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Event Coverage

Cyberthreats Entering New Realm

May 10, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

Cyberspace is seeing the beginnings of the development of new types of destructive tools.

Biometrics Technology Continues to Grow

February 23, 2011
By George Seffers

Biometric technology capabilities continue to grow, and so do government data sharing efforts.

U.S. Needs Deterrence Strategy in Cyberspace

February 23, 2011
By George Seffers

Creating a national strategy for deterring cyber attacks faces difficult challenges, according to Gen. Keith Alexander, USA, U.S. Cyber Command commander and director of the National Security Agency.

Merging Threats Challenge Coast Guard

January 27, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Coast Guard is facing the dilemma of its traditional threats combining to pose a synergistic danger to U.S. homeland security. Longtime menaces such as drug smuggling, alien immigration and terrorism may be merging their organizations and their tactics to pose an even greater threat to the nation. Stopping these threats will require data sharing and consolidation. Unfortunately, even organizations willing to share information often find legal and technological roadblocks in their way. Rear Adm. (S) Stephen Metruck, USCG, chief of staff, Eleventh Coast Guard District, told the Thursday breakfast audience at West 2011 in San Diego that the Coast Guard is striving to head off threats before they near the homeland. "Goal defense" is not an effective way of stopping adversaries, he explained. The Coast Guard is working to develop new methods of detecting and identifying threats before the marauders launch their plans into action. Operation Focused Lens, for example, looks at places from where attacks may come. The goal is to detect anomalous activity before a smuggling or terrorist boat is launched. Marina operators would be engaged through an outreach program to report suspicious signs such as boaters practicing illegal activities. Combining data may be harder. Adm. Metruck allowed that many firewalls prevent government agencies from linking their databases, even within the Department of Homeland Security. In some cases, the only solution is to place people from different agencies side-by-side so that they can share views on their computer displays.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Emerge as the Navy Sets New Priorities

January 26, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy has killed some programs and accelerated others as it restructures its budget priorities. Robert O. Work, undersecretary of the Navy, gave the West 2011 Wednesday luncheon audience a bluntly candid assessment of which systems worked, which didn't and were canceled, and which are on probation. One of the key systems killed was the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. While it had a troubled history, it was going well recently, but the Navy-acting on a recommendation from the commandant-killed the program because it was going to eat up too much of the Corps' budget in the future. Work reported that it would have consumed 50 percent of all Marine Corps procurement funds-100 percent of Marine Corps historical vehicle expenditures-between 2018 and 2025. Work was much harsher in his explanation of why the Navy canceled the ALQ-99 jamming pod for the EA-18G Growler aircraft. "The Growler is a good aircraft, but the ALQ-99 is a piece of crap-the polite thing to say is that it's reaching the end of its service life," Work declared to an attentive audience. "Instead, we'll have something better for the Growler." The F-35B short takeoff vertical landing aircraft program is having problems, and it has been put off two years so that its problems can be fixed. Work expressed confidence in that decision, saying, "We are absolutely convinced that we will fix the problems in the F-35B." But Work waxed eloquent about the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, which is proceeding with two vastly different production designs. Calling it "one of the most misunderstood ships in the Navy," he nonetheless praised both its capabilities and its program structure. Having two companies concurrently producing LCS ships at the current schedule has saved the taxpayer $2.9 billion, Work stated. Three missions that used to require different classes of ships have been combined into one, and he is confident it will work well.

U.S. Navy Makes Lemonade out of Budgetary Lemons

January 26, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy is re-tailoring its force as it realizes efficiencies driven by budgetary needs, according to the undersecretary of the Navy. Robert O. Work enthusiastically told the audience at Wednesday's West 2011 luncheon that the new budget direction is giving the Navy opportunities to build the type of force that it needs for the coming decades. "Our shipbuilding program is more stable than it has been in a decade," Work declared. Work described how many budget savings have been re-allocated to other programs, which is providing long-term savings through accelerated development. Some of the programs that were cut were doing well, but they fell into the category of "exquisite capabilities"-highly desirable, but not absolutely necessary. The savings were redirected toward programs that were essential to the Navy's future. "We accelerated things that we knew we needed," he related. The Navy will "buy smarter," acquiring exactly the same as it bought last year, but for $8.5 billion less, he continued. However, he admits that what keeps him up at night is the continuing resolution under which the Navy is operating now. The Navy is capped at 2010 levels and cannot begin new programs. "We've got to get that fixed," Work charged, "or it will force the Department of the Navy to make stupid and irrevocable decisions."

China's Long-Term Plans May Lack Vision

January 26, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

The dynamic modernization of China's economy and society may owe more to momentum than careful planning. Dr. Xinjun Zhang, associate professor of public international law, Tsinghua University, Beijing, offered that he believes that China does not have a vision guiding the massive changes that define China today. Zhang offered that China's current policies have emerged from Deng Xiaoping's approaches, which he implied were a bit too pragmatic. Speaking at a policy panel that included former U.S. Pacific Command head Adm. Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret), and moderated by former Good Morning America host David Hartman, Zhang said a lack of vision has plagued much of Chinese policy. This extended to the lack of progress on reunifying Taiwan with the mainland. While not claiming to be a Maoist, Zhang did praise People's Republic of China founder Mao Zedong for his vision. Zhang even said that if Mao were to return, he would come up with a solution for reunification. Zhang warned against pressuring China on human rights and other internal policies. China has "a very complicated government," he said, as it tries to run a diverse country rife with different ethnic groups and languages. Maintaining stability is important both to China and to the rest of the world. "I cannot imagine the consequence to the globe without a stable ruling government in China," Zhang declared.

Two Giant Pacific Powers Cannot See Eye-to-Eye

January 26, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

China and the United States are plagued by a "strategic mistrust" that hinders relations between the two. That statement was made by Adm. Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.), former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, in a panel discussion with Dr. Xinjun Zhang, associate professor of public international law, Tsinghua University, Beijing, that was moderated by former Good Morning America host David Hartman. To the audience, that strategic mistrust was evident in the exchange of comments between Zhang and Adm. Keating throughout the panel. Both expressed their country's points of view in direct opposition to each other's. Despite an amicable atmosphere, the two men expressed diametrically opposed views even when they shared the same policy goals. Adm. Keating called for greater understanding through transparency and communication, while Zhang said that China feels threatened by U.S. surveillance ships and aircraft at the edge of its territory. Perhaps issues with North Korea personified the differences best. Both men agreed that their countries' policies aimed at having a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, and both agreed that removing nuclear weapons development from North Korea was essential. However, Adm. Keating emphasized the urgency of quick action before North Korea developed an effective nuclear arsenal, while Zhang called for patience to maintain stability while all sides worked toward the same goal.

Growing Enemy Capabilities Undermine U.S. Warfighting Doctrine

January 25, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

The battlespace dominance enjoyed by U.S. forces for two decades may be disappearing as many potential adversaries begin to employ the very technologies that have served U.S. forces. Dick Diamond Jr., national security trends and strategic issues analyst with Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, warned that the near monopoly enjoyed by the United States in precision guided munitions (PGMs) and surveillance is going away. "We may not be able to conduct our favorite American way of war in the future," Diamond declared. Moderating a West 2011 panel focusing on unmanned systems, Diamond went on to say that the United States may not be able to position forces forward for fighting at a time of its choosing. These forces would be vulnerable to other countries that are procuring PGMs at affordable prices. As a result, maritime forces will need to be positioned farther away from shore. And, information dominance may be the key battlefield of the future. "Just ask the Iranian nuclear engineers," Diamond offered.

Amphibious Marine Corps Capability Needed in Time of Dubious International Support

January 25, 2011
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Marine Corps will need to innovate while maintaining its traditional amphibious capabilities as nations act more in their own interests, suggests a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) deputy commander. Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, USMC, deputy commanding general, 1 MEF, told a West 2011 luncheon audience that the Corps is exploring innovative solutions to meet new international contingencies. "The U.S. Marine Corps has never met the nation's needs by being conventional in its approach," the general declared. Gen. Spiese emphasized that Marine Corps capabilities hinge on its being able to interoperate with the U.S. Navy. Among those capabilities is amphibious assault, which-as opposed to many new doctrines-remains relevant and important. The general stated that most nations, including friends, act in their own interests. As a result, it is harder to arrange for allies to go along with U.S. policies. Nations change their policies over time as their national interests change. The United States cannot assume these nations will support it as a matter of fact, Gen. Spiese stated. So, the United States should not place itself in a position where pursuing its interests rely on the policies of another nation.

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