Foes and Funding Vex Military Planners

April 2009
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, gives the kickoff address at West 2009.
Enemies are ubiquitous, spending is not, in this new age.

Enemies are probing U.S. military forces for weaknesses that they can exploit, and these foes already may be winning in cyberspace. Coupled with changed budgetary priorities brought about by the new Obama administration, these threats pose substantial challenges to defense planners wrestling with maintaining readiness in the age of global terrorism.

These and many other issues emerged at West 2009, which was built around the theme “Defense—Reset, Redesign, Reinvent?” The three-day conference and exposition, held in San Diego from February 11-13, examined many issues confronting defense planners in the military services and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The United States has yet to strike a balance between being dominant in regular warfare and being able to fight an irregular war, according to the deputy commander of the Joint Forces Command. Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, USN, offered that the United States even might be losing the war in cyberspace.

 
Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, USN, deputy commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, describes the need for the United States to fight in irregular conflicts as it does in conventional warfare.
“You can be militarily dominant and irrelevant,” Adm. Harward stated as he reiterated what most military experts say—an enemy will not fight you in your area of strength. “Our adversaries know what we’re doing … they know better than we do,” he declared.

Even though the U.S. Navy has reconstituted its fleet response plan, much remains to be done to suit a new era in which it must do more in less time, said Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Operations tempo is up considerably. More ships are at sea at a given time than in past eras. And, new missions such as maritime security and ground operations are stressing the ops tempo and naval resources. These three challenges are changing the way the Navy operates.

Adm. Greenert described four realms in which the Navy must maintain control and situational awareness. In addition to surface, subsurface and air, cyberspace is an operational area that has requirements similar to the three physical realms. Concerns include training and interoperability.

Many forward-deployed ships in the U.S. Navy are becoming independent command and control (C2) nodes as they adapt for more complex missions, according to the commander of the Third Fleet. Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, USN, said in a luncheon address that command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) is the key enabler for the fleet.

But many requirements dominate Navy wish lists: seamless communication with coalition partners; a common operational picture for sea control; adaptive security measures that are transparent to partners; more automated methods for operations; and continually available afloat networks that run at the same speed as land networks.

Adm. Locklear compared fleet operations requirements to ballistic missile defense. It requires jointness and partnership with other nations, and it also mandates that operations shift from strategic to tactical to theater. Interoperability must include coalition partners, or Navy C4I will not be as effective.

“We can’t let the C4I structure drive our command and control,” the admiral declared.

Adm. Greenert also stated that interoperability is becoming more of an issue as capabilities increase along with diversity of partnerships. The U.S. Navy is conducting counter-piracy efforts with a number of partner nations, but noncoalition members such as Chinese and Russian naval forces are exchanging information with these U.S. forces through nontraditional channels such as chat rooms.

New technology is at the heart of re-engineering efforts for Naval Air Forces (NAVAIR). Vice Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline, USN, NAVAIR commander, described how the tailless unmanned combat aerial vehicle that the Navy is testing offers both challenges and opportunities. “We will have that aircraft for our carriers,” he declared.

Being able to carry out the Navy’s new missions will require an “immersive training environment,” Adm. Greenert said. He called for industry to provide high-fidelity simulation systems for training. He analogized that sailors today are training on Pac-Man systems, when what they really need is X-Box technology. The goal is to mimic sea operations as if they were real.

Change may be good for progress, but it is not good for Navy shipbuilding. A panel of experts addressing how to “fix” Navy shipbuilding agreed that changing the design in the process is responsible for most of the ills in Navy shipbuilding. However, they disagreed on many proposed solutions—and whether oft-stated ideas would even work in reality.

Many of the experts did agree on the need for discipline in the design and requirements process. They also want programs to be flexible enough to incorporate new emerging technologies. Yet they could not specify how to produce the best of both worlds.

A totally new perspective was offered by Fred J. Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO. Harris described how Korean shipbuilders do not release design drawings until the entire ship design process is completed. When his company built a ship in a Korean shipyard, its processes delivered a ship several months early and 20 percent under budget. Harris said that U.S. shipbuilders do not do enough production design, and he called for early requirements definition and collaboration between government and contractors.

 
Fixing Navy shipbuilding was the focus of a discussion among (l-r) Ronald O’Rourke; Rear Adm. Michael K. Mahon, USN; Fred J. Harris; Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff, USN (Ret.); and panel moderator Dr. Scott C. Truver.
Ronald O’Rourke, specialist in national defense with the Congressional Research Service, said that he believes several approaches may improve shipbuilding. These range from re-assessing the role of analysis over emotion to moving to common hulls and parts for economies of scale. O’Rourke also suggested enabling competition for construction, but Harris did not endorse that concept.

Capt. Peter A. Gumataotao, USN, former captain of the USS Decatur, said the littoral combat ship (LCS) is a top priority for the Navy. He described the versatile vessel as “a new way” for the Navy. Rear Adm. Michael K. Mahon, USN, deputy director, surface warfare, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), agreed, saying, “When it comes to flexible design, the LCS has it all.”

Many experts weighed in with their predictions for the near term. Adm. Harward offered that future national conflicts may arise from nonstate players acting on behalf of a state. Hezbollah, for example, acts on behalf of Iran. This and other sponsored groups could take actions that lead to a war between another nation and the supporting state, the admiral warned.

 
Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, USN, commander, U.S. Third Fleet, describes fleet requirements in a luncheon address.
Adm. Locklear’s top fear is an attack on satellite assets. He allowed that the military knows that other nations are considering it as a military tactic, and how the United States responds to the first strike on a satellite may determine the outcome of the rest of the conflict.

While the United States may be losing in cyberspace, it will win in Afghanistan, Adm. Harward said. However, the challenge it faces is once again a form of irregular warfare—in this case, information operations. The enemy is portraying U.S. forces negatively to the people of Afghanistan, and the United States must counter that. “The issue isn’t who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in Afghanistan,” he explained. “The issue is do they [the Afghan people] see us as the good guys or the bad guys.”

 
Panelists discussing force structure are (l-r) Lt. Gen. Joe F. Weber, USMC (Ret.); Adm. Robert Natter, USN (Ret.); Gen. Barry McCaffrey, USA (Ret.), Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Leaf, USAF (Ret.); and panel moderator Col. Jack Jacobs, USA (Ret.).
Oil platform security will increase in importance, Adm. Greenert predicted. He related that the U.S. Navy already is protecting Iraqi offshore oil platforms with the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard and Iraqi coastal protection forces.

The increasingly violent Mexican drug war will flare up and spread across the U.S. border, Lt. Gen. Joe F. Weber, USMC (Ret.), said. The former deputy commander, Marine Forces Atlantic, warned, “There will soon be a linkup between U.S. and Mexican military forces on our border—it will happen.” His comments came nearly two weeks before the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrests of more than 700 members of one of Mexico’s drug cartels.

 
Panelists offering “straight talk from the warfighter” include (r-l) panel moderator Col. Robert O. Work, USMC (Ret.); Vice Adm. Thomas J. Kilcline, USN; Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, USMC; Rear Adm. Michael C. Bachmann, USN; and Capt. Peter A. Gumataotao, USN.
Budget Concerns Limit Defense Choices
The current political picture of looming defense budget cuts poses considerable threats to national security, according to many panelists addressing force structure balance at West 2009. They warned against losing valuable advantages against adversaries in the name of economics.

“Clearly, we’re not going to be talking about how to grow … we’re going to talk about how to shrink,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Leaf, USAF (Ret.), former deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Command.

Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, USA, former commander, U.S. Southern Command, went against the popular flow of public sentiment calling for defense cuts. “There is no argument that we are overspending on defense—we are underspending on defense,” he declared. He noted that defense spending constitutes only about 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

“We have to create high-intensity modern forces and not be mesmerized by our own rhetoric,” the general said.

However, Col. Robert O. Work, USMC (Ret.), vice president, strategic studies, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, declared the 4-percent figure an unachievable goal. Not only will defense budgets face cuts because of the current economic environment, pegging defense spending at 4 percent of the GDP would add another trillion dollars to the national debt, he said.

“We are definitely in need of straight talk now,” he stated.

“I don’t think we can get it right” when it comes to planning force structure, said Gen. Joe Weber, USMC (Ret.), formerly of Marine Forces Command. Too many variables will render comprehensive plans obsolete before they come to fruition. Gen. Weber added, “We don’t need another study that tells us that we need to conduct operations from one end of the spectrum to the other.”

Rear Adm. Michael C. Bachmann, USN, commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, offered that information technology is a growth area amid declining budgets. He noted that several systems under development or being deployed are drawing interest from non-Defense Department customers. Maritime domain awareness in particular is at the forefront, he declared.

 
Linda A. Mills, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Information Systems Sector, discusses the importance of the defense industry in this troubled economy.
His view was echoed in a luncheon speech by Linda A. Mills, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Information Systems Sector. Mills singled out command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems as being essential regardless of the direction in defense spending. There always will be demand for top C4ISR and cyber capabilities. “C4ISR systems do for the military what the five senses—the human nervous system—do for the human body,” she analogized.

“Change is in the air in the defense business,” Mills said. “Defense is going to be significantly affected by our current economic crisis.”

However, Mills offered that providing economic stimulus to the defense sector could be a key part of revitalizing the U.S. economy. She urged that the government take the defense industry into account as it stimulates the economy to keep and create jobs. Mills pointed out that almost all of the military’s equipment is made in the United States. And, defense spending often is the catalyst for enduring economic benefits.

Gen. McCaffrey also decried suggestions that the United States could cut its nuclear deterrent drastically. He warned that “we walk away from our nuclear deterrent at our own peril,” and he predicted that massive strategic cuts could trigger nuclear proliferation among 30 nations.

He also addressed generals and admirals, telling them that it is not their role to cut the budget. Instead, they should address the national security threat and leave it to Congress to fulfill its role under Article 1 of the Constitution to raise and support a military, “and they’re not doing their job,” he said of Congress.

Cyberspace Challenges Become Viral
No solution to the cyberspace threat seems imminent or even obvious, according to a panel asked “What keeps you up at night?” Cyberspace enemies can attack anywhere, and they do not need to expend any extraordinary resources to be effective in the infosphere.

 
Panelists discussing cyber challenges include (l-r) Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN; James P. Craft; Robert J. Carey; Vice Adm. H. Denby Starling II, USN; and panel moderator Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.).
Vice Adm. H. Denby Starling II, USN, commander, Naval Network Warfare Command, admitted that he does not have the visibility across the Navy’s networks that most people would agree he needs. And, all an enemy needs is a laptop and access to a Starbucks’ virtual private network, or VPN, to be a player in cyberwarfare.

“Our adversaries can attack us anywhere, so we have to defend everywhere,” he pointed out.

The Navy today has a network operations model that is highly people-dependent, the admiral added. Building new networks that are human labor intensive is a nonstarter. Security must move away from people dependency as much as possible.

Linda A. Mills of Northrop Grumman Information Systems Sector also warned about the country’s dependence on networks in a separate luncheon address. The nation’s military and commercial networks must be reliably and predictably available and secure, and the threat to these networks cannot be overstated. Mills called for government leadership to unite all aspects of information technology industry in synergistic cooperation on security measures and practices.

Acquisition is a headache, implied Robert J. Carey, Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer. Regulations and laws hinder development, and cycle times cannot keep pace with information technology.

Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, deputy chief of naval operations for communications networks (N-6), echoed Carey’s remarks. “We’re fighting an information-age war with industrial-age acquisition,” the admiral stated.

Carey surprised no one when he said that the Navy is moving too slowly into Web 2.0 technologies and capabilities. Most of the Navy’s processes are digitized paper processes, and he emphasized that this must change. When the Navy fully enters the world of Web 2.0, it will free up resources that can be used to acquire other vital systems such as ships.

But none of these efforts will matter if attention is not paid to the supply chain, said James P. Craft, deputy director, C4/deputy chief information officer of the Marine Corps. Craft warned that if no one can trust foreign sources in the supply chain for weapons systems, then “everything we do is a wash.”

Craft challenged industry to come up with the solutions for Navy information technology challenges. Industry should develop open-source solutions and standards “to scratch its own itch,” he said.

 
David Hartman (l), former host of Good Morning America, moderates a panel on China featuring Dr. Jacqueline Newmyer, president and chief executive officer, Long Term Strategy Group LLC, and Rear Adm. Michael A. McDevitt, USN (Ret.), director, Center for Naval Analyses Strategic Studies.
China Looms Large Now, Larger in the Future
The People’s Republic of China is moving systematically to be a world power in economics and military capabilities by 2050, said panelists discussing whether China is a friend or a foe. However, none of the panelists could resolve that overall issue. They noted that many of China’s moves are based on supporting its long march to modernization, and it sees continued peace in East Asia as a key to achieving that goal. However, it believes it must be able to counter U.S. military power to ensure its continued progress. And, it has gone to war with its neighbors frequently in the past 60 years, often while at peace.

Rear Adm. Michael A. McDevitt, USN (Ret.), director, Center for Naval Analyses Strategic Studies, noted that China is simultaneously a partner, a competitor and a potential enemy. The Bush administration “got China right” in its foreign policy; the Obama administration inherited a good relationship that it must not make worse.

Dr. Jacqueline Newmyer, president and chief executive officer, Long Term Strategy Group LLC, agreed with Adm. McDevitt on the Bush administration China legacy, but she noted that China has the “dramatic ambition” to vie with the United States. China does want peace in the region, but it does not want to be encircled by potentially rival or hostile nations.

Adm. McDevitt looked at some issues from China’s perspective. He is concerned that the United States is pursuing a competing strategic framework in Asia, and he noted that most issues are maritime in nature. China’s economic growth engine largely is based in its coastal regions, which are extremely vulnerable to U.S. naval forces.

However, the potential of China’s growing military should not be underestimated. “If China can deny us access to Taiwan, it can deny us access to Japan or South Korea,” the admiral said. He also predicted that Chinese forces increasingly will be “out in the world” protecting its interests.

Newmyer cast a cautious eye on China’s internal socio-economic structure. She sees “real questions about China’s ability to move up the economic food chain,” particularly given its sclerotic society and government controls that hinder innovative behavior. It will be difficult for China to shift from an export-driven economy to a consumption-based economy in which growth comes from within.

She also sees “real prospects” for political instability in China, which drives much of the government’s need for internal control. The government cannot allow the organization of any group or groups that could threaten its hold on power.

IED Threat Spans Tactical, Strategic Realms
The only way to defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is to treat them as strategic weapons, said Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, USA, director, Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). And, with that approach, networking may be the key enabler.

 
Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, USA, director, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), describes the ongoing battle to defeat IEDs.
“We are in a long war against extremists,” the general stated. “Their views of destroying our way of life in favor of establishing the second caliphate are as clear as Adolph Hitler’s was expressed in Mein Kampf.” He also described in blunt terms the atrocities these extremists commit against innocent people, particularly women. This will be a long fight against an enemy whose weapon of choice is the IED.

Gen. Metz described many traditional networking capabilities that are necessary for broad countermeasures against IEDs. These capabilities include being able to access broad types of information on adversaries likely to use IEDs; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance optimization; and network-centric data sharing. “We’re moving farther away from material solutions to nonmaterial solutions,” he said.

He also revealed that his organization discovered an IED “research and development” organization in Baghdad, and U.S. forces shut it down.

Predictive analysis will help, but achieving it will be extremely difficult, and Gen. Metz does not expect an ideal solution anytime soon. The Defense Department’s data-sharing environment is not robust enough for analysts, he said. “We’re moving farther away from material solutions to nonmaterial solutions.”

Gen. Metz used an audio-visual demonstration of Google Earth capabilities to show what an analyst could learn from real-time, open-source information. Adding classified data to this capability would give the analyst great power to prevent IED incidents and allow forces to attack IED networks, he stated.

The general emphasized that the United States should maintain JIEDDO even if it pulls forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The IED threat could come home easily, and then people would clamor for this type of organization after the fact.

Photography by Michael Carpenter

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