by Stephen Bryen
Do we need aircraft carriers and can they fight in a modern war? These are important questions that trouble many defense analysts. While aircraft carriers have proved useful in power projection and recently supported US operations in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, in Syria, the role of aircraft carriers against a well-armed and capable adversary is very much in doubt.
China has developed an anti-ship ballistic missile called the DF-21D, also known as the CSS-5 Mod 4 missile. The missile can be guided against moving ships, including aircraft carriers, and works in tandem with satellites and UAVs for target acquisition. Once this missile reaches full operational status no one should be surprised to see it proliferating around the world with countries like Iran and Pakistan first in line to buy them.
Missiles like this make aircraft carrier operations in sensitive areas such as the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf risky, if not impossible. The DF-21D is a mobile ballistic missile, meaning that neutralizing a DF-21D threat is a very big challenge. Without being able to assure the 21 D’s elimination, carriers and their associated fleets can’t be moved into harms way.
Today’s American aircraft carriers are nuclear powered mega-ships with a crew size of some 5,000 sailors and specialists and with air wings on board. The newest aircraft carrier currently under construction will cost $13 billion just to build not counting the aircraft on board which represents easily another $20 billion. Are these aircraft carriers too big to use?
Some argue that a better approach is to rely on smaller aircraft carriers to do the job. But what is the job?
The aircraft carrier was developed originally more than 100 years ago. The first flight off the deck of a ship was in 1910; the first purpose built aircraft carrier started construction in 1918 and was completed in 1922.
During World War II the aircraft carrier played an important role in supporting American forces trying to push the Japanese off critical island chains. Carriers also played a major role in the Battle of Midway and other attacks where US launched carrier based aircraft challenged Japan’s carriers.
In 1942 the United states lost four Fleet aircraft carriers to Japanese attacks, mainly torpedoes launched by Japanese aircraft or, in the case of the CV-7 Wasp, to a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. In addition the US lost a number of Escort and Light carriers in the war.
Japan lost 15 aircraft carriers of all types between 1942 and 1945.
The British also took heavy carrier losses starting in 1939 with the sinking of the Courageous, 1940 with the destruction of the Glorious, 1942 with the devastating loss of the Ark Royal and in 1942 and with the additional losses of the Eagle and Hermes. Britain also lost three escort carriers in the war.
If World War II gives any clue, it is that aircraft carriers in major wars are vulnerable to enemy attack.
The same would seem to be true today, perhaps even more so because without anti-ballistic missile defenses, aircraft carriers face a very uncertain future.
While aircraft carrier technology continues to advance in certain respects, can we protect the carriers both from missiles and from underwater attack? As of 2014 the US had no plan to build a ballistic missile defense system (BMD) focused on the Chinese missile threat. While the US does have Aegis cruisers equipped with SM-3 missiles and capable radars, these platforms probably can’t successfully intercept and destroy the DF-21D. The question needs to be asked, why invest so much in carriers if we are not going to spend to defend them?
It may be that the role of aircraft carriers is mostly to do power protection against weak countries that cause trouble in places, as in the Middle East. But, as we have noted, even that could change overnight if China starts exporting the DF-21D or the Russians start supplying stealth aircraft to countries of concern,particularly Iran. Already the Russians have supplied quiet and dangerous diesel-electric submarines to Iran in the form of 4,000 ton Kilo class submarines. And they are selling the S-300 anti aircraft missile system to the Iranians, a threat to carrier based aircraft. With Iran on the verge of becoming a nuclear power, the Russians will have to keep feeding the beast, and it is likely they will do so both willingly and profitably.
While the aircraft carrier remains the pride of the American fleet, its future is uncertain and, to a degree, threatened. Its usefulness in big wars and even in sensitive areas such as the Persian Gulf or the Mediterranean, today is in doubt.
Washington DC, June 26, 2015
For Immediate Release
Technology and Security has launched a new podcast series by the same name. Episodes will be available at
Users will need iTunes to download the new podcast series.
While having an audio version is somewhat of an experiment for us, there have been enough requests for a podcast series that we decided to go ahead and make the programs available.
Some of the podcasts will be based directly on our well-regarded blog, Technology and Security. Others will be available only in podcast format.
Technology and Security aims to relate the importance of technology to national security and national power. The blog’s author, Dr. Stephen Bryen’s recent books include: Essays in Technology, Security and Strategy and the forthcoming Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers.
America has long enjoyed being the world’s technology leader. But in some sectors that is starting to change as American technology increasingly has gone off shore, fueling China’s rapid growth and military expansion, and as other countries have closed the technology gap with the United States. These changes and shifts represent a challenge for the future, and for the most part America’s guard still remains down. Should this persist, America will find its ability to maintain its standard of living and safeguard its security increasingly difficult.
Technology and Security explores these issues and more. Part of the blog’s focus is on cyber security, an area where adversaries are having their way harvesting American technological information and undermining governmental and infrastructural functions. Technology and Security helps to explain why this is happening and proposes ways to cope with the situation or strengthen the protection of vital computer networks.
by Stephen Bryen
[A version of this article appeared in the Huffington Post with Rebecca Abrahams]
It now seems that the Office of Personnel Management, which had outsourced its data storage to other Federal agencies, has lost an astonishing 18 million personnel records, including most of those involving security clearances. The information is now in the hands of unknown hackers who almost certainly have bartered the stolen information to willing buyers. Most experts think that the buyer is most likely China, with Russia running a close second.
When a prospective employee applies for a job that requires a security clearance he or she fills out a form called an SF-86 which is called a Questionnaire for National Security Positions. The Questionnaire is extensive and demanding and requires so much information to be handed over to the government that there is virtually nothing left one could dream of adding to it. Your friends, colleagues, bosses, neighbors are all included along with all your personal information. In the wrong hands this document at minimum guarantees easy identity theft. Worse, in the hands of a determined adversary, a person’s vulnerabilities can be exploited including tracking the employee and making sophisticated “phishing” operations possible. Phishing is a technique where a false email or message can be sent to an employee that, when opened, puts spyware on the employee’s computer.
You would think given the explosive importance of the SF-86 form that the government would take strong steps to protect the information. Perish the thought. Nothing like that has been done: in fact, the government passes around these forms to other agencies (such as the FBI) and gives them to contractors for “processing.”
Our government has consistently failed at computer security from the beginning. The first Computer Security Act was passed in 1988, and there have been many subsequent legislative initiatives since then along with Executive Orders and pronouncements from agencies including NSA and the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), the latest one just this week.
None of them understand the problem or demonstrate any real willingness to solve it. All of them have the wrong cart in front of the wrong horse.
The truth is that unless special steps are taken to protect sensitive unclassified information the game is lost from the start.
What are those steps? Most fundamentally there are two: compartmenting information and encrypting it. For unclassified information which is what the SF-86 is considered to be, the government neither compartments nor encrypts. NSA won’t let them because the information is not classified: our government security experts keep thinking they can do it another way. No they can’t.
NIST has just put out a new directive for contractors. It is worthless. Why? Because it does not require either compartmentalization or encryption.
Compartmentalization means that not everyone can access everything. It is as simple as that. It can be made weightier by adding a “need to know” requirement, meaning that you are only entitled to look at what is absolutely necessary for your job. Properly administered need to know and compartmentalization protects any major theft of information particularly if the data itself is stored in an encrypted format.
The real crime is the failure of both the administration and the Congress to put in place a higher standard of information protection applying these known and effective tools. While everyone is running around thinking about firing the head of the Office of Personnel Management, perhaps they should think about firing themselves for the crimes against privacy they have perpetrated.
by Stephen Bryen
Attacks on religious institutions, churches, schools, community centers and offices, is far from only an American problem, although the United States has had plenty of it.
In our country churches, synagogues, mosques and temples have been attacked and worshippers going to and from these places have been murdered. Whether we are speaking about Christian churches, Catholic churches, Sikh Temples, Mosques or Synagogues, all of them have been hit by terrorists. I strongly prefer the term “terrorist” to racist or anti-Semite because it best describes what we are up against.
Around the world terrorism against religious institutions is rampant. Whether we talk about Pakistan where religious school children are wantonly murdered, or India, or Iraq and Syria we find such atrocities. In Europe there have been attacks on synagogues and churches and murders of citizens for example in France, Belgium and Denmark among many others.
While some of the attacks are clearly by radicalized individuals, others involve state backing or, state complicity. The bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina which killed 85 people in the building and wounded more than 100 others, there is little doubt, outside of the corrupt politicians of Argentina that the bombing and murder was accomplished by Iranian operatives perhaps in a conspiracy with Argentinian politicians or police.
State sponsored attacks are a growing threat. Outfits like al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and Boko Haram can operate because they are sponsored and supported by nation-states, providing them with equipment, intelligence and even naming targets. Coptic Christians would not be murdered in Egypt without the help of the Moslem Brotherhood, which the Obama administration befriended. Chechen terrorists in Russia have got backing from Saudi Arabia either directly or through religious cutouts.
For Americans the question is how to confront the problem. It is one thing to try and build community support against terrorism and racism, but at the end of the day there isn’t any empirical evidence that this is a sufficient strategy to combat such crimes. In fact it may act as a deterrent to hard headed preventive strategies that are badly needed. But there is one thing the community writ large can be encouraged to do: when they see a threat either because someone says something or writes something or threatens someone, people do need to respond and bring it to the attention of the larger community and make law enforcement aware. Here we can talk about the importance of social responsibility and the need to act against terrorists, racists and anti-Semites.
Most religious institutions in the United States are unprotected. The same is true in other countries. Their doors are open to terrorists and externally their perimeters are easily penetrated by bombers, either on foot or in vehicles. Few have active surveillance or even passive barriers to prevent such attacks.
There is no single technology that can guarantee complete protection against a fanatic or group of fanatics, and particularly against professional killers like the ones in Buenos Aires. Even so, protection helps reduce the frequency of successful attacks, helps to identify the perpetrators, and can save lives.
The most important first step is to understand the nature of the threat and to have critical intelligence if the risk level is high. More importantly, real time intelligence may help identify the person or persons who plan an attack.
It is no secret that a lot of this information can be found on social media. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man charged with the murders at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, had a Web page with his outrageous rantings posted since last February. No one paid any attention. Law enforcement can easily track social media, but they need to be more proactive and not only warn about risk but also confront those threatening the community. Had information on Dylann Roof been distributed to churches and synagogues (he hated Blacks and Jews and many others), they would have been on the lookout for him and maybe the tragedy could have been prevented. Just distributing his photos (from his web site) could have alerted the folks at the A.M.E. Church.
This is a far better strategy than opining about gun control. Gun control is not going to stop a fanatic any more than it is going to stop a determined criminal.
Once you have information that is useful, you must implement a proper organization to aid in protecting a religious institution. Technology can help, but without a good organization and equally vital good training, the risk remains.
While some synagogues have put in place perimeter protection because of their exposure to constant threats, and some have hired guards, there is not much in the way of organization or training of lay people. There is even less at churches.
The Department of Homeland Security has provided funds here and there to buy defensive equipment such as surveillance cameras or alarm systems, but the Department has not thought to provide organizational training. Some police departments do make an effort to help, but usually they have to be asked to do so and often they themselves are not trained to provide perimeter protection services.
Unfortunately the ball has mostly been dropped, which is why alleged terrorists like Dylann Roof can operate and why the greater threat of state sponsored terrorist attacks on religious institutions in the United States is not far from us.
Surely we can do better.
The London Sunday Times reports that Britain and the US have pulled agents out of China and Russia because information contained in encrypted files stolen by Edward Snowden have been decrypted.
“”His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted,” a source told the Sunday Times.
What can we understand from this disclosure?
Here are a few thoughts:
There are four basic ways to cook food –in a pot, in the oven, over a fire and in a pan or griddle. In ancient Israel, all four ways were in use, but the single most common cooking utensil was the griddle.
The ancient Israelite diet was largely vegetarian and was composed of wheat and barley, lentils, dried grapes and dates (often formed into cakes), honey, milk from goats and some vegetables, most commonly onion. Wheat and barley could be cooked up as a gruel and mixed with some dried grapes or other fruits; or formed into pancakes or flatbreads and cooked on a griddle made of clay or iron.
We can read in Deuteronomy chapter 8: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.”
Because Israelite tribes were semi-nomadic, often following food sources, the griddle was one implement that was handy to use and could be placed over hot stones and a small fire. Flat Cakes, sweet or savory, could be made and eaten right away or carried by hunter-gatherers wherever they went.
Ancient wheat was either a variety called Einkorn, Kamut or Emer (today called Farro). Farro has gained popularity as a healthful grain that can be used like wheat being ground into flour or cooked just as rice would be prepared. Kamut (known as Khorasan wheat) was rediscovered in Egypt in 1949 by two US airmen and is today grown in Montana. It is used in bread making and excellent pastas.
Emer was rediscovered at the turn of the 20th century by the famous Palestinian agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn. Aaronsohn discovered Emer (triticum dicocoides) growing in the wild and it caused a sensation in Europe and the United States. Thought of as the “mother” of all wheat, Aaronsohn was invited to the United States to give lectures on his scientific work in the Holy Land. Later, as a founder of Nili, he and his sister Sarah and their friends provided vital intelligence to the British facing the Ottoman empire in Palestine. Sarah would later die by her own hand to avoid torture by her Turkish captors. Aaronsohn himself would die in a plane crash off the coast of France in 1919.
The Bible has a great deal to say about food starting with strong food prohibitions (no pork for example). As is found in Leviticus 11 “And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.” This prohibition was kept by ancient Israelites as archeology confirms. At Khirbet Qeiyafa in Israel, which was a heavily fortified city at the time of King David, no pig bones were found. Although hundreds of bones were found at the site, none of them were from pigs (in contrast to surrounding sites), since those animals were not to be eaten according to the Old Testament laws. According to archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel, “Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs.”
In ancient Israel clean and unblemished animals were sacrificed to propitiate God or to serve as a sin offering. While Temple sacrifices disappeared after the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD by the Romans, some elements survive today both in the imagery of Christianity (Christ as the Paschal lamb) and in Jewish practice (the lamb shank on a platter symbolizing the Passover sacrifice). Sacrifices included not only animals but also offerings of bread and cakes. As we read in the book of Exodus 29, Chapter 1-3, “This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect. And from the finest wheat flour make round loaves without yeast, thick loaves without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, and thin loaves without yeast and brushed with olive oil. Put them in a basket and present them along with the bull and the two rams.”
The griddle played a role in offerings and is mentioned a number of times in Leviticus 6:21 such as “It (the grain offering) must be prepared with oil on a griddle; bring it well-mixed and present the grain offering broken in pieces as an aroma pleasing to the Lord,” or (Leviticus 2:5) “If your grain offering is prepared on a griddle, it is to be made of the finest flour mixed with oil, and without yeast.” If it had been made with yeast, the yeast would derive from wild yeast spores. The bread would be sour (ancient sourdough) and presumably would not be a sweet savory offering to the Lord.
The griddle also plays an important part in Ezekiel where he is instructed by God to take certain actions against the people of Jerusalem. The Orthodox Jewish Bible translates the key passage this way: “Moreover take thou unto thee a machavat barzel (iron griddle), and set it for a kir barzel (wall of iron) between thee and the Ir; and set thy face against it, and it shall be besieged, and thou shalt lay siege against it. This shall be an ot (sign) to Bait Yisroel.” Here is an alternative translation from Ezekiel by I. Teilband (translated from the German by Walther Zimmerli): “And you take an iron plate [a griddle] and place it as an iron wall between you and the city [of Jerusalem]; and set your face against it, and let it be besieged, and you shall besiege it. This is a sign for the House of israel.”
Iron was the great symbol of power in Ancient Israel. The importance of Iron is brought out most clearly in the David story where the Philistines controlled the region, including Israelite tribes, by controlling the production of metals, especially iron. As 1 Samuel 13 tells us: “Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, ‘Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.'” There is good circumstantial evidence that David, escaping King Saul and hiring himself out to the Philistine King Achish, used his service to learn how to smelt iron and forge it into weapons. Iron’s importance is reported in Leviticus 26:19 in admonishing the Israelites thusly: “If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.” The stiff necked stubbornness of the Israelites permeates the Biblical text: Ezekiel’s iron griddle symbolizes how God deals with malefactors. Even today, especially on the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), one of the sins that needs to be forgiven is being stiff necked.
The ancient Iron griddle exists today and is used in many places around the world. The best tortillas are made on an iron griddle in Mexico over hot coals. Round in shape with a lip around the edge, the griddle is both handy, portable and if made of iron, long lasting. By rubbing it with oil, such griddles don’t rust if regularly used and heat more quickly than clay griddles.
But the ancient griddle was also God’s griddle, because God could use it to symbolize how to surround sinning Jerusalemites with an Iron griddle wall. Don’t you think Winston Churchill got the same idea of God’s griddle and used it in his famous speech in 1946 at Fulton, Missouri, where he said: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent”?
by Stephen Bryen
Greece still faces an uncertain future as its leftist government tries to strike a deal with its European creditors. Whether a deal is possible and what it will be remains cloudy at best. Meanwhile the Syriza government is starting to totter over coming up with any deal that requires more austerity. The latest European proposal which would have reduced Greek pensions has only added fuel to the fire.
The debate inside and outside Greece has mostly been over a Greek exit (“GREXIT”) from the euro. The Greek government uses it as a kind of threat over the creditors; some of the creditors use it as a way of getting rid of a nagging, insolvable problem.
There are significant consequences to GREXIT. One is the impact on the other Euro states, especially the vulnerable ones. Another is the strong risk that GREXIT would also hasten Greece’s exit from NATO. This could also lead to an unraveling of the NATO collective defense system, already weakened by dismal defense budgets and aimless leadership.
Of course there is no necessary reason why Greece would have to exit the Euro currency even if it failed to pay its debts. The other Euro countries could demand a Greek exit, but whether they can actually impose an exit is far from clear. And Greece does not need to leave the Euro if it does not want to do so. Even if Greece defaults entirely on its debt, it seems that it can legally stay in the Euro zone.
This leaves open what Greece should do, and what the Euro creditors should do. The idea of continuing to pressure Greece with austerity measures is a dead end which will continue to churn up problems in the Euro zone that could lead to trouble in the other, weak Euro countries such as Spain and Italy. Even France, which pretends to be solvent, really is not. Does anyone think that feisty Frenchmen would accept an austerity program?
The better way is a provisional deal based on the following elements:
1. a twenty five year debt repayment plan that is linked to improving Greek prosperity. No prosperity, no payments. Such a plan if it is sufficiently generous would not need austerity measures for Greece to make repayments.
2. a second domestic currency for Greece that covers sensitive areas such as civil service salaries, pensions, and other payments for services in the domestic space. The currency applies to local products and services only; it is not a trading currency which will remain as the Euro. To keep the domestic currency stable, a five year period where prices are fixed or moderately indexed to the new currency, thereby protecting against dilution of the currency’s value.
3. the ability for tourists to buy the local currency to cover most of their Greek domestic activities (hotel rooms, restaurants, local transportation). This will make the currency profitable to a degree.
Of course Greece’s creditors won’t like having to wait to get paid; but waiting is better than a complete wipe out.
There have been many criticisms of a second currency, but mostly these criticisms are based on the idea of a GREXIT leaving only the local currency to fend for itself. In the above scheme the local currency exists alongside the Euro and for five years is stabilized by moderate price controls.
Price controls can, and do, work although sometimes they cause distortions meaning they have to be term limited. America put in place price controls during World War II that lasted for some years after the war: it was a time of great prosperity. In the early 1970’s President Nixon also put in partial price controls, particularly rent control, during a period of spiraling inflation. Some jurisdictions such as New York, have long had rent controls. It is clear that when handled wisely price controls work to protect people, especially the most sensitive lower middle class which is suffering in Greece.
Syriza and its leaders, of course, need to stop playing power ball with their rich friends in Europe and take action to put in place a credible program for relief. The simple outline above is a starting point for a plan.
Technology security visionary Stephen Bryen has published a new collection of pivotal essays on national security and cyber security to help policy makers and citizens understand the real threats to America’s security.
“These interesting, colorful and engaging essays demonstrate deep understanding of what led to exacerbate the technological, foreign policy and national security challenges facing America today” –Rachel Ehrenfeld, Director of the American Center for Democracy and author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It, Bonus Books, 2003, 2005
Essays in Technology, Security and Strategy targets important questions including:
On domestic affairs:
Readers will be find new information and move through a unique landscape of original ideas and practical solutions to an ever increasing threat to our security and our way of life.
Contributing co-authors include Peabody and Edward R. Murrow award winning producer, journalist and author Rebecca Abrahams and Shoshana Bryen, an internationally recognized expert on defense policy and Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center in Washington DC. Mrs. Bryen is editor of inFocus Quarterly.
For Rebecca Abrahams https://www.linkedin.com/pub/rebecca-abrahams/0/9b9/648
For Shoshana Bryen http://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/board/shoshana-bryen
About the Author: Dr. Stephen Bryen served as a senior Defense Department official responsible for technology security and has headed a major international corporation in the United States. He brings 45 years of experience in government, international politics, business and policy expertise into focus in this important new book.
Dr. Bryen twice was awarded the Pentagon medal for Distinguished Public Service.
For more information visit http://amazon.com/author/stephenbryen