- The Washington Times - Friday, March 10, 2000

Info war alert

U.S. intelligence agencies are on heightened alert for what may be the first international cyber-warfare operations across the Taiwan Strait. With Taiwan's presidential elections a week away, the CIA believes China could launch covert computer attacks on the island nation.

The targets could include Internet sites operated by Taiwanese and the computer networks of Taiwan's government and business sector. Chinese military writings have discussed use of cyber-warfare as part of Beijing's strategy of conducting regional conflicts under high-technology conditions.

The cyber-attacks would be China's way of threatening the island without a repeat of the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis. Before elections that year, China carried out large-scale military exercises that included short-range missile firings north and south of Taiwan. The United States responded by sending two aircraft carrier battle groups to the troubled waters.

Chinese-directed information warfare is expected to be very difficult to detect because of the electronic resources available to the military and intelligence services. The U.S. National Security Agency, in particular, will be watching to determine the tactics and methods used by the Chinese if such attacks are launched.

Taiwan is not expected to ignore the assault and will retaliate with its own information operations against the mainland, we are told by intelligence sources.

Chinese hackers of unknown origin attacked U.S. government computer Internet sites last year, prompting the FBI to send out a warning. There also were attacks last year on Taiwanese Web sites believed to have come from computer operators in China.

Run cramped

The Navy cannot meet minimum living standards for all-male crews on its Trident ballistic missile and Los Angeles attack submarines.

The Pentagon's Defense Advisory Commission on Women in the Services is nonetheless pressing the Navy to open subs to female crew members.

But current submarines, a Navy report shows, don't meet habitability benchmarks for men, much less for an influx of women needing special privacy considerations.

Among the shortfalls: inadequate number of bunks for assigned personnel, no restrooms in the engine room, and not enough space for crew chairs, desks, and mess seating. Refitting subs to take on women would "further reduce existing below-standard conditions or require the removal of equipment as a space and weight trade-off which would result in reduced operational capabilities of the ship or require lengthening the ship to obtain additional space and weight margin, this option would be very costly."

Navy Secretary Richard Danzig has broached the possibility of breaking the all-male barrier aboard subs. But his spokesman says no change is imminent. Most admirals oppose the change, sources say.

The report concludes: "The Navy's decision regarding the assignment of women to submarines has been reviewed, determining that no new information has become available … which would provide a basis for changing the policy."

Joint fighter worries

Top Pentagon officials may hold up development of the Joint Strike Fighter. Costing $320 billion over 40 years for 3,000 planes, the all-services fighter-bomber program is the largest defense program ever.

Defense sources say the JSF could be delayed for a year, possibly two. The reason: the two main competitors for the contract, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are encountering developmental problems.

Pentagon acquisition chief Jacques Gansler also wants to make sure that the U.S. defense industrial base is protected. Mr. Gansler recently sent a memorandum asking the contract bidders how they would share the work to keep the loser from going under.

Prototypes of the JSF are being built in a conventional, runway takeoff mode and a vertical lift configuration.

"Both planes are having problems," one defense official told us.

Boeing is having problems on its runway version, and Lockheed Martin recently had a failure of the vertical lifting system.

A year or so delay in the development schedule would provide the aircraft makers with more flexibility in flight testing, we are told.

The Air Force is not too worried. It views the delay as helping protect the F-22 fighter their next generation warplane from budget cutters. The Navy can fall back on its advanced F-18 Super Hornet.

The Marine Corps is another story. The Corps decided against buying the advanced F-18, betting the JSF would come along before its old Hornets wear out.

Bend in the roadBend in the road

The Army's drive to convert to wheeled armored vehicles has hit a big speed bump.

A preliminary tryout was given in January to a variety of wheeled and tracked vehicles. Much to the surprise of senior officers pushing a transformation of the Army, the tracked equipment did as well, or better, than the wheeled.

On another front, defense contractors have complained that the bidding specifications are tailored for wheeled vehicles likely produced by the team of General Dynamics-General Motors. At stake: more than $10 billion to produce a family of armored vehicles.

But what's more troubling to Pentagon observers is the belief that, after the demonstration at Fort Knox, Ky., the Army lowered weapons requirements to ensure the wheels will win.

For example, the armored gun system was supposed to be able to shoot on the run. Now, it isn't required. The infantry carrier now only has to hold nine soldiers instead of 10. And it, like the gun system, doesn't have to shoot on the move.

Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, is going full throttle to convert his large land force into a lighter, more mobile outfit, able to get overseas in days, not weeks. He favors wheels, Army sources say, in the belief the vehicles will deliver quicker mobility. The tracks vs. wheels decision is expected this summer.

Short takes

* The Army is studying the idea of awarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge to the Old Guard members who served before 1958, the year the badge was created.

In 1948, spit-polished Old Guard soldiers became sentinels at the tomb at Arlington National Cemetery. Their stoic discipline and precise changing-of-the-guard drills are a major Washington tourist attraction.

Many officers support the retroactive awards, Army sources tell us.

* Defense Secretary William S. Cohen skipped an appearance this winter before the Senate Budget Committee, a usual whistle stop in selling the Pentagon's budget plan to Congress.

Congressional aides say Mr. Cohen is not happy with the rough questioning he endured last year. A Budget Committee staff report blasted President Clinton's defense spending increases as a series of "gimmicks."

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