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Former SECNAV Lehman: Russian Cyber Forces Stealing U.S. Technological Edge

Russian submarine Severodvinsk

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. military is losing its technological edge, in part because Russian cyber forces have penetrated the defense industry and are stealing information, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman said on Wednesday.

“We were used, in the Cold War, to having the current edge in technology, partially because the Russians adopted a policy after World War II to draft off our technology – so they designed their fighters to use F/A-18 radar because they knew they’d be able to steal them,” Lehman said on Wednesday at a Maritime Security Dialogue event cohosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Today their cyber is so capable, even though most of the defense industry will not publicly admit it, but they’re right in from the beginning of the program with their cyber capability, so there is almost no lag. They’re not behind us, they’re with us in our [technology development].”

In order to combat the leak of information, Lehman called for a quicker U.S. acquisition process to allow industry and the Pentagon to more quickly bring high-tech systems to the field. Lehman said while the U.S. has a 22-year process to get a major weapon system to the field, Russia and China have about a seven year cycle.

“They both, through different means, got rid of a lot of their bureaucracy and ours continues to grow,” he said.
“It’s really time that destroys [weapons development].”

He used the example of Russian submarine development in the last several years as an example of how the technology leaked out.

“If you look at their latest submarines, it’s pretty hard to project a real advantage sub-to-sub. [They] copied all of the technology off our submarine quieting, and they’re ahead in some of the offensive capabilities,” he said.
“We have really fallen behind in technology, and we need to get back into that game.”

Lehman served as the Secretary of the Navy from 1981 to 1987 and was responsible for the 600-ship navy of the Reagan administration. He was a key national security advisor to the Mitt Romney campaign in 2012. Much of the Romney national security plan was absorbed into the Donald Trump defense platform.

Office of Secretary of Defense spokesman for weapons development Adam Stump declined to comment on Lehman’s remarks when reached by USNI News at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

During the Cold War, the Russians stole major U.S. submarine secrets that were, in turn, adapted into their own submarine construction programs.

Likewise, the Chinese have had a long history of adapting Western weapon designs for their own uses – from adaptions of U.S. stealth fighters to infantry small arms.

Beijing stole terabytes of data from the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program in 2007 that helped in developing the People’s Liberation Army Air Force J-20 stealth fighter.