The steady drumbeat of horrific terrorist attacks continues across our country and around the world. Most of these attacks are rooted in religious extremism, yet our administration and Congress keep debating terrorism terminologies and causes rather than taking aggressive and meaningful bipartisan steps that clearly identify the threats and lay out a comprehensive strategy to mitigate them. I am convinced that we will continue to struggle against extremist and other mass-murder threats until we come up with unified national positions on terrorism and gun control that most Americans can understand, accept and support.
I suspect it is no surprise to the men and women who read SIGNAL Magazine that the U.S. Air Force is facing readiness and modernization challenges after 25 years of continuous combat. What you readers might not realize, however, is that our Air Force is actually smaller today than it was when it became a service in 1947. And, according to recent congressional testimony, it sits at about 50 percent readiness. Across the board, our service members proudly carry out their missions as the world’s premier fighting forces. But if we are asking them to execute the published National Security Strategy, we owe it to these patriots to provide proper resources.
My wife and I once passed through three different airports on a trip to visit friends. As I observed each passenger terminal, I was struck by the behavior of the employees.
While the mission of those airports was quite similar—process passengers, route bags, maintain safety and keep to the flight schedule—every airport left me with a distinctly different impression. Some were more efficient, had happier employees, were cleaner and demonstrated qualitative disparities compared with others. What accounted for these differences? Airport leadership.
I recently had the honor of speaking with the men and women of the National Capital Region’s Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The question they asked most often was, “What’s it like to take off the uniform?” I thought about that question and realized that for many of these service members, the transition would be markedly different than it was for me. Not only are some of them leaving the only profession they have ever known, but also they are leaving it with new physical and/or psychological challenges.
Cyberspace is one warfighting domain that will not allow us to conduct business as usual. Unlike the domains of land, sea, air and space, which are well-understood and whose doctrines are well-established, cyberspace represents a new and challenging frontier. It demands that we take a very different approach to developing doctrine, acquiring capabilities and conducting operations. But sometimes we approach these challenges using traditional methods and timelines that may not deliver the desired results quickly enough. Several areas need to be addressed to be successful.
One of today’s leading topics of discussion is the government-industry relationship. Simply put, will we ever get it right? I now have had the chance to look at this question from both sides of the fence, and the picture is no prettier from the industry vantage point.
Global discussions about maritime issues tend to focus on the Atlantic Ocean, with its attached Mediterranean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, with the South China Sea. Endless conversations take place about the emerging conflicts, the flow of refugees, the competition over vital hydrocarbons and the geopolitical impact of the two “major oceans.” Yet the 21st century will be more about the Indian Ocean than either of the other two—and the sooner we fully realize that in the United States, the better.
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.