Dan Tyler is Head of the National Security Technology Department at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics laboratory, and is responsible for the Laborat01y ‘s support to the Navy’s undersea wa1fare mission. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University, and participated in the Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Our adversaries- conventional nation-states, insurgents, terrorists- look for ways to weaken the resolve of the American people. They may try to instill a false sense of security by convincing us that they’re our friends, trading partners, even religious groups- there’s no threat! At the other extreme, they point out that there’s more than a billion Chinese, and a billion Muslims between Egypt and Indonesia, and they invoke images of unstoppable social, religious, cultural, and national change. For the American way of life there’s no hope! Fortunately, we’re too smart for the former, and too proud to succumb to the latter. But, there’s a more insidious and potentially defeating psychology we may be inflicting on ourselves. It’s not that there’s no threat. It’ s not that there’s no hope. It’s that there’s no hurry. We’re the world’s only superpower, with the largest economy, the most powerful military, and a wealth of technology. So why worry? We should have plenty of time to deal with our challenges. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, gave us something to think about when he said “If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, then the end is in sight.”
Let’s take a quick and sobering look at the challenges facing the Nation today – they’re staggering. The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy, detailed the framework and priorities for the upcoming Quadrennial Defense review:
“I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that we face the most daunting inheritance in generations … Most obviously, we are involved in two ongoing wars (in) Iraq and Afghanistan … Yet these two ongoing conflicts only form part of the picture. Everywhere we look, we face emerging new security challenges- the rise of violent extremist movements . . . the spread of weapons of mass destruction … rising powers with sophisticated weapons … failing or failed states … and in- creasing tensions in the global commons. Many of these emerging challenges are fueled and complicated by a series of powerful trends that are fundamentally reshaping the international landscape. These trends include the global economic down turn … climate change … cultural and demographic shifts . . . growing resource scarcity . . . and the spread of potentially destabilizing technologies.”
Ms. Flournoy observed that all these new challenges and ongoing trends necessarily shape the U.S. military’s operating environment, and will require us to adapt and change, adding: “Adapting quickly is a necessity. not a choice.” What can be done within the technology community to step up to these challenges? In a recent meeting, 3 Alan Shaffer, Principal Deputy Director Defense Research and Engineering, outlined DOD’s enabling technology priorities for supporting the “strategic outcomes” of the Quadrennial Defense Review: Technology Focus Areas: Human, Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Modeling
Bio metrics and Biological Exploitation
Information Technology and Applications
Persistent Surveillance Technologies
Networks and Communication
Language Translation Technologies
Directed Energy Technologies
Autonomous Systems Technologies .
Hyper spectral Sensors Nanotechnology
Energy and Power Technologies
Organization, Fusion, & Mining Data
Combating WMD Technologies
This list of technology focus areas contains new technologies that one would expect, like Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials. But there are also unexpected areas like Human, Social, Cultural, and Behavioral Modeling, and Cognitive Enhancement. DOD has come to recognize, as has the rest of the world, the need to go beyond hard physics and engineering into multidisciplinary and non-kinetic solutions.
Importantly, Mr. Shaffer then talked about the pace at which technology is being developed and introduced. He described how the time from invention to market penetration is shrinking dramatically. Railroads, steel, and the telephone took 100 years from invention to market penetration. The radio and airplane took 50 to 75 years. Personal computers and CAT scans took 20 years. Cell phones took about 15 years. It was 23 years from the discovery of the semiconductor effect in 1931 until the first commercial transistor radio, but only 9 years from discovery of the carbon nanotube in 1991 until that invention made its way into a commercial product – the Jumbotron lamp. The pace of technology invention, development, and market penetration is increasing – and the US is challenged to keep up with the rest of the world.
You’ve probably seen the report cards. We’ve lost the lead in the number of PhDs awarded in science and engineering.
Our high tech balance of trade went negative a decade ago, with the serious implication that we’re now importing critical technology from abroad.
And finally, while one could argue that the rest of the world is bigger than us, so maybe their collective spending on R&D should be bigger, the rate of growth of R&D funding for the rest of the world is three times that of the United States.
Not surprisingly, we’re seeing the impact of these trends on national security. Consider the rate at which we’re transforming the Army’s ability to handle non-traditional threats. In developing approaches and systems for dealing with terrorists and insurgents, the Army continues to rely on traditional disciplines such as physics and engineering, but importantly, now recognizes the need for multi-disciplinary and non-kinetic approaches as well. Over most of this decade, successive Chiefs of Staff of the Army have painted a picture for a transformed Army that is, among other things, light and agile (e.g., deplorable), flat and distributed (e.g., decentralized}, and networked. The issue is how well the Army is doing in pacing the threat. Let’s look at where the Army is today.
Light and agile-we’re reliant on massive offensive firepower and heavy armor for defense (69 ton Abrams tanks, 19 ton MRAPs). Flat and distributed- while the Army is moving to reorganize from a Division-based force to one based on modular Brigades ( .. closer to the way it fights”), the political realities of current conflicts result in a vertical command structure that often stretches to the Pentagon and the White House. Networked- we’re at least ten years from being net centrist on the battlefield, and recent cuts in the Army’s Future Combat System may jeopardize even that timetable.
Now look at the enemy. Light and agile? A hand carried RPG launcher can blow away the 69 ton tank. Flat and distributed? “Transnational terrorists have created dispersed and flat organizations … (they’ve) learned from global business entities such as McDonalds and Starbucks the value of franchising … “. 5 Net- worked? With technology as simple as cell phones. Today’s terrorists and insurgents are living the Army’s future vision, and having significant successes with it. In conventional warfare there’s a common belief that no nation dare challenge the United States. So, let’s look at a conventional nation-state threat through the eyes of the Pacific Fleet. The Chinese now have their own operationally deployed versions of2 AEGIS Class destroyers- the Lanzhou (DOG 170) nd the Haikou (DOG 171 ). These platforms have phased array radars, vertical launch systems, long range missiles, formidable C 2, and daunting close·in weapons systems. The Chinese have their own version of Harpoon, and a high hyper sonic land based anti·ship ballistic missile-the Dong Feng 21-.. with a range in excess of 1500 km … to provide the PLA the capability to attack ships at sea, including aircraft carriers, from great distances. ” 6 In addition, the Chinese have demonstrated the abilities to shoot down as well as to jam satellites, potentially robbing the US of both communications and navigation during a conflict. 7 And lastly, the Chinese are building a formidable submarine force. Contrary to what some might still believe, the Chinese are not a technologically disadvantaged threat, and they could pose a challenge to the US Navy for maintaining maritime superiority in WESTPAC. “The pace and scope of China’s military transformation have increased in recent years, fueled by acquisition of advanced foreign weapons, continued high rates of investment in its domestic defense and science and technology industries, and far reaching organizational and doctrinal reforms of the armed forces. ”
But, we’ve been here before. America has been repeatedly challenged and risen to the occasion- the preeminent example occurring during the period following World War II, when the US faced the formidable and growing Soviet threat. Immediately following the end of the war, the Soviets recognized the need to compete with the West at all costs. The Russians had been attempting to develop a nuclear weapon while simultaneously acquiring US designs through espionage. At the same time, the Soviet Navy embarked upon a program to quickly catch up with their western counterparts. At this same time, the US submarine force was composed of a fleet of diesel electric submarines basically equipped to do ASuW. To be a player in the evolving Cold War, it became obvious that the US Submarine Force would need increased endurance, speed, and firepower. It is instructive to examine the response of the submarine community to this discontinuity in the strategic environment, the critical role played by technology, and the rapid pace with which operational capabilities were developed and deployed.
The first controlled nuclear chain reaction occurred in 1942 in a squash court at the University of Chicago. Electricity was first generated by nuclear power in 1951. And, the world’s first operational nuclear power plant went on-line outside Moscow in I 954. What seems incredible is that Hyman Rickover began planning for a nuclear powered submarine in 1947, before it had been demonstrated that you could get usable power out of nuclear fission. So that just 7 months after the first nuclear power plant went operational, the Nautilus radioed “Underway on nuclear power.” And if that weren’t enough, with the Nation facing a missile gap, the first FBM was fired from the George Washington in 1960 – 2 years ahead of schedule. As for “market penetration”, we had “41 For Freedom” constructed by 1965. The submarine community set the standard for how to develop technology, rapidly implement it, and the nuclear submarine became the premier contributor to the Nation’s security during the Cold War. What are the requirements today? From the perspective of the Pacific Fleet the Navy needs.
The submarine’s stealth, endurance, speed, and firepower are relevant to today’s problems. To guarantee that the submarine is the Nation’ s premier platform for tomorrow’s problems requires investment in future-focused research, development, and experimentation that produces game changing technologies- a hallmark of the submarine force – for dealing with the evolving nature of conventional and irregular warfare. Our job is to provide more than technology-it’s to provide technology leadership.
As recently articulated by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Dr. Stephen Cambone, on the 103n1 anniversary of the Submarine Service’s founding, “The nation needs such an effort from the Submarine Force again because we are a nation at war. It is up to you to build on your storied legacy, your unequaled success, and encourage the coming generation to reach for greatness by upholding the finest traditions of the ‘Silent Service’.”