• Adm. Phil Davidson, USN, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, speaks at TechNet Indo-Pacific. Credit: Bob Goodwin Photography
     Adm. Phil Davidson, USN, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, speaks at TechNet Indo-Pacific. Credit: Bob Goodwin Photography

It's On With China

November 19, 2019
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The Middle Kingdom has taken aim at the United States and its allies.


China has no ambiguities about its concept of the global future. The rising superpower wants to replace the current system of international laws and guaranteed freedoms with one built around Chinese control of geography, commerce and information.

Thus defined, this challenge formed the basis of the keynote luncheon speech on the first day of TechNet Indo-Pacific, held November 19-21 in Honolulu. The speaker was Adm. Phil Davidson, USN, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), and he pulled no punches in describing how China has dropped all illusions of peaceful coexistence in its drive toward global domination.

“We’re living every day, every hour [with a threat],” Adm. Davidson said. “The United States is not pursuing a decoupling from China. China is pursuing a decoupling from the United States.”

The admiral continued that China looks to exploit U.S. digital dependencies and vulnerabilities in cyberspace, using it to undermine democratic institutions and the U.S. economy through theft of intellectual property. He cited the Chinese technology company Huawei, which China uses to gain information about its customers. “It [Huawei] can be used as an extension of China’s intelligence services,” Adm. Davidson declared.

While responsible for joint and coalition operations across half the Earth’s surface, the INDOPACOM commander focused on cyberspace as both the prime challenge and prime opportunity. “Our prosperity and security depend on responding to challenges in cyberspace,” he warned,” listing four areas for industry to focus on in digital modernization.

The first is that integrated systems and networks are necessary to share with international partners. “We need networks built to support joint and coalition networks,” he stated. “They must be secured to the satisfaction of both partners and the United States.” This would adopt a data-centric approach instead of a network-centric one, and it will rely extensively on the cloud, he noted.

The admiral's second point is to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to identify and defeat threats in near real time. This would allow connection sensors and shooters across all domains “with the ability to engage thousands of potential targets within hours.” He added there are policy issues with AI and big data management that must be addressed government-to-government.

Command and control must be resilient. U.S. forces must be able to defeat enemies in degraded or denied environments, Adm. Davidson stated. Vital technologies include protected satellites and adaptive radio frequency jamming, along with sensing capabilities that mask and hide forces’ electromagnetic signature.

And, systems and networks must be scrupulously secured across the board. The admiral noted that while many countries have active security programs in place, some others do not seem to realize they are under cyber attack. “There needs to be a broad awakening that this is happening across the globe,” he declared.

These points are part of the U.S. dedication to maintaining freedom throughout the Indo-Pacific region, Adm. Davidson emphasized. “When I say a free and open Pacific, I mean free in terms of traditional security and in terms of values and political systems,” he stated. “Seas are not borders, they are not boundaries. Oceans do not separate us, they bind us all together."

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