SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE • The new leader of U.S. Transportation Command, essentially the moving company for nearly all things military, said here Wednesday that cyberattacks are an “evolving threat” with a low cost of entry that need to be dealt with.
“There are a lot of people that can get into this business, and we have not kept up with the tools it takes to really keep it down,” Air Force Gen. Darren McDew told reporters after a ceremony in his honor. “So evolving, going forward, is going to be very important.”
U.S. Transportation Command, or Transcom, headquarters is at Scott Air Force Base in Southern Illinois but has 118,000 logistics professionals around the world. In recent years, independent contractors working with Transcom have been hacked. More recently, security breaches into the email system at the Pentagon have caught headlines.
“It’s not just our networks,” he said. “Commercial industry has networks that need to be defended as well.”
McDew is the 12th leader of Transcom since it was created in 1987. He replaced Gen. Paul Selva, who was promoted to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after leading Transcom for a year.
In a ceremony on base Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said McDew “stood out for his uncommon ability to lead.”
“While the men and woman of Transcom don’t often receive the recognition they deserve, truly they are the foundation for everything that we do,” Carter said. “You provide our force the flexibility and mobility we need to confront any threat in any place for the purpose of our choosing.”
He said Transcom, which has been busy in recent years getting equipment out of Afghanistan, needs the ability to evolve and meet new demands.
“As the force continues to undergo a strategic transition from one era to the next, as we reduce our focus on counterinsurgency and place more emphasis on full-spectrum, rapid-response capabilities, Transcom’s ability to reform and innovate will become more critical,” he said.
He and McDew said long-term budgeting is important for making high-cost decisions. Fleets of land, air and sea equipment need to be recapitalized to modern standards.
“What I am concerned about going forward is how will we maintain the readiness that we have today with what we know are shrinking budgets,” McDew said. “What we need is a consistent budget, even if it’s lower. A continual resolution isn’t something you can plan and modernize on. We have to get past that.”
McDew, a pilot-turned-manager who has been in the Air Force 33 years, is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. In the 1990s, he was Air Force aide to the president at the White House. Before his promotion Wednesday, he led Air Mobility Command at Scott.
He is the first African-American to lead Transcom.
“I still believe that there are people out there who need to see someone who looks like them in order to dream it,” he said. But he added: “I don’t want to be just a role model for young African-American and minority kids. I hope to live my life in a way that I am a role model for all kids.”