In the 1980s, the Pentagon invested heavily in technology such as stealth and the Internet to help win the Cold War and establish the U.S. as the world’s lone superpower.
Today, however, there is a growing consensus that China has taken the lead in the 5G era as the regime of supreme leader Xi Jinping builds toward its goal of regional domination and rivaling the U.S. on the world stage.
In the first half of 2019, the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei held a 28 percent share of the global telecommunications market. Across the world, both Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese company, are offering their services to build individual countries’ 5G networks. Beijing plans to deploy the first standalone 5G network in 2020.
“The industry consensus is that Huawei is ahead of the other 5G equipment manufacturers in developing their hardware,” said Christopher Yoo, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in law and technology.
The Pentagon’s defense science board warned that China is seeking to control technical standards for 5G around the world.
“China is known to influence/coordinate positions before major standards decisions and seeks to control future standards,” the report said.
The executive summary of a report by the board concluded that the U.S. military will gain “significant benefits” in using the advanced communications and networking system, including much-improved data transfer rates, shorter delays in information transfers and significant energy savings. But the improvements also come with risks, including cyberthreats, Bill Gertz reported for The Washington Times on Oct. 2.
Other risks include supply chain, cyber, radio frequency (RF)/electronic warfare (EW) and virtual/physical vulnerabilities.
The board’s report noted that military operations are increasingly reliant on networked communications and quick data transfers. If those are disrupted, then the operations could be sabotaged.
The report recommends adopting 5G for military use in lightly contested areas and develop a secure 5G system for contested environments and critical military applications,” Gertz wrote.
The Defense Department’s acquisition office should develop hardened and secure 5G technologies and infrastructure with a focus on protecting supply chains, the Pentagon board said.