10 December 2014

ISIS Has a Message. Do We?


You can’t say ‘just say no’ to the so-called caliphate if you want to win back its converts and ward off new ones.

ISTANBUL, Turkey—Denouncing murder and enslavement should be an easy task, but for Western governments determined to counter the narrative of the militants of the self-styled Islamic State, it is proving much trickier than they thought. Efforts mounted so far don’t seem to be stemming the flow of foreign recruits eager to join the caliphate of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—nor have they done much to deny jihadis online opportunities to groom followers and market their ideology. 

When foreign ministers from nearly 60 countries met in Brussels last week for the first get-together of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, widely known as ISIS or ISIL, they identified countering toxic jihad ideology and restricting the flow of foreign fighters as objectives just as important to the defeat of the Islamic militants as overwhelming them on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq. 

But while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry argued at a news conference that, militarily, the coalition is making progress, maintaining that two months of airstrikes had damaged the capabilities of ISIS, making it much harder for the militants to operate, he cited no progress in the information war and offered no new ideas about how to counter militants adept at spreading their message using Western-based social-media sites such as Twitter or Facebook. 

Indeed, ISIS recently added SoundCloud to its arsenal. So now the jihadis are using what’s widely known as the “Audio YouTube” to upload streaming content to a service that boasts 175 million listeners a month. 

Worries about the effectiveness of ISIS propaganda luring fighters from abroad—more than 15,000 foreign fighters are estimated to have been recruited, at least 3,000 of them Westerners—are driving Western concern. But counterterrorism analysts and experts in de-radicalization say governments are relying too heavily on censorship. This not only runs into problems with civil libertarians, it’s just not very effective against jihadis who view their laptops as weapons and their cause as holy. 

De-radicalization experts argue there is much more that Western governments could do in counteracting the appeal of jihadi propaganda by being more creative and challenging ideas head-on. In a recent report, the Quilliam think tank faulted Western authorities who seem to believe “their case is so obvious it does not need to be made.” 

Welcome to the age of the Shiite

Since at least 1980, the Sunnis of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran have been brutally suppressed

Ramzi hails from a family of notable Iraqi Sunnis. At the University of Baghdad, he played the guitar and met my Shiite cousin. They both graduated from the School of Engineering with honors, tied the knot, and raised two children. During the Saddam years, when thugs ruled, Ramzi served in the military draft and kept a low profile.

With the outbreak of the civil war in 2007 and the rise in violence, Ramzi moved his family out of Iraq. In exile, he overstretched his resources and had to dip into his emergency reserves by selling part of the vast real estate that his ancestors had owned for centuries.

Iraq’s Shiite militias, however, had other ideas. They occupied his property and made it impossible for him to sell. They called Ramzi a Baathist and an Islamist terrorist, and used this pretext to justify their theft. A refined Sunni who disdains the uncultured Baathists and the wacko Islamists, Ramzi was now lumped in with both. The percentage of Sunnis in Baghdad has dropped from 25% in 2004 to 12% today. Trends suggest further Sunni erosion.

Welcome to the Age of the Shiite. If you are a Sunni who lives in the land that stretches between the Lebanese coast and the Iranian-Afghan border, you are doomed. If you are a secular Sunni, you must be a Baathist and you deserve the same punishment as Nazi war criminals. If you are a Sunni who sympathizes with Islamist parties, you must either be with the Muslim Brotherhood or Al-Qaeda and its offshoots, all of which are terrorist. If you are a Sunni who has spent any time in the Gulf, you must be a Wahhabi with unacceptably austere views on religion.

Since at least 1980, the Sunnis of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran – in their various political incarnations – have been brutally suppressed.

French Satellite Company Stops Deal to Build Spy Satellites for Russian Military

Bill Gertz
December 9, 2014

French Company Suspends Sale of Spy Satellites to Russian Military

A French satellite company has suspended a deal with Moscow to build spy satellites for the Russian military amid U.S. concerns the satellites will contain U.S.-origin technology and violate sanctions and U.S. export controls.

The plan by Thales Alenia Space to sell the reconnaissance satellites would undermine newly imposed U.S. sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea earlier this year, according to U.S. officials.

U.S. intelligence agencies recently expressed concerns in internal reports that two Thales satellites being built for the Russian military were expected to contain U.S.-origin space technology.

Thales, also a major contractor for the Pentagon for high-technology goods, was implicated in the illicit transfer to China of U.S.-origin space technology several years ago, specifically radiation-hardened components, and other dual-use, military-civilian space technology.

The Pentagon currently has seven contracts with Thales Alenia Space, and Congress has considered blocking the company from all Pentagon contracts if the company’s spy satellite deal with Russia is completed.

Asked about the company’s plans for the Russian reconnaissance satellites and whether they would contain U.S.-origin technology, a Thales Alenia Space spokeswoman did not answer directly.

“Thales Alenia Space is not and will not develop any military business with Russia without complying with all U.S., French and other national technology transfer and export control regulations as applicable, including the ITAR-controlled regime under the State Department jurisdiction,” said Sandrine Bielecki, a Thales spokeswoman.

“As a consequence, Thales Alenia Space has stopped all discussions for new military projects and has suspended the execution of ongoing observation military contracts with Russia,” she added.

Russia currently is engaged in a large-scale military buildup inside eastern Ukraine and along Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine. The build up is part of Moscow’s war of nerves against Ukraine that has turned hot at least once in the past four months.


By Hope Hodge Seck

A worsening morale crisis

For many of the war-weary troops who deployed to combat zones over and over again for 13 years, the end of an era of war in Iraq and Afghanistan is good news.

But for Marine Sgt. Zack Cantu and other service members, it's a total morale killer. For many of them, particularly the young grunts and others in combat arms specialties, it's the realization that they may never go into battle for their country and their comrades.

"Most people in [the Marine Corps] are in because of the wars," said the 25-year-old Cantu, a former infantryman at Camp Pendleton, California. Cantu has retrained as a telephone system and computer repairer, a specialty more likely to survive as the service downsizes.

"Now, everyone's coming to the realization, 'It's probably not going to happen for me,'" he said.

The wars against America's enemies gave troops like Cantu a noble purpose. Their training had focus, their sacrifices were appreciated by a largely grateful nation. That gratitude was reflected from the White House to the citizen in the street, all of whom heaped praise upon military members for their service.

Congress lavished generous pay increases and expanded benefits on them while spending deeply to provide the gear and weapons they needed. Recruiters raced to grow the size of the services, and society vowed to never again undervalue the 1 percent of the country who stepped forward to keep them safe.

Today, however, that gratitude seems to be dwindling. The services have weathered several years of deep cuts in funding and tens of thousands of troops have been unceremoniously given the boot. Many still in uniform and seeking to retire from the military fear the same fate, as those cuts are not yet complete.

A Military Times survey of 2,300 active-duty troops found morale indicators on the decline in nearly every aspect of military life. Troops report significantly lower overall job satisfaction, diminished respect for their superiors, and a declining interest in re-enlistment now compared to just five years ago.

Today's service members say they feel underpaid, under-equipped and under-appreciated, the survey data show. After 13 years of war, the all-volunteer military is entering an era fraught with uncertainty and a growing sense that the force has been left adrift.

One trend to emerge from the annual Military Times survey is "that the mission mattered more to the military than to the civilian," said Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who studies the military. "For the civilian world, it might have been easier to psychologically move on and say, 'Well, we are cutting our losses.' But the military feels very differently. Those losses have names and faces attached to [them]."

'Bare necessities'

According to the Military Times survey, active-duty troops reported a stunning drop in how they rated their overall quality of life: Just 56 percent call it good or excellent, down from 91 percent in 2009. The survey, conducted in July and August, found that 73 percent of troops would recommend a military career to others, down from 85 percent in 2009. And troops reported a significant decline in their desire to re-enlist, with 63 percent citing an intention to do so, compared with 72 percent a few years ago.


December 8, 2014 

America’s Spies Want To Build An Even More Super — Supercomputer – The Next Digital Paradigm

Frank Konkel, writing in the December 5, 2014 edition of Nextgov.com, notes that “the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) (the Intelligence Community’s research arm) is funding research that could fundamentally change the field of supercomputing. ” IARPA announced last week that it had “awarded research contracts in support of its Cryogenic Computer Complexity, or C3 program, that IARPA hopes will lead to a new generation of energy-efficient superconducting supercomputers that far exceed the capabilities of today’s computers.”

“The multi-year research may also make the U.S. government the frontrunner over China, Russia, the European Union, and Japan — in the global race to build a computer capable of breaking the famed exaflop barrier — capable of quintillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second,” Mr. Konkel wrote.

“The fastest supercomputers today,” Mr. Konkel argues, “including China’s 55-petaflop Milky Way 2, are based on complimentary metal oxide semiconductor technology that requires tens of megawatts to power. Scaled out on today’s technology, IARPA estimates an exascale-capable supercomputer, would require hundreds of megawatts of power, which would need a power source akin to the Hoover Dam. It would also cost a fortune — Japan recently invested $1B in an attempt to build the world’s first exascale computer.”

“The power, space, and cooling requirements for current supercomputers — based on complementary metal oxide semiconductor technology…are becoming unmanageable,” said Marc Maheimer, C3 Program Manager at IARPA. “Computers based on superconducting logic — integrated with new kinds of cryogenic memory — will allow expansion of current computing facilities…while staying within space and energy budgets, may enable supercomputer development beyond the exascale.”

Shale-Oil Surprise: OPEC Faces an Insurgency, Not a Price War

December 9, 2014

"OPEC is not waging a price war against the United States—rather, U.S. producers are waging an insurgency against OPEC."

Between June and November 2014, oil prices have fallen by some 40 percent, courtesy of robust growth in output and a bleaker outlook for oil demand. In late November, The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) chose to keep its production quotas intact, triggering several obituaries and talks of a price war between OPEC and the United States, where most of the additional supply originates. Yet war is not quite the right term; insurgency is more like it—decentralized, adaptive and, likely, inconclusive. In some ways, OPEC reverts back to its historical role as an important actor on the margins; but in other ways, OPEC confronts a new system where the lag between high prices and high production has shrunk and where the need for spare capacity diminishes.

OPEC is an organization whose perceived market power is inversely correlated with how much one has studied its history and decisions: The less one knows about the oil market, the more one is convinced that OPEC “controls” oil prices; students of the organization, on the other hand, generally agree that its role has been much smaller than generally assumed in public discourse.

Broadly speaking, OPEC has played three roles since 1960. Mostly, OPEC has been a liquidity provider, when non-OPEC supply has been either stagnant (late 1980s and early 1990s) or growing too slowly to meet demand (late 1990s and mid-to-late 2000s). OPEC has played this role due to its spare capacity. Until the 1970s, OPEC countries benefited from their oil industries either through producing more oil, or through taking a bigger piece of the value that they split with foreign oil companies. Only in the 1970s did they make a concerted effort to raise prices and offset a long-term decline in real oil prices. In the shakeout that ensued, oil prices went up, but OPEC’s production went down.

As a result, OPEC ended up with lots of spare capacity—capacity that was built (mostly) by foreign companies, but which was now in government hands, after most countries nationalized their oil sectors. Underutilizing its capacity was OPEC’s way to prop up prices, but it also allowed OPEC to provide additional oil to the market and shrink the long lead time between higher prices and higher production. In these periods, OPEC has been a price taker and has helped smoothen an otherwise-volatile market. Production has grown in tandem with demand, and production quotas have been rough guidelines adjusted sporadically to match market conditions.

Cyber Security Situation Will Worsen in 2015 As Hackers Move Faster Than Cyber Security Defenses Can Be Erected

December 9, 2014

Cyberattacks to worsen in 2015: McAfee researchers

A series of spectacular cyberattacks drew headlines this year, and the situation will only worsen in 2015 as hackers use more advanced techniques to infiltrate networks, security researchers said Tuesday.

McAfee Labs’ 2015 Threats Predictions report sees increased cyber-warfare and espionage, along with new strategies from hackers to hide their tracks and steal sensitive data.

"Cyber espionage attacks will continue to increase in frequency," the report said.

"Long-term players will become stealthier information gatherers, while newcomers will look for ways to steal money and disrupt their adversaries."

McAfee said small nations and terror groups will become even more active and will “attack by launching crippling distributed denial of service attacks or using malware that wipes the master boot record to destroy their enemies’ networks.”

At the same time, cybercriminals will use better methods to remain hidden on a victim’s network, to carry out long-term theft of data without being detected, the researchers said.

"In this way, criminals are beginning to look and act more like sophisticated nation-state cyberespionage actors, who watch and wait to gather intelligence," the report said.

The report also said hackers are looking to target more connected devices, including computers in the farming, manufacturing, and health care sectors.

"The number and variety of devices in the Internet of Things (IoT) family is growing exponentially. In the consumer space, they are now seen in appliances, automobiles, home automation, and even light bulbs," McAfee said.

- Health care hacks -

McAfee said it is already seeing hackers targeting devices such as webcams with weak security and industrial control systems. But it sees health care as an especially worrisome sector.

"With the increasing proliferation of healthcare IoT devices and their use in hospitals, the threat of the loss of information contained on those devices becomes increasingly likely," the report said.

It noted that health care data “is even more valuable than credit card data” on hacker black markets.

McAfee says other threats will also grow, including “ransomware,” which locks down data and forces the victim to pay a ransom to retrieve it, and attacks on mobile phone operating systems.

In the retail sector, digital payments may cut the risk of credit-card skimmers, but hackers may be able to exploit wireless systems such as Bluetooth and near field communications (NFC) used for mobile payments.

FISA Court Has Reauthorized NSA Bulk Metadata Collection Program for Another 90 Days

December 8, 2014

The following statement was just released on the website of the Office of th Director of National Intelligence (ODNI):

Joint Statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligenceand the Office of the Attorney General on the Declassification of Renewal of Collection Under Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

Earlier this year in a speech at the Department of Justice, President Obama announced a transition that would end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it previously existed, and that the government would establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk data. As a first step in that transition, the President directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ensure that, absent a true emergency, telephony metadata can only be queried after a judicial finding that there is a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the selection term is associated with an approved international terrorist organization. The President also directed that the query results must be limited to metadata within two hops of the selection term instead of three. These two changes have been in effect since February 2014. 

In addition, the President also directed the Intelligence Community and the Attorney General to develop options for a new approach to match the capabilities and fill gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata. After carefully considering the available options, the President announced in March that the best path forward is that the government should not hold this data in bulk, and that the data should remain at the telephone companies with a legal mechanism in place that would allow the government to obtain data pursuant to individual orders from the FISC approving the use of specific numbers for such queries. The President also noted that legislation would be required to implement this option, and he has called on Congress to enact this important change. 

The Administration welcomes the opportunity to work with the new Congress to implement the changes the President has called for. Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the President directed in January. 

US Air Force to Share Space Data Directly with China

December 09, 2014

U.S. Air Force Space Command will share orbital data directly with interested Chinese agencies. 

Building on an initiative from the July 2014 U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, China has formally requested that U.S. Air Force Space Command share information with Beijing that could help prevent future satellite and satellite debris collisions in space. This is information that the United States has already been sharing with China, but in the past, this was processed through the State Department. Given the latest Chinese request, U.S. Air Force Space Command would interface directly with China’s national space agency. It is likely that this new mode of cooperation will give the United States a better idea of how shared information is employed.

U.S. General John Hyten, the head of U.S. Air Force Space Command, received the request from the Chinese side. “The Chinese have asked to get data straight from our operations center to their operations center without going through State,” he said, according to a report by Colin Clark over at Breaking Defense. Hyten further added that in his view, the move was a “big deal.” As Clark notes in his report, the summary document emerging from July’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue included a clause noting that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs “committed to provide e-mail contact information for appropriate Chinese entities responsible for spacecraft operations and conjunction assessment, allowing these entities to receive Close Approach Notifications directly from the United States Department of Defense.”

This news comes at a time when U.S.-China competition in space is intensifying. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently created a fifth branch devoted to space operations. Meanwhile, analysts warn that space could grow as a domain of competition between the U.S. and China. U.S. observers also express skepticism over China’s anti-satellite capabilities (though there is some disagreement as to how effective these capabilities are in reality). Based on the language referencing space following July’s Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the U.S. will rely on China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the PLA, the China National Space Administration, and other related parties comply.

Will Air-Sea Battle Be "Sunk" by Cyberwarriors?

"The Air-Sea Battle Concept fails to recognize the critical and independent role cyberpower should (indeed, will) play in any Air-Sea Battle confrontation with U.S. adversaries."

The conclusion of large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns in the Middle East and Central/South Asia has prompted the U.S. military to refocus its energies on developing new strategic concepts for the twenty-first century. Critical to this effort is identifying how the United States can surmount challenges posed by adversaries exploiting asymmetric advantages to counter U.S. strengths in the air and sea domains. Among the most pressing of these challenges is identifying how the U.S. military can operate in a denied environment—a task that it has not truly confronted since World War II. The central product of this effort is the Air-Sea Battle Concept, which serves as a cornerstone of the Department of Defense’s strategic planning for future power-projection capabilities and missions. Specifically, the Air-Sea Battle Concept was developed following a 2009 directive from the Secretary of Defense to address means of surmounting the challenge posed by Anti-Access/Area Denial capabilities (A2/AD), which seek to thwart U.S. movement and maneuver in a theater of operations. As its name suggests, the Air-Sea Battle Concept places an emphasis on the use of air and sea power to defeat adversary A2/AD capabilities.

Tragically, the Air-Sea Battle Concept fails to recognize the critical and independent role cyberpower should (indeed, will) play in any Air-Sea Battle confrontation with U.S. adversaries. While the concept acknowledges that the air, sea and cyber domains will play important roles as sources of vulnerability and offensive platforms, the Air-Sea Battle Concept relegates cyberpower to a supporting role—for example, using cyber capabilities to defeat integrated air-defense systems or disrupt adversary command and control to enable air and sea supremacy. It is important to note that we are leaving aside broader political and strategic considerations of when the Air-Sea Battle Concept may be employed.

Cybersecurity Management For Small- And Medium-Sized Businesses In Center Focus As National Cyber Security Awareness Month Enters Fourth Week

National Cyber Security Awareness Month Logo.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) kicks off its fourth week today with an emphasis on how small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can better protect themselves from cybersecurity threats. 

As larger enterprises strengthen their Internet security, cybercriminals are targeting small- and medium- sized businesses –which often have less resources dedicated to cybersecurity – at an alarming rate. According to a 2013 survey by the National Small Business Association, an advocacy group, 44 percent of small businesses have been victims of cyber attacks, costing an average of $8,700 per attack.

Last year, businesses with less than 250 employees accounted for 30 percent of targeted attacks compared to 18 percent in 2011, as reported in Symantec's Internet Security Threat report. Combining attacks on enterprises with 251-500 employees, the number jumps to 41 percent of all attacks, compared with 36 percent in 2012.

"Every day businesses of all sizes become more dependent on the Internet to serve their customers, grow their business and gain efficiencies," said Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). "They need to focus on cyber risks and making sure they are doing all they can to protect their networks and valuable data, and create a culture of cybersecurity within their organizations."

In 2013, NCSA and Business Executives for National Security launched RE: Cyber, an initiative dedicated to helping CEOs and corporate boards manage their cyber risks. This year, NCSA will assume a leadership position in driving and expanding the program. From public to private sector, the RE: Cyber website provides a strategic toolkit for SMBs and larger companies that empowers them to create a unique cybersecurity roadmap.

"Because of several recent data breaches, customers are becoming more nervous about handing over their personal information to businesses," said Katherine Hutt, national spokesperson for Better Business Bureau (BBB). "Small businesses can protect their customers by first protecting themselves with strong tools and procedures to safeguard their online access credentials. Having a data security policy in place will help build the customer trust that is so essential to running a business."

With the number of serious breaches in the last year, it may seem to some business owners that there is little they can do protect their business. In fact, every business has a responsibility. It can start with these easy steps from NCSA and BBB:

Focus on what needs to be protected - Create a risk management plan that identifies both critical company and customer information that must be secured.

The hidden American victory since 9-11 that matters more than results on the battlefield


Summary: Our defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan (failures to achieve any major national goals despite large expenditures of blood and money) accompanied an overwhelming victory invisible to the public. In fact, these defeats resulted from that victory — the Pentagon’s defeat of the military reform movement. The post-9/11 campaigns by defense intellectuals demonstrated their shallow roots in the Washington, just as the anti-war protests showed their shallow roots in our society. These twin defeats leave the National Security State triumphant and stronger than ever. Our defeats abroad matter not at all to its leaders.

This is another in a series of posts commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 25th anniversary of the Marine Corps Gazette article “The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation”, the high point of the military reform movement.

To see how we go here let’s travel back two decades, back to when military reformers were gaining strength. They found an audience interested in deep reforms to a Pentagon flush with funds from the Reagan revolution. To hear a voice from that time see Senator Gary Hart’s (D-CO) op-ed in the New York Times: “An Agenda for More Military Reform“, 13 May 1986. It’s a summary of his 1986 book (coauthored with William Lind) America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform. Excerpt:

Five years ago, military reform was the province of a small band of iconoclasts in the Senate. Now the need for broad changes in the way we train, equip and deploy our conventional forces has become conventional wisdom. Congress and the American people must not, however, let satisfaction with early gains take the steam out of the reform movement before it achieves its fundamental goal – military forces that can win in combat.

Spurred by Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, reports of $600 toilet seats and an angry public’s realization that a 40% increase in defense spending has not bought real security, national leaders have begun to recognize that in defense, costlier is not always better. The Congressional Military Reform Caucus has grown to more than 130 lawmakers from both parties. And the Administration has endorsed – in word if not yet in deed – a wide-ranging package of reforms recommended by a Presidential commission headed by David Packard, president of Hewlett-Packard, which manufactures computer technology.

The U.S. Army's 5 Most Lethal Weapons of War

December 7, 2014 

When it comes to lethal weapons, the U.S. Army has no shortage. Some may be too expensive, some too complex and others may be desired by politicians and defense contractors, but not the troops on the field.

Nonetheless, today's U.S. Army can generate an astonishing amount of firepower and deliver it in a variety of settings from small-war counterinsurgency to big-war mechanized combat. With that in mind, here are five of the best U.S. Army weapons:

AH-64 Apache:

Ironic it is that the best weapon of America's premier land force is an aircraft. But given the conflicts the U.S. military has recently fought and is likely to fight, airpower is the most decisive factor.

Equipped with a 30-millimeter cannon, Hellfire missiles and sophisticated sensors, the Apache combines speed, firepower and range that allows the Army to strike enemies long before they come within firing distance of Army ground troops. It is equally useful at hunting down insurgents or decimating enemy armored columns. The Apache has fought well in conflicts from Desert Storm to the current Afghan war.

Perhaps more important, the Apache is airpower that the Army itself controls, rather than having to rely on the Air Force or Navy aircraft for close air support. An attack helicopter is not, and will never be, a substitute for infantry on the ground. But the ground troops will appreciate the support an attack helicopter can provide.

M-1 Abrams:

The Operational Art of Air-Sea Battle

Air-Sea Battle is described as a limited objective concept by the Department of Defense.[1] Some critics have argued that Air-Sea Battle must be more than a limited objective concept, possibly a war plan or a strategy. Others have argued that it is less than a concept and is just a meaningless set of buzzwords. From a military planner’s perspective, Air-Sea Battle is a piece of art – operational art that describes the “broad actions the force must take to achieve the desired military end state.”[2]

Joint doctrine uses operational art to begin the military planning process by developing an “operational approach.” An operational approach is based on an understanding of the military environment and the problem facing the commander.[3] Air-Sea Battle describes an operational approach to address the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) problem and is “limited” in objective to the access required to conduct concurrent or follow-on actions, not decisive defeat of an adversary. If faced with an operational A2/AD challenge, a combatant commander may build on the operational approach described by Air-Sea Battle to design a war plan suited to the specific region and situation. This is an important distinction, especially for those who believe Air-Sea Battle is focused on a specific country. No matter what specific operational plan is used, Air-Sea Battle’s operational approaches can be applied if access and freedom of action in the global commons is at risk.

Why Air-Sea Battle is Important: The A2/AD Mission. Understanding strategic goals and the military missions that support them is an important first step in developing an operational approach.[4] The 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance assigned the ability to project power despite anti-access/area denial challenges as a distinct mission for the U.S. armed forces.[5] Countering A2/AD challenges is separate from and in addition to the traditional, conventional mission to deter and defeat aggression because of the complexity and paradigm-breaking challenge created by A2/AD capabilities. The Defense Strategic Guidance directs the implementation of the Joint Operational Access Concept as one of the ways to address A2/AD challenges. Joint Operational Access Concept begins to describe the A2/AD environment and then refers to the Air-Sea Battle Concept to address specific aspects of A2/AD.

Army launches new graduate school program

By Jim Tice
December 8, 2014 

Applications are being accepted for a new professional development initiative that will provide up to 18 months of fully-funded graduate studies to basic-branch captains and majors of the active component.

About 50 officers of the Operations, Operations Support and Force Sustainment functional categories will be selected for the Performance Based Graduate School Incentive Program that begins in the fall of 2016 or spring of 2017, depending on class start dates.

In announcing the PB-GSIP, Human Resources Command said the program "will allow our 'top performers' to obtain a fully-funded, 15- to 18-month master's degree as a resident student at an accredited U.S. institution."

Officers selected for participation by a board that convenes May 12 will pursue degrees in one of the following 10 academic disciplines: business administration, history, psychology, public administration and policy, computer science, international relations, philosophy, human resources, education or sociology.

The annual tuition cost cap per officer is $43,000.

Application fees will be the responsibility of the officer, and only traditional, U. S. resident graduate school courses will be approved for the program.Officers will not be allowed to enroll in night courses, weekend courses, online courses or any overseas or foreign schools.

As with other civilian education programs, officers who participate in PB-GSIP will incur an active-duty service obligation of three days for every day spent in school.The obligation will be served consecutively with any other civilian education ADSO.

To qualify for the PB-GSIP program, officers must meet these non-waiverable requirements:

• Be an active component captain or major who is a member of a branch or functional area in the Operations, Operations Support or Force Sustainment functional category of the Officer Personnel Management System.

• Captains must have credit for completion of the Captain Career Course, and have at least one key developmental assignment at the grade of O3.

• Majors must have credit for completion of Intermediate Level Education, and at least one key developmental assignment at the grade of O4.

• Officers are not eligible for this program if they have a graduate degree earned through another Army-funded program, not to include degrees earned through the GI Bill or the Tuition Assistance program.


By P. Stobdan

Vladimir Putin is visiting New Delhi this year for the 15th Indo-Russian Summit after having reincorporated Crimea into Russia and taken a tough stance against the West in the Ukraine crisis. He has stood up against the various attempts by the West to isolate Russia. There is no doubting that a renewed standoff between Russia and the West has ramifications. These events have put India in an awkward diplomatic situation. Further, Moscow’s big shift towards Beijing has caused worries and its decision to forge defence cooperation with Islamabad has sown confusion and doubts in New Delhi. In a veiled signal, Putin also sent Russia’s Defence Minister to Islamabad weeks before his own visit to New Delhi.

Russia is upset with India’s defence procurement policy and is unable to digest the fact that the United States is overtaking Russia in the Indian weaponry market. Many in Moscow are sulking, seeking retribution by ending the arms blockade of Pakistan to compensate for the losses suffered in the Indian market. A host of voices has emerged in the Russian media asking with ‘whom does India stand – the US or Russia?’

In India, sceptics question whether the old and time-tested Indo-Russian ties have any relevance for either country today. The two countries have substantially moved away from each other, as can be seen from the divergent courses of their foreign and defence policies. Even the ‘buyer-seller’ defence relationship is being threatened by global competitiveness. India’s disappointment stems from Russia’s failure to meet delivery schedules, its sudden jacking up of costs, reluctance to transfer technology and the supply of unreliable spares. The late delivery of INS Vikramaditya was a case in point. New Delhi is impatient about the progress being made in two joint flagship projects – the stealth Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) based on PAK-FA or Sukhoi T-50 and the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA) based on Il-214. As things stand, it may take years before production of these aircraft will begin. India and Russia need to tie up the loose ends of these and other joint projects to strengthen bilateral defence ties.

Two-way interactions between India and Russia have dwindled. The annual trade turnover targeted to achieve $20 billion by 2015 still hovers around $10 billion. While the reasons for this are well known, actions to bridge the huge information gap, language barrier, connectivity issues and stiff travel regulations that impede growth in ties are lacking. There remains a serious gap in academic research as well. Russian institutions lack funds. The once popular “Russian studies” in India and “Indology” in Russia are almost dead.

Surely, Russia would be worried about Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign and the proposed Indo-US Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). The DTTI, in particular, seeks to go beyond a transactional defence relationship by freeing India from import dependency through co-production and co-development in several big-ticket items that are aimed at boosting India’s security and economy. It hopes to create jobs and make India a competitive defence exporter. Be that as it may, behind Modi’s perceptible message seems to lie the understanding that neither the US nor Russia would be able to satisfy his ‘Make in India’ demand.


December 8, 2014 

The Pentagon’s Sophie’s Choice Moment

How does a parent choose which one of her two children to sacrifice in order that the other will live? This is the choice that confronts Sophie in William Styron’s eponymous novel. If this seems like a dilemma fit only for novels and not real life, not true. It is a choice that confronts the Department of Defense and, more broadly, the United States today. Simply put, under projected defense budgets the Pentagon will not be able to maintain both adequate strategic forces and conventional capabilities. One will have to be sacrificed to preserve the other.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the estimated cost to maintain the current nuclear TRIAD and supporting military infrastructure will be about $21 billion a year through 2023. For the same period, the cost of maintaining all conventional forces will be approximately $500 billion a year. According to the kind of math that even I can do, this means that the price for deterrence of strategic attacks on the U.S. homeland or that of our allies is less than 4 percent of total projected defense spending.

Unfortunately, the reality is that $21 billion a year is woefully inadequate to maintain the current force. At this level of funding, weapons systems are aging severely, the infrastructure is decaying, skills are atrophying and the industrial and scientific/technical base needed to maintain the force is vanishing. How many scandals and crises do elements of the strategic force need to experience before it becomes clear that we have not adequately resourced one of the two pillars of our national security? You would think that losing both its Chief of Staff and Service Secretary to a major nuclear weapons safety incident would ensure that the Air Force paid attention to this part of its responsibilities. Now we have another scandal in the missile force followed by new promises of attention and resources.

The current efforts by U.S. Strategic Command and the Air Force to fix glaring deficiencies in the land-based leg of the TRIAD are, with all due respect, akin to putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Every leg of the TRIAD will require not just modernization but replacement over the next two to three decades. The replacement of the Ohio-class SSBNs, scheduled to begin in 2021, will cost, at a minimum, around $70 billion just for the submarines. The Air Force is hoping to develop a new long-range bomber at $550 million a copy for between 80 and 100 platforms. The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force can last possibly until 2030, after which a new missile will be required.

Networks of Knowledge: Three Steps to a Better Military Blogosphere


I recently co-wrote an essay over at Cicero Magazine - "The Long Gray Online: Driving Military Leadership and Innovation Online." The combined essay was a look into the voluntary, part-time military blogging efforts of a few mid-career officers (Major Nate Finney at The Bridge, Major Joe Byerly at The Little Green Notebook, Major John McRae, and myself here at WarCouncil). It was nice, but, if I were being (self)critical, I would say the essay is somewhat self-congratulatory and a bit over the top:

"...a core group of mid-grade officers are changing the way professional discussions, doctrinal analysis, and institutional innovations take place in the Army. Like the famous interwar dialogue between Patton and Eisenhower that later found battlefield application during WWII, this group is attempting to foster a smarter, more relevant Army. Unlike those dialogues, they are using the internet and military blogging to drive change and new ideas."

Snarky response: Can I be Marshall? (Actually, I'd be lucky if the other guys didn't just call me "Mr. Pink" and tell me to sit quietly in the corner.)

On the one hand, this credit is entirely merited. This is hard work. Unpaid. Taken from personal time. I like to say that WarCouncil was born at 4 A.M. - a reference to the literal time each day that I write online content. No kidding, I'm actually pedaling my newborn baby's crib device with my left foot as I type these sentences (she's not sleeping the full night yet, and I have the early shift so my wife can get some sleep). So I do think recognition is in order (I prefer cash, but I'll take plastic).

9 December 2014

Northern Army Commander Lt General DS Hooda writes to troops after sulphurous social media outpouring on Uri attack

December 8, 2014 

Northern Army Commander Lt General DS Hooda on Sunday wrote to officers and men of the army's largest command, asking them to follow 'a nuanced approach' which 'balances local aspirations' to fight a proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir.

Lt General Hooda's demi-official (DO) letter is being seen as a response to an anonymous WhatsApp message that spread like wildfire through army circles on December 6, a day after six Pakistani infiltrators attacked an army unit in Uri. Eight army personnel including a Lt Colonel and three policemen were killed in the pre-dawn attack on an army unit.

The message, purportedly written by junior officers, berated the Army Commander and the 15 Corps Commander for terming 'a mistake' the November 4 killing of two civilians including a 14-year-old boy by the Army in Anantnag; Lt General Hooda's statement 'had given a wrong message to commanders down the line'. 'And the result is what happened at Uri, the other day. Should not the Army Cdr and Corps cdr consider resigning for this goof up.'

Lt General Hooda's asks his commanders to change operations in sync with the conditions, focus on 'training and education of officers and men to drive home the circumstances and the conditions in which we operate and our code of conduct.'

He warned against falling prey to 'print, electronic and social media 'which sway not only public opinion but also the sentiments of our own officers and men'. The only way to counter this is by our own courage of conviction that what we are doing is professionally correct and honorable.

Earlier, the December 6 message was countered by another anonymous WhatsApp message which blamed the unit for failing to stop the terrorists. 'To link this failure with the caution put in place after the shooting of youngsters at roadcheck in Budgam is far fetched and mischievious. The two failures cannot be linked to gain mileage and malign senior leadership of the Army in the garb of venting of anger by young officers' the message said. 

Lesson from 26/11: Protect coastlines

Dec 09, 2014

The 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks have much wider strategic implications in the context of overall coastal defence of the country, particularly cities either directly fronting the ocean like Chennai and Visakhapatnam, or located in its close vicinity like Kolkata.

On November 26, 2008, ten Pakistani jihadists of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba travelled by sea to Mumbai in a fishing trawler, infiltrated ashore from rubber assault boats near Cuffe Parade, split up into terror teams and spread inland to attack pre-selected locations in the city with the aim of terrorising the country by causing maximum casualties. Surprise was total and the terrorists succeeded in murdering 166 Indians, including women and children, and wounding another 300. All were killed, except one, Ajmal Kasab, who was captured and stood a much publicised trial under the Indian judicial process. He was eventually hanged. The phrase “Mumbai-type attack” has now passed into the lexicon of national security, surely a dubious honour for India. Thus 26/11 became India’s day of infamy.

In the aftermath of the attack, the government of Maharashtra had set-up a two-member Ram Pradhan Committee officially known as the High-Level Enquiry Committee on 26/11 with the charter to inquire into the incident all that went wrong in dealing with it and how to prevent future recurrences. The findings of the committee were extensive and detailed, but given its point of origin and terms of reference, the committee was quite understandably focused only on the city of Mumbai as well as the adjacent Konkan coast.

Withdrawal symptoms in Afghanistan

December 9, 2014

APTHE ROAD TO KABUL: Such considerations have also raised the question of how India could respond to protect its strategic and economic interests in Afghanistan, seen as a gateway to resource-rich Central Asia. Picture shows a militant near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Many fear that after the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban will take over southern parts of the country with growing terrorism and insecurity threatening a weak government in Kabul

A few weeks ago the U.S. and Britain handed over their Leatherneck and Bastion military bases marking the effective end of combat operations by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces in Afghanistan.

Many fear that after the U.S. withdrawal the Taliban will take over southern parts of the country with growing terrorism and insecurity threatening a weak government in Kabul. In India this is compounded by the fear that Pakistan will take advantage of the situation to expand its influence in Afghanistan in its search for ‘strategic depth’. Afghanistan will then provide a training ground for terrorists who can attack India. Moreover there is fear that Pakistan’s ‘all-weather’ friend, China, may also enter placing our strategic interests and Indian aid projects and investments further at risk.

A new deal for the states

December 9, 2014 


Last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, at a civil society interaction in Srinagar, reportedly said that “gone are the days when the Centre would provide money and the states would run the government”. Today, “every state has to stand on its own”.

For states, such kind of sermonising may not be new. But what is striking in this case is that it is coming from the finance minister of a government whose mascot — Prime Minister Narendra Modi — is someone well acquainted with the problems of states, having run one for over 12 years. Jaitley’s comments nevertheless provide an opportunity to examine the fiscal management record of state governments in the recent past, and also comparing this with the Centre’s.

The period from 2003-04 to 2011-12 was a good one for the Indian economy. With gross domestic product (GDP) growing by an average 8.3 per cent a year, tax and non-tax revenue collections surged. As a result, the combined fiscal deficit of the states fell from 4.25 to 1.9 per cent of the GDP, even as their revenue deficit of 2.25 per cent turned into a surplus of 0.3 per cent.

The Centre’s record, on the other hand, was more mixed. While its deficits registered sharp dips between 2002-03 and 2007-08, the period thereafter saw sharp deterioration, so much so that both the fiscal and revenue deficits in 2011-12 were higher than their corresponding levels for 2002-03 (see accompanying charts).

Time to work together with the dragon

Subir Bhaumik
December 9

In the same week that the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, promised that his government was "acting East" and not just looking East and the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, hugged Aung San Suu Kyi to promise her American support for democratic reforms, China and Myanmar quietly signed more than 20 deals worth over US $8 billion. The slew of deals indicated that China was still very much on top of others competing with its influence in the once reclusive state.
The trade deals included a US $200 million small-loan facility for fighting poverty and an agreement to import 100,000 tonnes of Myanmarese rice to China. Li held talks with Myanmar's president, Thein Sein, and firmly supported Myanmar to continue developing in the way that suited it best, with a promise to deepen bilateral cooperation. The deals signed between China and strategically located, resource-rich Myanmar cover trade, agriculture, finance and energy. Li said that China had a sufficient supply of rice but it would import the staple from its neighbour after "considering the needs of Myanmar". The Chinese premier said these deals will "help improve the livelihoods of the people of Myanmar". That is significant as it drove home the point that while India was talking of 'acting East' and promising some forward movement on the new three-nation highway connecting Northeast India with Thailand through Myanmar, China was pushing to quietly reinforce its close ties by helping out Myanmar on bread-and-butter issues.

Traditionally, China and Myanmar have enjoyed close ties, with Myanmar relying on its powerful neighbour for economic and diplomatic support when it was under Western sanctions before embarking on political reforms four years ago. Those reforms made Beijing nervous as the government that replaced the military junta appeared to be courting Washington. The shift in relations was highlighted in 2011 when Thein Sein suspended work on the US $3.6 billion Chinese-led Myitsone hydroelectric dam project over environmental concerns. This was perhaps done to placate the Kachins in whose state the project was located. The Kachins complained of getting no electricity for their own region as the entire output was earmarked for export to China.


By Sudip Talukdar

China, emerging as one of the most powerful global players in recent years, is pursuing its geostrategic interests with enormous military and economic might.

Being in the immediate vicinity, India has to bear the brunt of its muscle-flexing over incursions and territorial claims, which occurs with a vexing regularity, besides erection of temporary structures on our soil.

China watchers, strategic experts and peaceniks have usually been counselling India to keep a low profile for fear of antagonizing the mighty neighbour. The common refrain is that India is no match militarily and would be worsted in any conflict, often against the backdrop of the humiliating defeat in 1962, almost 52 years to the day. But could one ignore ground realities in assessing potential threats and eventualities.

It may be true that well trained and heavily armed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) overran Indian positions in Ladakh and parts of what is now Arunachal Pradesh, formerly North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), in a bid to teach the country a “lesson”. In spite of the overwhelming Chinese superiority in numbers, equipment and logistics, scattered pockets of Indian soldiers, armed only with vintage Lee Enfield rifles, some sub-machine guns and mortars, held off the enemy as long as they could, fighting until the last round and the last man.

It speaks eloquently about the motivation and performance levels of our outnumbered infantrymen. Bereft of supplies, artillery or air support and let down by the political leadership of the day, they died defending their regimental pride and the nation’s honour, in sub-zero temperatures, with the odds being stacked heavily against them. The lessons were not lost on the army, which got its act together and proved its mettle in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan.