QUANTICO, Va. — A Marine infantry squad with its own “Star Wars” drone. A combat unit in the field making its own spare parts with a 3-D printer. A truck that tells its operators when it needs maintenance.
These are a few of the innovative concepts a panel of senior Marine Corps leaders on Sept. 27 said were being developed or considered to help the Corps operate and, if necessary, fight in a future that could include a “great power war.”
The officers also discussed broader ideas such as the Marines finding ways to help the Navy achieve sea control in a heavily contested littoral environment and developing the capabilities to fight information warfare to match the newly threatening Russians.
Spot, a quadruped prototype robot, aids Marines in clearing a room during a demonstration at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Sept. 16, 2015.
The officials’ report to industry came on the opening day of the Modern Day Marine exposition at the historic “home of the Marine Corps.”
The focus of the report and the expo is innovation and a drive to move the Corps quickly into the future to respond to the rapid increase and global proliferation of advanced technology and an increasingly complex security environment.
Those themes will be highlighted by the unveiling of a new operating concept by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.
The panel listed a number of efforts already underway, including a rapid capabilities office designed to reduce the prolonged acquisition process. That is tied into an innovation center that has a website eliciting revolutionary ideas from Marines at all levels. They also mentioned a 10-year experimental effort called Sea Dragon and a drive to change basic organization in the Marine Corps Force 2025 initiative.
“What we see is how technology is changing so rapidly. That excites us, but also scares us a bit,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration.
To avoid falling behind potential adversaries, Walsh said, the Corps is changing, but “we have to go faster. The commandant is pushing us to go faster.”
Deputy Commandant for Programs, Plans and Operations Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey noted the Russian capabilities in information warfare and warned “we have to be able to operate in that environment to be successful.”
Highlighting the need for greater use of robotic system, Bailey envisioned “every infantry squad having an R2D2,” a reference to the Star Wars drone.
Director of Combat Development and Integration Brig. Gen. Roger Turner said he is moving into phase two of the Force 2025 study that is developing the kind of Marine Corps needed for future conflicts with peer competitors or against “non-state actors” that could use asymmetric guerrilla tactics or high technology weapons.
“It is sobering to think we could be engaged in great powers war. … That is a major driver in Force 2025, that we’re not prepared to fight great power war,” Turner said.
In the emerging combat environment, Turner said, naval force will “really have to fight for sea control,” and his office is looking for ways that the Marine Air Ground Task Force deployed with an amphibious force can contribute to sea control to enable power projection in a contested environment.
Assistant Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics Brig. Gen. Terry Williams described efforts under way to achieve “hybrid logistics” that would reduce the burden of pushing supplies and support into isolated combat units by improving their ability to provide their own water, recharge batteries and use less fuel.
He said use of 3-D printing could allow deployed units to produce their own spare parts and “sense and response” maintenance would allow vehicle maintenance to be conducted only when needed and would avoid unnecessary work.
Marine Corps Systems Command chief Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader described a number of ways to reduce the weight of combat forces, including shifting to “active protection” systems for tactical vehicles, instead of the “passive protection” of armor plating, and changing the combat gear carried by ground units. Active protection would use small munitions to intercept anti-armor missiles.
He said other efforts were ongoing that might provide different combat equipment for the different jobs performed by Marine infantry units, such as riflemen, machinegunners or mortar crews.
The 334th Training Squadron incorporated the first virtual reality training for airfield management students in the Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, June 28, 2019, so they can get more of a “hands-on” learning experience.
Chief Master Sgt. Paul Portugal, Airfield Management career field manager, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virgina, relates this new technology to the mission of Air Education and Training Command.
“Innovation and the continuum of learning has always been a priority of AETC to make our airmen more effective and efficient,” Portugal said.
Master Sgt. Joshua Stillwagon, 334th TRS instructor, believes this new technology can teach the airmen more efficiently than the previous, lecture-based class because of the hands-on experience.
An Airman from the 334th Training Squadron tries out new virtual reality technology of the 334th TRS at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)
“This system gives instructors the capability to not just tell airmen, but instantly show them a concept,” Stillwagon said.
The simulation includes the setting of an airfield and allows students to practice their job as if they were operational.
“The VR technology gives our students a visual representation of airfield hazards that can be unsafe,” Portugal said. “They don’t need to imagine it, they can visualize cranes, trees or other things that can affect flight safety.”
Portugal believes this training will not only help the future of airfield management training, but improve the overall training of airmen.
U.S. Air Force Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, speaks about the new virtual reality technology of the 334th Training Squadron at Cody Hall, on Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, June 28, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Seth Haddix)
“The technological jump that we are making in how we create a more efficient and effective airmen is the biggest part of this,” Portugal said.
Col. Leo Lawson Jr., previous 81st Training Group commander, was impressed with the quality of the new VR experience.
“The VR training simulations blew me away,” Lawson said. “Not only was it able to deliver the training our airmen need to understand the concept of the job, but it did so with great quality.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis personally intervened in Trump’s budget request to get more bombs to drop on ISIS, Defense News reports.
Mattis requested about $3.5 billion more in “preferred munitions” for the 2018 Pentagon budget, John Roth, acting undersecretary of defense and chief financial officer, told Defense News.
“As we closed out this budget, over the last two or three weeks in particular, a great deal of concern was being raised with current inventory levels, particularly given some of the expenditures in the CENTCOM area of operations,” Roth said. “So the secretary mandated and insisted we fully fund, to the maximum extent possible, the full production capacities for certain selected preferred munitions.”
The extra bombs and ammo Mattis asked for were (per Defense News):
7,664 Hellfire missiles, worth $713.9 million for Lockheed Martin
34,529 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), worth $874.3 million for Boeing
6,000 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), worth $889.5 million for Lockheed Martin
7,312 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB), worth $504.1 million to Boeing and Raytheon
100 Tomahawk Missiles, worth $381.6 million for Raytheon
An unlisted number of Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS), worth $200 million
All in all, the Pentagon is asking for about $16.4 billion in missiles and munitions in the 2018 fiscal year budget.
The DoD said it has spent about $2.8 billion on munitions since the August 2014 start of the campaign against ISIS up to the end of March 2017. And Air Force Maj. Gen. James Martin Jr. said on Tuesday that munitions reserves are “challenged” by the current operations.
In February, Trump requested an extra $54 billion in defense spending for 2018. The request has been criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as being too little, or cutting too much from domestic spending and foreign aid.
Over the years Hollywood has shed both positive and negative light on the military experience. While the biographical examples might face severe scrutiny over matters of accuracy, here are 8 fictional military characters who inarguably wouldn’t cut it in the real deal:
1. Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker – “McHale’s Navy”
When the military is used as the basis for a sitcom, it’s inevitable that some of the troops won’t exactly be up to snuff. Ensign Parker brings that to another level, actively causing harm to U.S. and Allied Forces. (The show takes place during World War II.) He accidentally fires a depth charge in one episode, and in another accidentally shoots down an Allied aircraft. That’s a level of ineptitude the United States military wouldn’t and frankly couldn’t stand for.
2. Buster Bluth – “Arrested Development”
Buster is enlists in “Army,” as he calls it, due to a dare a comedian makes to his mother. And lucky for him, he’s immediately honorably discharged after having his hand bit off by a seal. In season 4, he re-enlists to control drones in Iraq. Buster has a blast – until someone explains to him that what he’s doing is real, and he immediately has a panic attack. Then again, Buster once had a panic attack because a llama was near him. He might tell you he’s in Army, but he isn’t Army Strong.
3. Beetle Bailey – “Beetle Bailey”
One thing you certainly can’t be in any branch of the military is lazy, and Beetle Bailey is perhaps the laziest of them all. He’ll do anything to get out of work, including putting his fellow soldiers, and commanding officers, at serious risks. Luckily, the characters at Camp Swampy don’t seem to face any particular risk of war being declared, and therefore will likely avoid any form of actual combat. If they did face an enemy attack, or were sent to fight someplace, chances are Beetle Bailey would be too lazy to even raise his arms.
4. Gareth Keenan – “The Office” (BBC version)
There’s no real reason to doubt Gareth Keenan when he claims he was a Lieutenant in the Territorial Army before joining Wernam-Hogg, aside from how utterly clueless he seems to be when Tim and Dawn quiz him about tactical strategy. Gareth talks a big game, always being prepared to take a man from behind, give a man a lethal blow, or even discharge with rapid speed if enemies should uncover and enter his hole — you know, find out where he’s hiding. The fact Gareth never seems to understand the double entendres behind his own boasts kind of makes him look foolish, perhaps too foolish to actually achieve any kind of rank.
5. Zapp Brannigan – “Futurama”
Zapp may be a 25-Star General in the Year 3000, buts its impossible to imagine he’d last a single day in any branch of the U.S. military. No part of Brannigan’s success makes sense. Although Brannigan’s Law is named after him, he openly admits he doesn’t understand it in the slightest. In fact, most of Brannigan’s successes are subjugating and annihilating weak and defenseless aliens, which, while smart satire, isn’t something that would actually be tolerated in the military.
6. Don Draper – “Mad Men”
Don’s a special case on this list, in that his whole story is that he quite literally couldn’t make it in the military. As fans now know, Draper’s mystery actually began with him as Dick Whitman, but things dramatically changed during the Korean War. Terrible things happen during war, and its hard to say how any individual would react when faced with the horrors Whitman and his Lieutenant, the real Don Draper, faced. But what’s clear is Whitman’s reaction is highly illegal and wouldn’t be tolerated in any military.
7. Homer Simpson – “The Simpsons”
Homer Simpson has had over 100 jobs, and he’s been terrible at nearly every one of them. His time in the service still manages to rank among his most inept. Homer actually joined the service twice—first as a member of the Navy Reserve in Season 9, then in Season 18 he enlisted in the Army. As a member of the Navy Reserve, Homer nearly caused a nuclear war with Russia, and in the Army he turned a training exercise into a city-wide explosive event. The military always welcomes recruits, but Homer should probably stick to his hundreds of other jobs.
8. Dave Titus – “Titus”
Everyone in the Titus family seems to think it would be a great idea for Dave to join the Army. It could teach him responsibility and get him to stop doing drugs and being lazy. However, his brother Christopher sees it a different way: the Army isn’t going to bring Dave up; Dave’s going to bring the Army down. Fearing “Private Dave” could somehow cause nuclear destruction, Christopher gives Dave some pot to smoke on the way to recruitment, hoping this story will find a less destructive end.
Turning conventional wisdom on its ear, one former Army Drill Sergeant has built a multi-million dollar apparel business by uniquely applying military operational techniques and culture.
During his time on active duty, Dan Alarik was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. Following his overseas duty, he served as a drill instructor at Fort Benning — a tour that changed his life in a very unorthodox way. Alarik pooled money with a few of his friends and they started to make t-shirts for the various units stationed there. In 2009 he had enough success that he decided to separate from the Army after 13 years and move back to his hometown of Chicago to start a t-shirt company.
Alarik’s vision for what he called “Grunt Style” was very clear. He wanted to bring the best parts of his Army experience — especially the elements of patriotism and service — to the rest of the nation.
As the company grew, Alarik took two bold steps: He moved the business out of his apartment and into an office space and he hired an employee — a fellow vet. From there growth was rapid. The company outgrew the office within five months and moved to a bigger space that they, in turn, outgrew five months after that.
But, as any entrepreneur knows, rapid growth can hobble a startup as much as the absence of it unless there’s a sound strategy behind it. And that’s where Alarik leveraged his military pedigree.
He modeled Grunt Style after the most effective military units he’d been part of during his time on active duty. The company is organized into two platoons: Maneuvers (marketing sales, and design) and Support By Fire (production and fulfillment).
And, more importantly in terms of being true to his business vision, Alarik has populated that military-themed organization with veterans. Seventy percent of his 100-plus employees are vets. (Also of note, manpower-wise, is that his wife, Elizabeth, is the chief financial officer.)
“I had my own challenges with fitting into office culture right out of the Army,” Alarik said. “From the beginning, one of my goals was to make Grunt Style feel familiar to vet employees. Not only do I love working with people who are patriotic and proud, there’s a strong business case behind that idea.”
Another military best practice that Alarik has put in place is pushing responsibility and authority to the lowest level possible. For instance, on the shop floor, “sew leaders” (the title given to front-line manufacturing personnel) work with very little oversight. He also instituted a “battle buddy” program for new hires that ensures the onboarding process is smooth and tackles any issues quickly.
“A paycheck is important, but for vets a job is more than that,” Alarik said. “They joined the military, for the most part, to be part of something bigger than themselves, something of consequence. That’s how we want them to feel about Grunt Style.”
“I knew when I met Dan that I wanted to be part of Grunt Style,” said Tim Jenson, COO and first sergeant. “It feels like ‘home’ working alongside people that get each other and work towards a common goal.”
The result of Alarik’s strategy is a $36 million business with a large facility complete with multiple warehouses for designing, printing, and packaging product. And every shirt comes with what the company calls a “beer guarantee.”
“What that means is if you’re not satisfied you can return a shirt for whatever reason — even if it’s soaked in beer — and we’ll give you a refund,” Alarik said.
And Alarik isn’t done yet. He recently launched “Alpha Outpost,” billed as “the best monthly subscription box for men.” Each month subscribers are mailed a box of interesting items around a specific theme. Previous themes have included “BBQ and Chill” (knives, grill gloves, spices, cookbook), “The Medic” (first aid equipment), and “The Gentlemen” (silk tie, flask, leaded glass).
Companies that struggle with hiring and retaining veterans can learn from Grunt Style’s approach. Alarik has found that the best way to get the most from veterans is not trying to force them into a corporate culture but rather to create a military-friendly environment where they can quickly assimilate and immediately make meaningful contributions to the company.
But the fad didn’t make its debut on a famous red carpet or in an elegant fashion show — it’s the brilliant invention of the U.S. Navy.
Although no one has been officially accredited with inventing the bell bottom trouser, the flared out look was introduced for sailors to wear in 1817. The new design was made to allow the young men who washed down the ship’s deck to roll their pant legs up above their knees to protect the material.
This modification also improved the time it took to take them off when the sailors needed to abandon ship in a moments notice. The trousers also doubled as a life preserver by knotting the pant legs.
The Quantico Marine Corps Band Performed at Times Square with more than 1,000 high school student for the Band of Prde Tribute Concert on November 10, 2014. The bands drew crowds of people who stood by, rendered salutes, took photos and video recorded lasting memories.
The Marine Corps is one of the most prestigious branches of the U.S. military. They have earned honors and recognition through many important and dangerous missions. Yet, one would not readily associate a career as a professional musician and the Marine uniform. One would be wrong.
The Marine Band is the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. They have played at every single United States presidential inauguration since 1801 when Thomas Jefferson personally asked them to perform at his. They have also performed at many official ceremonies and events at the White House throughout the years. Due to their special connection with the POTUS, the Marine Band is known as the “President’s Own.”
However, that connection comes with an obligation for exacting musical standards. The Marine Band plays hundreds of occasions, all around the world. Every single one of these performances must be flawless, to meet the standard of excellence expected from the entirety of the Marine Corps.
The search for perfection starts at auditions. Candidates are not required to have any specific level of education. However, a lot of them have at least a college degree. Due to the number and variety of performances given by the Marine Band, candidates must be very versatile to be able to play in a wide range of music styles, such as orchestra, marching band, jazz group, ceremonial, rock band, etc. The auditions have three steps: prepared material, theoretical knowledge of music and finally, sight-reading, which counts for half of the final. These auditions are blind, to avoid any bias.
In addition to musical skills, candidates are also expected to meet high mental, moral and fitness standards, as is expected of any Marine. Finally, they must pass an extensive background check. Their proximity to the White House requires them to obtain a Secret security clearance. The Marine Band is a very exclusive club as, out of approximately 180,000 Marines, only 600 of them are musicians.
Training and education
Once a candidate is selected, he or she must sign a four-year contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. However, their duty is exclusive to the Band. They cannot be transferred to any other unit. They must also undergo six months of extra schooling at the School of Music in Virginia Beach. In these six months, the musicians will have to complete the equivalent of an associate degree. It is not for the faint of heart.
It might be surprising for musicians to be also asked to go through boot camp. However, it allows for reinforcement of the concepts of discipline, synchronicity and leadership. It teaches them to have pride in their uniform and the Corps. Marines are warriors first and foremost and musicians are basically trained Marines.
Depending on their specialty and the available positions, musicians can be sent to eight different bases around the continental United States. This includes Hawaii and Japan. Like all programs in the Marine Corps, the Marine Band only selects the very best to wear their uniform and perform their duties.
Life in the band
However, the musicians who succeed in joining the band can make a comfortable living from their music, to travel the world, to play on stage in front of heads of state and large crowds, and to serve in an honored Corps that will give them lifelong friends, moral values and a great sense of accomplishment. There are very few musicians who can boast such opportunities and experiences.
With over 700 performances around the world every year, including about 200 of those at the White House, the Marine Corps Band is really a musician’s dream come true.
Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Luna/Released
With the tax season upon us, service members and their families can access free tax-filing software and consultations to help them navigate the task of submitting their annual taxes.
Military members and their families can visit the Military OneSource website or call 1-800-342-9647 for the no-cost “MilTax” software, explained Erika Slaton, a program analyst with Military OneSource.
The Defense Department recognizes military members and their families have unique filing situations with deployments, relocations and various deductions and credits, she said.
The MilTax software, previously known as “Military OneSource Tax Services,” was created with the military situation in mind, Slaton said.
Expert Tax Consultants Ready to Help
Tax consultants are available via phone through Military OneSource, Slaton said. In-person tax filing assistance can be accessed at military installations at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location.
The tax consultants can inform eligible users about the unique tax benefits available to service members and their families, Slaton said.
Tax laws change each year, Slaton pointed out, adding MilTax consultants are experts on the nuances of the law and can help users get the tax credits they earned and deserve.
“That’s why it’s such a great program because it is a program that is specifically designed for those unique military tax situations,” she said.
Confidential, Secure Resources
MilTax is confidential and secure, Slaton said. The online filing program allows users to submit a federal return and up to three state tax returns, she said.
Those eligible for MilTax include members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard. Coast Guardsmen serving under Title 10 authority are entitled to the services as well. Retired and honorably discharged members are authorized for up to 180 days past their separation. Spouses, dependent children and survivors are able to use the free services as well.
Calculations are backed by a 100-percent accuracy guarantee, Slaton said.
The deadline to file taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18. The traditional tax deadline day is April 15, but it falls on a Saturday this year, and the following Monday, April 17, is Emancipation Day, in the District of Columbia — a legal holiday — according to the IRS.
Call, Click, Connect
Slaton wants the military community to know about the range of services and resources available at no cost through the Defense Department-funded Military OneSource, including related to health, family relationships, education, employment, financial issues, deployments and transitions.
Military members and their families, she said, can “call, click and connect today” to access these services.
“We encourage service members and their families to learn more about Military OneSource, MilTax and all of the services that are available because it is a benefit that they deserve,” she said.
Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Republic of Korea Special Forces responded to a farming accident while conducting partnered training in the Republic of Korea on April 25, 2018, saving the civilian’s life.
Together, the U.S. and Republic of Korea Special Forces Soldiers responded to an injured, unconscious, elderly Korean farmer who fell from his tractor and lacerated his right knee. The tractor subsequently caught fire and burned the farmer’s airway. Local civilians flagged down the Soldiers, who stabilized the patient and extinguished the tractor fire, then transferred the patient to emergency medical services.
“There’s a Korean man who is alive today because of the efforts of U.S. Special Forces and Republic of Korea special operations troops who were training nearby. We are exceptionally proud of their effort as well as the training and expertise they possess that allowed them to stabilized an injured civilian, extinguish a vehicle fire, and transfer the patient to local emergency medical services personnel,” said the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers involved in the event. “This incident is indicative of the broader strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance and the things that we can accomplish together as one team.”
The farmer in his 50s was injured and unconscious after an accident with his tractor, which turned over and caught fire, in the vicinity of Yeongcheon, North Gyeongsang Province.
A Republic of Korea Special Forces general presented the American Soldiers with citations on behalf of the Republic of Korea Special Warfare Command commanding general.
“It was a great opportunity for the detachments to demonstrate the friendship and interoperability of ROK and U.S. SOF,” said the Republic of Korea Special Forces battalion commander in charge of the Korean Special Forces soldiers involved in the event. “Further, it demonstrated to the Korean people that we can be trusted as a combined force. It was truly the friendship between our forces that set the conditions for the Soldiers to help the elderly farmer, and leave a positive impression on the local community.”
The US faces myriad conventional and unconventional threats: Russia, North Korea, Iran, terrorist organizations, climate change, and pandemics are just some of them. Yet, China unquestionably rises to the top as the primary danger to U.S. national security.
Earlier in 2021, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stated in Congress that Beijing has become an unparalleled priority for the U.S. Intelligence Community. Indeed, China has become a near-peer competitor that is increasingly challenging the U.S. in multiple domains, all the while trying to revise international norms and adjust them to the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian capitalistic system.
According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the Bureau opens a new counterintelligence investigation related to China every 10 hours, with more than 2,000 current active cases. The majority of these cases relate to economic espionage, which has seen a 1,300% increase in the last few years.
To effectively challenge and surpass the U.S., China needs a robust economy, leadership in technology, and global legitimacy for its political system and policies. Key to achieving these goals is the Chinese intelligence apparatus.
Chinese Espionage: The Dragon’s Eyes and Ears
The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is responsible for the majority of Chinese intelligence operations, with the Chinese military standing in at times, especially in cyber espionage operations.
Chinese intelligence operations are diverse and multi-layered, encompassing all available tools and sectors. State-owned companies, private firms (legitimate and non-), think tanks, non-governmental organizations, researchers, and students, in addition to the increasingly more prevalent cyber operations, are all used in this multi-prong intelligence collection approach. Beijing certainly has the capabilities and the numbers to pursue such a strategy. The Chinese military alone fields approximately 40,000 cyber troops, compared to the just 6,000 that the U.S. Cyber Command can deploy.
China seeks to become the world’s next superpower, dethroning the U.S. and tearing apart the rules-based international system that American and its allies have built since the end of World War Two. To achieve this goal, Beijing primarily goes after economic, industrial, and technological targets that will offer a competitive advantage to the Chinese economic and technological sector. Whether it’s stolen blueprints of American (and foreign, including Russian) aircraft, such as the F-35 or F-22, or missile technology, China is using espionage to fuel its economic furnaces.
These intelligence operations pose a grave threat to U.S. national security and economic prosperity. In a recent interview Mike Orlando, the Acting Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, stated that Chinese espionage costs the U.S. between $200 to $600 billion a year in stolen intellectual property. And this is something that has been happening for the past two decades, which would mean a loss of $4 trillion, on the low end, to $12 trillion, on the high end; an astounding loss either way.
“The holistic and comprehensive threat to the United States, posed by the Communist Party of China is an existential threat. And it is the most complex, pernicious, aggressive, and strategic threat our nation has ever faced,” Bill Evanina, the former director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, recently told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Both China and Russia take a whole-of-government or whole-of-nation approach to national security. Everything is on the table and nothing is off-limits. Businesses, universities, and individuals are expected to assist the government. In China, under the National Security Law, every business and citizen is required to cooperate with the military and intelligence services and assist the regime in any way possible.
What this means in practice is that when a Chinese student comes to the U.S. to study, he or she will be required to share their research or any information and technology that they might have access to with the Chinese intelligence services. They will also be required to observe and gauge their countrymen also studying at the same institution and report any dissident behavior.
Conversely, there is not such a whole-of-government or whole-of-nation approach in the U.S. For example, Apple won’t create vulnerabilities in its devices and software so the NSA or FBI can access them more easily to conduct surveillance against foreign (in the case of the NSA) or domestic (in the case of the FBI) targets. Indeed, American businesses have the option to work with the military or Intelligence Community but aren’t required to. That’s a strategic disadvantage—but also an institutional and moral advantage.
Economic Espionage: Stealing Ideas and Tech
In order to surpass the U.S., China needs to continue its economic growth and technologically outmatch the U.S. and the rest of the West. However, instead of relying on innovation and invention, China prefers to steal technology and then copy it.
China is targeting and stealing “transport technologies,” such as quantum computing, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and 5G. Although there is a military application for all of these technologies, the commercial and economic value is equally important to Beijing in its bid to become a superpower.
The Chinese also use talent acquisition programs to attract top talent to China, not unlike any other nation. But while innocuous at the face of it, these programs often require the stealing of technology from the previous company to provide to the hiring Chinese one as a part of that process.
“So if you look back 20 years ago, what we were most concerned about was intelligence services targeting the U.S. government for classified information or targeting DOD technologies. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years is the shift to private sector intellectual property research and development, particularly by China, who has been the most egregious one in stealing those technologies. And we’ve also seen their capabilities of China and Russia move from not only the human operations, but to cyber operations and to technical collection that has made it a difficult target to work,” Orlando added.
It’s worth noting that the U.S. Intelligence Community collects foreign intelligence just like the Chinese MSS. However, it’s the issue of how this intelligence is used that differentiates the two. Beijing won’t—and doesn’t— hesitate from collecting intelligence and stealing secrets to advance its economic purposes, including Chinese corporations, in addition to its national security.
The majority of countries employ their intelligence services in a similar manner. The French, for example, are historically notorious for their industrial and economic espionage, even against the U.S. Conversely, the U.S. collects foreign intelligence for national security purposes, rather than to share it with American corporations so that they can have a competitive advantage over their international competitors.
A Shift in Intelligence Collection
To further complicate matters, U.S. counterintelligence officers have seen a shift from more traditional espionage operations to non-traditional ones. Historically, countries have used two methods of human intelligence espionage: official cover and non-official cover.
Official cover is when an intelligence officer is assigned to an embassy or consulate abroad under a diplomatic role, for instance, as political officers or consular officers. In addition to their diplomatic duties, these officers perform their intelligence duties during the day or at night. Although they are known to the local country—and other countries—and are restricted by their secondary diplomatic tasks, they do enjoy diplomatic immunity if they are caught.
Non-official cover is when an intelligence officer deploys under a fake name and backstory, pretending to be someone he or she isn’t. This approach offers more flexibility to the intelligence officer as local counterintelligence officials and security services are less likely to suspect and thus monitor him or her. The use of non-official cover, or “Illegals,” as some countries call them, came into public view rather dramatically in 2010 with the arrest of 10 Russian intelligence officers who had been operating inside the U.S. for decades.
Now there seems to be a third category that, although it has always existed, never used to surpass those standard approaches in volume of use. Non-traditional collectors aren’t trained intelligence officers of the SVR, GRU, or MSS but rather businessmen, researchers, and students who have legitimate jobs or conduct genuine research. They use their innocuous-looking credentials to act as surrogates or proxies for their intelligence services.
The case of Maria Butina, who was arrested and convicted for being a Russian agent in 2018, is a great example of this approach. Under the genuine guise of a graduate student at the American University, Butina infiltrated conservative and NRA circles seeking to assess and develop targets.
As the above examples show, the Chinese intelligence efforts are formidable and worth taking very seriously.
Kimber has made a name for itself as a manufacturer of high quality small arms, especially their 1911 pistols. Based on the original design of John Moses Browning from over a century ago, the 1911 platform is famed for its crisp single-action trigger, .45 ACP stopping power, and being the winner of two world wars as well as the U.S. military’s longest serving sidearm. Today, Kimber makes pistols that have been used by the USA Shooting Team, LAPD SWAT, MARSOC, and John Wick.
Originally founded in 1979 in Clackamas, Oregon by Australian immigrant Jack Warne and his son, Greg, Kimber of Oregon started as a manufacturer of precision .22lr rifles. The late 1980s and early 1990s were tough on Kimber and Jack left to found the Warne Manufacturing Company. Greg revived Kimber with the financial backing of Les Edelman, owner of Nationwide Sports Distributors. Though the younger Warne was eventually forced out of the company, Edelman saw great opportunity in pairing Kimber’s reputation for quality and extensive network of dealers with his newly acquired Yonkers-based company, Jerico Precision Manufacturing.
Jerico was undergoing a drop in production due to cuts in defense spending, but still maintained a sizable industrial capability. Edelman moved Kimber’s production to Jerico’s facilities in New York, thus ending the Kimber presence in Oregon. It was at this time that Kimber began manufacturing the high quality 1911 handguns that the company is known for today.
Though its professional connection to tier one units like LAPD SWAT and MARSOC led to great commercial success and expansion of operations to New Jersey, Kimber faced political opposition from both states.
In early 2018, Kimber announced that it would move its manufacturing operations to Troy, Alabama with a new design engineering and manufacturing facility beginning operations in early 2019. “We are pleased with the impressive track record that Alabama has with attracting and retaining world-class manufacturing companies,” Edelman said.
Less than three years after announcing the move of its design and production facilities, the company announced that it would also move the Kimber headquarters to Troy. The company says that it will have 366 employees in Troy with a $38 million investment. “The final step in completing this new facility is adding staff across all departments,” the company announced in a press release. “Kimber’s new headquarters is situated on 80+ acres with more than 225,000 square-feet of space and is now home to industry-leading design engineering, product management and manufacturing capabilities.”
Kimber is not the only company to move its business to the area. In 2019, Lockheed Martin broke ground on a new missile facility at its Pike County campus, also in Troy. Less than three hours to the southwest, Airbus opened its A220 final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama in May 2020.
Russia’s Federal Security Service reportedly suspects that plans for two of Russia’s new, game-changing hypersonic missiles have been leaked to Western spies.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense on July 19, 2018, released new footage of two of its most revolutionary weapons systems: a hypersonic
Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile and the Avangard, a maneuverable ballistic missile reentry vehicle specifically made to outfox the US missile defenses arrayed around Europe.
The Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, now suspects these systems, each of which cope with the challenges of flight at about 10 times the speed of sound, have been leaked to the West.
“It was established that the leak came from TsNIIMash employees,” a source close to the FSB investigation told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, as the BBC noted. TsNIIMash is a Russian state-owned defense and space company.
“A lot of heads will roll, and for sure this case won’t end just with a few dismissals,” the source said.
A Boeing X-51 hypersonic cruise missile at Edwards Air Force Base in California in 2010.
China and Russia frequently test their weapons and have even fielded a few systems ahead of the US, but their focus is nuclear, while the US seeks a more technically difficult goal.
With nuclear weapons, like the kind Russia and China want on their hypersonics, accuracy doesn’t matter. But the US wants hypersonics for precision-strike missiles, meaning it has the added challenge of trying to train a missile raging at mach 10 to hit within a few feet of a target.
Given that nuclear weapons represent the highest level of conflict imaginable, believed in most cases to be a world-ending scenario, the US’s vision for precision-guided hypersonic conventional weapons that no missile defenses can block would seem to have more applications. The US’s proposed hypersonics could target specific people and buildings, making them useful for strikes like the recent ones in Syria.
But if Russia’s hypersonic know-how has somehow slipped into Western hands, as the FSB has reportedly indicated, then its comparative advantage could be even weaker.
Featured image: A MiG-31 firing a hypersonic Kh-47M2 “Kinzhal” nuclear-capable, anti-surface missile.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.