Air Force Gen. John Hyten, nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this week outlined U.S. military concerns about weapons shortfalls that increase risks for any future conflict with China.
Gen. Hyten, currently commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said in a prepared statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee made public Tuesday that China’s missile forces pose the most significant threat to U.S. forces.
The IndoPacific Command annually provides the chairman of the Joint Chiefs with a list of shortfalls of military forces and weapons needed to win a conflict against Beijing.
According to the four-star general, current shortfalls exist in numbers of critical munitions, undersea warfare dominance forces and the ability to counter China’s growing missiles and other weapons designed to keep U.S. forces out of the area. The military calls these Chinese forces “anti-access, area-denial” forces, such as missiles and submarines.
Additionally, the ability to resupply U.S. forces in Asia during a conflict with China would be difficult.
“Conflict with China poses formidable challenges to the joint logistics enterprise,” Gen. Hyten said, adding that military leaders are “actively working to mitigate the risk to our logistics enterprise through strategic positioning.”
Regarding China’s large missile forces, Gen. Hyten said threat to U.S. forces and bases from missiles is “substantial and growing.”
“The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Forces have a growing inventory of medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles that threaten U.S. bases in the region, including those in South Korea, Japan, and Guam, as well as naval forces operating inside the Second Island Chain,” he said, referring to the line of islands stretching from North Asia to Southeast Asia. “Many are purpose-built for specific targets, such as aircraft carriers or air bases, and PLA Rocket Forces maintain a high degree of combat readiness.”
Chinese military technology also is “constantly evolving” with increased range, greater survivability, accuracy and lethality, he said.
Recent congressional funding will provide focus and urgency to counter the threat, “but we have a long way to go to deter and counter ballistic missiles and future hypersonic weapons,” he noted.
The military is investing in early-phase missile defense, increased missile interceptor capability and improved land and space sensors.
“China has quickly closed the gap with respect to protection of forces from the threat ballistic and cruise missiles pose to our land- and sea-based assets,” Gen. Hyten said.
To counter the Chinese military, Gen. Hyten said, American military forces need to build up capabilities in undersea warfare, critical munitions and long-range weapons such as air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and anti-ship missiles.
The military also needs to develop intermediate-range cruise missile and low-cost, high-capacity cruise missile defenses, hypersonic weapons and air and surface cargo lift capabilities. Also needed are cyberwarfare capabilities, air-to-air refueling systems and hardened communication and navigation systems, Gen. Hyten said.
“In addition to improving the current systems stated above, we must enhance our logistics and [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and posture] in the key areas of responsibility,” he said.
China’s naval buildup includes a massive shipbuilding program that by 2030 will include nearly 100 more warships than the U.S. Navy, which currently keeps about 60%t of its forces in the Pacific.
To counter China’s submarine buildup, the Navy is building unmanned underwater vehicles and improving submarine forces.
“In addition to a suite of asymmetric solutions, we are advancing undersea mining capabilities to counter Russian and Chinese advancements in undersea warfare,” Gen. Hyten said.
Asymmetric and irregular war fighting capabilities also are being prepared for use against the Chinese military.
“We will prioritize the ability to exploit subsurface advantages and, when required, use standoff air and surface long-range fires to hold surface combatants at risk,” Gen. Hyten said.
FBI ON CHINA SPYING THREAT
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently outlined the threat posed by Chinese intelligence operations in the United States, aggressive activities that continue despite the Trump administration’s tougher policies toward Beijing’s technology theft.
“I would say that there is no country that poses a more severe counterintelligence threat to this country right now than China,” Mr. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 23.
Mr. Wray described Chinese intelligence operatives as “fighting a generational fight here” and said that counter the operations is a high priority for FBI counterspies.
Both Chinese government spies and nonprofessional intelligence collectors such as business executives, scientists, academics and graduate students are engaged in theft of American secrets and technology.
“We have, as we speak, probably about 1,000-plus investigations all across the country involving attempted theft of U.S. intellectual property, whether it’s economic espionage or counterproliferation, almost all leading back to China,” the FBI chief said.
“It is a threat that’s deep and diverse and wide and vexing, whether it’s in terms of the kinds of actors that are used, the kinds of techniques used, the kind of targets that are used,” he added. “We are working extremely hard with all of our partners to combat it.”
Mr. Wray said the threat from China is “not about the Chinese people as a whole and it’s certainly not about Chinese-Americans in this country.”
The culprit is the ruling Communist Party of China and its government organs.
Chinese intelligence utilizes at least four organs under control of the party: the Ministry of State Security, the civilian spy agency, and the Second and Third departments of the People’s Liberation Army engaged in human spying and cyberspying, respectively.
Additionally, the party uses the United Front Work Department for intelligence gathering and influence operations.
In recent years, China also has elevated the Ministry of Public Security, once mainly a police agency, to a spying and internal security organ.
WARNING ON RANSOMWARE ATTACKS
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a warning this week about an increase in cyberattacks involving ransomed data schemes.
“The growing number of such attacks highlights the critical importance of making cyber preparedness a priority and taking the necessary steps to secure our networks against adversaries,” the agency said in a joint notice with the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center National Governors Association, and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.
The notice said the prevention and preparation are the best tools to defend against ransomware.
A ransomware attack involves hackers locking up computer systems, usually with encryption software, and then demanding payment to release the electronic information.
The warning says three steps should be taken the deal with ransomware: Back up systems regularly, reinforce cybersecurity awareness, and develop and refine cyberresponse plans to such attacks.
Most ransomware attacks require fooling a human in order to succeed and response plans that rely on contacting cyber first responders in internal resources are often unable to handle ransomware attacks.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards recently declared a state of emergency in response to a series of ransomware attacks against school districts in the state.
Several cities in recent months have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to hackers that carried out ransomware attacks.
In June, Riviera Beach City paid $600,000 in bitcoin to hackers that locked up the city’s data and services. A second incident involved Lake City, Florida, which paid $500,000 in ransom after hackers attacked the City Council networks.
A third case took place in Jackson County, Georgia, where city officials paid $400,000 to free up its information systems.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.