The Pentagon revealed late last week it is paying the Chinese $10 million for a one-year lease for a satellite that allows U.S. troops on the African continent to keep in touch and share information, Wired reports.
The announcement has U.S. policymakers on edge.
Over the last several years, the U.S. government has publicly and loudly expressed its concern that too much sensitive American data passes through Chinese electronics — and that those electronics could be sieves for Beijing’s intelligence services. But the Pentagon says it has no other choice than to use the Chinese satellite. The need for bandwidth is that great, and no other satellite firm provides the continent-wide coverage that the military requires.
"That bandwidth was available only on a Chinese satellite," deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy Doug Loverro told a House Armed Services Committee panel, in remarks first reported by InsideDefense.com. […]
Relying on Chinese companies could be a problematic solution to the bandwidth crunch, however. U.S. officials have in recent years publicly accused Chinese telecommunications firms of being, in effect, subcontractors of Beijing’s spies.
The Pentagon insists any data passed on the satellite is protected.
The Pentagon could soon lease more satellite bandwidth from the Chinese as its needs increase with every new drone and soldier.
Experts are concerned even coded, encrypted data could be used by the Chinese to gain access to important U.S. military intelligence.