Access Control

By Sebastian Sprenger / January 27, 2010 at 5:00 AM

For some time , defense officials have been observing a trend among would-be adversaries, like China, of investing in systems capable of engaging U.S. forces from afar. The idea of these anti-access capabilities is to keep the world's best-equipped military from physically entering theaters of war, either by directly denying U.S. forces entry or, more indirectly, by disabling critical capabilities -- think GPS, for example -- needed to maneuver.

A U.S. Joint Forces Command-sponsored war game last year led to a number of urgent recommendations for Quadrennial Defense Review leaders to address the issue, we reported last October.

Jim Thomas, vice president for strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, yesterday pointed out two program portfolios worth watching in next week's defense budget request because they could offer insight into exactly how defense officials intend to approach the problem.

For one, DOD's plans for long-range strike capabilities, which would need to consider U.S. countermeasures to overcome anti-access weapons, is one area to keep an eye on, Thomas told reporters yesterday. Another, he said, has to do with space assets. Because satellites are increasingly vulnerable to enemy attack during a concerted anti-access campaign against U.S. forces, officials are expected to field more air-breathing systems delivering similar capabilities as backups, he said.