Spy chiefs beg for security holes; 1-on-1 with Raytheon’s missile-defense chief; USAF fleet costs rise; and more...

What would keep us safer? Making computers and other devices as secure as possible, or adding a backdoor for “government use only"? The latter, say the intelligence services of the Five Eyes — that is, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — who this week lobbed a new salvo in the Crypto Wars. Better encryption, the spy chiefs argue, means that “court decisions about legitimate access to data are increasingly rendered meaningless, threatening to undermine the systems of justice established in our democratic nations.”

Nay, cries security guru Bruce Schneier, whose new book Click Here to Kill Everybody explores the reasons why cybersecurity is paramount and more important than ever.

Excerpt: “There is simply no way to secure US networks while at the same time leaving foreign networks open to eavesdropping and attack....This leaves us with a choice: either we secure our stuff, and as a side effect also secure their stuff; or we keep their stuff vulnerable, and as a side effect keep our own stuff vulnerable. It's actually not a hard choice.

“An analogy might bring this point home. Imagine that every house could be opened with a master key, and this was known to the criminals. Fixing those locks would also mean that criminals' safe houses would be more secure, but it's pretty clear that this downside would be worth the tradeoff of protecting everyone's house.”

Want more? Read the long essay that sparked Schneier’s book, here.

Tell us what you think, defense leaders! Which approach would keep your company or unit safer?   


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One-on-One: Raytheon Missile Defense Exec

Mitch Stevison, vice president of air and missile systems at Raytheon Missile Systems. There’s a lot happening in his world right now as the U.S. military boosts its missile defenses. Two of his projects, the SM-3 and SM-6 missile interceptors, are close to locking in five-year multiyear contracts and a number of his programs have intercept tests scheduled in the coming months. I chatted with Stevison at the Farnborough Air Show in July, but his remarks are incredibly relevant now as the Pentagon prepares to release its long-awaited Missile Defense Review.

Q. What’s kicking on your radar this year?

A. The big thing for me right now … is these potential multiyear [contracts] for both SM-3 and SM-6. It’s a huge thing for Raytheon obviously from an opportunity standpoint and it really looks like that we’re proceeding forward on … two multiyears the early part of next year. The big thing is the savings to the Department of Defense. We’re starting to show opportunities between those two multiyears to save $400 million to $500 million.

Q. Is that an annual savings or a total savings?

A. That’s the total savings. They’re five-year procurements. It’s opportunity for us to look at how we run the program differently. From a business standpoint, it’s very difficult ...

[when] you get a year-to-year contract … to say how do I make a difference from one year to the next year. … It’s going to drive savings not just from economies of scale, but it’s going to drive saving from how we efficiently operate the program and then give us some ability as a company to invest in the program because we now have an ability over a much larger contract to get a return on investment. … We’re going to look at things [like] how we actually improve capability. … As a company, we’re going to make investments in our facilities [and] investments in our factories to ensure that the multiyear positions us to be able to support the Department of Defense in a more effective way for many years to come.

Q. I remember visiting your SM-3 and SM-6 factory in Huntsville, Alabama, a few years back and hearing about how it was built in a way that it could easily expand to increase production. Is that part of this?

A. Absolutely. That facility was created with growth in mind. There’s no need for a new design. We have the design. If you look at that facility, it is a integration facility with spokes off of it and those spokes are test cells that we can take the missiles in and test them away from where the people are working. There’s already two more test cells that are designed and laid out so we can just go put those in. The facility itself, one side of it was created with a frangible wall, meaning we just move that wall and increase the floorspace there. [The] $70-plus million investment that the company made in the most modern missile factory in the world can easily be expanded and that’s a focus of what we’re looking at right now to say, if it makes business sense for us inside of this multiyear, let’s go to that and maybe bring other products into that facility. … What if we take our SM-2 product line, which has been re-started and say let’s move that production in there as well. So it’s good for the Navy for us to be able to do that.

Q. I have to imagine the outlook for SM-3 and SM-6 has to be incredibly large with all of these additional ship buys the Navy says it wants right now.

A. As the effector provider for a lot of the Navy’s capabilities out of these ships, it’s not an immediate impact to us, but we see it as a long-term opportunity that really gives us confidence that our business is going to continue to go in the right direction…. Knowing that these long-term opportunities are out there keeps industry engaged in the investment game.

Q. What are some major upcoming tests this year?

A. We have multiple tests. At the end of the year, we have another SM-3 IIA flight test. It will be the first flight test we had since that issue that we saw in that [last test]. Publicly people use the term flight test failure. I look at it as a flight test anomaly that has predicated more learning than we could have gotten in 10 flight tests. … There’s one [test] that’s going to follow basically two months to three months after this next test that is going to be, what I call, a test for everybody to watch. It will be the first time that we simultaneously launch two SM-3s at the same time to go after a target. A unique thing about this test is one will be launched from a ship, one will be launched from land. … [B]ecause it’s the first of its kind test, we’re going to learn so much information that it’s going to be overwhelming to us. This really pushes the SM-3 IIA program to the forefront for both the use in [European missile interceptors in Poland] and the deployment out in the Navy in the very near future.

Q. What’s the significance of firing two interceptors?

A. It’s operational validation. It’s not only that the missile from an engineering standpoint works, it’s that the missiles are operationally ready for employment.

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