Technology Gap Closing
Technology Gap Closing, Top
Acquisitions Official Warns
By Claudette Roulo, DoD News,
Defense Media Activity.
Washington D.C. – (DoD
News) – November 5, 2014 – The technological dominance enjoyed by the U.S.
military force that fought the first Gulf War a quarter century ago is
threatened today, the undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and
logistics said today.
Speaking at a Navy League special topics breakfast in
Arlington, Virginia, Frank Kendall said he reviews defense intelligence data --
particularly technical intelligence -- every morning.
“I look at weapons systems that others are developing and try
to make some determination as to what impact they're going to have on our
abilities on the battlefields of the future -- or the present, in some cases,”
the undersecretary said.
When he came back to work at the Pentagon four and a half
years ago, Kendall said, it wasn’t long before he realized the United States had
“The problem was the modernization rate of other powers, in
particular of China,” the undersecretary said. “China has been investing for a
long time in a number of systems which are essentially focused on keeping the
United States out of the part of the world that's closest to China.”
The Challenge of China
The Chinese are able to benefit from a number of factors,
Kendall said, acquiring commercial technology and building an organic capability
to develop technology. “And they're benefiting from the technology that they can
obtain from the Internet without other people's permission,” he noted.
China’s investments are strategic, Kendall said. “They're
designed to present us with a very difficult problem if we want to operate in
the vicinity of China,” he added. “And it's structured in a way that they can,
perhaps, control escalation, so they can force us to back down.”
While he doesn’t envision a war with China, the
undersecretary said, he does envision a time when China’s military plays an
important role in its regional influence.
“I also envision that whatever systems China develops, they
will put onto the international marketplace -- and they may very well show up in
other places that we might be more likely to engage in conflict,” Kendall said.
Budget, Complacency Drive Decline
The situation hasn’t improved in the time he’s been watching,
the undersecretary said. “It continues to deteriorate,” he said. “It
deteriorates in large part because of our budget situation.”
Sequestration -- which is scheduled to return in fiscal year
2016 -- and other budget uncertainties have made it difficult to maintain
efficient, forward-looking acquisitions programs, Kendall said. “We've worked
very, very hard to get as much as we can for the money,” he added, “and we've
gotten to a point through a series of political events, really, which have put
our budget in a place where it's really inadequate.”
The narrowing of the technological superiority gap also is
due, in part, to complacency, the undersecretary said.
“When I talk to people on the Hill and I mention that I'm
concerned about technological superiority, … I get a reaction that is a sort of
surprise, first of all, and disbelief. … I think we have gotten so accustomed to
our technological superiority militarily that it's just a given, and it's one of
the things I kind of fight against when I try to have these conversations,”
Under a Microscope
The United States tends to rely on a small number of very
expensive, but very capable, assets, the undersecretary said, and that makes the
military vulnerable once an enemy learns how to attack those assets, noting that
no one has a monopoly on technology, warfighting power or doctrinal and
“People have been studying us,” the undersecretary said, “and
no one's studied us more -- including immediately after the first Gulf War --
than the Chinese. And they have been building systems since then designed to
counteract some of the things that we have.”
While the United States is cutting its defense budget,
China's budget is growing at about 12 percent a year, Kendall said. And while
China’s budget is not yet as large as that of the United States, “at the rate
that it's going, it will be before too many years go by,” he said.
“So I'm worried about whether we're keeping up or not,”
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
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