News   Lethality

U.S. Potential Target for Malicious Actors, DOD Official Tells Congress

March 11, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

The United States is no longer a sanctuary, but a target, Kenneth Rapuano, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, told the House Armed Services Committee in Washington today.

Paratroopers cross a snowy field.
Arctic Edge
Paratroopers take part in U.S. Northern Command's Arctic Edge 20 exercise, Fort Greely, Alaska, Feb. 29, 2020. Arctic Edge is a biennial homeland defense exercise designed to provide high quality and effective training in extreme cold weather of the Arctic.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Diana Cossaboom
VIRIN: 200301-F-OG534-0010A

During World War II, the United States became the arsenal of democracy, in part because it was not touched by Axis bombing campaigns. Today, the United States is in range of the capabilities of those who would do us harm. 

"The homeland is a target in a complex global security environment," Rapuano said. 

The main threats emanate from China and Russia, who use malign influence against the United States, its allies and partners to undermine regional security, he said. 

China and Russia do not want armed conflict with the United States. Such a conflict would be devastating to all. But the two nations seek to erode American capabilities, alliances and —  most important —  the American will. The nations seek capabilities to win below the threshold of armed conflict to erode our national security and prosperity, Rapuano said. "They are attempting to undermine democratic governance, the rule of law, market-driven economies and compliance with international rules and norms."

China and Russia have studied the American way of war and they will aim their actions where the U.S. is most vulnerable. "We must anticipate multi-dimensional attacks on land, in the air, at sea, in space and in cyberspace, targeted not just against our military forces, but against our critical infrastructure and our population," he said. "Indeed, our way of life at home and abroad."

A missile is launched.
Missile Launch
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor is launched from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands during Flight Test THAAD-23, August 30, 2019.
Photo By: Courtesy photo, Missile Defense Agency
VIRIN: 190830-D-N7474-004A

China's arsenal includes anti-satellite capabilities and advanced missile systems. China has tested hypersonic glide vehicles, and they have built islands in the South China Sea to close sea lanes of communication.

Russia poses different challenges, but it is also developing anti-satellite capabilities, advanced missiles, hypersonic glide vehicles and advanced cyber capabilities.

Both nations are also seeking influence around the world to undermine America's system of alliances. In the Western Hemisphere both prop up the Maduro regime in Venezuela, and they provide economic aid solely to make nations beholden, Rapuano said. 

China and Russia both strive to break the U.S. dominance in space. "The U.S. is responding to this threat by transforming our space enterprise and working closely with our allies and partners," he said. “The President's budget requests provides $18 billion for space programs, including $111 million to support the establishment of the new military service."

Service members looking at computer screen.
200205-M-VG714-0054
Marines with Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command pose for photos in the cyber operations center at Lasswell Hall aboard Fort Meade, Maryland, Feb. 5, 2020. MARFORCYBER Marines conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations in support of United States Cyber Command and operate, secure and defend the Marine Corps Enterprise Network.
Photo By: Staff Sgt. Jacob Osborne
VIRIN: 200205-M-VG714-0054

But the area of most contention is in the cyber domain. Attribution of cyber attacks is difficult, and the attacks do damage in the real world. DOD is examining defensive and offensive capabilities to deter these attacks or make a perpetrator pay if deterrence doesn't work.

DOD will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure defense. "The Department of Defense takes a global view of the challenges facing the nation, we continue to improve our ability to defend the U.S. homeland in all domains and develop capabilities to defend the nation's interests globally," Rapuano said.