Sen. Cruz Questions General Darren W. McDew, Commander of U.S. Transportation Command on Military Vulnerabilities
by Ted Cruz on April 11, 2018 at 1:25 PM
Yesterday I questioned General Darren W. McDew on military vulnerabilities with U.S. Transportation Command [TRANSCOM], including cyber threats to commercial and space assets. I also discussed various training exercises conducted by the military to combat and prepare against these threats.
My exchange with General Darren W. McDew, USAF may be viewed here. A full transcript is below:
Sen. Cruz: "Thank you Mr. Chairman. General, welcome. Thank you for being here. In your testimony today, you explained that in today's operational environment, mobility forces may be required to transport and sustain U.S. and allied forces while under persistent multi-domain attack, including deception, and data manipulation in cyberspace. In your opinion, which TRANSCOM assets are most vulnerable in this contested environment?"
General McDew: "This may surprise you a little bit when I talk about TRANSCOM assets, the ones most vulnerable are the ones I don't own. And that's commercial industry. We have strong cyber defense standard inside the Department of Defense. But outside the Department of Defense, I'm not as sure it reaches all of American citizens, and all of American industry the way it ought to."
Sen. Cruz: "And if those assets are compromised, how would that impact your ability to perform the tasks given to you?"
General McDew: "It would be disastrous because 90 percent of our ability to take troops to war is in the commercial industry [and] 40 percent of the cargo capability is in the commercial industry. It would be disastrous."
Sen. Cruz: "So from your perspective, are there aspects in your budget that are focused on dealing with the vulnerability on the commercial side?"
General McDew: "Not at all, Senator."
Sen. Cruz: "Let's shift. In your testimony, you also state that volatile geopolitics, shifting demographics, and emerging technology have all changed the character of war and the way we fight. And they're changing where wars are fought and who is fighting them. These new dynamics have a potential to bring a dramatic shift from the wars in the Middle East that have shaped much of the current forces expertise and experience. How have you begun to shape the training and the mindset of TRANSCOM forces to prepare them for a war fought under these new conditions?"
General McDew: "Senator, we have not been perfect to date. But what we're perfectly good at is understanding where our problems are now. And so if our contested environment war game that we had two years ago, followed up with one last year has illuminated a number of the problem areas that we'll have so that we'll have problem statements and solutions that we're trying to go after in each of them. I don't control all the areas, because, in my components that do the business of this nation, projecting power to go to war, a good portion of it is outside of my control. So we're using contracting mechanisms to bring people up to a certain standard in some of those areas, and we're continually having war games and exercises where we invite not just the services, but commercial industry and academia to participate."
Sen. Cruz: "Now you just mentioned the contested environment war games. How are you measuring success during these training events?"
General McDew: "Unfortunately Senator, we are in its infancy. And so success right now is bringing everybody's knowledge level up. Two and half years ago, we didn't have a cyber-standard in our contracts. We have one now. That's a direct result of that level of learning and understanding. If you were to come to my headquarters - and the invitation is out there now - if you were to come to our headquarters, you would see a level of discussion, and dialogue, and language, being used that is vastly different from any other combatant command. I'm a little bit parochial and proud, but I would say that to be true."
Sen. Cruz: "I understand. So have y'all been able to take any lessons learned that have been operationalized as a result of the war games?"
General McDew: "We have. Most of it has been through what we've included in our exercises. So all of our exercises now assume some level of cyber degradation. Every last one of them. It may just be at the tabletop level but it's in every exercise. We bake attrition into every one of our exercises and everything we discuss. And then we have, as I said, the contracts all have cyber standards in them.
Sen. Cruz: "One area that's been a persistent concern for me has been our vulnerability in space. And we're seeing more and more of our near-peer competitors targeting space assets. To what extent in war games or exercises; are y'all exercising in a space down environment with no satellite support or contact whatsoever?"
General McDew: "I can't say that we do it in every exercise, but as a cyber-degradation also has a level of space because it's the precision, navigation, and timing aspect - that loss is catastrophic. So we're trying to bake more and more of that in every time we have an exercise."
Sen. Cruz: "Very good, thank you, General."