Phil Susmann ’81 Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Norwich University; President, Norwich University Applied Research Institutes
NORWICH RECORD | Winter 2022
The exfiltration of intellectual property from the United States overseas has finally become recognized as a significant problem by the Department of Defense. A number of critical nation states have been able to traverse significant technological innovation without spending the time or effort necessary to build the capability. They obviously had to steal those capabilities and that innovation from our shores. In some cases, that took place without anyone noticing. We also know that, simultaneously, there are billions of dollars in ransomware being requested and services disrupted because of actors who are being harbored and protected, and possibly engaged, by significant nation-state adversaries.
As we stand here today, much of our supply chain is disrupted. We know that critical weapons platforms have been stolen. We’ve seen technology across all areas stolen from our defense contractors and the private sector to drive the central plan within China that they will be the leaders within all sectors of the global economy. When they can’t innovate fast enough to beat us, then they actively employ thousands of people to steal that intellectual property. We have now a great power competition between China and the U.S.
I do not believe that, at the end of the day, China can defeat us if we allow our civil society to exist, because China can’t innovate ahead of us. They must steal to run at parity, because they are not innovating in breakthroughs. Their society by construct is a surveillance society based on Big Brother from George Orwell’s novel, 1984. There is surveillance everywhere. Where ideas and concepts are ultimately prohibited, an innovative society cannot be created in that environment. You must steal the innovation. You may incrementally improve product. But you can’t necessarily innovate, because you need that liberal-based educational environment to be able to make those great leaps. You need to be able to play and work with all kinds of ideas, which is what our society allows.
From a cybersecurity perspective here in the U.S., we find that the house is on fire, and we need to get some more firemen. Because there are not enough people to put it out or to save the structure at this time. We’re engaged in building the next generation of firemen to take on the fire, but at the same time we’re also engaged with figuring out the best way to respond to this fire.
My greatest fear is that the social media and activities being pushed by our adversaries within this environment are going to tear the fabric of our democracy, and eventually create a civil war within our society — unless we can understand and respond to what is obviously a very adversarial interaction within our civil society. In the words of art from Norwich University’s mission statement, we should be able to “... tolerate all opinions when reason is left free to combat them” in our national discourse.
Yet in our society today, we are not accepting or, tolerating all opinions. We no longer allow that free and open discourse. Instead, we are yelling at each other. Adding the fuel to the fire that is driving this conversation—unbeknownst to the people who are becoming so angry about these activities and continuing to respond to them—are the very adversaries external who can¬not meet us on the battlefield and defeat us. However, they’re going to tear our society apart. Because we’re in the front yard having a fistfight while the house is burning down, and we don’t have enough firemen to put water on the fire.
The solution going forward will be based in an educated society, for us to be able to understand the pressures coming at us externally.
—As told to Sean Markey
Phil Susmann ’81, MBA, began teaching in the business school at Norwich in 1987 before becoming the university’s first chief information officer in 1994. He was responsible for the development of the cybersecurity programs, National Security Agency certification, national Center for the Study of Counter Terrorism and Cybercrime at Norwich University, and the Department of Defense Senior Military Colleges Cyber Institutes at Norwich. He was appointed the president of NUARI in 2005 and balances the operation of this independent nonprofit research corporation with building partnerships for Norwich University.
File photo by Matthew Septimus