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December 14, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

Congress passed legislation this week requiring the Pentagon to report on China's growing computer-warfare capabilities when producing assessments of Chinese military power.

The fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, passed yesterday by the House, contains a provision requiring the annual Military Power of the People's Republic of China report to include a new section on Beijing's "efforts to acquire, develop and deploy cyberwarfare capabilities" in its assessments of China's "asymmetric" warfare capabilities.

The legislation comes as reports of aggressive Chinese military-origin computer hacking were detected in recent months at U.S. defense and military sites in the United States and Europe. The Department of Homeland Security earlier this month sent out a circular that warned about a sophisticated computer attack on Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in October that it said likely originated in China.

U.S. intelligence officials said China's military has a large-scale program to attack U.S. computer systems, both military and civilian, as part of efforts to cripple war-fighting capabilities in a conflict. The efforts include the use of viruses, prepositioned electronic network doors and denial-of-service attacks. The Chinese military also conducts intelligence-gathering through computer penetrations.

The cyberwarfare provision is part of the $696 billion bill that is expected to be passed by the Senate and then signed by the president in the next few days.

The House-Senate conference report also contains language expressing concerns about the large-scale Chinese military buildup.

"The conferees note China's continued investment in strategic military capabilities that could be used to support power projection and access denial operations beyond the Asia Pacific region, and the lack of transparency surrounding the strategic military capabilities and intentions relating to China's military modernization," the report stated.

China could become a military competitor, and the report noted China's anti-satellite-weapon test in January and the provocative surfacing of a Chinese submarine near the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in October 2006 "demonstrated such potential."

Congress called on the secretary of defense "to expand efforts to develop an accurate assessment and understanding of China's strategic military modernization and strategic intentions, particularly with regard to its sea- and space-based strategic capabilities," the report said, in what defense officials said is a slap at poor U.S. intelligence assessments of China's military.

Iraq report
A senior military official in Baghdad said Iranians are continuing to train insurgents, who then are sent back to Iraq to fight against the new Iraqi government and coalition forces.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in recent weeks, there have been "some decreases" in the flow of Iranian weapons and explosives to insurgents.

However, at the same time, the official said, "we have captured some folks of late that have recently received training in Iran, which goes counter to what [Iranian leaders] have pledged to the Iraqi government."

The training includes schooling in military and insurgency warfare tactics.

As for foreign fighters, the official said Syria appears to be taking more steps to reduce the number of military-age males who leave Damascus airport "with one-way tickets" for Iraq. "They have also taken steps on their border to make it more secure," he said.

Saudi Arabia, another major regional source for insurgents and terrorists in Iraq, also is working to curb the influx.

"Saudi Arabia has done fatwas [religious edicts] against the individuals going to fight and commit suicide," the official said, noting that the Saudi government also is conducting re-education classes "for those that are caught up in it."

On Iranian support, Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told reporters recently that "we have seen a reduction in some of the signature attacks, if you will, that are associated with weapons provided by Iran: [Explosively Formed Projectiles], 240-mm rockets, RPG-29s, and some MANPAD man-portable air defense systems."

"And again, hard to tell if that's because there has already been a cessation of provision of those items or if there had been direction to stop that or what it is."

Navy v. China
The chief of naval operations told Congress yesterday that the U.S. Navy is building up its forces to be ready to challenge a future military threat from China.

Adm. Gary Roughead was asked by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing what steps were being taken by the Navy to address China's large-scale naval buildup.

"We look at the capabilities that navies have that are evolving, China being one of them," Adm. Roughead said. "And that has driven our advancements in certain capabilities, whether it be in anti-submarine warfare, ballistic missile defense, the command-and-control capabilities that we need on our ships as we operate globally as a global Navy."

Asked whether China's military buildup has prompted planning for more submarines, more missiles and more aircraft, Adm. Roughead said, "yes, sir."

The four-star admiral said one example is the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship that is made for fighting near coasts but also is "capable of running and providing enhanced [anti-submarine warfare] capability to our more traditional battle formations, our expeditionary strike groups and carrier strike groups."

The new ship is "a function of the need that we see for anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare and anti-surface warfare capability in areas where we see the threat evolving," he said, "to include China."

China's naval buildup includes large numbers of guided-missile warships and submarines, including at least three new classes with cruise and ballistic missiles designed to attack U.S. aircraft carriers.

NIE and missile shield
Senior Pentagon officials said privately said this week that the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran undermined efforts to conclude agreements with Poland and Czech Republic for a third missile-defense site in those nations and also bolstered opposition of the plan, namely the Russian government and left-wing anti-defense groups in Europe.

Publicly, senior Defense Department leaders say the intelligence community's reversal on Iran's nuclear program does not lessen the threat of Tehran's missiles and the need for the 10-interceptor anti-missile site in Poland and radar in Czech Republic.

However, Congress already moved to limit funding for the missile-defense interceptor base and radar until agreements are reached with the governments in Warsaw and Prague.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering, head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said his agency is committed to going ahead with a third missile-defense site in Europe despite the recent release of the NIE on Iran's nuclear program that said Tehran probably halted its arms program in 2003.

"Iran did have a nuclear-weapons program that they kept hidden for years, and that they're keeping their options open continuing their nuclear enrichment program which could restart their nuclear weapons program at any time," Gen. Obering told The Washington Times.

"More importantly for MDA, Iran continues significant investment in the development and testing of a robust ballistic missile program," Gen. Obering said. "They are, in fact, continuing to develop ballistic missiles of ever-increasing ranges which already could threaten our European allies.

"Our plans for deployment of up to 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Europe will move forward," he said. "Our objective continues to be the ability to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile warhead before it can strike a target in Europe or the U.S., regardless of its payload."

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the NIE did not address Iran's missile program, but "we were recently reminded of the threat posed by that program when Tehran tested a missile capable of hitting targets up to 2,000 kilometers away."

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

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