Much of the focus in the news following Defense Secretary
Robert Gates’ unveiling of the Defense Department’s 2010 budget proposal on
April 6 was on the cuts to major platform programs. Yet Gates’ proposals would
boost the network-centric focus of DOD through additional spending on command,
control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and
reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems.
Gates recommended increasing the budget for ISR in the 2010
budget by $2 billion. Although a portion of that money is intended to fund more
research and development of ISR capabilities, the lion’s share is focused on
getting more eyes in the sky in the form of additional unmanned and manned air
At the top of the list: 50 more “Predator-class (unmanned
aerial vehicle) orbits” by the 2011 fiscal year, thus providing more persistent
surveillance capability over Iraq and Afghanistan. The secretary also proposed increasing manned ISR aircraft, such as those put into service as part of the Army’s Task Force ODIN.
The Air Force has made a similar effort to field manned ISR aircraft through its Project Liberty. But these two proposals reflect Gates’ previous criticism of the services’ slowness to adopt UAV and low-cost manned ISR aircraft.
While Gates is proposing that DOD “significantly restructure
the Army’s Future Combat Systems program,” DOD will seek to keep Spinout 1 of
FCS, which is heavily laden with the program’s C4ISR capabilities, moving
rapidly forward. “We will retain and accelerate the initial increment of the
program to spin out technology enhancements to all combat brigades,” Gates
The upshot is that network-centric warfare capabilities
originally slated to be deployed only to FCS brigade combat teams now
potentially will be put in all of the Army’s existing combat vehicles.
Posted on Apr 15, 2009 at 8:36 AM0 comments
While Defense Secretary Robert Gates has had Pentagon officials participating in discussions of potential program cuts sign nondisclosure agreements, that has not stopped rampant speculation about the cuts. Word spread in mid-March via the Web that the Office of Management and Budget had recommended cutting or delaying 22 major Defense Department programs.
Congressional Quarterly reported on March 10 that the Obama Administration was holding up the Air Force’s refueling tanker program, which is in turnaround after the award of the program to Northrop Grumman Corp. and Airbus (part of the European aerospace giant EADS Co.) was rescinded. CQ reported that the administration had asked the Pentagon to delay the program for five years.
The problem is, the reports were flat-out wrong. OMB spokesman Ken Baer told Reuters, “OMB has not directed the Defense Department either to delay production of the new tanker or cancel the new bomber. Reports that suggest the OMB made such recommendations are simply wrong.”
Major cuts in programs will probably not happen until after the Quadrennial Defense Review, which Secretary Gates has accelerated.
Posted on Mar 23, 2009 at 9:30 AM1 comments
I dialed in for an Army blogger roundtable last week to find out more about the Army's new career path for electronic warriors. The roundtable on Feb. 10 featured Col. Laurie Buckhout, chief of the Electronic Warfare (EW) Division, Army Operations, Readiness and Mobilization, who talked about the new EW 29 Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) for officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel.
EW is a key element of the networked battlefield. It’s also an immediate asset in dealing with cyberthreats that ride the electromagnetic spectrum — cell phones, wireless networks, satellite data links and other mobile networking technologies that are vulnerable to interception, jamming or disruption.
“We are seeing (communications) electronic attacks,” said Buckhout. “We’re seeing directed energy capabilities. We’re seeing laser capabilities. We can shoot down incoming munitions with lasers. We have something called active denial systems that puts out a directed energy pulse that is harmless but not something you want to get in front of. And it keeps people out of a certain area. It’s an area denial system. We have a whole lot of capabilities out there that use the electromagnetic spectrum, not just the communications spectrum in ways that are very beneficial to the U.S. Army.”
“When the enemy can’t talk to each other to coordinate a fight, or to coordinate an escape, to coordinate an activity, it certainly helps us in our offensive or defensive actions, whatever we want to do at the time,” said Buckhout. And putting that capability in the hands of local tactical commanders, instead of relying on airborne assets like those of the Navy and Air Force, helps control the scope of the effects, restricting them to what’s needed by the tactical commander. “We have airborne technologies that are UAS-based. So instead of having something at 30,000 feet, you can have something controlled by the local tactical commander. So if he wants to do some communications jamming in support of one of his operations, he can do just that instead of having the asset come in and blank out half the theater with a footprint.”
EW has grown in importance to the Army, especially in its efforts to prevent attacks with remote-controlled improvised explosive devices. And with the increasing net-centricity of the Army, there’s the need to counter communications jammers and other attempts to deny troops the electromagnetic spectrum, and the need to counter or exploit an adversary’s use of that spectrum, including cell phones and wireless networking.
The need for electronic warfare specialists currently is being met on the battlefield largely with Navy and Air Force personnel. The Army is looking to fill the electronic warfare career path with 1,619 soldiers from the rank of E-5 and up to colonel.
The training for the new career field will be held at Fort Sill, Okla., which is the home of Army artillery. While Fort Huachuca has an electronic warfare school focused on electronic support— “the targeting side, that ties into [signals intelligence] as well the collection of intelligence to enable rapid targeting,” Buckhout said. Electronic attack, however, is seen as “a form of fires,” she said, and like artillery, it has an area of effect. So the EW offensive training is being pulled into the world of artillery.
I asked about the connection between the electronic warfare MOS and the cyber realm. “We see cyber and EW as connected,” she said, “but not the same thing. One of the challenges we’re running into cyber right now is that cyber policy exists at some very high levels. If you want to go out and attack somebody on a network, that’s a very high level policy decision to make, whereas electronic warfare is done by tactical commanders to achieve immediate tactical effects. … Our thoughts are that when something passes from the cyber realm into the wireless realm, then it’s open season for EW. So if you’re using a cell phone network to transmit something off of a PC or a laptop in a cafe, say, that’s certainly open to any sort of gaming intercept, etc., that you might have going through the open air.”
Posted on Feb 17, 2009 at 8:12 AM1 comments
The British Ministry of Defence is currently coping with a cyberattack that has managed to redirect e-mails from multiple Royal Air Force facilities to computers inside Russia, according to a report from Military.com's DefenseTech blog. The attack, which took the form of an e-mail worm, is reported to have driven MOD officials to shut down all e-mail for a period earlier this week.
The attack comes on the heels of a malware attack on the U.S. Department of Defense's networks late last year, as reported here. That attack led to the temporary ban on removable media such as USB “thumb drives,” which were an alleged culprit in the attacks.
A spokesman for Joint Task Force Global Network Operations said that current policy is to require the certification of all storage devices prior to being attached to systems connected to the Global Information Grid.
While there's been no attribution for these attacks, they are part of an escalating cyber war being waged over the Internet, including Russian “hacktivist” attacks on Estonia and Georgia over the past two years. Hacktivists — politically motivated hackers who may or may not have a state affiliation, but are responding to a particular event — are a growing threat, according to Mark Hall, director of information assurance policy and strategy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Hall spoke about hacktivists in a presentation at the MILCOM conference in November. “The hacktivist threat is real,” he said. “A nation can influence their activity while also denying culpability. We haven't seen any sort of restraint in these communities to keep them from carrying out these attacks.”
Posted on Jan 22, 2009 at 8:12 AM0 comments