Archive for the ‘defense spending’ Category

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Insurgents hack US drone

December 18, 2009

The press is now reporting that insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have ‘hacked’ US drones and pulled off the video feeds being relayed from the drones to the ground units.  This is not good.  In fact, it’s almost impossible to overstate how bad this is, not so much because of what was done, but because of what it says about the Pentagon’s approach towards cyber warfare.  Pulling a video feed off an unencrypted data link is bad on numerous levels, but it’s not nearly as serious as it sounds.  First off, the link wasn’t protected.  Easy enough to fix (and by easy I mean it will cost tens of millions of dollars to backfit an entire fleet of drones).  Second, it was only a video feed, not actual control of the drone.  It’s like tapping into your neighbor’s unprotected wireless network; just because you can suck up their bandwidth doesn’t mean you can start changing the way the network is run.  The bigger issue here is this breach reveals just how far behind the times we are when it comes towards cyber warfare.  While the rest of the world is actively developing / using cyber warfare to undermine enemy networks, the US is still trying to decide whether or not cyber warfare is an area that needs investments.  This is not to say that there aren’t people working hard on improving US cyber security, but it does show that there isn’t consensus as to the dangers posed by cyber threats.  I suppose I can understand the point of view of people who think cyber security is too expensive.  After all, it’s not like there’s much precedent, I mean, it’s not like Russia launched a massive cyber attack against Georgia’s networks prior to their ground assault in 2008, or that Israel preceded their air attack against the Syrian reactor with a coordinated cyber attack designed to shut down Syria’s air defense system, or that insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have learned to tap into our drones…oh, wait…maybe we should start putting some funding into this…after all, what good is a ten million dollar system if the data it collects can be compromised with a $30 piece of software?  The more dependent we become on cyber-based systems, the more susceptible we become to having that dependency exploited and the more we risk losing the advantage our cyber-based systems provide.  Cyber warfare is real and we are way behind the times in our thinking.  If only our Admirals and Generals had watched ‘Sneakers,’ we might not be in this mess.

For a more detailed analysis on just how big an issue cyber security has become, check out http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65499/wesley-k-clark-and-peter-l-levin/securing-the-information-highway

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Cluster bombs

July 22, 2009

Yesterday, I was preparing a brief and I needed a picture of a cluster bomb.  I did a google image search for ‘cluster bomb’ and the pictures that came back were of mutilated children.

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Peeling back the veneer of defense programs

April 29, 2009

There was an article that ran in the Washington Times yesterday whose headline was, “Plan to cut weapons programs disputed.”  The basic gist of the article was that Obama’s plan to reorganize defense spending (not cut, since he is expanding the defense budget by $20 billion to a total of $534 billion, a point often overlooked by opponents of his plan) is going to destroy American jobs, namely the F-22 Raptor, a state of the art, kick-ass plane guaranteed to provide air superiority for the next thousand years (but that hasn’t been used once in either Iraq or Afghanistan, despite what the ‘Iron Man’ movie would have you believe.) 

Now that's a program worth funding!

Now that's a program worth funding!

For example, the article quotes Jeff Goen, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers chapter in Marietta, GA, (which is only one of the 44 states the F22 is built in) who states, “It doesn’t make sense that our government is looking at trying to save or create jobs at the same time it’s talking about cutting something like this [the F22].” What I love about this argument is that it completely strips away the thin veneer of strategic necessity and gets right to the core of the issue.  Usually, whenever people try and talk up defense programs that are threatened with termination, they frame it in a strategic context, such as, ‘we need [insert program here] because it’s vital to our national security.’  It doesn’t matter what the program is or what it is supposed to do, it is always claimed to be vital to the welfare of our national security.  Not this time.  This article states point blank that the only reason people are upset about the proposed cancellation of the F22 is the potential loss of jobs.  Stop me if I’m wrong, but at what point did economic impact factor into decisions regarding the procurement of weapon systems?  I always thought that the weapons we bought were based on objective analysis of future threats and what was needed to combat them.  OK, so I never really believed that, but still, it’s a nice thought.  Anyways, back to the article. 

 

historical_costs

Now that we have finally gotten past the BS argument that these soon-to-be-cancelled programs are ‘strategically important’ and admit that all we are really concerned about are jobs, that then begs the question of, ‘why not use the military as an economic stimulator?’  Strangely enough, there is precedent here:  The great depression ended not because of massive social programs, but because of WWII, which required that millions of people go to work in factories that were suddenly spewing out more industrial products than at any time in world history.  So why not simply do this again?  Well, since you asked, it’s because the military already has most of what it needs!  Prior to WWII, the military had nothing compared to today where emergency war supplies are simply sitting on ships and in warehouses waiting to be used – building a couple hundred planes or ships will do nothing to stimulate the economy in the long run simply because it’s not enough.  At the height of WWII, defense spending equaled 42% of GDP, whereas today, even with the proposed increases, it will remain below 5%.  In case you don’t have an advanced degree in economics (don’t worry, neither do I) 42% of GDP is UNBELIEVABLY HIGH, and short of an imminent nuclear apocalypse, we will probably never again see anything that even remotely approaches WWII levels.  In other words, for the military to act as an economic stimulator, we would have to increase our defense spending from it’s current level of 4% to 42% of GDP.  The only way that would ever happen is if the Soviets suddenly parachuted onto the football field of a Midwest high school.  (In which case, all we would need is a high school football team armed with hunting rifles – Go Wolverines!) 

us_vs_world

As a side note, I have one question I would like to ask these defense hawks:  How is it possible that the total cost overrun for all our defense programs is greater than the total combined defense spending of the NEXT SIX COUNTRIES ADDED TOGETHER yet we still don’t spend enough on defense?!  I fully understand the threats that are out there and I fully concur that they need to be addressed, but how is it that we spend so much money on defense relative to the rest of the world yet never feel safe?  It is perhaps becuase we’re spending money on the wrong things…? 

Anyways, to wrap this whole thing up, ignoring that Obama is actually increasing the defense budget, and that these ‘poor, soon to be out of work machinists’ will simply get transferred from the F22 line to the F35 line (which is built by the same company), all these people who are up in arms about the defense budget have accomplished is show their true colors:  It’s not national security that drives their concerns, it’s their pocketbooks, and that is a flimsy pretense on which to base one’s national security strategy.