on data use agreements and provider enrollment. Perna emphasized that jurisdictions are empowered to decide how their vaccine allocations are distributed. Read more.

HHS held multiple calls with stakeholders and the media as HHS began the allocation and distribution of the Regeneron antibody cocktail therapeutic following the FDA granting an emergency use authorization.

Operation Warp Speed held its second weekly news briefing Tuesday. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, and OWS co-leaders, Dr. Moncef Slaoui and Gen. Gus Perna will continue to provide weekly updates. Credentialed media may call in to ask questions and the briefing is broadcast on HHS and DOD sites. Next week’s briefing is tentatively set for Wednesday. 

SENIOR LEADER QUOTES:

"It is a remarkable tribute to the Operation Warp Speed approach that we now have significant supplies of two FDA-authorized antibody products, designed to treat a novel virus, just 11 months after the virus was identified... We are going to defeat this virus. Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the hard work for so many dedicated public servants and innovators, there is light at the end of the tunnel." ~U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar

"I really hope and look forward to seeing that the level of negative perception of the vaccine decreases and peoples' acceptance increases. That is going to be critical to help us. Most people need to be immunized before we can go back to a normal life." ~Operation Warp Speed Chief Science Advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui

"We are working on our distribution plans constantly. We work rehearsals of different scenarios to make sure we are capturing all the nuances of the delivery. Each and every week we get stronger. Each week we are one week closer to distributing the vaccine. We are one week closer to refining to the exactness that we need to have to do this - and I'm very confident in that process." ~Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gus Perna

Operation Warp Speed is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, engaging with private firms and other federal agencies, and coordinating among existing HHS-wide efforts to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Chief of Space Operations Discusses Need for Outreach to Partners, State of Space Force

 Nov. 25, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

The importance of space to the modern world cannot be underestimated, and the U.S. Space Force will be key to defending the ultimate "high ground," said Space Force Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, the chief of space operations for the new service.

Other nations are realizing the crucial role of space, as well, and the general is meeting with allies and partners to build on long-established military-to-military relationships. He concluded a visit with Pacific allies Saturday and spoke about the need for such outreach, how the new service operates and how service members are responding to it.

A man walks away from a helicopter.

Raymond gave the interview during his flight from Hawaii to Colorado. He was in an aircraft traveling 500 mph over the Eastern Pacific, and the reporter was sitting in Alexandria, Va. The call’s clear sound quality would not have been possible without space capabilities. Raymond's aircraft navigated using the global positioning system. The aircrew received weather reports based on satellite information. 

Space is a crucial domain, economically and militarily, and it must be protected, Raymond said.

The new service is less than a year old, yet it has made tremendous strides. 

"Space really underpins… all of our instruments of national power," Raymond said. "It provides huge economic opportunity, scientific opportunity and military opportunity."

Many people call Operation Desert Storm the first "space war." U.S. strategic missile warning capabilities were used innovatively to detect tactical scud missiles. GPS made possible the "left hook" blow into southern Iraq.

"It was the first war where we integrated strategic space capabilities into theater operations," Raymond said. "And it provided us a significant advantage."

Since then, the strategic environment has changed considerably. Space was a benign domain in 1991, but it is a contested domain today. This requires the U.S. military to adapt and change, Raymond said.

I think there's a realization amongst nations that access to space is no longer a given. We've got to make sure that we stay ahead of this growing threat."
Space Force Gen.  John "Jay" Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force

"We have to train our operators differently, we have to have different space architectures, and we have to have partnerships," he said. 

China and Russia caused this shift in the strategic environment. The two countries seek to stop U.S. access to space, and they are developing capabilities that would negate the U.S. advantage

"I think there's a realization amongst nations that access to space is no longer a given," Raymond said. "We've got to make sure that we stay ahead of this growing threat."

A Space Command service member sits and looks at monitors in a room.

China and Russia have exhibited threatening behavior in space. Their capabilities include reversible jamming of GPS and communication satellites. The two nations are working on directed energy and kinetic destruction of U.S. assets via missiles on the ground. Raymond said that there are on-orbit capabilities which are very concerning. If people think the threat isn't real, the general points back to when the Chinese shot down a satellite in 2007.

This is why partnerships are so important to the United States and to the world. Space will be a trillion-dollar economy by itself over the next few years, he said, and "it offers us an opportunity to develop global partnerships that allow us to take a global perspective," he said. 

During his Air Force career, Raymond served as the vice commander of the 5th Air Force based in Japan. He was there during the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear plant meltdown. U.S. forces based in Japan and in the Pacific came to the aid of the Japanese allies.

"I saw the value of that partnership, front and center," he said. 

He saw the cooperation between the U.S. and Japan on land, sea and air and thought the two militaries needed to have the same cooperation and understanding about the space domain.

This service … has to be agile and lean to go fast. I think that's critical to our success in the space domain. I really believe that large organizations are slow, and I will do all I can to stay small."
Space Force Gen.  John "Jay" Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force

That is happening, not just with Japan, but with many close allies.

"We've really gone from partnerships that were just one-way data sharing arrangements — where we share space situational awareness information — to partnerships where we now operate together, train together, exercise together, wargame together, and where we're just beginning to develop capabilities together," Raymond said. 

The United States and international partners are also talking about norms of behavior in space and how responsible nations act in the space domain.

Other nations are developing space commands. France stood up a Space Command in 2019. The United Kingdom has funds for a Space Command in their recently unveiled budget. Japan just stood up a new organization centered on space.

"Across the globe, there's a recognition that space needs to be elevated in importance to a level relative to everybody's security," he said.

Two men wearing face masks talk in a doorway.

The American military space effort — both the U.S. Space Force and the combatant command, U.S. Space Command — are not large organizations, but they have a large footprint. In addition to working with allies, Raymond has worked with the combatant commands to learn their needs, how they see the future and what sorts of capabilities they will need moving forward. 

The Space Force is a global power, and the requirements have to be examined globally, as well. The force works with all the geographic combatant commands. 

The Space Force celebrates its first birthday Dec. 20, 2020, and Raymond said the service has really been in the process of "inventing" itself.

"This service … has to be agile and lean to go fast," he said. "I think that's critical to our success in the space domain. I really believe that large organizations are slow, and I will do all I can to stay small."

Space itself is "fast." He noted that objects in space go 17,500 mph just to stay in orbit.

Inspired by the idea of traveling at the speed of space, the Air Force swiftly streamlined the creation of Space Force. It is not a numbered Air Force — a three-star position — and Raymond eliminated a series of O-6 commands.

... everybody in this service has an extra bounce in their step, because the nation and the world understand just how valuable space is to our nation."
Space Force Gen.  John "Jay" Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force

"We wanted to reduce the decision space between the experts in the field and the decision makers," he said.

The Space Force staff was estimated to need 1,000 service members. It will have about 600 and is not growing, Raymond said.

If the command gets new missions, they may revisit the manning situation, but the service will never match the Army, Air Force or Navy in size.

"This is a small, highly technical service that provides value well beyond the size of the force structure," he said.

One example he gave was a squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. It has about 100 personnel and operates the entire GPS constellation for the world.

"Small numbers of people can have a huge global impact," he said.

Service members raise hands to swear oaths in hangar.

Raymond said he is seeing excitement once again in America about space.

"There's excitement across the nation I haven't seen since the Apollo days," he said. 

There's talk of NASA moon landings again and eventual trips to Mars. The accomplishments of SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, United Launch Alliance and other private firms are also fomenting interest. 

In the Space Force, "everybody in this service has an extra bounce in their step, because the nation and the world understand just how valuable space is to our nation," he said.

The force has had no trouble getting volunteers. The service had to have an application process for those wishing to transfer from the Air Force.

"If you look at the Air Force Academy two years ago, there were 13 cadets who came to the force," he said. "This last year, we had 86. This year, it'll be 100."

The same thing is happening in universities and colleges around the country, with many applicants studying astro-engineering.

"Ten years from now, we're going to reap the benefits of this," he said.

Raymond knows what he is talking about. On July 20, 1969, the general was a kid in West Point, N.Y.

"I remember sitting on the living room floor watching Neil Armstrong first walk on the moon," he said. "And then I remember turning around and going to build an Apollo model rocket. I think the same thing is happening today."

Joint Artificial Intelligence Center Director Briefs Reporters on Efforts to Scale AI

 Nov. 24, 2020

U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael S. Groen, Director, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center

LIEUTENANT GENERAL MICHAEL S. GROEN:  Okay, Good afternoon, welcome.  I'm Mike Groen, Lieutenant Colon— Lieutenant General, United States Marine Corps.  I'm the new Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the JAIC.  I'm very glad for the opportunity to interact with you, look forward to our conversation today.

It's my great privilege to serve alongside the members of the JAIC but also the much larger numbers across the department that -- that are committed to changing the way we decide, the way we fight, the way we manage, and the way we prepare.

It's clear to me that we do not have an awareness problem in the department, but like with any transformational set of technologies, we have a lot of work to do in broadly understanding the transformative nature and the implications of AI integration.

We're challenged not so much in finding the technologies we need but rather to get – to getting about the hard work of AI implementation.  I've often used the analogy of the transformation into Industrial Age warfare, of literally lancers riding into battle against guns that were machines, flying machines that scouted positions or dropped bombs, of massed long range artillery machines or even poison gas to use as a weapon, used as a weapon, at an industrial scale.

That transformation that had been underway for decades suddenly coalesced into something very lethal and very real.  Understanding that came at great cost.  Another example is blitzkrieg, literally lightning war, that leveraged technology known to both sides to create – but – but was used by one side to create tempo that overwhelmed the slower, more methodical force.

In either case, the artifacts of the new technological environment were plain to see in the society that surrounded the participants.  These transformational moments were imminently foreseeable but in many cases not foreseen.

I would submit that today we face a very similar situation.  We're surrounded by the artifacts of the Information Age.  We need to understand the impacts of this set of globally available technologies on future of warfare.  We need to work hard now to foresee what is foreseeable.

We have a tech-native military and civilian workforce that enjoys a fast-flowing, responsive, and tailored information environment, at home when they're on their mobile phones.  They want that same experience in the militaries and department systems that they operate.  Our warfighters want responsive, data-driven decisions.  Our commanders want to operate at speed and with a mix of manned and unmanned capabilities.  The citizens seek efficiency and effectiveness from their investments in defense.  Artificial intelligence can unlock all of these.

We're surrounded by examples in every major industry of data-driven enterprise, that operate with speed and efficiency, that leaves their competitors in the dust.  We want that.  Most important of all, we need to ensure that the young men and women who go in harm's way on our behalf are prepared and equipped for the complex, high tempo battlefields that – of the future.

I often hear that AI is our future, and I don't disagree with that, but AI also needs to be our present.  As an implementation organization, the JAIC will continue to work hard with many partners across the department to bring that into being.

So let me just talk a little bit about our priorities in the JAIC today, and you can ask questions.

In JAIC 1.0, we helped jumpstart AI in the DOD through pathfinder projects we called mission initiatives.  So over the last year, year and a half, we've been in that business.  We developed over 30 AI products working across a range of department use cases.  We learned a great deal and brought a – on board some of the brightest talent in the business.  It really is amazing.

When we took stock, however, we realized that this was not transformational enough.  We weren't going to be in a position to transform the department through the delivery of use cases.

In JAIC 2.0, what we're calling our -- our effort now, we seek to push harder across the department to accelerate the adoption of AI across every aspect of our warfighting and business operations.  While the JAIC will continue to – to develop AI solutions, we're working in parallel to enable a broad range of customers across the department.  We can't achieve scale without having a broader range of our – of participants in the integration of AI.  That means a renewed focus on the Joint Common Foundation (JCF), which most of you are familiar with, the DevSecOps platform that – and the key enabler for AI advancement within the department.  It's a resource for all, but especially for disadvantaged users who don't have the infrastructure and the tech expertise to do it themselves.

We're – we 're recrafting our engagement mechanism inside the JAIC to actively seek out problems and help make others successful.  We will be more problem pull than product push.

One thing we note is that stovepipes don't scale, so we will work through our partners in the AI Executive Steering Group and the -- and the subcommittees of that group, to integrate and focus common architectures, AI standards, data-sharing strategies, educational norms, and best practice for AI implementation.  We'll continue to work across the department on AI ethics, AI policy, AI governance, and we'll do that as a community.

We'll also continue to work with like-minded nations to enhance security cooperation and interoperability through our AI partnership for the – for defense.  All of the JAIC’s work comes back to that enabling, that broad transformation across the department.  We want to help defense leaders see that AI is about generating essential warfighting advantages.  AI is not IT (information technology).  It's not a black box that a contractor's going to deliver to you.  It's not some digital gadget that an IT rep will show you how to log into.

Our primary implementation challenge is the hard work of decision engineering.  It's commanders' business at every level and in every defense enterprise.  How do you make warfighting decisions?  What data drives your decision-making?  Do you have that data?  Do you have access to it?  If -- it's -- it's driving leaders to think, "You know, I could make a better decision if I knew 'X'."

JAIC wants to help leaders at every level get to that "X".  We want to data-informed, data-driven decisions across warfighting and functional enterprises.  We want to understand the enemy and ourselves, and benefit from data-driven insight into what's -- what happens next.  We want the generation of tempo to respond to fast-moving threats across multiple domains.  We want recursive virtualized war-gaming and simulation at great fidelity.  We want successful teaming among manned and unmanned platforms, and we want small leaders – or small unit leaders that go into harm's way to go with a more complete understanding of their threats, their risks, their resources, and their opportunities.

We're grateful to Congress.  We'll – we're grateful to DOD leadership, the enthusiastic service members who – who are helping us with this, and the American people for their continued trust and support.

I really appreciate your attention and look forward to your questions.  Thank you very much.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.  Appreciate that.  We'll go up to the phones now.  The first question is going to come from Sydney Freedberg from Breaking Defense.  Go ahead, Sydney.

Q:  Hello, General.  Sydney Freedberg here from Breaking Defense.  Thank you for doing it.  And apologies if we ask you to repeat yourself a little bit because those of us on the phone line were not dialed in until you'd started speaking.

You know, you have talked repeatedly about the importance of this being commanders' -- AI being commanders' business, about the importance of this not being seen as, you know, nerd stuff.  How – how have you actually socialized, institutionalized that across the Defense Department?  I mean, clearly, there's a lot of high-level interest from, you know, service chiefs in AI.  There's quite a lot of lip service, at least, to AI and people in the briefing slides.  But how do you really familiarize for, not the technical people, but the commanders with the potential of this?  You know, once we added the JAIC, we're – we're from a fairly limited number of people.  You don't have – you can't send a missionary out to every office, you know, in the Pentagon to preach the virtues of AI.

GEN. GROEN:  Yeah, great – great question, Sydney.  And – and so this – this really is the heart of the implementation challenge.  And so getting commanders, senior leaders across the department to really understand that this is not IT.  AI is not IT.  This is warfighting business.  It is assessment and analysis – analysis of warfighting decision-making or enterprise decision-making in our support infrastructure and in our business infrastructure.

If you – if you understand it that way, then – then we open the doors to – to much better and much more effective integration into our warfighting constructs, our service enterprises, our support enterprises across the department, and we really start to – to get traction.

This is why our focus on – on the joint common foundation, because what we find – I – I think there are two aspects that I think are important:  the joint common foundation, which provides a technical platform.  So now we have a technical platform.  It'll – it'll become IOC (initial operating capability) here early in – in 2021, and then we will – we will – we will rapidly change it.  We expect to do monthly updates of tools and capabilities to that platform.

But that platform now provides a technical basis for especially disadvantaged users who don't have access to data scientists, who don't have access to algorithms, who are not sure how to leverage their data.  We can bring those – those folks to a place where now they can store their data.  They might be able to leverage training data from some other program.  We might be able to identify algorithms that can be repurposed and reused, you know, in similar problem sets.  So there's that technical piece of it.

There's also the soft, what I call the soft services side of it, which is now we help them with AI testing and evaluation for verification and validation, those critical AI functions, and we help them with best practice in that regard.  We help them with AI ethics and how to build an ethically-grounded AI development program.  And then we create an environment for, for sharing of, of all of that through best practice.

If we – if we do that, then we will, in addition to the platform piece of this, we're building our – we're – what we call our missions directorate now.  We are re-crafting that to be much more aggressive in – in going out to find those problems, find those most compelling use cases across the department that then we can bring back home and help that user understand the problem, help that user get access to contracting vehicles, help that user access to technical platform and do everything we can to facilitate AI – a thousand AI sprouts across the department so that it really starts to take hold and we start to see the impact on decision-making.

STAFF:  Thanks, sir.  The next question is coming from Khari Johnson of VentureBeat.  Khari, if you're still on the line, go ahead, sir.

He's not on the line, so we're going to go the next question, which is from Jasmine from National Defense.  Jasmine, if you're still on the line go ahead.

Q:  Thank you, sir.

I do know defense companies faced a volley of attacks from adversarial nations attempting to steal their IP (intellectual property) and get peeks at sensitive information.  How is the JAIC keeping the important work it does with industry, safe from these countries or bad actors who may want to steal and replicate it?

GEN. GROEN:  Yeah, great question, Jasmine.

And, you know, we're reminded every day that the Artificial Intelligence space is a competitive space and there's a lot of places that we compete. I probably, the first thing I would throw out there is cybersecurity and you know obviously we participate along with the rest of the department in our cybersecurity initiative here in the department; to defend our networks, to defend our cloud architecture, to defend our algorithms.

But in addition to that we have developed a number of cybersecurity tools that we can help that industry detect those threats.  And then the third thing I'd throw on there is our efforts now to secure our platform, so obviously we'll use defense-certified accessibility requirements.  What we're focused on is building a trusted ecosystem.  Because one of the things that will make this powerful is our ability to share.  So we have to be able to ascertain our data. We have to know its provenance.  We have to know that the networks that we pass that data on are sound and secure.  We have to create an environment where we can readily move through, you know, containerization or some other method; developments or codes that's done in one platform to another platform.

So to do all of this securely and safely is a primary demand signal on the joint common foundation and it is on all of our AI developments across the department, in the platforms, the other platforms that are out there across the department.  We are wide awake to the threat posed by foreign actors especially who have a proven track record of stealing intellectual property from wherever they can get their hands on it; we're going to try to provide an effective defense to ensure that doesn't happen.

STAFF:  Okay, the next question is going to go out to Brandi Vincent from NextGov.  Go ahead, Ma'am.

Q:  Hi.  Thank you so much for the call today.

My question is on the Joint Common Foundation.  You mentioned these soft services that it'll have and I read recently that there will be some, to keep users aware of ethical principles and other important considerations they should make when using AI in warfare.

Can you tell us a little bit more about how the platform will be fused with the Pentagon's ethical priorities?  And from your own experience, why do you believe that that's important?

GEN. GROEN:  Yeah, great question.

And I really, I think this is so important, and I tell you, I didn't always think that way.  When I came into the JAIC job I had my own epiphany about the role of an AI ethical foundation to everything that we do and it just jumped right out at you.  Many people might think well, yeah, of course, you know we do things ethically so when we use AI we'll do them ethically as well.

But I think of it through the lens of, just like the law of war; the law of war, you know, the determination of military necessity, the unnec— limiting unnecessary suffering; all of the principles of the law of war that drive our decision-making actually has a significant impact on the way that we organize and fight our force today and you can see it; anybody, you know – the fact that we have a very mature targeting doctrine and a targeting process that is full of checks and balances helps us to ensure that we are complying with the law of war.

This process is unprecedented and it is thoroughly ingrained in the way we do things.  It changes the way we do business in the targeting world.  We believe that there's a similar approach for AI and ethical considerations.  So when you think about the AI principles or its ethical principles, these things tell us how to build AI and then how to employ them responsibly.

So when we think about building AI we want to make sure that our outcomes are traceable. We want to make sure that it's equitable.  We want to make sure that our systems are reliable and we do that through test and evaluation in a very rigorous way.  But then we also want to ensure that as we employ our AI that we're doing it in ways that are responsible and that are governable.  So we know that we're using an AI within the boundaries in which it was tested for example.  Or we use an AI in a manner that we can turn it off or we can ask it in some cases, hey, how sure are you about that answer?  What is your assessment of the quality of the answer you provide?  And AI gives us the window to be able to do that.

Honestly, we and the nations that we're working with in our AI partnership for defense really are kind of breaking ground here for establishing that ethical foundation and it will be just as important and just as impactful as application of the law of war is on our targeting doctrine, for example.  So if you have that it's really critical then.  There are not that many experts, ethicists who really understand this topic and can communicate it in a way that helps designers design systems, help testers test systems, and help implementers implement them.

And so we have some of them in the JAIC; they're fantastic people and they punch way above their weight.  We're really helping – hoping they'd give access to their expertise across the department by linking it to the Joint Common Foundation.  Thanks for the question.  I think that's a really important one.

STAFF:  So the next question goes out to Jackson Barnett of FedScoop.  Jackson, go ahead, sir.

Q:  Hi.  Thank you so much for doing this.

Could you say, what is your expectation or even baseline requirement for what everyone needs to understand about AI; when you talk about trying to enable AI across the department, what is it that you hope that those, be they commanders out in the field or people working in the back-office parts of the Pentagon, what do people need to know about AI for your vision of enabling AI across the department to work?

GEN. GROEN:  Yeah, great question, Jackson.

So the most important thing I think is what I alluded to in my opening comments; that AI is about decision-making.  Not decision-making in the abstract but decision-making in the finite, in the moment, in the decision with the decision-maker, that really defines like how do I want to make that decision?  What process do I use today?  And then what data do I use to make that decision today?

In many cases, historically, a lot of our war-fighting decisions are made kind of by seat-of-the-pants.  Judgment, individuals with lots of experience, mature understanding of the situation, but doing decision-making without necessarily current data.  We can fix that; we can make that better and so ways for us to do that, you know we have to help people visualize what AI means across the department and what an AI use case looks like.

It's really easy for me to start at the tactical level.  You know, we – we want weapons that are more precise, we want weapons that guide on command, you know, to human-selected targets, we want threat detection – automatic threat detection and threat identification on our bases, we want better information about the logistic support that is available to our small units, we would like better awareness of the medical situation – you know, perhaps remote triage, medical dispatch, processes – you know, everything that you just imagine that you do in a – in a commercial environment today here in the United States, we want to be able to do those same things with the same ease and the same reliability on the battlefield – you know, reconnaissance and scouting for – you know, with unmanned platforms, you know, equipment that's instrumented, that's going to tell us if it – if it thinks it will fail in the next – you know, in the next hour or the next flight or whatever – team members that – that have secure communications over small distances.

You know, that – all of that tech exists today and if you move up the value chain, you know, up into the, you know, like, theater, like combatant command decision support, you know, visibility of data across – across the theater, what an incredible thing that would be to achieve, available at the fingertips of a combatant commander at any time.

Today, those combatant commanders, really on the – alone and unafraid, in many cases – during – in the geographical regions around the world, have to make real time decisions based on imperfect knowledge, and – and – and so they – they do the best – they can but I think our combatant commanders deserve better than that.  They should be able to decide based on data where we have data available and where we can make that data – data available for them – things, like, at a service level, you know, a human capital management, you know, think "Moneyball," right?  Like I need that kind of person for this job, I'm looking for an individual with this kind of skills.  Where can I find such a person, when is that person going to rotate?

The services that we can provide service members – you know, I – I – I don't know how many -- how many man hours I've spent standing in lines in an administration section, you know, in my command, you know, waiting for somebody to look at my record book or a change in a -- you know, an allowance or something like that.  Why – why do we do that?  You know, I haven't set a foot in a bank for years.  Why would I have to set foot into an admin's section to be able to do these kinds of processes?

This is kind – you know, this is the broad visualization that includes, you know, support and enabling capabilities but it extends all the way to warfighting decision making that – you know, that – it’s necessary, right?  It's – we have to – we have to do this.  It will make us more effective, more efficient.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.  The next question comes from Lauren Williams from FCW.  Lauren, if you're on the line, go ahead, Ma'am.

Q:  Yes, thank you for – for doing this, sir.

As you're talking about these new capabilities, the – the data strategy came out and obviously, like, data is a very important part of making AI work.  Can you talk a little bit about what the JAIC is going to be doing in the near future, like when we can expect to see, you know, in terms of implementing the data strategy and what the JAIC's role is going to be there?

GEN. GROEN:  Great – great question, Laura.

So the – so the data strategy, you know, for – for those of you who – who don't know, that's – comes from the Chief Data Officer (CDO), so within – within the – the Chief Information Officer suite.

And so what the – what the CDO organization has done is – is – has kind of created a – a – a vision and a – and a strategy for how are we going to manage the enormous amount of data that's going to be flowing through our networks, that's going to be coming from our sensors, that's going to be generated and curated for AI models and everywhere else we use data?

You can't be data-driven as a department, you can't do data-driven warfighting if you don't have a strategy for how to manage your data.  And so through – as – as we established the – the Joint Common Foundation but also as we help other customers, you know, execute AI programs within – you know, within their enterprises, we will help the – the CDO implement that strategy, right?  So things like data sharing.

So data sharing is really important.  In an environment where we have enormous amounts of data available to us broadly across the department, we need to make sure that data is available from one consumer to another consumer, and -- and hand in hand with that is the security of that data.  We need to make sure that we have the right security controls on the data, that data is shared but it's shared within a construct that we can protect the data.

One of the worst things that we could do is create stovepipes of data that are not accessible across the department and that – that result in the department spending millions and millions of dollars, you know, re-analyzing data, re-cleaning data, you know, re-purposing data when – when that data is already available.

So we're working with the CDO and then we'll work across the – the AI executive steering group to figure out ways, how do we – how do we not only share models but how do we share code, how do we share training data, how do we share test and evaluation data?  These are the kind of things that a data strategy will help us kind of, you know, put the lines in the road so we can do it effectively but do it safely at the same time.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.

We've got two other journalists on the line and I want to try to get to that before we've got to cut off.  So the next question is going to go to Scott from Federal News Network.  Scott, if you're on the line, go ahead, sir.

Q:  Hi, General.  Thanks for doing this.

You know, just curious about your priorities for 2021.  You know, you're getting more money than you were a couple of years ago, considering that your – your organization is growing.  You've started to work within some of the combat areas.  So, you know, where are you going to be investing money and where are we going to see the JAIC start to grow?

GEN. GROEN:  Great question, Scott.

So – so what – as we look at – you know, one of the challenges of kind of where we are in this evolution of the JAIC and the department is we – we have a – a – a pipeline of use cases that is way more, you know – vastly exceeds our resources.

And so this is part of our enablement process.  We want to – you know, we want to find the most compelling use cases that we can find, the things that are most transformational, the things that will have the broadest application and the things that will lead to, you know, innovation in this space.

And so there's a balance here that we are – that we're trying to achieve.  On the one hand, we're working some very cutting-edge AI technologies with consumers and – some pretty mature consumers – consumers who are, you know, a – you know, working at – at the same level we are and in partnership.  On the other side of the coin, we have – we have partnerships with really important enterprises and organizations who haven't even really started their journey into AI.

And so we've got to make sure that we have the right balance of investment in high tech AI that moves the state of the art and shows the pathway for additional AI development and implementation, and then also helping consumers, you know, with their first forays into the AI environment, and that – and that includes things like, you know, doing data readiness assessments.

So as I mentioned in my opening remarks, when – you know, we're recrafting our missions directorate to – to – you know, we're creating flyaway teams, if you will, that can – that can fall in on a – a – an enterprise or a – or a potential AI consumer and help them understand their data environment, help them understand what kind of things that they're going to have to do to create an environment that – that can support an artificial intelligence set of solutions.  So we'll help them with that.  And when we're done helping them with that, then we'll help find them the AI solution.

In an unlimited budgetary environment, we might build that algorithm for them.  In a limited budget environment, sometimes the best things we can do is look – link them to a contractor who may have a demonstrated expertise in their particular – particular use case.  In some cases, it may just be helping them find a contract vehicle so that they can bring somebody in.  In any case, we'll inform them with the ethical standards.  We'll inform them with best practices for test and evaluation.  We'll help them do their data analysis.

And so our resourcing now is spread between high-end use cases and use cases that we're – that we're building, because we – you know, because purposefully, we want to build those to – to meet specific needs.  The common foundation and building that common foundation, and then helping a broader base of consumers take AI on board and start to, you know, start to respond to the transformation by looking at their own problem sets facilitated by us.  So we'll have to – we’ll have to – you know, it's a very, it's a very nuanced program of, how do you spread the resourcing to make sure all of those important functions are accomplished?  Thanks for the question.

STAFF:  Thank you, sir.

This will be the last question.  This question comes from Peter from ACIA TV.  And we just have a couple of more minutes here, so Peter, if you could go ahead with your question, sir.

Q:  Absolutely.  Thank you very much.

I wanted to ask about the security of algorithms, and how you attempt to deal with – one of the biggest problems in AI is the way it's over-matching to the data, in that you will have to keep algorithms secure, and so periodically, update and reduce – and – and renew them.  What fear do you see in over-matching, or even under-matching if you know that you have to throw out a bunch of data?

GEN. GROEN:  Yeah, that's – that’s a great question.

Primarily, you know, what – you know, we – we are, we are limited in the data we have, in many cases, and the good data, the good, labeled data, the good – you know, the well-conditioned data.  And so helping us – us kind of creating the standards and the environment so we can build high-quality data is – is an important step that we'll accomplish through the JCF, and we'll help other consumers to – in that same – in the same role.

But then -- but then once we have good data, we have to protect it.  So we protect it through the – you know, we – we – we had the security conversation a little while ago, but we protect it through the right security apparatus so that we – we can share effectively, yet ensure that that data remains protective.  You know, we have to protect test and evaluation data.  We have to protect labeled and condition data for a lot of different reasons – for operational reasons, for technical reasons, and because it's a valuable resource.  We have to protect the intellectual property of government data, and how we use that effectively to – to ensure that we have access to rapid and – and frequent algorithm updates, yet without paying a proprietary price for data that the government doesn't own or the data the government gave away.  We want to make sure that we have a – a – an environment that makes sense for that – for that – for that situation.

I – what your question kind of reminds all of us, though, is, you know, the – the – the technology of adversarial AI, the opportunities for AI exploitation or spoofing or deception, you know, that – that research environment is very robust.  Obviously, we pay very close attention.  We do have a – a – a pretty significant powerhouse bench of AI engineers and experts who – in – in data science, as well, who – who are – who keep us up-to-date and keep us abreast of all of the developments in those threatening aspects of artificial intelligence, and we work those into our processes to the – to the degree we can.  We are very sensitive to the idea of over-conditioned or overmatched data.  We are very sensitive to the issues of AI vulnerability and a – and adversarial AI, and we're – and we're trying to build and work in, how do we build robust algorithms?

In many cases, the science of responding to adversarial AI and the threat that it poses is a very immature science, and so from an implementation perspective, we find ourselves, you know, working with our – especially our academic partners and our – our industry partners to really help us understand where we need to go as a department to make sure that our AI algorithms are safe, are protected and our data is – is – is the same:  safe, protected, and usable when we need to use it.

All of these are – are – are artifacts of AI implementation, but the department is learning as we go, and the JAIC is trying to -- to kind of show the way and get the conversation going across the department so we don't have to discover it, you know, serially.  We can discover in parallel with all of us kind of learning together.

So we'll – you know, we'll – we'll keep pushing that, but your – your point is very well-taken, and it's an important consideration for us, is making sure that we have reliability in the – in the outcomes of all of our artificial intelligence efforts.

STAFF:  All right.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you, General Groen, for your time today.

Just as reminder for the -- the folks out on the line, this broadcast will be replayed on DVIDS (Defense Visual Information Distribution Service), and we should have a transcript up on defense.gov within the next 24 hours.  If you have any follow-on questions, you can reach out to me at my contacts.  Most of you have those, or you can contact the OSD(PA) (Office Secretary of Defense – Public Affaris) duty officers.

Folks, thank you very much for everybody for attending today.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Warp Speed Readies to Distribute New Drug Cocktail for COVID-19

 Nov. 23, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization, or EUA, for casirivimab and imdemivab. Administered together, intravenously, this drug "cocktail" has been shown in trials to reduce hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients who have contracted COVID-19.

An airman wearing personal protective equipment installs test equipment.

The investigational monoclonal antibody therapeutic cocktail of casirivimab and imdevimab, from drug maker Regeneron, is not for COVID-19 patients who are already hospitalized, but instead for patients who have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms and who are at high risk of disease progression.

According to the FDA, administration of casirivimab and imdevimab proved better than a placebo at reducing viral load in infected patients. Additionally, the FDA said, for high-risk patients, only 3% of those treated with the drug cocktail eventually required hospitalization or emergency room visits, versus 9% for those who received the placebo.

"Keeping patients out of the hospital with this therapeutic can reduce the strain on our healthcare system, help hospitalized patients receive better care, and in all likelihood, save lives," Alex M. Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said during a conference call today. 

Operation Warp Speed plans to begin distribution of the new drug cocktail where it's needed most around the country beginning Nov. 24. To start with, Azar said, about 30,000 doses will be available for distribution initially, with more becoming available in the coming weeks.

Dr. John Redd, the chief medical officer for the office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response within HHS said distribution of the casirivimab and imdemivab cocktail will be similar to the distribution of another monoclonal, bamlanivimab. That drug is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company, and it received a similar FDA EUA November 9.

"We will continue to manage the allocation and distribution of COVID-19 treatments in a manner that is fair, equitable, accessible and understandable to the American public," Redd said. 

With bamlanivimab, distribution is now in the third week. Already, Redd said, more than 120,000 patient courses for that drug have been allocated across the nation, and over 85,000 patient courses of bamlanivimab have been delivered to nearly 2,500 care sites across the nation.

"In so doing we've taken into account both ethical and clinical considerations as part of the allocation methodology," Redd said. "We will continue to use this methodology for allocation of the Regeneron therapeutic as well."

Redd said distribution will make use of existing infrastructure within the federal government as well as the manufacturer and distributor channels. Allocations to state and territory health departments are proportionally based on confirmed COVID-19 cases in each state and territory over the previous seven days, he said. 

A display of paperwork and COVID-19 prevention items are on a desk.

"The federal government allocates the medication to state and territorial health departments," Redd said. "Those health departments will, in turn, continue to determine which treatment facilities in their respective states and territories actually receive the drug, as it is the health departments, not the federal government, that have the greatest insight into the needs of their jurisdictions."

OWS is a partnership between the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. Specific DHS components involved include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Friday, November 20, 2020

This Week in Operation Warp Speed - Nov. 20, 2020

 Nov. 20, 2020


Below is a compilation of initiatives, actions and accomplishments across Operation Warp Speed (OWS)’s primary efforts in the past week. To learn more about OWS, visit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website and Department of Defense (DOD) website

VACCINE DEVELOPMENT:

Pfizer submitted a request Friday for Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. This came days after the company announced the conclusion of its Phase 3 study and reported its vaccine candidate met all primary efficacy end points, noting its efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity, with more than 94% observed in adults over 65.

Moderna announced intent to submit for an Emergency Use Authorization in the coming weeks, following its vaccine candidate showing 94.5% efficacy in its first interim analysis. Preliminary analysis from a Phase 3 study with more than 30,000 participants suggests a broadly consistent safety and efficacy profile across all evaluated subgroups.

The VA issued a PSA and announced its nationwide effort to recruit volunteers to test vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 at more than 50 VA facilities. VA’s volunteer list is open to veterans and non-veterans, 18 years old or older. Participation in any research study is strictly voluntary. Vaccines being studied at VA sites include candidates developed by Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Janssen. VA’s trials for COVID-19 treatments include remdesivir, monoclonal antibodies, Tocilizumab and others.

THERAPEUTICS DEVELOPMENT:

As of Thursday, the government has allocated more than 100,000 treatment courses (vials) of bamlanivimab with about 40,000 courses currently being prepared for distribution. The first allocation began Nov. 10. A jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction dashboard of allocations can be found here, and is updated each Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET.

MANUFACTURING, DISTRIBUTION AND ADMINISTRATION:

Operation Warp Speed will distribute vaccines alongside ancillary kits with all the required supplies to administer them, such as needles, syringes, alcohol pads and limited personal protective equipment. Currently, more than 1 million standard kits, which would cover 100 million vaccine doses, are assembled. Each standard kit, which support Moderna’s vaccine candidate, includes supplies to administer 100 doses. More than 20,000 Pfizer kits, which would cover 20 million vaccine doses, are assembled, with more in production every day. Each of the Pfizer kits, which also include the diluent required, include supplies to administer 975 doses.

Operation Warp Speed announced Nov. 13 that COVID-19 vaccines will be allocated pro-rata, in proportion to population.

With distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines approaching, Operation Warp Speed is refining plans to deliver vaccine doses across the country. Operation Warp Speed’s Director of Supply, Production and Distribution Paul Ostrowski discusses the strategy with video clips available for use by the media.

KEY ENGAGEMENTS/OUTREACH:

Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gus Perna joined Vice President Mike Pence and members of the COVID-19 Task Force for a live update from the White House on Thursday.

Operation Warp Speed leaders held the first of several planned routine briefings for media Wednesday. View the session here. The next event is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 24. For notification of this and other upcoming events, register here.  

Governors received an Operation Warp Speed overview Monday on a call with HHS Secretary Alex Azar, OWS Director of Supply, Production and Distribution Paul Ostrowski and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield. Discussion included the importance of provider enrollment in the CDC Vaccine Tracking System (VTrcks).

House and Senate members took a call with Operation Warp Speed leaders Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gus Perna and Chief Advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui who provided an update on the pro-rata allocation and distribution plan and the close coordination with all 64 jurisdictions to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine gets first to those Americans who need it most.

Gen. Gus Perna visited Pfizer and Walgreens this week to exchange information on planning efforts, logistical infrastructure and next steps as vaccine distribution is imminent. Photos and b-roll from the Walgreen’s visit are available here.

U.S. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle visited Operation Warp Speed this week to meet with Gen. Perna and to thank the dozens of Army medical officers who are supporting the mission. 

SENIOR LEADER QUOTES:

“My message is hope and help are on the way. Operation Warp Speed is already delivering, and it’s going to keep delivering in the days and weeks ahead.” ~HHS Secretary Alex Azar

“At Operation Warp Speed, innovation toward our end state is our only concern. This is not about egos or credit. It is about how to solve this complex problem.” ~GEN Gus Perna, Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer

“I’ve used the metaphor that the cavalry is on the way. If you’re fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop shooting. You keep going until the cavalry gets here.” ~ Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Operation Warp Speed is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, engaging with private firms and other federal agencies, and coordinating among existing HHS-wide efforts to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

DOD Awards $11.6 Million to Puritan Medical Products Company, LLC to Increase Domestic Production of Swabs for Cue Health's Point of Care Tests

 Nov. 20, 2020


On Nov. 19, 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD), in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), awarded a contract action with a not-to-exceed value of $11.6 million to Puritan Medical Products Company, LLC, to expand industrial production capacity of Cue’s sample wand nasal swabs.

The global increase in COVID-19 cases continues to impact diagnostic test manufacturers and the supply chains that support specimen collection and testing performance.  This award’s modification to the industrial base expansion effort will allow Puritan Medical to expedite implementation of facility upgrades and enable an early, interim production capability of 3 million of Cue’s sample wand nasal swabs per month by March 2021, to support domestic COVID-19 testing with Cue Health’s point of care testing.

The DOD’s Defense Assisted Acquisition Cell led this effort, in coordination with HHS. The Health Care Enhancement Act funded this effort, to support domestic industrial base expansion for critical medical resources.

Defense Official Calls Cyber Resilience Critical to Protecting Systems, Continuing the Mission

 Nov. 20, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

While the U.S., allies and partners are working diligently to defend against malicious and destabilizing activities in cyberspace, those defenses may not be robust enough and adversaries are taking advantage of that, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy said on Thursday. 

A man stands at a lectern and speaks into a microphone. A sign indicating that he is at the Pentagon hangs on the wall behind him.

Speaking remotely to the Aviation Cyber Initiative Summit, Thomas C. Wingfield warned that the risk of a successful cyberattack is growing.

While the importance of the Defense Department's cyber force is indisputable, it is not enough, Wingfield said. 

Organizations need to move from a paradigm of cybersecurity, to one of cyber resilience."
Thomas C. Wingfield, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy

"I have seen very clearly that the single most important component in protecting our shared security, liberty and prosperity are leaders who understand the promise and pitfalls of technology," he said, adding that leaders also need to work with allies, interagency partners and industry to ensure cyber resilience.

A man in a military uniform types on a keyboard and looks at three monitors.

"Organizations need to move from a paradigm of cybersecurity, to one of cyber resilience," he said.

The two terms are complementary, but not synonymous, Wingfield said. He noted that the Commerce Department's National Institute for Standards and Technology defines cyber resilience as the ability to anticipate, withstand, recover from and adapt to adverse conditions, stresses, attacks or compromises on systems that are used or enabled by cyber resources. 

Cyber resilience is necessary for those systems to withstand an attack or to quickly recover from one while continuing to operate effectively to achieve an objective, he said.

An airman wearing a face mask works on a laptop.

"Cyber resilience is, therefore, about more than protection. It is about continuity of operations and mission assurance. Planning for the eventuality of a cyberattack and still fighting through it is to be cyber resilient," he said.

To achieve a measure of cyber resilience, senior leadership must be involved. Personnel up and down the chain of command need to be trained and tested regularly, he said. While cybersecurity may largely be the concern of the information technology or cybersecurity staff, cyber resilience is the responsibility of an entire organization. 

"This is not to say that working on greater cybersecurity is a fool's errand. On the contrary, cyber resilience is built on top of cybersecurity. The most important part of both is having a strong cyber immune system in every network on every system," he said.