President Trump signed into law the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday, a $700 billion defense policy bill that mandates for a “briefing on cyber applications of blockchain technology.” Language within the bill is part of a much wider effort to modernize the United States military, before decades of hybrid wars breakout (see: US Army Is Preparing For Decades Of Hybrid Wars.)
The blockchain study, according to the bill text (Sec.1646), will create “an assessment of efforts by foreign powers, extremist organizations, and criminal networks to utilize such technologies;…[and] an assessment of the use or planned use of such technologies by the Federal Government and critical infrastructure networks.”
Further, the study is to be delivered to Congress “not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this act.” Coin Desk adds while the study is set to be prepared by the Department of Defense, the final report could include input from other federal agencies and departments.
Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the heads of such other departments and agencies of the Federal Government as the Secretary considers appropriate, shall provide to the appropriate committees of Congress a briefing on the cyber applications of blockchain technology.
So you ask, what is blockchain? And why would the Department of Defense be interested in this technology?
Coin Desk further notes,
And though it constitutes a minor element in major funding law, the measure, proposed by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, could help spur investigation into possible blockchain uses within the U.S. government, some observers say.
“Blockchain was clearly one of the technological capabilities that Congress meant for agencies to look at, and what they were trying to do was create dollars with some flexibility to them so that agencies would have their own discretion on what they invest in,” Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of public sector at the Information Technology Industry Council in Washington, D.C., told CoinDesk last month.
And lastly, a 2016 military doctrine from the United States Airforce (USAF) outlines the future importance of blockchains in cyber defense systems,
The ability of the USAF to prevail in the highly contested environment of 2040 will be dictated by its ability to defend cyber-enabled systems, and the data within them, from compromise and manipulation. Yet contemporary cyber defense is faltering, and incremental improvements seem unlikely to overcome an exponentially growing cyber threat. Thus, an entirely new model for cyber defense strategy is needed.
Blockchains are a new information technology that inverts the cyber security paradigm. First, blockchain networks are trustless; they assume compromise of the network by both insiders and outsiders. Second, blockchains are transparently secure; they do not rely on failure-prone secrets, but rather on a cryptographic data structure that makes tampering both exceptionally difficult and immediately obvious. Finally, blockchains networks are fault tolerant; they align the efforts of honest nodes to reject those that are dishonest.
As a result, blockchain networks not only reduce the probability of compromise, but also impose significantly greater costs on an adversary to achieve it. The Air Force should research and develop blockchain technology and leverage it for national defense.
If America wants to maintain her empire, she better adopts blockchain technologies, as what it appears to be the future strategy of the Department of Defense.