Flash Gordon Left Me The Keys


Saturday, September 20, 2003

Wes Clark's Military

Turn on Fox News, and you'd think America's technology-driven military sprung from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's head, fully formed.

But many of the high-tech hallmarks of the American campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq -- Predator drones and satellite-guided bombs, to name two -- first saw major combat in Kosovo, under former NATO commander, and new presidential candidate, General Wesley Clark.

The 78-day air war in Kosovo had more than its share of controversies, of course. The decision not to use ground forces to oust the Serbs seemed cowardly, to some. The drip-drap approach to bombing in the war's early days couldn't have been further from "shock and awe." Air Force officials at the time called it a "disgrace." Matters only got worse when a mis-targeted American smart bomb flattened the Chinese embassy in Sarajevo, touching off an international incident.

But, in the end, 1999's "Operation Allied Force" forced Serb troops out of Kosovo -- without a single combat casualty. And in that fight, the Pentagon began implementing a number of advances that have become central to its more recent military triumphs.

"A number of the novel new weapons used in Afghanistan and Iraq were used first in Kosovo," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org.

Satellite-directed munitions are one example. While the public got its first taste of "smart bombs" in Gulf War I, those weapons were all laser-guided. These bombs can strike a target ultra-accurately -- but only if a soldier or an airman can shine a laser pointer at that target. Rain, snow, clouds, and other bad weather makes this just about impossible. And during the Kosovo campaign, there was bad weather in spades. Thousands of sorties were cancelled as a result.

"The big, huge message to come out of Kosovo was the need for all-weather munitions," said Clark Murdock, a former Air Force deputy director for strategic planning, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Bombs guided by the Global Positioning System's (GPS) constellation of satellites, instead of by beams of light, could satisfy that all-seasons need. The then-brand-spanking-new Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kit could turn a regular "dumb" bomb into a GPS-guided "smart" bomb.

JDAMs were used for the first time in Kosovo -- 652 in all. By Gulf War II, many military analysts were calling the bombs the most valuable weapon, dollar-for-dollar, in America's arsenal. In the Iraq invasion, coalition forces dropped more than 11,000 of the bombs.

The plane that delivered these new bombs was itself flying its first combat missions in Kosovo.

The boomerang-shaped B-2 stealth bomber had been in the works since the early 80's. But despite billions and billions spent on the radar-evading planes, they never seemed ready to fly. Even on the eve of the Kosovo conflict, Air Force planners were skeptical that the planes, designed for Cold War mission against fixed targets, could handle the rapidly-changing conditions of the Balkans.

But they did.

"To the surprise of many, the B-2 turned out to be the most consistently effective performer of the entire air war," Rand military analyst Benjamin Lambeth writes in his book, NATO's Air War for Kosovo.

The B-2s -- and JDAM bombs -- were so effective, all of the services began making sure their planes could deliver the satellite-guided weapons, Murdock said.

General Clark, who directed the Kosovo campaign, had long been a military technology advocate, said retired Colonel Mike Mehaffey, who served under Clark in several capacities. Mehaffey now works at WaveCrest Laboratories, the electric motor company chaired by Clark.

When Clark worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he helped produce "Joint Vision 2010," the Pentagon's template for information age warfare. At the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, Clark helped set up a series of "battle labs" to test out new technologies, Mehaffey said.

One of the best-known military innovations making its "major combat debut" in Kosovo, according to GlobalSecurity.org's Pike, was the Predator drone. While the snub-nosed unmanned aerial vehicle (or "UAV") flew a couple of missions over Bosnia in the mid-90's -- and earlier-model drones were used experimentally in the first Gulf War -- Kosovo marked "the first time in American combat experience" that UAVs like the Predator gave American commanders a real-time view of battles as they were going on, according to Lambeth.

This was no small shift. Before, if a commander wanted to see a battle unfolding, he'd have to risk a pilot's life to do it. Needless to say, it didn't happen all that often.

A UAV, on the other hand, allowed top brass to take a look at a combat zone, seemingly without consequence. And, in Operation Allied Force, generals started to take advantage of this new capability. Predator drones flew about 600 missions, using its cloud-piercing synthetic aperture radar to track Serb armor and troops.

This wasn't always a good thing. Clark was accused of circumventing his subordinates' orders, repositioning the drones to examine areas that were of interest to him.

And the UAVs were vulnerable. At least 25 were shot down by the Serbs or crashed because of mechanical failures.

But "ideas and energy came out of Kosovo," said Murdock. One thought was to add a Hellfire missile to the unmanned plane. Three years later, a Predator so armed would take out a half-dozen Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen.

Air Force awards BMC2 study contracts
The Air Force awarded study contracts worth $4 million each to Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. to design the command and control system for the service's near $60 billion E-10A Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A) program. The Battle Management Command and Control System (BMC2) automates the data processing of enemy targets detected by ground moving target indicators and radar that can penetrate clouds and tree cover. The Air Force will award a $400 million contract in April for the best BMC2 design.

Under the study contract, Boeing, Lockheed and Northrop Grumman will develop proposals and integrate requirements and architectures with other systems in the MC2A aircraft, Col. Joseph Smyth, MC2A Program Office director, said yesterday in a statement.

"Each proposed BMC2 suite needs to fit within the confines of the 767 aircraft that has limited size, weight, power, cooling, center of gravity -- all of those things that make for a very tightly connected weapon system," Smyth said.

The Air Force on Aug. 18 awarded Boeing a $126 million contract to build the first of five 767s that will serve as MC2A experimental platforms. The company's Integrated Defense Systems division will build the 767 at its Everett, Wash., plant for delivery in December 2005.

The study deals announced this week mark the fourth set of contracts awarded in the Air Force's 18-year, $58 billion effort to field a system that identifies enemy targets and coordinates U.S. fighters and bombers so they can attack more quickly than they do today. The Air Force wants to field four E-10 MC2As by 2012, which could grow to a fleet of 60 by 2020. The new command and control system would replace six intelligence, surveillance and intelligence-gathering service aircrafts, including the Airborne Warning and Control System and the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, according to the Web site of GlobalSecurity.org, an Alexandria, Va.-based defense consulting firm.

The E-10A MC2A program is a key part of the Air Force's larger Command and Control Constellation concept that consists of land, air and space sensors that use common computer protocols and communications standards to share information.


WITHIN THE next month or two, a young Chinese Air Force pilot will write his name in the history books and become his country's hero. Four decades after Yuri Gagarin became the first human to venture into the new frontier, China is on the verge of becoming the third nation, after Russia and the United States, to have the independent capability for manned spaceflight.

China is revealing little about its first manned mission. A recent press report said that the Chang Zheng (Long March) 2F rocket had arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre and that the integration of the Shen Zhou (meaning "divine vessel") spacecraft with the launcher had begun. The launch is expected to take place some time in October or November, with October 10 being mentioned in one report as a possible launch date. An October launch would have particular political significance in China, as it would come soon after the annual celebrations to mark the Communist Revolution. China has been just as reticent about its corps of "yuhang yuan" ( space traveller'). From reports in Chinese newspapers and remarks by Chinese space officials, it appears that this elite group of 14 fighter pilots has been carefully selected from over 2000 candidates. Elaborate measures have been taken to prevent their identities from becoming known and they have been trained in a closely guarded area at the Beijing Aerospace City. At least two of them have trained in Russia in the early 1990s.

But this is no man-in-a-can' effort merely to demonstrate that China too can safely send a human being into space. The Chinese decided that the primary thrust of their manned space programme during the first decade or so would be the development of a space station, says Phillip Clark, a British expert on the Chinese space programme. Since both the Soviets/Russians and the U.S. had space station experience, the Chinese decided to see what these other countries had done. They found that Soyuz had been a successful space station ferry since April 1971. "So rather than completely re-invent the wheel, they took the basic Soyuz design from the Russians and then modified it for their own needs," Mr. Clark told The Hindu . The Shen Zhou will also give China the capability to consider manned missions to the moon. The Soyuz, after all, was originally conceived as part of the Soviet Union's effort to beat the Americans to the moon. The next set of footprints on the moon may well be that of the Chinese, says Mr. Clark, but adds that it may not happen till 2020 or so.

The Chinese interest in manned spaceflight appears to be long-standing. In the 1960s, the Chinese used their T-7A sounding rockets to launch biological cargo, including rats, mice, flies and even dogs. Then, in 1975, China successfully launched and recovered its first Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW) spacecraft. These satellites were intended for photoreconnaissance, using photographic film, which had to be returned to earth for processing. As these satellites were therefore designed for re-entry to earth, there was speculation that they could become the basis for a manned capsule. So when the Chinese published photographs of men dressed in pressure-suits using space simulators and eating what might be food prepared for use in space, the belief grew that China had embarked on a manned spaceflight programme. As it later turned out, this view was not wholly incorrect. The Chinese, who began developing the FSW satellites in the mid-1960s, did actually embark on a project to develop a manned capsule. The FSW satellites were themselves too small to carry even one astronaut. But the Shu Guang spacecraft were supposed to share the FSW technology. In 1971, 19 astronaut-candidates were selected from among the best of China's Air Force pilots, with the first manned launch scheduled just two years later. But in the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, the project was poorly supported and was closed down a year later.

There are practical problems in the Shu Guang being modelled on the FSW and there is little technical information available about the Shu Guang spacecraft, says Mr. Clark. But the Chinese have used the FSW to launch and bring back a variety of biological specimens, including guinea pigs, for microgravity experiments. Press reports and articles in aerospace journals suggest that the Chinese space agencies continued preparatory work for a manned spaceflight, including establishing facilities for training astronauts. The Biomedical Institute in Beijing is said to have developed a space suit.

Then, in 1992, the Chinese Government authorised "Project 921," a comprehensive manned spaceflight programme. Elements of the programme included development of the Shen Zhou-manned spacecraft, upgradation of the CZ-2E launcher to the man-rated CZ-2F version, establishment of ground facilities and astronaut training. In 1996, the Russians announced that two Chinese, Li Tsinlung and Wu Tse, had arrived for a year's astronaut training in commercial deal. It will be interesting to see if one of the two becomes China's first yuhang yuan in space. Contrary to some Western reports that China bought a complete Soyuz spacecraft and copied it for their Shen Zhou, Mr. Clark says that the Chinese purchased only some individual items from the Russians. These items, purchased in the mid-1990s, were a Soyuz life-support system, a docking unit, a Soyuz descent module (with all the equipment stripped out) and a Soyuz pressure suit of the type used at launch and landing. Only one of each item was purchased. "The Chinese wanted to see how the Russians had solved various problems and then incorporate those solutions into their design,'' according to him.

The general concept, arrangement of systems, and aerodynamics of Shen Zhou is based on the Soyuz, says Mark Wade, a space analyst who runs the space reference website, Encyclopedia Astronautica . But the Shen Zhou is dimensionally different and its every aspect differs in detail from Soyuz. The Chinese have had 25 years of independent spacecraft development experience prior to Shen Zhou, plus access to a lot of the latest Western satellite technology, he points out. Like the Soyuz, the Shen Zhou has three separate modules. Right in front is the orbital module, which can hold experiments and provides the living space for astronauts while in orbit. In the Soyuz, the orbital module is just a sphere which re-enters and burns up in the atmosphere soon after its occupants return to earth. But in the Shen Zhou, it is larger and more cylindrical, with its own solar panels to provide power and propulsion systems for independent manoeuvring. In the last three Shen Zhou launches, the orbital modules have carried out such manoeuvres and remained in the orbit for up to an additional six months. Behind the orbital module is the re-entry capsule which can seat three astronauts at lift-off and during re-entry. The re-entry capsule is bigger than that of the Soyuz and uses different materials too, says Mr. Wade. As with the Russians, the re-entry capsule is intended to come down on land, using parachutes and retro-rockets for the final stages of the descent. At the rear of the Shen Zhou is the service module, with instrumentation, another set of solar panels and the spacecraft's main propulsion system. The service module is bigger than the Soyuz equivalent and is equipped with Chinese systems. "I think the reason that they (the Chinese) followed the Soyuz idea is that it is a good and proven design, fits their Long March 2 rocket well and gives them the capability they need to supply a space station," says Brian Harvey, author of a book about the Chinese space programme.

With four unmanned Shen Zhou launches successfully completed between 1999 and early this year, the Shen Zhou 5 is ready for China's first manned mission. "The next priorities would be a longer flight, spacewalking, docking (like Soyuz 4/5 in 1969) and then bringing a crew up to a space laboratory," says Mr. Harvey. The Chinese have said they would fly a small space laboratory of 14 tonnes, using the Long March 2EA, before going on to a Salyut-class space station of 20 tonnes when the Long March 5 becomes available, he points out. Even without a manned lunar mission, the Chinese would have enough on their hands for the next decade or more, according to Mr. Clark.

In recent years, the U.S. has often regarded the Chinese space programme with suspicion and hostility. What would their reaction be to a manned Chinese launch? Another Kennedy-like space race? "Mainly boredom," says John Pike, a U.S. space analyst and non-proliferation expert. China, he says, is now doing what the U.S. did four decades ago. "There will be some effort to spur a space race with China, but it will not arouse much passion."

N. Korea Working on Missile Accuracy;
If developed, the new nuclear weapon could increase the communist regime's chances of striking the continental U.S., an analyst says.

North Korea is developing a long-range missile that could hit U.S. targets with greater accuracy than its old missiles, a U.S. official confirmed Thursday.

The missile is based on the old Soviet navy's SS-N-6, a submarine-launched missile, the official said. North Korea is believed to have acquired it between 1992 and 1998, then added technology to improve the missile. It can now be launched from the ground, the official said.

North Korea is already believed to have long-range missiles, but "what it increases for them dramatically is the accuracy," the official said.

There is no indication that the Russian government sanctioned the missile technology transfer or has had any involvement in North Korea's missile program "in at least the last five years," the official said.

"We've had hints of this for several years, but it's only within the last year that we've been able to confirm that this did exist and it's derived from Russian technology," the official said, adding that the development "makes you wonder what else they might have been able to access" during that period.

As described, the missile "increases the probability that North Korea could achieve the capability of launching nuclear weapons against the continental U.S.," said John Pike, an intelligence expert who runs GlobalSecurity.org, a Web site focusing on national security issues.

If true, "it significantly changes our security situation, because for the first time they would have a missile with a proven capacity to deliver a warhead to U.S. soil," said a Capitol Hill source. "They don't have that capability absent such a missile."

Because the SS-N-6 is based on 40-year-old Soviet technology, the North Koreans could more likely deploy it "without having to farm out the testing to their buddies in Pakistan and Iran" or "blow up a lot of hardware," Pike said.

"They're going with something tried and true rather than trying to invent it themselves... They basically let [former Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev pay for all the exploding rockets 40 years ago."

Pike said he could not comment on the U.S. assertion that the SS-N-6 would be more accurate than North Korea's Taepodong 1 or Taepodong 2 missiles.

"I don't know who told them [U.S. intelligence] how accurate the old one was," Pike said.

There were conflicting news reports Thursday about the range of the new missile.

North Koreans fired a Taepodong 1 missile over Japan in 1998. But the Taepodong 2, which is a Taepodong 1 on top of a larger rocket, has never been field-tested.

In 1999, U.S. intelligence estimated its range at 4,000 miles, far enough to hit Alaska or Hawaii.

The SS-N-6 is estimated to have a range of 1,497 to 1,920 miles. If that is true, the missile alone would not be powerful enough to hit Los Angeles, which is about 5,900 miles from Pyongyang. The question is whether the new North Korean missile is a three-stage missile -- an SS-N-6 with the two-stage Taepodong 2 on top of it, Pike said.

If so, it might be able to deliver a nuclear warhead to Los Angeles or other U.S. cities. North Korea is believed to be attempting to miniaturize its nuclear warheads, based on relatively sophisticated, smaller designs tested by Pakistan in 1998, Pike said.

"Anybody who thinks North Korea's nuclear weapons weigh thousands of pounds rather than hundreds of pounds might be surprised," he said.

A CIA spokesman Thursday declined to comment on the existence of the missile. No other officials contacted would describe the nature of it or discuss whether it was sold to North Korea by a Russian rogue enterprise or stolen by Pyongyang.

However, the congressional source, who asked not to be named, noted that 1992-98 was a period when the Russian Pacific Fleet, which used the submarine-launched missiles, was desperately underfunded and disorganized.

"Everything was on the chopping block or the auction block," the source said.

Pike said the SS-N-6 could have been sold to North Korea in 1992 by the Makeyev design bureau of the old Soviet Ministry of General Machine Building, which had previously supplied missile technology to its communist client state. That year, Russian officials stopped a group of Makeyev scientists at the airport as they were headed to Pyongyang, he said.

News of the missile first appeared in the South Korean press and began circulating in Washington on Wednesday. It was the latest in a series of leaks from Washington over the past year that have raised alarms about North Korea's progress toward a nuclear arsenal. The political motivation behind the leaks remains unclear.

"All of [the reports] have a 'hawk' reading, that the North Koreans are going to get us and we should get them first ... and a 'dove' reading, that war with North Korea is not an option because North Korea has effectively deterred us," Pike said.

Administration officials say they expect that the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan will meet for a second round of talks on North Korea's nuclear program, probably this fall.

American troops forced to buy own wartime gear

Last Christmas, Mike Corcoran sent his mother an unusual Christmas list: He wanted night-vision goggles, a global positioning system and a short-wave radio. Corcoran, then a Marine sergeant in Afghanistan, wanted the goggles so he could see on patrols. They cost about $2,000 each.

According to an Army internal report released earlier this summer, many ground troops like Corcoran decided to dip into their own pockets to get the equipment they needed to fight in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

"There were a lot of reports of that prior to the war, people would go out and buy their own gear," said Patrick Garrett, a defense analyst with GlobalSecurity.org. "The Army ran out of desert camo boots, and a lot of soldiers were being issued regular black combat boots. Soldiers decided that wasn't for them, so they paid for new boots with their own money."

According to the Pentagon's "Operation Iraqi Freedom Lessons Learned" draft report, soldiers spent their own money to get better field radios, extra ammunition carriers to help them fight better and commercial backpacks because their own rucksacks were too small.

Senior Airman Joe Harvey, based at McGuire AFB in New Jersey, said his clothing allowance is $200 a year from the Air Force, and that most aspects of the uniform, including four sets of combat and dress uniforms are provided.

"But of course with all the wear and tear they don't always last that long," said Harvey, who deployed to Iraq for the war. "Now with some of the units if you rip a pair of bdu's (battle dress uniform) they will give you a new pair. But for the most part you are responsible for buying any new uniform you need except for boots. Your unit will always supply with a free pair of boots."

Harvey said the costs stack up during promotions, when each airman has to purchase new stripes and get them tailored on.

Corcoran, who has since left the Marines, purchased a bunch of items before he deployed. One necessity: baby wipes, because as he said, "a lot of the places you'll go, you won't be taking a shower."

Corcoran also bought his own rucksack, and modified a sling for his M-16 so he was better prepared for patrols. He bought an electric shaver to remove stubble that would keep his gas mask from sealing correctly.

Corcoran got all the items on his Christmas list, including the $2,000 goggles. The short wave radio was meant for entertainment, but he ended up hearing messages urging jihad, and he picked up intelligence from enemy fighters.

And there is one item many soldiers purchased and carried into the desert that wasn't part of the regular equipment.

"Another cool thing to bring with you is an American flag," Corcoran said. "Just in case you plan on conquering anything."

Cybersecurity expert warns of post-9/11 vulnerability

Almost two years after the devastating attacks of 9/11, former Bush White House adviser Richard Clarke sounded the alarm in Pittsburgh about a cyberattack that could be just as damaging to the national psyche, arguing that the federal government remains "slow" and "very 20th century" in its preparation for computer-based terrorist threats.

Clarke, in an interview yesterday on Carnegie Mellon University's campus, singled out the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, led by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, for being sluggish in making cyberspace a true national security priority. The department, Clarke noted, has yet to appoint a director and several key managers to its National Cyber Security Division -- a group asked to implement a protection plan Clarke developed before leaving the Bush administration in February.

The problem, Clarke said, is that Homeland Security leaders still "think of risks to our society in terms of things that explode and incidents that have body bags. In the 21st century, as the power blackout of Aug. 14th proved, a great deal of damage to our economy and disruption to our way of life can be done without anything exploding or anybody being killed."

Clarke's insistence that the country pay attention to cybersecurity has made him a polarizing figure in the computer industry and Washington D.C., where he has worked for the last four presidents and advised three of them on intelligence and national security matters.

He left the White House as Bush's cybersecurity czar in February, to become a consultant. Known for his contempt of bureaucracy and his critique of pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures, Clarke emerged after 9/11 as the digital Paul Revere, warning that the country's electrical power, finance, telecommunications, transportation, water and especially the Internet are all vulnerable to cyberattack.

In making his case for shoring up the nation's electronic infrastructure, Clarke is getting support from Pittsburgh and specifically, CMU. With Clarke's assistance, CMU computer scientist Roy Maxion sent a letter last year to President Bush warning that "our nation is at grave risk of a cyberattack that could devastate the national psyche and economy more broadly than did" the 9/11 attacks.

The letter, cosigned by Maxion's CMU colleague John McHugh and more than 50 of the country's top computer scientists, laid out a nightmarish scenario involving the sudden shutdown of electric power grids, telecommunications "trunks," air traffic control systems and the crippling of e-commerce and credit card systems with the use of several hundred thousand stolen identifies. "We would wonder how, as nation, we could have let this happen," the letter said.

Maxion and his co-signers proposed a five-year cyberwarfare effort modeled on the World War II Manhattan Project, requiring an investment ranging from $500 million to $1 billion per year. "The clock is ticking," the letter said.

Some critics maintain that Clarke and institutions such as CMU, which was awarded $35 million in federal funds last year to fight cyberterrorism, are hyping a threat that does not really exist -- especially in the case of al-Qaida, the organization that carried out the attacks of 9/11.

Dorothy Denning, one of the country's top cybersecurity experts and a professor at the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., said she did not sign her name to Maxion's White House letter because "I had a certain amount of reservation about whether or not it needed to be bought to that level of attention."

Denning has not "seen the kind of devastating attacks people are worried about," and she hasn't "seen terrorists actively pursing" the Internet as a weapon. Clarke, Denning added, is right to point out the "vulnerabilities in our infrastructure that could be exploited" by everyday hackers and admitted that "bad things could happen." But "until those things do happen, no one knows what the cascading effect might be."

Another skeptic, George Smith, is more harsh in his appraisal of Clarke's admonitions.

"I can't think of a single Clarke prediction or warning that was right or of any lasting value," said Smith, senior fellow with Alexandria, Va.-based defense think tank GlobalSecurity.Org.

He added: "In 2003, it takes no great intellect to say the nation is in great danger from the electronic frontier. The fantastic claim always gets attention, diverts the mind from thornier but mundane problems ... Far easier to say al-Qaida is looking to turn off the power. You don't ever have to prove if there is even a small nugget of truth to it."

Terrorists, Smith said, "are interested in creating bloodshed and terror. The Internet doesn't rise to this level of impact in a way that a truck bomb does."

Referring to the e-mail virus that has been plaguing computer systems of late, Smith argued that "you can get three or four hundred copies of SoBig in your e-mail box a day -- a thousand, two thousand -- and it just has no physical impact no terror juice to it."

But Clarke, who was in Pittsburgh yesterday to speak at a computer intrusion detection conference, said he has been in this position before, warning of national security threats that some would not take seriously. Clarke, a counterterrorism coordinator under President Clinton, was among those who worried about Osama Bin Laden's capabilities before the events of 9/11.

"An awful lot of people, unfortunately, don't believe (a cyberattack) will happen," he said. "And as with terrorism itself, we learned from 9/11 that you can yell and yell and yell and imagine something happening and say it is going to happen, as I did with regard to al-Qaida, and no one believes you enough to act until it happens."

As for al-Qaida, Clarke claims that some of its followers have master's degrees in computer science, and that "there is lots of evidence that al-Qaida has downloaded sophisticated hacking tools because we have seized their computers and know what's on them. So, I do think there is grounds for concern."

But focusing on al-Qaida is missing the point, he said. "I don't think it is terribly important who the enemy is. It doesn't matter. What you need to worry about is the vulnerabilities."

There are some encouraging signs that the country may be safer from cyberattacks than it was before 9/11, according to Clarke.

There is anecdotal evidence, he said, that the companies that control much of the country's electric power generators, telecommunications lines, rail terminals and shipping containers are taking the voluntary security steps asked of them in Bush's National Plan for Protecting Cyberspace, developed by Clarke and released earlier this year.

Bush's plan relies on U.S. business, rather than the federal government, to shore up the nation's computer security infrastructure. Clarke, in fact, came to Pittsburgh twice last October to drum up support for the plan, making the point that for U.S. businesses the increased costs of preparing for an attack do not have to drain a company's productivity.

Some critics, responding to requests from the Bush administration that U.S. firms make themselves more secure, argued that companies have little incentive to pay for such measures in a slow economy.

Others said the plan itself lacked federal firepower.

"If (Clarke) had made it to correspond with the urgency of his warnings, it would have been a strong strategy with teeth in it, capable of compelling the private sector to improve security practices in many different ways," said Smith, the senior fellow with think tank GlobalSecurity.Org. "However, when unfurled, it had no power. It might as well have not been written."

But Clarke maintained yesterday, in an interview, that U.S. companies and the federal government are spending more money on cybersecurity and that the viruses that plagued computers this summer are forcing CEOs to pay more attention to the problem. Clarke, during his speech yesterday at CMU, even expressed confidence that this issue is making its way into pop culture, citing the recent movies "Terminator 3" and "Matrix Reloaded."

In the latter, Keanu Reeves' character Neo takes a tour of Zion, the last human city to survive outside the computer-generated Matrix, and is told that Zion's citizens do not think about the machines that power the city until the machines stop working.

Paraphrasing Neo, Clarke said, "People need machines. But, machines need people, too."

Stryker readiness questioned
It's the first new combat vehicle in 20 years, intended to make the Army more mobile, but critics say design flaws render the Stryker vulnerable

FORT LEWIS, Pierce County In the woodsy confines of this sprawling base, the Army's 3,600-member Stryker brigade yesterday went through final training exercises, assaulting mock villages and searching for enemy insurgents.

Next month it's for real.

But as the soldiers prepare to make their combat debut in Iraq, the vehicles that will carry them through hostile territory are under attack from skeptics, who say they are too vulnerable to enemy fire.

The Strykers are the first new combat vehicle in 20 years and a cornerstone in the Army's efforts to transform itself into a new, 21st-century fighting force. Critics say the eight-wheeled vehicles each costing an average of $1.5 million may be a costly misstep on that path. The Army recently discovered flaws in the Stryker's ceramic composite armor and is racing to fix it. The vehicle's remote weapon systems can't be fired accurately on the move, and soldiers must get out of the vehicle to reload, exposing them to enemy fire.

Such criticisms have reached Congress, which is awaiting final operational test reports before deciding whether to certify the unit, and the vehicles, for combat.

"The Stryker is ... uniquely controversial it's such a different idea," said Patrick Garrett, an analyst at Virginia-based GlobalSecurity.org. "You've got people jumping up and down and screaming bloody murder over this, and you have people who are willing to let the Army try it and see what happens. And everyone will be watching to see how effective they are in Iraq."

The Stryker vehicles are intended to support a nimble, high-tech fighting force that can offer more firepower, battlefield intelligence and troop protection than a traditional light-infantry brigade equipped with thin-skinned Humvees.

And the Stryker vehicles, unlike cumbersome tank brigades, can be flown rather than shipped to hot spots around the world.

Army officials won congressional approval to buy $4 billion worth of the vehicles enough money to outfit six Stryker brigades with more than 2,100 of the vehicles. The first two brigades are stationed at Fort Lewis.

Among the vehicle's supporters are the soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, who will take some 300 vehicles to Iraq when they're deployed in late October or early November.

"The Strykers get us right to the objective without us losing all that energy," said Sgt. Taalo Lauofo. The 27-year-old squad leader from American Samoa transferred to the unit from a traditional light-infantry unit, where soldiers were used to lugging 80-pound packs miles to get to a battle zone.

But even the squads recognize its limitations.

"I think what's gotten lost is that the Stryker is an infantry carrier. It's designed to move my soldiers to the point of attack and then provide support. It's a carrier vehicle, not a fighter vehicle," said Lt. Col. Buck James, who commands a battalion that operates 72 Stryker vehicles.

That concept was underscored during training exercises yesterday, as a half-dozen Strykers cautiously approached a mock village filled with soldiers dressed as civilians. The vehicles set up fire positions outside the village as troops swarmed out of the vehicles SWAT style, clearing buildings one by one.

The vehicles followed behind, providing extra fire support and a quick escape in case of ambush.

One of James' concerns is the vehicle's remote firing systems, which require them to be at a standstill to fire accurately, and must be reloaded from outside the safety of the vehicle.

James said they were looking for ways to mitigate those problems, and soldiers have learned to reload as fast as they can.

"I've got it down to about 30 to 40 seconds," said Spc. Jason Groves, a vehicle commander and gunner.

Congressional committees that oversee the Army have taken note of the Stryker's limitations.

In May, the House Armed Services Committee balked at committing a full $955 million to fund Stryker brigades in the next fiscal year.

Instead, the bill would condition $300 million of the spending on submission of a new Defense Department report. The committee wanted the Army to look at ways to modify the brigade equipment to provide more firepower and a wider range of combat options.

Meanwhile, Army officials and contractors are working out the final kinks in the vehicles. Just last month, Army officials discovered manufacturing problems with inner armor plates intended to block heavy machine-gun fire.

Each vehicle is covered with 132 plates designed to protect against up to 14.5-mm fire, slightly bigger than a .50-caliber bullet. But a subcontractor hired to provide the armor apparently deviated from the standards and at least one variation failed in a test firing, Army officials said.

The full extent of the plate problem is unknown, but it's serious enough that the Army has launched a top-priority test of all plates at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, with replacement tiles expected to be put on the brigade's vehicles later this month.

The Stryker brigade also is heading off to Iraq without a separate outer layer of plates designed to protect against rocket-propelled grenades, which insurgents have used again and again to deadly effect against U.S. troops in Iraq.

These plates are not scheduled to be ready for use until sometime next year. So the Army is installing an interim system a steel cage that surrounds the sides of the vehicle. It's designed to explode grenades away from the vehicle.

But the armor is far from perfect protection. An initial rocket-propelled grenade, for example, could destroy the armor, exposing the two-member crew and up to nine soldiers riding inside to deadly fire.

If a Stryker does get taken out by enemy fire in Iraq, the critics may be quick to pounce.

"The Iraq war has demonstrated the kind of firepower that even an incompetent enemy can bring to bear," said Victor O'Reilly, a novelist and defense consultant who has written several harsh critiques of the Stryker vehicles. "We need deployable, heavily armed ... fighting vehicles not the Strykers."

But Army officials and contractors who developed the Stryker say they are doing everything possible to protect the troops. "It's important that parents and family members of soldiers realize that there is a lot of testing that is not publicly available. A lot of armchair pundits just assume things that are not so, and are flat wrong," said Peter Keating, a spokesman for General Dynamics, a main contractor.

And in a recent visit to Iraq, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the commander of U.S. troops, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, is looking forward to the Stryker brigade for possible deployment in Baghdad and surrounding areas.

"His eyes definitely lit up," Cantwell said. "He said, 'We can't wait to get them here.' "

If the vehicles prove themselves, it will be a testament to the vision of former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who faced critics even inside the Department of Defense when he dreamed up the idea for a new wheeled Army in 1999.

The idea posed a big challenge to contract designers. They needed to find the right compromise between the weight of armor and guns, and the slimmed-down demands of air-cargo travel. They came up with a group of vehicles, including an infantry carrier, mobile gun system, mortar carrier and anti-tank system.

The inside of the Stryker vehicles feature a new age of digitized, computerized operations. A vehicle commander, for example, who receives orders to attack an urban position some 50 miles away, can then punch up detailed maps right down to side alleys of the target area.

Army and contractor officials say the initial goals are being met, including the concept of aerial deployment. The vehicles at least in some configurations can be loaded on C-130s and flown to a battle zone.

But debate about aerial deployment was sharpened in June by the release of a General Accounting Office report, which concluded that the Air Force lacked enough lift to meet the four-day benchmark for the brigade's deployment. Instead, the report found that it would take "five to 14 days, depending on destination," and only with a huge commitment of Air Force resources.

Kendell Pease, a General Dynamics spokesman, said the GAO report is not a criticism of the Stryker, but simply a reflection of the limitations of Air Force cargo fleets.

The Stryker's performance in war games also has sharpened the debate.

Last year, during a "Millennium Challenge in California," a $250 million joint military exercise, 13 of 14 Strykers were taken out by small-arms fire, grenades and guns mounted on enemy vehicles, during ambushes and other "enemy" encounters.

On one of the simulated missions, the Strykers failed to kill a single enemy vehicle, according to an initial performance review by the Army's Test Evaluation and Command Center. Pease said the Stryker has had many improvements since the California test.

For brigade commander Col. Michael Rounds, the vehicle's assets far outweigh any shortcomings.

"My evaluation is, 'Am I comfortable taking this brigade into combat?' " he said. "And I'm absolutely comfortable."

Security breaches trigger alarm bells

Ongoing attacks overseas and a series of terror-related issues at home have given Australians cause to be more alert and alarmed than ever, DOUG CONWAY argues.

AUSTRALIANS are told by the Federal Government to be alert, but not alarmed about terrorism.

Some, however, are alarmed that too many are not alert.

The government itself was not alert enough to put its terrorism hotline number in the White Pages, an oversight which led to a prime ministerial apology.

Customs security was not alert enough to prevent two bogus computer technicians of Arabic appearance from strolling into a top-security mainframe room at Sydney airport, dismantling two computers and wheeling them out on trolleys.

The computers are said to contain thousands of confidential memos between customs, ASIO and federal police.

A Sydney security firm was not alert enough to stop two armed men from raiding its suburban office and stealing 34 Glock handguns. Obliging Security Services has no more idea than anyone whose hands those guns will end up in.

Intelligence services or police or both were not alert enough to act quickly on information linking two Muslim leaders in Australia with alleged al-Qaida official Abu Dahdah, being held in a Spanish prison over his dealings with September 11 hijacker Mohammad Atta.

Federal police have only just sought permission to interview Dahdah, three years after Australian agencies say they first became aware of his alleged Australian links and two years since he was detained.

One of the Muslim leaders, former Qantas baggage handler Bilal Khazal of Sydney, was named in Spanish court documents suggesting he sought help from Dahdah to move a "brother" and his family through Europe.

The other, Melbourne cleric Sheikh Mohammed Omran, who has denied any links to Dahdah, was also allegedly involved in fundraising activities with Mamdouh Habib, the Sydney man being held by the US in Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It will not much matter how alert the airline industry is to foiling any attempt to fire a shoulder-launched missile at a big passenger jet, according to some experts.

Sooner or later it is bound to happen, they say. Even Prime Minister John Howard admits this is now a more likely threat than hijacking. "Do it at multiple airports on multiple continents and people won't fly," said United States security expert John Pike.

Qantas says it would cost $700 million to protect its global fleet with military-style anti-missile systems, and better results would be achieved if the government tried to identify potential launch sites near airports.

That's not going to be easy, though. The surface-to-air missiles can be fired in 65 seconds from a range of more than 5km. They travel at 1250km/h to altitudes more than 4km and contain infra-red sensors that lock on to the heat generated by aircraft engines.

Then there are the hundreds of suburban and regional airports around the country where, according to one expert, anyone could walk onto the field and "within five minutes" find a light aircraft that can be started by a button rather than a key.

Federal police confirm they have 65 active inquiries on their hands into terror-related claims.

A dozen are said to be of a serious nature involving links to terror suspects, military training, bomb-making equipment or shady financial dealings.

It's enough to make you alert and alarmed.


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