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April 4, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

Navy cybersecurity faulted
An internal Navy study has faulted the sea service’s failure to prevent the leaking of secrets and technology to foreign adversaries, including China and Russia.

The cyber-readiness review produced for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer presents a scathing indictment of poor cybersecurity in Navy computer networks.

“Competitors and potential adversaries have exploited [Department of Navy] information systems, penetrated its defenses, and stolen massive amounts of national security [intellectual property]” the report states. “This has lessened our capabilities and lethality, while strengthening their offensive and defensive capabilities.”

The loss of the technology has so eroded the U.S. military’s edge that the report identified the losses as an existential threat to American national security.

“This cyber war has been ongoing for some time,” the report said. “The threat is long past the emergent or developing stage. While its ‘guns’ go unheard, it is as real, and with as much or more devastating consequences.”

China and Russia pose the greatest threats to Navy information theft, and the United States “remains relatively flat-footed and is too often incapable of defending itself.”

The Navy and Marine Corps “are in a multi-decade struggle for influence that is having a direct impact on our national destiny,” said the report, noting that the threat from China is not in the realm of “unknown unknowns,” or deep secrets.

Chinese officials have “been very explicit in stating their goal of becoming the world’s dominant superpower through a comprehensive set of strategies including their commitment to acquiring critical U.S. and allied [intellectual property] through acquisitions, foreign business restrictions, and cyber enabled theft,” the report said.

Chinese theft is estimated to cost the U.S. some $400 billion annually and around $1.2 trillion since 2015. The theft has produced “incalculable near- and long-term military advantage” and thus “altering the calculus of global power.”

The review was ordered in October after what the report called “several significant compromises of classified and sensitive information” through cyberattacks. No details of those breaches were disclosed.

However, Chinese hackers have conducted large-scale successful penetrations of Navy contractors that involved the loss of information about key advanced weapons systems, including plans for a supersonic anti-ship missile for U.S. submarines.

China and Russia are engaged in a large-scale buildup of nuclear forces, according to testimony by Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Mr. Perry and National Nuclear Security Administration director Lisa Gordon-Hagerty told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that foreign nuclear threats are growing.

“Russia and China are investing massive resources into upgrading and expanding their nuclear arsenals, all at a time when they seek to challenge U.S. interests and unravel U.S. alliances around the world,” the two officials stated in joint testimony. “It is imperative that we undertake prudent efforts to modernize the U.S. nuclear stockpile and enterprise, ensuring that the United States can continue to speak from a position of strength and that tensions — regardless of where or how they arise — do not escalate into all-out war.”

The U.S. nuclear arsenal is in urgent need of upgrading, and the budget request for fiscal 2020 includes $31.7 billion for Energy Department nuclear arms programs.

The U.S. recently assembled the first low-yield nuclear warhead, identified by committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, as the W76-2 warhead. The small warhead was recommended by the Nuclear Posture Review last year as a means of countering small warheads and intermediate-range missile threats from both China and Russia.

The first W76-2 warhead modification was completed in February.

“This low-yield option is a measured way to reinforce deterrence in the face of Russia’s large, diverse and modern stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons, which facilitate Moscow’s mistaken belief that limited nuclear first-use, potentially including low-yield weapons, can provide Russia a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict,” Mr. Perry and Ms. Gordon-Hagerty stated.

China’s military is stepping up operations around disputed islands in the South China Sea, according to the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Adm. Philip Davidson, Indo-Pacom commander, revealed in House testimony last week details of Chinese military operations near militarized islands.

“In the operational space, one of the things we are starting to see is a higher degree of integration with forces that are not actually on those features,” Adm. Davidson said. “So we are seeing fighter patrols, bomber patrols, the integration of ISR aircraft — intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance — and [anti-submarine warfare] aircraft actually operating from those bases and a higher degree of interoperability between some of the base functions and the afloat forces that they have in the area as well.”

To better counter Chinese claims to sovereignty over 90 percent of the sea, allies and partners have joined the U.S. in conducting naval and other operations in the area. Asked if U.S. forces operating near Chinese warships and fighter aircraft have the authority to defend themselves, Adm. Davidson said, “Yes, sir. Absolutely.”

Adm. Davidson declined to answer in public whether U.S. forces in the Pacific have enough weapons and ammunition for a conflict in the region.

“I will say that stocks, in the theater, of critical munitions supplies is an ongoing challenge and one of my consistent requests of the [Defense] Department as they pursue their budgets as well as the ability to resupply out there, that that remains a need,” he said.

The Navy is conducting a major force-structure assessment to determine how many more warships and the types of ships that will be needed to deal with the growing threat posed by China.

Adm. Philip Davidson, Indo-Pacom commander, revealed in House testimony that adjustments to military planning are being developed as part of a new operating concept called the Joint Strategic Campaign Plan. The plan is the work of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff J-5, the directorate in charge of strategy, plans and policy.

Briefing slides on the plan state that the new concept “provides measurable, intermediate military objectives and guidance for combatant commands.”

“Global Campaign Plans (GCPs) group all planning and execution efforts for a problem set under a single global construct — driven and approved by the secretary of defense,” according to a presentation by Army Col. Francis Park, the J-5. The plan is dated May 24, 2018.

The new concept is based on changes to the global strategic environment brought about by the spread of advanced technologies that have accelerated the speed and complexity of war.

For example, the threat from North Korea in the 1990s was limited to areas around the Korean Peninsula and the United States was unchallenged militarily around the world. The current environment, marked by a return to threats from China and Russia and the North Korea threat, is becoming transregional, multidomain and multifunctional.

A graphic shows North Korea now can fire intercontinental ballistic missiles against the United States while conducting space attacks on satellites and cyberwarfare against U.S. targets.

To meet the new threat requires a “globally integrated, campaign mindset” and a global force posture that must be flexible, agile and responsive, the presentation says.

“Conflicts involve all domains and cut across multiple geographic regions,” Col. Park said. “American competitive military advantage has eroded. Global demand for forces continues to exceed the inventory.”

The shift from dealing with Islamic terrorism to great-power competition revealed that American military advantage has eroded through a combination of budget instability, operational commitments and enemy military advances.

Col. Park concluded that there is no preordained right to victory on the battlefield.

“Today, the U.S. faces a more complex and dynamic security environment than ever before,” he said. “To keep pace with the changing character of war, we must adapt and innovate — if we fail to keep pace, the Joint Force will lose the ability to compete and win.”

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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