Return to

March 28, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Denial and deception
China's military is using "denial" and "deception" to mislead the United States and other governments about its military strategy and buildup, according to Pentagon officials.

The topic is discussed in the latest Pentagon report on China's military power, which defines Chinese disinformation as "[luring] the other side into developing misperceptions ... and [establishing for oneself] a strategically advantageous position by producing various kinds of false phenomena in an organized and planned manner with the smallest cost in manpower and materials."

A Pentagon official, elaborating on the report, said "denial" by the Chinese is excessive secrecy "surrounding almost every part of the PLA," or People's Liberation Army, as the military is known.

Evidence of denial is difficult to pinpoint because, the official said, "we don't know what we don't know."

Deception often is discussed in Chinese military writings, including those based on ancient writings that discuss its use in helping weaker powers defeat stronger ones. The analogy is used by China to discuss how it would defeat the United States in a conflict.

Strategic deception is "producing or portraying something that is false as being true in an effort to confuse the adversary or set the conditions for surprise," the official said.

"Denial and secrecy is used to prevent outside observers from gaining real insights into investment priorities, capabilities and intentions which can serve to hide either weakness or strength," the official said.

China's tactical denial and deception include using electronic decoys, infrared decoys, false-target generators and angle reflectors during electronic warfare. They also include the use of traditional concealment, camouflage and deception by military forces.

Some senior U.S. intelligence officials dispute the Pentagon's assertion that China employs strategic and tactical denial and deception, arguing that Chinese communist-style disinformation is no different from what non-communist governments use. The issue is being debated internally.

GPS threat
U.S. military and intelligence officials say one reason China's anti-satellite missile test of January 2007 was so alarming is that it highlighted a major strategic vulnerability: the reliance of the U.S. military on Global Position System satellites.

If China used its ground-based mobile ASAT missiles to destroy GPS satellites, it would cripple the ability of the U.S. military to use some of its most important weapons, like satellite-guided precision missiles. Additionally, navigation of ground-, air- and sea-based forces would be almost completely halted.

"Shut down GPS and we're basically left with throwing rocks," said one U.S. military official.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told reporters earlier this month that GPS also is vulnerable to electronic jamming.

"The Global Positioning System is literally ubiquitous," Gen. Hamel said. "I would argue that precise positioning and timing is the fundamental enabler of the information age. Being able to synchronize everything around the globe from timing and positioning is absolutely critical. Yet the only way that really functions is for user receivers to be able to collect the signal. Well, it is a very, very weak signal and it's very, it's relatively easy for commercial kind of devices and uses to be able to get disrupted."

Gen. Hamel said the military is considering how to protect GPS users. "We both want to improve the signals from the satellite, but you also have to improve the user equipment to be less susceptible and vulnerable," he said.

"Literally Radio Shack parts, together with a modicum of electrical engineering education, you can actually generate jamming and disruptive wave forms to particular types of GPS signals and user equipment," Gen. Hamel said.

Gen. Hamel said his command is building equipment for military users "that has greater protection and anti-jam capability to be able to deal with some of those kinds of threats," noting that it is not only satellites that need protection but user equipment as well.

A February 29 item entitled "Fight Over China" erroneously reported that Lonnie Henley, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, indirectly supported the unauthorized disclosure of intelligence to China by writing a letter to the sentencing judge in the criminal case of former DIA analyst Ron Montaperto. Mr. Henley sent a letter to the court attesting to Mr. Montaperto's character during the sentencing phase of the proceeding, a common procedure in criminal cases that does not suggest support for the underlying crime. Additionally, Mr. Montaperto pleaded guilty to a charge of mishandling classified documents -- not espionage.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    2004 Columns
    2005 Columns
    2006 Columns
    2007 Columns
    2008 Columns
    Return to