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Marine Corps Systems Command

Equipping our MARINES

MCB Quantico, Va.
Anti-tamper: To delay, deter

By Jim Katzaman, MCSC Corporate Communications | | January 8, 2014


By Jim Katzaman, MCSC Corporate Communications

The acquisition commands of the U.S. armed services pride themselves in providing an unfair advantage to the American warfighter. That advantage comes at a price, which goes to waste if the enemy can reverse engineer similar technology.

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Dave Matthews, Technology Protection Branch chief, and his team have taken the mission to keep technology from falling into the hands of the enemy.

It has happened before. An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter crash in Serbia gave rise to the Chinese Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter, which made its first flight in 2011. Closer to home for the Marine Corps, in the last decade the Chinese reverse engineered the U.S. military Humvee. Their mirror-image version is now fielded as the Eastwind EQ2050.

With these and other episodes in mind, the Department of Defense issued a new anti-tamper directive. If the military services cannot prevent knock-offs, they have to create programs to delay or deter enemy agents from success.

Anti-tamper measures preserve the U.S. national investment in advanced technologies. Left unprotected, these technologies can be rapidly exploited if they fall into the hands of an adversary on the battlefield, or if they are developed in conjunction with, or sold to, foreign governments.

MCSC has taken the lead in anti-tamper capability as the Department of the Navy’s systems command for Marine Corps ground weapon and information technology systems. It is also the Marine Corps commandant's agent for acquisition and sustainment of warfighting systems and equipment.

The anti-tamper task responsibility for MCSC and the Marine Corps rests with Systems Engineering Interoperability Architectures and Technology. Within SIAT, the Technology Protection Branch balances the pros and cons of any anti-tamper program.

Matthews’ former A&CE Division Director J.D. Wilson provided the guidance and funding to start the effort. The Technology Protection Team recommends specific steps to the MCSC commander based on an analysis of the potential risks and counters to those risks.

“There are many anti-tamper possibilities,” Matthews said. “It depends on how much the program managers want to spend. Our job is to give them an estimate on how much different methods would cost.”

Wilson recommended that Matthews and his Technology Protection Branch of Clyde Caminos, Lan McGough, Rudy Catahan, Roger Boughton and Laura Eves tap into the already existing Framework for Assessment of Cost and Technology software, otherwise known as FACT. The modeling and simulation program made its mark doing trade space analysis for design alternatives and forecasting cost of equipment from cradle to grave.

Predicting costs of anti-tamper measures is a natural extension of FACT capabilities, according to Mike O’Neal, modeling and simulation team lead.

“We provide the tools that make it more efficient to decide on courses of action when implementing an anti-tamper program,” he said.

FACT will make the anti-tamper process easier to implement, according to O’Neal. He envisions software akin to an online tax program that offers choices and then shows the outcome when each course of action is selected. FACT helps do the research so the program manager can make well-informed decisions.

O’Neal predicts a two-month development process until the anti-tamper prototype software is ready for a test run. Then Matthews can begin to weigh the plusses and minuses for program managers.

“Anti-tamper measures don’t prevent knock-offs,” Matthews emphasized. “It delays or deters. For instance, you could program a laptop to zero out the memory card if the wrong password is entered more than three times – sort of like Mission Impossible where ‘This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds.’ We assess and make recommendations. Then it’s up to the program manager to implement.”

With FACT coming online to do the work and play out the choices, those options will be readily at hand.