Air Force Space Command Gen. DeAnna Burt warned defense contractors that China cyber-theft is “stealing us blind” in the $17.5 billion space and ground control contracts.
As Director of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) operations and communications, General Burt is responsible for the management and development of integrated air, space and cyberspace operations since December 2018. She cautioned at a July 18 meeting of America’s top defense contractors about the risks from China’s cyber warriors that are routinely penetrating U.S. space contractor networks to steal top-secret data.
General Burt stated: “We have had breaches … the Chinese and others stealing things from cleared defense contractors.” But she emphasized that “they very much like space. … And they are definitely stealing us blind on the contractor side.”
The highest priority and biggest single component of the U.S. Air Force’s 2019 fiscal year budget of $156.3 billion dollars is the completion and deployment of the third generation of Global Positioning System satellites (GPS 3) and the accompanying ‘OCX’ integrated military ground control software that is expected to improve security, accuracy and guard against anti-jamming attacks for 700 U.S. weapons systems.
Department of Defense acquisitions’ 2009 estimate for Lockheed Martin to build 22 GPS 3 satellites for duel civilian and military purposes was $2.5 billion, with launches beginning in 2014. The accompanying “OCX” ground control software contract awarded to Raytheon was estimated to cost $886 million and made available in 2016.
The General Accounting Office, just before the first satellite launch in December 2018, estimated that GPS 3 cost had spiked to $12 billion. The Department of Defense estimated OCX ground control and GPS 3 integration cost had jumped to $5.5 billion.
The Epoch Times reported that China is building its own third generation BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, as an alternative to America’s GPS-3. On June 25, China successfully launched its 15th BDS-3 satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
The U.S.-China Economic Review Commission warned in 2017 that the completion of the 35 BDS-3 satellite network by 2020 would allow China’s expanding BeiDou-guided conventional strike weapons to target “position accuracies of under ten meters.”
Although GPS-3 accuracy will eventually be three times more accurate than the BeiDou-3, the U.S. Air Force is blaming the spectacular progress made by Chinese in achieving navigational parity on the ease and scale of hacking U.S. private sector contractors.
General Burt stated that the Air Force Space Command has integrated cyber-squadrons into its annual Space Flag war games held each April in Colorado Springs. She told the defense contractors that based on her recent gaming experience, “the thing that keeps me up at night is how we manage data on your systems or your sub’s systems.”
With the next Space Flag tactical exercises expanding in August to include Britain, Canada and Australia, Burt emphasized that the United States is now building an expanding coalition of allied space partners that may also include Japan and Germany in the future.
General Burt stressed that the strength of U.S. national security rest on innovations generated by commercial and industrial base of American private sector companies. She praised the tremendous progress by SpaceX and other entrepreneurial firms for driving down the costs of building and launching satellites.