Missile Agency Director Describes Threat, Countermeasures

In recent years, threats from new missile systems against the homeland, deployed forces and friends and allies have arisen from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said.


In recent years, threats from new missile systems against the homeland, deployed forces and friends and allies have arisen from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said.

Navy Vice Adm. Jon A. Hill spoke yesterday at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Washington.

“At one time, the MDA focused on the ballistic missile threat. However, adversaries have designed extremely fast and maneuverable advanced cruise missiles and hyper-sonic weapons that make for “a very tough environment for defense,” Hill said. “The Missile Defense Review addressed these new threats, laying out a path to follow in developing new offensive and defensive measures, he added.”

Though defense is a key part of deterrence, Hill said, “you can’t shoot what you don’t see.” Providing that sights are sensors and radars aboard ships, on the ground and in space.

Space-based sensors are the ultimate, Hill said, because they can provide global coverage. Space tracking and surveillance systems collect data, intelligence and real-world missile testing, he said, but that capability is nowhere near where it needs to be.

Sensors start the kill chain by sending out a warning, the admiral explained. Then, radars track the missile, and fire control launches a defensive projectile.

This projectile can come from a Patriot system or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, all operated by the Army, or the Standard Missile 3 Block IIA or the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, both operated by the Navy. Besides those defenses, ground-based interceptors, operated by the Army, are deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The command and control and battle management system, fully protected with cybersecurity measures, ties these systems together with the operators.

Many missile defense components are in the research, science and technology and demonstration phase, Hill said. For example, work is being done on the next-generation interceptor and long-range discrimination radar, as well as space-based sensors.

“Where we live today is we don’t have everything we want deployed in space, nor do we have the terrestrial or mobile sea-based sensors where we want, where we need them at the right time,” the missile agency Director said.

Besides new, cutting-edge systems, Hill noted that current systems such as Aegis and command and control are receiving important upgrades as they become available.

MDA is working with the Army to integrate the THAAD and Patriot systems so operators can communicate with both and shoot with either, depending on the scenario, the admiral said.

Allies and partners are developing their own missile defense systems or buying them from the United States through the foreign military sales system, Hill said. These systems used by friends and partners furthers global security, he pointed out, and the Defense Department is working to better integrate those systems so they’re even more effective.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges, Hill said, that hasn’t affected MDA’s ability to perform its mission: “If you ask me where we took risk during the global pandemic, we never took any risk in supporting the warfighter,” he said. “We continue to deliver capability, we continue to support major movements around the globe.” Delivery of systems caused some delay, he acknowledged, because assembly lines require people in confined and enclosed places.

Hill termed his MDA team and those in the services as stellar, and he said there’s no nobler calling than defending America.

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Defense.gov (August 2020) Missile Agency Director Describes Threat, Countermeasures

Defense Officials Express Agreement With President’s Warning to Iran


Defense Department officials are in full agreement with President Donald J. Trump’s warning to the Iranian regime on Twitter, senior Pentagon officials said on Wednesday.

The Iranian regime has a history of harassing U.S. vessels operating in the Persian Gulf. In the past, small, quick Iranian boats have charged at U.S. ships in international waters.

The president tweeted, “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.”

“The president issued an important warning to the Iranians,” Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist said during a Pentagon news conference today. “What he was emphasizing is all of our ships retain the right of self-defense, and people need to be very careful in their interactions to understand the inherent right of self-defense.” 

The president’s tweet does not signal a new policy, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, as U.S. forces in any environment retain the right to defend themselves. “Every ship that deploys in harm’s way has the inherent right of self-defense,” Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten told reporters. “What that means is if we see a hostile act, if we see hostile intent, we have the right to respond, up to and including lethal force.”

Hyten warned Iran that, if threatened, U.S. commanders “will respond with overwhelming lethal force.” 

Norquist said Trump was responding to Iran’s poor behavior. “He is emphasizing and warning them about the challenges of what they will create,” the deputy secretary said. “I think it was a very useful thing that he put out, and I think it’s an important thing for other people to understand and take very seriously.”

Hyten emphasized that he thinks it is a good thing that the president warned an adversary. He said that if the Iranians want to go down that path, “we will come, and we will come large.”

Defense.gov (April 2020)Defense Officials Express Agreement With President’s Warning to Iran

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper’s Meetings With Counterparts From Poland, the United Kingdom, Romania and Spain

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper held bilateral meetings with four of his counterparts from Poland, the United Kingdom, Romania and Spain during the first day of the February 2020 NATO Defense Ministerial.


Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper held bilateral meetings with four of his counterparts from Poland, the United Kingdom, Romania and Spain during the first day of the February 2020 NATO Defense Ministerial. 

Secretary Esper and Polish Minister of National Defence Marius Błaszczak hailed 2019 as a banner year for U.S.-Polish relations, which included two Presidential Joint Declarations on force posture and cooperative efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Latvia.

Secretary Esper thanked Poland for their contributions to defense spending and for hosting an historic DEFENDER Europe 2020 exercise later this year.

Esper then met with Minister of National Defense for Romania Nicolae-Ionel Ciucă. The leaders affirmed their commitment to ensuring security in the Black Sea region, deterring Russian aggression, and bolstering interoperability.

Secretary Esper thanked Romanians for hosting SEA SHIELD 2020 next month, which will lead to greater maritime interoperability and deeper cooperation among NATO allies and partners. He also acknowledged Romania’s positive progress on defense spending and international contributions. 

Secretary Esper and Secretary of State for Defense for the United Kingdom Ben Wallace also had an opportunity to meet and discuss their shared mission to defeat ISIS. Esper thanked the U.K. for their strong statements of commitment over the past weeks, and the U.K.’s enduring support which has allowed the coalition to navigate a number of challenges over the past several years.

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Secretary Esper thanked Minister Wallace for being a steadfast and loyal ally as one of our oldest friends and partners. 

Finally, during a bilateral meeting with Minister of Defense for Spain Margarita Robles, Secretary Esper expressed his appreciation for Spain’s strong defense partnership. He urged them to honor their pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2024 and vowed to continue to partner together in our shared mission to defeat ISIS. The leaders confirmed they look forward to a continued partnership.

Secretary Esper will continue to meet with partners and allies throughout the Defense Ministerial, reaffirming the importance of strengthening the NATO alliance through readiness, ensuring more equitable burden sharing, and addressing regional security issues. 

Defense.gov(February, 2020) Readout of Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper’s Meetings With Counterparts From Poland, the United Kingdom, Romania and Spain

DOD Has Enduring Role in Election Defense

The Defense Department plays an important role in that whole-of-government partnership, spearheaded by the NSA and Cybercom’s Election Security Group, formed in the wake of the successes of the Russia Small Group during the 2018 midterms.


Voting has begun for the 2020 presidential election primary season — but it’s not the beginning of the U.S. government’s defense against foreign interference and influence in our elections.

At the Reagan National Defense Forum in December 2019, Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, U.S. Cyber Command commander and director of the National Security Agency, laid out the Defense Department’s role in election security. “We began the ability for us to defend the presidential elections not today, not six months from now. We began it the day after the midterm elections,” he said, “We have not let up in terms of our ability to understand what our adversaries are doing.”

The Defense Department plays an important role in that whole-of-government partnership, spearheaded by the NSA and Cybercom’s Election Security Group, formed in the wake of the successes of the Russia Small Group during the 2018 midterms.

David Imbordino, the NSA election security lead, and Army Brig. Gen. William Hartman, Cybercom’s election security lead and commander of Cyber National Mission Force, co-lead the joint Election Security Group. Its purpose is to align the two organizations’ resources, efforts and actions to disrupt, deter and degrade adversaries’ ability to interfere and influence the U.S. elections.

“The biggest success out of 2018 wasn’t the 2018 midterms,” Hartman said. “The biggest success was we put in place, both organizationally and from a business practice standpoint, a focus on an enduring mission to protect the democratic process.”

The Election Security Group’s primary objectives are to generate insights on foreign adversaries that lead to improved cyber defenses and to impose costs on countries that seek to interfere. It directly supports partners, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, by collecting, declassifying and sharing vital information to enable agencies’ efforts in election security.

“[The FBI will] engage with social media companies,” Imbordino said. “That information can enable a social media company to then use their platform, where they have very unique insights that we don’t have, to mitigate and potentially unravel [malicious] social media influence campaigns.”

When NSA and Cybercom see a cyberattack happening against a certain victim, they communicate that information to appropriate government offices, which, in turn, work with private-sector partners to provide notification and enable future cyber defense.

“We look at adversary meddling in an election on two different fronts. One is covert influence, and then there’s interference,” Imbordino said. “For interference, what we’re talking about is an adversary trying to go change a vote total, targeting election infrastructure, voter rolls. Influence is more of the social media component of trying to influence public opinion.”

“It’s not enough to just know and understand what our adversaries are doing,” he continued. “The nation expects us to do something about it. Enabling our partners with the right information at the right classification level they need to take action to defend our democracy against these threats is essential and allows all of the tools of the government to be employed in this fight.”

Guiding all of Cybercom’s efforts is their underlying framework for the continuous execution of cyberspace operations, known as persistent engagement — the concept of constant contact with adversaries in cyberspace, engaging beyond DOD networks to “defend forward,” officials said, noting that persistent engagement enables Cybercom to be postured to impose cost against foreign malicious actors before they reach the homeland.

An example of persistent engagement in action is “hunt forward” operations that involve deploying defensive cyber teams around the world at the invitation of allies and partners to look for adversaries’ malicious cyber activity. These teams send insights back from these missions, enabling defense for U.S. and partner networks, and providing real-time situational awareness for Cybercom to better protect the nation from foreign attacks in cyberspace.

“In a hunt forward operation, we are able to work with partner nations and receive an invitation to execute operations in their country,” Hartman said. “These are generally countries that are in the near abroad of adversaries that we’re potentially concerned about.”

Hunt forward operations produce detailed information identifying risks and threats to critical infrastructure, networks and data. These insights will enable the U.S. to detect and defend against potential cyber threats to the upcoming 2020 elections, he explained.

If malware is discovered on hunt forward operations, Cybercom can publicize malicious software through antivirus portals, imposing costs of time, money and access on the adversary.

Another way the combined Cybercom and NSA Election Security Group enables defense is through the National Guard Bureau.

National Guard members supporting their state and local elections have the ability to share information to various organizations within the Election Security Group. The group will then use national-level intelligence to assess whether there is a foreign threat before providing that information to the National Guard, DHS and FBI.

“The primary way that we work with the states is really working by, with and through DHS and FBI, which is absolutely a critical component of how we interact,” Hartman said. “And the National Guard is present in all 50 states, three territories, and District of Columbia, which allows us to potentially look at something that may be occurring in the United States and see if we can track that activity to any foreign actor or to any foreign space.”

As election security continues to be an enduring mission of the DOD, national security officials stress the importance of allowing Americans to exercise their right to vote — a vote cast is a vote counted.

Defense.gov (February, 2020) DOD Has Enduring Role in Election Defense