United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

DoD News

Bookmark and Share

 News Article

Intel Chief Addresses Longer-Range Threats to U.S.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2001 – The United States is the world’s sole remaining super power. America faces challenges and threats that span the spectrum of warfare, said Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Wilson, testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the turbulence the world has experienced in the past decade would probably continue. “This turbulence could spawn a spectrum of potential conflict ranging from larger-scale combat contingencies, through containment deployments, peace operations and humanitarian relief operations,” he said.

Each threat alone poses no real danger to the United States, Wilson said, but “collectively, they form a significant barrier to our goals for the future.”

While the United States must be prepared for all contingencies, the 1991 Gulf War taught potential opponents to forgo conventional warfare, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in January.

The most likely threats, Wilson said, are foes whose challenges render U.S. military power indecisive or irrelevant to their operations and objectives.

Foes will pursue asymmetric warfare -- a variety of low- cost strategies they hope will achieve disproportionate results. A classic example is Somalia. After the “Day of the Rangers,” when Somali warlords killed 18 U.S. soldiers and wounded 73 in the capital of Mogadishu in 1992, the United States changed its policies and eventually withdrew.

“(Foes) seek capabilities that we are either unwilling or unable to counter, thereby either denying our leadership the ‘military option’ or forcing us to ‘disengage’ before they are defeated,” Wilson said.

Wilson said enemies would likely use asymmetric approaches that will fit generally into five broad, overlapping categories: counter will, counter access, counter precision strike, counter protection and counter information.

Counter will approaches are designed to intimidate the United States into not deploying or into leaving before the mission is accomplished.

Counter access strategies are designed to deny U.S. forces access to seaports or airports. It could include use of sea mines or forces to close sea lanes or air forces to close air routes.

Counter precision strike is designed to defeat or degrade U.S. precision intelligence and attack capabilities.

Counter protection is designed to increase U.S. casualties and, in some cases, directly threaten the United States.

Counter information is designed to prevent the United States from attaining information and decision superiority.

The means to attack the United States asymmetrically are everyone’s bad dream. It includes terrorism, cyberwarfare and information warfare, and attacks using weapons of mass destruction, and operations directed against U.S. space- based systems.

Terrorism remains the most likely attack at home and abroad. “This threat will grow as disgruntled groups and individuals focus on America as the source of their troubles,” Wilson said. “Most anti-U.S. terrorism will be regional and based on perceived racial, ethnic or religious grievances.”

He said terrorism would likely occur in urban centers, often capitals. U.S. service members will be obvious targets. “Our overseas military presence and our military’s status as a symbol of U.S. power, interests and influence can make it a target,” he said.

Military force protection measures may drive terrorists to attack softer targets such as private citizens or commercial interests. “Middle East-based terrorist groups will remain the most important threat, but our citizens, facilities and interests will be targeted worldwide,” Wilson said. “State sponsors -- primarily Iran -- and individuals with the financial means -- such as Osama bin Ladin -- will continue to provide much of the economic and technological support needed by terrorists.

More destructive attacks are likely if terrorist organizations gain access to more destructive conventional weapons technologies and weapons of mass destruction, he said.

The news media call information operations “cyberwar.” High profile hacker attacks such as the Love Bug show how vulnerable an information society can be. But information operations are more than just computer warfare. It can include electronic warfare, psychological operations, physical attack, denial and deception, computer network attack and the use of more exotic technologies such as directed energy weapons or electromagnetic pulse weapons.

“Adversaries recognize our civilian and military reliance on advanced information technologies and systems and understand that information superiority provides the United States with unique capability advantages,” Wilson said. Adversaries also recognize that by using information operations to attack the U.S. infrastructure they may change U.S. support for operations.

“Software tools for network intrusion and disruption are becoming globally available over the Internet, providing almost any interested U.S. adversary a basic computer network exploitation or attack capability,” Wilson said. “To date, however, the skills and effort needed for adversaries to use tools and technology effectively, such as intensive reconnaissance of U.S. target networks, for example, remain important limits on foreign cyber attack capabilities.”

Many states see weapons of mass destruction as their only hope of countering U.S. conventional military prominence. Former Indian army Chief of Staff Gen. K. Sundarji allegedly said the principal lesson of the Gulf War is that if a state intends to fight the United States, it should avoid doing so until and unless it possesses nuclear weapons.

“The pressure to acquire weapons of mass destruction and missiles is high, and, unfortunately, globalization creates an environment more amenable to proliferation activities,” Wilson said. Twenty-five countries now possess or are acquiring and developing weapons of mass destruction or missiles.

He said Russia, China and North Korea remain the suppliers of WMD technology. Russia, he said, has shipped ballistic missile and nuclear technology to Iran. China has provided missile and other assistance to Iran and Pakistan. North Korea remains a key source for ballistic missiles and related components and materials.

Wilson said Iran and Iraq could acquire nuclear weapons during the next decade. He said India and Pakistan would undoubtedly increase their nuclear capabilities and inventories.

The United States relies on satellites for much of its information dominance. Enemies know this and look for ways to negate this advantage. Many are attempting to reduce this advantage by developing capabilities to threaten US space assets, in particular through denial and deception, signal jamming, and ground segment attack.

A number of countries are interested in or experimenting with a variety of technologies that could be used to develop counter-space capabilities. These efforts could result in improved systems for space object tracking, electronic warfare or jamming and directed-energy weapons. Wilson said that by 2015, future adversaries would be able to employ a wide variety of means to disrupt, degrade or defeat portions of the U.S. space support system.

Contact Author

Related Sites:
Defense Intelligence Agency Web site

Related Articles:
Intelligence Chief Details Threats Facing America

Additional Links

Stay Connected