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Futurists have long predicted that the opening salvo of the next major war will more likely come in the form of a massive cyberattack than in waves of aircraft. All Americans should be concerned that we are actually paying extra for weapons that provide the enemy an opportunity to disrupt them. In spite of all of this, many people involved with the acquisitions process think we should increase our dependence on cyber capabilities, with few questioning the wisdom of having every weapon beyond a pistol attached to the Internet.

Government watchdog says the Pentagon has not taken the threat seriously enough.

The GAO report represents a significant step forward. Rather than infiltrating a network and stealing Social Security numbers and performance ratings, as the Chinese government accomplished with the Office of Personnel Management hack , a cyberattacker could gain full or partial control of one of these physical systems remotely.


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Every time an object touches the network, an opportunity for exploitation is created for a potential adversary. Some of these vulnerabilities are simple. Evaluators found that in numerous instances, engineers failed to reset default passwords when installing software. The evaluators merely had to look up the passwords online to gain administrator privileges, allowing them to seize control of the system.

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Hackers have already worked out ways to remotely disrupt networked vehicles. The duo turned up the air conditioning, changed radio stations, and activated the windshield wipers. It is easy to imagine what a hacker could do with an aircraft.

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In the end, however, they are little more than slick sales pitches. This is a real concern with a program like the F Any one of the connections that makes this complex arrangement possible could be the one that enemy cyber-warriors use to infiltrate and disrupt or disable the aircraft expected to be the centerpiece of the U.

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Most notably, the GAO did not look into the security of contractor facilities, although the authors hinted that future reports would explore this issue. Security of contractor facilities is a vital issue because of the role they play in long-term support of a weapon after the Pentagon buys it. While many people focus on procurement costs, what really makes the F program the most expensive in history is the money necessary to sustain it. This is particularly significant because of the near-universality of contractor support for every vehicle, weapon, and communications gadget moving forward.

Most now designate the technology in these systems—all of it developed at government expense—as proprietary. They then negotiate contracts with the government allowing them to retain the intellectual property rights for the weapons purchased by the government. Especially in the case of cyber-physical systems, the Pentagon must work through the contractor for any upgrades to ensure compatibility.

Contractors benefit from this arrangement in several ways. Where they really make their money is with annual sustainment contracts. By holding the intellectual property rights, the original contractor becomes the only entity capable of even bidding for a sustainment contract, since the government would not even be able to write the requirements for the bid proposal.

For example, Northrop Grumman manufactures three mission package modules for the littoral combat ship. Each module performs a different function to meet the mission needs for antisubmarine warfare, mine warfare, and surface warfare, and can be switched around as needed. In its promotional materials, Northrop Grumman boasts of its role sustaining the modules. This aspect of defense acquisitions not only costs taxpayers a great deal, it also creates more opportunities for cyber infiltration. This is not a hypothetical problem.

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In November , someone launched a cyberattack against an Australian defense firm working on the F program. The hackers, believed to be based in China, stole sensitive information about the program, including schematics. BAE Systems is a subcontractor for the F program, building approximately 14 percent of each aircraft.

Documents made public by the Snowden leaks show that these attacks compromised several terabytes of information related to the program. Because the F is networked, it is not far-fetched to imagine a malign actor hijacking certain functions of the F in-flight in the manner of the Jeep Cherokee hack.

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A potential adversary likely would not even have to go to such lengths to disrupt the fleet. When ALIS detects one of these codes, it registers the aircraft as Non-Mission Capable, preventing the pilot from starting the aircraft. A cyberattacker, working through ALIS, could potentially inject phony Health Reporting Codes into the network for all Fs, which would force maintenance supervisors to go through the override process for each aircraft before it could take off.

With that kind of hack, an adversary could keep the F fleet firmly on the ground at the moment of a Pearl Harbor or September 11 th -style attack when fighters would need to scramble to meet a threat.

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The cost factor in all this cannot be ignored, either, as it creates a vicious cycle. The Pentagon pays a premium for software-enabled systems, compared to their analog equivalents. Each of these more expensive systems increases our vulnerability to hacking, which means the Pentagon needs to spend more to protect them. It is nearly impossible to imagine anyone within the national security space was surprised that a panel of defense experts with decades of uniform and civilian government service between them, many with deep ties to the defense industry, wrote a report saying the United States needs to spend more on defense.

Using that much oil makes the military vulnerable to price spikes.


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  • Moving oil on the battlefield requires large convoys of oil tankers, a major target. At the height of operations in Afghanistan, one in 24 convoys ended in an American casualty. The military knows that using oil is a problem. The Navy is also investing in advanced biofuels. Meanwhile, a new hybrid-electric vehicle , developed by the Army in Michigan, offers the same payload, performance, and protection as a traditional HUMVEE, but with 90 percent better fuel efficiency and the capability to run silently.

    Using less oil is a winning strategy for everyone—not just the military. In fact, using solutions like fuel-efficient technologies, cleaner fuels, and electric vehicles, we could halve the amount of oil we use. Using less oil means creating jobs and reducing pollution—all while saving drivers money at the pump. Strong federal standards have dramatically cut the pollution our vehicles produce. Cleaner fuels —like those made from cellulosic biofuels—are ramping up. And the future is bright for electric vehicles.

    Still, more can be done. We can protect consumers, the climate, and our environment from the growing costs and risks of our oil use —but not without you.