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By Rick Rogers
SAN DIEGO – Quicker product fielding and a greater focus on cyber space were some of the areas highlighted by U.S. military leaders and defense experts on the opening day of the AFCEA/USNI 2010 Conference. Thousands gathered for the event at the San Diego Convention Center.
"You could not have timed this better," said Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the morning's keynote speaker. The day before, the Pentagon had released the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) which analyzes strategic objectives and potential military threats.
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Presciently, the three-day West Coast conference is entitled "Smart Power: Does the QDR Get it Right?"
"As you look at the Department (of Defense) and you try to understand what's different and where we are going," Cartwright told about 1,200 defense contractors and service members at the breakfast event, ""you have to put in context the fact that we are, in fact, a nation at war."
"That seems to often escape the public eye. But we are fighting a war on two fronts, Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is killing young American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and that is a huge price to pay and a huge burden to carry, particularly inside the military. But it is what is making the demands of what we are doing in policy and strategy every single day."
Cartwright said the recently submitted 2011 defense budget, along with the new QDR, continues major changes begun last year in order to better align needs and demands.
"The QDR and the budget are put together in order to potentially and ideally align policy and strategy, align ends and means, align the realities that we face in doing requirements verses resources."
"Is it perfect? Probably not. Is it the only thing we focus on? Probably not," said Cartwright, the nation's second-highest ranking officer.
Cartwright said this QDR is a bright-line departure from its predecessors because, among other things, it jettisons the long-held working premise that the military should be designed to fight two major engagements at nearly the same time.
The reality of combat today, he said, is that U.S. troops face "entity level" threats posed by small groups planting IEDs or lone suicide bombers – and not maneuver forces of a standing foreign army. That being the case, the military must adapt accordingly.
"The QDR is a statement of a fact that we need to focus on and prosecute and equip for the wars that we are actually in, not the wars we hope we'll be in," Cartwright said. "And at the same time hedging for what the future might bring."
"And the one thing I am sure of … Whoever we think we are going to fight, we are going to be wrong, we always are," Cartwright said.
Against this backdrop of change and uncertainty are economic realities that, Cartwright said, cannot be dismissed: eight years of expensive conflicts, an economy that has yet to find its feet and a massive deficit.
"So how long can we sustain this? How much can we put on the backs of the American public to recapitalize these forces to be ready for the next conflict wherever it is? And what posture should we have those forces in?"
Then he turned to the assembly before him.
"What are the goods and services that you're going to have to provide for us to be enabled to provide the national security that we need for this nation?"
Cartwright said the military is looking to private enterprise to help solve questions such as how to build an aircraft carrier or airplane that's supposed to last 50 years "in a world that turns on 18 months (technology) cycles."
An example of this challenge, Cartwright explained, can be seen in the case of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He said it takes insurgents about 30 days to create an IED that gets around detection and another 30 days for the military to figure out how to defeat it. The insurgents then build a new one in another month and the process starts anew.
He also said the current acquisition system is too slow to keep pace with battlefield realities faced daily by troops and that, too, is driving changes in the QDR and the defense budget.
"IED, cyber, you pick it. The fights that we are really in have a duty cycle of about 30 days," Cartwright said. "And we put that on the backs of the soldier, sailor, airman and Marine to stay adaptable. But quite frankly we've got to start to put it on the back of some of the systems ... We've got to give them (the troops) help."
Cartwright then talked about missile defense and deterrence, space and cyber.
The nuclear threat of "mutually assured destruction" needs to be traded in for a "more realistic" deterrence for "to the adversaries we actually face," he said.
While nuclear weapons will continue to have a place in the U.S. arsenal, the chief concern now is ensuring that they are "state of the art safe, state of art secure and state of the art reliable," he said.
Replacing the threat of nuclear weapons, he said, is an expanding multi-national missile defense web that is leveraging defense and sensor systems in other countries and is becoming "an anchor point for our deterrent strategy."
"When you look at what we have done in the Pacific, where we have based the sensors, who we have linked together in South Korea, Japan and other nations, it is incredible what we are starting to do," Cartwright said.
Space was another of Cartwright's topics, and one where he fears that U.S. firms are losing ground.
"The ability for our industries to compete globally in space, to provide services, is hugely hampered by the rules and regulations that we put around them," Cartwright said. "What it has done to us is make us non-competitive in this environment largely."
On the cyber space front, Cartwright said the United States military is moving forward to support war-fighters, including standing up the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Md. He said that under Title X the military can defend its bases and stations in the United States.
He said that mission could migrate beyond military installations, if laws are changed.
"We are working hard inside the government," Cartwright said, ""to try to understand how we might be able to better protect critical infrastructure, build a construct in which it is legal to do that."
After the keynote address, defense experts weighed in on the new direction of the military during a panel session entitled "Winning Wars: Did the QDR Get it Right?"
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"This QDR is one of the few opportunities we have to step back and look at the comprehensive framework," said Frank Hoffman, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a research fellow for the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. "This QDR is about balance, focusing on the near and far term."
Retired Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, former commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Fifth Fleet, quipped that the document is, "Always quoted, but never read."
Then he detailed what caught his eye, including a focus on China, and strategic deterrence before concluding it was "thoughtful body of work" that should be read and debated.
Ronald O'Rourke, a defense specialist for the Congressional Research Service, said there was little in the QDR on long-term force structure and also vague on future global basing. He also wondered where the Navy is going find funding for future ship building.
Thomas Mahnken, acting director at the Strategic Studies Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said he would have liked to have seen mention of how the military plans to defeat attempts to deny it access.
But he added, "I think this is the beginning of the story, rather than the end."
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Speaking to 1,000 gathered for the day's luncheon, Adm. James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe and Commander of the U.S. European Command, spoke about the military opportunities – as well as the perils – of cyber space, or ""the Cyber Sea,"" as he put it.
"What I will try to do is convince you that the cyber space is greater than just cyber warfare," he said, before giving a brief tutorial about the astronomical rise of the Internet and where he thinks it will take the world next.
"Paper money: kiss it good-bye. It is going to be phased out," the engaging Stavridis said. He said that the United States was already using direct payments to cell phones to pay some in the Afghan Army, and that the technology had enabled reductions in corrupt "skimming" seen when payments were made by paper currency.
He said trends in education, finance and culture are all pointing toward cyber space playing an ever-expanding role in daily life.
"It's just like the beach at Kitty Hawk. It's just the beginning," Stavridis said, referring to the North Carolina site where Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved their first rudimentary airplane flights in 1903.
Then he spoke of terrorists using the web to recruit, fundraise and communicate – and even steal video feeds from multi-national unmanned surveillance aircraft in Iraq.
In recent years, there's been a thousand-fold increase in websites advocating jihadist causes, he said.
Then he spoke about the "dramatic cyber intrusions" on four countries in 2007-2008, including the Republic of Georgia, which was involved in armed conflict with the Russian Federation. He said cyber attacks are particularly pernicious because it's hard to attribute the source of an attack.
"I believe an attack will not come from bombs off bomb racks, but from electrons," said Stavridis, who advocates for an interagency cyber-security task force to be set up within the Department of Homeland Security.
Mindful of the necessity to weigh civil liberties against the need to protect U.S. institutions, Stavridis asked the private-sector help to help in the effort.
"You need to help us find the balance" between "the openness and security," Stavridis said. "You must help us tame the outlaw Cyber Sea."
More cyber discussions followed in the last panel of the day, entitled: "Cyber Issues: What should the Priorities Be?"
Securing military networks was identified as the top priority by panel members, followed closely by the need to share information. If that sounds like something of a contradiction, it is – and therein lays the problem.
Vice Adm. Carl Mauney, deputy commander of the U. S. Strategic Command, suggested that solutions lie in better training, leveraging private enterprise information technology and greater involvement by senior decision-makers.
"The services get it and are moving out smartly," Mauney said. But he added, "Setting standards in the service and agency networks, that's an issue."
"It's great to hear three- and four-stars say this is where our heads need to be at," replied Terry Roberts, executive director, Interagency and Cyber Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. "Maybe we don't have to have our own 9/11 cyber attack before people act."
Norman Friedman, author of Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter Through Three World Wars, and a noted defense expert, said the military should figure out some way to retaliate and not just play cyber defense. The cyber advocates also must do a better job at touting their worth, he said.
"People think it (cyber protection) is free," Friedman said. "At some point when you realize that it is not, you don't buy el cheapo."
Robert Carey, Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer, added that conversations on effective network use need to include consideration of what is sent over networks.
"This really is about information management," Carey said. "I don't want all of it, I just want it. Our penchant is to want to send everything and then scream about bandwidth."
West 2010 Photos — Password: 7577-west