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April 11, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

Cruz on China threat
Sen. Ted Cruz warned this week that the United States is facing “perilous times” due to the growing threat from communist China.

“China is in my view the greatest long-term geopolitical risk to the United States,” the Texas Republican told a conference of China watchers hosted by the Committee on the Present Danger-China. “They are the greatest risk militarily, they are the greatest risk economically, and they are the greatest risk in expanding their world influence and seeking to constrain our own.”

Mr. Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said severing ties with China is not possible because of close economic relations. He outlined three tools that can “combat the geopolitical and geomilitary threat that we face.”

They include exposing Chinese activities and abuses such as cyberattacks, human rights violations and other nefarious activities of the Beijing government.

“One tool is simply the light of transparency,” he said. “History teaches us something: Dictatorships fear truth. Tyrannies and dictatorships always appear stronger than they are until they crumble.”

Mr. Cruz noted the example of President Reagan, who in the 1980s repeatedly bucked State Department diplomats in declaring during a famous speech near the Berlin Wall that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev must “tear down this wall.”

Three times the president restored that phrase in his speech, and several years later the wall was taken down without a shot being fired. “That’s the power of truth,” Mr. Cruz said.

The senator criticized pro-Beijing officials in government and the news media for perpetuating communist rule in China. “The apologists for the Chinese communists we have in the media, that we have, sadly, in Congress are not advancing the cause of peace, are not advancing the cause of human rights, they are not advancing the cause of truth by hiding the truth,” he said.

A second way to confront China is through building up American military power. The senator praised President Trump for the largest military buildup since the Reagan era.

China has invested billions of dollars in building up formidable military forces at the same time the Obama administration for eight years weakened “our ability to defend ourselves,” Mr. Cruz said. “It is critical that we are turning that around.”

In addition to new jets and warships, the United States is investing in space defenses. Mr. Cruz took credit for helping pass recent legislation requiring the Pentagon to build space-based missile defense interceptors.

“The threat in space is profound. Our vulnerability in space is profound,” he said. “The Chinese are investing billions in offensive weaponry in space.”

The military could be crippled if China uses its space weapons — ground-based anti-satellite missile, lasers and co-orbiting killer satellites — to shut down GPS satellites used widely for navigation and military operations.

“We need to be investing far more vigorously in defending space,” Mr. Cruz said.

Last, Mr. Cruz urged shutting down Chinese influence operations and technology theft networks inside the United States.

Chinese government-run Confucius Institutes are being used for spying and influence operations and must be countered, he argued. “Confucius Institutes far too often have served as bases for active and aggressive espionage,” Mr. Cruz said. “We need to guard ourselves at home.”

Mr. Cruz said in the end he believes the United States can neutralize the threat from China the way Reagan did to the Soviets in demanding that the Berlin Wall be torn down. “Truth is stronger than lies, and light is stronger than darkness,” he said.

The Pentagon is worried that China will corner the market in building emerging high-speed, next-generation 5G telecommunications networks around the world, according to a report by the Defense Innovation Board.

U.S. and allied telecommunications companies are lagging behind Chinese companies that are receiving $180 billion in investment over five years for the high-speed networks that require larger numbers of cellular hardware than current systems. The report warns that adopting Chinese standards for 5G as international norms will undermine U.S. defense capabilities.

“If China leads the field in 5G infrastructure and systems, then the future 5G ecosystem will likely have Chinese components embedded throughout,” the report said. “This would pose a serious threat to the security of DoD operations and networks going forward.”

Additionally, the massive number of connected devices in the 5G system will increase the vulnerability to cyberattacks and espionage. Larger volumes of data being transferred also will complicate network and information security and make it more difficult to detect malicious traffic on computer networks.

Despite the risks, adoption of the much more powerful 5G networks will “revolutionize [Defense Department] operations, networks, and information processes,” the report said.

The faster networks will enable new concepts of operations and allow larger volumes of data to be shared in close to real time around the world.

“5G’s true potential will be in its impact on the battle network of the future,” the report notes. “That network will increasingly include a large number of cheaper, more connected, and more resilient systems to function in a rapidly evolving battlefield.”

Additionally, the shift to 5G will combine fragmented networks into a single network that will improve situational awareness and decision-making.

“This expanded reach will enable new technologies like hypersonic weapons and hypersonic defenses to be deployed, and has the potential to strengthen existing missions like nuclear [command, control and communications],” the board stated. Logistics and maintenance also will become faster and more efficient.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan warned this week that the Pentagon needs to protect America’s $19 trillion economy from threats to space systems.

“We must confront reality,” Mr. Shanahan told a major space conference in Colorado on Tuesday. “Weapons are currently deployed by our competitors that can attack our assets in space.”

Both Beijing and Moscow “have weaponized space with the intent to hold American space capabilities at risk,” he said. “China’s communist government has exercised and continues to develop the capability to jam, targeting [satellite communications], [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and GPS.”

China’s military in particular is deploying directed-energy weapons and will field a ground-based anti-satellite laser targeting low Earth orbit space sensors by next year, Mr. Shanahan warned.

“They’re also prepared to use cyberattacks against our space systems and have deployed an operational ground-based ASAT missile system,” he said. “And China has moved rapidly at advanced weapon capabilities, particularly hypersonics, that we are not capable of tracking. Russia is doing many of the exact same things.”

Even as both countries weaponize space, they are working to constrain the United States’ ability to defend itself from the threats by promoting international agreements “that we know they won’t abide by,” he said.

“The threat is clear. We’re in an era of great-power competition, and the next major conflict may be won or lost in space.”

Mr. Shanahan stressed that the threat is not theoretical and is present now.

“We are not going to sit back and watch,” Mr. Shanahan said. “We are going to act. We are going to deter conflict from extending into space and ensure we can respond decisively if deterrence fails.”

Mr. Shanahan did not say exactly what types of weapons the U.S. military plans to use to defend and deter space conflict. Defense sources say one weapon system likely to be rapidly developed will be a ground-based, high-powered laser capable of blinding or destroying orbiting satellites.

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, recently told a closed-door gathering of scientific experts that the Navy is developing a ship-based laser with enough power to physically damage an incoming projectile. One source said the laser will also be powerful enough to destroy satellites.

The Pentagon is moving ahead with developing a Space Force but has not identified how the force will be armed.

Mr. Shanahan said the Space Force initially will be equipped with 15,000 to 20,000 troops.

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