10 May 2019

This Is Your Brain on Nationalism

By Robert Sapolsky

He never stood a chance. His first mistake was looking for food alone; perhaps things would have turned out differently if he’d been with someone else. The second, bigger mistake was wandering too far up the valley into a dangerous wooded area. This was where he risked running into the Others, the ones from the ridge above the valley. At first, there were two of them, and he tried to fight, but another four crept up behind him and he was surrounded. They left him there to bleed to death and later returned to mutilate his body. Eventually, nearly 20 such killings took place, until there was no one left, and the Others took over the whole valley.

The protagonists in this tale of blood and conquest, first told by the primatologist John Mitani, are not people; they are chimpanzees in a national park in Uganda. Over the course of a decade, the male chimps in one group systematically killed every neighboring male, kidnapped the surviving females, and expanded their territory. Similar attacks occur in chimp populations elsewhere; a 2014 studyfound that chimps are about 30 times as likely to kill a chimp from a neighboring group as to kill one of their own. On average, eight males gang up on the victim.

What Effects Will Tighter U.S. Sanctions on Iran’s Oil Have?

by Amy M. Jaffe

The United States announced it will no longer exempt a small set of countries, including China, from its oil sanctions regime against Iran. CFR’s Amy Myers Jaffe, an expert on global energy policy, assesses the impact on the oil market and the potential reactions from both Tehran and Beijing.
Oil prices ticked up a few percentage points after the announcement. Do you expect prices to remain higher, or is there enough supply in the market to cover a drop in Iranian exports?

U.S. sanctions had already curbed Iran’s oil production substantially earlier this year. The Trump administration’s tough stand on waivers could remove an additional five hundred thousand barrels per day or more from the market in the coming weeks. This would come on top of production cuts planned by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and ongoing production and export problems in Libya and Venezuela.

Oil prices will continue to be sensitive to any supply disruptions, despite expectations of rising U.S. oil production and possible production increases from Saudi Arabia. Should prices begin to rise precipitously, the Trump administration could make sales from the United States’ strategic petroleum reserve.

Mideast Insurgents Enter the Age of Drone Warfare

by Dion Nissenbaum and Warren P. Strobel – Wall Street Journal

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched armed drone attacks with far more precision and reach than the U.S. and its Gulf allies have publicly acknowledged, people familiar with the matter said, showing how readily-available technology is creating new dangers for America and its allies in the Middle East.

A Houthi drone hit a Saudi Aramco oil refinery outside the capital of Riyadh in July, according to a company executive and a Gulf official. That month, a Houthi drone evaded Emirati air defenses and exploded at Abu Dhabi’s international airport in the United Arab Emirates, according to people familiar with the matter.

The airport attack damaged a truck and delayed some flights—but its reach and brazen nature unnerved the Emirati government, which denied it took place, a story that the U.S. supported, according to former U.S. officials. Saudi leaders as well publicly denied Houthi claims about the Aramco attack, which also did limited damage…




Silicon Valley is a political force, or five of them

by Michael J. Coren

Silicon Valley has managed to alienate both sides of the political spectrum. On the left, Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren intendsto break up companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. “Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” she wrote on Medium. On the right, House member Tom McClintock has accused Google and Facebook of “practicing censorship and political favoritism” (mostly while moderating threats and hate speech on their platforms), articulating the new conservative battle cry. During Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony last April, Republican senator John Kennedy warned the CEO: “I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God I will.”

Big tech appears to be taking the threats seriously, going on a lobbying spree that saw five companies—Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft— spend $64 million in 2018, as well as sending executives to appear before congressional committees.

Libya’s Fate Remains Beholden to a Crude and Clumsy Game of Realpolitik

Tarek Megerisi 

When Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the self-declared Libyan National Army, released an audio message announcing his offensive on Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on April 4, he likely expected things to go very differently. Despite being the centerpiece of a United Nations political process that his international backers—primarily France, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt—had essentially hijacked to provide him a diplomatic route to uncontested power in Libya, Haftar used the assault on Tripoli to send a clear message that he rejected even the semblance of diplomacy and power-sharing. After all, it began on the same day that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Tripoli to carry the political process over the line. Haftar believed he could blitz western Libya as he had done the country’s south, flipping a critical mass of local militias over to his breakaway army that first appeared in eastern Libya in 2014. 

9 May 2019

When China and India Went to War: How This 1 Conflict Still Haunts Asia

by Robert Farley

The war did not settle the fundamental issues that divided India and China, as Delhi has never agreed to the basic justice of Beijing’s position. However, it did demonstrate Chinese power and military effectiveness, which essentially closed the question of the militarized border for more than a generation. Both sides struggled with more important issues in the aftermath of the war. Within four years, Mao Zedong would embroil China in the Cultural Revolution, radically reducing the military readiness of the PLA. Relations between China and the USSR deteriorated, nearly to the point of war in 1969. India, as noted, became further embroiled in its long conflict with Pakistan, a situation that has not yet been resolved.

In 1962, the world’s two most populous countries went to war against one another in a pair of remote, mountainous border regions. In less than a month, China dealt India a devastating defeat, driving Indian forces back on all fronts. Along with breaking hopes of political solidarity in the developing world, the war helped structure the politics of East and Southeast Asia for generations. Even today, as Indian and Chinese forces square off on the Doklam Plateau, the legacy of the 1962 resonates in both countries.

Thoughts on Making Peace in Afghanistan


The Strategic Context

Afghanistan has been continuously at war since April 1978. The root causes of the current phase of this conflict include ethnic and religious differences, as well as strong support for the insurgents from Pakistan and individuals in other countries. Afghanistan remains economically and politically weak. Corruption and the narcotics enterprise are key problems that are intimately connected to this political weakness, as is the resulting insurgency. Each feeds off the other. Presidential elections are scheduled for the fall. A 3200-person national Loya Jirga conference on peace making is being held in in Kabul in April and May of 2019.[1] There is significant interest in ending the war among the people, the government, and the Taliban as well.

Afghan National Security forces have led the war effort against the Taliban and international terrorist groups for the past five years, suffering significant casualties in the process. Some 45,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed in action since the fall of 2014.[2] Since 2001, coalition economic and security assistance has been significant. 

In the Global Power Era, Remember the Bin Laden Raid

BY LEON E. PANETTA

The Defense Department must make choices, but we cannot become complacent about the fight against terrorism.

This May 1, 2019, marks the eighth anniversary of the Bin Laden raid. It is a good time not only to recall the brave efforts of our intelligence and special operations forces warriors who successfully accomplished that mission, but a time to remind ourselves of the continuing threat of terrorism in the world.

As memories of the 9/11 attack fade and there is an increased focus on the possibility of a great power confrontation with Russia or China, there is a danger that we will become complacent about the fight against terrorism.

South Asia Is Islamic State’s New Target

by Sadanand Dhume 

Islamic State has lost its caliphate in the Middle East, but it retains the capability to cause mayhem thousands of miles away. This is the grim lesson of the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, in which suicide bombers killed more than 250 people at three churches and three luxury hotels. No region is entirely safe from such attacks, but South Asian democracies such as India and Sri Lanka appear particularly vulnerable.

In March, Islamic State lost its last sliver of Syrian territory to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, but the scale and sophistication of the Sri Lanka attacks show that the jihadist group remains dangerous. That eight of the nine suicide bombers detonated their explosives with no hitches points to expert bomb making. Most terrorist groups also cannot marshal the resources or manage the logistical complexity of plotting nearly simultaneous attacks across three cities.

Before the Sri Lanka Attacks, Much of South Asia Seemed Resistant to ISIS. Now it’s Reassessing the Risks.

By Joanna Slater and Pamela Constable 

It was one of the last places anyone expected the Islamic State to strike.

Just weeks after its decisive defeat in Syria, the radical group claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks more than 3,000 miles away in Sri Lanka, an island nation in the Indian Ocean.

The attacks, which killed more than 250 people, were notable both for their brutality and their location. That’s because South Asia has proved relatively resistant to the brand of extremist violence peddled by the Islamic State, with a few exceptions.

Among those is Afghanistan, home to the only official Islamic State affiliate in the region. And a disproportionate number of people from the tiny archipelago of the Maldives left to fight for the group in Iraq and Syria.

India, meanwhile, has the second-largest population of Muslims in the world, but experts say that around 100 citizens are believed to have traveled to the self-declared caliphate, fewer than the number of such recruits from the Netherlands. The estimates for the number of people from Pakistan and Bangladesh, both Muslim-majority nations, who went to join the Islamic State are lower than the figure for Germany



The Religious Tensions Behind the Attacks in Sri Lanka

By Neil DeVotta and Sumit Ganguly

The series of suicide bombings at Christian churches and hotels in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, on Easter Sunday threatened to rip apart the country’s complex ethno-religious fabric. The government has blamed the attacks on two obscure Islamist groups called the Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim and the National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ). It appears the latter has links to jihadists outside Sri Lanka, including the Islamic State, or ISIS. If that attribution bears out, the attacks are likely to inflame tensions between the country’s Buddhist majority and its Muslim minority—and to promote sectarianism in the wider region, too.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

Sri Lanka is no stranger to terrorism, having lived through a nearly three-decade-long civil war that pitted the majority Sinhalese against minority Tamil separatist organizations, most notably the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. During the war, the LTTE carried out dozens of suicide attacks. But last weekend’s carnage was unprecedented. The bombs killed over 300 people and injured at least 500 more.

Are the Gloves Coming Off in China-Germany Economic Relations?

By Björn Alexander Düben

Throughout the past two years, China has increasingly encountered obstacles in its relations with other major economies. Besides the simmering trade war with the United States, a growing number of other Western countries have tightened the reins on Chinese investments and have pondered restrictions on Chinese products. Amid Beijing’s wider commercial tussle with Washington and its allies, one Chinese company in particular has become the focus of attention and controversy: Shenzhen-based electronics giant Huawei. The company is currently stuck in a legal battle with Washington that kicked off when Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada last December, prompting Beijing’s retaliatory arrest of two uninvolved Canadian citizens in China. Various U.S. allies have begun to restrict Huawei’s activities on their soil.

Berlin’s Beijing Blues

The Birth of Chinese Nationalism

BY SALVATORE BABONES 

In China, May 4 is Youth Day, a holiday established by the Communist Party in 1949 and celebrated on and off ever since. On this day in 1989, more than 100,000 students demonstrated in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, a key milestone on road to the tragic events of June 4, when Chinese troops opened fire on the civilians amassed there.

This year, China’s president and Communist Party leader, Xi Jinping, has called on students to commemorate a very special Youth Day. But it’s not the 30th anniversary of 1989’s pro-democracy protests that he has in mind. Rather, it is the 100th anniversary of May 4, 1919, that he wants to commemorate. On that day a century ago, another group of students rallied in Tiananmen Square—demanding that the world respect the national dignity of China.

New report explains how China thinks about information warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau   

The Department of Defense’s annual report on China’s military and security developments provides new details about how China’s military organizes its information warfare enterprise, an area that has been of particular interest to U.S. military leaders.

In 2015, the People’s Liberation Army created the Strategic Support Force, which centralizes space, cyber, electronic warfare and psychological warfare missions under a single organization. The Chinese have taken the view, according to the DoD and other outside national security experts, that information dominance is key to winning conflicts. This could be done by denying or disrupting the use of communications equipment of its competitors.

The 2019 edition of report, released May 2, expands on last year’s version and outlines the Chinese Network Systems Department, one of two deputy theater command level departments within the Strategic Support Force responsible for information operations.

Use Trade to Advance Internet Freedom in China

By Bradley A. Thayer & Lianchao Han

The trade negotiations with China provide an opportunity to advance human rights in China. A key strategy to do so is to free the Chinese internet market. Unfortunately, the current trade negotiations with China are missing this critical component. We argue that this must change. U.S. internet companies must have equal access to China that they are now denied. This is only fair based on the principle of reciprocity. Additionally, it will provide the United States with invaluable political and economic opportunities. There are three reasons why this is so.

First, the internet has changed not only how people buy things and entertain themselves, but also how they obtain information and communicate with each other. The free flow of information can promote China’s democratic transition. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is well aware of this threat to its power, as Xi Jinping's expressed in his January 2019 speech to the Politburo's 12th Study Group meeting. Xi argued, "Without cybersecurity, there is no national security. If we cannot overcome the internet barrier, we won't be able to hold power for a long period of time. The internet is a double-edged sword: a photograph and a video can become viral and spread explosively through all media outlets in a few hours." Moreover, he recognized that "It has a great impact on public opinion. If correctly used, this power of influence can benefit the country and the people; otherwise, it will bring unimaginable harm." Xi wants the CCP to have absolute control over the internet to win this invisible war on "the battlefield without guns." The U.S. should not let him get away with it.

China’s Selective Memory

DENISE Y. HO

NEW HAVEN – This is a big year for anniversaries in China. On May 4, the People’s Republic will commemorate the centennial of the May Fourth Movement, the student-led protests in front of Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate in 1919 that marked the birth of Chinese nationalism. And then, one month later, on June 4, will come the 30th anniversary of the violent suppression of pro-democracy student protests on the same site. This milestone, by contrast, will not be officially acknowledged, much less commemorated, in China.

The 1919 demonstrations are immortalized in stone on the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square. Referring to the same ideals of science and democracy, the protesters in 1989 also presented themselves as loyal to the nation. But the 1989 movement ended in what is known outside China as the Tiananmen Square massacre, and within China as the “Tiananmen incident.” The events of three decades ago are a taboo subject in China, scrubbed by the authorities from the Internet and largely unknown to the country’s younger generation.

The Huawei Challenge

BY ASHISH KUMAR SEN

Despite an effort by the United States to persuade its friends and allies not to use 5G wireless communications technology developed by Huawei, many will find it hard to avoid doing business with the Chinese telecom giant altogether.

Robert A. Manning, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, explains: “It will be difficult to avoid licensing any Huawei or Chinese 5G technology as Chinese firms hold 37 percent of all 5G patents.”

Huawei, for instance, said Manning, “has over 1,000 patents, so many nations and carriers may have little choice but to license some Chinese 5G technology.”

US officials have been dead set against allies working with Huawei. They say the use of Chinese technology carries grave security and privacy risks as it could create a backdoor for the Chinese government to spy on US networks. Nevertheless, some US friends and allies have been flirting with the idea of using Huawei’s technology to build their 5G networks.

China’s Belt and Road: The new geopolitics of global infrastructure development

Amar Bhattacharya

The growing strategic rivalry between the United States and China is driven by shifting power dynamics and competing visions of the future of the international order. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a leading indicator of the scale of China’s global ambitions. The intent behind the initiative—either economic or strategic—has raised significant concern in the United States and elsewhere. While Beijing portrays the infrastructure development initiative as a benign investment and development project that is economically beneficial to all parties—and in certain cases clearly has been—there are strategic manifestations that contradict this depiction. Washington is skeptical of the initiative, warning of the risks to recipients and the harm it will cause to America’s strategic interests abroad. But many of America’s partners reject the U.S. interpretation and are forging ahead with Beijing. Ahead of China’s second Belt and Road Summit in late April 2019, Brookings Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Bruce Jones convened seven Brookings scholars—Amar Bhattacharya, David Dollar, Rush Doshi, Ryan Hass, Homi Kharas, Mireya Solís, and Jonathan Stromseth—to interrogate popular perceptions of the initiative, as well as to evaluate the future of BRI and its strategic implications. The edited transcript below reflects their assessment of China’s motivations for launching BRI, its track record to date, regional responses to it, the national security implications of BRI for the United States, as well as potential policy responses. The highlights:

US vs. China Military Strength: Comparing Defense Capabilities

By Pritha Paul 

According to a report published by the Pentagon on China's military power on Thursday, Beijing’s armed forces were expanding at a fast rate, which could soon “contest U.S. military superiority." The Congressionally-mandated report stated that China was trying to transform its military into a major global power by any means necessary.

“China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals' access to these technologies, as well as harnessing its intelligence services, computer intrusions, and other illicit approaches," the Department of Defense (DoD) report said.

However, while the country was close to matching the military strength of the United States in some regards, the latter still had an upper hand in a number of defense aspects:

As ISIS Regroups, the U.S. Is Forgetting the Lessons of Counterinsurgency – Again

by Judah Grunstein - World Politics Review

… For the U.S. military, rejecting COIN reflects its historical preference for the more clear-cut principles of conventional warfare, where victory and defeat between armed adversaries can be clearly discerned, over the softer edges and politically determined outcomes of counterinsurgency. For American voters, rejecting it expresses the frustration and anger over two decades of squandered lives, resources and power in pursuit of an ill-conceived adventure that was oversold and under-resourced. 

But if the U.S. has given up on fighting terrorism, it’s not sure whether the reverse is true, as al-Baghdadi’s video declaration makes clear. And regardless of the debates over the effectiveness of COIN, the next generation of violent extremists will almost certainly be inspired by the rubble left behind by the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State, if they don’t emerge directly from it. Moreover, even if the Islamic State can’t successfully launch attacks against the U.S. and Western Europe, the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka demonstrate how easily the group and its acolytes can destabilize countries outside the West. 

In many ways, the logic guiding counterinsurgency has not grown any less compelling. Predatory governance can drive popular grievances over the line to violence, and fragile states and ungoverned spaces provide extremist groups with fertile ground to incubate. Counterinsurgency didn’t solve those problems. Ignoring them won’t either.










Islam, made in France? Debating the reform of Muslim organizations and foreign funding for religion

Rim-Sarah Alouane

Since the 1980s, French governments have tried and failed to fully integrate French Muslims and, increasingly, to fight extremism and radicalization. Despite their best efforts, these goals have been impeded by multiple factors, including the legacy of French colonialism, the unique interpretation of the separation of church and state in France, various internal divisions within French Muslim communities, and the ongoing influence of various external actors including foreign governments.

President Emmanuel Macron, too, struggles with these challenges. Early in his term, he declared his intention to “set down markers for the entire way in which Islam is organized in France.” In 2018, Macron began a consultative process toward this end, stressing the need to set up an interlocutor for French Muslims (similar to those of other religious groups), create a framework for financing places of worship and collecting donations, and a system to vet and train imams working in France. Macron’s initiative sought to amend of the Law of 1905 on the Separation of the Church and the State (Law of 1905) with the goals of intrusively reforming religious organizations and ending foreign funding pouring into Muslim communities, which Macron felt prevented “French Islam from entering into modernity.”

General: America’s Power Grid Vulnerable to Electronic Attack

BY: Bill Gertz

A senior Air Force general is warning that America's electrical power grid is vulnerable to electronic attacks ranging from nuclear-produced electromagnetic pulse, to tactical electronic weapons from China or Russia, to geomagnetic storms—all of which can plunge the nation into darkness.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander of the Air Education and Training Command in San Antonio, Texas, issued the warning in a telephone interview during a conference earlier this week that brought together experts to find ways to protect against what the military is calling the electromagnetic spectrum, or EMS, threat.

"The American people need to understand that we built western civilization on electricity and information," Kwast said. "Whether it's our 4G LTE and our cell phones, or whether it's our energy grid, electricity and information are the magic sauce for economic development, economic growth, and the vibrancy of our economy."

The infrastructure to support electrical power and information transmission were built without consideration of electronic or other types of attacks, he said.

The Complicated Geopolitics of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran

by Amy M. Jaffe

It is often said, perhaps with some hyperbole, that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was the best hope for conflict resolution in the Middle East. Its architect John Kerry argues instead that the 2015 deal’s limited parameter of closing Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon is sufficient on the merits. The Trump administration is taking a different view, focusing on Iran’s escalating threats to U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Those threats, which have included missile, drone, and cyberattacks on Saudi oil facilities, are looming large over the global economy because they are squarely influencing the volatility of the price of oil. One could argue that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has injected an even higher degree of risk into oil markets, where traders now feel that the chances of Mideast conflict resolution are lower.

How to Hit Russia Where It Hurts

By Peter Harrell

Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, its war in eastern Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and other aggressive acts against the United States and its allies demand a strong Western response. For the past four years, that response has been dominated by sanctions and other coercive economic measures. U.S. and European officials have hoped that the economic measures would not only exact a cost for such actions but also deter the Kremlin from escalating its assault on American and European interests.

The economic pressure has certainly had an effect. The IMF estimated that the sanctions linked to the 2014 invasion of Ukraine cost Russia 1 to 1.5 percent of its GDP by mid-2015. The sanctions also hurt the Russian treasury’s bottom line, since Russia had to make up for lost Western capital by spending billions of dollars to prop up large companies that depended on Western funds. The more recent sanctions announced in April 2018 in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election rattled Russian financial markets and put pressure on the value of the ruble. Specific people and companies have also felt the squeeze: the net worth of Oleg Deripaska, the pro-Putin oligarch, for example, has tumbled because of U.S. sanctions.

How an Elaborate Plan to Topple Venezuela’s President Went Wrong

BY URI FRIEDMAN

The United States thought all the pieces were in place for Maduro to leave. Then everything came crashing down.

In the effort to topple Nicolás Maduro, Colombia’s ambassador to the United States once told me, the military men propping up Venezuela’s authoritarian president are like chess pieces.

If they defect from the regime, “you lose that chess piece,” Francisco Santos explained. “They work better from the inside.”

As Tuesday, April 30, began, the United States and its allies thought they finally had checkmate, after months of building up the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president and recruiting more than 50 nations to their cause.

By the end of the day, the board had been flipped upside down, pieces were scattered everywhere, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on CNN blaming the kingmakers, Russia and Cuba, for sabotaging the game.

These Companies Are Still Betting On Fossil Fuels

by Niall McCarthy

Despite the strides made by renewable energy around the world in recent years, oil and gas companies are still planning trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuel exploration and production projects over the coming decade. An analysis published by website global witness claims that the world's ten biggest oil and gas giants will spend $4.9 trillion on new oil and gas fields up to 2029, plans that are "poles apart" from the goals of the Paris climate deal to curb rising temperatures.

Future production and capital expenditure (capex) has fallen by more than a third since 2014, primarily due to a slump in oil prices, though it is forecast to rise over 85 percent over the next 10 years. Which companies are still betting the most on fossil fuels? The analysis found that ExxonMobil will be investing some $149 billion into new oil fields during that period, along with $18 billion for gas projects. Shell's capex is expected to be the second-highest at $149 billion while Gazprom's is set to reach $132 billion, the vast majority of which will be spent on gas fields.

‘Hyper-Enabled Operator’ Concept Inches Closer to Reality

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

Nearly a year after announcing a new effort to “hyper-enable” commandos with a slew of new technologies, Special Operations Command is making progress, officials have said.

“Hyper-enabling the operator could mean a lot of things — getting them better body armor, getting better boots, get them better helmets,” said Jim Smith, the command’s acquisition executive. But “when you hear U.S. SOCOM talking about hyper-enabling the operator … we’re really talking about the cognitive space.”

The concept — which focuses on four pillars of technology including communications, computing, data/sensors and human-machine interfaces — is about pushing tailored information to a dismounted operator or unit at the tactical edge, he said during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference.

The command intends to look at multiple technology areas including data, presentation and computation, he said.

FACEBOOK IS FINDING PROBLEMS WITH ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TOO

TOM SIMONITE 

The Facebook program manager was helping test a prototype of the company’s Portal video chat device, which uses computer vision to identify and zoom in on a person speaking. But as Obamehinti, who is black, enthusiastically described her breakfast of French toast, the device ignored her and focused instead on a colleague—a white man.

The conference’s second day, headlined by Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer, was more sober. He, Obamehinti, and other technical leaders reflected on the challenges of using technology—particularly artificial intelligence—to safeguard or enhance the company’s products without creating new biases and problems. “There aren’t simple answers,” Schroepfer said.

Schroepfer and Zuckerberg have said that, at Facebook’s scale, AI is essential to remedy the unintended consequencesof the company digitizing human relationships. But like any disruptive technology, AI creates unpredictable consequences of its own, Facebook’s director of AI, Joaquin Candela, said late Wednesday. “It’s just impossible to foresee,” he said.

Obamehinti’s tale of algorithmic discrimination showed how Facebook has had to invent new tools and processes to fend off problems created by AI. She said being ignored by the prototype Portal spurred her to develop a new “process for inclusive AI” that has been adopted by several product development groups at Facebook.

3 ways to secure government data on commercial networks

By: Eric Jung  

Government agencies that handle classified and other sensitive information were once burdened with using cumbersome wired networks and expensive custom hardware and software solutions. But in the current environment of increasing technology and decreasing budgets, now more than ever, government agencies — including the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies dealing with classified information — are being asked to embrace commercial technology, including smartphones and wireless networks, for sensitive and classified communications.

The National Security Agency’s Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program allows government agencies to safely use wireless networks and commodity hardware to handle classified communications. The CSfC program supports secure communications based on commercial standards and commercial products, leveraging the rapid technology evolution of the commercial communications segment. By enabling secure communications using commercial products in layered solutions, CSfC offers the security federal agencies need to protect classified data at substantially lower cost, with greater functionality and more immediate availability than in traditional approaches to classified communications.

The Pentagon Is Flubbing Its Pitch to Silicon Valley

BY JAMES JOYNER, MATTHEW BERNIUS

Such companies, the Joint Chiefs chairman added, “are automatically going to be required to have a cell of the Communist Party in that company. And that is going to lead to that intellectual property from that company finding its way to the Chinese military. It is a distinction without a difference between the Chinese Communist Party, the government, and the Chinese military.”

This follows Frank Hoffman’s warning about Silicon Valley “techno-moralists” whose objection to supplying the U.S. military “could appreciably harm U.S. security interests” and “puts more Americans in danger” when it “restricts the Defense Department from developing capabilities that could enhance U.S. weapons systems by making them more accurate and better at defending the country and its allies.” 

These appeals, alas, are likely to fall on deaf ears. If Pentagon leaders are going to persuade tech executives to listen, they’re going to have to do some listening of their own first.

Pentagon Needs Hill Help With Software Fixes, Including On F-35

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.

PENTAGON: Congress has to change the law so the Pentagon can fix its broken process for acquiring software, Ellen Lord said today. It would allow her to launch multiple pilot projects next year. One of those pilots would be used to overhaul the F-35 fighter’s notoriously troubled maintenance system, ALIS.

The pilots won’t need additional funding, Lord said. What’s necessary, she said, is a legislative change so each project’s funding can be treated as a single line item, to be used however its managers think best, instead of appropriating one pot of money to be used only for development, another for operations, and a third for sustainment.

“We are asking to have the authority to do some pilots in ’20,” Lord said, “[with] just one line of software development, so we can move back and forth among those stages” — which is how Silicon Valley does it.

DARPA wants AI to make soldiers fitter, happier, more productive

By: Kelsey D. Atherton 

U.S. Marines execute squad push-ups during a physical training exercise during the Advanced Infantry Marine Course (AIMC) on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. DARPA wants AI to match individual exercises to people they would benefit, rather than always adopt a one-size-fits all approach. (Brendan Custer / Marine Corps)

Do our machines know us better than ourselves? And if they did, could they, in the parlance of the Pentagon, use that knowledge to improve our lethality?

DARPA, the Department of Defense’s blue-sky agency, launched April 29 a program to use artificial intelligence to best match interventions for individuals. It is called “Teaching AI to Leverage Overlooked Residuals,” or TAILOR.

Specifically, DARPA is looking for submissions about how to use AI for “Human Performance Optimization,” or HPO. Crucially, DARPA is looking for alternatives to one-size-fits-all approaches, because universal recommendations based on group averages can work at cross-purposes to individual need.

Cyber Command, NSA open new $500 million operations center

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The National Security Agency and Cyber Command marked the official opening of a new $500 million building May 4, one that is designed to integrate cyber operations across the U.S. government and foreign partners.

The new Integrated Cyber Center and Joint Operations Center, or ICC/JOC, is Cyber Command’s “first dedicated building, providing the advanced command and control capabilities and global integration capabilities that we require to perform our missions,” former commander Adm. Michael Rogers said in recent congressional testimony.

The center puts Cyber Command, NSA, other government organizations and foreign partners together under the same roof to better synchronize, coordinate and de-conflict cyber operations.

The ICC/JOC will become operational in August.

New documents provide details on NSA relationship with Cyber Command

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The close-knit relationship between the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command is well known in the defense community, but documents from a series of Freedom of Information Act requests offer greater detail about the organizations’ partnership.

The Department of Defense chose to co-locate Cyber Command with the NSA in 2009 as a way to leverage the infrastructure and expertise at the nation’s largest spy agency. Michael Hayden, former director of NSA, told Fifth Domain previously that Cyber Command is co-located at Fort Meade because NSA doesn’t have the legal authority to manipulate or destroy data and systems, and because the NSA “has the operational ability to do that by virtue of conducting this surveillance.” In other words, Cyber Command provides the offensive complement to NSA’s immense technical capability and access.

The Army wants help with extended range electronic warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The Army is asking for industry’s help with a new extended range electronic warfare capability and plans to issue a request for information in the coming weeks.

While the Army knows this is a capability it needs, service leaders do not yet know the exact form a solution will take. Kenneth Strayer, deputy program manager for electronic warfare and cyber at Program Executive Office-Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, said during a panel at an AFCEA event May 1, it could be a dedicated airborne asset or a ground asset that provides some type of additional electronic warfare capability.

“You’ve got to get elevation, that’s the only way,” he said.

The request to industry will ask "some follow up questions on how industry would attack that problem and what are some things we need to think about as we define the requirements and the materiel approaches to provide that solution,” Strayer said.

8 May 2019

Why India’s Jet Airways Lost Its Wings


After 26 years in operation, India’s Jet Airways had its final flight last week, following a refusal by lenders for emergency funding. The lenders’ action came as a result of a string of missed debt-servicing payments by the airline and disagreement over whether it could be revived under the management of its founder and 51% equity owner, Naresh Goyal.

Jet Airways had also missed payments to aircraft leasing companies, which led to the grounding of about two-thirds of its 121-strong fleet in March. The airline posted a loss of Rs. 588 crores ($86 million) on revenues of Rs. 6,198 crore ($911 million) in the quarter ended December 2018, its fourth consecutive quarter in the red. Jet’s 15% share of the Indian civil aviation market is up for grabs by rivals, while the fate of its 22,000 employees remains uncertain.

The U.S. Public Will No Longer Have A Key Data Point About Afghanistan War

MERRIT KENNEDY

A group of Afghan National Army soldiers watch others participate in a live fire exercise at the Afghan Military Academy last October in Kabul, Afghanistan.Rahmat Gul/AP

The U.S. has lost more than 2,200 lives and spent more than $840 billion on Afghanistan, its longest-ever war.

But the U.S. public is steadily provided with less and less key information about how the war is going. Now, another crucial measure of the war's progress is no longer public.

For years, the U.S. military has released basic information about how much of Afghanistan is under Afghan government control and how much is under control of the Taliban. And it's shown that the amount of land under government control has dropped over time, from 72% of districts in Nov. 2015 to 54% of districts in Oct. 2018.