The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research arm of the Department of Defense, intends to host a blockchain workshop in February 2019 to understand the broader implications the technology might hold for the DOD. The tentative dates for the event are Feb. 14-15, and it will likely be held in Arlington, Texas.

According to a document published Nov. 19, DARPA is looking to explore "permissionless distributed consensus protocols" in particular. Permissionless systems are described in the document as protocols “where any individual may join in the computation." For example, bitcoin is a permissionless blockchain wherein anybody (miners) can join the network protocol. 

The agency is inviting a five-page submission on certain topics from academia, businesses, and other related entities, after which it would hold the two-day workshop. The submissions would end Dec. 20 and would be made available to the general public.

The agency is mostly keen to understand how permissionless blockchain can function in the absence of monetary incentives, focusing on creating large-scale permissionless distributed consensus protocols without paying participants (i.e., paying miners for security).

Along with understanding the monetary aspect of blockchain, the agency wants to cover two other topics — economic-driven security models that could be applicable to the permissionless blockchains and the methods to analyze the centralization nature of a permissionless distributed protocols (in which aspect does centralization exist and to what extent).

"While there is a substantial amount of publically and privately supported research and development in distributed consensus protocols, DARPA seeks information along with several, less-explored avenues of permissionless distributed consensus protocols. Such information could help inform a future DARPA program," read the documents published as Request for Information (RFI).

The RFI also pointed out the potential of blockchain technology for data security and storage “resilience” for the department.

“Technologies for distributed consensus protocols have been revolutionized by their prominent role in cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. These technologies have dramatic implications for the security and resilience of critical data storage and computation tasks, including for the Department of Defense," the document read.

This is not the first time the agency has shown interest in blockchain. In May 2017, DARPA was working on a communications platform where messages could be transferred on a secure decentralized protocol. The objective was to convey troop movements, especially in denied communication environments, through the decentralized messaging platform. 

On Thursday, German news outlet WirtschaftsWoche reported the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) was planning to use blockchain to fight tax evasion. Following the European tax fraud scheme CumEx-Files in 2017, BMWi recommended distributed ledger technology was capable of making the tax system more effective for fraud prevention.