By Donna Miles
The same globalization that's created vast opportunities for economic growth and information sharing among freedom-loving people has become a favorite tool of terrorists trying to destroy their way of life, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told industry representatives here yesterday. Speaking at the Military Communications Conference 2006, England called rapid technological change, and particularly the ways it can be abused, "the fundamental technical and operational challenge of our time."
Terrorists are "technologically very savvy," he said, and see no conflict in using their technological expertise to close doors it's helped opened. "Though they aim to undo centuries' worth of progress, they are not at all reluctant to take full advantage of that progress," he told the group, who he described as "today's rock stars of science and technology."
Terrorists "use the latest technological innovations to communicate, recruit and transfer money," the deputy secretary said. "They keep Web sites, and they update them in real time to share their lessons learned." As latecomers to these cutting-edge technologies, terrorists didn't have to go through the long process of developing or studying them, England noted. Instead, they simply download them from the Internet and use them for their own purposes.
"The very technologies that you develop and the technologies that make globalization possible are used by terrorists throughout the world against freedom-loving nations," England told the group. Faced with this reality, it's critical that the United States and its coalition partners and allies continually keep a step ahead, he said. He called on the industry leaders to help lead that charge.
England cited the Defense Department's ongoing, long-term transformation effort and the 2006 Defense Quadrennial Review and its focus on, among other topics, "netcentricity."
"Netcentric capabilities are about getting people the information they need, when and where they need it," he said. "Just as it is in business, information has become a strategic asset for the department, and using it effectively is essential to the success of our mission."
DoD is examining its system capabilities on the macro level to identify gaps and seams, eliminate unintentional redundancies and ensure interoperability, England told the group. It's also working to improve its integration with coalition partners and allies, he said. As these efforts move forward, England acknowledged, "antagonists out there who would be delighted to take down our systems (and) are trying, to the tune of thousands of incidents daily." Among them, he said, are recreational hackers who hack into DoD systems for fun, "cyber-vigilantes" out to prove a misguided point, small-interest groups pushing ideological issues, transnational terrorist networks aiming to destroy the system, and hostile nation-states.
"These efforts to degrade our systems are expected to continue," England said.
England closed by calling on industry leaders to continue protecting the United States and its partners from what he called the greatest long-term threat they face: "falling behind in science and technology."
"Science and technology are the bedrock of our knowledge-based economy, as well as our military capabilities," he said. England urged audience members to build on that bedrock by taking every opportunity to encourage science education, research and application. "America's future, and the future of our partners, does depend on it," he said.