20 February 2016

India-Taiwan Relations: A Comprehensive Security Perspective

By Tien-Sze Fang
19 Feb , 2016

Greater cooperation between India and Taiwan could prove critical in helping New Delhi and Taipei achieve their economic goals at home and their strategic aims in the region. It is time to acknowledge the importance of India – Taiwan relations. India should consider its own interests not the third party’s ones, when it thinks of developing relations with Taiwan or other countries. The areas of cooperation between India and Taiwan are bound to be limited so long as their political relations remain negligible.

With the two sides having established representative offices in 1995 in New Delhi and Taipei respectively, India-Taiwan relations have been improving gradually. Between 1995 and 2014, the bilateral trade turnover has grown manifold from just $934 million to $5.91 billion. Both sides have also expanded educational exchanges after a mutual degree recognition agreement in higher education was signed in 2010. In the field of science and technology, there are more than thirty ongoing government-funded joint research projects. However, the India-Taiwan relationship is still small scale when compared to the potentials. Constrained by its commitment to Beijing’s “One China” policy, New Delhi finds it difficult to realise the potential of its bilateral relationship with Taiwan. Even as India launches its “Act East” policy and ambitious initiatives such as “Make in India”, it is time to highlight the importance of Taiwan for an emerging India and bring the India-Taiwan relationship into focus.

Bringing the region back in? Deciphering India’s engagement with South Asia

Jason Miklian (PhD, Norwegian University of Life Sciences) is a senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo specialising in South Asian conflict resolution and regional security, and has published on the media and foreign policy, the Maoist insurgency in India and Nepal, and the poli... 

Jayashree Vivekanandan is an assistant professor in the Department of International Relations at South Asian University, New Delhi. Her research interests include critical approaches to international relations theory, India's strategic history, memory politics and transboundary resource governan... 

How does India envision South Asia? What do Indian policymakers envisage the country’s regional role to be? The issues and actors that dominate India’s regional foreign policy give a glimpse of the country’s priorities in the region. The much-touted “shift” in Indian diplomacy under Narendra Modi offers us a window into the priorities of the new government and the extent to which continuity from the past shapes its regional policy today. This report explores how India works both above and below the regional level in an effort to secure its regional diplomatic and economic priorities. It examines the following five issue areas that have influenced India’s relations with its neighbours: the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, India as a humanitarian actor, supraregionalism and subregionalism, border politics, and democratisation. The report closes with reflections on what implications these engagements might have for Indian foreign policy in the future, arguing that a more inclusive and engaged leadership by India could help to resolve some of South Asia’s most vexing and intractable challenges.

India’s global foreign policy engagements – a new paradigm?

12 February 2016 

How does India see itself in the modern world and what factors help us understand its foreign policy decisions? Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong mandate has opened up a series of new policy initiatives to explore in both hard power and soft power terms, highlighting what India uniquely brings to the global stage. But there also appear to be many inherent contradictions in Indian foreign policy, as the country looks to be a global power in some settings, an emerging developing country power in others and a poor Global South participant in yet others. The different arms of India’s foreign policy apparatus can (and do) argue for all of these approaches simultaneously in an effort to further their respective policy goals. In order to explore this playing field, the report gives a brief background to India’s global interactions, and then explores contemporary foreign policy drivers through India’s engagements in five representative issue areas: climate change, energy security, food security, economic engagements and the Responsibility to Protect. It concludes with thoughts on how India’s interactions in pursuit of its interests in terms of these global issues can illustrate the varied and often contradictory components that constitute the country’s varied current foreign policy engagements.

Engage South Asian Nations

By Maj Gen Harsha Kakar
19 Feb , 2016

South Asia continues to be in a state of flux. Maldives, which recently faced political turmoil, now appears to be stabilizing. Sri Lanka, post the last election, has seen a sea change in its internal situation. It is still early days and the tussle between the previous and present heads of state continues. Nepal has still to resolve the issue of the Madhesis, though talks are in progress. Strikes and blockades which had shattered the economy of the country, as also resulted in shortages of all commodities, has now started to recede.

The Nepal premier is scheduled to visit India soon to further resolve issues. Bangladesh continues to witness confrontation between the two major political parties. The IS has begun making its presence visible in the country. It has claimed responsibility for the murder of foreigners, bloggers and security personnel. Myanmar, though showing signs of stability, has still a long way to go and continues to battle insurgencies in its north.

Reading Between the Lines: China's HQ-9 Missile Deployment

February 17, 2016

I don't mean to downplay Fox News' exclusive that China has deployed advanced HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island in the South China Sea. It is another escalatory move by Beijing and does raise the stakes in the increasingly tense game being played around various disputed territories in the region.

But to add a bit of context, this is not the first time China has deployed advanced military equipment to Woody Island — last November it was J-11 fighter jets. So as Mira Rapp-Hooper from the Center for a New American Security says, this deployment is not totally unprecedented.

It's also worth noting that the satellite imagery which Fox News has published shows that the vehicles which make up the two HQ-9 batteries are parked on a beach rather than in any purpose-built facility. The HQ-9 is a mobile system; its missiles, radars and command systems are all mounted on heavy vehicles which allow them to not only deploy away from bases but also off-road. But these batteries do have home bases where the missiles, radars and other systems are maintained, and where the crews are housed. The Chinese also build permanent launch sites for their HQ-9s, large concrete structures which are easy to spot on satellite.

Information Warfare: Chinese Militia Invades Facebook

February 16, 2016: On January 20th members of a Chinese message board (Di Ba) launched a massive attack on Facebook that resulted in over 100,000 comments added over eight hours to the Facebook page of Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s newly elected president. Also hit were several Taiwanese Facebook pages advocating an independent Taiwan. The Di Ba member comments opposed Taiwanese independence. China considers Taiwan a renegade province of China and threatens to invade if Taiwan declares independence. Tsai Ing-wen has expressed interest in independence. China has banned its citizens from using Facebook and made it very difficult for anyone inside China to even access Facebook. There are Chinese equivalents as well as some of the largest message boards on the Internet. Di Ba is one of the largest of these with about 20 million members. 

The Di Ba attack was considered a non-government effort by the Chinese but that is unlikely. The more likely culprit is the network of pro-government Internet “militias.” Since the 1990s China has been organizing and expanding a volunteer Internet Army (as it is called in China). In 2011, for example, the government “encouraged” companies to organize their Internet savvy employees into a cyber-militia and inspire these geeks to find ways to protect the firm's networks. This did not turn out exactly as expected, as many of the volunteers have become successful, but unpopular, censors. It’s now widely accepted one of the most annoying things for the new Chinese middle class is the censorship (especially on the Internet). The most annoying censorship is the online version that is carried out by paid and volunteer censors at your company or in your neighborhood. This use of “local activists” to control discussions and inform on possible troublemakers (or worse, like spies or criminals) is an old Chinese custom and one that was highly refined by the 20th century communists (first the Russians, who passed it on to their Chinese comrades). The old-school informer network suffered a lot of desertions and other damage during three decades of economic freedom. But the government has been diligent about rebuilding the informer and censor network online, where it’s easier for the busybodies to remain anonymous and safe from retribution. The on-line informers are also useful for keeping an eye on foreign businesses. 

How Xi Jinping sees the world ... and why

February 2016 

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has gone through a series of phases marked by sharply differing conceptions of what its leaders believe the international order should look like. These changing views reflect an underlying ambivalence toward the existing order. China is currently undergoing a new phase, whose meaning can be understood more fully by understanding how China’s leaders got to where they are today in their thinking about the global order. By examining the continuity and the changes of the last seven decades, what is genuinely new and different and what is familiar can be better distinguished.

There is a temptation to see the changes in China’s trajectory as reflecting the vision of President Xi Jinping. Xi has already demonstrated that he is a decisive leader, stronger than his predecessor and determined to not only manage China, but to transform it to meet huge unsolved challenges, primarily at home but also abroad. Actions like the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and island-building in the South China Sea reflect the temperament of a man not afraid to lead, for better or worse. But large national transformations are more often the product of historical forces than the writ of one powerful leader. Understanding how Chinese views of international order since 1949 have evolved should help to clarify Xi Jinping’s particular contributions to the way China sees and wishes to interact with the world.

Are We Entering a New Cold War?

FEBRUARY 17, 2016

Every year, the security glitterati of the world gather in Germany for the annual Munich Security Conference. The forum has been around for decades, but this year, over an unseasonably warm weekend, the most dramatic speech was about the cold: as in the Cold War, by Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev. Most remember former President Medvedev from a few years ago, when he led the Russian Federation with a more congenial face than that presented by current President Vladimir Putin.

He was clearly sent on a mission to provide the West (Europe, the United States, and NATO) with a view from Moscow. In a long and somewhat rambling speech, his key sound bite was actually quite jarring: We are in a new Cold War, and that this year, 2016, reminded him of 1962 (never mind that he was not born then). For those who need a quick refresher, 1962 was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war. Hardly a comforting memory to surface at a security conference.

Start Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom

FEBRUARY 16, 2016

Saudi Arabia is no state at all. It's an unstable business so corrupt to resemble a criminal organization and the U.S. should get ready for the day after. 

For half a century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the linchpin of U.S. Mideast policy. A guaranteed supply of oil has bought a guaranteed supply of security. Ignoring autocratic practices and the export of Wahhabi extremism, Washington stubbornly dubs its ally “moderate.” So tight is the trust thatU.S. special operators dip into Saudi petrodollars as a counterterrorism slush fund without a second thought. In a sea of chaos, goes the refrain, the kingdom is one state that’s stable.

Sarah Chayes is senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law and South Asia Programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is the author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. She previously was special adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ...Full Bio

Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation and a research professor at The Fletcher School. Considered one of the foremost experts on Sudan and the Horn of Africa, his scholarship and practice has also probed humanitarian crisis and response, human rights, HIV/AIDS and ...Full Bio


FEBRUARY 18, 2016

In his magisterial history of strategy, Lawrence Freedman argues that the most interesting strategists of the past 50 years have been American businessmen. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is all by itself proof of Freedman’s argument.

Ben Horowitz is a founder of two big businesses and one of Silicon Valley’s most respected venture capital firms, Andreesen Horowitz. His firm specializes in founder-run businesses. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a guide for startup CEOs about how to be a CEO. Horowitz uses his own experiences as a founding CEO to illustrate the essential knowledge CEOs need. Mariners say there is no education so valuable as sailing on a sinking ship. Horowitz gives a gunwale view as his businesses take on water.

Freedman defines strategy as the art of generating power by finding creative solutions to pressing problems in contests against smart adversaries. Strategy requires people capable of supple thinking to create new alternatives, fluid in adapting plans to changing circumstances. The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a master class in scrambling to find solutions before market competitors, technological innovation, attrition or discouragement of crucial staff, and insolvency drive you out of business. His fundamental conclusion: “if there is one skill that stands out, it’s the ability to focus and make the best move when there are no good moves.” Even Freedman couldn’t have said it better.

The new Cold War in the Mediterranean

By John W. Miller and Frederick W. Kagan Published
February 17, 2016 

Russia is already winning a new Cold War in the Mediterranean by re-establishing a permanent air and naval base on the Syrian coast under the guise of helping Bashar Assad fight terrorism. 

That bold move is a geostrategic disaster for the U.S. and its allies, and President Obama has shown only very modest concern about it while trying to treat Russia as a partner in Syria.

The ships and aircraft Russia has moved there already threaten one NATO ally, Turkey. But they will menace many other NATO members in years to come, as part of Vladimir Putin’s larger effort to undermine and ultimately break the alliance, and claim a permanent Russian role in the Mediterranean Sea. 

The Russian redoubts will soon force the U.S. to deploy more ships and planes of its own simply to maintain our ability to operate in what has been a NATO lake for more than a quarter-century. And if we fail to do that, even worse scenarios could emerge.

Syria Cease-Fire Brings Turkey Closer to War

FEBRUARY 16, 2016

ISTANBUL — Secretary of State John Kerry’s agreement with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, billed as an opening to the cessation of hostilities in Syria, turned out to be the starting shot for more intensive Russian bombing of cities and towns, hospitals, and schools in the north of the country. And Russia’s widening partnership with Syria’s Kurdish forces has also widened the likelihood the Turkish military will soon join the fighting.

The accord the secretary of state reached in Munich on Feb. 11 contains two big loopholes: A cessation of fighting wouldn’t take effect for an entire week, and Russia could continue bombing Islamic State and the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra indefinitely, even as it has long failed to distinguish between these radical groups and more moderate U.S.-sponsored brigades.

“They are all bandits and terrorists,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Time magazine, referring to the armed opposition in northern Syria. “So it is very difficult for us to tell the difference between the very moderate ones and the not-so-moderate ones, the good from the bad.”

RUSSIA: Ruthless and Sober in Syria

February 17, 2016

Last October, when Russia had just begun its military intervention in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama spurned the idea that Russia could challenge U.S. leadership in the Middle East. In a 60 Minutes interview, he said, "Mr. Putin is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. The fact that they had to do this is not an indication of strength; it's an indication that their strategy did not work." Two months later, as Russia's military presence in Syria deepened further, Obama remained dismissive of Putin's strategy, noting that "with Afghanistan fresh in the memory, for him [Putin] to simply get bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict is not the outcome that he is looking for."

Washington can continue to underestimate Russia at its own peril. Russia has indeed poured resources into a maddeningly inconclusive conflict, but so has the United States and so will others who cannot be tempted away from the geopolitical proxy battleground complicated by the presence of jihadists. The problem is that the layers to Russia's strategy tend to be too dense for the Western eye. For Russia, the Syrian battleground is not about propping up an ally through reckless spending, nor is it simply about pursuing an alternative strategy to defeat the Islamic State. Syria is a land of opportunity for Russia. This is the arena where self-control, patience and a careful identification and exploitation of its opponents' strengths and weaknesses will enable Russia to reset its competition with the West.

The Changing Nature of Geostrategy, 1900–2000 The Evolution of a New Paradigm

Tal Tovy
2015, 148 pages

ISBN: 978-1-58566-253-1

AU Press Code:B-140 

Military history is rife with examples of operational successes and failures stemming from the geographical environment. However, are twenty-first-century military operations also contingent on the geographical-physical dimension? Major technological advances during the last hundred years have led to a change in the concept of the physical line of operations. These developments led to the gradual contraction of this line, bringing about its near extinction or virtualization. Dr. Paul Springer observes in the book’s foreword that “the notion that lines of communication might be made irrelevant to modern warfare revolutionized the concept of geostrategy and led to many modern American military practices, including the ability to base attack forces within the continental United States but still threaten enemy forces worldwide.” He adds that “Dr. Tovy’s work promises an interesting examination of whether the principles of geostrategy, which have governed human conflict for millennia, might have receded in importance or even ceased to matter at all.”

Remarks on Waging a Digital Counterinsurgency

Richard Stengel

UNDER SECRETARY STENGEL: Thank you, Clarissa. Good evening, everybody. Clarissa mentioned at the top that I’d spent most of my life and career in journalism, and I’m still getting used to being a government person. In my old life, I didn’t know very much and I tried to be as controversial as possible. Now I know a lot and I try to make no news at all. So I hope I accomplish that tonight. So I want to answer your question, but I also want to respond to Jared and Yasmin, and thanks so much for having me tonight.

It’s a little bit contrarian to begin where I’m about to begin at an event that basically is animated by Google, which is to say that ISIL messaging is not all about social media. Social media is in some ways the tip of the iceberg. There’s a very fancy term in sociology called the availability heuristic, which means that thing that you see assumes gigantic proportions, much bigger proportion than it actually is. Because we see the few things they do on social media in English, we think everything they do is on social media. Can I tell you something? In Iraq and Syria, they’re on billboards, they have kiosks, they do flyers, they have imams preaching sermons.

Believe me, in this – in that place in the world, social media doesn’t count for anything with what ISIL is doing. In fact, one of the things that we have found most effective in the counter-narrative, and I’ll get back to that later, to people who are young men and women who are thinking of going to Iraq and Syria is when we tell them – we tell them you’re going to get killed there, that doesn’t bother them. We tell them you’re not going to find a husband or wife, that doesn’t bother them. But when we tell them they won’t have internet access there, “I’m not going.”

The Mess That Is Russia Today

Russia: How to Make a Mess Worse

February 17, 2016

The government controls the mass media and that is why most coverage is about the “war” with NATO and the effort to destroy ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Syria (as well as rescue the Assad government). Russian leaders now accuse the West of reviving the Cold War. This all began when Russian leaders decided to use nationalism to solve several problems. Back in 2012 Vladimir Putin, who has been in power since 2000 (as president, prime minister and now president again) was seeking to deal with several years of declining popularity. People were upset about the continued corruption and sluggish economic performance. Putin decided to employ an ancient trick; blame all the problems on evil foreigners. It worked, even though in 2012 the urban middle class was largely against him and many rural groups were turning hostile as well. The government had tried taking more action against corruption and more repression of public protests. But what seemed to work best was more propaganda against “foreign threats” (like the NATO anti-missile system). All this did not work out as planned. 

In 2012 the government felt confident that the new “blame foreigners” strategy would work. After all Russia was producing 10 million barrels of oil a day, most for export. In 2012 oil was selling for over $100 a barrel. This gave the government a lot of money to play with and time to come up with a solution for the pervasive corruption. Then, unexpectedly, the oil price began a rapid fall in 2014. This was the result of Saudi Arabia and other Arab producers trying to use low prices to weaken Iran and destroy the American fracking industry. Then Russia was hit with sanctions because of its aggression against Ukraine. 

Cyberwar keeps CIA's Brennan up at night

By Chase Gunter 
Feb 16, 2016 

CIA Director John Brennan said he believes it is inevitable that the Islamic State group will try to stage an attack on American soil, and the growing threat of cyberwarfare "really is the thing that keeps me up at night."

"The cyber environment can pose a very, very serious and significant attack vector for our adversaries if they want to take down our infrastructure, if they want to create havoc in transportation systems, if they want to do great damage to our financial networks," he said in a Feb. 14 interview on CBS' "60 Minutes."

At the same time, Brennan does not appear to forecast an imminent widespread cyberthreat from terrorists or other non-state actors. 

"Having the capability [to attack the grid and other critical infrastructure] but then also having the intent are two different things," he said. "I think fortunately right now those who may have the capability do not have the intent. Those who may have the intent right now I believe do not have the capability [because] if they had the capability, they would deploy and employ those tools."

A Worldwide Survey of Encryption Products

Harvard University - Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Independent Researcher

Harvard University - Berkman Center for Internet & Society

February 11, 2016

Data security is a worldwide problem, and there is a wide world of encryption solutions available to help solve this problem. Most of these products are developed and sold by for-profit entities, although some are created as free open-source projects. They are available, either for sale or free download, all over the world.

In 1999, a group of researchers from George Washington University attempted to survey the worldwide market for encryption products [HB 99]. The impetus for their survey was the ongoing export controls. By collecting debate about US encryption information about 805 hardware and software encryption products from 35 countries outside the US, the researchers showed that restricting the export of encryption products did nothing to reduce their availability around the world, while at the same time putting US companies at a competitive disadvantage in the information security market.

Is Trident safe from cyber attack?

Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester

Friday 5 February 2016 

Last year, former UK Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, warned that UK nuclear weapons could “be rendered obsolete by hackers”, and that without a comprehensive assessment of this risk to the Trident system, a future Prime Minister may not be certain they had a “reliable deterrent” that could be used when needed. 

Lord Browne’s comments, which were based on personal experience and a 2013 report from the US Defense Science Board, have been met with a diverse reception; for some the Trident system is inherently safe from hackers because it is “air-gapped” from the wider Internet when on patrol under the surface of the ocean; while others claim that cyber attacks could make the system obsolete before work on the successor even begins. Either way, the fact that Trident relies on numerous computers, complex software and endless lines of code means it must be assumed to be vulnerable to interference in some way, and this new challenge seems set to play an increasingly important role in the debate over renewal, and raise serious questions about the longer-term efficacy of the UK nuclear deterrent. 

This article looks into what we actually mean by “the cyber threat”, what exactly might be vulnerable, it what ways, and to whom, in order to better grasp the overarching challenge presented to UK nuclear weapons...

U.S. Had Cyberattack Plan if Iran Nuclear Dispute Led to Conflict

FEB. 16, 2016 

BERLIN — In the early years of the Obama administration, the United States developed an elaborate plan for a cyberattack on Iran in case the diplomatic effort to limit its nuclear program failed and led to a military conflict, according to a coming documentary film and interviews with military and intelligence officials involved in the effort.

The plan, code-named Nitro Zeus, was devised to disable Iran’s air defenses, communications systems and crucial parts of its power grid, and was shelved, at least for the foreseeable future, after the nuclear deal struck between Iran and six other nations last summer was fulfilled.

Nitro Zeus was part of an effort to assure President Obama that he had alternatives, short of a full-scale war, if Iran lashed out at the United States or its allies in the region. At its height, officials say, the planning for Nitro Zeus involved thousands of American military and intelligence personnel, spending tens of millions of dollars and placing electronic implants in Iranian computer networks to “prepare the battlefield,” in the parlance of the Pentagon.

Apple Says It Will Not Help FBI Break Encryption on Phones Used by San Bernardino Attackers

Ellen Nakashima
February 17, 2016

Apple vows to resist FBI demand to crack iPhone linked to San Bernardino attacks

Tech giant Apple and the FBI appeared headed for a deepening confrontation Wednesday after the company’s chief pledged to fight federal demands to help mine data from an iPhone used by one of the shooters in December’s terrorist attacks in San Bernardino.
The clash reflects wider debates in the United States and elsewhere over security measures used by companies to protect users of devices such as smartphones — and how much leverage authorities should have to gain special access.
“We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a strongly worded open letter posted late Tuesday on the company’s website.

[Full statement by Apple CEO] “Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them,” it continued. “But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”
The Justice Department sought the order “in the hopes of gaining crucial evidence” about the Dec. 2 shooting rampage, which killed 14 people and injured 22.

Wanted: Bullet Stopping Breakthroughs

February 18, 2016
Source Link

I am not a scientist.

I’m definitely not a scientist. I’m a warfighter. And what I carry into battle today is not much different than what I carried when I entered the army in 1993. The M4 rifle is slightly updated from the one I carried in 1995. The 5.56 mm rounds or 7.62 mm ammo belt is Vietnam vintage. The entrenching tool, weapon magazines, knives, flashlights, poncho, and boots are for the most part exactly the same.

You can see why I find scientific inventions that support the Nation’s tip of the spear underwhelming.

Yes, I’ve seen many of the prototypes for things such as exoskeleton suits, robotic mules, and hand held drones that are all supposed to help the future ground soldier. But that’s just it; it’s always the future soldier. I guess I had higher ambitions for the scientists that put a man on the moon and invented the internet.

So, I have a simple question and challenge to the scientific community writ large – whether a research university, warrior scholar, or mad scientist, I believe the question is simple enough:


FEBRUARY 18, 2016

How should the United States prepare for a future characterized by the rise of new adversaries, rapid change, and declining defense budgets? Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva have pointed to wargaming, which famously helped the United States to prepare for the Second World War. They argue that wargames offer the Department of Defense a relatively inexpensive but powerful way to explore possible future conflicts, test ideas, and ultimately identify ways to prevail. Accordingly, the Pentagon is seeking to employ wargames more broadly — and to use game results more directly to influence its strategy, policy and programs.

These are laudable goals. Nevertheless, creating, orchestrating, and observing recent games across the Department of Defense — and conferring with the broader gaming community — has made us aware of a number of potential challenges. These are important to keep in mind for a reinvigorated wargaming enterprise to succeed.


FEBRUARY 18, 2016

Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Defense has engaged in an effort to reinvigorate the aging and exhausted U.S. military by reassessing and reforming its strategic and tactical priorities. These reforms are far-reaching in nature, ranging from the strategic pivot to Asia, to personnel reforms aimed at creating a more adaptive “force of the future,” to investments in new, high-tech war-fighting platforms. A key piece in this suite of changes, and the most significant from an operational standpoint, is DoD’s “third offset strategy” — an initiative aimed in part at countering new anti-access area-denial (A2AD) capabilities with a range of new technologies. And as the recent FY2017 budget rollout has illustrated, this reform effort is starting to take shape.

The announcement of the third offset strategy has attracted much attention from within the defense policy community, and has been heralded by many as necessary for the United States to maintain its technological edge. And these efforts will no doubt result in significant benefits for the U.S. military. But this emphasis on innovation is not without its risks, many of which might be overlooked, underestimated, or even ignored in the excitement of a new defense initiative. Indeed, the tendency to equate technological innovation with positive change — perhaps the result of publicized successes in the private sector — often misses the myriad costs and challenges that accompany major overhauls of the kind announced by DoD.

The Real Winners of the Air Force Bomber Contest

FEBRUARY 16, 2016

The Air Force’s selection of Northrop Grumman to build a new stealth bomber is the first major award in years to withstand a government audit and, for some, a win for Pentagon reforms. 

In a ruling Tuesday, government auditors upheld the U.S. Air Force’s decision to award an $80 billion classified contract to Northrop Grumman for a new long-range stealth bomber.

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

While their rejection of a protest filed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin — the world’s two largest defense firms — is being touted as a financial boon for Northrop, the unseen winners are theAir Force’s arms buyers who worked behind the scenes evaluating the bids.

“We’re pleased with the decision and we’re anxious to get started on the program,” Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s top arms buyer, said in a statement provided by a spokesman.

Trends in Armed Conflict, 1946-2014

Gates, Scott; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Håvard Strand & Henrik Urdal (2016) Trends in Armed Conflict, 1946-2014, Conflict Trends, 1. Oslo: PRIO. 

Headlines from battlefields in Syria, Libya​​, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine give the impression that the world is becoming ever more violent. Indeed, since 2013 the number of armed conflicts in the world and the number of battle deaths has risen. Fortunately, the long-term trends nevertheless driving the waning of war are still at work.​

A War Apart: Examining the American Civil-Military Divide

By Nate Subra, Columnist
Feb 17, 2016 

Robert A. Heinlein’s seminal 1959 young adult science fiction novel Starship Troopers envisions a world in which democracy and military service are inextricably linked. In Heinlein’s novel, civilians and the military are so different that they are divided into distinct social classes: civilians are portrayed as a sort of protected patrician class, while volunteering for a term of service with the Terran Federation government – generally, military service – is the only way to gain citizenship, the vote, and the ability to run for elected office. Heinlein’s protagonist, a high school graduate and son of a civilian, rejects this comfortable life in order to join the Mobile Infantry in war against an alien threat.

It is telling of military culture that, at several points since its publication, Starship Troopers has appeared on recommended reading lists in the United States Navy and Marine Corps.[i][ii] Heinlein, a former Naval officer, considered the volunteer military he depicted his work to be greater in civic virtue than the civilian public: “A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic in which he is a member … The civilian does not.” This sense of elitism is shared by some in uniform today who view civilians as a “moocher” class that benefits from the efforts of the military. These soldiers view civilians as either perfunctorily thanking troops for their service or basking in the military’s reflected glory.[iii][iv] The delegation of the duty of war to the military class is paradoxically accompanied by a veneration of that same class.[v] The main thrust of the complaint is clear: a small group of people is doing the hard work of war, and the majority is not invested.