30 January 2017

*** Preparing For Battles Of The Future: Chief Of Defence Staff Can’t Just Be A Ceremonial Position

Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan

For the CDS to be effective in the tasks envisaged by the ministry, he would need to have full control on the decision making apparatus.

Quoting Defence Ministry sources, the Hindustan Times ran an article titled ‘Modi and Parrikar to decide on CDS role’on 24 December, written by Shishir Gupta. The article, focusing on the creation of a proposed chief of defence staff (CDS) position, essentially made three points:

(a) The government has decided to appoint a CDS, who would be a single-point military adviser to the political leadership on acquisition, procurement policy and resource rationalisation. The new post will not be used as a parking slot for superceded generals, and a new man will be tasked with the job once work profile is clearly defined.

(b) Work was on to create joint commands to optimise resource utilisation among the three services, and a step towards ‘integrated commands’, with structures synergised towards integrated operations. Converting the Northern Command into a Tri-Service Command was being studied, with no change to extant structures, but nominating one overall commander. Similarly, the future roles of service chiefs was also being considered.

(c) It was reported that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was studying the report of retired Lt Gen DB Shekatkar on making the military more effective with better teeth-to-tail ratio. It highlighted the general areas of redundancy like NCC, where more retired personnel could be better employed.

There are major matters of concerns with this line of thinking, if true, and does not augur well for the future battles/campaigns that the Indian military would have to face. It is not a question of ‘IF” but more of “WHEN”, India would face a military threat. A CDS with no operational tasks would be just a ceremonial figurehead, with no teeth to implement his ‘advice’ to the political leadership.

CDS As A Single Point Military Adviser To Political Leadership On Acquisition, Procurement Policy And Resource Rationalisation

The future battles require an integrated campaign model, and not some vague lexicons of ‘jointmanship’, ‘synergetic approach’ etc. By restricting the CDS to the above tasks, the appointment would only be ‘ceremonial’, as the structures of decision making on these and other administrative aspects would still remain within the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and under the Defence Secretary.

*** The Changing Nature of War in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

By Anthony Cordesman 

It may not be easy to trace the evolving nature of warfare in the MENA region, but there are worrying trends. Tony Cordesman thinks they include 1) four existing (and uncertain) wars; 2) Iran’s involvement in three major military build-ups and arms races; 3) new forms of North African and Arab-Israeli conflict; 4) the changing role of outside powers, and much more.

This article was originally published by Harvard International Review on 14 January 2017.

It is not easy to address war in the Middle East. There are, however, some clear trends. In the course of the last quarter century, the Middle East has steadily moved away from relatively short conventional wars between state actors and has steadily moved toward radically different efforts to use force to deter or to influence; toward conflicts that involve unpredictable mixes of non-state actors and outside powers, unstable alliances, terrorism and insurgency that cross national boundaries; and toward conflicts based on sect, ethnicity, tribe, and religious extremism. The end result is a constantly changing matrix of internal and cross border conflicts all layered across the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Much analysis of these wars is military in scope, and ignores grand strategy in the process. It focuses on force size, technology, warfighting capability, and actual or possible conflicts—and the modern MENA region provides plenty of case examples of each of these aspects of war. War, however, has never been a matter of military tactics or strategy focused simply on winning a conflict, relative force size, or even apparent victory on the battlefield.

The key issue is how does the conflict end, continue, or mutate in terms of its broader strategic and political impact. It is also how the civil side of war causes and shapes conflicts and how they end. This is particularly critical in a region where every state is in the process of radical change due to massive population growth and hyper urbanization, and a majority of countries suffer from weak and corrupt governance, weak or failed economic development, and what can only be called failed secularism.

*** Core Competencies and the Army: A Complex yet Potentially Rewarding Relationship

By Christopher Young for Canadian Military Journal (CMJ)

In this article, Chris Young focuses on the Canadian Army’s recent adoption of the core competencies concept, which highlights “the most important functions or groups of functions that define the basic purpose of the Army of Tomorrow.” After reviewing the history of the concept, Young then takes the measure of the core competency frameworks that have been adopted by the US military and others.


“The CF has one core competency and that is, when necessary, to fight.”1

The Canadian Army has recently embraced the concept of core competencies, calling them “…the most important functions or groups of functions that define the basic purpose of the Army of Tomorrow.”2 The primary purpose of any army, first and foremost, is to keep its nation safe and secure. It does this by having the capabilities necessary for fighting and winning a nation’s wars. Yet, those capabilities are understood, at least within our current international construct, as providing a purpose of last resort.

While keeping the nation safe and secure may involve combat or warfighting on Canadian soil in some extremely unlikely scenario of last resort, more typically, the Canadian Army fulfills that function of keeping the nation safe and secure via expeditionary operations that are designed to contribute to international peace and security. That often involves the conduct of activities and operations that demand skill sets other than those usually associated with warfighting: increasingly, those skills are more properly associated with what has become known as nation-building. Thus, while warfighting is indeed an integral part of the Army’s core missions and may, in fact, be a core competency, it may not be the Army’s only core competency.


The aim of this article is an exploration of the simple yet complicated relationship the Army enjoys with core competencies. I propose to begin with a broad overview of the concept of core competencies as it has developed in various environments, including the business and military worlds, and subsequently explore the various competency frameworks being employed within those environments with an aim of identifying best practices associated with core competency development.


Thus far in the short time since the Army has embraced the core competency concept, that purpose has manifested itself within a framework that has identified the Army’s core competencies as almost exclusively centred on close combat or warfighting. In 2003, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts (DLSC) publication Future Force: Concepts for Future Army Capabilities specifically identified the Army’s core competency as “the ability to conduct land combat in order to fight and win in war.”3 It was qualified as being the result of a desire to ensure the Army does not “…lose focus of those things that matter most and that are central to its identity and purpose.”4 This was, in part, the beginning of the tendency to conflate competency with purpose: indeed, Future Force went on to state that the “…fundamental purpose [of the Army] is to defend the nation and its vital interests. To do this it must rely on its core competency…”

** China and Russia: Gaming the West

By Mathieu Duchâtel & François Godement

In September 2016, Russia held joint naval manoeuvres in the South China Sea with China, bringing some of its best ships to the party. Two weeks later, China shied away from joining Russia in a veto of yet another Western resolution on Syria at the UN. The discrepancy sums up the extent and the limits of the strategic convergence between both countries. 

The “axis of convenience” between China and Russia has, without question, grown larger. And the positive dynamics pushing cooperation forward are largely economic. But there is also a negative dynamic, coming from the West. Both countries have a perception of regime insecurity that emerges from the international promotion of democracy, and the attractiveness of corruption-free and comparably safe Western societies for individuals, be they Chinese or Russian. 

But economic growth isn't the only thing drawing China and Russia together. The possible eastward extension of NATO, the high-tech superiority of the US and other Western armaments has not been undermined by the financial crises and political uncertainties of established democracies. This is why China and Russia describe their moves as reactive rather than assertive. For Russia, it means the possibility of mounting pre-emptive strikes and sudden regional escalation that leads to conflict dominance, as is the case today in the Syrian civil war. For China, it is the endless increase in military spending and deployment, and the game it is playing in the empty spaces of the South China Sea, East China Sea and border areas with India. Here again, the comparison reveals differences: Russia has conducted or directly condoned hot wars, from Georgia, Chechnya, and Serbia to Crimea, the Donbas and Syria. They target or concern large civilian populations. Instead, China fills open spaces, sometimes turning them into military assets. So far, it has lived up to its affirmation that it “will not fire the first shot”. Military adventurism is very far from the Chinese tradition, which is to take a much more comprehensive view of national power and influence. 

Still, the China that has refused to enter into any alliances since the demise of the Sino-Soviet treaty in 1960 currently has its second track experts debating the opportunity of a new alliance with Russia. Indeed, there are few strong justifications for such an alliance, but many opportunities to team up on an issue-by-issue basis. Both China and Russia share a track record of flouting or rejecting international law on territorial issues, although in very different situations. Invoking and restraining the UN is becoming a key topic of interest as China’s budgetary influence over the organisation has grown considerably in recent years. Bridging the Eurasian landmass with strategically significant projects that might somewhat balance the US domination at sea is another cause – although the writers cited in this special issue of China Analysis make it clear that this is a project for the long haul and with elements of competition for markets and influence. 

** Global Militarization Index 2016

By Max Mutschler 
The Global Militarization Index (GMI) highlights “the relative weight and importance of a country’s military apparatus in relation to its society as a whole.” Of the 152 countries analyzed in 2016, the most militarized ones are, in order, Israel, Singapore, Armenia, Jordan Russia, South Korea, Cyprus, Greece, Azerbaijan and Brunei. Max Mutschler provides the details here.

This article was originally published by the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) in December 2016. 


Compiled by BICC, the Global Militarization Index (GMI) presents on an annual basis the relative weight and importance of a country’s military apparatus in relation to its society as a whole. The GMI 2016 covers 152 states and is based on the latest available figures (in most cases data for 2015). The index project is finan­cially supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

With Armenia, Russia, Cyprus, Greece and Azerbaijan, five European coun­tries are amongst the top 10 worldwide. Following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in particular and the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine, the secu­rity situation in Europe has changed. While, for 2015, eastern European states in particular have shown a marked increase in militarization, a similar trend cannot be observed for most western European countries.

Against the background of protracted conflicts in the Middle East, the level of militarization of most countries remains high. Israel is still at the top and Jordan on position four. It will be interesting in the coming years to see how oil prices, which have sharply fallen since mid-2014, will affect the militarization of the Gulf States and their extensive weapons purchases.

Singapore, South Korea and Brunei are also in the top 10. It remains to be seen how the tensions from the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and connected modernization and armament efforts will shape the level of militariza­tion in Asia.

This year’s GMI highlights the relationship between the level of militari­zation and the Global Hunger Index, which defines the causes of hunger not only in economic or climate change terms but also with regard to instability or violent conflict. The fact that most states suffering from hunger also have comparatively low levels militarization shows that a low level of militarization often does not point to a peaceful society but more often than not to a weak security sector and the absence of a safe environment. But, within the 20 states that suffer the most from hunger, there are also countries with a relatively high level of militarization. There, high investment is tied up in military resources that would otherwise be available to fight against hunger or to invest in the health system.

** The hard facts Team Trump should face on the Middle East

By Ralph Peters

Even as our precision weapons kill terrorists across the region, we have lost the upper Middle East. It’s time to cut our losses, turn the tables on our enduring enemies and restore our core alliances.

A fundamental problem with the Pentagon and State Department is that they can’t grasp the concept of “sunk costs,” that spending more blood and treasure on a lost cause only compounds the waste. So we cling to fantasies of success in Afghanistan, Iraq and even in Syria.

It’s unlikely any new administration can break the hold of Washington-think on foreign policy, but if we truly want a fresh start that benefits the United States and not our enemies, here’s a country-by-country revamp to renew our strengths and exploit the weaknesses of hostile powers, such as Iran, Russia and, lately, Turkey.

Afghanistan: Leave. Fifteen years of military presence and generous aid have not inspired Afghans to build a government for which the people will fight. Despite its comparative poverty, the Taliban is stronger than it was eight years ago — because it has interests for which men will fight to the death.

Strategically, Afghanistan is worthless to us. Dump it on Pakistan and Russia, both of which have striven to undercut us. They’ve sown the wind, now let them reap the whirlwind.

Syria: Leave. Continue supporting the Kurds, but cease operations against the Islamic State within Syria. Right now, we’re fighting the terrorists for the good of the Assad regime, Iran and Russia — while they butcher the moderate opposition and slaughter civilians.

Russia projects an illusion of strength, but its hollowness was recently revealed when the terrorists retook Palmyra — a half-year after Vladimir Putin had staged a symphony concert in the ancient ruins to celebrate recapturing the city. Russia’s “elite” forces are stretched so thin they couldn’t raze Aleppo and simultaneously hold Palmyra.

US thought India will capture PoK after 1971 war: CIA files

The United States government had thought that the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi might order an attack on West Pakistan to capture Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after India’s operation to create Bangladesh got over, recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency documents say.

As per CIA reports and minutes of high-level meetings in Washington on Indo-Pak tensions, it was clear that the US government was readying a strategy should India smash military power of West Pakistan.

US President Richard Nixon’s National Security Adviser Henry A Kissinger discussed various possibilities due to deteriorating Indo-Pak ties in the wake of India’s military offensive in East Pakistan.

However, some top security officials in Washington felt the possibility of India launching a strike on West Pakistan was remote.

At one of the meetings of Washington’s Special Action Group, the then CIA director Richard Holmes said, ‘It is reported that prior to terminating the present hostilities, Mrs Gandhi intends to attempt to eliminate Pakistan’s armour and air force capabilities,’ as per papers which are part of nearly 12 million documents CIA declassified last week.

According to the documents, though Nixon had ‘warned India’ to cut off economic aid in case of war in East Pakistan, the US administration was clueless on how to implement it.

‘Both the President and the Secretary of State have warned the Indians that we will ‘cut off’ economic aid in case of war. But do we know what that means? No one has looked at the consequences or examined the means of implementing a cut off,’ Kissinger had told a meeting of top defence and CIA officials on August 17, 1971.

The then National Security Adviser Kissinger was also unhappy over the CIA not having enough intelligence inputs on what the Chinese, Indians and the Pakistanis were up to.


Claude Arpi

While Beijing has been pressing with remarkable speed in developing infrastructure along its borders with India, the latter has shown equally remarkable laxity over the same. Hopefully, things will now change

The Army Commanders’ Conference was recently held at the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Minister for Defence Manohar Parrikar, dignitaries were given an extensive briefing by the three Services chiefs, particularly on infrastructure development along the China and Pakistan borders.

At a time when China is investing billions of yuans to develop its ‘Indian’ frontiers, it was a timely review. On January 23, the website, China Tibet Online, announced that a road leading to the last two townships without road access in Tibet, would soon be completed. Both roads in Metok County of Nyingchi town, started in 2015, are expected to be soon operational. The Metok County is situated north of the Tuting Circle of Upper Siang of Arunachal Pradesh, where the Yarlung Tsangpo enters India to become the Siang (and later the Brahmaputra).

The Chinese article says: “The geological conditions are complex with high mountains and deep valleys, leading to high road construction costs and long construction periods.” In 2017 alone, a total of 52 billion yuan (nearly six billion dollars) will be invested in infrastructure assets on the plateau, and “355km of high-grade highway [will be added], leading to a total highway mileage of more than 90,000 km.”

The Chinese website adds that these roads could not be built earlier “due to the high mountains and deep valleys”. It was only in October 2013 that Metok Highway was officially opened to the public: “Metok waved goodbye to China’s last County without road access”, said China Tibet Online.

Zero sum game is up

Written by Husain Haqqani

Prime Minister Narendra Modi,shakes hand with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan after signing of agreements between the two countries in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Source: PTI Photo)

The United Arab Emirates, historically close to all South Asian countries, is the latest among many traditional friends trying to make Pakistan aware of the futility of its zero sum competition with India. UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade on January 26 and a contingent of UAE soldiers led this year’s parade. From the UAE’s perspective, the gesture acknowledged economic, political and security realities. With $60 billion in bilateral trade in 2015, the UAE is India’s third largest trading partner, after the United States and China. It is also the 10th largest foreign investor in India with over $8 billion in investments. Indian companies have invested around $55 billion in the UAE and annual remittances from the 2.6 million-strong Indian diaspora amount to $8 billion.

Pakistan’s ruling elite, especially its all-powerful military, tends to see other nations as close to India or as friends of Pakistan. The Pakistani narrative often ignores economics and sees international relations in binary terms, emphasising religion and ideology. Some Pakistani commentators have already started taking potshots at “fellow Muslims” embracing “Hindu India” at the expense of Pakistan. Ironically, UAE is not the first Gulf Arab Muslim country affirming friendship with India as chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade. Former Saudi King Abdullah was the chief guest at the 2006 parade and proudly declared India his “second home.”

India, UAE Nod For Stronger Engagement In Countering Violence, Extremism: PM Modi

For its part, the UAE has maintained close ties with both India and Pakistan historically even while providing critical support to Pakistan at crucial times. The largest Indian and Pakistani diaspora in the Gulf are in the UAE and they send much valued remittances to both countries. The communities often also get along quite well, benefiting from their shared cultures. Pakistan’s effort to build an iron curtain with India breaks down in the UAE as it does elsewhere around the world. Given the geographic proximity and easy access to both countries, Indians and Pakistanis often interact in Dubai, in addition to breaking trade and travel barriers.

China’s debt-trap diplomacy

Source Link
Brahma Chellaney

China is taking steps to ensure that countries will not be able to escape their debts. Photo: Reuters

If there is one thing at which China’s leaders truly excel, it is the use of economic tools to advance their country’s geostrategic interests. Through its $1 trillion “One Belt, One Road” initiative, China is supporting infrastructure projects in strategically located developing countries, often by extending huge loans to their governments. As a result, countries are becoming ensnared in a debt trap that leaves them vulnerable to China’s influence.

Of course, extending loans for infrastructure projects is not inherently bad. But the projects that China is supporting are often intended not to support the local economy, but to facilitate Chinese access to natural resources, or to open the market for low-cost and shoddy Chinese goods. In many cases, China even sends its own construction workers, minimizing the number of local jobs that are created.

Several of the projects that have been completed are now bleeding money. For example, Sri Lanka’s Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, which opened in 2013 near Hambantota, has been dubbed the world’s emptiest. Likewise, Hambantota’s Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port remains largely idle, as does the multibillion-dollar Gwadar port in Pakistan. For China, however, these projects are operating exactly as needed: Chinese attack submarines have twice docked at Sri Lankan ports, and two Chinese warships were recently pressed into service for Gwadar port security.

In a sense, it is even better for China that the projects don’t do well. After all, the heavier the debt burden on smaller countries, the greater China’s own leverage becomes.

Moreover, some countries, overwhelmed by their debts to China, are being forced to sell to it stakes in Chinese-financed projects or hand over their management to Chinese state-owned firms. In financially risky countries, China now demands majority ownership up front. For example, China clinched a deal with Nepal this month to build another largely Chinese-owned dam there, with its state-run China Three Gorges Corporation taking a 75% stake.

As if that were not enough, China is taking steps to ensure that countries will not be able to escape their debts. In exchange for rescheduling repayment, China is requiring countries to award it contracts for additional projects, thereby making their debt crises interminable. Last October, China cancelled $90 million of Cambodia’s debt, only to secure major new contracts.

Some developing economies are regretting their decision to accept Chinese loans. Protests have erupted over widespread joblessness, purportedly caused by Chinese dumping of goods, which is killing off local manufacturing, and exacerbated by China’s import of workers for its own projects.

New governments in several countries, from Nigeria to Sri Lanka, have ordered investigations into alleged Chinese bribery of the previous leadership.

In retrospect, China’s designs might seem obvious. But the decision by many developing countries to accept Chinese loans was, in many ways, understandable. Neglected by institutional investors, they had major unmet infrastructure needs. So when China showed up, promising benevolent investment and easy credit, they were all in. It became clear only later that China’s real objectives were commercial penetration and strategic leverage; by then, it was too late, and countries were trapped in a vicious cycle.

Sri Lanka is Exhibit A. Though small, the country is strategically located between China’s eastern ports and the Mediterranean. Chinese President Xi Jinping has called it vital to the completion of the maritime Silk Road.

China began investing heavily in Sri Lanka during the quasi-autocratic nine-year rule of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and China shielded Rajapaksa at the UN from allegations of war crimes. China quickly became Sri Lanka’s leading investor and lender, and its second-largest trading partner, giving it substantial diplomatic leverage.

It was smooth sailing for China, until Rajapaksa was unexpectedly defeated in the early 2015 election by Maithripala Sirisena, who had campaigned on the promise to extricate Sri Lanka from the Chinese debt trap. True to his word, he suspended work on major Chinese projects.

But it was too late: Sri Lanka’s government was already on the brink of default. So, as a Chinese state mouthpiece crowed, Sri Lanka had no choice but “to turn around and embrace China again”. Sirisena, in need of more time to repay old loans, as well as fresh credit, acquiesced to a series of Chinese demands, restarting suspended initiatives, like the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City, and awarding China new projects.

Sirisena also recently agreed to sell an 80% stake in the Hambantota port to China for about $1.1 billion. Now, Rajapaksa is accusing Sirisena of granting China undue concessions.

By integrating its foreign, economic, and security policies, China is advancing its goal of fashioning a hegemonic sphere of trade, communication, transportation, and security links. If states are saddled with onerous levels of debt as a result, their financial woes only aid China’s neocolonial designs. Countries that are not yet ensnared in China’s debt trap should take note—and take whatever steps they can to avoid it.

Brahma Chellaney is professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research and fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.

Chinese ministries ban military-type exports to N.Korea

China has released a list of goods that are banned for export to North Korea on Wednesday, including items and technologies that can be used to build weapons of mass destruction, according to the Ministry of Commerce(MOC) website.

Expert said that it shows China's resolution to comply with the UN sanctions and serves as a warning to North Korea not to conduct a nuclear test during the Chinese New Year as it did in 2016.

The list contains detailed items and technologies with possible civilian and military use. The items include materials and equipment to develop nuclear missiles and chemical weapons, software related to rockets or drones, high-speed video cameras, submarines, sensors, telecommunications devices and lasers.

The list was jointly released by the MOC, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, the China Atomic Energy Authority and the General Administration of Customers.

The list was meant to comply with the requirements of UN sanctions imposed in November in response to North Korea's fifth and largest nuclear test in September. The list was put into effect on Wednesday.

"[This] shows China's attitude on the North Korea nuclear issue. And it is also a warning for the North Korean side not to conduct another round of nuclear testing during China's Spring Festival this year," Jin Qiangyi, director of Asia Research Center, Yanbian University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

North Korea launched an Unha-type rocket southward on February 7, 2016. China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin summoned North Korean ambassador to lodge a formal protest over the launch, the People's Daily reported.

Looking Back a Quarter Century after the USSR´s Collapse

Chris MIller 

When considering Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis, it appears the last-gasp Soviet Union followed Fukuyama’s advice and ended up regretting it. China, in contrast, ignored the advice and experienced three decades of record-setting economic growth. So what’s the take-away? Should authoritarian regimes view democracy as dispensable? Not according to this E-Note. The truth is Russia could not have uncoupled its political and economic reforms at that point in time.

Trump’s adversarial view of China is out of line with the American public

Source Link
Richard C. Bush

The Trump administration enters office with an undisguised antipathy towards China. It starts with Donald Trump himself and extends to many of the individuals he has already named for key positions. Their focus is on the U.S.-China bilateral economic relationship and the belief that China is the reason for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States over a long period of time. Trump himself has threatened to slap a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods.

The Michael H. Armacost Chair
Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies

But he is curiously out of step with the American public when it comes to China. On January 12, the Pew Research Center released results of a survey that show U.S. public attitudes are not so harsh. Only half of respondents (52 percent) believe that China’s power and influence is a “global threat,” ranking it only sixth in a list of the possibilities offered. ISIS, cyberattacks, North Korea’s nuclear program, Russia, and climate change all outrank China. (Sixty-four percent of the public regards North Korea’s nuclear program as a major threat, 12 points ahead of China.)

Breaking respondents down by party, 58 percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning respondents see China as a “major threat” while only 48 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning ones do. That is, four in 10 Republicans do not see China as a major threat. (In contrast, Democrats and Republicans do not differ appreciably on the threat posed by North Korea.)

The Dangerous Delusion of ‘We Should’ve Kept the Oil’


The president has said he wants to support the troops, but his careless comments put U.S. lives at risk in Iraq. 

It’s not likely the American public realizes just how dangerous a remark President Trump made at the CIA on Saturday really was, or how it will make things very difficult for the U.S. military as it fights terror going forward. Speaking in front of the CIA’s Memorial Wall, Trump said the following:

The old expression, ‘to the victor belong the spoils’—you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil. Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it, Mike, if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you’ll have another chance. But the fact is, should have kept the oil.

Sober-minded members of the president’s own party were as flummoxed as I was when they heard the president say them, and the president doubled down Wednesday night in an interview with ABC News, insulting the government of Iraq—with whom we are partnering to defeat the Islamic State—in the process: 



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Russia’s cyberattacks should be teaching Americans something that those situated in the orbits of China, Iran, and Russia have long known: There are serious political competitions underway for regional and strategic dominance. These extend beyond military battlefields and are a fought across a variety of domains – political, economic, informational, and cultural. Is the United States finally ready to compete?

President Donald Trump understands that America’s competitive spirit is one of the country’s strongest features. It is time for the new administration to inject that culture of competition into America’s diplomatic and development agencies.

Competitiveness is inherent in the way that military and intelligence agencies think and act, but it is virtually absent in most other government organizations. Typically, those organizations focus on administering systems, running programs, and maintaining relationships as ends in themselves. Yet in virtually every theater of the world, local and regional competitions over ideas, economic systems, and societies affect America’s ability to protect and advance its interests. The new team has an opportunity to ensure that agencies focused on external actors have the operational concepts and drive to contest determined and capable adversaries.

These adversaries are governed by repressive systems that are fundamentally designed to counter the very qualities that allow the best attributes of human nature to flourish. As Freedom House has reported, authoritarian states recognize that “genuine competition of ideas and a well-informed public spell trouble for regime security.” These countries, as well as non-state actors such as the Islamic State, are adept at competitions short of conflict because they are constantly honing the skills required to advance and defend their repressive systems internally. With great proficiency, they have turned these methods outward as well.

The Baltic countries have long understood the nature of the political competition taking place in their region. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on the front lines of Russian political warfare. Officials there recognize that, as one Latvian defense official put it, all it takes for an enemy is to break down a society’s willingness to protect the values of their country, since without that will, “you can beat your enemy without a battle.

Rifleman Radio is indispensable

By: Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, 

Nearly two years after the award of the Rifleman Radio contract, I made an appeal for new thinking by both the defense acquisition corps and the defense industry that now bears repeating.

Twenty-two months ago, the need for the Rifleman Radio was obvious as it is today. It provides infantry units with a relatively small and lower cost software-defined radio capable of transmitting voice and data, such as maps, images and texts. The technology that defines this “workhorse” tactical radio was continuing to mature, resulting in today’s Rifleman Radio being far more reliable and capable than the LRIP-ordered radios from even three years ago.

This maturation process was being driven by ongoing investments in radio technology made by the defense industry, including Thales and Harris Corporation, the two companies selected by the Army to build the Rifleman Radio.

At that time, I noted that success in the Defense Department's new “Non-Developmental Items” or NDI strategy for the Army’s HMS program would require three things:

People. Bringing the right people together from three key groups for meaningful engagement: those defining the capabilities; those acquiring the capability for the government and industry; and those who have to deliver the capability to the Warfighter. 
Dialogue. Creating ethical opportunities for face-to-face discussions with industry (not RFI dialogues) about the state of technology innovation and what is feasible to provide in a reasonable time and at a reasonable price. 
Strategy. Building a shared understanding that this new NDI marketplace for tactical radios that requires industry to invest their own money to develop products will be one that delivers greater and greater capabilities over time, in other words, iteratively. 

Where are we now? 

The Army is currently working to develop requirements for a 2-channel variant of the Rifleman Radio, a significant step in the Rifleman’s continuing evolution. The fundamental 2-channel communications capability — whether handheld or manpack variants — represents the future of tactical communications.

Two-channel capabilities for the small-unit leader radio like the Rifleman will meet the Army’s evolving tactical communications needs, with its ability to receive and transmit voice and data simultaneously, passing data to and from command to the unit.

Army in the age of social media

By Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman

Venting of grievances by soldiers on social media is a new phenomenon. The recent torrent of videos has caught the Services unaware. It is a challenge whose severity is bound to increase with the development and proliferation of technology. It is time serious attention is paid to address the issue, as it has the potential to promote indiscipline, spread disaffection, weaken officer-man cohesion and undermine morale. Three critical imperatives need to be kept in mind.

First, the quality of the contemporary soldierly stock is different. Earlier, rural youth with little education joined the Army. They accepted the privations of the environment without question. But the Army today draws manpower from all segments of society. The current generation is better educated. Like the rest of society, it questions policies and practices, and is quick to spot iniquities in the system.

Secondly, the nature and character of the media have undergone major changes. There has been a massive proliferation of 24/7 news. As most Indian media do not possess resources for gathering ground reports, they tend to presuppose details and base their reports on hearsay or conjecture. Worse, Indian media thrives on sensationalism. For example, running the soldiers’ videos on news channels repeatedly was hardly warranted. An unhappy soldier’s shot of an over-cooked chapatti was not an issue of national concern, as was made out. But in the media-led world of today, perception is reality and is based on the image projected by the media. Therefore, the media cannot be ignored or dismissed as irrelevant.

Thirdly, technology is a double- edged weapon. Social media has unprecedented reach and can be cleverly manipulated to tweak the truth. When under stress, our troops may be tempted to resort to venting their disenchantment through it. While soldiers can be deterred by threats of disciplinary proceedings, the same cannot be said of their families and friends.

It is a challenge that defies a straightforward solution. In a 1.3 million strong force, it is well nigh impossible to keep everyone happy. There will always be some with grievances, both perceived and real.

Three steps can be taken. One, efforts should be made to ensure time-tested norms of man management are given additional importance to improve satisfaction and minimise complaints. Two, well-established grievance redressal mechanisms should be strengthened and made more credible. Three, the environment should be made aware of the true state of affairs in the Army to contain the negative fallout. Changed environment demands a change in leadership techniques. Leaders have to learn to handle the soldiers with more compassion. Compassion does not mean dilution of discipline. On the contrary, a compassionate leader acquires moral authority.

Detect, Disrupt and Deny: Optimising Australia´s Counterterrorism Financing System

Simon Norton, Paula Chadderton 

This paper examines the nature of terrorist financing and the Australian/international measures being applied against the phenomenon. While exploring this theme, the text’s authors also 1) analyze how terrorist organizations raise, move and use their funds; 2) confirm that terrorism financing in neither new nor dominated by groups in the Middle East; and 3) conclude that the systems and actors that are fighting terrorist financing are robust, but could be improved. 

Six myths about national security intelligence

Frederic Lemieux

Frederic Lemieux does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above. 

At CIA headquarters on Jan. 17, Trump said the ‘dishonest media’ made it appear he was having a feud with the intel community. Olivier Douliery/AP via CNP

President Trump has gotten off to a rough start with the intelligence community.

The day after being sworn in, Trump spoke at CIA headquarters in an apparent attempt to mend his relationship with the agency. The relationship was frayed in large part due to Trump’s skepticism about an intelligence assessment that suggested Russia had hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Where did this skepticism come from? Trump – along with some security experts – has expressed doubt about the complexity of cyberattack attribution and the reliability of the intelligence sources. This skepticism seems to be fueled by the desire for irrefutable evidence of Russia interference in the election.

At Georgetown University, I study and teach how the intelligence community collects, analyzes and circulates sensitive information to policymakers and elected officials. I’d like to point out some of the misunderstandings about intelligence activities exhibited not only by the new president, but in the media coverage of the Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016.

Correcting these persistent myths is important because they set unrealistic expectations about intelligence production and analysis. These false expectations could damage the credibility of the U.S. intelligence community and its ability to fulfill its mission.

Myth #1: Intelligence and evidence are the same

Intelligence and evidence are starkly different.


By Robin Wright

A Syrian refugee and his son in Marietta, Georgia. Donald Trump has released a draft executive order that would bar more refugees from entering the U.S.PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID GOLDMAN / AP

Last July, anguished by the war in Syria and the plight of millions fleeing the grisly six-year conflict, Andrea Dettelbach e-mailed her rabbi at Temple Sinai, in Washington, D.C. She suggested that the synagogue sponsor a Syrian refugee family. He agreed. Temple Sinai has since raised “unbelievable amounts of money” for the family, she told me, found cell phones to give when they arrive, organized a life-skills team to help with everything from banking to education, and lined up doctors, including a female internist who speaks Arabic. Dettelbach’s basement is full of boxes, of donated furnishings, clothing, a television. “One member of the congregation decided, instead of giving gifts last year, to buy all new pots and pans in the names of her friends.” Temple Sinai partnered with Lutheran Social Services to launch the complex process.

The wait was almost over. “We were expecting a family within a week or two,” she said. “This is the history of the Jewish people and a commitment to helping those in need. As an American, it’s opening our doors to those who seek refuge. It’s who we are as a people. How can we turn our back on them?”

On Wednesday, a draft executive order circulated that would call for an end to all processing and admission of Syrian refugees in the United States. The arrival of Temple Sinai’s refugee family, who have been waiting for years and come so close to finding a safe haven, has now been put off indefinitely, Dettelbach told me. “They were vetted to an inch of their lives. It’s insane to hold them accountable for what is going on in their country—or in our country.”

The eight-page draft order is titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” It would also halt all refugee admissions and resettlements from any country for the next four months, to allow for a review of vetting procedures. It would order an immediate thirty-day halt to the admission of all people—even for business or trade, family reasons, humanitarian emergencies, or tourism—from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as Syria. Trump would also cut the number of visas for refugees worldwide by more than half, to fifty thousand, for 2017.

Navy zeroes in on network cybersecurity, innovation, cloud

By: Mark Pomerleau, 

Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) program manager Capt. Michael Abreu outlined three focus areas for the recompete effort: cybersecurity, innovation and technology adoption, and cloud adoption.

Speaking in broad terms regarding cybersecurity, to reporters during a round table Jan. 25 in Vienna, Virginia, Abreu said since 2013 the Navy embarked on a series of cybersecurity efforts to bolster Navy networks. They brought many of those capabilities to either initial or full operational capability over the last three years, with many still planned for executing in the next two years. Cybersecurity is still a top priority for the program, he said, and they are working with Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet to bring that capability to the Navy.

In terms of innovation and technology adoption, Abreu said the Navy operates on four- or five-year technology refresh cycles. They’re looking at how to consume more from the cloud in a faster manner and take advantage of industry's cutting edge and technology trends in the IT marketplace, which change very quickly, he said. Additionally, the Navy must have some amount of flexibility to change three years from now because, as Abreu said, he can’t predict what he’ll need or what will be available three years from now.

As far as cloud goes, the opportunities in this space involve the possibility of driving costs down and then making rapid updates as necessary. The fact that industry can make changes and updates to the infrastructure faster than the government by using the cloud architecture is attractive, Abreu said. In terms of challenges, one is that data must be protected appropriately, which is related to FedRamp certification. Another, he noted, is getting data to the cloud, which involves acquisition approaches, technical approaches and policy approaches from a Navy leadership perspective.

Navy committed to DoD-wide network security plan

By: Mark Pomerleau, 

The Navy is committed to the Defense Department's Joint Regional Security Stacks, a system designed to centralize network security -- albeit on their own terms.

“The challenges really amount to what JRSS is really intended to do versus what the Navy already has in place,” Capt. Michael Abreu, program manager for the Next Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN said Jan. 25 during a media round table.

The Navy instituted its own endpoint security approach earlier than the other services – which is essentially what JRSS is, as a key pillar of the Joint Information Environment – leading it to make the determination that it won’t uproot what the Navy already has to meet what might amount to lesser standards while the other services catch up.

Right now the path that the Navy is on is really one of collaboration with the Defense Information Systems Agency and the other services to understand the final solution for JRSS, Abreu said, adding the Navy is committed to going behind JRSS 2.0. Right now DISA and others are in test phases of JRSS 1.5.

The move forward hinges on what JRSS would provide versus that the Navy doesn’t already, and moving the Navy and the Navy Marine Core Intranet behind it. The Navy leadership believes this point is JRSS 2.0.

Over the last few years, the Navy has had technical issues with JRSS, mostly around the fact that they have consolidated their network and have a security stack that works for them, Victor Gavin, program executive officer for enterprise information systems, told an audience of mostly defense contractors in Charleston, SC at a December conference. The other service do not possess this, he said noting that in their defense, they clearly had a need for some capability.

“At its current state, the capability is somewhat less than what we have today,” Gavin noted of the current DoD and DISA effort to move to JRSS and shrink endpoints. He mirrored what Abreu said recently, noting that the Navy is on board with the effort as a whole – but when the technical aspect is equal or greater than what the capabilities the Navy has today, which is projected for 2018.

Opinion: Why Washington needs more hackers

By Ann Hermes

The federal government is finally beginning to embrace hackers, but it should do more put their talents to work fixing the nation's cybersecurity. Their help is sorely needed. 

JANUARY 25, 2017 —A dark room. A hooded figure hunched over a keyboard. Lines of code on a monitor barely illuminate his face. An expression of glee as thousands of dollars are siphoned out of a victim’s bank account, followed by a pained look as a voice calls out, “Son, come take out the trash.” 

The stereotypical image of the teenage hacker in his parents’ basement is everywhere, even in our presidential debates. And yet, it couldn’t be further from reality. Hackers are a diverse bunch: young and old, PhDs and high school dropouts, and, increasingly, women.

But the one thing that unites all of the hackers I have met is intense curiosity. They want to know how things work, and they find out by taking things apart. Unfortunately, this proclivity has led to a number of misconceptions about hackers. Americans celebrate creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs, so the act of deconstructing others’ works is often seen as malicious.

This attitude, while pervasive, is misplaced. There are bad actors out there, who aim to use their skills to steal, extort or corrupt. But the majority of hackers, or cybersecurity researchers as they are sometimes known, are interested in solving the puzzle of how something works, probing its flaws, and then helping to shore up the weaknesses. This last point is very important: not only are most researchers uninterested in nefariously exploiting the vulnerabilities they find, they actively want to help fix them.

That help is sorely needed. Every day, thousands of new software products come on the market, from apps to connected devices. A car, for example, can have over 100 million lines of code powering its systems. These immensely complex systems inevitably contain errors. While most errors are innocuous – a garbled webpage or a crashed app – some can pose major security risks if not patched. The breaches that fill the headlines, from the Democratic National Committee to the Ukrainian power grid, are often a result of these vulnerabilities. 

Knowing these risks, companies are increasingly turning to hackers for help. Rather than threatening security researchers with legal action for disclosing code errors, forward-thinking businesses are providing clear avenues for hackers to report their findings.

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These vulnerability handling processes respect the time and effort hackers put in to discovering bugs by keeping clear lines of communication open and, often, providing some sort of acknowledgement to the finder. Occasionally, that acknowledgement comes in the form of cash, a “bug bounty” based on the severity of the issue. Vulnerability disclosure policies leverage the power of the crowd to improve security and save companies money.

While vulnerability handling has exploded across industry in the past several years, the federal government has lagged behind. Despite operating tens of thousands of websites and myriad other software products, the government has not provided any clear avenue for patriotic-minded hackers to disclose security issues.

Thankfully, forward-thinking leaders in the government are beginning to change that. Last year, the Department of Defense hosted the first-ever federal bug bounty program, “Hack the Pentagon.” Over four weeks, 1,400 hackers discovered more than 125 security vulnerabilities at a fraction of the cost per bug of existing programs. The Pentagon has since begun an expansion of the program, and the Internal Revenue Service announced that it, too, would begin offering bug bounties on a limited basis.

More importantly, federal agencies are finally beginning to welcome public service-minded hackers with full-fledged vulnerability disclosure policies. The General Services Administration released a draft policy for comment in October, and, in November, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter unveiled a Pentagon-wide policy. I commend outgoing Secretary Carter and the other leaders in these agencies for their efforts to treat hackers not solely as adversaries but as valuable allies as well.

These policies are nascent and will inevitably need some tweaking. They also cover only a fraction of the services provided by the government. But they represent an inflection point in our thinking about the security research community, and I hope the new federal Chief Information Security Officer makes expanding these programs a priority. 

Changing the image of hackers is tough. But I am glad the federal government is finally moving beyond stereotypes and embracing the potential for security researchers to improve our nation’s cybersecurity.

Congressman Jim Langevin (D) of Rhode Island is the cofounder and cochair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, and a senior member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees.

Can Congress help boost US digital defenses?

Kevin Lamarque

After US intelligence officials blamed Russia for interfering in November's vote, a new Senate subcommittee will help the Defense Department build up its digital arsenal for the next generation of cybersecurity threats. 

JANUARY 25, 2017 —President Trump isn't the only person in Washington pledging to revamp the nation's approach to cybersecurity. 

The new commander-in-chief has tasked former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani with forming a team to boost US digital defenses, and Congress wants to help the Pentagon streamline its computer attacking and defending capabilities. 

Earlier this month, Senate Armed Services committee chairman John McCain (R) of Arizona tapped Sen. Mike Rounds (R) of South Dakota to lead a new subcommittee that will oversee the Pentagon's potential efforts to shake up the cybersecurity bureaucracy and prepare for a new generation of digital threats from Moscow, China, and Iran. 

“This is an ever-changing environment that puts challenges on our Defense Department and intelligence communities,” Mr. Rounds told Passcode. “As our adversaries and competitors continue to improve, we have to offer deterrence.”

Though Mr. McCain and Rounds have not outlined a specific agenda for the subcommittee, scheduled to begin hearings later this year, President Obama signed a budget in December that promises big changes to how the Pentagon handles cybersecurity. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would elevate Cyber Command to a fully fledged combatant command and decouple the military unit from the National Security Agency.

It's not clear yet whether the Trump administration will implement those changes. Rounds told Passcode that he hasn't made up his mind about splitting the roles, but said having NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers in both positions since 2014 "had some advantages."