Two things have me thinking about heresy. One is the upcoming end of a very turbulent international year—always a good time to think holistically about truly controversial ideas. The other is a series of hearings the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services might convene early next year to focus on the Defense Department and the future of security in the United States.
Snaking around the globe on the ocean floor are the standard commercial fiber optic cables that carry 99 percent of the world’s daily international telecommunications. They move information at a brisk clip: 2 terabits of data every second, including nearly $5 trillion in financial transactions every 24 hours. About 200 cables carry the vast majority of all that vital information.
Regardless of how the deal to restrict Iran’s nuclear capabilities unfolds, we need to be thinking aggressively about how to mitigate the effects of it.
Let’s review the bidding. The deal provides a weak verification regime; a limited 10- to 15-year shelf life; an immediate boatload of cash to the Iranians as sanctions are lifted without any real restrictions on their actions; and a deeply upsetting turn of events to our allies in the region. That’s the bad news.
We are so conditioned these days to the exciting advances in the world of cyber: Information technology leaps ahead relentlessly, Moore’s law tells us these changes will accelerate endlessly, the consumer world reflects the shared excitement when the new Apple Watch appears, and we all warily watch the explosion of the aptly named Internet of Things, with more than 20 billion devices predicted to be attached to the Web by 2020.
Yet the big revolution of the 21st century will not be in information and cyber. It will be in biology, and it will profoundly affect both day-to-day life and national security.
In March 2015, the chiefs of the nation’s sea services—U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard—unveiled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” charting a forward, engaged, ready course to meet the nation’s global maritime strategic responsibilities. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, USN; Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., USMC; and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, USCG, underscored the growing importance of increasing cooperation among the services to achieve the maximum forward presence and warfighting capabilities required for national defense and homeland security.
China is flexing its muscles and expanding its reach, particularly in the maritime domain. As the United States tries to consolidate the so-called pivot to Asia by bringing 60 percent of the U.S. fleet to bear, leaders need to be thinking through all their other options to deal with the growing ambition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Every day in the South China Sea, the Chinese are slowly adding to what Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Harry Harris, USN, has called the Great Wall of sand. This is a series of artificial islands and floating platforms, some of them large enough to have big airfields and significant numbers of troops. The Chinese are doing this to stretch their operational reach and, above all, to buttress their claims of sovereignty out to the far reaches of the so-called “nine-dash line.”
The idea of using floating bases to create operational and legal advantages has been around for centuries, but it has strengthened as technology has provided the ability to build significant platforms at sea.
So often these days, as I sail along in my second year of retirement, people—very nicely—say to me, “Thank you for your service.” I appreciate that deeply, and I think every veteran does. Some veterans have served just a year or two, of course, and some grizzled folks like me stayed in for well over three decades. But regardless of the length of service, we all enjoy that momentary sense of being part of something far larger than just ourselves—Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and so on.
But lately, I have been thinking about the many ways people serve their nation.
Over the course of my career, both in military operations and the civilian world of academe, it has seemed to me that some gifts of leadership are indeed bestowed at birth: high emotional intelligence, a pleasing appearance, a commanding physical presence—these are all helpful attributes. But the best leaders, in my experience, are forged through a combination of teaching, training, education, practice and practical experience. And perhaps the single best way a leader can develop is through reading.
Reading is central to leading for a variety of reasons.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, a creative and questing leader, has just announced the creation of Task Force Innovation—a long overdue effort to put real emphasis on the critical role of innovation in running the Department of the Navy.
People often ask me about what keeps me awake at night after a long career in the military. What is the country that worries me the most? Russia? China? Iran? Pakistan? All are good candidates; but the most dangerous and unpredictable is North Korea.
First and foremost, the so-called “young leader,” Kim Jong Un, is dangerous in his own right—a wolf in a clown suit whose portly figure, short stature and slightly dazed look belie a cunning and deadly actor trained in the harsh court of his father’s shark tank. He is mercurial, unstable, medically challenged and utterly ruthless.
I read Adm. Stravidis’ thoughtful piece on “Cyber Attacks” with great interest, for I directed the Tallinn Manual project to which he referred. Unfortunately, the admiral misstates the position taken by the “International Group of Experts” that prepared the manual during a three-year project sponsored by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence.
Every year in the January issue, SIGNAL Magazine introduces a new columnist for its Incoming opinion column. Next year’s columnist, Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.), picked a timely topic for his first column. He worries that with social media posts, warfighters and civilian military employees “merrily are doing the work of a million foreign spies.” Gen. Bolger warns of a broad trend toward posting too much information in social media.
The latest Incoming column from Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN, titled “Link Warfighters to Technologists at the Lowest Possible Level” (SIGNAL Magazine, April 2013), resonated with observations I’ve made and conclusions I’ve reached over the years. I’ve been involved with the research and development and acquisition communities for a long time, including serving as the Air Force chief scientist from 1999 to 2001. Perhaps my adding to Lt. Kohlmann’s advice will help it gain additional traction, and stimulate further discussion and activity.
In this month's SIGNAL Magazine, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), makes some interesting points about the new Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) that will be replacing the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) once the contract for the latter expires. Grace wonders if this is the best approach, noting the general success of the NMCI after the early years of growing pains.
In this month's Incoming column, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), discusses the difficulties of change, whether it involves renovating his home or upgrading government information technology:
This month, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.) likens the state of government technology to that of an 8-track tape player in an iPod world, thanks to a bloated procurement process:
This month, Linton Wells II drew his inspiration for Mission Assurance Moves to the Fore in Cyberspace from Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III's recently published article, Defending a New Domain: The Pentagon's Cyberstrategy. Wells summarizes Lynn's strategy points, noting that taken on a whole they have a broader implication than just cyberdefense. It has more to do with mission assurance, he says:
No matter how much we think technological solutions will be the panacea for all our information assurance concerns, there's still the human factor to consider, writes Linton Wells II in this month's Incoming column, "Uneasy Sleep in a Golden Age":
SIGNAL's Incoming columnist Linton Wells II doesn't pull any punches when it comes down to how we might fare better in Afghanistan. Even this morning, news reports emerged on President Obama's commitment to Afghanistan as he told an audience of military veterans that despite challenges (and a growing tide of criticism), the U.S. has "clear and achievable" goals in the country.