- - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The nominee to lead the U.S. Strategic Command warned Congress this week that China and Russia are rapidly building space warfare capabilities and the United States is lagging behind in efforts to counter the threat.

Both Beijing and Moscow are developing anti-satellite missiles and laser guns and maneuvering killer space robots that could cripple strategic U.S. communications, navigation and intelligence satellites, the backbone of American high-technology warfare.

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, picked to be the next Stratcom commander, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Chinese and Russian space weapons pose “an emerging challenge” and that the Pentagon is accelerating its efforts to counter the threat.

“The Department of Defense has aggressively moved out to develop responses to the threats that we see coming from China and Russia,” the four-star general said Tuesday. “I believe it’s essential that we go faster in our responses.”

A program called Space Enterprise Vision is being carried out by the U.S. military and the National Reconnaissance Office, the spy agency that builds and launches U.S. satellites, to prepare for war in space.

Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, said classified information he received from the general about the rapid buildup was “deeply disturbing.”

“I keep up with what is going on in the world, but I was not aware of the significance of the depth of the challenge until our conversation yesterday,” Mr. McCain said about a private meeting Monday.

Gen. Hyten said he is confident that U.S. military forces can currently defeat any adversary that threatens U.S. space assets. But he was less certain about the future.

“I do have some concerns for our ability to move fast enough to build those capabilities that we need to respond to the specific threats I shared with you [Monday], sir,” he said. “We’re moving much slower in certain areas than our adversaries. We need our industry and our acquisition process to move faster, sir.”

In written answers to questions posed by the committee, Gen. Hyten said the pace of commercial innovation and the accelerating space threat “suggest it is no longer sufficient to field [space] systems with extremely long durations and inflexible development and replenishment.”

The comment suggests that future U.S. satellites need to be smaller and developed and deployed faster and at lower costs to replace satellites lost during any space conflict.

The Space Enterprise Vision is examining ways to better protect space systems, both ground control stations and systems in space that are under a fragmented government control network.

“They work perfectly in a benign environment,” Gen. Hyten said. “In a threat environment, however, we need to integrate across the enterprise.”

Developing a joint space battle management and command-and-control network is an urgent need, he said.

The general described current strategic threats as “many and complicated,” including the spread of advanced arms technology, advances in ballistic missiles, and threats in space and cyberspace.

“And most concerning [is] the increasingly provocative and destabilizing behavior by potential adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea and Iran,” he said.

Russia and China, in particular, also are building electronic warfare capabilities that were used in Moscow’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea and China’s aggressive island-building in the South China Sea, Gen. Hyten said.

HOUSE SEEKS STUDY OF FOREIGN PURCHASES

A bipartisan group of House members wants the Government Accountability Office to study whether a Treasury Department-led government security panel needs to be bolstered to protect U.S. national security from threats posed by foreign acquisitions.

The request was made in a letter from 16 members to the congressional watchdog agency last week to examine whether the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, needs to be strengthened.

“There have not been substantial structural updates to CFIUS composition or authority since its inception, despite a rapidly changing foreign investment climate, the rise of technology and information warfare, and new state-owned or -controlled companies that are structured as independent entities but are largely directed by foreign governments,” states the letter organized by Rep. Robert Pittenger, North Carolina Republican. “This evolving nature of possible national security threats requires that both the executive branch and the Congress revisit the CFIUS process to determine whether it is fully empowered to address these concerns.”

The lawmakers voiced concerns about recent foreign acquisitions or attempted purchases of American firms by Chinese state-run companies in the telecommunications, media and agriculture sectors.

Chinese companies backed by the communist government in Beijing often benefit from illegal subsidies aimed at gaining a foothold in American markets. The acquisitions “may pose a strategic rather than overt national security threat,” the lawmakers said.

One purchase, ChemChina’s $43 billion purchase of the agricultural company Syngenta, has raised food security and safety concerns.

Dalian Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate, has purchased major U.S. movie studios, including Legendary Entertainment and Paramount studios, along with the AMC and Carmike theater chains.

Those takeovers prompted fears of “China’s efforts to censor topics and exert propaganda controls on American media,” the House members stated.

“Both of these examples raise serious security questions about what authority CFIUS currently has, or may need to be added, to address these concerns,” they added.

The GAO was asked to review whether existing procedures are adequate for CFIUS in the areas of export-controlled goods, cybersecurity and counterintelligence, as well as whether they will be capable of countering Chinese hacking and other nefarious activities in the United States.

The members also requested that GAO review whether CFIUS should include additional government officials, including the FBI director, the director of national intelligence and key Cabinet officials.

The review also will include discussion of whether foreign acquisitions involving states like China should be subject to automatic review. Currently, CFIUS review is not required for all foreign purchases.

In addition to Mr. Pittenger, the letter was signed by 13 Republicans and two Democrats, including several committee leaders.

CARTER ON IRAQ: ‘WE CAN’T GOVERN THESE COUNTRIES

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was asked during a “troop talk” on Wednesday with U.S. service members around the world whether the U.S. military will need to keep forces in Iraq after the Islamic State terrorist group is defeated.

Mr. Carter said working with Iraqi military forces can be “frustrating” but added that it is the method chosen to support the Baghdad government.

Backing the Iraqis “is the only way to do it because it’s the only way to make victory stick,” he said. “We can’t run these places. We can’t govern these countries.”

After the Islamic State is defeated and the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria retaken, it will be up to the people in those countries to “regain” control of the states and “govern them in a way that doesn’t let radicals get back in,” the defense chief said.

Decisions on where U.S. forces are stationed will be made by the regional governments and is something to be discussed with the Iraqi government.

“What’s obvious and very clear is we’re going to be in that region for a long time,” he said, “because [the Islamic State] is a big problem but one we’re going to take care of through defeat.”

Mr. Carter said he grapples with recruiting problems related to the military’s restrictive policy on tattoos.

The Army recently relaxed its policy to permit new recruits who have tattoos on arms, legs and most of their bodies. Tattoos on faces, necks and hands are still prohibited and can disqualify recruits for military service.

Mr. Carter said military recruiters in the Northeast asked him to review the policy on tattoos, with an eye toward allowing capable people with disqualifying tattoos to sign up. “I don’t know what to do about that, but I’m looking into that,” he said.

Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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