(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
The United States is ranked as the most powerful country in the world:
But the U.S. spends more than the next 7-8 countries COMBINED!(See below chart from Forbes 2016)
In fact, military spending is more than half of all U.S. federal discretionary spending.
So the question is why are we spending so much more than everybody else, is the United States getting its money’s worth, and most importantly are we able to defend ourselves?
The U.S. defense budget is going up and has been approved at $717B for 2019.
All the other 28 NATO countries together spend less than half ($296B) as much as the U.S. alone.
If you add NATO spending as a complement to the U.S. then the total spend on our mutual defense approaches $1 trillion!
Russia ($69B) China ($146B), North Korea ($6B), and Iran’s ($16B) military spending in total pales in comparison at just $237B.
NATO as a whole is outspending Russia + China + North Korea + Iran by a factor of 4 times yet these countries are still considered major threats to us!
Despite all the truly incredible brave, hard working, and excellent men and women that serve with distinction in our military,
Therefore, again why is it that the U.S. is spending more on what others seem to get for cheaper? Is there significant fraud, waste, and abuse in the system? Are we as a rich capitalistic nation simply getting fat, lazy, and stupid?
Notwithstanding the outsized spending by the United States, incredibly from today’s Wall Street Journal, there is another article about our inability to defend ourselves:
“These are admissions that the U.S. cannot proportionally and equally defend itself in space, cyber, and response to tactical and nuclear weapons except through the threat of escalation and intrusion into other domains.”
Some poignant examples given:
– Our stationary land-based nuclear missiles are no match for Russia and China’s mobile-based ICBMs.
– Our ten busiest U.S. ports do not have an adequate defense against an underwater nuclear missile launch.
China and Russia variously are beating us out in:
- Quantum Communications
- Anti-Satellite Weapons
- Directed Energy
In fact, it was just reported that China conducted its 8th hypersonic test of a plane–with this one said to capable of Mach 10–and that it is capable of carrying nukes!
Further, our carrier group fleet and land forces are at risk with respect to Russia and China’s hypersonic weapons.
Of course, EMP weapons can fry our electrical grid and a large cyber attack could disable our critical infrastructure.
Let’s not even talk bioweapons–think Black Plague from the Middle Ages that wiped out 30-60% of Europe.
Yes, some of these are asymmetric warfare, but why are we still thinking and fighting so kinetic and conventionally.
If we are fighting the wars of yesteryear instead of the battles of today and the threats of tomorrow then what good is our military investments and assets.
To become a more capable fighting force that is less vulnerable, more capable of defending this country, and making better use of our large investment dollars here are 10-steps we need to take to transform our military; we need to transition as follows:
- From static land-based nuclear missiles to a fully mobile platform.
- From vulnerable fleets of large ships and planes to “unstoppable” swarms of miniaturized lethal drones.
- From a preponderance of earth-based kinetic weapons to space-based energy directed weapons.
- From having to generally choose between speed or power to using the power of speed as an “unstoppable” force of nature.
- From projecting a time and space bound visible presence to a persistent invisible existence.
- From attempting to defend limited points of presence to establishing a “impenetrable” umbrella shield of multi-layered defenses.
- From reactively identifying and stopping cyber threats to proactively hunting and destroying them.
- From knee-jerk instinctive putting of human lives in harm’s way to matter-of-factly sending milbots (military robots) to the front lines.
- From relying on the heroics and genius of individual human brainpower to harnessing in realtime “the collective” augmented by artificial intelligence into a hive.
- From relying on escalation of a “bigger, badder gun” to being able to fight capably in every battle arena, win in each and dominate holistically.
Over $700B per year should buy us a lot of defense, hopefully in the future we can really use it to defend ourselves. 😉
Similar to the U.S.’s new laser defense being deployed aboard the USS Ponce in the Gulf, there is a promising new missile defense technology–“Iron Beam”–using lasers from Rafael in Israel.
This augments Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense system using intercept missiles.
Iron Beam functions with air defense radars and thermal camera tracking that identifies incoming targets and uses 2 lasers with 100’s of kilowatts of directed energy to destroy the attacking projectiles with 90% success rate.
For a more surgical, faster, and economically capable military–next up laser defense goes offense.
It’s got to, we’ve all seen the movie. 😉
LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and their use in the military is advancing fast.
I am not just talking about things like laser sights mounted on assault rifles, but actual portable high energy laser weapons for taking out ships, planes, drones, rockets, mortars, and surface to air missiles.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense Systems (HELLADS) is looking for smaller and lighter 150 kilowatt laser systems “enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats” and is powerful enough to destroy aircraft!
Just about all science fiction weaponry relies on lasers to fight and defeat the future enemy whether the phasers and disrupters from Star Trek, turbolasers and laser cannons on Star Wars, and laser torpedeos and blaster turrets in Battlestar Galactica.
According to Mashable (27 January 2013) “this year liquid-cooled, solid-state laser weapons will be installed on fighter planes” for testing.
Fast Company (8 March 2012) points out the challenges with laser tracking and killing including clouds, haze, and dust that weaken the laser. However, these challenges no longer seem insurmountable.
All the talk on gun control is so 20th century, the real conversation for the new era will be on laser weapons and whether phasers should be set on stun or kill. 😉
(Source Photo: here with attribution to UK Ministry of Defence)
Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs) are the weapons of choice against electronics of all sorts, including cyber.
The Economist (15 October 2011) in an article called Frying Tonight describes how “warfare is changing as weapons that destroy electronics, not people, are deployed on the field of battle.”
Here a brief summary:
During the Cold War, the notion was to explode an atom bomb high in the atmosphere (i.e. a High-Altitude EMP or HEMP) “to burn out an enemies electrical grid, telephone network, and possibly even the wiring of his motor vehicles.”
Today, that principle is being applied in smaller weapons using microwaves—from powerful batteries or reactive chemicals that generate high-energy radio frequencies.
By zapping electronics, EMPs can take down enemy missiles, destroy command, control, and communications capability, and stop in their tracks everything from enemy tanks to planes and speed boats.
EMP weapons are already being deployed:
– Fighter planes are being developed with EMP capabilities using the active electronically scanned array (AESA) as defensive weapons against air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, while other planes (like the “Growler”) are being outfitted with offensive EMP capabilities.
– Ships too are being armed with EMP guns to defend against high-speed boat “swarms” or to defend against pirates.
– Land vehicles will be armed with EMP cannons such as the Radio-Frequency Vehicle Stopper that can stall enemy vehicles’ engines or the Active Denial System used as a heat-ray to disperse crowds.
At the same time, defenses against EMPs are being deployed, such as Faradays cages–which are enclosures of conducting material often in a mesh pattern that protects electrical equipment from getting fried.
What is important to note though is that EMPs are not just battlefield weapons–they can take out our everyday electrical and cyber systems.
A Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report to Congress (21 July 2008) called High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: Threat Assessments states “Several nations, including sponsors of terrorism, may currently have a capability to use EMP as a weapon for cyber warfare or cyber terrorism to disrupt communications and other parts of the U.S. critical infrastructure.”
The EMP Commission reported that EMP “creates the possibility of long-term, catastrophic consequences for national security.”
One of the major concerns is the “cascading effects” that a loss of electrical infrastructure would cause in terms of people being unable to obtain basic life necessities and thereby resulting in that “many people may ultimately die.”
The report finds EMP weapons to be an “attractive asymmetric option” for our adversaries, and that analysts find that “it could possibly take years for the United States to recover fully from the resulting widespread damage.”
Therefore, it is critical that we increase our cyber security capabilities not only in terms of fighting conventional malware attacks from within the cyber realm, but we must be thinking in ernest about energy weapons directed at us from without.
We must continue to harden our defenses, invest in new technologies and countermeasures to thwart the enemy, develop punishing offensive capabilities, as well as prepare for the possibility of a strike against our homeland.
Although called “human-safe” (and aside from the traditional weapons of mass destruction), EMPs may be actually one of the most devastating weapons of all to a society dependent of technology.
(Source Photo: here)