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U.S. Military Strategy Evolves On Ground, In Space

While looking for ways to cope with growing threats like roadside bombs, which now account for half of U.S. casualties in Iraq, the Department of Defense is also seeking to gain control of cyber-space as well as the "global commons" of outer space.
FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Pentagon planners are searching high and low for new technologies needed for everything from reducing roadside bomb casualties in Iraq to securing cyber-space and gaining control of the emerging high ground of space.

The focus of Defense Department efforts to rethink its strategy in response to the Iraqi insurgency and the growing threat of “asymmetric warfare” is the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) scheduled to be delivered to Congress in February. While looking for ways to cope with growing threats like roadside bombs, which now account for half of U.S. casualties in Iraq, DoD also seeking to gain control of cyber-space as well as the “global commons” of space.

Ryan Henry, deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told an industry conference here this week that U.S. military planners are seeking to create an “active, layered defense” covering “sea space, air space, [outer] space and cyber-space.”

According to a Defense Department spending forecast released here by the Government Electronics & Information Technology Industries Association (GEIA, Arlington, Va.), space is one of the largest growth areas in DoD’s budget. GEIA forecasts that spending on unclassified military space programs will reach about $8 billion annually in the next two years. Highly classified spy satellites programs push the total much higher, analysts said.

“The space enterprise must learn how to produce programs on budget and schedule to convince Congress to fund major new systems,” said James Oberlin, manager of market intelligence at BAE Systems. “The QDR challenges expand the challenge that already faces the industrial base in the space market

But is it down-to-earth problems like roadside bombs and other so-called asymmetrical threats that have military planners scrambling for solutions. Insurgents are “employing technologies and methods that counter or cancel our current military advantages,” DoD’s Ryan said. Whether its improvised explosive devices, network viruses or space warfare, “we need to stay a generation ahead.”

U.S. military officials told the Washington Post this week that insurgents are adapting to U.S. defensive measures to build more deadly roadside bombs that blast lethal shrapnel into the cabins of U.S. armored vehicles.

The insurgents “are looking for asymmetric capabilities,” Ryan said. In order to counter what the Pentagon calls “disruptive” threats, the Pentagon official said U.S. forces must leverage key strengths like adaptability and net-centric operations that allow quick dissemination of battlefield data to where it is needed.

In terms of future U.S. military strategy, adaptability includes “what we have and how we can use can differently,” Ryan said.