29 June 2017

Cabinet decisions on allowances of Government Employees: To be paid with effect from 01 July 2017

Here is a gist of today’s major cabinet decisions for allowances of Central Government employees based on recommendations of the 7th Central Pay Commission, in layperson terms:

1. Total number of allowances decreased from 197 to 128. To be paid with effect from 01 July 2017.

2. An additional Cell for Siachen introduced in the Risk and Hardship Matrix. The amount enhanced to Rs 42,500 for Officers and Rs 30,000 for ranks other than Commissioned Officers. The rates recommended by the 7th CPC were Rs 31,500 and Rs 21,000 respectively.

3. HRA rates decreased to 24%, 16% and 8% for X, Y and Z cities respectively. However the rates to go up to 27%, 18% and 9% and then 30%, 20% and 10% whenever the rates of DA touch 25% and 50% respectively. The HRA would however remain protected at 30%, 20% and 10% for the lowest possible pay under the Government and would not hence be less than Rs 5400, Rs 3600 and Rs 1800 for any employee.

4. Newly proposed Dress Allowance to be paid @Rs 5000, 10,000, 15,000 and 20,000 per year to employees of various categories. This subsumes all other uniform related allowances.

5. Ration Money Allowance (RMA) not abolished but will be paid directly with the salary in lieu of actual rations to officers posted in peace. Will update readers once there is more clarity on this issue.

6. Facility of One additional Railway Warrant extended to CAPFs and Coast Guard.

7. Field Area Allowances to be regulated @Rs 6,000-16,900. Counter Insurgency Allowance also at the same rates.

8. MARCOS and Chariot Allowance to Marine Commandos and also COBRA Allowance to CRPF personnel in Naxal areas to be granted @Rs 17,300-25,000.

9. Flying allowance @Rs17,300 to 25,000, also extended to BSF’s Air Wing.

10. Deputation Duty Allowance ceiling for defence personnel increased from ₹2000 - ₹4500 per month to ₹4500 - ₹9000 per month.

11. Fixed Medical Allowance for pensioners increased to Rs 1000 per month and Constant Attendant Allowance increased to Rs 6,750.

*** Technology Helps the Lawless Find Digital Safe Spaces

By Scott Stewart

Advancements in digital encryption will soon put the communications of terrorists and other criminals beyond the reach of law enforcement. And in the wake of the London Bridge attack on June 3, United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to work with democratic governments on cyberspace regulations to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorist planning. The press and privacy advocates criticized her when she suggested that internet encryption was providing "safe spaces" for terrorists to operate.

During interviews with U.S., British and other media outlets after the attack, several journalists asked me what I thought of May's statement, half expecting me to pile on the criticism. Unfortunately, I couldn't, because in many ways I agree with what she's saying. Through digital encryption, terrorists and other criminals will soon have absolute privacy in the digital world — something they've never been able to enjoy in the physical world. The safe spaces, or dark holes, provided by encryption are helping organizations to recruit and equip grassroots terrorist operatives and to direct other operatives with an unprecedented level of security and impunity.

Origins of U.S. Privacy

*** Saudi Arabia Polishes Its Crown Jewel

It can be difficult to separate the important from unimportant on any given day. Reflections mean to do exactly that — by thinking about what happened today, we can consider what might happen tomorrow.

In the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the king is the ultimate decider. On June 21, King Salman implemented a significant decision by shaking up the line of succession to the kingdom's throne with the announcement that his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, would be removed from his role of crown prince in favor of his own son, Mohammed bin Salman. The elevation of his scion capped a two-year period during which Salman handed him successively greater power and more leadership responsibilities. While the shift marks a major change for the succession path, it follows a road the king has long traveled.

Several previous personnel and ministry makeovers since Salman took the throne in January 2015 have emphasized that economic reform is the kingdom's top priority. Amid the first major rounds of government streamlining, the king named bin Salman the head of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, adding to his other official titles such as minister of defense. In April 2016, the massive Vision 2030 economic reform plan was announced, and Mohammed bin Salman has been a public face for reform ever since.

** Military Areas of Control in the Waning Days of Islamic State

By Philip Issa

BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group is in retreat across Syria and Iraq, and the contours of a new conflict among the array of parties battling it are already starting to appear.

The U.S. military shot down a Syrian government warplane on Sunday, saying it had targeted an American-allied Kurdish force that is battling the extremists in their de facto capital, Raqqa. That led Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, to warn that it would target U.S.-led coalition planes flying west of the Euphrates River.

Another front is shaping up on the ground below, with Assad’s forces, which are also battling the Islamic State group, reaching the Iraqi border in the distant east. There they appear set to link up with Iranian-backed militias, establishing a vital land corridor from Damascus to Tehran.

The latest events are unfolding in Syria’s remote east, far from the main battles of the civil war, which is still raging despite a largely ignored “de-escalation” plan brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

** Russia Scuttles Its Grand Maritime Dreams

By Stratfor

A limited defense budget will force the Kremlin to make difficult decisions to prioritize its most critical defense needs. 

The Russian military will temper its maritime ambitions as it reinforces its continental capabilities. 

Russia will not entirely abandon the seas, however, as its greatest security concern will remain its nuclear deterrent, comprising land, air and maritime components. 

Russia's military modernization efforts are entering a critical stage. The state armaments program (GPV), covering 2018-2025, is due to be finalized in September. The plan will determine not only the country's weaponry capabilities well into the 2030s, but also the strategic direction of the Russian military at large. Early indications point toward a significant downgrade in Russia's maritime ambitions as Moscow amps up its focus on continental power.

* Setting up the defence industrial ecosystem

Last week was an interesting one for Indian defence manufacturing. On Monday, Tata Advanced Systems Ltd and US plane-maker Lockheed Martin Corp. signed an agreement at the Paris Air Show to produce F-16 fighter jets in India. On Tuesday, in Delhi, Reliance Defence entered into a strategic partnership with Serbia’s Yugoimport for ammunition manufacturing in India. On Wednesday, back in Paris, Reliance Defence joined hands with France’s Thales to set up a joint venture that will develop Indian capabilities in radars and high-tech airborne electronics.

In Moscow, on Friday, defence minister Arun Jaitley and his Russian counterpart signed off on a road map for strengthening bilateral military ties. Meanwhile, at home in India, the army rejected, for the second year in a row, an indigenously-built assault rifle after it failed field tests—a pointed reminder of how the country’s sub-par defence industry continues to damage the military’s operational preparedness.

A massive cyberattack is hitting organisations around the world

Danish transport and energy firm Maersk has confirmed that its IT systems are down across multiple sites due to a cyberattack, while Russian petroleum company Rosneft has reported a "massive hacker attack" hitting its servers.

Today's security threats have expanded in scope and seriousness. There can now be millions -- or even billions -- of dollars at risk when information security isn't handled properly. 

A number of firms around the world are reporting that they have been impacted by a major cyber attack which the UK's cyber security agency is describing as a "global ransomware incident." 

Many of the initial reports of organisations affected came from Ukraine, including banks, energy companies and even Kiev's main airport. But since then more incidents have been reported across Europe, indicating the incident is affecting more organisations more widely. 

New cyberattack wreaking havoc globally

by Raphael Satter

A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across the world, hitting companies and governments in Europe especially hard.

Officials in Ukraine reported serious intrusions of the country’s power grid as well as at banks and government offices, where one senior executive posted a photo of a darkened computer screen and the words, “the whole network is down.” The prime minister cautioned that the country’s “vital systems” hadn’t been affected.

Russia’s Rosneft oil company also reported falling victim to hacking and said it had narrowly avoided major damage, as did Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk.

“We are talking about a cyberattack,” said Anders Rosendahl, a spokesman for the Copenhagen-based shipping group. “It has affected all branches of our business, at home and abroad.”
The attack was confirmed to have spread beyond Europe when U.S. drugmaker Merck, based in New Jersey, said its systems had also been compromised.

The number of companies and agencies reportedly affected by the ransomware campaign was piling up fast, and the electronic rampage appeared to be rapidly snowballing into a worldwide crisis.
There’s very little information about what might be behind the disruption at each specific company, but cybersecurity experts rapidly zeroed in on a form of ransomware, the name given to programs that hold data hostage by scrambling it until a payment is made.

Narendra Modi is a fine administrator, but not much of a reformer

FEW countries would see a tax requiring some businesses to file over 1,000 returns a year as an improvement. But India might. A nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) is set to come into force on July 1st. It will replace such a tangle of national and local levies and duties that even the prospect of 37 annual filings (three a month plus an annual return) for each of India’s 29 states in which a business operates is a relief by comparison.

By replacing domestic tariffs, the new tax should rid India of checkposts at internal borders, where lorries carrying goods typically languish for hours. Less red tape, however, comes with complications. Most countries with a value-added tax settle on a single rate for many goods and services. India has opted for six, ranging from zero to 28%. Officialdom decrees, for example, that shampoo, wallpaper and fizzy water are luxuries to be taxed at 28%; eyeliner, curry paste and plain water will attract an 18% levy. Restaurants will pay 12%, unless they are small (5%) or air-conditioned (18%).

Latest updates 

India’s Surgical Strikes: What They Can And Cannot Achieve

Arka Biswas

Nine months after the surgical strikes inside Pakistan-held Kashmir by the Indian Army, what is the verdict on their efficacy to deter Pakistan from its sub-conventional warfare?

On his first day of the visit to the United States of America, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of how India conducted surgical strikes on terror launch-pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and that the world did not question them, realising that while “India practices restraint,” it “can show power when needed.” This was another instance when the Indian government showcased surgical strikes conducted by the Indian Army in September 2016 as a military response to terrorism and Pakistan for using terrorists as proxies against India.

Do the surgical strikes of September 2016 meet the two primary objectives with which India seeks to militarily respond to Pakistan – deter Pakistan’s sub-conventional war, and assuage domestic public anger?

Nine Reasons Why Modi’s Visit Is Important To Israel

Prof. P R Kumarswamy

When Israel hosts Prime Minister Narendra Modi next month, it would be hosting the leader of the country with the third largest Muslim population in the world. 

Over and above this, by Netanyahu’s own statements, the Jewish state would be looking to host a friend.

While much has been written about the significance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to Israel, how important is the visit to the latter? In his weekly cabinet meeting this Sunday (25 June), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flagged the visit and pledged to work towards strengthening bilateral relations with India. The question open to debate is, why?


Why the U.S.-India Relationship Is Headed for Big Things

Michael Kugelman

There was something both familiar and reassuring about Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Washington.

It was familiar because it was reminiscent of his previous trips here as premier. And at a time when the world has seemingly been turned upside down by disorienting levels of change, anything familiar is reassuring.

Ever since Donald Trump took office five months ago, we’ve heard so much about how everything is so different in Washington and in the world on the whole.

And indeed, from the way he runs the White House to his views about his business interests, and from the way he interacts with foreign officials to his intention to lighten the U.S. footprint overseas, there is much that has changed.

Explained: Why The Chinese Are Kicking Up Trouble On The Sikkim Border

Prakhar Gupta

A road that China is trying to build till the Sikkim-Bhutan-China tri-junction will give it easy access to the critical Siliguri Corridor, and therein lies the root of the recent conflict at the Sikkim border.

On Monday, a number of media outlets reported that China has closed the Nathu La pass in Sikkim, stopping pilgrims on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra to cross the border. Refusing to offer a reason for obstructing the movement of pilgrims, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that it is in communication with India on the issue.

Later in the day, more details emerged; among them, a video that shows Chinese and Indian troops jostling in the Doka La region of the Chumbi Valley, a place near the Sikkim-Bhutan-China tri-junction. In the video, Indian troops can be seen forming a human wall along the international border, trying to stop the personnel of China’s People’s Liberation Army from advancing into Indian territory.

Ukraine Police Say This is the Source of Tuesday’s Massive Cyber Attack


The lesson from Tuesday’s massive cyber attack, beware of updates from Ukrainian accounting apps that are orders of magnitude larger than normal.
A vulnerability within an obscure piece of Ukrainian accounting software is the root cause of the massive cyber attack that swept the globe Tuesday, according to the Ukrainian law enforcement. The attack hit Ukrainian utilities and airline services, U.S. based pharmaceutical company Merck, Russian oil giant Rosneft and even forced operators at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to switch to manual radiation monitoring of the site.

The software is called Me.DOC, it’s basically an application for tax reporting and filing for companies that do business in Ukraine. At about 10:30 a.m. GMT Tuesday. MeDoc ran an automatic update on the software, a routine event. That connected every version of Me.Doc on every computer on which it had been installed (so long as it was online) to this address:
That by itself is not unusual.
As the Ukrainian police’s cyber division explained in a Facebook post on Tuesday, updates from Me.doc are usually rather small, about 300 bytes. The update on Tuesday morning ran 333 kilobytes, orders of magnitude larger.
Once host computers download the update — becoming infected — the malware creates a new file called Rundll32.exe. Next it contacts a different network. It then starts running new commands, taking advantage of a particular Windows vulnerability, the same Microsoft vulnerability targeted by Wannacry.
Defense One verified the Ukrainian police’s post with a second researcher who had direct knowledge of the attack and the malware in question.

Other cyber security researchers with Russia-based Kaspersky Labs also began pointing to Me.DOC on Tuesday as the likely point of spread.
At this point, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack and authorities have yet to make a hard determination about attribution. Actors backed by the Russian government have been targeting portions of Ukrainian infrastructure since 2015 when a massive attack by a group knocked out power to more than 225,000 people in Ukraine. Hackers pulled a similar stunt in December, a story first reported by Defense One

Taliban Promotes 4 Previously Unidentified Training Camps in Afghanistan

By Bill Roggio 

The Afghan Taliban promoted its network of training camps that it claims are in operation throughout Afghanistan in a recent propaganda video that was published on its official website. Four new Taliban camps have been identified by the Taliban.

Al Emarah Studio, a branch of the Taliban’s media arm, published “Omari Army 5,” a 70-minute long video which featured footage from seven camps, identified as: Abu Bakr Saddiq, Abu Dujanah, Khalid bin Walid, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, Omar Faruq, Omari, and Omar ibn Khattab. The Taliban had previously released footage from the Abu Dujanah, Khalid bin Walid, and Omar ibn Khattab camps; the other four have not been advertised until now.

In the video, the Taliban stressed that jihad is a “divine obligation” for all Muslims and failure to support jihad is a sin. The Taliban has pushed this message before, most recently at the end of May when it announced the beginning of Ramadan [see FDD’s Long War Journal report, Jihad during Ramadan is ‘obligatory,’ Taliban spokesman says].

Educating Afghanistan’s Youth Is the Only True Solution to Terrorism


Widespread illiteracy undercuts not only security, but also development projects that could help lift the country out of 16 years of war. 

Last month, a US government agency issued an assessment of the United States’ efforts to help Afghanistan recover from the devastation of 16 years of war. Its findings were grim. Six out of every 10 dollars since 2002 had been spent on Afghan defense forces, yet problems were rampant. Widespread illiteracy was found to be a “corrosive” challenge, undercutting progress not only in establishing security but also in carrying out civilian projects. The quality of leadership was also identified as a major stumbling block. “If leadership [in the defense force] is poor,” the author of the report said, “the people below don’t care, and they wonder why they have to die.”

Be prepared for China's Electronic Warfare

General Bipin Rawat, the chief of the army staff, recently mentioned the future of the defence forces in India; the general spoke of a long-awaited integrated command.

While dismissing apprehensions about shortage of funds, he asserted: 'If we are going to fight a war someday, the war is going to be fought by the three forces together. Integration has to be in a holistic manner. Can we have a joint forces mechanism? Is it better or not? We have to look at the option.'

'You also economise by integration of logistics. The integration has to be in the form of all services utilising their resources in a harmonised manner, the amy chief said.

Though often expounded upon, little has been concretely done to make the integrated command a concrete reality.

At the same time the Chinese People's Liberation Army under President Xi Jinping is taking giant steps towards the future.

Three domestic challenges of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative

by Qingzhen Chen 

China’s grand vision of One Belt, One Road aims to facilitate connections between countries and peoples across Eurasia and boost investments and trade. The Chinese government must not neglect domestic challenges that could undermine its efforts. 

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century New Maritime Silk Road, known as One Belt, One Road, is a foreign policy proposed by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to build roads, ports, and railways to connect Eurasia. The initiative spans overland and across the oceans, involving 60 countries along the two routes, covering 4.4 billion people and accounts for over 40 percent of the world’s GDP. The initiative is the most ambitious foreign policy that any contemporary Chinese leader has ever introduced, framed on the basis of mutual benefits and facilitates connectivity of policy, trade, financial, infrastructure, and people-to-people between the countries involved.

East-West-North-South: The Race for Syria after the Islamic State

According to Udi Dekel, the race for territorial control in post-ISIS Syria now pits Iran, which has established a horizontal (east-west) axis, against America, which has created a vertical (north-south) one. Of particular concern is the war-torn country’s southern region, where contacts are seemingly underway between Israel, Jordan and the United States in order to formulate a joint strategy that will prevent the spread of Iranian influence in the area.

Increasing signs are pointing to the impending fall of the Islamic State in Syria, which has suffered a series of defeats in recent months. The territory in eastern Syria that will be freed of Islamic State control now constitutes a focus of the major struggle between the United States and Iran in Syria, as both are striving to seize the area. Early June marked the onset of the final phase of the US-led coalition’s offensive to conquer the city of Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State in Syria, with a combined Kurdish-Arab (though predominantly Kurdish) ground force – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – and air support provided by the international coalition, including the United States, other Western countries, and Arab states. At the same time, Iran and its proxies have also started intensifying efforts aimed at shaping Syria the day after the fall of the Islamic State. Forces of the pro-Assad coalition are currently trying to expand their control in the Deir ez-Zor region and improve their access to Raqqa and the surrounding area, and also seize key positions along the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Immediate Lessons from the Battle of Mosul

Australian Army’s Land Power Forum

The largest conventional land battle since the capture of Baghdad in 2003 has been ongoing since October 2016. The purpose of this article is to provide Army a first-look on lessons identified from the advisors engaged in supporting our Iraqi partners to excise the Da’esh malignancy from Iraq. This list is raw and provided to stimulate thought.

Armed Airborne Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR): The king of the urban battlefield. The most effective weapon on the current battlefield is a joint and interagency enabled combined arms ground team with an Armed ISR platform flying above. Armed ISR allows persistent stare to identify fleeting targets who use complex terrain to mask their movements. When a target is identified the Joint Terminal Attack Controller and Ground Force Commander can then rapidly transition to strike the target with an organic low collateral weapon, coordinate another fires capability such as a jet, gun or rocket artillery to strike, or guide a ground assault (usually in the space of minutes). An Army without organic airborne Armed ISR will be at a severe disadvantage on a contemporary urban battlefield.



The foundation of civilization is under cyber attack, said the former commander of Israel's elite intelligence Unit 8200 Nadav Zafir on Monday.

Zafir claimed that the electoral process can be tampered with by unlawful cyber activity and damage infrastructure, putting democratic civilizations at risk.

Zafir, headed what is considered to be the Israeli NSA between 2009 - 2013, made the comments during Cyber Week at Tel Aviv University.

The current chief of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, is scheduled to give a rare talk on Tuesday that will present the audience with some of the means the Israeli security services use to tackle threats from individual hackers. This would be the first time such details will be openly presented to the public.

Should the US pull its nuclear weapons out of Turkey?

“Welcome to Incirlik AB, Turkey,” reads the big gold letters over one of the entrances to a key staging base for the fight against the Islamic State, strategically located in southern Turkey, just 70 miles from the Syrian border.

But this month, Germany learned that the friendly greeting is not written in stone, and that the NATO ally can pull in its welcome mat with little notice or explanation.

After the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to guarantee that members of the German parliament could visit German troops at Incirlik, Berlin announced it was moving its forces and planes to Jordan.

Germany’s decision to decamp to more friendly territory starkly illustrates the growing tensions between Turkey and some of its NATO allies, including the United States.

“When our major European ally pulls its forces out of Incirlik because it couldn’t be guaranteed access, it should warn you what happened to Germany could happen to us,” said Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a Washington think tank focused on nuclear weapons policy.

“I don’t think many people would count Erdogan as one of our more reliable allies. His agenda has shifted so dramatically over the last few years, you have to be concerned where it’s going,” Cirincione said.

How America Armed Terrorists in Syria


Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, All War All the Time, or War American-Style

At 36% to 37% in the latest polls, Donald Trump’s approval rating is in a ditch in what should still be the “honeymoon” period of his presidency. And yet, compared to Congress (25%), he’s a maestro of popularity. In fact, there’s just one institution in American society that gets uniformly staggeringly positive votes of “confidence” from Americans in polls and that’s the U.S. military (83%). And this should be the greatest mystery of them all.

That military, keep in mind, hasn’t won a significant conflict since World War II. (In retrospect, the First Gulf War, which once seemed like a triumph beyond compare for the globe’s highest-tech force, turned out to be just the first step into the never-ending quagmire of Iraq.) In this century, the U.S. military has, in fact, stumbled from one “successful” invasion to another, one terror-spreading conflict to the next, without ever coming up for air. Meanwhile, the American taxpayer has poured money into the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state in amounts that should boggle the mind. And yet, the U.S. hasn’t been able to truly extricate itself from a single country it's gotten involved in across the Greater Middle East for decades. In the wake of its ministrations, nations have crumbled, allies have been crippled, and tens of millions of people across a vast region of the planet have been uprooted from their homes and swept into the maelstrom. In other words, Washington’s version of imperial war fighting should be seen as the record from hell for a force regularly hailed here as the “finest” in history. The question is: finest at what?

Trump’s Five Mistaken Reasons for Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership


President Donald Trump has recently reversed himself, endorsing Article 5 of the NATO Treaty and accurately calling the House of Representatives health care legislation “mean.” He should also reconsider U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a decision that was made with no serious analysis by the new administration of its significant economic and geopolitical benefits for the United States. Exiting the agreement was apparently based on five key assertions Trump made during the presidential campaign, none of which were accurate.

1) “The number of jobs and amount of wealth and income the United States have given away in so short a time is staggering, likely unprecedented. And the situation is about to get drastically worse if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not stopped.” —Donald Trump, “Disappearing Middle Class Needs Better Deal on Trade,” USA Today, March 14, 2016.

Make the Most of Your Time in Graduate School

With an Advanced Civil Schooling (ACS) scholarship, the Army sends officers to civilian graduate schools. Last Thursday, I completed a Master’s of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Coming off a demanding staff assignment, I thought graduate school would be easy. However, balancing school, with its classes, homework, and extracurricular opportunities, with family and social engagements was tough. Below are my seven recommendations for things to consider if you’re starting graduate school this fall, are in graduate school, or are planning to attend in the future.

1. Spend time with your family

Key tip:

NextWar: Coast Road

By Benjamin Jensen
The games are designed to be short, thought experiments that can be fit into training schedules. While they can be played individually, the best approach is to conduct a competitive exercise. One person or team should play Red and the other should play Blue. Compare the results in a seminar setting, no more than a hour.

Individuals take 1 hour to complete Red or Blue and then 1 hour to compare results. These games can be used by military professionals in tactical units, from battalion to brigade, as well as on larger staffs to practice operational art and define new theories of victory. The wargames are experiments in which professionals can test their ideas (i.e., COAs = hypotheses) and identify candidates for further concept and capability development. By exchanging findings with the larger military professional network, practitioners crowdsource military innovation.

None of these games is a government-endorsed prediction of a future war much less a policy recommendation. They are imagined scenarios, which frankly the authors hope NEVER happen, designed to help military professionals think about new concepts and capabilities. 

New DARPA program targets U.S. operational advantage

By: Rachael Kalinyak

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency revealed a new program aimed at maintaining U.S. military edge in future combat environments. The new effort, called the Prototype Resilient Operations Testbed for Expeditionary Urban Scenarios, was outlined in a recent broad agency announcement.

As the operational advantage the U.S. has enjoyed shrinks, DARPA is launching the new program to help develop advanced battle management/command and control, or BMC2, tools with a comprehensive, interactive virtual environment where concepts can be tested, DARPA reports.

The program has two objectives.

The first objective is to create a platform that can be used on personal devices, allowing adaptive composition of battlefield elements across multiple command levels while the fight is evolving. John Paschkewitz, DARPA program director, explained in the report that U.S. forces must possess "agile, flexible task organizations" in order to "create surprise and exploit advantages" that will help them maintain an eroding "distinct advantage in urban coastal combat scenarios." The program, Paschkewitz continued, will "aim to amplify the initiative and decision-making capabilities of ... expeditionary landing teams ... by giving them new tools to compose tailored force packages not just before the mission, but during the mission as it unfolds.”

America's Military: Overcommitted and Underfunded


I confess up front to being a budget hawk. I basically believe that as long as the Pentagon is still buying two manned fighter planes after the unmanned revolution, there is more than enough money going to the Defense Department—because if money were really tight, one or both of those programs would be cancelled, and the military services would be undercutting each other's budgets to increase the funding available for their priorities. As long as adaptation to obvious next-generation platforms (like unmanned aerial fighters) remains this slow and the services placidly accept their budget shares, the topline is adequate.
But even I am now nervous about the widening gap between America’s military obligations and the resourcing we are committing. What’s worsening the situation is that the Trump administration is both expanding requirements and contracting spending.

Perils Of Back Door Encryption Mandates

The governments that constitute the intelligence partnership known as “The Five Eyes,” are meeting on June 26-27, 2017, in Ottawa to discuss how to bypass encryption. The governments may pursue a dangerous strategy that will subvert the rights and cybersecurity of all internet users, according to Human Rights Watch.

Forcing technology companies to give governments “back door” access into all digital communications will do little to prevent terrorists from shielding their activities. But technologists and digital security experts have warned that imposing any requirement to build back doors into encryption or banning end-to-end encryption would broadly undermine cybersecurity. Technologists caution that companies cannot build a “back door” that can only be used by law-abiding officials, while keeping out bad actors. Governments should instead promote strong encryption as a key component of cybersecurity.

The Cyber Advice Tech Titans Gave the White House Behind Closed Doors

By Frank Konkel

Tech industry chiefs had prescient, common-sense advice in the realm of cybersecurity for the Trump administration during Monday’s inaugural American Technology Council meeting, according to White House Cyber Coordinator Rob Joyce.

The simple stuff matters, said Joyce, speaking Wednesday at the GovProtect17 cybersecurity forum.

Two-factor authentication, encryption of data in transit and at rest, and thorough log examinations are definitively not sexy topics for dinner conversation, but they’re incredibly important to ensuring proper cyber hygiene across private-sector networks, Joyce said. And federal networks, funded by taxpayers, deserve the same attention to security detail.

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House lawmakers want space-based missile defense strategy

By: Jen Judson

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers want the Pentagon to quickly produce a space-based missile defense strategy, according to the Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee’s mark of the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill released this week.

The strategy would lay out the plans of the Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Air Force and other agencies “to develop a space-based sensor layer for ballistic missile defense that provides precision tracking data of missiles beginning in the boost phase and continuing throughout subsequent flight regimes; serves other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements; and achieves an operational prototype payload at the earliest practicable opportunity,” the subcommittee mark reads.

The lawmakers would require the Defense Department to provide the strategy one year following passage of the legislation to include how it would develop the sensor layer and the estimated costs including development, acquisition and operations and sustainment across its life cycle, according to the document.

The strategy should also assess the maturity of technologies needed for the layer and recommend what still requires development and further research.

Pentagon Eyes Ways to Capitalize on Commercial Space Boom

By Sandra Erwin

The Pentagon is moving to build ties with commercial space firms as U.S. military forces seek faster and cheaper ways to communicate, and better tools to monitor security threats around the world. This activity is likely to pick up as investors continue to pour billions of dollars into satellite constellations and launch systems.

The market forces that are bringing inexpensive broadband, imagery and other services into the global economy already have shaken up the military space business as new competitors enter the fray and prices continue to come down. But big questions still remain on how the military intends to capitalize on the growing investment and innovation.

The U.S. government has been a minor player in the “new space” revolution propelled by private activity in small satellites and launch services. The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental known as DIUx — the Pentagon’s technology hub in Silicon Valley — is now working more directly with space startups and funding selected projects that have potential applicability in national security. 

Air National Guard Col. Steve Butow leads the space portfolio at DIUx. He spoke enthusiastically last week about ongoing ventures with the space industry, but said it is too early to predict what will come of them. Many companies prefer to work in “stealth” mode

Going Dark—Strong Encryption and Security (Part 1)

By Andrew Davies

The debate about law enforcement access to encrypted communications has flared up again recently. It seems that everyone has a view on the subject, including a string of American visitors to our shores: US Senator John McCain, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and security advisor Jake Sullivan. Local commentators on security issues have a view as well, including ASPI’s own Jacinta Carroll. And Australia’s Attorney-General has said that the government wants the law to be

…sufficiently strong to require companies, if need be, to assist in response to a warrant to assist law enforcement or intelligence to decrypt a communication.

This is a tricky public policy issue by any standard, and a sensible discussion requires some history to put the contemporary debate into perspective. The first thing to note is that this isn’t a case of the government wanting expanded powers under the justification of new security threats. It’s more a case of running to stand still—that is, governments around the world are trying not to lose capabilities they have enjoyed for some time. (For those keeping score, it seems to go back to around 1653 where Parliamentary systems are concerned.)