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The SIGNAL Blog

The Coast Guard Needs Affordable Systems

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Coast Guard wants contractors to provide it with affordable systems instead of top-of-the-line technology solutions, said its commandant. Adm. Robert J .Papp Jr., USCG, told the audience at the West 2014 Thursday luncheon town hall in San Diego that everything the Coast Guard does is within a constrained environment, and it needs solutions that don’t strain its already tight financial resources.

The Navy Needs Innovation

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy will depend heavily on technology innovation to meet increasing operational demands on a fleet that is aging and suffering from budget constraints, according to the vice chief of naval operations. Adm. Mark E. Ferguson, USN, told the audience at the Thursday luncheon town hall that the Navy needs to work cooperatively with industry to develop the innovative technologies and capabilities it needs.

International Law Offers Peaceful Resolution of Chinese Issues

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The threat of armed conflict arising from China’s disputed assertions of territorial claims could be defused if all parties concerned agree to use international law institutions, said a U.S. Navy attorney. Capt Stuart Bell, USN, deputy assistant judge advocate general (international and operations law), told a Thursday panel audience at West 2014 in San Diego that the rule of law can be applied in most cases involving disputes between China and its neighbors to achieve a peaceful resolution.

Chinese Open-Source Material Takes a War Footing

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

China is pursuing a strategy of regional expansion into its neighbors’ territories that is spelled out in the country’s own open-source publications, according to a U.S. Navy China expert. The past year saw many provocative acts by the Chinese military and its government, and these fall in line with plans and policies enunciated by even English-language Chinese publications.

A Small Chinese Navy Could Defeat a U.S. Fleet

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

China’s People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), growing rapidly but still only a fraction of the size of the U.S. Navy, might be able to prevail in an ocean battle between the two forces. Several factors would work in China’s favor to tip the balance toward the Middle Kingdom in an intense regional conflict.

A panel devoted to China discussed how that might transpire on Thursday at West 2014 in San Diego. Dr. James R. Holmes, a professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College, explained that the PLAN would be facing only a fraction of the entire U.S. Navy if conflict arose between the two. Any fight would occur in waters not far from China, so it could bring shore-based assets—such as aircraft and missiles—to bear against the U.S. fleet. These assets have ranges as far as hundreds of miles, which would put most U.S. naval forces responding to a crisis in the area well within their reach.

Holmes noted that China is building a maritime force capable of defeating U.S. forces in that region. “China’s is a maritime strategy, as opposed to a naval strategy, through and through,” he declared.

Ultimately, China may not even need to exercise force to fulfill its wishes. Holmes offers that an advanced PLAN may deter any U.S. involvement in an escalating regional dispute by convincing U.S. leaders that the price of involvement would be too great, or that winning would come at too high a cost.

Cooperation Needed on Commercial Technology Acquisition

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Buying commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology offers great advantages for both government and industry, but both parties could benefit from greater cooperation in this realm. This would help expand COTS into new areas, with resultant savings in cost and time to deployment.

Government Processes Hinder Foreign Military Sales

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

U.S. foreign military sales are less robust than they could be because existing rules are applied inconsistently, which in turn is compelling customers to buy less effective technologies from other nations. This trend has long-term negative implications for the U.S. defense industrial base, say industrial leaders.

Defense Department Needs New Business Model for Acquisition

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Defense Department needs a new acquisition model to speed systems to warfighters while maintaining an effective industrial base, said industry leaders. The current model, based on competition, actually is counterproductive for what the government hopes to accomplish for procurement.

Unmanned Systems Experience Growing Pains

February 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Unmanned systems for reconnaissance, surveillance and warfighting have grown so quickly in popularity that they are spawning a familiar list of challenges that must be met sooner rather than later. Many of these issues have arisen with other military technologies that became popular quickly, and planners found that fixing these problems was significantly more difficult the deeper the technologies were embedded in everyday military operations.

Cyberspace Domination May Determine Conflict Victor

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The realm of cyberspace, created by the United States, could be the undoing of its next major military operation unless the country regains control of its own creation. The virtual realm was let loose on the world where it was embraced by all manner of users, and some of them are counting on their expertise in it to overcome the overwhelming power of the U.S. military.

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