19 June 2015

Watch Now: Defense One Live’s ‘Force of the Future’

JUNE 15, 2015
The Pentagon's acting personnel chief has vowed to upend the military's Cold War-era HR system. Watch him describe how and why.

On June 9, the Pentagon’s acting personnel chief, Brad Carson, talked with Defense One editor Kevin Baron about the military’s plans to overhaul its Cold War-era personnel system, a long-overdue move meant to attract and retain the best and the brightest of today.

Presented before a packed house at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, the event also included a panel composed of top service and DoD personnel leaders who are moving out with reforms of their own.

​Watch the video of the event here. (Free registration is required, but it’s very quick.)

How We’re Planning the Biggest Personnel Overhaul in 45 Years

JUNE 8, 2015

DoD’s acting personnel chief lays out the Pentagon’s plans to manage for talent, not just time served.

Through the current Force of the Future initiative, many leaders throughout the Defense Department are heeding Secretary Ash Carter’s call for innovative thinking about our nation’s most enduring competitive advantage: our people. 

Brad Carson is the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.Full Bio

And although we’re justifiably proud of our leading technologies at home and in harm’s way, in reality there is no such thing as a weapons platform that is “unmanned” or “pilotless.” Squarely behind each sophisticated instrument of suasion, each strategic deterrent capability, each overwhelming battlespace enabler, lies precious American talent.

18 June 2015


June 16, 2015 ·

In the wake of India’s hot pursuit of militants into Myanmar, Pakistan has raised numerous alarms about Indian aggression. It has issued various warnings that no such Indian incursion into Pakistan will be tolerated. As often happens in such circumstances, the international media has raised the tocsin of the potential for yet another “Indo-Pakistan” clash. Unfortunately, much of this coverage of the so-called India-Pakistan conflict is deeply problematic in that writers, perhaps with good intentions, seek to impose a false equivalence on both nations’ conduct, giving the impression that India and Pakistan contribute equally to the fraught situation that currently exists.

Former US Spymaster: China Could Use OPM Data to Recruit Spies

June 17, 2015

A former NSA and CIA chief outlines the damage the OPM hack could unleash. 
Retired General Michael Hayden is somewhat of an authority on spycraft, having led both the U.S. National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency over his long career. So when he notes that the recent breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management—in which the personal information and background information of millions of current and former U.S. federal government employees was stolen by attackers presumed to be based in China—was a “tremendously big deal,” people will listen.

Hayden noted that the OPM data was a “legitimate foreign intelligence target.” Hayden continued: “To grab the equivalent in the Chinese system, I would not have thought twice. I would not have asked permission…This is not ‘shame on China.’ This is ‘shame on us’ for not protecting that kind of information.” Highlighting a possible use case for the information, Hayden noted that the information could help China recruit spies in the United States—a deeply troubling outcome for the United States.

China's Military Strategy

June 16, 2015

China recently published its new Military Strategy. Within this strategy China must be given credit for clearly articulating its version of the “Monroe Doctrine” for the Asia-Pacific region and its desire to no longer play second fiddle to the U.S. globally. Unlike the current U.S. national security strategy, China’s strategy is more narrowly focused on securing its near abroad (the first island chain) while also expanding its military reach to secure its interests globally. Meanwhile, the U.S. faces a complex global landscape, and must confront threats perceived and real emanating from multiple angles while managing significant fiscal constraints.

China’s strategy document — which indicates a more aggressive maritime approach—along with setbacks in Iraq and Syria, and Russia’s continued aggression in the Ukraine, demonstrates the inability for the U.S. to dictate events throughout the globe. Rather the U.S. is forced to react, which raises questions regarding its ability to pivot in any direction. The current U.S. National Security Strategy and subsequent military strategies are designed to simply maintain the status quo while the Chinese Military Strategy seeks to accommodate its rise as a global power.

China Stays Coy on Fighting Islamic State

June 17, 2015

Strangely, Chinese reports of meetings with Iraq’s foreign minister made no mention of IS. 

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has been in China since June 13 for an official visit, including meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

On June 14, Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairsdescribed the purpose of his visit: “he will, during the visit to China, address the world to side with Iraq in its legitimate war against IS [Islamic State]” (all sic). Jaafari noted that China has “expressed its readiness to support Iraq in its war against the terrorist Islamic State (IS) gangs without joining the international coalition,” referencing a conversation he had with Wang in September 2014. At that time, Jaafari said that Wang had offered China’s help in defeating IS, including providing support for air strikes – although Wang made it clear that China’s existing policies would not allow it to join the U.S.-led international coalition against IS.

Government Oversight with 'Chinese Characteristics'

June 17, 2015

Why feedback machines in government offices aren’t a substitute for political reform. 

Chinese people returning from abroad and passing through customs often see the following: at the immigration counter where passports are checked, there’s a small electronic panel. The panel has four buttons: “very satisfied,” “satisfied,” “taking too much time,” and “negative attitude.” This allows passengers to give feedback to customs officers while passing through the passport check.

This panel has made foreign friends who enter China with me very curious. They stare at the panel, looking it up and down as if it were an antique from the Qing dynasty. When they realize its purpose, they always seem surprised.

China's Military Practices Invading Taiwan

China’s military is practicing invading Taiwan, IHS Jane’s notes.

In a new analysis by Richard Fisher and James Hardy, IHS Jane’s reports that “A series of Chinese military exercises between late May and early June showcased the ability of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to project land, air, and naval power into the area around Taiwan.”

The exercises demonstrated the People's Liberation Army’s plan to use civilian ships during emergencies to help boost its forces.

“To compensate for the relatively small size of its formal naval amphibious transport fleet the PLA has co-funded construction of a large number of ferries used by civilian companies. They will be made available to the PLA during emergencies and are a frequent element in civil-military transport exercises,” Fisher and Hardy write.

How to Save U.S.-China Ties

In his new book, The China Challenge, Christensen provides a guide for salvaging the U.S.-China relationship.

China’s large-scale construction of artificial islands in the hotly disputed waters of the South China Sea has led many in Washington to call for a tougher stance against Beijing. While China no doubt bears much responsibility for pursuing murky and ambitious territorial claims with aggressive actions,contending with China’s rise also requires a lot more than just getting tough.

During the course of the Obama administration, Beijing has reacted negatively not just to the administration’s gestures of goodwill but also to its more confrontational actions and rhetoric. A look back at the missteps early in the Obama administration would offer a useful guide to prescribing future action.The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power, a new book by noted China scholar Thomas Christensen, provides precisely such a guide.

5 Chinese Cyber Attacks That Might Be Even Worse Than the OPM Hack

JUNE 15, 2015

If the Chinese government is in fact behind the OPM hack, it would not be their boldest alleged move in cyberspace; only the most recent. 

Part of the reason I am a bit blasé about the Office of Personnel Management hack, is if the Chinese government is indeed behind it, it’s not by any stretch the most dastardly thing they have done in cyberspace. It’s just the most recent one that we know about. It’s getting a lot of press because personally identifiable information (PII) was compromised.

Rob Knake is a Senior Fellow for Cyber Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. His work focuses on Internet Governance, public-private partnerships, and cyber conflict. He served from 2011 to 2015 as Director for Cybersecurity Policy at the National Security Council. In this role, he was ... Full Bio

4 Trillion Reasons China’s Currency Isn’t Ready for Prime Time

JUNE 16, 2015 

China isn’t ready to supply the rest of the world with RMB. So why does it matter if the currency gets the IMF's stamp of approval? 

A lot of hyperventilation has lately been devoted to the future international role of China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB). The latest flurry of excitement centers on China’s bid to have the RMB included in the basket of currencies represented in the Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund. According to accepted wisdom, the RMB’s inclusion in the SDR basket would be a landmark step, formal recognition of its coming-of-age as a global reserve currency. SDR status, many say, would give central banks the green light to add RMB to their reserves and encourage investors to pour money into Chinese stocks and bonds.


June 16, 2015

Editor’s Note: This piece on the War on the Rocks Hasty Ambush blog is published in partnership with the Hoover Institution’s new Military History in the News, a weekly column from the Hoover Institution that reflects on how the study of the past alone allows us to make sense of the often baffling daily violence, not by offering exact parallels from history, but rather by providing contexts of similarity and difference that foster perspective and insight — and reassurance that nothing is ever quite new.

On June 2, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told France Inter radio that the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIL had killed 10,000 members in the nine months since the attacks began. This was undoubtedly a salvo in the information campaign against the extremist group, as well as an attempt to downplay the recent loss of Ramadi to the Islamic State. The statistic is interesting, but irrelevant unless it means that the number of fighters in the Islamic State ranks is declining. The count on this score is not encouraging, with indications that ISIL is recruiting enough replacements to balance its losses to air attacks.

Iran and the Islamic Finance Crown

By Jacopo Dettoni
June 16, 2015

Could an Iranian financial comeback challenge Sunni dominance of global Islamic finance? 

Iran is one of the pioneers of Islamic finance. In 1983, four years after the revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah, the Islamic government passed the Riba-Free Banking Act, forcing local banks to rebuild their business around sharia-compliant products.

More than 30 years on, the Iranian banking industry remains completely regulated by sharia law and is by far the world’s largest center of Islamic banking. Yet its experience is unique within the global Islamic community, as it is inspired by Shia jurisprudence, which often diverges from mainstream Sunni jurisprudence. Sunni scholars have repeatedly questioned the “rightfulness” of Iranian banks, with some even claiming that they “are merely carrying Islamic labels and are rather dummy version [sic] of Islamic banks,” to put it in the words of a paper published by the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM).

What the US Should Do About ISIS Now

JUNE 15, 2015

More than a dozen experts and scholars weigh in on how the U.S. should regroup as the coalition nears the end of its first year of fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. 

The past few years have seen the official conclusions of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the United States had no time to breathe a collective sigh of relief before the rapid advances of ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) were presenting us with another political, ideological, possibly military quandary in the Middle East. How should the United States respond? We asked leading foreign policy intellectuals to propose their best answers.

Russia to Begin Testing Three More Stealth Fighter Prototypes

JUNE 16, 2015

PARIS — United Aircraft Corp. plans to deliver three more prototypes of an advanced stealth fighter jet to the Russian military for testing as early as next year, a company official said.
The president of the Moscow-based company, Yuri Slyusar, said three more of the T-50 PAK-FA, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by United Aircraft subsidiary Sukhoi, will be transferred to the Russian air force in late 2016 or early 2016 as part of a test program.

“We can say that we are in the schedule and these three additional prototypes will allow us to greatly expand the testing program and do it faster,” he said through a translator during a briefing with reporters Monday at the Paris Air Show. “What we’re speaking about in the schedule is to deliver the first batch at the end of 2016, beginning of 2017 to the customer, the ministry of defense, so the aircraft demonstrate all necessary and design characteristics.”

Russia warns of 'new military confrontation' in Europe

Russia-West relations took a downturn this week when Moscow warned that any stationing of military equipment along its border with Europe could have "dangerous consequences" and President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would add more than 40 ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year.

At a military and arms fair on Tuesday, Putin announced the addition of the intercontinental ballistic missiles which, he said, were able to overcome "even the most technically advanced anti-missile defense systems."

After the announcement, Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said that Putin's statement was one reason why the international military alliance was upping its deterrence measures.


June 17, 2015

Editor’s Note: It is with great pride that I announce Patrick Porter joining WOTR’s stable of regular contributors. He will be writing a monthly column for us titled “Offshore Balancer.” – RE

Almost 30 years ago, Yale historian Paul Kennedy touched an American nerve. His study, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, argued for a broad historical pattern. Great powers, in order to remain great powers, had a task that was simple to understand but difficult to execute: to balance wealth and their economic base with their military power and strategic commitments. These states therefore faced a constant triple tension between investment, defense and consumption. Failure to get this balance right risked overextension as a large economy vulnerable to predators like nineteenth century China, as a stagnating over-militarized power like the Soviet Union, or as a credit-addicted, inflexible failure like Phillip II’s Spain.

US Mulls New Asia Infrastructure Facility to Rival Regional Players

June 17, 2015
“One-stop shop” would better coordinate and market what the United States can offer. 

The United States is mulling the development of a new facility based in Asia to coordinate and market U.S. infrastructure to the region in the face of growing competition by China and other countries, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The facility, which is still in the works, would serve as a “one-stop shop” for various U.S. actors to better coordinate and market their activities to Asian nations and other relevant regional institutions, James Carouso, Director of Maritime Southeast Asia Affairs at the U.S. State Department, told a roundtable at the Stimson Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Why Congress Must Pass the TPP

If America is going to lead Asia in the future, it has to modernize the economic underpinnings of that role or suffer marginalization.

President Obama’s own party last week defeated his central foreign policy initiative in Asia – the legislative package for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement— and rendered U.S. policy in the region as unserious. If America is to save its leading role in Asian politics, diplomacy and security, which it has enjoyed since the end of World War II, it has to modernize the economic underpinnings of that role or suffer marginalization. Congress voted for marginalization. It needs to correct that immediately.

This happened as voices in Congress are raising their decibel level over Chinese hybrid diplomacy and territorial salami-slicing in the South and East China Seas. These critics claim the Obama administration is all talk and no action, and they have a point. Across Washington, policymakers and think tanks are searching their thesauruses for tougher adverbs and adjectives to describe Chinese behavior, but uniformly fail to come up with effective alternatives.

America's Dilemma: Juggling the Gulf-Iran Cold War

Time for Washington to demonstrate that it is willing to pursue an enhanced relationship with Iran and a balance between competing actors in the region.

Last month, President Barack Obama reiterated that there is “no military solution” to the Syrian conflict. The sentiment rings true, but considering the militias that dominate Syria, it seems equally unlikely that they will negotiate their way to a solution. Despite rebel advances in the south last week and gainsagainst the regime in the north in March and April of this year, it remains unclear whether Assad will fall, but even if he should, the fight that will emerge amongst the fractured opposition to fill the power vacuum will be brutal and unlikely to result in stability or a solution. What happens in Syria, however, cannot be examined in isolation. Though the war began in Dara’a and Damascus, the country has since been enveloped into a larger conflict between the Gulf states and Iran. Following Syria’s path, Yemen has found itself sucked into the same regional fight. With substantial foreign involvement in both of these conflicts, a meaningful solution must be much larger in scope, and it must be the result of a great balancing of power in the Middle East that challenges the current relationships that are mainly based on inertia—especially the relationship with Saudi Arabia.