27 February 2015

The Economic Opportunity of Greece’s Exit

FEB 24, 2015 0

TILTON – The first sentence of the 1957 Treaty of Rome – the founding document of what would eventually become the European Union – calls for “an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe." Recently, however, that ideal has come under threat, undermined by its own political elite, which adopted a common currency while entirely neglecting the underlying fault lines.

Today, those cracks have been exposed – and widened – by the seemingly never-ending Greek crisis. And nowhere are they more evident than in Greece's relationship with the International Monetary Fund.

When the euro crisis erupted in 2010, European officials realized that they lacked the necessary expertise to manage the threat of sovereign defaults and the potential breakup of the monetary union. For EU officials, avoiding the eurozone's collapse became the top political imperative, so they turned to the IMF for help. The irregularities in the Fund's resulting intervention attest to how serious the eurozone's problems were – and continue to be.

For starters, the IMF's Articles of Agreement require it to interact only with entities that are fully accountable for the help received: a member country's “treasury, central bank, stabilization fund, or other similar fiscal agency." But the institutions with which the IMF is dealing in the eurozone are no longer responsible for their country's macroeconomic management; that power lies with the European Central Bank. In lending to Greece, it is as if the Fund had lent to a sub-national unit, such as a provincial or city government, without insisting on repayment guarantees from the national authorities.

Managing the ISIS Crisis

FEB 23, 2015

Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush's special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. His most recent book is read more

NEW YORK – One day, historians will have their hands full debating the causes of the chaos now overtaking much of the Middle East. To what extent, they will ask, was it the inevitable result of deep flaws common to many of the region's societies and political systems, and to what extent did it stem from what outside countries chose to do (or not to do)?

But it is we who must deal with the reality and consequences of the region's current disorder. However we got to where we are in the Middle East, we are where we are, and where we are is a very bad place to be.

The stakes – human, economic, and strategic – are enormous. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives; millions have been rendered homeless. Oil prices are low, but they will not remain so if Saudi Arabia experiences terrorist strikes or instability. The threat to the region is large and growing, and it menaces people everywhere, as extremist fighters return home and still others who never left are inspired to do terrible things. Indeed, though the Middle East is facing an abundance of challenges to its stability, none is as large, dangerous, and immediate as the Islamic State.

Those who object to calling the Islamic State a state have a point. In many ways, IS is a hybrid: part movement, part network, and part organization. Nor is it defined by geography. But it does control territory, boasts some 20,000 fighters, and, fueled by religious ideology, has an agenda.

Ultimately, of course, deciding whether to call what has emerged “ISIS" or “ISIL" or the “Islamic State" matters much less than deciding how to take it on. Any strategy must be realistic. Eliminating IS is not achievable in the foreseeable future; but weakening it is.

A strategy must also be comprehensive. First, the flow of money to the Islamic State must be reduced. Lower oil prices help, and there are only so many banks to rob. But extortion continues, as does financial support from individuals. Such flows should be shut down both by governments and financial institutions.

Curtailing the flow of recruits is even more essential. Countries can do more to make it difficult for individuals to leave for Iraq or Syria; a Europe-wide watch list, for example, would help. But nothing would have a greater impact than Turkey deciding that it will no longer allow itself to be a conduit, and that it will enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178, which calls for stronger international cooperation against terrorism.

The Jihadi Ratlines From Europe to Syria

Maria Abi-Habib and Joe Parkinson
February 23, 2015

How Jihadists Slip Through Europe’s Dragnet and Into Syria

Along the southern frontier of the European Union, a small but growing number of aspiring jihadists are blazing trails by road and ferry to Syria’s battlefields, sidestepping heightened airport security and slipping through the holes in Europe’s intelligence dragnet.

Some fighters follow meandering bus routes through several countries en route to the more loosely guarded border of Bulgaria to Turkey. Others engage in what authorities call “broken travel,” using family visits or holiday destinations as an initial leg to mask their final destination.

That was how the wife of Paris terrorist Amedy Coulibaly slipped into Syria days before her husband killed four people at a kosher grocery last month. The woman, Hayat Boumeddiene, drove from France to Spain, then flew to Turkey before joining Islamic State in Syria. She later called for others to join her, in an interview with the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Western diplomats and intelligence officials say most aspiring European fighters still try to fly directly to Turkey, which borders western Syria.

But the growing use of alternative routes magnifies a security challenge for EU policy makers: How to catch suspected militants without undermining the bloc’s commitment to free movement across a region where passport and customs checks at national borders have been effectively abolished.

U.S. intelligence agencies reported last week that despite greater Western efforts, foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq to join extremists. An estimated 20,000 foreign militants there include at least 3,400 Europeans. About 100 in Syria are believed to be from the U.S.

Pentagon Weapons Chief To Meet With Ukrainians

Even though they are not allowed to sell to them, U.S. arms makers are meeting with Ukrainian military officials, listening to their weapons wish list.

ABU DHABI – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is expected to meet with U.S. defense companies Tuesday during a major arms exhibition here even though the American government has not cleared the firms to sell Kiev lethal weapons.

Marcus Weisgerber is the global business reporter for Defense One covering the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for nearly a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air ... Full Bio

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive is scheduled to meet with a Ukrainian delegation Monday evening, however Poroshenko is not expected to be there. Kendall, in an interview, said he will be bringing a message of support from the United States.

“I expect the conversation will be about their needs,” Kendall told Defense One a few hours before the meeting. “We’re limited at this point in time in terms of what we’re able to provide them, but where we can be supportive, we want to be.”

Paleoconservatives Are Wrong About Putin

February 23, 2015

The American Conservative prides itself on paleoconservatism, an ideology which quite rightly rejects the neoconservative worldview of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and the military adventurism of the George W. Bush administration. Unfortunately, the publication gets a lot of other things wrong.

One of the magazine's writers, Daniel Larison, authors a blog whose raison d'etre appears to be less about proposing solutions to complex foreign policy problems than about characterizing the statements of others as "nonsensical," "dishonest," "pitiful," "absurd," "comed[ic]," "ignoran[t]", "reckless," "desperate," "cheap," and (my personal favorite) "muddle-headed."

Last year, I drew ire from Mr. Larison due to an article I wrote about how to deal with the Russian annexation of Crimea. True to form, Mr. Larison wrote, "Alex Berezow's approach to foreign policy might be summed up as 'doing stupid things because Russia won't like them,'" but he proposed no solution of his own.

His criticism was in response to my proposal offive non-mutually exclusive options for the West: (1) Economic sanctions and asset freezes; (2) Diplomatic isolation; (3) Fast-tracking Ukraine to NATO and EU membership; (4) Deploying NATO troops to western Ukraine; and (5) Surrounding Kaliningrad (a Russian exclave buried within the European Union) with NATO troops.

Mr. Larison took particular exception to options 3, 4, and 5. He wrote:


February 23, 2015 

Staunton, February 22 – Russian forces fought in the Donbas the way Soviet forces fought “50 years ago,” a reflection of their lack of contemporary equipment and training and that they are so “unprepared for modern war” that in a war with NATO, they would suffer much the same fate as the Zulus against the British army, Pavel Felgegauer says.

“That does not mean,” the independent Russian analyst says, that Russian forces cannot conduct another campaign like the in Ukraine. They can if the enemy resembles one in Ukraine. Instead, it means that Russian forces are not in a position to defeat modern NATO armies on the field of battle (the-village.ru/village/city/ city-news/176731-army).

But Russia is rapidly rearming and updating its training programs, and as a result, by 2025, a decade from now, Felgengauer says, the world must be “prepared for a world war” between Russia and the West “or for a series of major regional conflicts” over natural resources and spheres of influence.

Although there are some modernized units in the Russian military and the success of certain FSB units in Crimea, the Moscow analyst paints a devastating picture of the overall state of the Russian armed forces:

“The arming and equipment of the soldiers does not correspond to contemporary standards. They do not have the arms, the protection, or the communications” that modern armies do. “Nothing has changed in principle.” Russia doesn’t produce “contemporary rifles or normal bullets, or artillery shells” and consequently “shoots with the old ones.”

Dempsey: Russia's 'lit a fire of ethnicity and nationalism' in Eastern Europe

By Sig Christenson
February 20, 2015

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff .

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (Tribune News Service) — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff likened Russian aggression Thursday to a growing fire that could sweep across Eastern Europe, and warned NATO's unity was at stake

In an interview Thursday with the San Antonio-Express-News, Gen. Martin Dempsey vowed that the United States would defend three Baltic states that are NATO members if pressured in the wake of fighting in the Ukraine.

Echoing British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, who warned earlier this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin could try to inflame ethnic divisions in Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia, Dempsey said the United States was reviewing options with its NATO allies.

The three countries joined the alliance after the Soviet Union collapsed.

"We are considering some things bilaterally, but Putin's principal aim, strategically, is to fragment the NATO alliance," he said. "And if we allow this issue to fragment the NATO alliance, then we will have actually have played into his grand strategy.

"So everything we're considering, we're considering in the context of NATO, but we are looking at options that provide both nonlethal and defensive aid."

Dempsey made his remarks before speaking at the 60th Student Conference on National Affairs at Texas A&M University.

Dempsey also hinted that an increase from the current 3,100 troops in Iraq was a possibility to help the country fight ISIS extremists.

One lawmaker, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has argued that 10,000 troops are needed there, but Dempsey noted the campaign now envisioned by the administration doesn't call for large numbers of ground troops in a direct-combat role.

The American strategy relies on Iraqis to do the fighting and Baghdad's government becoming more inclusive. While Dempsey said "somewhat" more U.S. troops could be sent to Iraq, "I can't conceive of it going to 10,000."

"Can we do it? Sure we can. Have we done it in the past? Absolutely," said Dempsey, who led the 1st Armored Division in Iraq in 2003 and later spent two years in Baghdad leading the effort to train and equip its security forces. "And is that an option? Well, I told you before, as the senior military leader my responsibility is always to have options available when asked."

Hours of Boredom, Moments of Terror: Life of a Drone Operator

Chris Woods
February 24, 2015

Drone warfare: life on the new frontline

Just a three-hour drive from Washington DC on the scenic Virginia coast, Langley Air Force Base is home to one of the most crucial components of the US armed drone programme. Alongside a couple of squadrons of the F-22 stealth fighter, the inhabitants of a large, nondescript brick building deep within the base had been on a permanent war footing for more than a decade. Visitors without the necessary security clearance needed to be escorted front and rear by chaperones waving red glowsticks, a warning to any intelligence analysts who might walk by not to discuss classified operations within earshot. These men and women were part of Distributed Ground System One (DGS-1), a unit that traced its mission back to the 1990s and the earliest days of the Predator programme. A soundproofed viewing window revealed hundreds of intelligence experts working away in a cavernous darkened room, each small cluster of screens indicating an ongoing mission. Their job was to process vast quantities of data from the many aerial platforms (among them Predators and Reapers) now operating above conventional US battlefields. “When you come on shift you go up to your IMS, your imagery mission supervisor, and he will task you out to what bird you’re assigned to,” explained Airman Ray, a young enlisted geospatial analyst.

Some days Ray might pore over feeds from a U2 or an MC-12 Liberty, both manned surveillance aircraft. Other times, he could find himself assigned to a team analysing images from an armed drone. Like everyone else here, Ray was waging war – though in a few hours he would return home. “It’s not something a lot of folk necessarily understand, that our airmen that you’re seeing downtown really are doing a very important national security mission day to day. But they’re kind of incognito in terms of blending in,” said Colonel Lourdes Duvall, vice commander of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing – home to most of the conventional air force’s 3,500 analysts.

Historically, intelligence analysts had been emotionally distanced from the battlefield images they were seeing. Even in the late 1990s, it might take days for stills photographs from a U2 mission to be processed and analysed. “We were used to looking at photographs, listening in to enemy transmissions which, you know – abstractly lives are on the line and you never handle it cavalierly, but you didn’t get that intimate contact,” said one former senior air force commander.

Report: North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Could Grow Tenfold by 2020

February 25, 2015

Research from the US-Korea Institute and NDU warns North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are developing rapidly. 

A new research project warns that North Korea’s nuclear stockpile could grow from roughly 10-16 nuclear weapons at the end of 2014 to 100 by the year 2020. The North Korea Nuclear Futures Project, a joint collaboration between the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and National Defense University, aims to predict possible futures for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs over the next five years. The major findings were announced to the press by Joel Wit of the U.S.-Korea Institute and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security on Tuesday.

The project provided three scenarios for the growth of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs over the next five years. Under the “minimal growth, minimal modernization” scenario – a best care scenario for concerned observers – North Korea conducts no further nuclear or missile tests and its technology progresses slowly. Even under this scenario, North Korea is expected to roughly double its stockpile of available nuclear weapons, from 10 to 20.

In the moderate scenario, which postulates North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs continue to develop at the same pace as they have so far, Pyongyang will have 50 nuclear weapons by 2020 and will be able to mount them on both mobile intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMS) and possibly even intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The worst-case scenario, assuming an increased commitment to the nuclear and missile programs, would involve rapid growth, including successful efforts to gain foreign technologies and information). Wit described this as a “pretty scary scenario” of “dramatic expansion” that would see North Korea armed with 100 nuclear weapons by 2020 to go along with 20-30 ICBMs.

The report also warns that North Korea already has the capability to mount miniaturized warheads on both its short-range Nodong missile (which can cover most of the Northeast Asian theater) and its Taepodong-2 missile, which has the potential to be used as an ICBM. Wit notes that, given current capabilities, North Korea could amass a nuclear arsenal of around 100 weapons and mount them on Nodong missiles able to reach South Korea and Japan by 2020 even without ever conducting another nuclear or missile test.

A Movement Betrayed: The Arms Control Crowd's Iran Hypocrisy

February 25, 2015 

Why is the arms control community more concerned about a nuclear France than a nuclear Iran?

There is a group of academic and think tank researchers and disarmament and nonproliferation advocates—that we collectively refer to in this article as the “professional arms controllers”—who place arms control and nuclear disarmament high on the agenda of their professional activities. One would think that this group of professionals would be at the forefront of those arguing against what seems to be emerging as a bad nuclear deal with Iran. Curiously enough, they are not, even though they know—as we all do—that this deal will very likely keep Iran at a dangerous nuclear threshold, enabling it to move to a nuclear weapons capability at a time of its choosing.

This is because there is unlikely to be enough time, political will, and/or means to stop Iran from doing so, even if it is caught violating the deal. Worse still, the deal will legitimize this bad situation, including Iran’s enrichment program, for the duration of the deal. Furthermore, when the deal expires—and regardless of any strategic reversal regarding Iran’s military ambitions—even the restrictions of this nuclear deal will be lifted, allowing Iran further enhance its already vast nuclear infrastructure. This deal will render irreversible Iran’s ability to quickly build a nuclear bomb, all with the blessing of the international community.

Has Iran done anything to deserve these benefits? After all, over the past year, all we have heard from Iran is continued defiance – everything it will not do in the context of a deal. Significantly, it continues to claim that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on its part, even as it continues to stonewall the IAEA investigation into the weaponization aspects of its program. For years, Iran has been deceiving the international community about its military activities and intentions in the nuclear realm, and refuses to budge regarding its breakout potential.

Russia Could Make China King of the South China Sea

February 25, 2015 

America should think twice about arming Ukraine as Russia could easily help China achieve its dreams in the South China Sea.

What Robert Kaplan so smartly dubbed “Asia’s Cauldron”— the South China Sea— might be set to boil once again. But the real kicker is who might be turning the switch to “high” on that virtual stove: none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Events thousands of miles away in Ukraine could set off a chain reaction that could see China become the undisputed ruler of this large body of water thanks to a large infusion of Russian weapons and technology— if the West starts arming Ukraine.

But before we get to all the juicy details of how China could become “master and commander” of the South China Sea thanks to Russian assistance, lets take a much needed survey of the latest drama show in this troubled body of water. Tensions are rising in the Asia-Pacific as China continues to change facts on the ground (“in the water” might be a better term), continuing work on several massive island reclamation projects that many analysts feel will create much larger islands housing airfields, ports, radar stations and maybe even anti-ship missile batteries. The motivation is quite obvious— Beijing would likely become the sovereign master of the South China Sea if these islands were used for the natural purpose of claiming sovereignty. Nothing says “indisputable sovereignty” by doing the things a sovereign does, like patrolling your supposed territory and enforcing your laws in that territory. Bases in the South China Sea could make that all too infamous nine or ten-dash line more than just big marks on a map somewhere in Beijing. They could make it a reality.

New South China Bases + A2/AD = A Nightmare for America and Its Allies

Not Another Iron Curtain

February 23, 2015

The EU urgently needs to tie Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe as close as possible to the bloc and prevent the continent from becoming divided again.

European leaders and the European Union face a stark choice. They can either fully commit to helping complete Ukraine's revolution or collude with Russia into making Ukraine a failed state.

A year since tens of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets in Kiev and ousted the then-president Viktor Yanukovych from power, Ukraine and Eastern Europe remain highly vulnerable, to put it mildly.

Russia's invasion of eastern Ukraine is surely enough for European governments to unequivocally make the choice in favor of supporting Kiev.

That will demand sustained political and economic assistance for Ukraine's government and, particularly, for the Euromaidan movement, which is playing a fundamental role in pushing for accountability, transparency, and reforms.

How Israel Could Be Drawn into Syria's War

February 23, 2015

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are at loggerheads. Why? Following the White House's lead, many observers have focused on the personal enmity between the two. Some commentators go further and analyze the growing strategic rift over how best to handle Iran's nuclear program. In truth, however, the rift is far larger still.

In addition to all of the other issues, Obama and Netanyahu entertain contradictory views of Iran's role in region, and Syria stands at the heart of their disagreement. Whereas Obama is comfortable with the rise of Iranian power in Syria, Netanyahu and, to be sure, the Israeli security elite are deeply discomfited by it.

the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and Hezbollah launched an integrated assault in the Quneitra and Daraa countrysides in southern Syria. Importantly, they are advertising their lead role; underscoring that southern Syria is now an operations theater for Tehran. Thus, they are also confirming what has long been obvious: the Assad regime and its forces are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Iran.
These developments are impossible for Israel to ignore. Indeed, Iran and Hezbollah are calling their joint campaign "Operation Martyrs of Quneitra" - a direct reference to the Iranian-Hezbollah convoy that Israel destroyed on 18 January. The appearance of the Iranians in force in the Golan foists difficult choices on Israel, not just regarding its posture in Syria, but also about how to manage the growing chasm with the Obama administration.

Until now, Israeli policy in Syria has been, as one former official put it, "to wait and see" - to stand back and respond to any breach at the border, but not to intervene directly in the course of the war, even as Israeli activity in Syria has targeted Iranian assets exclusively. For all the talk about the supposedly impending threat of the Islamic State (ISIS), the January strike against the Iranian convoy and the current Iranian-led drive in southern Syria have emphasized the fact that the strategic and present threat comes, first and foremost, from Iran.

The Iranian determination to push into southern Syria reveals the weakness of the "wait and see" approach. Even if Israel desired to stay out of the Syrian war, the Iranians, seeing a green light from Washington, have ideas of their own. These dynamics are pushing Israel to reconsider its options.

Ash Carter: Invest in the 3rd Offset Strategy

February 23, 2015

Ashton Carter, the newly confirmed U.S. Secretary of Defense, will need to articulate his vision of how he intends to lead the Pentagon over the next two years. He would do well to communicate his strategic vision quickly and tie that vision to particular choices.

There are two compelling reasons why Carter will need to move quickly. First, unless Congress changes the Budget Control Act, sequestration level cuts will be implemented in 2016, requiring the Pentagon to pursue another round of deep spending cuts. Working with congressional leaders to help reduce or eliminate the cloud of budget uncertainty over the Pentagon should be a priority.

The second reason why Carter must move quickly is the need to slow the erosion of America’s military-technological edge. The United States has enjoyed several decades of technical dominance, but not by accident. In the 1950s, military leaders invested in nuclear power, nuclear weapons and missiles to offset the quantitative advantages the Soviet Union had in Europe. As that advantage began to erode as the Soviet Union reached nuclear parity, in the 1970s and 1980s, DOD invested in the microprocessing revolution that was then in its infancy. The result was a set of technologies – stealth, guided weapons and the global positioning system, among others – that gave the United States a renewed qualitative edge, this time powered by information technology.

America’s technological edge is therefore not a given, but rather is the product of a steady series of calculated investments in key technology areas throughout the latter half of the 20th century. But as Deputy Secretary Work outlined in a speech last year:

The Jews Who Fought Back against Nazi Germany

February 23, 2015

According to one familiar narrative about the Holocaust, millions of Jews passively went to the Nazi death camps likes lambs to the slaughter, unable to fight back against oppression and genocide.

The problem is—that story isn’t true.

As the world commemorated in January the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation—and as thoughts turn toward the upcoming May anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany—another narrative is gaining ground.

The Jews who fought back.

More than 30,000 Jews joined armed resistance movements throughout occupied Europe during World War II. Not only did they face death from the Germans and their European allies, they often endured dangerous anti-Semitism within their own partisan groups, fought with scant support from the Allies and lived under the most atrocious conditions.

Yet despite these obstacles, Jewish partisans were among the most successful resistance fighters of the war. They destroyed infrastructure such as rail lines and power plants, harassed occupation forces and killed German soldiers whenever and wherever they could.

“Learning about the Jews who fought back shatters the stereotypes of passivity and victimization that sometimes colors views of the Holocaust,” Mitch Braff, Executive Director of the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, told War Is Boring.

The foundation’s Website is a treasure trove of oral histories, photographs, maps and other information that tells the story of those long-overlooked fighters against genocide and tyranny.

Global Flashpoints 2015

FEB 20, 2015 
Maintaining international security and pursuing American interests is more difficult now than perhaps at any time in history. The security environment that the United States faces is more complex, dynamic, and difficult to predict. At the same time, no domestic consensus exists on the purposes of American power and how best to pursue them. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) looks ahead in this annual volume at the “flashpoints” that will likely arise in 2015, how best to deal with them, and what lasting effects they might leave for the next American administration and its allies around the world. 
ISBN 978-1-4422-4629-4 (hb); 978-1-4422-4630-0 (pb); 978-1-4422-4631-7 (eBook) 

The revolution begins: With Finance Commission recommendations, Centre-state relations set to undergo dramatic change

February 25, 2015

Any big change requires big ideas, decisive leadership and happy coincidence of circumstances. Nothing illustrates this better than the unfolding story of cooperative federalism in India.

As chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi had often argued that the central government implemented schemes were at odds with the state’s needs and priorities. For example, schemes that provided funds for electrification were at best of limited value to Gujarat since it had already achieved near 100% electrification. This state could have spent the money provided for such a scheme more productively if allowed to use it for other purposes.

In advancing this view, Modi was joined by other chief ministers such as Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan who argued that the vast numbers of central schemes further restricted their fiscal space because many of them required matching contributions by them from their otherwise untied funds. Once these matching funds were committed to access central schemes, states were left with very limited funds for even the most important expenditure items such as enforcement of law and order.

Nevertheless, this system has remained entrenched in one form or another in the last several decades on account of coincidence of three factors. First, outside of state leaders and a few economists and policy analysts, advocates of the view that true federalism means giving greater fiscal space to states and trusting them in setting their own priorities have been few and far between.

Second, the Finance Commission – appointed once every five years – plays a key role in the division of tax revenues between Centre and states. Consistent with the first point, successive Finance Commissions held untied funds to the states at or below 30% of the divisible tax pool. Only the 13th Finance Commission exceeded this mark, setting the states’ share at 32%.

CIA to Expand Cyber Espionage Capabilities

February 24, 2015

CIA director John Brennan considers creating a new cyber directorate in Langley. 

The Washington Post reports that CIA director, John Brennan, is considering a major expansion of the CIA’s cyber espionage capabilities. Unnamed official sources claim that the director and his team are even considering creating a new cyber directorate and making it a separate pillar next to the traditional analysis and operations branches.

“Brennan is trying to update the agency to make sure it is prepared to tackle the challenges in front of it. I just don’t think you can separate the digital world people operate in from the human intelligence,” an official familiar with the re-organization notes.

This is yet another sign that cyberspace is increasingly moving to the center of American national security deliberations. The White House also recentlyannounced that it will create a new office, the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, which will be part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The fiscal year 2016 budget request by President Barack Obama asked for $16 billion in overall expenditure for cybersecurity; the Pentagon spends around $5 billion on cyber defense and its cyber arsenal per year.

John Brennan’s envisions a more modern organizational structure for the United States’ preeminent intelligence agency in which “hybrid centers” – multidisciplinary teams consisting of experts from the various CIA stovepipes – can more easily collaborate with each other. In an email last year, the CIA director noted that he has become,“increasingly convinced that the time has come to take a fresh look at how we are organized.” The model for these new hybrid centers is the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

The CIA already has substantial resources at it disposal to navigate and monitor cyberspace such as the Information Operations Center, one of the largest sections within the organization and responsible for dealing with threats to U.S. computer systems, and the Open Source Center, a unit created to collect open source data online including from social media networks.

The Coming Global Gas-Market Bust

February 24, 2015 

"What will remain of hyped expectations of the past will be the biggest LNG growth ever, but not big enough to make the gas market really global."

The dramatic fall of oil prices is set to jeopardize both the U.S. ambition to become a big gas exporter by the end of this decade and the long-awaited development of a global gas market.

In the past few years, many experts have been predicting that the North American, European and Asian regional gas markets could progressively merge into a single global exchange, bringing higher price uniformity and fat profits to American exporters. The discovery of huge gas reserves in the United States, Australia, Canada and East Africa and the rush to build up infrastructure to produce liquefied natural gas (LNG) and export it globally made this a sensible expectation.

However, even before the fall of oil prices, the global boom of natural gas had been put in danger by bad planning, huge cost overruns, environmental hurdles and the need to build huge facilities from scratch in remote locations. The 50 percent drop in oil prices over the past six months now threatens to doom a large part of planned LNG and pipeline export capacity by dragging down gas prices worldwide (where they are oil-indexed, unlike in the United States).

Brent Scowcroft: The Wise Man

February 25, 2015 

Over the past five decades, beginning with his service to Richard Nixon and continuing to the present, Scowcroft has played a central role in promoting an internationalist foreign policy grounded in realist precepts. 

IN 1961, Richard Rovere, a correspondent for the New Yorker, wrote an essay in the American Scholar called “Notes on the Establishment In America.” In it he described, with extensive footnotes, a northeastern mandarin class, composed of everyone from John McCloy to John Kenneth Galbraith, that was manipulating the levers of power at the highest levels of government and industry. Rovere wrote:

The Establishment, as I see it, is not at any level a membership organization, and in the lower reaches it is not organized at all. In the upper reaches, some divisions have achieved a high degree of organization and centralization and, consequently, of exclusiveness and power. The directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, for example, make up a sort of Presidium for that part of the Establishment that seeks to control our destiny as a nation.

Rovere’s spoof occasioned a good deal of comment—one credulous legislator and member of the John Birch Society even entered it into the Congressional Record as a profound indictment of the establishment’s reach and sway—but perhaps no riposte was more telling than William F. Buckley Jr.’s. It appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 1962 and was titled “The Genteel Nightmare of Richard Rovere.”

The Rise of Alien Warfare

February 25, 2015 

From the War of 1812 to today’s campaigns in the Middle East, both Washington’s enemies and the local populations have become steadily less familiar in terms of language, religion and social traditions. 

IN 2011, the United States launched a new television show in Afghanistan called Sesame Garden. It was an Afghan-themed version of Sesame Streetdesigned to win local hearts and minds. Unfortunately, the producers had to cut the Count von Count character because Afghans had not heard of Dracula and could not comprehend the fangs.

The fate of the Count epitomizes the new Age of Alien Warfare—defined by U.S. military operations in culturally unknown environments. From the War of 1812 to today’s campaigns in the Middle East, both Washington’s enemies and the local populations have become steadily less familiar in terms of language, religion and social traditions. Alien warfare reached its apogee with the post-9/11 mission to refashion Afghanistan—a landlocked country seven thousand miles away, with a largely unknown culture and a literacy rate lower than that of America in 1650.

The rise of alien warfare has crippled America’s capacity at both waging war and making peace. Paradoxically, as U.S. power grew, the nation’s record on the battlefield deteriorated alarmingly. From 1812 to 1945, the United States had a miniscule peacetime army but won most major campaigns. After World War II, Washington constructed the most expensive military machine that ever existed, yet it suffered an era of military reverses. Reeling from battlefield failure, Washington was forced to negotiate a way out of the quagmire. But alien warfare impeded effective diplomacy and prolonged difficult campaigns. In culturally unfamiliar environments, the United States could neither win wars nor end them.

Mentorship Done Right

An Aaron Sorkin Version of the Military

Eisenhower relaxing with another man at a camp during the Louisiana Maneuvers, 1941. 

Note on suspension of disbelief: This quick piece is not intended to address the political preferences inherent in the television content discussed below. I left my political biases at the door…and I hope you can do the same.

I was recently drawn into the television show Newsroom, a fictional series based around the tensions and choices made when covering the news (at least from the perspective of a cable news channel). What struck me about this show was not the sexual drama (everyone is sleeping with or dating everyone else at some point), the shifting existential crises of the main characters in every show, or even the political commentary inherent in the message of each show — the overall theme of the show is the challenge of treading the fine line between journalistic responsibility and making money for parent corporations to remain on the air. Instead, I was struck that every show contained a healthy dose of mentorship…and not the feel good, “I’m a commander and I just gave great career advice to a subordinate in a scheduled counseling” kind of mentorship.

The beauty of any Aaron Sorkin TV drama — something I didn’t realize until I had this epiphany about Newsroom and went back to look at his other shows like the West Wing and Sports Night — is his coverage of the varied dynamics of mentorship: ambition, loyalty, frustration, intellectual engagement, self-identification, discipline, flexibility, fear for the success of a cause, desire to leave your job/profession better that you found it, personal investment in others, self-sacrifice, and even pride.

Zen and the Art of PowerPoint

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love PowerPoint

Do you hate PowerPoint? I mean really hate PowerPoint? Get over it. It’s not going away anytime soon.

No matter who you are, no matter what you do, your time will come. And, if the odds remain consistent, your weapon of choice won’t be pithy remarks on 3x5 cards, a snappy information paper, or a brilliant “elevator speech.” It’s going to be a stack of PowerPoint slides.

From industry boardrooms to the hallowed halls of the E-Ring, PowerPoint (or a close derivative) is the medium of choice for communicating key ideas between groups of people. On any given day, someone somewhere announces the death of PowerPoint, yet when the sun rises with another day, it’s still there. Laughing at you, mocking you, dragging you down into the depths of PowerPoint Hell.

The reality is that PowerPoint really isn’t the problem. It’s just a tool, after all. The problem is the tool behind the tool. The major who seems to forget the “brief” in “briefing.” That clown in the G-2 who insists that the weather makes every slide classified. The half-illiterate buffoon whose slides would make Webster roll over in his grave. You know who I’m talking about. And you’ve endured the misery of their meager attempts to communicate.

But this isn’t about them, it’s about you. It’s about making you a better briefer. A better communicator. Someone able to convey ideas concisely and clearly. Someone who doesn’t make people cringe when they see you walking into a conference room. This is about finding your Zen. In a PowerPoint slide.

OER masking rules for upcoming boards issued

By Jim Tice
February 22, 2015 

The Army is issuing new guidance to selection boards as it phases out the practice of masking junior officer evaluations.

Under old policy, junior officer evals went unseen by the selection board once an officer was promoted to captain or chief warrant officer three. The restricted file was not seen by selection boards, accept in rare instances.

But in a change ordered Jan. 30, Human Resources Command is moving all previously masked reports to the performance section of an officer's Army Military Human Resource Record, or AMHRR, which normally is included in the documents packet seen by promotion, school and command selection boards.

The new policy does not apply to the documents packets that will be viewed by selection boards that convene before July 1 for Regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve officers.

Included in that category are the fiscal 2015 active component Army Competitive Category colonel, major, captain and chief warrant officer boards; the Medical Corps and Dental Corps major board, and the Army Medical Department captain board that will consider Nurse Corps, Medical Service Corps and Medical Specialist Corps first lieutenants for promotion.

Also slated for the first and second quarter of fiscal 2015 are the reserve components Army Medical Department, Judge Advocate General's Corps and Chaplains Corps major boards, and the chief warrant officer five, four and three boards.

Here are the rules that will apply to all of the above boards, according to guidance issued by the HRC in mid-February:


The author, background, enjoying some mentoring 

For the record, I've never had a unit beer call. I've never had professional development where the battalion commander dealt out mentorship advice while his audience of junior officers got gradually sloshed. Maybe this is because I've always been a National Guard officer; maybe my commanders have been risk averse, fearing the stereotype of the beer-sodden “old” Guard; or maybe there have just been different types of mentorship.

As an enlisted soldier, I came across NCOs who inspired me or who developed me in one way or another, but no one who took me aside and said, “Look, son, you've got potential, I’m going to mentor you.” Possibly the reason for this is that infantry NCOs don’t actually talk like 1950's John Wayne characters, or maybe I just really didn't have any potential to speak of.

It was not until I was a brand new lieutenant, so shiny an uncomfortable with rank that a specialist once mistook me for a private, that I began to receive guidance. I was sitting in a training meeting that was about to start via teleconference, because being National Guard, the companies of the battalion were scattered all over the place. The duty day was over and the platoon leader I was shadowing had his feet up and was reviewing his notes. First sergeant walked in, carrying two pizzas and a six pack, plunked them down on the table, and the meeting began. Top opened a beer and handed it to me. I didn’t realize it then, but my mentoring had begun. The PL who I was shadowing, and soon to be relieving, began discussing training meetings, range procedures, and best practices, as asides, not pontifications.

My next experience with mentorship came about six months later, with our new executive officer. He was the first to formally mentor me, give me advice, career guidance, and help me navigate the silly ways of the Army. His classic line in response to my never-ending questions was, “There’s an FM for that, look it up.” I hated that, but he was right. There is doctrine for EVERYTHING. He guided me through my time as PL and still remains the principle person that I go to for advice to this day.

“Thank you for your service” The Profession and the Public

“Thank you for your service.”

I paused momentarily at the words, and looked up from my lunch to see who was speaking. An elderly woman was reaching out to put her hand on the arm of an Army captain, with a look of sincere gratitude in her eyes. It’s a scene that plays out in every airport across the country as a thankful public expresses their appreciation to members of our Armed Forces.

It happens to us all at one time or another. For me, it tends to be a humbling experience, maybe even a little uncomfortable. This is my chosen profession, and I've never felt a need to be thanked for my decision. But I also recognize that for many, they need to express their gratitude for the sacrifices we make, for what we give of ourselves for our Nation. So, when I'm approached, I stop what I'm doing and take a moment to acknowledge their thanks and remind them that I also appreciate what they do to support our forces and how much it means to all of us. Courtesy is a two-way street.

On this day, I watch the scene unfold before me as the grandmotherly woman shares a story of the service of some distant relative, and the captain politely listens. Then she reaches into her purse and withdraws a pair of crisp $20 bills and puts them in the officer’s hand. “Let me buy your lunch today. I know that you don’t make a lot of money. It would mean so much to me.” The captain smiles, accepts the cash, and thanks her for her kindness and generosity.

He slips the money into the pocket of his Army Combat Uniform and takes a seat next to me at the restaurant bar. Ordering a craft beer from the bartender, he glances at me with a look we all recognize: the “Are you going to buy my beer?” look. But we're not going to play today, we're going to dance.

5 Steps to Effectively Communicating Your Message

Military leaders know that information operations can be decisive in influencing populations, particularly in counterinsurgency operations. Commanders create entire staff sections devoted to analyzing populations and crafting targeted messages that will influence people groups to support coalition efforts.

Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, International Security Assistance Force senior enlisted adviser, speaks to Soldiers in 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, after awarding combat infantry badges, combat action badges and combat medical badges at Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, May 28, 2013.

Information is clearly an important part of combat operations, but what about back at home station? How can leaders communicate their message to the organization to do things like meet unit goals, achieve a shared vision, or simply influence subordinate behavior?

Whether dealing with an unplanned crisis or trying to affect incremental change, leaders must actively communicate their message to the organization, or else its members will draw their own (possibly uninformed) conclusions and fall victim to rumors and misinformation. Leaders who remain silent end up surrendering their influence to people and entities that do not have the team’s best interests at heart.

Here are 5 steps leaders can take to communicate their message and gain the information initiative:

Step 1: Identify Your Audience

Ground Zero Company Level Leaders on Company Level Leadership


The following post was penned by Army First Lieutenant Kyle Amonson, a native of Northern Virginia and proud Virginia Tech Hokie. Recently returned from Iraq, he is a rotary wing aviator and AH-64D pilot stationed at Storck Barracks, Germany, where he is assigned as a Flight Platoon Leader. He spends his spare time attempting to find his Warrant Officers and becoming a connoisseur of Bavarian Hefeweizen. 

“The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” — Colin Powell

They say you don’t know what you don’t know. Understanding that fact is daunting, yet motivating at the same time because there is so much progress yet to be made. Nonetheless, regardless of a lack of knowledge or experience one must be expected to be the best leader they can be to the peak of their abilities. Whether you are a freshly-pinned NCO, a newly-commissioned Lieutenant, or a Captain taking your long-awaited Command, you have one shot in that moment in time to make the greatest positive impact you can.

In my first year as a Cadet I developed a mantra to live by, a Steve Prefontaine quote: “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” I often find myself asking, am I giving my best to my Soldiers, am I inspiring or just motivating, leading or just managing? I always have to pull myself back to ask myself if I am passionately caring… sometimes it’s praise of a job well done, sometimes it’s punishment to teach a lesson. If a decision is made in the best interest of the Soldier in relation to the unit and the mission is that giving your best? Or at least a pretty darn good attempt?

Do’t let me claim to be an expert, because that is far from the truth. What I am is a Junior Officer who is learning. Who is honored to have the opportunity to lead the citizens of America’s sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. I don’t take that lightly, no leader should. So you ask yourself… how can I give nothing less than my best to these Soldiers? They deserve it.