Originally published July 24, 2014 in The Aspen Daily News

Army chief speaks at Security Forum

The state of the international political landscape is more unpredictable and uncertain now than it has been in 38 years.

That’s according to Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the United States Army chief of staff, who spoke at the opening session of the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday evening.

Odierno answered questions from The New York Times reporter David E. Sanger about the U.S.’s national security, international politics and the future of the Army.

The state of world politics has come to a head in recent weeks with crises breaking out in the Ukraine, Israel, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan seemingly all at once.

“Since 2012, the world has not become a safer place,” Odierno said.

Odierno attributed the recent surge in violence to the fact that many of the countries facing upheaval are tied together politically.

Jordan Curet/Aspen Daily News Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, U.S. Army chief of staff, kicked off the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday evening with “This We’ll Defend,” where he discussed the global scene and the role of the Army in dealing with threats.Most of the problems in Iraq that occurred since the U.S. pulled out troops stemmed from a lack of leadership. The leaders were replaced and that led Iraqi soldiers to question their purpose, causing some to defect. That essentially opened the door for the extremist group, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, (ISIS), he said.

“The lesson I learned was that military power cannot solve problems alone,” Odierno said.

As for the crisis in Syria, that would have happened no matter what the U.S. had done, he said.

Odierno said the U.S. should pay close attention to the crisis in Ukraine and support the National Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“Militarily, it’s a bit of a wake up call for NATO,” Odierno said.

Still, he said the U.S. should be careful before getting involved, because the issue is complex.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s budget sequestration of 2013 has threatened to cut the size of the current Army. If personnel is cut further, Odierno will have to reevaluate the nation’s current strategy, he said.

Ultimately, Odierno doesn’t want to see a draft occur, but that could be triggered by a budget shortfall, he said. The Army today is more capable than the Army in the past because soldiers are better trained and serve longer than previous generations, which makes them more experienced, Odierno said.

“I think it’s worth the investment,” Odierno said of the voluntary Army.

Originally published July 27, 2014 in The Aspen Daily News

Richard Ledgett speaks at 2014 The Aspen Security Forum

Nations around the world need to come together and establish international standards that regulate cyber attacks, said Richard Ledgett, deputy director for the National Security Agency at The Aspen Security Forum on Saturday.

There currently aren’t international norms governing cyber warfare, which could include attacks on public infrastructure like power plants. That is a dangerous situation, Ledgett said.

“It’s a very, very rich cyber threat environment,” he said.

During Saturday’s session at the Aspen Meadows campus titled “Security Challenges in the Ever-Evolving Cyber Realm,” Ledgett answered questions on the state of the NSA and the future of cyber threats from The New York Times reporter David E. Sanger.

China poses the greatest threat to the United States, in part because the Chinese government discloses intelligence collected by the government to commercial enterprises. The NSA doesn’t do that, Ledgett noted.

The NSA has been under heightened criticism from the public since Edward Snowden leaked classified documents more than a year ago to the press.

Dorothy M. Atkins/Aspen Daily News Richard Ledgett, deputy director of the National Security Agency (right), answers questions from The New York Times reporter David E. Sanger (left) during the Aspen Security Forum.

Since then, the NSA has seen “dozens of terrorists” use published information to change their cyber attack tactics, Ledgett said.

“When people say there are no damages with the disclosures, they are categorically wrong,” he said. “Our hope is that they’re not catastrophically wrong.”

Snowden had access to approximately 1.6 million classified documents, but it’s still unclear how many documents he extracted, Ledgett said.

Snowden used an inexpensive web crawler to scrape the government’s database. That wouldn’t happen today, Ledgett said, declining to elaborate on the technology the NSA is using to combat a similar attack.

“There are a lot of good lessons there,” Ledgett said.

As time passes, the information Snowden extracted becomes less relevant, because the NSA keeps adjusting its system in response to the leak, he said. That’s one reason why talking about Snowden and his actions are becoming more irrelevant.

“I would much prefer talking about things moving forward than talk about Edward Snowden,” Ledgett said.

When asked how the U.S. government can combat cyber attacks from teenagers and criminal groups, who naturally resist conforming to government policies, Ledgett responded, “The same way you eat an elephant. One bite at a time.”