18 February 2017

*** How to Lose the War in Afghanistan

Daniel L. Davis

It is now official beyond question. The senior ranks of the U.S. military and foreign-policy leadership have now fully succumbed to the belief that all problems in the Middle East and South Asia must include, at their core, the application of lethal military power. No other alternative is considered. Worse, the military solutions they advocate have literally no chance of accomplishing the national objectives sought. The latest damning evidence: the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan testified before the Senate last week that he believes thousands of additional U.S. troops should be sent back to Afghanistan.

It is difficult to overstate the utter bankruptcy of a strategy designed to bring peace to Afghanistan based on sending large numbers of U.S. service members back into harm’s way. The Washington Post reported in early February that Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. said he “believes the new president may be open to a more robust military effort that is ‘objectives-based.’ Questioned by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.), the general said he can definitely carry out his mission with less than 50,000 coalition troops, but hesitated a bit when asked if he could do so with less than 30,000.”

The results of sixteen years conducting counterinsurgency, foreign military training and counterterrorism operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan should argue persuasively against repeating such a strategy. The results have been utter and complete failures on the strategic level. Supporters of using COIN and CT cite the Iraq “surge” of 2007 as an example of how a properly run operation can succeed. Such endorsements expose a significant lack of understanding of what actually happened in 2007 and, of greater importance, that those individuals have a marked inability to see beyond tactical outcomes.

*** A Storm Is Brewing Over Europe

Storm clouds are once again gathering above the eurozone. In coming months, its continuity will be threatened by events in Europe and the United States. Germany, the largest political and economic player in Europe, will try to keep the bloc together. But the crisis could be too big for Berlin to handle, especially since some of the actors involved see Germany as a part of the problem rather than the solution.

U.S. President Donald Trump recently described the European Union as "a vehicle for Germany." He and members of his administration argue that Germany's industry has benefited significantly since the introduction of the euro in the early 2000s. The boon to Germany, the argument goes, is that the common European currency is weaker than the deutsche mark would be; the result is more competitive German exports. Trump was not the first U.S. president to criticize Germany's trade surplus, the biggest in the world. But he was the first to suggest the United States could take countermeasures against German exports.

Some of Germany's own eurozone partners have also accused the country of exporting too much and importing too little, a situation that leads to low unemployment in Germany and to high unemployment elsewhere in the currency area. Their charges, however, do not focus on the value of the euro (which is set by the European Central Bank) but on Berlin's tight fiscal policies, which restrict domestic consumption and limit Germans' appetite for imports. The European Commission and the International Monetary Fund have asked Germany to increase investment in public infrastructure and raise the wages of German workers.

** An executive’s guide to software development

By Chandra Gnanasambandam, Martin Harrysson, Rahul Mangla, and Shivam Srivastava

This essential capability is a blind spot for many nontech leaders. 

In his 2013 message to GE shareholders, CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt wrote, “We believe that every industrial company will become a software company.” Last year, he doubled down, moving GE’s corporate headquarters from Fairfield, Connecticut, to Boston, in large part to lure world-class software engineers in the area. 

GE is not alone in upping its bet on software-driven innovation. Today, a Tesla car has more lines of code than macOS or the Windows Vista operating system. However, the fact is that many companies that have made their fortunes outside of high tech—in medical devices, retail, and other analog industries—have been slow to catch on to this game-changing shift in what drives sustainable innovation, the shift from creating physical goods and experiences to smart software development. 

Despite the mission-critical nature of software, it gets surprisingly little attention in the C-suite. Even those who have built decent software-development capabilities often have done so on the cheap; software executives are rarely given a seat at the table of top management, and software strategy is often determined three to five layers down the hierarchy. Companies pay a steep price for dismissing software’s importance. These include the following: 

** It’s high time for a U.S. Space Force Make It So.

By James Hasik

“TRUMP LAUNCHES SPACE WAR,” intoned Politico Morning Defense last week. Journalist Greg Hallman was not-quite-quoting colleague Bryan Bender’s article “Trump advisers' space plan: to moon, Mars and beyond” in Politico itself of the same day. According to documents filched from the White House, he wrote, the administration is considering “a 'rapid and affordable' return to the moon by 2020, the construction of privately-operated space stations, and the redirection of NASA's mission to 'the large-scale economic development of space’.” In all fairness, that’s no war at all, and good on that. One needn’t watch a Sandra Bullock movie to understand how space wars could get out of hand quickly. But as Paul Shinkman recently wrote for US News & World Report, those using space the most will have the most to lose. That lesson is not lost on the Russians and Chinese, so if the rest of us are using space, we’ll want to defend what we put there. Who should do that for us is another question—of whether the US needs a dedicated military force to defend its interests in space, and its use of space from here.

The question is not new. In the spring of 1999 (“The Challenge of Space Power”), then-Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire argued in Airpower Journal for a separate Space Force or Space Corps. The Congress then demanded that the Clinton Administration investigate the possible need for a separate service. In January 2001, the Commission to Assess United States' National Security Space Management and Organization returned a negative recommendation, finding that the costs of reorganization outweighed the benefits. In July 2004 ("Will We Need a Space Force?"), Richard Moorehead of the Air Force argued in the Army's Military Review that a separate service wasn’t necessary just then, but would be eventually. After all, the US had no weapons in space, or even weapons pointed into space. Nothing of that ilk has changed in the past 13 years. But as Malcolm Davis wrote last fall for The Strategist, “both Russia and China are continuing to ignore US efforts to prevent the weaponisation of space.” The Air Force's new “Spaceplanes on the High Frontier”—starting with the X-37B—may soon provide—and need to provide—“close-in escort capabilities” for exposed American satellites.


by Mark Safranski

Background: Aleppo has fallen and with it the last shreds of credibility of President Obama’s policy on Syria. None of Obama’s policy goals for Syria since the Arab Spring revolt were achieved. In Syria, the Assad regime has crushed western-backed opposition fighters with direct Russian and Iranian military ground support; the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) still controls swaths of Syrian territory[1] and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally Turkey has conspired with Iran and Russia to exclude the U.S. and UN[2] from Syrian settlement talks.

Significance: While Syria itself is of little strategic value to the U.S. beyond secondary implications for Israeli security, the utter failure of the Obama administration has brought U.S. diplomatic prestige to a nadir reminiscent of the Iranian hostage crisis or the fall of Saigon. Worse, defeat in Syria occurred in a broader context of successful Russian aggression in Ukraine, uncontested Russian meddling in an U.S. presidential election, and perceptions of U.S. strategic concessions to Tehran in the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA[3]). Should the next administration want to accomplish more than Obama, it is vital that they 1) address Syria within the context of increased Russian-U.S. competition and 2) seize the initiative in restoring the influence of U.S. leadership with substantive and symbolic policy changes in regard to Syria and Russia.

Option #1: Salvage Syria primarily in terms of a comprehensive re-ordering of U.S.-Russian relations to reduce threats to international stability from inter- and intra- state conflict. Henry Kissinger’s concept of “linkage[4]” should be revived as a guiding principle rather than treating all points of international conflict or cooperation with Moscow as unrelated and occupying separate boxes. Russian misbehavior needs to be met with appropriate countermeasures. If U.S. diplomats are assaulted by Federal Security Service (FSB) thugs, Russian diplomats in the U.S. are restricted to their embassies. If U.S. elections are hacked, Russia’s large number of intelligence officers under diplomatic cover in the U.S. are promptly expelled. If “little green men” appear in friendly states, the U.S. instigates tough banking, economic or security aid pressure on Moscow. Likewise, instead of trading public insults, the U.S. under Option #1 should negotiate frankly over Russian concerns and be prepared to build on points of cooperation and make concessions on a reciprocal basis. If the U.S. could strike deals with Brezhnev we can do so with Putin.

India Set To Test Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile

James Di Pane, Lisa Curtis

A key American partner, India, is set to conduct another missile test that will have a wide range of consequences on regional dynamics for years to come.

India’s new K-4 nuclear-capable, submarine-launched ballistic missile is expected to have a range of 3,500 kilometers, a serious improvement over its current operational missile of the same kind.

When coupled with India’s burgeoning nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine program, India is set to seriously increase its second-strike capability in the coming years.

This trend aligns with India’s ongoing efforts to modernize its military with particular focus on naval power. A heftier military capability will extend India’s national influence and potentially rival China.

India’s current operational submarine-launched ballistic missile, the K-15, has a range of approximately 750 kilometers and was designed to be used by the INS Arihant, India’s first indigenously built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.

While the Arihant is primarily a training platform that will be used to train crews for future nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, it is also capable of conducting deterrence patrols. India currently has plans to build up to five nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines of a similar design in the future.

Fifth column: Beyond black money

by Tavleen Singh

The fact that demonetisation was handled so inefficiently should tell the Prime Minister that administrative reforms are almost more important now than economic reforms.

What intrigued me most about the Prime Minister’s raincoat speech in the Rajya Sabha last week was its self-congratulatory tone. He spoke in detail about his dramatic withdrawal of more than 85 per cent of our currency, and patted himself on the back for taking an economic step so spectacular that world-famous economists were now analysing it. Nobody had ever dared do such a thing before, he declared proudly, adding that his dramatic move had immense popular support. In a country where a small incident could cause a big riot, he explained, there had been no public expression of rage. In exactly a month from now, we will know how much popular support there really is. Elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur have become a virtual referendum on Narendra Modi’s grand gesture.

What I would like to humbly submit is that on my travels lately I have met fewer people who support what happened than I did in the initial stages of the currency withdrawal. Earlier there was general support from our poorest citizens for two reasons. They liked to see rich people queue with them outside banks and they hoped that at least some of the ‘black’ money would end up soon in their own languishing Jan Dhan accounts. The queues have now almost disappeared and accounts remain empty, so support is beginning to wane. While travelling through Lucknow and rural Uttar Pradesh I met parents who suffered terribly from not having money to pay for medical emergencies, farmers who had made distress sales of their produce and small businessmen who had lost everything. But that is not the point of this piece. What is done is done.

U.S. Commander Warns of Russian, Iranian, Pakistani Influence in Afghanistan

By Voice of America

Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 9, 2017, before the Senate Armed Services Senate Committee.

WASHINGTON - The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says Russia, Pakistan and Iran are pursuing their own agendas with regard to the fragile country, complicating the fight against terrorism and extremism.

"We're concerned about outside actors," General John Nicholson told VOA's Afghan service in an interview.

Russia, which had an ill-fated intervention into Afghanistan that started in 1979 and ended nearly a decade later, has been trying to exert influence in the region again and has set up six-country peace talks next week that are excluding the United States. Nicholson worries about Russia's links with the Taliban.

"Russia has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban," he said. "Meanwhile, the Taliban supports terrorists. I'm very sorry to see Russia supporting the Taliban and narcoterrorism."

Moscow denies that it provides aid to the Taliban and says its contacts with the group are aimed at encouraging them to enter peace talks.

Taliban Role in Peace Efforts

Despite the Taliban's history of violence and extremism, Nicholson didn't rule out a role for the Taliban in the peace process, saying there were elements in the group that appeared to be more pragmatic about the country's prospects for peace.

Russia Gathers Stakeholders, Sans U.S. or NATO, for Afghanistan Conference

Source Link
By Voice of America

ISLAMABAD — Russia is hosting a conference in Moscow this week that will bring together Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iran to discuss a possible solution of the conflict in Afghanistan.

This meeting is part of Russia's effort at playing a more pro-active role in Afghanistan for the first time since its invasion of the country in 1979. Its efforts, however, have encountered controversies at the very outset.

The last conference Moscow hosted on Afghanistan in December included only China and Pakistan, prompting a strong protest from the Afghan government.

The one this week is more inclusive of the regional stakeholders, but excludes the United States or NATO, leading to speculation that Russia is more interested in undermining the Unites States than in solving the regional problems.

At a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chairman Senator John McCain said Russia is propping up the Taliban to undermine the U.S.

“Given how troubling the situation is in Afghanistan, any efforts by any outside stakeholder to look for regional solutions to the war there should be welcomed,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy Asia director at the Washington based Wilson Center. The question he asked, however, was what is Russia trying to do.

“Is it genuinely trying to rally the key players to come up with an actionable plan to wind down the war? Or is it just trying to scale up its role in Afghanistan to undercut U.S. influence?”

Other regional analysts, however, are looking at the development with more optimism.

“This framework does include all the regional players that have a major stake in Afghanistan,” according to Amina Khan of the Institute for Strategic Studies Islamabad, a Pakistani government run think tank.

“Terrorism is a global phenomena but I think regional countries need to play a more pro-active role,” she added.

Is Pakistan Ready to Counter ISIS?

By Hammal Kashani

In Pakistan, the debate over the Islamic States’ presence, and its potential to jeopardize national security, resurfaced again after a recent briefing given to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on the contemporary situation of Afghanistan. U.S. lawmakers were briefed by Gen John Nicholson Jr., the commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. The general informed the committee that “the majority of the fighters in the IS [Islamic State] right now came from the TTP, the Pakistani Taliban.” With such revelations, it’s imperative to trace the roots of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Pakistan and scale Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy to deal with this evolving challenge.

The footprints of ISIS soon emerged in Pakistan after the main group’s terrifying launch in Middle East. In mid-2014, pro-ISIS graffiti and propaganda – namely a booklet called “Fateh” – soon appeared on the streets of Peshawar, Karachi, and the Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA). However, the Islamic State’s tangible presence was first reported in November 2014, when a confidential report by the provincial government of Balochistan to the federal government warned of the group’s increased footprints in Pakistan. According to the report, “IS has claimed to have recruited a massive 10 to 12,000 followers from the Hangu and Kurram Agency tribal areas.” In addition to this, the report also called for adopting preventive measures to halt its growth.

The World's Leader in Super Deadly Hypersonic Weapons: China?

Kris Osborn

The US wants to say in front of China with hypersonic weapons able to travel at five-times the speed of sound and destroy targets with a "kinetic energy" warhead.

The Air Force will likely have high-speed, long-range and deadly hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, providing kinetic energy destructive power able to travel thousands of miles toward enemy targets at five-times the speed of sound.

“Air speed makes them much more survivable and hard to shoot down. If you can put enough fuel in them that gets them a good long range. You are going roughly a mile a second so if you put in 1,000 seconds of fuel you can go 1,000 miles - so that gives you lots of standoff capability,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview. 

While much progress has been made by Air Force and Pentagon scientists thus far, much work needs to be done before hypersonic air vehicles and weapons are technologically ready to be operational in combat circumstances.

“Right now we are focusing on technology maturation so all the bits and pieces, guidance, navigation control, material science, munitions, heat transfer and all that stuff,” Zacharias added.

Russia's MiG-25 Fighter: Designed to Wipe Out America's (Never Built) Supersonic Bomber Force

Robert Farley

Designed to shoot down a bomber that never existed, the bugbear of the MiG-25 helped spur development of one of the finest fighters to ever fly. It would provide a template for the MiG-31, which remains in service today with the Russian Air Force, and which will continue to fly for the foreseeable future. But the few remaining MiG-25s operate in situations unimaginable to their designers, and generally with quite limited effectiveness. Built with a specific mission in mind, the Foxbat never proved flexible enough to adapt to different strategic contexts.

In the late 1960s, the USSR debuted what appeared to be the world’s deadliest fighter. The MiG-25 (NATO term “Foxbat”) could outrun any fighter in the air, and indeed any military aircraft other than the SR-71 Blackbird.

Bearing a wicked name, a forbidding profile, and some great stats, the Foxbat looked like a world-beater. Combining exceedingly high speed with high altitude tolerance and a heavy weapons load, it looked as if the plane could contribute effectively on the Central Front while also helping to immunize Soviet airspace from U.S. penetration. Combined with the lessons of third-generation fighters in Vietnam, the existence of the Foxbat helped spur U.S. innovation, pushing the development of the F-15 Eagle.

Russia's Best Fighter Jet Ever: The MiG-21?

Robert Farley

The MiG-21 currently serves in eighteen air forces worldwide, including two members of NATO (Romania and Croatia). Fishbeds flew in about forty other air forces (counting is difficult because sometimes countries ceased to exist before the MiGs that served them) since 1960. The J/F-7 serves another thirteen countries, and has been retired by four. China, Russia, and Ukraine still carry out maintenance and update work on existing aircraft. The advent of 3D printing may make it even easier for current operators to keep their Fishbeds in service, as they can produce spares and upgrades in country.

Military aircraft can have notoriously short lifespans, especially during periods of technological ferment. The most elite aircraft of World War I could become obsolete in a matter of months. Things weren’t much different in World War II. And at the dawn of the jet age, entire fleets of aircraft became passé as technologies matured. The advanced fighters that fought in the skies over Korea became junk just a few years later.

But a few designs stand the test of the time. The B-52 Stratofortress first flew in 1952, yet remains in service today. New C-130s continue to roll off the production line, based on a design that became operational in 1954.

Change Has Not Come to the Middle East


At first glance, it would appear that the Middle East President Donald J. Trump now faces is far different than the region which confronted President Barack Obama in 2009. The Arab uprisings of 2011 swept away the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. Civil war has rent apart and depopulated Syria, once the cosmopolitan heart of the Arab world. The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) has carved out a terrorist quasi-state straddling Iraq and Syria, albeit one that is rapidly shrinking. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is experiencing its most prolonged lull since the 1993 Oslo Accords. And the once rapidly-escalating Iran nuclear crisis has been paused by the negotiation of the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA) – the only one of these developments for which Obama likely desires credit.

Yet the real story in the Middle East is not how much things have changed, but – when one digs a bit deeper – how little. The economic and political stagnation that birthed the 2011 uprisings has, if anything, worsened. Youth unemployment in the Arab world stood at 29 percent in 2013, more than double the global average of 13 percent and higher than any other region of the world.EVEN as the rest of the world worries about instability in the Middle East, the people of the region themselves overwhelmingly listed not security but their economic situation as their topmost concern – 88 percent prioritized economic woes compared to one percent who listed security concerns in Egypt, according to the Arab Barometer 2014.

The rise of ISIS did not occur in a vacuum; it was abetted by the Syrian government’s ongoing brutal repression of its own people, and the sectarianism practiced by then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Both were enabled by Iran, whose shock troops have sustained Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war, and whose backing of Iraqi militias threatens to undo whatever gains are made against ISIS in places like Mosul and Anbar province. Iran’s power across the region has grown despite the JCPOA – or arguably because of it. The U.S. and other powers refrained from pushing back on Tehran’s regional ambitions in hopes of cinching and then preserving a nuclear deal.

I Got a Story to Tell: Who Does What in National Security Policy?

Van Jackson

For several compounding reasons, experts believe the Trump administration has more novices and under-qualified appointees in leadership positions than any since the United States became a great power.

A trove of Republican foreign policy experts are reportedly blacklisted from joining the administration for signing #NeverTrump letters during the presidential campaign. Republicans have had their “foreign policy fitness” atrophy naturally because of their exclusion from policymaking in the Obama administration the past eight years. And several senior level career bureaucrats have abruptly left government since Trump took office. Moreover, Trump is famously derisive of think tanks, and has mostly bucked the tradition of drawing on the expertise of policy wonks and scholars who’ve spent their careers mastering a particular field of knowledge or practice.

This witches’ brew of happenstance, opportunity cost, and anti-intellectualism makes understanding how national security policy is made unusually important, because even if Trump and his inner circle disdain established policy practice, most of official Washington lives by it — and always will.

Calcutta's architecture is unique. Its destruction is a disaster for the city

Amit Chaudhuri

The author and critic is spearheading a campaign to preserve the Bengali houses of his birthplace. He explains why reconnecting with the city’s cosmopolitan architectural heritage is crucial to Calcutta’s future 

Iwas born in Calcutta, but we moved to Bombay when I was one and a half years old, maybe in early 1964. The company my father worked in had relocated its head office in the face of growing labour unrest; the move was part of the general egress of industry from the city.

We continued to visit Calcutta once, sometimes twice, a year. My mother’s brother lived there with his family in Pratapaditya Road, in the historic neighbourhood of Bhowanipore, South Calcutta. He is a Jadavpur University graduate and German-trained civil engineer. By the time I got to know him as a child, he’d abandoned his job and set out with friends, establishing a factory that made machines in Howrah, Calcutta’s industrial district across the river Hooghly. Given the political turbulence of the 1960s, the business was a long-drawn-out failure. My uncle, however, never wavered from his faith in the Left.

Delegating the Dirty Work to U.S. Allies Is Smart Counterterrorism

William Wechsler

ONE OF the few things that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have in common is that they reversed their long-standing approaches to counterterrorism during their very last years in office. They initially held diametrically opposed military policies, with Bush choosing invasion and occupation and Obama preferring disengagement and drone strikes. But by the end of their second terms they had both ended up in roughly the same place, with a central focus on indirect action—enabling local forces to achieve U.S. counterterrorism objectives.

Through long periods of trial and error, constrained by a common reluctance to change course, but in the end having their hands forced by growing terrorist threats and events spiraling out of control, both presidents finally came to adopt the only set of counterterrorism policies that have been shown to succeed over the long run. It is important that President Donald Trump avoid repeating this painful and time-consuming learning curve.

Doing so will require him to accept lessons from his predecessors’ experiences. President Bush’s central mistakes are relatively easy to avoid. Simply follow the advice offered repeatedly by strategists from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and, if at all possible, avoid having American forces fight large conventional land wars in Asia. Eventually, President Bush largely extricated the United States from his self-dug hole through the combination of shifting to counterinsurgency operations, cultivating the Sons of Iraq, building the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and supporting the revolution in U.S. special-operations targeting led by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. But the success of “the surge” came only after the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the explosion of Salafi jihadist terrorism. It is difficult to argue that Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State would have emerged in the absence of the initial U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

ISIL & Drones: Understand the Network to Defeat the Network

by Noah B. Cooper

The employment of weaponized drone technology by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a unique innovation that demands the mobilization of the defense industry to develop an immediate solution. Well, not exactly. This sensationalistic narrative contains both fact and hyperbole - there exists documented evidence of an ISIL drone program and there have been several instances of ISIL successfully dropping small munitions on Iraqi military positions, but the enemy’s use of drones is yet another demonstration of a materially weaker opponent adapting technology to exploit the vulnerabilities of a stronger foe.

Exaggerations of the problem statement aside, the weaponization of drones by ISIL is an operational issue that necessitates scrutiny and effort to degrade the enemy’s employment of this capability. However, the various entities compromising the collective organizations addressing this matter will no doubt seek diverging approaches. The U.S. military’s development and fielding of expensive, technological solutions to contend with low-technology implements adapted for battlefield use by the enemy has emerged as consistent practice for an institution that leverages the nearly unlimited financial resources of the U.S. government. Nevertheless, and particularly in fiscally austere times, high-cost systems that have long production times are not ideal solutions. A partial solution to this problem is not expensive, created from exotic materials, or overly glamorous, but rather, an approach that requires only the slightest redirection of priorities: the use of the intelligence process to discern the enemy network.

Opinion: How to build public trust in our data-powered universe

Chris Young

FEBRUARY 15, 2017 —Do you trust your data? Recent headline events make that an essential question.

All around us is proof that the newest persistent threat in cybersecurity – and perhaps the most pernicious – is data manipulation. When millions debate the validity of a national election or the veracity of news stories, the role of information security in a smooth-functioning society has never been clearer. After data landmines deliberately planted by cybercriminals are detonated, we are confounded on where truth ends and fiction begins.

No matter your politics, I think we can agree: Data drives decisions, and decisions make history. But what if vandals pervert data used as a foundation for civic policy or military action? This is the so-called Big Data era, in which countless organizations base pivotal decisions on information they presume accurate.

We know individuals scan their news feeds today with a fresh realization that things actually may not be as they are presented, but now government and business leaders alike also wonder where and when truth is replaced by slant, bias, or outright fiction. We can’t let the era of Big Data give way to a future of Bad Data.

Thankfully, Big Data is not the problem. Small data is the big story.

As we’ve abruptly realized, the weaponization of data at the micro level is a serious challenge. When data is poisoned, our adversaries are messing not only with our minds, they are messing with what matters most. The best response, though, may surprise you: think small.

Officials: Getting authority for cyber ops is tedious, but in a good way

by Mark Pomerleau

Cyber authorities, which have been a much belabored process, are beginning to transition more from the highest levels of government – which initially viewed them as a strategic asset – to the operational level.

Originally, the thinking on cyber operations was everything had to be controlled by the president because operations in cyberspace were all thought to shut down the internet, Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, deputy commanding general for operations at Army Cyber Command told reporters Feb. 8 during a media roundtable.

As Cyber Command is currently engaged in cyberwarfare against the Islamic State group, Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, director of Army Cyber Directorate at the Pentagon, told reporters authorities in this effort have changed over time as the president – both Obama and Trump in a continuation of the previous policy – has delegated authority for the counter-ISIS operations down.

When looking at how Cyber Command is executing operations today, deconfliction from the team presenting a concept of operation for an effect comes from any of the joint force headquarters goes up to Cyber Command, Frost said, adding that this has been a learning process and refined over the last decade-plus.

Army takes strategic cyber capabilities to the tactical edge

by Mark Pomerleau

Cyber has been thought of as a strategic asset, used as an intelligence-gathering tool and later as a warfighting discipline — following the declaration of cyberspace a domain of warfare and the standup of Cyber Command. Now, the Army is looking to transition that capability to a tactical asset.

The original thinking behind cyber operations was that everything had to be controlled by the president because operations in cyberspace were all thought to shut down the internet, Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, deputy commanding general for operations at Army Cyber Command, told reporters Feb. 8 during a media roundtable. “That’s not what we’re finding,” McGee noted.

What they’re finding is that forces can have a localized effect to accomplish missions, he said, adding that there is undoubtedly a tactical application for cyberspace applications.

The Army has been taking steps toward this paradigm shift since former chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno directed the start of a pilot program called Cyber Support to Corps and Below, which seeks to integrate cyber effects at the tactical edge by embedding cyber forces with brigade combat teams. These effects have been tested at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California.

Commercial sector has concerns with cyber status quo

by Mark Pomerleau

Unlike conventional military equipment — which while made by private industry is exclusively for military use — cyber tools and infrastructure are by and large globally commercial systems used by civilians and governments.

“We used to be able to go out to a hacking conference and come back with zero-day vulnerabilities or new things people were working on,” said Paul Nicholas, Microsoft Global Security Strategy and Diplomacy team lead. “Suddenly, those conversations stopped and they began to get smaller and smaller because there were new entrances in the market in buying vulnerabilities.”

Speaking at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Feb. 6, Nicholas said industry began to experience zero-day cyberattacks because they no longer had visibility into what security researchers were studying. Both governments and criminal organizations seek to purchase and even horde zero-day vulnerabilities, some of which can individually cost millions.

The previous White House reacted by creating a vulnerabilities equities process in which any such vulnerability discovered by anyone — private or public sector — is disclosed for patching. The National Security Agency was recently caught with its pants down following a breach of its alleged cyber tools by an organization known as Shadow Brokers. The group released information on the hacking tools that took advantage of zero-day vulnerabilities the agency horded, which, if exploited, could have ramifications for systems used by a wide base of commercial users.


Stacy Liberatore writes in the February 9, 2017 edition of the Daily Mail Online about a new technique/tool that cyber criminals are using to steal cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs) across the globe. The malware hides itself in the computer’s memory to avoid detection;” and, thus far, investigators haven’t been able to forensically pinpoint who is responsible for this wave of cyber theft. Kaspersky Lab, a cyber security firm based in Russia was the first company/entity to diagnose the hacking technique,” the Daily Mail noted. “The use of open source exploit code, common Windows utilities, and unknown domains makes it almost impossible to determine the group responsible — or, even whether it is a single group, or several groups sharing the same [hacking] tools,” and techniques. “The attack [hack], uses only legitimate software: widely available penetration-testing and administrator tools, as well as the PowerShell framework for task automation in Windows,” the Daily Mail reported. “Unlike most other attacks, it drops no malware files onto the hard drive; and instead — hides them in memory. This combined approach helps to avoid detection by white-listing technologies; and, leaves [cyber] forensic investigators with almost no artefacts [their spelling] [clues] or malware samples to work with. The attackers stay around just long enough to gather information before their traces are wiped from the system on the first reboot.

Ms. Liberatore writes that “the code hides in the memory, invisibly collecting the passwords of system administrators– so that the attackers [hackers can] could remotely control the victims systems.” “The ultimate goal appears to have been access to financial processes,’ Kaspersky said. “What’s interesting here, is that these attacks are ongoing globally, against the banks themselves,” Ksapersky Lab expert Kurt Baumgartner told the cyber security website, Ars Technica. “The banks have not been adequately prepared, in many cases, to deal with this,” Mr. Baumgartner added. “They are pushing money out of the banks, and from within the banks — by targeting computers that operate automatic teller machines (ATMs).”

Automated Eyes In The Sky

by Jules Hurst 

An unmarked IL-76 Cargo Aircraft lands at an international airport just before dawn and a team of workers swarm the plane. As cranes and forklifts quickly unload the telephone-pole sized missiles of an S-400 battery, a Skysat-7 microsatellite passes over 500 km above, recording high-resolution video of the whole event. In near real-time, the satellite beams the imagery down to a cluster computer-filled ground station and linked CPUs begin running analytic algorithms against stills in the video data, screening the terrain for vehicular objects, measuring them from pixel length, and ultimately comparing suspected objects to equipment databases. After vehicles are identified, cluster computers compare the possible matches to a list of weapon systems prohibited by a United Nations arms embargo before sending an automated message to a private-sector imagery analyst monitoring for violations: Possible S-400 Battery Components, REF IMAGE. In a matter of minutes, the analyst receives the video and confirms the algorithms’ findings, improving the code’s reliability through machine learning by validating its analysis. With a quick phone call, the analyst notifies United Nations inspectors on the ground, who rapidly move to intercept the missiles.

Pinpointing trouble spots in Trump’s cybersecurity executive order


CYBER EO SCUTTLEBUTT — More people are circulating the latest draft of the Trump administration’s upcoming cybersecurity executive order. POLITICO has now received an identical draft from multiple sources both in and out of government, firming up the details we reported Tuesday night.

One section on botnets — infected networks of electronic devices digital attackers use to launch massive attacks — has caught the eye of private companies, according to those who work with the firms. The draft order directs the Commerce Department to work with companies behind “core communications infrastructure” to identify what actions they can take to better secure their networks. But the passage has concerned some who feel the language misses the point of botnets, which affect electronic devices across a wide range of industries. For instance, the recent cyberattack that made high-profile websites like The New York Times and Spotify unreachable relied on a hijacked network of internet-connected devices — such as cameras and baby monitors — to flood Dyn, a top domain name service provider, with fake traffic.

Yet others were optimistic about the draft order’s instructions to investigate where the government can consolidate its networks and move to shared IT services, such as email. And everyone who reviewed it agreed the latest text is a considerable improvement from an early draft that circulated.