Washington Times on April 20, 2016 reported that the U.S. is moving to counter Chinese and Russian hypersonic strike vehicles using lasers. It was revealed by the director of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency revealed last week. The report also contained a section on the growing danger of cyberattacks against the United States. Excerpts below:

But Vice Adm. James Syring told a House Armed Services subcommitteeon strategic forces hearing that he lacks the funding to counter hypersonic missile threats, but that money has been requested in the defense authorization bill to deal with the threat.

Lasers are needed to counter future Chinese and Russia high-speed maneuvering strike vehicles.

The ultra-high-speed maneuvering delivery vehicles are being built by China and Russia for use with nuclear and conventional missiles. China’s glider was tested most recently in November 2015 and is called the DF-ZF. Russia tested a hypersonic vehicle in February 2015.

The Pentagon also is developing hypersonic gliders and scramjet-powered vehicles, but the program has been hampered by sharp defense budget cuts under the Obama administration.

Officials from Russia and China have said the reason for building hypersonic strike vehicles is to defeat U.S. missile defenses, which are currently designed to counter limited missile strikes from North Korea and, potentially, Iran.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said he is concerned about the hypersonic threat.

“I’m troubled that Russia and China continue to outpace the U.S. in development of these prompt global strike capabilities, complain about our tepid development programs, and the Obama administration’s ideological reductions to the Missile Defense Agency budget have denied that agency the resources to do anything to develop defenses,” Mr. Rogers said.

Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command that oversees both nuclear forces and missile defenses, said hypersonic weapons are among a growing number of new missile and strategic weapons threats.

“Nuclear and non-nuclear nations are prepared to employ cyber, counter-space, and asymmetric capabilities as options for achieving their objectives during crisis and conflict, and new technologies such as hypersonic glide vehicles are being developed, complicating our sensing and defensive approaches,” the admiral told a conference on nuclear deterrence in July.

During a troop talk aboard the aircraft carrier USS Stennis last week, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was asked by one sailor what thePentagon was doing to prevent cyberattacks from China.

“China is one of actually many countries that we have found engaging in cyber misbehavior,” Mr. Carter said.

“Actually, we may have made some progress forward,” Mr. Carter said, “because when the two presidents were together now six months ago or so, they reached an agreement to stop doing that, and we’re watching and seeing if that agreement is honored.”

The comments appear to have let the Chinese off the hook, something U.S. intelligence officials have not been willing to do.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper told Congress in February that it was too soon to tell if the Chinese have scaled back cyberattacks such as the theft of more than 22 million federal employee records from the Office of Personnel Management.

A month later, Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, went further.

Despite the no-cyberspying pledge from September, “cyber operations from China are still targeting and exploiting U.S. government, defense industry, academic and private computer networks,” Adm. Rogers told the House Armed Services subcommittee Wednesday.

Mr. Carter acknowledged last week that stopping cyberattacks against defense networks is difficult.

“We’ve got to be good at defending our networks, but you can’t count on anybody not to try to exploit networks as a way of creating vulnerability for you,” he said. “Now that’s most important in our networks in the Defense Department, the networks that you depend on here. They’re the ones we most need to defend, and we’re making huge investments in that, both dollars and really good people, talented people.”

The Pentagon also is working to help society at large defend against cyberattacks.

Comment: The Obama administration has since 2009 followed the dangerous path of scaling down the military. This has happened as tensions are growing around the world. Russia has started a war in Ukraine. China is aggressively expanding its influence in the South China Sea and the United States and its allies in the Middle East have not been prepared to wage a decisive war on ISIS in northern Syria and Iraq. The United States needs a stronger cyber defense. There is a lack of firm US leadership in the information war against terrorist Islamist warfare on the internet.

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, rightly expressed concern in the Washington Time article above that Russia and China are outpacing the U.S. in development of prompt global strike capabilities. The real weak spot in the West is however Europe. The growing refugee problem remains unsolved. The European Union is weakened and European countries have defense budgets that remain below 2 percent of GNP.

American strategist James Burnham in one of his important books in the 1950s wrote that with a determined leadership in and by, the United States…the policy of democratic world order would prove successful. Burnham believed that the problem could be reduced to the question: will our politics improve and by that he meant the international politics. Political ability was in his view a synthesis of knowledge (partly talent, or intuitive knowledge), intelligence and will. There is no lack of political ability in the United States.

The crux in the 1950s and today seems to be in the will. Is the United States of today really ready to defend the West? Is there a political will in Washington to guarantee the survival of the West? After eight years of compromises and retreats the question is also: is Western civilization as a whole old and decadent? Is it prudent today to once more turn to Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee to find out if the downturn during the last eight years makes decline inevitable. A fresh start in the United States from 2017 with a forward strategy to meet the challenges to the West could result in revival instead of decline.


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