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Unmanned systems may now  be in use against friendly forces. Terrorists as well as nation-states are striving to employ these systems, especially airborne platforms, to deploy new types of improvised threats against U.S. and coalition forces. Many elements of the U.S. Defense Department are working on ways to counter enemy UAVs, and the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO) has joined the fight because the vehicles now are being used to deliver improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Among the many tools JIDO is counting on to combat the UAV-IED threat is advanced information system technology. Better sensors for detection and tracking, coupled with new ways of data processing, could be key to defeating growing and emerging dangers in the battlespace.

JIDO is examining different ways unmanned systems are being used today as well as how they might be used in the future. The organization’s team is viewing several different unmanned technologies as burgeoning and potential threats. “We anticipated this threat, as did many in the Defense community a few years ago,” said Lt. Gen. Michael H. Shields, USA, JIDO’s director. “What we have done is organize in a way to both understand the threat and then be able to react and respond to it.”

JIDO is addressing the new threat holistically, as it does with most improvised threats, he continues. This entails understanding adversarial networks that are leveraging the capability and technology; detecting, tracking and identifying; and assessing and exploiting the threat.

“Our adversaries are innovating,” he stated.

According to, the Defense Department and political leadership continue to fund JIDO, especially through the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, with sufficient money to move rapidly as a quick reaction capability within the department. Shields added that, as JIDO’s director, he has the authorities to act quickly to counter emerging threats. The organization also has modified its contract framework to provide greater flexibility and agility, along with cost savings, which the general describes as huge for JIDO.

Given the holistic take on its mission, JIDO is pursuing innovations in several areas. Computing and advanced analytics are high on the list, Gen. Shields offers. Deep machine learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing are targets of opportunity in industry and academia, he says. JIDO is performing secure integrated development of operations, security and quality assurance on its own classified networks.

Data processing is critical to JIDO’s mission as well, the general points out. “With the amount of data that our analysts are trying to make sense of, we have to find a way that they spend two-thirds of their time querying data and 30 percent thinking about the information,” he offers. The goal is to flip the equation so analysts spend 30 percent of their time querying data streams and 70 percent thinking about problems. The number of JIDO analysts has declined as the risks and requirements of the job have grown. Technology must compensate for that reduction, Gen. Shields says.

Information systems represent a prime example of how JIDO has evolved and continues to evolve, the general offers. The organization’s computing and advanced analytics architectures keep progressing, and JIDO is “posturing itself for the future” so it can bring in deep machine learning and artificial intelligence, he continues, describing this process as detailed and well thought out.

JIDO is heavily engaged in outreach to industry to tap technology that supports its mission. Gen. Shields said that he spent a week meeting with Silicon Valley startups and big businesses to identify capabilities that could provide advantages to U.S. forces. “We have a large number of mission partners,” he says. “The speed at which the commercial sector is developing these products is unbelievable.”

The organization’s traditional mission partners include national laboratories, and nontraditional partners include several new programs such as Hacking for Defense, which allows college students to solve complex technology problems critical to national security. Academic institutions such as Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, James Madison and Princeton universities are another group of partners, the general offers. This variety of partners could help JIDO stay up to date on emergent disruptive technologies.