USA, China and Russia in Race for Military Blockchain Implementation

  • US Department of Defense is looking to implement blockchain technology and IoT framework to keep track of military inventory
  • China and Russia examine blockchain’s potential to fight cyber attacks, store information and improve logistics

Military officials and institutions around the world are increasingly looking toward the blockchain as the next frontier of defense industry innovation and national security development.

Traditionally the ‘big three’ military powers - China, Russia and the USA - have always been on the lookout for technological innovation to give them an edge over each other. Blockchain technology may be providing a substantial amount of possibility for militaries, particularly in the field of immutable information storage and logistics.

USA and NATO Tap Blockchain as Military Supply Chain Solution

Alongside its traditional NATO allies across the Atlantic, the US is reportedly researching how blockchain technology can be incorporated into military logistics and procurement processes, particularly with regard to the possibility of integrating with IoT frameworks. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 1646 specifically names blockchain technology as an area for continued research for military deployment use cases.

The US Naval Air Systems Command recently announced that it is partnering with Indiana-based company ITAMCO for the purpose of changing the Naval Aviation Enterprise from a manual-entry database system to a permissioned blockchain.

They said they were looking into blockchain to help keep tabs on aviation parts, which could help lower the costs of operating and maintaining military aircraft.

In the same vein, there have been indications that the Department of Defense (DOD) may be looking into blockchain implementation to help manage about $100 billion worth of inventory and supplies. According to a 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office, the current DOD system for tracking and delivering supplies has several points of weakness - leakages that could potentially be addressed using a blockchain, as has been done in a non-military setting in China recently.

In 2016, the DOD’s DARPA research unit revealed that it is examining how blockchain technology can be used to secure its weapon data which includes sensitive information like nuclear missile launch codes.

Chinese and Russian Military Blockchain Designs

The Russian military on its part, while not quite as far advanced in its blockchain research as the US is also very interested in blockchain implementation. In June, it was reported that a Russian military research lab was created for the express purpose of studying how blockchain technology can be used to detect and even counter future cyber attacks.

A few weeks later, TASS reported that the Russian Defense Ministry is likely to start implementing blockchain technology subject to its ability to bring Russian cryptographic algorithms into international blockchain standards.

China, has a widely recognised pro-blockchain, anti-crypto stance, with some of the world’s most anti-crypto laws coexisting alongside a burgeoning government-guided blockchain research and implementation ecosystem.

While there has not been any definitive news story linking the Chinese military with blockchain so far, a number of stories and editorials in China’s heavily censored media have admonished defense officials to look into the technology.

One such article appearing earlier this year in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily highlighted how blockchain technology will have a significant number of military applications in the “future of media war”, which is an allusion to the country’s long-running campaign of local and international opinion and information warfare.

Stellar Network Stayed 'Safe and Consistent' During Downtime: Report

The Stellar network “halted” for over an hour due to an “inability to reach consensus”, the distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based platform’s developers confirmed on May 16, 2019.

However, an official blog post published by the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) clarified that the “ledger state” managed to stay “safe and consistent” across the DLT-enabled cryptocurrency network.

150,000 Daily Users, Over 3 Million Accounts

There are reportedly 150,000 users, on average, that conduct transactions on the Stellar network, the platform’s development team claimed. More than 3 million Stellar accounts have been created, the Foundation’s blog stated.

While an outage “like this is highly undesirable”, the SDF acknowledged, it also mentioned that user funds on the Stellar network remained safe. Moreover, “no one’s balances were confused by a fork,” the SDF clarified.

The SDF also claimed that the Stellar network is healthy and functioning properly. According to the developers of the Stellar platform, the “key takeaways” from the technical difficulties recently experienced indicate that there were no issues with Stellar’s blockchain consensus mechanism.

Per the developers, a “temporary halt” for a platform like Stellar is “preferable to the permanent confusion of a fork.” However, lessons learned from the recent outage suggest that Stellar “needs better tooling around uptime”, the Foundation wrote.

Giving Priority To “Consistency And Partition Resilience Over Liveliness”

Additionally, the platform requires “better status monitoring for validators, and it needs to be easier to restart a validator after it goes down,” Stellar’s development team mentioned.

Going on to address claims that the Stellar network has become increasingly centralized, the Foundation claims:

Ironically, the opposite is true. Stellar has added many new nodes recently. In retrospect, some new nodes took on too much consensus responsibility too soon. We need better community standards around maintenance timings, quorumset building, and validator configuration.

Moreover, one of Stellar’s “fundamental design choices” is to give priority to “consistency and partition resilience over liveness.” This means that “when faced with consensus uncertainty, the Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP) prefers to halt” instead of running in a state which may be inconsistent.

Stellar’s developers believe that financial institutions “prefer downtime over inconsistent data,” and that this is why many of them are building solutions on Stellar, and not other blockchains which prefer to operate regardless of whether the system state is inconsistent.

Commenting on the recent halt of the Stellar network, Ripple’s chief cryptographer, David Schwartz remarked:

Schwartz, an electrical engineering graduate from the University of Houston, thinks the recent downtime experienced by the Stellar network shows that “if the validator topology of a live network does break, the network can fail safely and humans can negotiate a topology change to resume safely in a reasonable time.”

Per Schwartz, Ripple’s technology is also based on similar design principles which “don't make forward progress unless we can have very, very high confidence that it is safe to make forward progress.”