US and Chinese national flags are hung outside a hotel in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Add to the list of things wrong with the US missile defense program the fact that the Chinese military has hacked into it and learned its secrets.
The Washington Post, in a major investigative piece today on China’s prolific hacking capabilities—certain to be a major agenda item when President Obama meets President Xi next month—notes that Beijing has cracked the code of countless US weapons systems by means of stealthy computer intrusions. The piece, which needs to be read in its entirety, begins with this:
Designs for many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry.
Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to US missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.
According to the Post, which obtained a classified section of a recent report for the Department of Defense by the Defense Science Board, China hacked into design data for “the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.”
And China has stolen plans for the ultra-expensive F-35 fighter jet and other systems as well:
Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore.
Winslow Wheeler, a defense reform expert at the Project on Government Oversight, told the Post that the stolen data could be the death knell for the missile-defense programs:
“If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it. If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.”
Of course, hacking into the brain of a program that may not even work is of limited value. As AFP recently reported, after noting that so far, since the 1980s, the program has cost at least $158 billion:
Three decades after Ronald Reagan launched his “Star Wars” project, the costly missile defense program has become a pillar of US strategy despite lingering doubts about its technology.
No longer designed to counter a Soviet nuclear attack, the anti-missile network is supposed to thwart a “limited attack” from North Korea or Iran. But numerous experts question if the system even works.
That hasn’t stopped defense hawks, led by the Heritage Foundation, from attacking Obama for downplaying missile defense. According to Heritage, in a recent report on the program, the administration’s plan to spend nearly $10 billion a year for the next several years on missile defense is not enough:
It is for these reasons that the Obama Administration’s proposed budget for the missile defense program for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and beyond is so strangely disconnected from its recent announcements. According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the new budget proposes to reduce the already inadequate missile defense budget of a bit more than $10.3 billion in FY 2012 to $9.7 billion in FY 2013, and down further to less than $9.2 billion in FY 2014. Worse, the lower funding levels do not reflect the application of automatic spending reductions, called sequestration, in either FY 2013 or FY 2014. Sequestration, which applies a reduction of roughly 9 percent to the requested level across all applicable missile defense programs, projects, and activities, is already under way in FY 2013.
Are the Internet titans seizing too much control of our personal information? Maybe it’s time for a People’s Terms of Service.