Mysterious Contracts With One Tech Firm Reveal The Pentagon’s Secret Deep-Sea Mission To Counter China

(BORIS HORVAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
Font Size:
  • The U.S. military secretly laid a subsea internet cable to a small Navy logistics outpost in the Indian Ocean in 2022 to enhance the Pentagon’s ability to counter China, according to Reuters.
  • The project reveals the outsized role just one firm, SubCom, plays in the escalating economic and national security war between the U.S. and China.
  • Operation “Big Wave” was concealed in a $300 million commercial project whose viability was questioned, according to Reuters.

Last year, the U.S. military discreetly laid super-fast internet link to a naval outpost in the Indian Ocean aided by SubCom, a New Jersey submarine cable manufacturer that for decades has played a leading role in secret Pentagon spying operations, according to a Reuters investigation.

The Pentagon contracted SubCom to build the cable for Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, an installation on the footprint-shaped coral atoll tasked with supplying logistics needs for the U.S. and British naval presence in the Indian Ocean to strengthen readiness in a region China seeks to control, according to Reuters. Operation “Big Wave” represents one piece in a larger technology and defense battle between Washington and Beijing and the outsized role little-known firms play in shaping future of U.S. national security.

In February 2022, SubCom’s CS Dependable laid the high-speed fiber-optic cable to Diego Garcia, Reuters reported. (RELATED: Xi Tells Chinese Troops To Double Down On War Prep As Janet Yellen Touches Down In Beijing)

“The resiliency, redundancy, and security of our communication infrastructure represents a top priority for U.S. Pacific Fleet,” a U.S. Navy spokesperson told Reuters in a statement, acknowledging the existence of the cable to Diego Garcia for the first time.

The Navy needs SubCom to provide the groundwork for spying on Chinese submarines and warships and to coordinate operations between sprawling military bases worldwide, two subsea cable industry officials who have contracted with the U.S. government in the past told Reuters.

Undersea internet cables facilitate 99% of all transcontinental internet traffic, including military secrets transmitted over secure networks, according to Reuters. But, state actors can weaponize private and state-owned companies that build the subcable infrastructure for espionage purposes and sabotage undersea communication lines.

The Biden administration also wants to wield SubCom as a tool to prevail in economic competition with Beijing, hoping that more subsea cables controlled by U.S. firms will ensure that America retains preponderant influence over global internet communications, the industry officials told Reuters.

“SubCom is indispensable to America if it wants to control subsea cables. They’ve got no one else,” Eckhard Bruckschen, director of the UK-based Undersea Cable Consultancy, told Reuters.

SubCom is a New Jersey-based firm and one of the largest developers of undersea cables for Silicon Valley giants like Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft and Meta. But it also the only firm the Department of Defense (DOD) trusts with laying a vast network of submarine cables across the ocean floor, some meant to support global U.S. spying capabilities, Reuters reported, citing two SubCom employees and two U.S. Navy staffers with knowledge of the matter.

Besides SubCom, only Japan’s NEC Corporation, France’s Alcatel Submarine Networks and China’s HMN Tech manufacture and lay subsea cables. Lately, SubCom works almost exclusively for DOD and the large tech firms, which declined to comment to Reuters.

Cerberus Capital Management, headed by billionaire donor and former Trump intelligence adviser Stephen Feinberg, owns SubCom, according to Reuters. But the company’s history traces back to the 1950s, when it laid cable networks for gathering signals on Soviet submarines before taking the commercial route, three former employees said.

Cerberus, Feinberg and SubCom did not respond to the outlet’s requests for comment.

Two SubCom-owned vessels, the CS Dependable and CS Decisive, form the U.S. government’s first Cable Security Fleet, the people familiar told Reuters.

SubCom’s mission to lay a cable to Diego Garcia was deliberately concealed in a $300 million commercial contract with Australia-based SUBCO, for a cable from Perth, Australia, to Muscat, Oman, according to Reuters.

The Oman Australia Cable entered service in October 2022 and included a splice to the Cocos Islands, according to data from cable mapping firm TeleGeography. Not pictured is a second splice seven degrees north of the Equator, near the Maldives, with a landing point in Diego Garcia.

The Pentagon funded about $100 million of the project as investors questioned the overall need for the cable, Reuters reported, citing industry sources and people familiar with the project.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact