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   April 2016

— This Month A  China Focus —

It's All About Communication

Quantum Cryptography


China's Aggressiveness Is Backfiring

Analyzing China's Short Term Victory

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Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. It's purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates, their families and friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested in military history, and the general public. Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details, click on the OCS Association link at left.

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It's All About Communications

Quantum Communication Photons 

Quantum Cryptography

Last month we published a piece about China’s use of pigeons for military communication. With skepticism and a tongue in cheek attitude we asked if America’s greatest military threat is really setting up a pigeon communication network, upon which to depend in the case of armed conflict with the U.S.

Upon closer inspection we found that what they are in fact doing is just that; they are training a first wave of 10,000 pigeons to serve as emergency message carriers in case the U.S. unleashes an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) on the PRC’s military communication network. In the interim, since the Chinese army forms the backbone of the country’s civilian emergency relief corps, these pigeons will serve secondary duty by performing rescue and recovery efforts in the event of earthquakes, fire relief, border disputes, and the like.

In our column last month, somewhat jokingly, we dismissed this whole exercise as interesting but certainly no threat to America. Now, however, just one month removed from this story, we are beginning to rethink our position.

Today we think it is possible… just possible… that China is onto something. The reason we say this is that the pigeon corps story is just part of an entirely new effort the PRC military is mounting to modernize its military communication system. Not modernize in terms of technology, mind you—although that obviously is part of their effort—but modernize in terms of effectiveness. That is, effectiveness in getting the message through, and doing so in a way so that the enemy­—us—cannot read it.

Say, “getting the message through,” isn’t that what we are supposed to be all about? The United States Army Signal Corps? Getting the message through?

What’s going on here, are the Chinese really getting a leg up on us? Finding more reliable and effective ways to underwrite their military communication systems?

Unfortunately, in our view it appears so, as now comes news that the Chinese military is backing up its new pigeon communication network with a complimentary quantum communication network.


Quantum communication… a means of communication so advanced that it provides the user with not only a speed of light method for sending its messages, but one that is uncrackable because the message is formed from the fusion of two or more sub-atomic particles into what are called quantum states; the bottom line of which is that attempts to intercept and read messages of this type fail because the quantum states collapse when attempts are made to observe them.

Maybe the Chinese aren’t so dumb after all.

Maybe they know what they are doing, as they shift their battlefield communication support system from radio wave communication methods to satellite terminated communication nodes running off of a quantum state based communication backbone.

In this age of unremitting cyber attacks and global electronic surveillance, the mainstay of every nations' government, military, civilian and business core is seeking ways to secure their communications. One need only look at the FBI trying to force Apple to build a back door into their iPhone encryption system, or the proliferation of encrypted social network apps, to see what we mean. Today there are well over 1,000 apps for cell phones that encrypt the communication—and attachments—being sent between people... to military grade encryption standards.

What does this mean? It means that if your are trying to listen into and crack your enemy’s communication system, like the boys of old at Blatchley and the like did, you are in trouble.

Here’s the problem: putting personal use social network apps aside for the moment, most major militaries—including the U.S.’—use off the shelf encryption algorithms with key lengths that vary, depending on the level of protection being sought (Sensitive, Classified, Secret, Top Secret, etc.), to encrypt the message being sent. But as we all learned back in college, as long as the basic system’s method of operation is understood, as Kerckhoffs' Law told us, a secure cryptosystem can't rely on the secrecy of the algorithm or process of encryption/decryption to protect its message.

Why? Because given enough attempts a skilled hacker will eventually find a way to shred the algorithm and crack it. So, while the majority of civilian cryptography makes use of publicly known algorithm structures, and so are readily crackable, even though the ciphers used to protect military information are kept secret, they too can be cracked for the same reason. In other words, relying on the idea that your method of encryption is based on a layered security posture does not make your message uncrackable.

If you would like to refresh yourself on these principles, you may want to research Shannon's maxim of “security through obscurity” fame, or even look at the NSA’s certified product type classification system.

It’s because of this then that China’s development of an uncrackable communication infrastructure for its military is so important. The pigeon corps we wrote about last month, which seemed so insignificant and stupid at the time, is just the first element in that system. The second element is the creation of a quantum messaging system that will stop the U.S. from ever hacking Chinese messages, unless we can find a way to rewrite the laws of science. That, dear readers, is not insignificant.

How is China going to do this? By launching a new Quantum Space Satellite (QUESS), wherein the satellites placed into orbit will form the backbone of its military communication network. Like our own MILSATCOM group, whose mission is to develop, acquire, deploy, and sustain space-enabled, war-winning, global communications to support national objectives, the new Chinese military satellite communications assemblage will do the same, except that its satellite signals will be encrypted using unbreakable quantum state formation techniques. And for those of you who doubt this is real, what the Chinese are up to is no mere science experiment.

The Chinese military has already become a world leader in quantum communications technology, and is now poised to roll it out for field use. Without doubt, this will raise the game when it comes to military communication techniques during  both war and peace time, creating for China a strategic asset America—at this time—cannot match.

Quantum Communication Satellite 

Where then is the U.S. Army Signal Corps in all of this? At one time in our past we provided the fountain head for strategic thinking when it came to military and government communication systems, their development, deployment and tactical use. Today we have allowed ourselves to have both our research institutions and directional leadership be replaced by for-profit civilian “partners,” who now dictate how our military—neigh, our entire country’s government communication systems—should work.

Is this a problem? Perhaps not. If you feel that America’s military should let for-profit companies do its thinking for it, then no. But if you feel otherwise, if you feel that the U.S. military should spec for itself what kind of technology and products it needs, then this is a big problem.

Continued at top of page, COLUMN AT RIGHT



Trouble Ahead


Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 1 April 2016. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 8 March 2016 The daughter of Candidate Harold Bercu, OCS Class 42-11, recently sent us a mini-bio covering her dad's time in the Army during WWII. Harold died this past January, but before his passing Julie, his daughter, sat and spoke with him and captured for posterity his memories of his time in service. It's a wonderful piece; short, poignant yet full of history too. Take the time to read what Julie sent us, and take the time to put your own memories together... while you can. Our thanks to Julie Bercu for caring enough to capture her dad's military memories; click here to read them. October 2015 reunion pictures

Update 1 February 2016 Gerald Katz, OCS Class 44-40, has added significant content and pictures to his bio page. He's been sending them along to us for 3 months now, and we finally got all of them edited and posted. There's fascinating info in them about Gerry's time in Germany post-WWII. Take the time to look at them, they're all in chronological order. Click here, you're sure to enjoy them. October 2015 reunion pictures

Update 1 February 2016 October's reunion (2015) pictures have finally been posted. Click here to see and enjoy them. October 2015 reunion pictures





Continued from left column... 

Consider this then: instead of leading the charge to attain both strategic and tactical superiority in the world of military–civilian communication, America’s military has allowed itself to be relegated to doing little more than supervising the tactical deployment of those communication systems that others think we should have. Others, like the NSA, FBI, CIA, college research labs, and the ubiquitous and all controlling for-profit businesses that feed off of the Signal Corps’ dying carcass.

Today, in this author’s estimation, the U.S. Army Signal Corps has been relegated to little more than a field level tactical group. Believe not the sweet sounding phrases published that say “The United States Army Signal Corps (USASC) develops, tests, provides, and manages communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined arms forces…”; in our view, that’s not  true. Most of that work—especially the “develops” and “tests” part­— is done by others, at the behest of still others, who do the real strategic thinking when it comes to what should be developed, for what purpose, and by whom, as regards military communications.

Not so with China.

Not, at any rate, in the case of the Chinese army’s military equivalent of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The creative thinking that led to a 10,000 force national defense pigeon communication network able to be used as a backbone support system for a new Quantum Space Satellite program in the event the country is hit with an EMP makes our case. Yes, yes, by now we know you are rolling on the floor laughing... pigeons you are saying! Pigeons no less!

But consider this: both the pigeon network and the quantum communication network that they are building will be impervious to electronic warfare, as regards keeping their nationwide military in communication with itself. What do we have? What can we depend on? If the northeast, say from Boston through New York to Washington, is hit with an EMP, how will we communicate?

Ok, so maybe we don't need pigeons, but we sure as heck need someone working on this problem, and right now. In our view, the question that needs to be answered is, how are we going to defend our military communication network against EMP forms of attack, or even defend our national communication infrastructure against physical attacks, say on the 100 or so most important central offices that route voice calls and Internet traffic throughout our country? How will we defend our digital infrastructure against electromagnetic attacks able to permanently disable the electrical systems that run nearly all civilian and military infrastructures? The truth be told, a massive attack of this type on the United States would produce almost unimaginable devastation. 

Is the U.S. government, or even our military, doing anything in the way of planning countermeasures for such a situation? Are they, at a minimum, trying to develop a quantum state communication system?

We think not. We can find no factual evidence or information that anyone in our military or government is doing anything beyond tinkering with research on this issue. In fact, if one is to believe a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the answer is they are not even doing that much. In an MIT white paper on this very topic, MIT researchers praised China’s development of a Quantum Space Satellite program—even praising its usefulness for military purposes—while they said that the U.S. is clearly “dragging its feet.”

Where, oh where, is the U.S. Army Signal Corps of old?

You see, it’s not that a quantum communication system, whether satellite driven or otherwise, will solve America’s and the American military’s problems… it’s that no one in our military is in charge of even looking at solving problems like thise one. Is it the NSA’s role to prepare for EMP attacks, or just plain dynamite attacks on our nation’s central office infrastructure? Are university research institutions tasked with doing this? Who is responsible for insuring the integrity of both our military, government and civilian cyber encryption systems? Who for doing the strategic thinking on issues like this? Who for coordinating all of this across all elements of our society?

The Chinese, a nation of socialist thinking zealots, place all of these duties squarely in the hands of the Communist Party. That is, since everything within the communist/socialist world of China is owned by the “Party” (and supposedly managed for the “people”), it is only natural that when it comes to being responsible for pushing the technological limits of science, the Communist Party would take on this roll.

And since within China the military reports to the Communist Party—not the civilian government, or the people—they are the ones—in this case—who have been tasked with improving, expanding and defending the nation’s military, government and civil communication infrastructure.

So the process is simple: the Communist Party tells the Chinese military to develop better and more impervious forms of communication; the Chinese military then tells the Chinese military equivalent of its signal corps to take on this task; the Chinese signal corps instructs Chinese research institutions to develop a more reliable national and military communication system able to withstand the rigors of war, and bring the solution back to the Chinese signal corps for implementation; the Chinese research institutions do just that.

The result, voila, is a new approach to national, civil and military communication that goes from one extreme, pigeons stationed across the country, to another other… a new encrypted, unbreakable Quantum Space Satellite program for the nation’s use… by everyone from the Party to the government, public, and of course the Chinese military.

Sounds like the pre-1950s U.S. Army Signal Corps, doesn’t it?

The Signal Corps tells the President “there are better ways to do this communication thing”; the President says “Go out and get it done”; the Signal Corps rounds up a bunch of research institutions and tells them to work with the guys at Fort Monmouth labs and get busy pushing the limits of science; the research institutions send back possible solutions; the Signal Corps assigns a couple of manufacturers to develop workable prototypes; the Signal Corps tests the prototypes and settles on a set of specs that meets its needs; the products are contracted out for manufacture and deployed in the field; civilian versions are developed and deployed in civil society; and the whole process recycles itself and begins again.

America’s means for developing military and government systems, structures, products and solutions is broken.

Development based on national need and priority has been replaced with development based on profitability. That is, whatever civilian business thinks is best for its pocket is what is pushed onto the American government and military as the next thing that should be budgeted for. Decisions are not made by those with responsibility for charting America’s future when it comes to developing communication infrastructures and the like, because no one is responsible for such a task. Demand drives development, and since the only demand business recognizes is the demand for profits, that is what drives our nation’s technological evolution.

Doubt us? Then look at who is defining the characteristics of the quest to build a fifth generation jet fighter. Answer: Lockheed.

Click to continue reading story



China's Aggressiveness Is Backfiring

Analyzing China's Short Term Victory

We’ve been posting articles for nearly seven years now regarding China’s efforts to take control over the South China Sea. Our fascination has been not so much with China’s military efforts as with the strange result her assertive behavior has brought about: old enemies within that part of the world have begun to find new common ground—where once they fought each other to death, now they are standing together against China.

And so it is with Vietnam and America; and, as a Vietnam Vet, this is all fascinating to watch.

China's Nine Dash Line ClaimWhat has caused this has been the speed and determination with which China has tried to take control of the South China Sea. Not content to sit back on her heals and use slow, soft pressure as a way to gain control over the segment of the world that lies within what it calls the “nine dash line”, China has moved with such speed that it has startled all of the countries that lie along the borders of this area of contention. More specifically, it has startled them into action.

For example, new reports indicate that China is starting land reclamation on Scarborough Shoal, an area China seized from the Philippines in 2012. Adding to this, only a few weeks ago China installed a radar system on Cuarteron Reef (see photo next page), in the Spratly Islands. And just to make sure the radar system had a job to do, it added two batteries of surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the Paracels, and tied them all together into a network (...yet another photo, next page). These efforts, along with what appear to be speeded up efforts to complete new buildings and runways on these and other islands, all seem to suggest that China is preparing to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) to cover the entire South China Sea. If it does this, it will then have matched its efforts of last year, when it claimed a similar ADIZ over the East China Sea.

Strange though it may seem, this aggressive approach on China’s part has caused Washington’s lack of action to take on a meaning of its own. What kind of meaning? One where the countries that border the South China Sea, recognizing that Washington is at present rudderless when it comes to acting on global issues, have stepped forward to act on their own. In other words, Washington’s lack of political leadership, further underwritten by Congress’ determination to downsize the U.S. military and cut its budget, have frightened Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia into cooperating among themselves to try and develop a South China Sea strategy to counter balance China’s moves.

As might be expected, now that they are beginning to act in unison, the Obama administration is stepping forward and claiming credit for the coming together of these countries. But don’t be fooled; for the most part they did it on their own, and thank God they did. Now at least there exists a common consensus among the countries of South East Asia that they need to work together to counter balance the effects of Beijing’s tactical military muscle flexing.

For the moment then, while military engagement with China is off the table, the countries of South East Asia are beginning to work together to develop a counter balance strategy to stop China's expansionist efforts. 

Click to continue reading story




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