Advances in technology and improvements in understanding cognitive science have led to a rediscovery of key elements of information warfare (IW). This once-arcane topic has re-emerged as a vital component of international security that must be closely considered and comprehended in the context of geopolitical objectives, military operations and the daily events of our lives.
As global security becomes more uncertain, NATO only grows in importance to its members. We’ve seen the repeated bad behavior of Russia, the continued chaos of the Middle East, the influence of Iran moving throughout the region and beyond, the increasingly bellicose activity of North Korea, and the ceaseless threat of ISIS all affecting NATO’s strategic interests. The alliance represents a unique set of international political and defense standards, values and norms that form the basis for rules-based order in Western civilization. Further, member nations underpin each other’s economies with dynamic trade and security.
The new National Defense Strategy recently released by the U.S. Defense Department represents a refreshing change. Unlike many of its predecessors, this strategy focuses on the world as it is rather than what we wish it could be. It sheds much of the naiveté that characterized the recent past, and it removes much of the political masking and kabuki that has negatively affected national security.
The United States cannot adequately secure its entire critical infrastructure. The infrastructure is too broad and complex. Much of it consists of highly vulnerable legacy software running older supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. But the nation can take steps to address vulnerabilities in key areas and mitigate losses in others.
As 2018 begins, we find ourselves in what may be the most challenging era of our lifetimes. The rapid rise of near-peer competitors, coupled with new and emerging adversaries enabled by advanced technology and science, pose major international security threats.
Government cannot handle these challenges alone. Its organizations simply are unable to keep up with the pace and scope of technological change. As a result, the model for generating creative thought, innovation and research long ago shifted dramatically away from government and toward the commercial and academic sectors.
When the public thinks of Special Operations Forces (SOF), the vision that usually comes to mind is of gun-blazing commando raids such as the one that brought justice to Osama bin Laden. Yes, certain elements of SOF receive considerable public attention and accrue celebrity-style glamour. While this attention is well-deserved, most of what SOF does is hidden from the public eye and is far more important than many realize.
Electronic warfare (EW) is one of the most complex, least understood and difficult operating environments we face. U.S. forces in Southwest Asia did not encounter a consistently serious EW challenge, and in some ways, EW has become a forgotten capability. Since the end of the Cold War, when we concentrated on defending and waging EW against the Soviets, attention has turned elsewhere. Now the Soviet heirs in Russia, as well as other adversaries, have refined and sharpened their EW skills. If we engage in a higher level of conflict than we have faced in the recent past, then we will likely confront a foe wielding a vastly improved EW capability that could threaten the success of our operations.
The Indo-Asia-Pacific area is diverse, expansive and challenging for the United States and our international partners. The 36 countries within the U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility encompass about half the Earth’s surface and contain half the world’s population. The region lacks a common culture, religion or language. In fact, about 3,000 languages are spoken there. It hosts the three largest global economies—the United States, China and Japan—and the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia. Furthermore, it is now home to five nuclear powers: Pakistan, India, China, Japan and North Korea. The region has seven of the world’s 10 largest armies, accentuating centuries of deeply held animosities.
The challenges facing the intelligence community (IC) have never been greater in both degree and diversity. New threats are emerging constantly, old threats are becoming more serious, and capabilities menacing national security are increasingly innovative. The greatest impediment to addressing these dynamic challenges may be internal rather than external: insufficient resources.
Possessing the ultimate weapon, the infantryman, the U.S. Army now is marching foursquare into cyberspace and electronic warfare operations. It is doing so not as a latecomer to the digital fight, but as one of the thought-leading pioneers in a rapidly expanding, cohesive domain.
The ground service, along with the other services, is integrating cyber, electronic warfare (EW) and other elements of information warfare into combat operations to more effectively assimilate information age technology. The effects of cyber and EW can move at the speed of light. They can enable or inhibit each other depending on how they are used, so it is only natural that these aspects of warfighting are tightly bound.
Robots, drones, automated devices—they are but a few of the names given to unmanned systems proliferating across the military and the commercial sector. The sky’s the limit for unmanned aerial vehicles, and no ocean is too deep for their underwater counterparts. Yet the potential for these devices, which seems unlimited, is being hindered by the human element they support. Planners must abandon convention and explore disruptive approaches that will allow unmanned systems to reach their full promise.
The challenges of cyberspace permeate just about everything we do—whether in defense, critical infrastructure such as banking systems or utilities and any other major commercial enterprise or individual pursuit. The ability to shape, change and manipulate data in an unauthorized and undetected manner can severely undermine confidence in the systems that depend on that information. Consequently, the ability to secure cyberspace is critical.
The need to secure data never has been greater, and that need is growing. Encrypting data is one of the main methods of securing information at the source, in storage and in transit. With data breaches becoming more common and more serious, organizations and individuals increasingly are encrypting information. This trend ultimately could lead to significant changes in the data security realm.
Fraud, theft and information corruption have become a way of life in cyberspace. Vital information such as health care data has joined financial and personal data as a prime target of hackers.
A significant level of effort and commitment is needed to restore the U.S. military to where it can appropriately address the country’s many national and international security responsibilities. The new administration has pledged to rebuild the nation’s defense capabilities, proposing billions more in defense spending for badly needed improvements. This initial hike in funding, while a much-needed and welcome first step, will require reinforcement in the Future Years Defense Program to truly position the military to meet our global commitments.
One of the more intriguing information technology trends sweeping the globe is the Internet of Things, or IoT. Its inevitability is clear, and the military is hoping to leverage the IoT for gains in situational awareness and logistics, among other areas. Yet an increased reliance on the IoT offers potential liabilities, such as security challenges and availability, along with a heavy dependence on technology in what is sure to be a contested or denied future warfighting environment.
All the U.S. military services have had to do more with less, but the Navy is facing a challenge that strikes at the heart of its raison d’être. Simply put, the Navy is underequipped. It does not have the number or types of ships it needs to adequately address its global role. Maintenance is backlogged, and because the supply of ready forces does not meet demand, deployments are longer. This downward curve in operating capability is reciprocal to the growth in its missions. The cost to re-establish the dominance of the Navy is significant, but it must be met—and in several areas. Further delay only adds to the expense and the risk to national security.
Our next adversary likely will use far more sophisticated technologies against our command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities than the Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have employed. U.S. armed forces will face significant radio jamming, cyber attacks, misinformation, elaborate deception operations and denial of access to radio frequency spectrum. My concern is that some of the military’s best technical capabilities could be unavailable or degraded. To counter this, a renewed effort to double down on mission-oriented training is needed.
Athletes and coaches alike constantly study game film of opposing teams and players, identifying patterns and collecting intelligence that can provide insights into the opposition’s tendencies and overall game plan. This allows a team to formulate a strategy to exploit an opponent’s weaknesses.
Sports present an apt analogy for predictive intelligence. Achieved largely through the tools of big data analytics and augmented by other types of intelligence, a predictive capability takes on many forms. At its core, it assists in promoting timely and actionable information to identify trends or behaviors that enable the prediction of events. As a result, officials can act in a prompt and decisive manner.
New communications and information system technologies being designed and deployed for tactical use are doing more than simply changing the way warfighters communicate. They are helping to shape the very nature of operations with game-changing capabilities. This trend is likely to continue and even accelerate as new innovations in information technology move into the battlespace more quickly.
AFCEA International marks its 70th anniversary this year. While much has changed as the association evolved over the decades, the founders’ guiding principles still hold true and are even more relevant now.
Established after the end of the most destructive war in human history, AFCEA today serves the Free World as it deals with burgeoning threats amid an uncertain future. The challenges that faced the postwar world then have their counterparts in this millennium, and AFCEA is uniquely positioned to help respond to them.