16 March 2019

Mark Zuckerberg’s Plans to Capitalize on Facebook’s Failures

By Sue Halpern

On Wednesday, a few hours before the C.E.O. of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, published a thirty-two-hundred-word post on his site titled “A privacy-focused vision for social networking,” a new study from the market research firm Edison Research revealed that Facebook had lost fifteen million users in the United States since 2017. “Fifteen million is a lot of people, no matter which way you cut it,” Larry Rosin, the president of Edison Research, said on American Public Media’s “Marketplace.” “This is the second straight year we’ve seen this number go down.” The trend is likely related to the public’s dawning recognition that Facebook has become both an unbridled surveillance tool and a platform for propaganda and misinformation. According to a recent Harris/Axios survey of the hundred most visible companies in the U.S., Facebook’s reputation has taken a precipitous dive in the last five years, with its most acute plunge in the past year, and it scores particularly low in the categories of citizenship, ethics, and trust.

THIS BIG FACEBOOK CRITIC FEARS TECH’S BUSINESS MODEL


LONGTIME SILICON VALLEY investor Roger McNamee met Mark Zuckerberg in 2006, when the Facebook CEO was just 22 and his two-year-old company still only catered to university students. Facebook was young, but McNamee was already convinced it was “the next big thing,” he told WIRED editor in chief Nicholas Thompson on Sunday during a keynote conversation at SXSW 2019 in Austin. “The thing that had killed every attempt at social apps before that [was] essentially that the ability to be anonymous allowed trolls to take over. I was convinced that Mark’s requirement of authenticated identity was literally the holy grail, it was the thing that was going to unlock this opportunity.”

There was no investment opportunity at the time; McNamee viewed their meeting as a way to offer advice—and a chance “to meet the young guy who had figured [social networks] out.” As McNamee admits, “I didn’t even have it in my head that a thing like Facebook could go bad. I was a technology optimist like everybody else.”

‘Special Outsider’: Russia Joins the Race for Global Leadership in Artificial Intelligence

By: Sergey Sukhankin

On February 26, the industrial director of the Rostec State Corporation, Sergey Abramov, declared that work on the fourth generation of the Ratnik future infantry combat system is underway. The system is said to include, among other advanced elements, a soldier’s exoskeleton as well as software link ups with micro–Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and other systems utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) (TASS, February 25). The authorities claim that such military-industrial contractors as JSC Kalashnikov, High Precision Systems and Techmash have become Russia’s “locomotives,” driving the development and production of AI systems. Abramov concluded that “our [Russian] weaponry has always been, currently is and will remain the best in the world—without any unnecessary meekness and illusions regarding our competitors” (TASS, February 25).

Last year, the editor-in-chief of the military magazine Arsenal Otechestva, Victor Murakhovsky, provided a fascinating assessment of the new upgrades to the AI-supported Ratnik system. According to Murakhovsky, its strong points include (TASS, August 27, 2018):

Gerasimov Appeals for Military Science to Forge New Forms of Combat

By: Roger McDermott

On March 2, Army General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, addressed the Academy of Military Sciences (Akademii Voyennykh Nauk—AVN), in Moscow. In a wide-ranging speech, Gerasimov explored themes related to Russia’s military strategy and perspectives on modern warfare. He outlined a “strategy of limited actions,” based on operations in Syria, which envisages actions beyond the country’s borders to promote its national interests (see EDM, March 6, 7). Gerasimov’s address was important due to the fact that, last year, President Vladimir Putin ordered a new military doctrine; moreover, his remarks provide insight into current and future priorities in Russian defense planning. Gerasimov addresses the AVN annually, encouraging military science to focus on future warfare and new approaches to combat (Krasnaya Zvezda, March 4).

Building the Army we need

BY ARMY SECRETARY MARK ESPER

The United States Army is at a strategic inflection point. For the first time since the Cold War, the United States is in direct competition with near peer adversaries. Fortunately, Army readiness has been recovering from the years of budget uncertainty and increased operational commitments. With support from Congress, the Army has increased the number of ready brigade combat teams from 18 to 28 over the past two years. While I am confident that we would prevail against any foe today, our adversaries are working hard to contest the outcome of future conflicts. If our nation fails to modernize the Army now, we risk losing the first battles of the next war.

For the past 17 years, the Army has borne the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For over a decade, we postponed modernization to procure equipment tailored to counterinsurgency operations. Our legacy combat systems, which were designed for high intensity conflict, entered service when I joined the Army in the early 1980s. While they dominated in past conflicts, incremental upgrades are no longer adequate for the demands of future battle as described in the national defense strategy. The United States must accelerate to the next generation of technology now, before Russia and China outpace us with their military modernization programs.

7 funding priorities in the Pentagon’s cyber budget

By: Mike Gruss  

Tucked inside the Department of Defense’s massive $750 billion budget request for fiscal 2020 is a blueprint for how the Pentagon plans to invest in new cyber capabilities.

As part of the department’s command, control, communications, computers and intelligence budget, leaders asked for $2.8 billion to improve specific cyber skillsets. That budget includes $2 billion for research and development and about $843 million in procurement funding.

In material made available March 12, Defense Department officials said the funding will focus on seven priorities. They are:

15 March 2019

India’s and Pakistan’s Lies Thwarted a War—For Now

BY C. CHRISTINE FAIR

Lying about facts to de-escalate tension in Kashmir is a playbook they’ve both used before.

In May 1999, New Delhi discovered that Pakistani intruders had seized Himalayan posts in Kargil, part of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Initially, the Indian government believed that these infiltrators were scruffy mujahideen when in fact they were paramilitary soldiers, officered by Pakistan’s army. Curiously, India publicly maintained the fiction that they were militants well after their identity was discovered. Counterintuitively, the falsehood facilitated a de-escalation of a conflict that had already become a limited war.

Nearly 20 years later, Pakistan has again initiated a crisis in Kashmir that has brought the nuclear-armed states to the brink of war. Once again, the two countries have rolled out a series of partial truths, and, in the case of Pakistan, outright lies. Indeed, while the facts of the matter are up for debate, it is clear that at least one casualty of this conflict has been empirically verifiable truth.

Coal is king in India—and will likely remain so

Samantha Gross

In conversations about avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, removing coal from the world’s energy system is always at the top of the list of solutions. Here in the United States, inexpensive natural gas has out-competed coal in the power system, bringing about a 40 percent decline in coal-fired generation over the last decade. However, coal is still king in other parts of the world.

India’s ambitious renewable energy goals have received a lot of international attention, but coal still provides half of India’s commercial primary energy and is the dominant fuel for power generation. In “Coal in India: Adjusting to transition,” Rahul Tongia and I state that we expect coal to remain the dominant fuel in the power sector in India, through 2030 and beyond.

Despite its dominant position in the Indian energy market, the Indian coal industry still faces structural and financial challenges. Additionally, the Indian power system is riddled with inefficiencies and distortions, from coal mining through final power sales to consumers.

Trump Is on the Cusp of Opening Another Trade War—With India

Kimberly Ann Elliott

In its early days, the international trade regime that the United States and its allies created after World War II counted relatively few less-developed countries as members. For the first few decades, developing country members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the precursor to the World Trade Organization, remained mostly small in economic size, unimportant in trade and participated little in multilateral trade negotiations. In the 1960s and 1970s, developed countries unilaterally extended preferential market access to poorer countries to spur economic growth and development. As the “newly industrializing countries” of Asia, followed by Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa and others, succeeded in growing faster and becoming bigger exporters, conflicts grew over the appropriate scope of “preferential and different treatment” for developing countries. 

Pakistan: Brutal Assimilation In Gilgit Baltistan

By Ajit Kumar Singh*

According to a February 13, 2019, report, the health of political leader Baba Jan, one of the most popular leaders in the region, who is serving a life sentence in prison for his alleged role in inciting violence in the region in 2010, is deteriorating. Protests have been organized across Gilgit Baltistan to demand for proper medical facilities to Baba Jan. A woman protestor argued that “since there is no facility available for angiography in Gilgit Baltistan, he should be shifted to Islamabad or to any other city where he can receive better medical attention”. A more shocking, but expected disclosure, was made by another protestor,
There is not even one dedicated department for health in Gilgit Baltistan, a region which has a population of 25 lakhs. Baba Jan has followers (who can fight for his cause) but what about the poor and destitute. So, it is not an issue confined to Baba Jan but all 25 lakh citizens of Gilgit Baltistan.

Could Pakistan Provoke a Nuclear War?

By: Adrienne Thompson

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal remains exposed to terrorist organizations holding anti-western sentiments as Pakistan’s lack of effort to curtail the development of terrorist organizations puts the U.S. at risk of attack. Pakistan is known to work with terrorist organizations, such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network. President Trump raised the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in his 2017 Afghanistan and South Asia strategy speech stating, “We [the U.S.] must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.” [[i]] These terrorists organizations now have the chance to provoke a full scale war between India and Pakistan, which may potentially include the use of nuclear weapons. The current state of heightened tensions between the two countries is in part due to the bombing in Kashmir, February 14, 2019, on an Indian paramilitary convoy, by the pro-Pakistan terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammed. India retaliated by launching an air strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot on February 26. Pakistan in turn subsequently claimed to have shot down two Indian fighter planes and captured an Indian pilot. The pilot was returned to India on March 1, but tensions between the countries remain. [[ii]] The likelihood these tensions leading to the use of nuclear weapons remains unclear. [[iii]] The U.S. remains reliant on its partnership with Pakistan to succeed in Afghanistan, but in light of the current tensions with India, the U.S. needs to redefine its relationship with Pakistan to ensure the protection of its nuclear weapons by negotiating with India to establish stability and peace between the disputing states and forming a nuclear treaty with Pakistan to control its growing nuclear arsenal.

Time for the US to Stop Ignoring Bangladesh

By Arafat Kabir

Bangladesh is one of those countries that should receive attention from Washington but typically do not. The general elections late last year that installed Sheikh Hasina, one of the most influential female leaders in the world, into power for a record third straight term went largely unnoticed in Washington. Bangladesh may not be a major destination for U.S. exports and hasn’t caught President Donald Trump’s eye for “stealing” American jobs. But Bangladesh’s success in striding toward economic prosperity, containing the spread of terrorism, and protecting Rohingya refugees from untold atrocities should inspire U.S. policymakers to recalibrate their Bangladesh policy.

Perhaps some changes are underway. Last month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee called upon Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to demonstrate America’s “continued commitment to and respect for democratic institutions [in Asia], beginning with Bangladesh.” Representative Eliot Engel, the committee chairman, penned the letter along with five colleagues in which he expressed dismay at the “negative trajectory of democracy” in a country that used to be known for its fragile but boisterous democracy.

China's Economy: Not So Big After All

by Salvatore Babones
Source Link

China’s economy isn’t what it used to be (at least as recently as last week). Four intrepid economists—Wei Chen, Xilu Chen and Michael Song of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, along with Chang-Tai Hsieh of the University of Chicago—have taken a fine-toothed comb to Chinese economic data to try to tease out China's true rate of economic growth since 2008. Not surprisingly, they found that China has been over-reporting its growth rate by an average of 1.7 percentage points every year.

Shave off a little growth every year for the last dozen years ago, and the cumulative effect is that China is now overstating its true GDP by nearly 20 percent.

The four economists’ “forensic examination” of China’s GDP figures relied on hard-to-fake data like tax receipts, nighttime light intensity observed from satellites, electricity generation, railway cargo and merchandise exports to estimate China’s true growth rate since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Their estimates are both much more volatile and nearly always lower than the figures reported by China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

China’s ‘Debt Diplomacy’ Is a Misnomer. Call It ‘Crony Diplomacy.’

By Mark Akpaninyie

In the summer of 2018, Sri Lanka saw the last remaining airline pull out of its second international airport. As soon as the Middle Eastern low-budget carrier flydubai left Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA), a project wholly financed by Chinese loans, the $210 million transit hub transformed into the world’s loneliest airport. Pundits branded Sri Lanka as the latest victim of China’s “debt diplomacy.”

Some small countries “take on loans like it’s a drug addiction and then get trapped in debt servitude,” opinedthe influential Indian strategist Brahma Chellaney. “It’s clearly part of China’s geostrategic vision.” Through debt diplomacy, China exerts bilateral influence by bankrupting partner nations with unsustainable debt and then demanding steep concessions as part of the debt relief – or so the thinking goes.

In the Gulf, China plays to win but US has upper hand

BY MICHAEL B. GREENWALD
Saudi Vision 2030 — Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s bid to diversify his nation’s oil-dependent economy — is one of the most consequential development plans in modern history. So it was no surprise to see MbS, as he is known, grinning with Chinese leaders during his Asian investment trip last month. As Chinese officials raved about the “enormous potential” of the Saudi economy, Saudi officials praised the compatibility of Chinese and Saudi cultures, and MbS even defended China’s maltreatment of Muslim Uighurs.

A surge of U.S. oil production has reduced Washington’s need for imports, leaving China as the world’s largest purchaser of crude in global markets. Meanwhile, Beijing has become the largest trading partner of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman, as well as Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Lebanon. Now, with synergy between Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road and Vision 2030, the stars seem aligned for a Saudi-Sino alliance to displace American influence in the Gulf.

China sells arms to more countries and is world’s biggest exporter of armed drones, says Swedish think tank SIPRI

Zhenhua Lu

China sells arms to more countries and is world’s biggest exporter of armed drones, says Swedish think tank SIPRI

But arms exports grew by just 2.7 per cent in 2014-18 from the previous five years, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report
China has expanded its customer base to 53 countries
China supplied 153 armed drones to 13 countries in the past five years. 

China is selling arms to more countries and is now the world’s leading exporter of armed drones, according to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday.

But the latest data from the Swedish think tank shows Chinese arms exports increased by a relatively low 2.7 per cent in the period from 2014 to 2018, compared to the previous five years.

China Revives Oil And Gas Reform Plan

By Michael Lelyveld

After previous predictions have gone by the boards, China’s government has confirmed plans for major steps to reform the oil and gas sector this year.

Last month, the China Securities Journal and the official English-language China Daily reported that the government is “likely to create a giant oil and gas pipeline company … around the middle of this year,” renewing a push to transform the state-controlled petroleum industry.

Various versions of the pipeline and reform plans have been reported with similar confidence for the past several years.

As with the last series of reports in 2018, the government would establish a new pipeline operating entity by merging the oil and gas infrastructure of China’s three national oil companies (NOCs) — China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC).

China Opens New Military Base In Tajikistan

By Emil Avdaliani

Western media outlets recently announced China has built military facilities on the Tajik side of the Tajik-Chinese border. The move is significant as it is first confirmation (built upon earlier unconfirmed reports) of the Chinese military/semi military presence in the Central Asia region.

The section where the Chinese facilities are located is strategically important as it overlooks one of the crucial entry points from China into Central Asia and is close to the vital corridor through which the country has a connection with Afghanistan’s heartland. The corridor is particularly important to China due to its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Put into a wider context, the opening of the new base might be problematic as Central Asia is perceived by the Russians as a sphere of their own influence. As I argued in previous pieces for GEORGIA TODAY, for Moscow, Central Asia nowadays is especially important as it is the only region where the Kremlin can still extend its existing influence through military and economic means. Quite naturally, Chinese military/security measures go against Russian pillars of power in this region.

It’s Sun Tzu’s Time in the Barrel

John F. Sullivan

Insurgents seeking to spark a revolution in the rather staid field of military strategic theory often unwittingly follow the logic of the used car. Purchase a new vehicle from the dealership and its value plummets the moment you drive it off the lot and continues to depreciate every additional year of use. But park it in your garage, wait for several decades, and a strange alchemy sometimes occurs. A Ford Mustang Boss 429 bought in 1969 for $32,000 (adjusted for inflation), fetches over half a million dollars today. As the influence of the recently old starts to wane, the stock of the ancient precipitously rises.

Thus it is with the latest assault on Clausewitz’s preeminence within the curriculum of the nation’s war colleges. On the website Task & Purpose, Major Jamie Schwandt recently posted an article with a title primed for maximum indignation: “Why we should stop teaching Clausewitz.” Schwandt’s argument is that since Clausewitz’s ideas were forged in an era temporally removed from our own, the knowledge we glean from his text is outdated and ineffective. Who, then, should students of strategy depend on to shape their strategic thinking? Sun Tzu, of course.

Combating China's Information Operations

By Chris Zappone

‘Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests’, British statesman Lord Palmerston famously observed. Two centuries later, the adage of foreign policy remains true but the internet extends its relevance into a nation’s domestic affairs.

That’s because the internet and social media give authoritarian nations a lever to pull in democracy’s debate. That can be done through intermediaries who help guide the opinions of groups, or by promoting a worldview that undermines the legitimacy of liberal democracy.

The Chinese Communist Party’s ability to methodically shape views of diaspora communities poses a risk of creating a bloc of voters who could—in theory—support decisions that run counter to Australia’s established national security interest.

The challenge of this domain requires the citizens of democracies to keep their minds open for new and ever-changing information, even while filtering out ideas shaped or co-opted to undermine the state itself. The information challenge is simultaneously external and internal.

The internet creates a scale issue in the economics of propaganda, too.

THE HUAWEI CASE SIGNALS THE NEW US–CHINA COLD WAR OVER TECH

ZACHARY KARABELL

THE DEEPENING SAGA of the US government’s campaign against Chinese tech company Huawei intensified this week, with Huawei filing a lawsuit in Texas alleging that the government’s ban of Huawei equipment is “illegal” and based on propaganda, not facts. The case may not have much of a chance legally, but it underscores how this contest has become a microcosm of the larger competition between the US and China over who will define—and control—the technology of the 21st century.

The main thrust of the US push versus Huawei is that the company is inextricably bound with the ruling Chinese Communist Party and that its equipment, especially its superb 5G telecom equipment, will either be embedded with backdoors that will allow the Chinese government to spy or that it will have no choice but to permit Chinese government access to the traffic that flows through its equipment.

Donald Trump's Defense Budget Masks a Problem

by Rick Berger Mackenzie Eaglen

A $743 billion annual military budget is a lot of money. Characterizing it as lacking in any way understandably raises eyebrows. But bipartisan agreementabout what the Pentagon minimally needs for the year ahead should signal that President Donald Trump’s latest budget merely keeps the military treading water.

Even as Trump touts his support of the armed forces, his defense budget does little more than continue readiness repairs. For the third year in a row, the White House request does not rebuild the military or robustly provide the resources to execute the defense strategy.

No matter who won the presidency, Congress stood poised in 2017 to begin mending accumulated damage to readiness after the defense budget had lost $550 billion in buying power below inflation since 2012, leading to abysmal preparedness rates for Army brigades, Navy ships, and Air Force squadrons. In response to this readiness crisis, Congress budgeted $700 billion in 2018 and inflationary growth of $716 billion in 2019 to get the force healthy, an effort that has delivered real results .

America’s Golden Opportunity to Demonstrate Its Support for ‘International Order ‘

By Mark J. Valencia

The struggle between China and the United States for dominance in the South China Sea has raised fundamental questions regarding the “international order” — the body of rules, norms, and institutions that govern relations between nations. These increasingly important questions include what the international order is, who is abiding by it, and who is not. Some say the United States only supports those parts of the international order that further its interests. But now Washington has a golden opportunity to demonstrate its support for the international order even when it may not be in its short-term interest to do so. Its decision will be watched carefully by China and others.

The United States claims to uphold what it deems to be the international order and often calls out and unilaterally punishes those countries who do not abide by its interpretation thereof. Indeed, Washington says that in the South China Sea in particular, China is violating and trying to revise the international order through its claims and actions — including rejection of an international arbitration decision against Beijing. Yet the United States’ own general record of supporting international law and regimes is spotty. It refused to abide by an International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision against it in a case brought by Nicaragua. It withdrew from the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal. And it often appears to violate the UN Charter by threatening and even using force to achieve its international political objectives.

Should The US Step Up Its Military Presence In The South China Sea?

By Mark J. Valencia

A recent article in The National Interest posed the question “Are [US] Freedom of Navigation Operations in East Asia enough? The article’s implied answer is “no”. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-freedom-navigation-operations-east-asia-enough-45257 But the answer to this question depends on the objective. If—as the article suggests—freedom of navigation operations |(FONOPs) are to demonstrate non-acquiescence to what the U.S. views as a violation of international law, they may be unnecessary.

The article, by James Holmes of the Naval War College, defines “freedom of the sea as the nearly limitless liberty to use the sea for mercantile and military pursuits”. This sweeping statement lumps freedom of navigation for commercial purposes with that for military operations with military objectives. They are both fruit – but they are apples and oranges. Indeed, the legal situation is complicated. 

An American National Information Security Strategy

By: Kevin Truitte

In today’s Digital Age, information is a potent weapon. American adversaries such as Russia and China understand the power of information and seek to manipulate it to their advantage. From injecting or magnifying divisive messages in social media to penetrating government networks to steal employee information, they understand the information domain as a contested battlespace, an arena to influence and undermine U.S. social cohesion at home and soft power influence abroad.[i] In the face of today’s foreign information warfare activities, the United States needs a whole-of-government information security strategy to more effectively secure the American information environment—the physical infrastructure, networks through which information flows, and humans who transmit and respond to messages.[ii] This strategy should expand the understanding of information security while firmly adhering to the freedoms central to American values.

Russian Military Chief Outlines Aggressive Anti-U.S. War Strategy

BY: Bill Gertz

Russia’s large-scale military buildup is being augmented by greater use of non-military warfare against the United States, the chief of the Russian general staff revealed last week.

Gen. Valery Gerasimov, author of Russia’s use of “hybrid” warfare, announced the greater adoption of asymmetric warfare tools—cyber, space, and information weapons—in response to what he said are stepped up plans for information operations by the Pentagon.

“Under these conditions our armed forces must be prepared to wage wars and armed conflicts of a new type using classic and asymmetric methods of operations,” Gerasimov said in a speech March 2.

Gerasimov first outlined Russia’s new hybrid warfare in 2013 and implemented the plan a year later in using covert military forces to annex Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The Russians invaded with “little green men”—special operations troops without military insignia.

Table-Top Attack Simulations: Cyber Resilience's Swiss Army Knife

Michael Coden

Just as military commands play war games, organizations plan their own “fire drills” for cyberattacks. At BCG, we use table-top exercises (TTXs), which simulate cyberattacks for ourselves and our clients.

Cybersecurity can sometimes be abstract and hard to understand. Instead of stakeholders sitting down in a “death by PowerPoint” presentation where an expert explains complex topics to an audience, the audience actively participates in a TTX.

During TTXs, participants in simulated attack scenarios figure out ways they could have prevented an attack from succeeding, ways to mitigate impact and how to continue operations during an attack.

Tackling Hypersonic Threats: Offense Or Missile Defense?

By COLIN CLARK

The great majority of the chatter one hears from the US military about hypersonic missiles is how to spot them, track them, and shoot them down. But at the Hudson Institute today, a gathering of experts on hypersonic weaponry and missile defense all agreed that, if the US invests solely in defense, we’ll be falling for what military theorists call a cost-imposition strategy: I spend x on a weapon in hope of scaring you into spending many times x to counter it.

In the case of hypersonics, “the best defense is a good offense here,” said Roger Zakheim, Washington director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, with his fellow panelists nodding agreement.

China’s hypersonics work, “has all the markings of a cost imposition strategy,” added Thomas Karako, a top missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

White House ups DoD cyber budget request

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Jeff Martin breaks down 5 things that Defense News learned from the Pentagon's 2020 defense budget request.

The White House, in a $1.6 billion increase from last year, is requesting over $9.6 billion for Department of Defense cyber activities in fiscal 2020.

According to the White House budget request, released March 11, the funds requested for cyber activities will go toward specifically advancing DoD’s three primary cyber missions:

Safeguarding DoD’s networks, information and systems;
Supporting military commander objectives; and Defending the nation.

The White House’s request “provides the resources necessary to grow the capacity of U.S. military cyber forces (including the recently elevated United States Cyber Command), invest in the cyber workforce, and continue to maintain the highest cybersecurity standards at DoD.”

An American National Information Security Strategy

By: Kevin Truitte

In today’s Digital Age, information is a potent weapon. American adversaries such as Russia and China understand the power of information and seek to manipulate it to their advantage. From injecting or magnifying divisive messages in social media to penetrating government networks to steal employee information, they understand the information domain as a contested battlespace, an arena to influence and undermine U.S. social cohesion at home and soft power influence abroad.[i] In the face of today’s foreign information warfare activities, the United States needs a whole-of-government information security strategy to more effectively secure the American information environment—the physical infrastructure, networks through which information flows, and humans who transmit and respond to messages.[ii] This strategy should expand the understanding of information security while firmly adhering to the freedoms central to American values.

Can DoD’s cyber teams overcome readiness issues?

Mark Pomerleau 

A Cyber Soldier assigned to the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade prepares his equipment inside a Stryker vehicle during an integrated cyber exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington Oct. 21, 2015. The training integrates infantry ground units with cyber, signal and human intelligence collection capabilities, which gives units on the modern battlefield a broader capacity to search out and isolate their enemies in real time. (Capt. Meredith Mathis) 

“To train CMF teams rapidly, CYBERCOM used existing resources where possible … As of November 2018, many of the 133 CMF teams that initially reported achieving full operational capability no longer had the full complement of trained personnel, and therefore did not meet CYBERCOM’s readiness standards,” GAO’s March 6 report stated.

Cyber Command — including its new commander, Gen. Paul Nakasone — has acknowledged the need to not only change the structure and employment of the teams, but also the training.

Does USS Truman’s Early Retirement Herald a New War on Carriers?

BY THOMAS CALLENDER

Whatever the promise of emerging technologies, combatant commanders still want more floating mobile airfields. The Pentagon reportedly wants to cancel the mid-life refueling for the aircraft carrier USS Truman, an unexpected move that would save $1.5 billion in fiscal years 2021-23, but only $16.9 million in 2020. More than a desire for cost-savings seems to be at work here.

The decision to prematurely retire Truman likely represents the first skirmish in an internal Pentagon clash concerning the future warfighting relevance of aircraft carriers. The debate pits those who believe aircraft carriers are obsolete against those who are confident that new tactics, weapons, and changes to the carrier air wing can keep the aircraft carrier the critical component of the joint force for the foreseeable future.

Army Reboots Cruise Missile Defense: IFPC & Iron Dome

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR

WASHINGTON: The Army is effectively rebooting a key air and missile defense program, IFPC, to refocus it on higher-end threats like cruise missiles. This is just one of the sweeping changes in the service’s $190 billion budget request for 2020, as the service urgently pivots from fighting terrorists to focus on high-tech “strategic competitors,” Russia and China. The Army had planned to spend $517 million on IFPC through 2023, but that’s likely to change when the new numbers come out tomorrow.

The new approach will tone down some “gold-plated” requirements that asked the Indirect Fire Protection Capability to do too many missions at once, said Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire, director of the Army’s Cross Functional Team for air & missile defense modernization.

Why DoD Cut A Carrier in 2020 Budget: Survivable Robots & Missiles Vs. China

SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.

A Marine Corps F-18 Hornet launches from the USS Harry Truman

WASHINGTON: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan made the hard call to retire the USS Truman decades early — cutting the Navy’s carrier fleet by nine percent — to free up funding for new weapons more likely to survive a war with China, a senior defense official told Breaking Defense.

Shanahan took office telling staff his focus is “China, China, China.” Beijing’s growing arsenal of precision-guided missiles seems increasingly able to find and cripple a thousand-foot-long flattop — unless the US carrier stays out of China’s range, in which case the fighter aircraft it carries can’t reach their targets. (Fighters can be refueled in mid-air, but the tanker aircraft required are big, slow, and vulnerable, so they can’t get close to China, either).

Global arms trade: USA increases dominance; arms flows to the Middle East surge, says SIPRI


The trend in international transfers of major weapons, 1979—2018. Data and graphic: SIPRI

(Stockholm, 11 March 2019) The volume of international transfers of major arms in 2014–18 was 7.8 per cent higher than in 2009–13 and 23 per cent higher than in 2004–2008, according to new data on arms transfers published today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Does USS Truman’s Early Retirement Herald a New War on Carriers?

BY THOMAS CALLENDER

Whatever the promise of emerging technologies, combatant commanders still want more floating mobile airfields.

The Pentagon reportedly wants to cancel the mid-life refueling for the aircraft carrier USS Truman, an unexpected move that would save $1.5 billion in fiscal years 2021-23, but only $16.9 million in 2020. More than a desire for cost-savings seems to be at work here.

The decision to prematurely retire Truman likely represents the first skirmish in an internal Pentagon clash concerning the future warfighting relevance of aircraft carriers. The debate pits those who believe aircraft carriers are obsolete against those who are confident that new tactics, weapons, and changes to the carrier air wing can keep the aircraft carrier the critical component of the joint force for the foreseeable future.

Foreign Policy reports that Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and key members of his staff believe the days of the U.S. aircraft carrier are largely over in the face of increasingly advanced threats from China and Russia. Supposedly, the Navy had to cancel the Truman refueling to get Shanahan’s approval of its recently announced two-carrier block buy. 

14 March 2019

U.S. presses India to stop buying oil from Venezuela’s Maduro: envoy

By Lesley Wroughton, Luc Cohen, Marianna Parraga, Reuters

The United States is pressing India to stop buying oil from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, Washington’s top envoy for Venezuela said, as the Trump administration this week threatened more U.S. sanctions to cut off Maduro’s financial lifelines.United States diplomat Elliott Abrams speaks during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council called to vote on a U.S. draft resolution calling for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., February 28, 2019. 

“We say you should not be helping this regime. You should be on the side of the Venezuelan people,” Elliott Abrams told Reuters in an interview.

The Trump administration has given the same message to other governments, Abrams said, and has made a similar argument to foreign banks and companies doing business with Maduro.

Call Me, Maybe? America’s Taliban Hotline and India’s Afghanistan Redux

CHAYANIKA SAXENA

Amongst the many initiatives to end the Afghan conflict, the one led by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, is critical for it has given the Taliban a direct hotline of sorts to America. In fact, the US is doing precisely what it had refused to do in 2002 when the Taliban had assured a “discussion to turn over Osama bin Laden” if America stopped bombing Afghanistan. Seventeen years later, the situation has only deteriorated and the Taliban, which is reportedly openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan, only “promises to deny al-Qaeda and the Islamic State a foothold on Afghan soil” against the pull-out of the American troops. The urgency with which America wants its “boys back home” does not resonate much with the current developments and with the stakeholders in the US (recall Jim Mattis’ public resignation) and abroad.

First, these negotiations are to negotiate. Khalizad has taken almost four months to clarify that his peace agreement is not the same as a withdrawal agreement. This flies in the face of the red-line set by the Taliban and is a way of telling that these negotiations are not an end-all. In fact, in his State of the Union speech, President Trump, who had been clamoring for withdrawal all this while, talked about “reducing the troop presence and focusing on counter-terrorism” in Afghanistan—a force for counter-terrorism essentially means a longer American presence. The acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan, in his visit to Kabul claimed that he has no orders from Trump to reduce troop presence in Afghanistan.