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Every year, China steals half a trillion dollars in intellectual property (IP) from the US, using both human and cyber espionage, according to Alan Shaffer, US Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Acquisition and Sustainment.

Speaking to the Defense Services Conference in Arlington, VA, sponsored by the Professional Services Council on 21 November, he explained his assertion is based on several recent reports and illustrates why the Department of Defense (DoD) is pushing vendors hard to ensure robust cyber protection of their computers and databases.

Pointing out that China is the only nation to have 5G end-to-end infrastructure in place – citing Huawei as one of the primary drivers in creating this situation – he stated “The future will be about who can best navigate the digital environment most effectively […] we in the West are not in great position now.”

Shaffer indicated the electrical grid and physical infrastructure as likely targets of hostile actions – suggesting there is urgent need for elements of infrastructure (and, presumably, of defensive installations) to become self-reliant.

In the ‘kinetic’ sphere, China is also an opponent worth keeping a careful eye on, he suggested. “We’ve been in conflict with China for ten years and I’m not sure we know it. But we’ve got to wake up to it.”

Only the second nation in the world (after the US) to field an operational 5th-generation fighter, China has also invested heavily in hypersonic weapons and has focused significant investment and resources on improving and growing its fleet of nuclear-capable submarines. Countering these trends will not be easy, he suggested: to countervail Chinese hypersonics, the US will have to field large numbers of hypersonic weapons, not just a handful, but the industrial base currently lacks the scale to meet the required volume, he stated.

There are additional internal pressures to be taken into account. “[…] by 2026 the nation will be paying more on interest from our accumulated debt than for the defense of the nation,” he told the audience in Arlington.

All this means the DoD has to rethink the way it does business and to urge industry to help find ways cut costs and deliver capability faster. The Department must reform, further shorten acquisition timelines and collaborate more intimately with industry in the requirements process, he stated.

China is the only nation other than the US to have fielded operational 5th-generation fighters in any meaningful numbers. (Photo via Chinese Internet)

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