Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Article excerpt

U.S. TROOPS VULNERABLE TO ENEMY DRONES

U.S. forces deployed in the Middle East need improved defenses against unmanned drones, says the Army's top general in charge of air-defense systems. While fighting Israeli forces this summer, Lebanon's Hezbollah guerillas demonstrated their ability to deploy armed drones. These aircraft could strike U.S. forces rather easily, because they might be confused with friendly aircraft, says Maj. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, head of the Army Air Defense Artillery Center. A case in point is Iran's Ababil-T, which is not technologically advanced by U.S. standards, but could be mistaken as a friendly UAV. "How do you discern if it's a friendly UAV coming home, or one trying to strike?" Lennox asks. "That's a challenge."

In the Army, he says, "We need to start thinking about how to deal with the enemy UAVs." The Patriot missile-defense system can take down UAVs, but each Patriot round costs $3 million. "You want a system that is commensurate with the target," says Lennox. Armed UAVs can be built for as little as $3,000.

MESSAGE TO INDUSTRY: KEEP CUSTOMERS HAPPY

Senior executives from the nation's largest defense contractors are urging the industry to give military customers better value for taxpayer dollars. Industry must watch out for a "backlash" from the government that results from "too much cash and profits while a war is going on," warns Robert E. Johnson, director of strategic planning at BAE Systems, in a forecast report published by the Government Electronics & Information Technology Association. "Stay focused on your customers," Johnson writes. "Your customers can hurt you more than shareholders can."

In the same GEIA study, David Janos of Northrop Grumman Corp., advises contractors to "promote and sell lower cost approaches; use some restraint ... and manage expectations of 'silver bullets.'"

MILITARY NETWORKS ARE PENTAGON'S 'ACHILLES' HEEL'

The Defense Department spends $2 billion a year on computer-network security, but nevertheless remains hugely vulnerable to cyber-attacks, says Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. The susceptibility of the Defense Department s networks to cyber-terrorism is the "single vulnerability" that troubles him the most, he tells an industry conference. The fast proliferation of digital information systems in the Defense Department - which do everything from issuing paychecks to launching missiles - make these networks more attractive targets for hackers and terrorists, he notes. …

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