Nobody knows technology like the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It has paved the way for
countless innovations over the years, ranging from the Internet
to unmanned aerial vehicles. As hardware is developed, prototypes
can be performance-tested to make sure the development is on
track. But what about the survivability of information systems?
When it comes to information on the battlefield, how much robustness
and security are enough? That is a question that DARPA sought
to answer as part of its UltraLog project.
UltraLog Program Goals
Now in its fourth year of development, the UltraLog uses intelligent
agent technology to show that large- scale, distributed-logistics
command and control systems can survive under wartime conditions
and severe cyber- and kinetic attacks. At its core, UltraLog
is a high-speed logistics planning and execution system.
When presented with an operations plan (OPLAN), the UltraLog
system responds by building a logistics support plan comprising
two primary components: detailed time-phased force and deployment
data (TPFDD) and a sustainment plan. The TPFDD provides detailed
information about what gets moved, conveyances, routes, and
start and stop times. The sustainment plan provides information
on projected demand, refill, inventory on hand, and potential
During the execution of an OPLAN, the UltraLog system dynamically
reworks the transportation plan and recalculates materiel requirements
as the operational environment evolves. For example, UltraLog
will recalculate and update the plan to account for added or
deleted units, delays in or the early arrival of units, and
any changes in operating tempo (OPTEMPO).
The project uses a host of survivability technologies to buttress the agent network.
The ultimate survivability goal is to deliver 70 percent of the system’s
performance despite the loss of 45 percent of its infrastructure, such as loss
of computers or reduced central processing unit (CPU) memory. Of course, less
loss of infrastructure would be expected to yield higher performance.
The individual technologies of UltraLog were tested in a laboratory environment.
But would an integrated suite be both survivable and militarily useful? To determine
this, DARPA brought in a functional assessment team that was from outside of
DARPA and independent of its developers.
The assessment was run against a model of the Army’s V Corps deployed to
Southwest Asia. The model was built at the DARPA Technology Integration Center
in Arlington, Virginia. Over 1,000 networked intelligent agents were constructed
representing V Corps units, a Future Combat Systems (FCS) unit of action, corps
and theater support, and stateside supply and distribution. [An intelligent agent
is a software program that uses some degree of intelligence to execute a task
without user supervision.] The scenario involved a complex operation requiring
a 180-day deployment for units of the 1st Armored Division originating in Europe
During the course of the operation, six major OPLAN changes were introduced that
required significant replanning. Among these changes, separate hostilities were
initiated that required the short-fuse deployment of the FCS unit of action for
a 72-hour combat cycle. In all, the scenario involved hundreds of military units,
28,000 major end items, and 33,000 personnel. UltraLog was the high-speed, survivable
logistics planning and execution system for the scenario and was expected to
rapidly generate high-quality TPFDD, respond to supply and transportation queries,
perform real-time dynamic replanning during the execution of the operation, and
produce detailed class I (subsistence), III (petroleum, oils, and lubricants
[POL]), V (ammunition), and IX (repair parts) data—all while providing
user-friendly graphical user interfaces.
The approach to the functional assessment was derived from standard military
utility testing and evaluation methodologies. Two logistics measures of effectiveness
• While the system is under cyber- or kinetic attack, does it provide useful
• Does the system produce an executable logis-tics plan?
The two logistics measures of effectiveness produced 5 logistics operational
issues and 24 logistics measures of performance that assessed the system’s
continued ability to provide accurate, timely, and usable warfighting information.
For the most part, standards were derived from the key performance parameters
in the Global Combat Support System (GCSS) Capstone Requirements Document.
Testing Robustness and Security
Functional assessment experiments were designed to test the two key survivability
features of robustness and security. The steps of the key robustness process
in maintaining logistics functionality include detecting a missing or impaired
agent (representing a military unit or a collection of military units), deciding
how to react, and then remotely restarting the unit on a different computer and
restoring all of its supply data on that computer. Another key process is maintaining
the system’s ability to function in the face of “service denial,” which
occurs when a cyberattack floods the computer network with so much communications
traffic and superfluous data that the system is overloaded and grinds to a halt.
The key to functional logistics security is a secure execution environment with
tamper-proof, secure mechanisms. The system needs to prevent unauthorized access
as well as unauthorized operations by those who have access. The system also
needs to prevent malicious information from being inserted. Security Red Teams
launched 20 classes of cyberattacks against the network from both external and
insider sources. [The performance of UltraLog’s security function will
be the subject of an article in the next issue of Army Logistician.]
The functional assessment of robustness ran over 170 experiments. These included—
• Degrading computer CPU resources by up to 75 percent. Excursions were
run that degraded the entire system by 90 percent and selected units by 85 percent.
• Degrading memory (computer processing capacity) by up to 75 percent.
• Cutting communication links among various combat and support units.
• Degrading bandwidth along various communications links.
• Removing the logistics capability of support units in various supply
These were called, appropriately, “sledgehammer experiments.”
But a true functional assessment is more than stresses caused by cyber- or kinetic
attacks; the day-to-day logistics fog of war also must be included. To account
for the disruptions created by the fog of war, a number of perturbations were
injected simultaneously into the scenario. These included delaying deployments,
changing unit OPTEMPO, and spiking demands for selected items of stock.
Typically, an experiment involved introducing a change to the OPLAN while simultaneously
initiating one or more of the stresses listed above. For example, in one experiment,
the arrival in theater of the 2d Brigade, 1st Armored Division, was delayed 5
days while communications were constrained to 56 kilobits per second between
the already-deployed 1st Armored Division headquarters and its 1st Brigade and
between the unit of action command element and the unit of action’s 1st
Combined Arms Battalion. Selected computers within the combined arms battalion
also were disabled.
Another series of experiments focused on attacks against elements
of the supply chain. In these, computers were knocked off the net for as many
as seven support
units. These included such units as the 102d POL Supply Company, the 592d Ordnance
Company and the 47th Forward Support Battalion. As in the other experiments,
perturbations also were introduced that forced the system to modify transportation
and sustainment plans.
A series of logistics queries was used to measure how well the system performed
in each experiment. For example, one transportation query was: Do the planned
delivery dates and final delivery locations match the requested delivery dates
and locations for the equipment and personnel of the 1–35th Armored Battalion,
the 1–501st Aviation Battalion, and the 1–6th Infantry Battalion?
A representative sustainment query was: What is the total amount of JP8 fuel
requested by selected combat units that consume JP8?
Analyzing the data from the experiments involves comparing those data, which
were produced while the system was under stress, to “ground truth” baselines
that contain known logistics solutions. (A “ground truth” baseline
is a transportation or supply plan prepared in a benign environment based on
unclassified, real-world databases.) Comparing a plan created while the system
is under stress with a plan created without stress (a ground truth baseline plan)
shows how well the system survived the stress. For example, the quantity of JP8
fuel identified in the experiment is compared to ground truth. The result then
is scored based on utility curves that equate the quality of the answer to its
The functional assessment showed that UltraLog has remarkable robustness. The
170 experiments specifically used to test system robustness generally produced
excellent military utility scores and consistently fell in the “Green” (acceptable)
range, leading to the conclusion that progress toward program goals was on track
and that proceeding with the final year of development was warranted. Areas targeted
for improved robustness during this final year of UltraLog’s development
include reducing the time needed to replan, strengthening defenses against the
cutting and degrading of communication links, and continuing to improve defenses
against sledgehammer conditions (the removal of the logistics capability of support
units in various supply chains).
|The UltraLog program
uses intelligent agent technology to ensure that
logistics information systems can function while
Current State of the Program
Overall, UltraLog has provided significant evidence that intelligent
agent technology can work in a distributed logistics information
system. Experiments have shown that UltraLog could operate
at military scales and complexities. In a system of over
1,000 agents processing 1.4 million tasks over a 180-day
scenario, UltraLog reliably produced useful logistics information.
Experiments simulated wartime infrastructure, including realistic
bandwidth, and introduced a variety of severe infrastructure
degradations such as the loss of computers; reduced CPU memory
and bandwidth; continuous security probing; and loss of support
unit capability caused by cyber- or kinetic attack. In most
cases, including the most severe infrastructure losses, UltraLog
protected logistics planning and execution.
The promise of UltraLog technology is beginning to receive
recognition within the commercial sector as well as the Department
of Defense. The commitment to build and maintain the core UltraLog
software in the open source domain has led to its proliferation,
with several commercial ventures actively working on applications
that use the UltraLog code base.
UltraLog has proven that large
numbers of interacting software ag-ents can solve large-scale
military logistics problems.
The project has advanced the science of large agent systems
demonstrating logistics functionality at realistic scales and
Using a plausible scenario, the UltraLog system was able to
generate and maintain good TPFDD products in well under an
hour over a range of force mixes. UltraLog reliably reworked
logistics plans in less than 30 minutes to accommodate significant
One true measure of success for an advanced research project
is the extent to which the technology is found useful and is
carried forward after program completion. In its final year
of development, UltraLog technology is finding a place in both
Department of Defense and commercial applications. With programs
such as the Army’s FCS and the Office of the Secretary
of Defense’s Defense Readiness Reporting System incorporating
UltraLog technology into development plans, UltraLog appears
well positioned for eventual transition into future logistics
information systems that indeed will be survivable. ALOG
Lieutenant General Leo Pigaty, USA (Ret.), is an independent consultant and a
career logistician. He holds a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Lafayette
College and an M.S. degree in logistics management from the Air Force Institute
Commander James C. Workman, USN (Ret.), is employed by Los Alamos Technical Associates,
Inc., in Sterling, Virginia. He holds a B.S degree in financial management from
the University of Oregon and an M.S. degree in financial management from the
Naval Postgraduate School. Commander Workman served 20 years in the Navy Supply