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Archive for August, 2006

China Top Card in Pentagon Shuffle

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

xin_47080331080723207961.jpgSo, imagine you are the Rumsfeld Defense Department. You are locked in a “global struggle against violent extremists” stretching from“stretching from Indonesia through the Middle East,”. You have 150,000 troops stationed in Iraq as the central front in said struggle. The United States is facing major foreign policy crises in Iran and Lebanon, of other which might involve your beloved Pentagon.
You decide to elevate one Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with regional responsibilities to become a full Assistant Secretary over a region. This is an easy call. You pick: Asia-Pacific.
Oh, sure, sure, you have no exit strategy for Iraq and you are sizing up air defenses around Tehran, but c’mon … real men hate on China.
Of course, focusing on China … er the Asia-Pacific … was the plan, from the first Defense Strategy Review by Andy Marshall which reportedly “cast the Pacific as the most important region for military planners…” I kind of admire the sticktuitiveness of the whole thing, 9/11 and Iraq be damned.
You almost wonder why they didn’t have the stones to pin the 9/11 attack on Jiang Zemin. After all, their friends did.
I’ve posted the new organization at my blog, Arms Control Wonk​.com. USD℗ Eric Edelman explained the issue as one of matching up to State and NSC:

The secretary sensed that we were misaligned in some ways … and we wanted to make it easier for Policy and the (combatant commands) to figure out what the right address was (in the other agencies) to go forward solving problems. I think this will make it a little easier to operate interagency.

Now, when I was at Policy — oh so briefly — the fact that the State Department Bureaus were headed by Assistant Secretaries, one level higher than the equivalent DOD offices, was kind of irritating.
And maybe I am being too cynical. As an “Asia expert” — whatever that means — I am psyched to see my region getting attention. And, were I ever lucky enough to hold that office at OSD, I’d appreciate the extra step to full Assistant Secretary.
But, really, wouldn’t a single “Assistant Secretary for South West and Central Asia” with DASD’s for the Middle East, South Asia and Central Asia better protect the country’s interests?
Jeffrey Lewis, cross posted at Arms Control Wonk​.com

Air Force Wants Software Spies

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

What if you could send a computer program to do the job of a spy, or a bomber, or drone? It sounds like science fiction — and it’ll probably stay that way, for a long, long time. But Air Force researchers think there’s enough to the idea to start funding a trio of companies for initial work into these attacking, snooping “Cyber Craft.“
cybercraft1.JPG“Using the Cyber Domain to conduct military operations… has significant potential,” an Air Force paper announces. Examples include long-term intelligence activities, like “being to monitor a military barracks, accumulate financial information on a potentially hostile nation, or provide status on the political climate of a South American country.“
Researchers think the programs could answer shorter-term, tactical questions, too. “Like who is in this building across the street, where are the tanks located in a particular town or village that is going to be entered by friendly forces, or whats the latest intelligence regarding adversarial forces in a particular town or village.“
Obviously, it would take more than a bulked-up Web crawler to get the job done. Cyber Craft would have to be able to hop from standard computer networks to electrical grids to wireless nets and back, over and over again.

Cyber agents will need to embody the ability to covertly travel across these mediums, constantly assessing the network layout, morphing itself as networks change, and remaining covert while maintaining the integrity of its mission. Increased use of data hiding techniques and data hiding detection techniques add additional complexity to the Cyber craft weapon arsenal… Cyber weapons will need to perform real-time continuous self-assessment of the adversarys detection capability and be able to make instant decisions to morph or self-destruct. Both these functions will be required in covertness and with the decision information sent back to its Cyber Craft home.

“As an example of a Cyber Craft application, consider a squad of marines entering a residential area,” the Air Force paper offers.

Current intelligence is about 20-mins old and the squad leader requires updated information. The squad leader finds an electrical outlet and plugs in. This outlet allows access to the power grid of the town and subsequently access to the adversarys computer network. The squad leader injects a Cyber Craft into the system, whose mission is to locate a) any insurgents or b) locate any hidden military facilities… The Cyber Craft detect[s] some activity at a military installation within 1000-ft of the Marines location. The Cyber Craft performs a ‘recce mission’ to gather intelligence on the insurgents (exact location, number, arms, etc.) and sends back data/information to the marines. However, in the meantime the marines have moved and have located a different means of connecting to the network. The Cyber Craft has ‘sensed’ this shift so readdresses the feedback information to the marines new location and port. The ‘Cyber Craft’ acquires a positive ID, and sends an alert message back to the marines that the insurgents are about to leave and may be heading their way… The Cyber Craft executes its orders (turns power off, locks the doors), sends back an acknowledgement and self destructs.

There’s not much of this that today’s software can do, the Air Force researchers acknowledge. “Agent development, agent size and complexity, detection technology, realtime agent learning and self morphing technology, RF and network penetration technology are a few of the technological challenges requiring additional investment.“
But the Air Force, earlier this year, did hand out contracts to three firms to start working the problem. Assured Information Security of Rome, NY got a $99,170 grant to “research and develop a CyberCraft software tool that will be able to covertly enter a network and move about the network to detect intrusions or other abnormalities.” Indialantic, FL outfit 3 Sigma Research is looking to build “Cyber Craft organized in to ‘cells’ to enhance survivability and increase resiliency to attack.” And Solidcore Systems, out of Palo Alto, will try to put together a system that include[s] a harbor (a host), and a dock (a control environment for Cyber Craft execution) and cyber craft themselves (ordinary programs that can get launched to hosts and run there).“
Of course, building the Cyber Craft, hard as it is, may wind up being the project’s simplest part. The real questions come if and when fighters start to deploy the things. For instance, “How can we trust the Cyber Craft to ‘do the right thing?’”

The goal is to develop a system that follows the ‘fire-and-forget’ methodology. However, with this philosophy comes the danger of a Cyber Craft morphing into something that performs unintended actions that would be harmful to friendly forces or provide an adversary with information about the senders intentions, position, etc. One way of controlling a Cyber Craft is have it ‘dissolve’ after completing its mission. However, depending on the level of the Cyber Craft (strategic, operational, and tactical) the mission length can go from minutes to years… Thus, the damage that can be inflicted by a rogue Cyber Craft could be significant.

“Future Combat” Needs Info Chief

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

OCPA-2005-09-28-122149.jpgTalk about a thankless job. The Army is planning to spend $300 billion or more on a massive effort to make its forces quicker, lighter, and much better networked. The program, Future Combat Systems, has come under intense scrutiny — and not just for its bloated budgets and constantly-shifting expectations. FCS is also an information technology undertaking for the ages, trying to link together countless thousands of next-gen tanks, flying drones, fighting vehicles, and robotic ground sensors all into a single “System of Systems Common Operating Environment.“
If you’ve got a head hard enough to think you can pull this off, give the folks at defense contractor SAIC a ping. They’re looking for deputy CIO for Future Combat Systems — “minimum of 15 years experience in both classified and unclassified enterprise information management” required.
“Proficiency with Microsoft products and common office software applications” is a must, SAIC tells job-seekers. “Candidates must possess excellent oral and written communication skills with the ability to communicate difficult concepts to various audiences; and, have the ability to accomplish tasks under limited supervision.“
Hmmm… $300 billion. Limited supervision. Maybe that job doesn’t sound so bad, after all.
(Big ups: Sailfast)

Iraq’s Biowar Labs: Mystery Solved?

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

mobile lab.jpgOkay, just when you thought that the whole Curveball-Iraqi biological weapons story couldn’t get any weirder, it does. Milton Leitenberg of the Center for International Security Studies has provided me with the exclusive third (and last) part of the story behind the story of the alleged Iraqi mobile biological warfare labs. In Part 1, he revealed that in 2001 the U.S. government had fabricated a “mobile BW lab” for the purposes of training SOCOM operatives on how to identify and exploit an adversary’s BW production facility. In Part 2, Leitenberg discusses how a U.S. contractor developed the now infamous graphics of an Iraqi mobile BW lab — not based on any existing mobile BW lab or any hard intel from Curveball, but rather based on “the processes he [Curveball] described,” which were “assessed by an independent laboratory as workable engineering designs.“
In Part 3, Leitenberg completes the full riddle inside the enigma within a mystery. It may be that we can trace back the idea of a mobile BW laboratory to Scott Ritter during his tour of duty in Iraq in 1998 with UNSCOM. Ritter was trying to obtain information from the Iraqi National Congress, specifically on Iraq’s intelligence agencies and WMD program. In 1998, he talked to Ahmed Chalabi about his suspicion that Saddam may have had mobile chemical or biological weapons labs, which would explain the UNSCOM’s lack of success in finding any evidence. In late 1999–2000, Curveball — the brother of a top lieutenant to Ahmed Chalabi — starts talking to the German intelligence about mobile Iraqi BW labs, who forwards this information to the CIA. At the same time, Chalabi is talking to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith about the danger of Iraq’s “WMD program.“
So here we have a rumor started by a former U.S. marine supporting a UN inspection team, where he passes the idea to Chalabi, who passes it to German intel and U.S. defense officials, both of whom pass the story to the CIA. The agency develops graphics drawn by a U.S. contractor based on Curveball’s story and might have known of the mock-up BW lab built for SOCOM, both of which “confirms” the concept that Iraqi mobile BW labs exist, which leads to SecState Powell’s speech at the UN in February 2003 and the media’s echo chamber agreeing with the president that there’s enough evidence to go to war against Iraq.
And as a bonus at the end of this short paper, Leitenberg reveals that Scott Ritter was pulled into a British intelligence op called “Operation Mass Appeal” run by MI6 in 1997. The purpose of “Operation Mass Appeal” was to leak weak and not “actionable” data about Iraq’s WMD program to the media, who would fall upon it like hungry wolves and keep alive the public impression that Saddam had an active WMD program, despite the lack of official government endorsement. Leitenberg notes that the disinformation operation functioned similar to the DOD Office of Special Plans, but didn’t involve disinformation regarding the Iraqi mobile BW production vehicles.
Call George Clooney. I’ve got his next movie plot all ready.
Jason Sigger, crossposted at Armchair Generalist

Israel Wants to Jam Sats

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Back in 2004, the U.S. Air Force suggested that they might be willing to mess with commercial satellites, if they were aiding an American foe. The idea drew howls from outside observers. And, for a while, it seemed destined for an extremely quiet corner of flyboy doctrine.
sat_dish.jpgBut now, the Israelis are picking up where their American counterparts left off, Defense News’ Barbara Opall-Rome reports. Fed up with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV broadcasts — which stayed on the air, despite repeated aerial and electronic attacks — the Sabras are now talking publicly about “disrupt[ing] transmissions of enemy programming carried by commercial satellites.”

No doubt, we understand the power of the media, public opinion and mass psychology, said [Maj. Gen. Ido] Nehushtan, who is responsible for IDF modernization planning. Al-Manar is a liability, and were going to have to improve our ability to counter this threat…
…the only way to ensure persistent, reliable, wide-area broadcast denial is through an anti-communication satellite system. Israel must develop the means to surgically target signals serving Hizbollah without damaging the spacecraft or disrupting operations of other customers serviced by the broadcast frequencies, he said…
[But] according to [an Israeli] executive, jamming a communications satellite is like interfering with civil aviation. You can do it, but its against international law and youll be subject to all kinds of lawsuits.
It is technologically impossible, he said, to selectively jam only those satellite signals that carry enemy broadcasts.
Everything goes out as a single beam, and it is impossible to jam only those channels viewed as a threat, the executive said. If you make the decision to interfere with one [satellite signal], then you must be prepared to face the consequences of the collateral damage incurred to the many other legitimate users of the signal.
Robert Ames, chief executive of the Satellite Users Interference Reduction Group… said it is relatively easy to jam a specific satellite transponder.
Transponders are separated by frequency, he said. All you have to do is know the frequency which it operates on and then put up a signal that is stronger than the programming carrier of the satellite…
Satellite interference capabilities have been around since the mid-1970s, he added. But if the Israelis are talking about technological challenges, I assume they are aiming for a capability that goes way beyond what our companies have experienced to date.

Rapid Fire 08/30/06

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

* New CEO for CIA fund
* Israel war probe pushes on
* GIs’ cute robot rescuer
* NASA’s fire-fighting drone (background here)
* Predators wanna crash your party
* More missiles for Iran
* Hack trouble for robo-sensors?
* Ray gun chief’s stock shenanigans?
* Martian traffic jam
* Cruise missiles for everyone
* “Calling BS on modern physics“
* “Genetic trophy hunters, beware”

(Big ups: Haninah, RC)

Whisteblower Takes to YouTube

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

dekort.jpgABCNews​.com is running a story on Michael De Kort, the Lockheed whisteblower that’s drawing a bunch of attention. for airing his complaints about the company’s shoddy Coast Guard work for on YouTube. The network website was silly enough to quote yours truly about the subject.

Noah Shac[h]tman, editor-in-chief of DefenseTech​.org, which monitors military happenings both at home and abroad, says it’s necessary to ensure the public’s ability to blow the whistle.
“I think it’s never been easier for people to call B.S. on the shenanigans of their employers or their government,” said Shachtman. “Whether it’s soldiers from Abu Graib slipping out pictures and getting them to the press, or whether we’re talking about bloggers reporting from the front lines. Digital media has really made it incredibly easy for people who want to get their message out and bring questionable practices to light.“
Shachtman says there are many examples of these kinds of defense contract scandals — though he says he’s unsure if this is one of those cases. He says the promise of digital media is fulfilled when people like Michael De Kort can be heard.
“There are plenty of honest people working at the nation’s defense contractors and there are a lot of very hard working, very smart people,” Shac[h]tman said. “Unfortunately, when there are abuses, it can be awfully difficult for someone to penetrate the corporate walls and the government walls that surround them.“
Tell that to Michael De Kort — if you can catch him in-between interviews.
“They [the people] need to know the level of incompetence and the decisions that were being made,” De Kort said. “Your ethics — especially after 9/11 — cannot be decisions of convenience — they can’t be decisions of economics.”

Military Hybrids Stall

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

For a long time, now, the Pentagon has been looking to land diesel-electric hybrid vehicles to improve fuel economy, reduce logistics and allow power export. But after a decade of research and development, military hybrids are still years away from production, as I describe in detail in the current National Defense Magazine:

Right now, we do not have a current hybrid program that targets fielding, says Gus Khalil, team leader of hybrid-electric research at the Armys Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC.
TARDEC, a division of the Research, Development and Engineering Command, in Warren, Mich., is the militarys main research center for vehicle technologies.
Khalil and other TARDEC engineers have been developing hybrid-electric engines and testing vehicle demonstrators since 1992.
Across the Defense Department, there are around 30 hybrid-electric demonstrator vehicles in some form of testing. These demonstrators range from hybrid models of existing vehicles, such as Humvees, M-113 armored personnel carriers and M-2 Bradley infantry fighting systems, to new designs such as the Marine Corps reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting vehicle, or RST-V.
Some of these demonstrators are more promising than others. Some even offer new niche capabilities. But all have failed to achieve the combination of performance, toughness, price and utility that the military demands of its vehicles.

Motor Trend explains:

Though hybrid technology has been around for several years in passenger vehicles, adapting it for larger vehicles isn’t as easy, [Oshkosh VP Gary] Schmiedel said. Military vehicles must often carry thousands of pounds of cargo — 13 tons for the HEMTT — and endure hills, little pavement and angles that few standard vehicles can handle. That all means engines and axles must be configured just so.

Even more daunting is the battery problem. National Defense editor Sandra Erwin reported on this as far back as 2001:

The Achilles heel of hybrid systems today, however, is the battery, [engineer William] Haris added. You need to have a source of energy to propel the electric motors. Traditionally that has been batteries. The most commonly used batteries today are lead-acid, which are the least expensive. But they also are heavier and less efficient than more advanced chemistry batteries.
A more desirable alternative would be nickel-metal-hydride batteries, which have twice the energy density of lead-acid. Energy density is the amount of energy that can be stored per pound of material. In the long-term, experts are looking at lithium-ion batteries, which have four times the energy density of lead-acid.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way — technical challenges notwithstanding. There are challenges, and there are issues, but they dont seem insurmountable, Khalil told me. If someone from a program office told us they wanted something in production in two years, we would have it into production.
But despite the promise of a reduced logistics burdened resulting from great fuel efficiency, the military’s enthusiasm for hybrids is cool. If not for their power export capability, the military might not be interested at all.
The bottom line is … the tech isn’t ready, and the military isn’t ready to make the tech ready. So be skeptical when some hack reports that military hybrids are just around the corner.
David Axe

Pentagon Closing Transformation Shop

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

In the 1990s, Admiral Arthur Cebrowski began pushing the unorthodox idea that the Pentagon had to change itself, from a relatively-small collection of heavy, plodding forces to a larger array of lighter, quicker, cheaper, better-networked units. By 2001, the notion — known alternatively as “revolution in military affairs” or “force transformation” — had become official doctrine. The Army began a massive modernization effort, based, in part, around Cebrowski’s ideas. Presidential candidate George W. Bush embraced the concept during the 2000 election. Donald Rumsfeld adopted it as the cornerstone of his return to the Pentagon, and installed Cebrowski as the director of a new department: the Office of Force Transformation, or OFT.
Cebrowski.jpgThe office initiated a series of novel, seemingly off-the-wall projects: armored vehicles equipped with pain rays, sneaky ships silently bringing commandos to shore, orbiting mirrors to send lasers across the globe.
But early last year, Cebrowski was forced to retire, as he fought a losing battle with cancer. Observers wondered whether OFT and its projects would survive his passing.
The office, at least, probably will not, according to Defense News. Pending approval by deputy defense secretary Gordon England, “the office [will] be dissolved by Sept. 30.“
Defense analyst Bob Work thinks it “may be an indication of just how hard it is to balance the competing demands for transformation in the midst of this protracted campaign” in the Global War on Terror. The Armchair Generalist fears this could be the final “nail in the coffin” for transformation. But military theorist Tom Barnett, long allied with Cebrowski, sees the shift as the final move in bringing Cebrowski’s ideas into the heart of the U.S. military.
“Art’s success in mainstreaming his thinking meant that OFT always had a limited shelf life. [His ideas are] everywhere now,” Barnett writes. “Art himself saw this coming and had no problem with it. He simply would have moved on to the next great definition.“
Besides, the office is “not really shutting down,” an OFT source tells Defense Tech.

It is being split apart and embedded in two other areas of OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense]. The analysis and study portion of OFT is to be rolled into a new office as part of a larger reorg of OSD Policy. [More about that here — ed.] All of the other initiatives here, like… Redirected Energy and Operationally Responsive Space are to go into a new office under [Director, Defense Research and Engineering] John Young…
So, in a sense, this is a good move. Since OSD had no interest in appointing anyone to replace Cebrowski, the office was hobbled.… If this is approved, OSD is saying we like this OFT approach [so much] that we are willing to apply it more broadly across the entire department.

Could be. But with costs piling higher and higher for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and with the budgets for many “transformational” projects swelling, fast — I worry that this could jeopardize Cebrowski’s work, not institutionalize it.

Rapid Fire 08/28/06 (Updated)

Monday, August 28th, 2006

* Rummy: Korea no threat
* Nork nuke test site? (more here)
* Yoga vs. IEDs
* “Hacking the Himalayas“
* Holes in Heathrow case? (more here)
* Forward air control’s big upgrade
* “Fissure-guided missile“
* Drones + cluster bombs
* Sleek, stylish pepper spray
* Hummer on steroids
* Total war, RIP
* New nuke sub debuts
* Cheney biographer: 9/11 nut
* Hamas big: we suck

(Big ups: ACE, RC, CP)