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Senate Panel Explores Speed of U.S

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)The staggering rate of change and the unacceptable time it takes the Pentagon to introduce weapon systems is leading to “a steady erosion of U.S. technological superiority” over peer competitors and non-state actors such as the Islamic State. Those were consensus views at a Tuesday hearing on the future of warfare before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

SASC chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) compared private industry’s operating on an 18-month cycle of introducing innovative technologies to the Defense Department’s 18-year cycle to bring major new systems to the force.

That fast pace of technological change will produce tremendous good in warfare, health care and society overall, said retired Army Gen. Keith Alexander, former head of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command. He added that speed comes at the cost of “tremendous vulnerability” especially to the power grid and financial sector in the United States. Those are the areas that countries such as Russia and Iran would try to disrupt.

“Russia sends an indirect message . . . to its hackers” that is permissible to go after the United States in this asymmetric way, as it did against Georgia and Estonia.

Alexander said the hacking from China was different, in that it concentrated on the theft of intellectual property.

In looking at the North Korean hacking of Sony entertainment, he said, “We would not allow Sony to attack back. Who does this for Sony? . . . The government.”

Alexander called for private companies “to up their game on cyber-security.” He added, “We need industry to tell us what’s going on” and also to allow them the ability to tell the government what’s going on quickly. He also said procedures in the federal government need to be smoothed out so unnecessary delays in sharing information between the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department and the FBI are eliminated.

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the nation needs to realize it is “transitioning from several decades of military dominance [in technologies, such as stealth and undersea warfare] into competition.” Near-peer competitors realize that the United States’ allies are far away and, in the case of China, it has an advantage in numbers.

With that in mind, Clark said, for the future the United States should seek new ways to avoid detection to keep its edge in undersea warfare, employing active sonar over passive; examine large aircraft that can carry big payloads and new kinds of sensors over small and fast planes.

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