• Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, Army deputy chief of staff, G-2, speaks at the AFCEA Army Signal Conference.
     Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, Army deputy chief of staff, G-2, speaks at the AFCEA Army Signal Conference.

Fighting Chinese and Russian Technology

The Cyber Edge
March 6, 2018
By George I. Seffers
E-mail About the Author

A high-ranking Army intelligence official lays out the five-year threat.

Cloud computing, big data and cyber are among the capabilities that pose a major threat to U.S. forces, said Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, Army deputy chief of staff, G-2.

“If you’re a threat actor out there, probably a little bit of investment in these areas is going to go a long way to make life very difficult for your adversaries,” Gen. Berrier told the audience at the AFCEA Army Signal Conference in Springfield, Virginia.

He pointed out that such capabilities can be used to offer the possibility of interrupting a network without attribution or to perform network reconnaissance over a long period of time and then cherry pick the data to be stolen or altered.

The general also listed unmanned aerial vehicles as an evolving threat, noting that terrorist groups have been using inexpensive drones to deliver improvised explosive devices. “Everyone’s unmanned aerial vehicle capability is getting much better,” he said.

Higher-end technologies that pose a threat include anti-access/area denial (A2/AD), hyper velocity weapons, long-range, precision anti-aircraft and anti-ship weapons, and rocket artillery and cannons with the kind of range and precision that previously only the United States could demonstrate.

Gen. Berrier laid out the major threats the United States will face over the next five years. He listed Iran and North Korea as short-term potential threats that could “easily become problems for us … as we operate in the Gulf and on the Korean Peninsula.”

The United States is now “in basic agreement” with the Iranians about that country’s nuclear weapons development, but the country will continue to develop conventional weapons and asymmetric capabilities, including anti-ship cruise missiles and A2/AD capabilities, and elements of the Republican Guard will continue to conduct clandestine operations, intelligence gathering and “mayhem in the Middle East,” he said.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who recently announced unexpectedly that the country will pause developing nuclear weapons in exchange for direct talks with the United States, believes “we are out to get him” and will likely continue “secretly, quietly continuing to develop nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and chem-bio threats” while attempting to reunify the Korean peninsula “on his terms,” the general predicted.

Russia in many ways has transformed its Army from the “big, clunky, kind of ineffective, brute force” of the Soviet era. It is now smaller, more agile and more technologically capable, but Gen. Berrier questions whether Vladimir Putin can maintain the progress. For one thing, Russia simply doesn’t have the population for a massive Army and is now largely depending contracted fighters that are less effective. Furthermore, the economy is in decline, and Russia seems to be experiencing a “brain drain” as well-educated citizens seek opportunities elsewhere.

Still, Putin is fielding a wide range of advanced technologies and capabilities, including cyber, unmanned aerial vehicles and fighter jets. “We often talk about Russia operating in a gray zone, those activities in information operations, those activities in cyber, those activities that special operations forces and others are conducting to foment discord,” the general said.

China’s economy also is seeing a downturn, but military spending remains high, and “their GDP was still about 7 percent last year, which is pretty damned good,” Gen. Berrier offered. “Which means they are going to invest heavily in capabilities as they go forward. Capabilities in cyber, capabilities in A2/AD, capabilities in space.”

China is not prioritizing ground force modernization but is instead spending heavily on the Navy and Air Force and expanding overseas bases and airports.

The final slide Gen. Berrier presented at the conference concluded: We may not fight China or Russia, but we will fight their equipment and technology.

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