The Modern Battlespace recently had the opportunity to attend the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) Annual Meeting. This annual conference, held in mid-October in Washington, D.C., is the largest land power exposition and professional development forum in North America that supports the Army’s mission.
One of the themes for this year’s AUSA Annual Meeting was Homeland Security because of the ever-changing contested environments. New challenges facing the U.S. homeland have the potential to erode the strategic stability of military operations and pose a very real threat to national security. These new challenges will necessitate the Department of Defense (DoD) changing its approach to near-peer adversaries such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia, as well as other emergent conflicts and threat actors.
Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command and speaker at AUSA described this changing landscape, “The world is significantly more challenging than maybe anything we have seen since the end of the Cold War.”
What are these new threats that are changing the Homeland Security landscape?
At this point, it’s obvious that the world is seeing the immense impacts of climate change. Climate change is also significantly impacting military readiness and Homeland Security, as reported by AUSA. According to the 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS), climate change is recognized as a transboundary challenge that is transforming the context in which the DoD operates.
Daphne Zimmerman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support to Civil Authorities, spoke about climate change and the threat it poses to Homeland Security, “We view climate change as a shaping threat. Climate change is directly affecting the geo-strategic, operational, and tactical environments in which we operate. And that has profound implications for U.S. defense policy across the board.”
“If our competitors and our adversaries look over the fence at us and see that we cannot handle disasters in our own homeland, they will not be deterred from testing us.” — Lt. Gen. John R. Evans
Climate change is creating new and unique challenges for the DoD. Increasingly unpredictable weather conditions create complications on a day-to-day basis for the U.S.’s military installations and have a particular impact on military readiness and response times. The biggest concern, however, is that climate change creates vulnerabilities that could lead another nation to attack the U.S. while other military resources are being used to remediate the impact of a natural disaster.
Lt. Gen. John R. Evans, Commanding General of the U.S. Army North, noted: “If our competitors and our adversaries look over the fence at us and see that we cannot handle disasters in our own homeland, they will not be deterred from testing us.”
Most people and organizations – including the federal government – have been impacted by cyber-attacks. Whether they are ransomware attacks, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, or a new advanced persistent threat (APT), cyber-attacks are becoming more complex and more numerous. For state actors like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, one of the biggest targets is America’s critical infrastructure, including power plants, oil pipelines, and water treatment facilities. Cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure pose a very real threat to Homeland Security and the ability of the nation to function.
Maj. Gen. James E. Bonner, Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army North, spoke about this battle in cyberspace, “Our cyber [team] is engaged in the real-world cyberspace fight today and against near-peer adversaries and other global cyber threats.”
“you’ll see more of a signal that the cybersecurity industry starting to pick up more of the load for defending our nation.” — Lt. Gen. Maria B. Barrett
Industry and academia have partnered with the DoD to improve national cyber defenses. These partnerships have proven to be fundamental to the cyber national mission through the sharing of information about threats and attack signatures as well as other best practices.
Lt. Gen. Maria B. Barrett, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, described these relationships, “From the relationship standpoint, we start to take a look at academia and industry partnerships. These are pivotal for any sort of research projects that we think we need to do for unique capabilities that might advance the work we’re doing at Army Cyber … you’ll see more of a signal that the cybersecurity industry starting to pick up more of the load for defending our nation.”
Creating a united front
Collaboration is the only way that these threats to national security can be solved at a time. These collaborative relationships will need to include industry, academia, and U.S. allies in order to ensure military readiness, resilience, and the ability to operate under imperfect circumstances.
Gen. VanHerck agreed to this notion when he said, “The DoD can’t do it all. We’re big, we’re powerful. We certainly have the largest budget, but we can’t do it all, even here in the homeland.”
“The only way that we create more time and decision space is to take information, that domain awareness, process it faster with the use of capabilities, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, and then disseminate it to decision-makers in a timely manner…” — Gen. Glen D. VanHerck
Collaborative relationships with industry, academia, and allies will need to focus on reducing time to action, particularly when it comes to decision-making. As well as these important relationships, technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence are helping the DoD reduce the time to action by being able to orchestrate, ingest, analyze, and apply large data sets to address the situation at hand.
Gen. VanHerck spoke of these possibilities: “The only way that we create more time and decision space is to take information, that domain awareness, process it faster with the use of capabilities, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, and then disseminate it to decision-makers in a timely manner… and all of this has to be under a foundation of global integration.”
He also noted that not only does decision-making need to occur more quickly, but the DoD will need to act faster and think differently as well to keep pace with these impending threats: “The Department [DoD] is not going fast enough. We’re using legacy processes to field capabilities. In today’s virtually driven and software-driven environment, we’re applying capabilities and processes, like we’re buying ships, tanks, planes, and automobiles, when we need to think differently to go faster.”
AUSA 2023 shows that the landscape of U.S. Homeland Security is certainly evolving with new threats that impact the DoD’s readiness and operations. In recent years, terrorists and criminals have increasingly adopted new techniques and advanced tactics to thwart Homeland Security and threaten the safety, security, and prosperity of the U.S. Through the collaboration of all branches of the U.S. military, federal and local government agencies, industry, and allies, the U.S. can help alleviate these impending threats to Homeland Security.