American generals are pessimistic about the country’s capabilities in the space and cyber realms when it comes to potentially matching up against rival nations in a time of war.
At the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sunday, several officials expressed their concern as China advances and the U.S. fails to keep pace.
“The answer is no, we’re not ready,” Lt. Gen. Leah G. Lauderback said according to Air & Space Forces Magazine. Lauderback is the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and cyber effects
Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Kennedy Jr., commander of Air Forces Cyber, stressed to an audience of service members the importance and immediacy of the threat they are facing.
“We’re talking about the PRC, and Russia, and think about the spectrum of conflict. We clearly are in competition with both,” he said. “We’re being targeted. You, personally, are being targeted right now by our adversaries whether it’s via social networks, devices, or the information that you’re using to accomplish your mission.”
China in particular was singled out for the speed at which they are developing. In late 2015, China launched the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force, which addresses space and cyber operations like information and electromagnetic warfare.
“As we pivot to China, what gives me concern is how fast they’re moving,” Space Force Brig. Gen. Gregory J. Gagnon said. “We have to tell that story. Because that’s the story that I think people who make resource decisions need to hear.”
Gagnon said China has more than 260 satellites watching the Pacific “to provide warning and to provide strike capability if directed by leadership.”
Regarding electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) operations, in particular, Lauderback said, “We are nowhere near where we need to be with that.”
According to a 2019 Air Force publication, “a degree of superiority in the EMS” is necessary for engaging in “operations against peer- and near-peer adversaries in contested environments.” The document said the U.S. military’s platforms rely on the EMS for things like microwave and satellite communications, computers, infrared applications, and lasers, and that this reliance is “increasingly challenged by competitors and adversaries.”
The warnings came days after a Senate Intelligence Committee report warned that U.S. adversaries are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to steal secrets and says U.S. counterintelligence must enact robust reforms to better meet this challenge.
The report warned that U.S. adversaries have access to a wider variety of tools for stealing information or inflaming social and political tensions than in past years.
The report concluded that U.S. spy agencies’ efforts to meet these challenges are hampered by miscommunication and a lack of money and staff at the agency intended to coordinate those efforts. It also recommended that Congress, in conjunction with the Executive Branch and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, develop a consistent U.S. government-wide definition of counterintelligence that reflects today’s landscape.
Fox News’s Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.