11 August 2017

China steps up troop presence at Doklam seven weeks into standoff

by Sushant Singh
Doklam standoff: PLA soldiers pitch 80 tents; Army advances exercise for units in Sikkim. The Indian Express has learnt that the number of Chinese troops in the area is estimated to be less than 800, which means that it is not a full PLA infantry battalion.

Seven weeks into the face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam, there has been increased Chinese presence in the vicinity of the standoff site at the trijunction with Bhutan. At a distance of around one kilometre from Dolam plateau, north of Doka La post, the Chinese have pitched around 80 tents for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers. The Indian Express has learnt that the number of Chinese troops in the area is estimated to be less than 800, which means that it is not a full PLA infantry battalion. In addition, around 300 PLA soldiers are deployed at the standoff site, facing around 350 Indian soldiers who are staying in nearly 30 tents pitched in the area. Refusing to comment on the presence of Chinese soldiers, official sources said “there is no movement from the other side that has been picked up by us”.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army has also advanced its schedule for Operational Alert, popularly called Op Alert, for units of 33 Corps looking after Sikkim’s border with China. An Op Alert is a two-week long annual training event in which all Army units move to familiarise themselves with their likely area of operation. The two-week period does not include the time for movement and acclimatisation for deployment at higher altitudes.


Harpreet Kaur and Anupam Kumar

It is encouraging that there has been a rhetorical shift in India’s foreign policy from traditional one’s to a pro-active one, write Harpreet Kaur & Anupam Kumar

India’s foreign policy, ever since independence, remained focused on the principles of peace, non-violence, non-alignment, anti-imperialism, anti-racism, anti-war etc, which are derived from the faith and ideals of human goodness, innate equality of the people, universal brotherhood, unity in diversity and secularism.

However, in recent times, especially since the Narendra Modi Government came to power, commerce, trade and security have taken prominent positions. Not non-alignment but alignment with all has been the maxim of India’s foreign policy and the country is reaching out to to several nations like Fiji and Israel to fulfill its diplomatic needs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy is currently focused on improving relations with the neighbouring countries in South Asia; engaging extended neighbourhood in the Southeast Asian region and other major global powers. In pursuit of this, the Prime Minister has made several official visits to countries like Bhutan, Nepal, Japan, the United States, Myanmar, Australia, Fiji, Israel among many others.

Amid The Doklam Standoff, India Needs An Urgent Cyber Upgrade

India moves towards greater digitisation of its economy and government services, but many vulnerabilities remain in the area of cyber space.

This has to be rectified before escalating a response to China, an acknowledged cyber power.

For more than a month now, India, China and Bhutan have been locked in a tense stand-off at the tri-junction of their borders in the strategic Chumbi Valley in the Indian state of Sikkim. The trigger was China’s attempt to construct a road through the Doklam plateau.

This road will allow China to neutralise India’s defences and expose the Siliguri corridor (or the Chicken’s Neck), which connects India’s north-eastern states to the rest of the country.

The analysis in the media of tactics and military hardware has been shrill and narrowly focused, taking no consideration of the danger that China poses if the current stand-off escalates into cyber space, the fifth spectrum of contemporary warfare.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had hinted at this two years ago, suggesting that it could impel a bloodless war and that he dreamed of an India where cyber security was an integral part of national security.

Is India Getting Ready to Build Its Own Stealth Fighter?

Sebastien Roblin

In 2008, India’s Aeronautical Development Agency began developing a multirole fighter to replace its large fleet of aging Jaguar, Mirage and MiG-23 fighters. The new project was tentatively dubbed the Medium Combat Aircraft (later revised to the Advanced MCA, or AMCA), to be produced domestically by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Shortly afterwards, the Indian Air Force put in a serious addendum to the program: they wanted AMCA to be a stealth fighter, too.

For a while the AMCA project slowed down, as India invested $5 billion in the Russian Sukhoi PAK FA stealth fighter, intending to produce its own version called the FGFA. But then the PAK FA program began to suffer major setback, eliciting numerous complaints from the Indian military. Now, even Russia has only ordered production of twelve of the supermaneuverable stealth aircraft, and the future of the FGFA is unclear.

New Delhi’s interest in the HAL AMCA therefore kicked back into higher gear, with more than four thousand staff devoted to the project, according to a report in 2015. By then, the ADA had settled upon a final design involving a twin-engine, canted twin-tail configuration, with an overall profile similar to that of the American F-22 Raptor. Mock-ups of this design have already reportedly undergone wind-tunnel and radar cross-section tests.

Positive attitude raises hopes for resolution of Pakistan-India water dispute

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: A constructive engagement between Pakistan and India during the recently held water talks in Washington has raised hopes for an amicable resolution of this dispute, according to diplomatic sources.

The World Bank, which hosted the talks at its headquarters two weeks ago, also noticed this positive change and mentioned it in a press release on Aug 1, noting that the “meetings … were held in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation”.

Islamabad and New Delhi disagree over construction of the Kishenganga (330MW) and Ratle (850MW) hydroelectric power plants being built by India. (The World Bank is not financing either project). Islamabad contends that the technical design features of the two plants contravene the Indus Waters Treaty.

The plants are on a tributary of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, respectively.

An international expert, who closely monitors the Pakistan-India water talks, told Dawn this was the first time in many years that delegates “held a constructive discussion, instead of merely stating their official positions”.

The expert said in previous talks “sometimes the two sides did not even exchange formal greetings”.

They would “just read the statements they brought with them and leave, but this time it was different,” he added.


Hiranmay Karlekar

A US withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan is likely to bring down the Kabul regime. The belief that this will not affect American fortunes is untenable

The recent joint attack by the Islamic State (IS) and Taliban, which killed over 50 persons in Afghanistan’s Mirzawalan village in the northern Sar-e-Pul Province, was the third joint operation by the two organisations in recent times. This suggests a significant turn in their relationship. They had, until recently, clashed regularly in search of supremacy ever since the IS established a foothold in eastern Afghanistan in 2015. The already beleaguered Afghan Government would find itself in serious difficulty if the new-found cooperation continues.

Also meriting attention is the report that the massacre occurred after the Afghan Local Police (ALP) guarding the village was overcome in a 48-hour-long battle. The positive side here is that, unlike on many past occasions, when uniformed forces fled at the beginning of trouble, the ALP fought. More important, this is not the first time when the Afghan Army and the other constituents of the security forces have shown a willingness to fight.

The negative aspect is that the unit was defeated. This could be because it was heavily outnumbered, and/or because of the known weaknesses afflicting the Afghan security forces—poor leadership and inadequate training, weapons and equipment. Unless the insufficiencies in each of these areas are addressed, one cannot rule out the possibility of the Afghan forces going under.

What Is Behind the Political ‘Mainstreaming’ of Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Pakistan?

By Umair Jamal

Offering political platforms to groups with jihadist agendas will only complicate Pakistan’s militant problem. 

A number of reports have surfaced recently claiming that Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a proscribed organization that primarily targets Indian interests, has decided to register a political party in Pakistan. Reportedly, the party is being registered under the name of Mlli Muslim League Pakistan.

Although JuD’s chief remains under house arrest, his organization essentially remains active without any hindrance or resistance from the state. JuD runs a number of social and development programs all across Pakistan. Arguably, Saeed’s detention was carried out to show that Pakistan was ready to accommodate U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands on a number of security issues. While commenting on the Saeed arrest about six months ago, the military in Pakistan said that the decision to keep him under house arrest was “a policy decision that the state took in [the] national interest.

However, the crucial question that begs attention is why Saeed is interested in forming a political party now. Does the likely transition from a jihadist organization to a political party mean that Pakistan has changed its policy of using Saeed’s organization to settle scores with India?

How can Xi speak of a 'Chinese Dream' and a 'Peaceful Rise' while threatening those who dare oppose China?

My Article How can Xi speak of a 'Chinese Dream' and a 'Peaceful Rise' while threatening those who dare oppose China?appeared in The Mail Daily (UK)

“You shall be unswervingly loyal to the absolute leadership that the party has over the army, heed the call of the party, follow the party,” asserted Chairman Xi Jinping, while officiating during a mega parade at the Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base in Inner Mongolia on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Images showed a martial Chinese President, also Chairman of the Central Military Commission, by far the most powerful organization in the Middle Kingdom, dressed in combat fatigues, driving in an open jeep and inspecting some 12,000 combat troops.

Xi told the PLA to be prepared for the battle and to defeat ‘all enemies that dare to offend’ China. Was India, who had dared to challenge the mighty PLA when Beijing tried to change the status-quo at the trijunction between Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim, targeted?

According to The South China Morning Post, “Xi didn’t specify any target”, though the defence ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang stated that the parade was not targeted at China’s ‘surrounding situation’, it was in accordance with the yearly training schedule.”

The China Threat & What the U.S. Should Do About It

China has risen. It is now a great power well on its way to becoming a superpower. China’s ambitions and quest for greater resources and expanding diplomatic, economic, and military capabilities will result in Beijing’s growing voice in all facets of international politics. While there are debates about how powerful China will become, and how soon, there is no ambiguity that it is expanding its power and influence. Despite its many other obligations, the major task for the Trump administration will be to respond effectively to China’s challenge to U.S. power.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (AFP)

Indeed, contemporary international politics is defined by an increasingly bold and aggressive China that seeks territorial revisions and evinces the willingness to resort to threats, coercive diplomacy, and military action to achieve these goals. In 2010, Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi best captured this reality when he observed at an ASEAN meeting, “China is a big country, and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.” This is a classic great power politics argument first made by Thucydides 2,400 years ago in the Melian Dialogue—the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must.

Beijing Harnesses Big Data & AI to Perfect the Police State

By: Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Even by the standards of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the brutal treatment of China’s first Nobel Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, has breached the norms of civilized behavior. The third day after Liu‘s death from liver cancer—which deteriorated into the terminal stage last June largely due to lack of medical attention during his eight-year incarceration in northeastern Liaoning Province—the authorities cremated the body of the pro-democracy icon and scattered his ashes in the sea. This followed a short funeral, during which two dozen police and state-security personnel posed as relatives and friends paying their last respects. Liu’s supporters from all over China, some of whom had congregated in Shenyang, were barred from the hastily arranged ceremony. Although Liu’s widow, Liu Xia, has never been charged with any crimes, she has been held under house arrest since 2010. It is unlikely that she will gain her freedom anytime soon (Apple Daily [Hong Kong], July 15; Liberty Times [Taipei], July 15; HKO1.com, July 14).

The biggest question after Liu’s death is: Will this galvanize the badly demoralized and out-gunned pro-democracy community in China—and ignite another wave of protests? Most of China’s prominent dissidents either are in jail or kept under 24-hour surveillance. Only a few of them have been able to talk to the Western or Hong Kong media about Liu’s demise. It does not look as though they were confident about the future of democracy. Human rights activist and liberal columnist Mo Zhixu, a good friend of Liu’s, would only say that Liu’s death would have “a far-reaching influence on citizen movements.” Hu Jia, an internationally famous dissident who is under house arrest, said Liu’s writings and actions had “planted the seeds of democracy among Chinese.” When asked about the prospect of democracy, however, Hu had this to say: “To be pessimistic is meaningless… We only have one option, and that is to remain optimistic about China’s democratization.” The bitter truth is that thanks to the CCP’s through control over information and its relentless efforts in hunting down critics of the regime, few Chinese citizens outside intellectual circles know who Liu Xiaobo is. As Hu said: “In Beijing, if you ask 100 people and one of them says he has heard of Liu Xiaobo, it is quite something.” (Hong Kong Citizen News, July 14; Cable News, [Hong Kong] July 14; Central News Agency [Taiwan], July 13).

China and Technology: Tortoise and Hare Again

Reports that the Trump administration will confront China over unfair trade practices is good news, but this is only half a solution. It generally doesn’t help when you are losing a race to complain that your competitors are running too fast. To stay in the lead, you have to pick up the pace.

China does not play by the rules, and it has gotten away with it for too long. Compare the treatment of U.S. companies in China to Chinese companies in the United States. China’s excuse that it is a developing country and should be allowed to tilt the playing field is nonsensical for the world’s second-largest economy. The word that Chinese companies fear is reciprocity—that they should be treated in the United States the way American companies are treated in China. When Alibaba built a data center in Seattle, it was not forced to do this as a junior partner in a joint venture, nor to provide source code as is the case for U.S. companies in China.

The goals of Chinese policy are easily summarized: they wish to extract technologies from Western companies; use subsidies and nontariff barriers to competition to build national champions; and then create a protected domestic market for these champions to give them an advantage as they venture out in the world. Huawei is the best example of a globally dominant company built along these lines, but there are others. Lu Wei, the former head of China’s Cyberspace Administration, once said that if China had not blocked Google, there would be no Baidu.

Beijing Wants A.I. to Be Made in China by 2030


SHANGHAI — If Beijing has its way, the future of artificial intelligence will be made in China.

The country laid out a development plan on Thursday to become the world leader in A.I. by 2030, aiming to surpass its rivals technologically and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion.

Released by the State Council, the policy is a statement of intent from the top rungs of China’s government: The world’s second-largest economy will be investing heavily to ensure its companies, government and military leap to the front of the pack in a technology many think will one day form the basis of computing.

The plan comes with China preparing a multibillion-dollar national investment initiative to support “moonshot” projects, start-ups and academic research in A.I., according to two professors who consulted with the government about the effort.

The United States, meanwhile, has cut back on science funding. In budget proposals, the Trump administration has suggested slashing resources for a number of agencies that have traditionally backed research in A.I. Other cuts, to areas like high-performance computing, would affect the development of the tools that make A.I. work.

Why Russia's Nuclear Submarine Fleet Might Be 'Sinking'

Robert Beckhusen

In March 2017, Russia’s new Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Kazan launched at the northern port city of Severodvinsk. Perhaps the quietest Russian submarine ever, the event was further evidence the Kremlin can still build capable and lethal subs capable of a variety of missions, including cruise-missile attack.

But it won’t be enough. The Russian navy — already badly depleted since the collapse of the Soviet Union — can’t quickly replace most of its existing nuclear submarine fleet, which is approaching the end of its collective lifespan. The outcome will likely mean a shrinking of the Russian nuclear submarine force in the years ahead.

By 2030, the bulk of Russia’s nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines will be in their mid-thirties at least — with some pushing into their forties. For perspective, the three oldest active American attack submarines, the Los Angeles-class USS Dallas, Bremerton and Jacksonville, are all 36 years old and waiting to be decommissioned during the next three years.

Submarines wear out in old age, particularly due to hull corrosion. Another serious concern is corrosion affecting components inside the nuclear reactor compartments, but data surrounding this subject are tightly guarded secrets among the world’s navies.

America's M60 Tank: The Cold War Weapon Russia Feared

Kyle Mizokami

During the Cold War, one U.S. Army main battle tank served longer and fought on more battlefields than any other. While the world is familiar with the now-iconic M1 Abrams tank, the M60 tank served during an important time in American history, defending key American allies and provided the U.S. Army in Europe with a solid, dependable tank to fend off the armored hordes of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. A descendant of Korean War era tanks, the M60 was an example of how incremental advances in military technology could progressively better fighting machines.

The M60 tank was originally based on the M48 Patton tank. Fielded in the early 1950s and itself based on the M47 and M46 tanks, the Patton featured advanced fire control that gave it nearly a 50 percent chance of a first round hit at 1,500 meters, a reduction in crew from five to four, and a hemispherical turret that gave excellent crew protection. The downside of the M48 was a mediocre 90-millimeter main gun and appallingly bad range (seventy miles). Despite these mixed reviews the Patton was rushed into production in 1953.

In 1956, British intelligence acquired information regarding the new Soviet T-55 medium tank. A radical departure from the wartime T-34 series, the T-55 featured the D-10T 100-millimeter rifled gun. This new threatened to outgun NATO armies whose tanks were largely equipped with 90-millimeter guns, and as a result, the United Kingdom developed the 105-millimeter L7 gun. Known as the M68 in American service, integrating the gun into the Army’s tank fleet became a high priority.

Economics Could Be the Key to Ending the Syrian Civil War

John Allen, Michael O'Hanlon

Rebuilding Syria will take upwards of $100 billion a year—the kind of money that Assad's allies simply do not have.

President Donald Trump’s early moves on Syria policy have had their virtues. He has gradually ramped up the military pressure against ISIS, building on efforts established in the last years of the Obama administration. Trump has also worked to reestablish a credible U.S. redline against chemical weapons use, and also, to begin a new dialogue with Russia as of his July 7 meeting with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany that led to ideas for small ceasefire zones. King Abdullah II of Jordan has helped establish one such zone in southern Syria and there is some hope that it could serve as a model for things to come. Trump has also wisely disengaged from the futile Geneva negotiation process that the Obama administration believed might create a new government of national unity; the reality is that, backed up by Russia and with considerable battlefield momentum in recent years, the government of President Bashar al-Assad isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Devolution of power, at least temporarily, to various regions and subregions in Syria is a much more promising concept than wholesale replacement of the central government in Damascus.



Russia's deputy foreign minister met Wednesday with leading diplomats from Iran and Iraq to discuss combating Islamist extremist groups and the future of Syria.

With the U.S. minimizing efforts to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iraq expressing weariness of the U.S.'s extended presence in its country, Russia has become an increasingly important power broker in the region. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov met in Moscow with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari and Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Nazar Khairallah to emphasize the "principled position of the three countries" on Syria. All three expressed support for Assad in a lengthy war pitting his armed forces against jihadists and opposition groups, according to Syria's pro-government Al-Watan newspaper and Iran's semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

Bogdanov also took the opportunity to attack the U.S.'s most recent round of sanctions against his country. The Russian diplomat called the sanctions "absolutely unlawful" and said they would further alienate the U.S. at a time where Washington is seeking to work more closely with Moscow in the Middle East and on other international affairs.

"This is sad, it affects our bilateral relations," Bogdanov said, according to the state-run Tass Russian news agency. "I think that it does not add optimism regarding the possibility for us to coordinate our approaches towards a whole range of regional issues, including our relations with such an important partner and neighbor as Iran."


By Jeff Stein 

One night in mid-March, Alan Malcher, a British military veteran, dropped into the Queen’s Arms, a working-class pub in north London. He took a seat at the bar and ordered his customary pint of Foster’s. Within a few minutes, a stranger sidled up, ordered a drink and started a conversation. He soon brought up Russian President Vladimir Putin and began saying positive things about the Moscow-backed separatist civil war in Ukraine.

“He was going on about Putin being a strong leader,” Malcher recalls. “Somebody to admire.” The stranger’s comments, delivered with a thick Slavic accent, made Malcher’s security antennae vibrate: He had recently joined a Washington, D.C.–based think tank involved in combatting Russia’s stealthy infiltration of American social media. So when the stranger made passing reference to Malcher’s army service, he felt a twinge of apprehension. “There’s no way he could have known that except via LinkedIn,” Malcher says, referencing the professional online networking site where he and other critics of Moscow had been active in international affairs discussion groups. An expert in information warfare, Malcher reasoned that the Kremlin had dispatched the stranger to the Queen’s Arms with a message: We know everything about you. Watch your step.

Trump Administration dithers

G. Parthasarathy

The Trump Administration is dithering and the President has inexplicably blamed his military commander, General Nicholson, for not securing "victory" in Afghanistan. This is naturally promoting unease in Kabul about what US policies are going to be in a country, where the 9/11 masterminds plotted and planned the attacks, under Taliban rule. There are, however, indications that despite the President's dithering, the State Department, the Pentagon and even the White House staff are clear on how to proceed ahead. Trump is, therefore, expected to adopt the policies advocated by the US Congress and the professionals in his Administration, as he has done in relations with Russia, the Gulf Arab States and North Korea.

Led by the ailing head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and once pro-Pakistani Senator John McCain, the US Congress is now proposing closer oversight of how US funds are utilised by the Afghan Government. The US legislation, for the first time, proposes “imposing graduated diplomatic, military and economic costs on Pakistan as long as it continues to provide support and sanctuary to terrorist and insurgent groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani network”. It links American assistance to “cessation by Pakistan of support for all terrorist and insurgent groups and playing a constructive role in bringing about a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan”. In diplomatic terms, it calls for "working through flexible frameworks for regional dialogue, together with Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other nations." The proposed legislation also calls for strengthening the Afghan security forces and authorises the use of US forces to target militants of the Haqqani network, the Taliban and others. The US House of Representatives is moving in a parallel direction, reflecting a broad national consensus on Afghanistan.

US Considers Direct Military Involvement in Fight Against Islamic State-Affiliated Militants in Mindanao

By Ankit Panda

U.S. drone strikes against the Islamic State in the Philippines may not be decisive in terminating the conflict. 

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed on Monday that it is actively considering the adoption of plans that would allow the U.S. military to carry out airstrikes on Islamic State-affiliated fighters in the southern Philippines, according to a report by NBC News.

Since late-May, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been struggling to retake Marawi City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao after it was overrun by militants affiliated with the Maute Group, which had declared its allegiance to the Islamic State’s caliphate.

U.S. military advisers have been operating in the Philippines since 2001 with a counterterrorism mission and have been active in assisting Filipino troops in the siege of Marawi City. The United States has additionally long shared intelligence with the Philippines as it fought against various armed groups in the south, ranging from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Abu Sayyaf to Communist and separatist rebels

The new plans would allow direct combat engagements for U.S. aerial assets — most likely unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). The adoption of such a plan would be a boon to Philippine forces and mark a marked uptick in U.S. involvement in the ongoing fight against terror in Mindanao that has displaced thousands.

Management By Walking And Sitting Around

Tomas Kucera

If you are a leader in bigger organization you face a very challenging task. How do you ensure that you are seen as a leader not only by direct subordinates but by the whole team? Daily visibility is the answer. People will not follow you if they don't see you, if they don’t understand your values, your expectations, if they don’t see the results of your efforts and if they don't see the goals towards you are marching.

You need to figure out a way how to ensure that you are giving people the attention they need and you need to be visible doing so. A lot was written about management by walking around (MBWA) but let me give you my take on it anyway. The original term supposedly comes from Hewlett-Packard and can be traced to the 1970s. It is essentially a very hands-on and informal style of management that marries nicely with coaching approach to leading people. This approach allows the leader to be approachable, collect suggestions, understand what is going on and keep his finger on atmosphere in the teams and pulse of the organization in general.


The first thing you need to change is not being locked in the office. You must be on the floor with your team every single day. Go for a walk amongst your teams and go slow. You don't want to rush through the office like a tornado or a person on a mission who cannot be bothered even to say hello. You need to appear as someone who is approachable and ready to talk. People need to get accustomed of you being there, they need to realize that you are genuinely interested in their work, in them and that you don't come only when you need something. You don't have to talk to every single person every day, which would be challenging in large organization, but at the same time you shouldn't always talk to the same person as it could be seen as favoritism or worse, it would set the routine that you didn't come to talk to the team but only to that particular individual.



The Army is at an inflection point, where the rate of technological and geopolitical change is outstripping our capacity to anticipate, adapt and then implement transformative institutional processes to gain and maintain competitive advantage. We are combating information and knowledge-age challenges with industrial-age solutions. Few would call our acquisition and personnel management processes nimble and responsive enough to address the complex challenges of the contemporary operating environment.

After more than 25 years of unprecedented conventional combat power overmatch with long and troubled flirtations with peacekeeping, nation-building and counterinsurgency operations, we have awakened to near-peer adversaries with sophisticated anti-submarine, cyberwarfare, electronic warfare, and other anti-access/area denial capabilities. We have access to ideas and inventions that can be leveraged to gain competitive advantage in these areas if we have the will to develop, select and empower staff colonels, the innovation engines of our Army.

If the Army wants to foster a culture of innovation as senior leaders profess and doctrine proclaims, then we must innovate to create that culture. We must break from our current command-centric leader development model to build the military’s finest senior staff officers, making strategic-level staff positions sought after and progressive assignments for the best and brightest officers. Staff colonels and the talented teams that support them are the engines of the institutional Army and essential components of an innovation chain converting ideas to competitive advantage for our joint force. In short, staff colonels are key to Army innovation.

In Praise of Failure

by Harold R. Schyberg III

“The secret to my success…, I fail better than anyone.”

-- Brian Burress, SFC, US Army

Failure in training is vital in unconventional and conventional warfare environments. Battalion and higher staff must fail in training and then correct their mistakes. The battalion staff must complete the failure cycle-- failing and then adapting to prevent the failure in the future. Create mitigating mechanisms to reduce negative results -- in any exercise, without repercussion. Leaders must foster an environment that encourages honest mistakes.

Battalion and Group/ Brigade leaders must also be given greater flexibility to fail. Those who build the scenarios in a complicated training environment like National training Center (NTC), the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) or the Joint Maneuver Training Center (JMTC) must also build in the option for their plans to fail or at least not completely succeed. This will require that training events be longer, more complex and more expensive. Yet in an ever increasingly complex and more interconnected world this kind of training is precisely what will satisfy that requirement.

Failure stings like nothing else and, as warfighters, we do most anything to wash ourselves of its stink. Still we learn far more from failures than we do from our successes. In The Defense of Duffers Drift by E.D. Swinton, in a series of dreams Lieutenant Backsight Forethought fails his way to eventual success, learning a lesson with each failure. This is how we must train our Noncommissioned Officers (NCO) and Officers. Like Lieutenant Forethought leaders must be patient with our NCOs and officers as they work through their cycle of failure in order to emerge successful.

Rethinking the Army’s ‘Wife School’: Maybe time to move it out of the 1950s


Before my husband took battalion command, the spouses of all the battalion commanders in the soon-to-be brigade team were encouraged to attend a week of the Pre-Command Course (PCC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This was commonly known as “Wife School.”

It may be a bit unfair to call the PCC week for spouses “Wife School,” because examples do exist of women taking tactical command while their husbands take on the support role. But, by and large, most incoming Army commanders at the battalion and brigade level are men — and the expectation is for wives to fill the role of the Family Readiness Group (FRG) Advisor, hostess, command team cheerleader, and social worker during the command years.

My husband will take command of a tactical brigade next summer. And, again, he will attend a series of PCCs to prepare for his role. There is also an opportunity for me to attend Wife School-Part Two. My three children and my own academic schedule do not allow me to attend this iteration of PCC, but the invitation alone brought up some nagging questions:

— Should I encourage the incoming battalion command spouses to attend Wife School?

— Am I setting a bad example by not attending?

— And, most significant, does Wife School still have utility for spouses, and for the Army, or is it an antiquated concept ready for the dustbin?

When I attended PCC in 2012, we were met with a smorgasbord of briefings, meetings, and icebreakers. We took personality tests to see how if we were extroverts or introverts, work well in groups, or alone. Was I a natural leader? Well, whether you are or not, I was told, you are going to be leading the volunteer core of the battalion that supports your husband’s soldiers. You are going to be looked up to, called upon for assistance, and asked for advice.

A surprisingly good article on innovation — and why the Army is so damn bad at it

Best Defense is on summer hiatus. During this restful spell we offer re-runs from the past 12 months. This item originally ran on Dec. 16, 2016.

I say I was surprised because I barely made it past the first sentence of the article: “The Army is at an inflection point.” Cliché alert. As Orwell said, bad writing tends to reflect bad thinking.

But for some reason I continued to read and soon was rewarded with some well-written, even pungent, observations on the Army and why it has trouble innovating:

— “Innovation is a process or chain of activities that starts with an idea and ends with an advantage.”

— “Innovation is differentiated from other forms of change such as improvisation and adaptation by the scale, scope and impact of that value creation.”

— The “industrial-age approach to officer management is the single greatest impediment to fostering innovation in the Army.”

— “Consider how the Army treats officers centrally selected for command-equivalent positions on a corps or joint task force staff, such as corps intelligence or signal officers. Despite promises to the contrary, the Army disenfranchises colonels selected for command-equivalent staff assignments with dismal promotion rates to brigadier general.” (Once again, little grasshoppers, we see that the key to changing the military is personnel policy, especially as it affects who gets promoted.)

— “These staff assignments are considered a necessary evil en route to senior command instead of admirable destinations for our best and brightest thinkers.” (I’m reminded here of the career of George Marshall.)

Army cyber fighters are on the offensive against ISIS


“Our problem isn’t super sophisticated,” he explained. “I call it our ‘better homes and gardens’ ontology, which is essentially trucks and all of the [electronic] features that exist in general society.”

The last publically disclosed major cyber operation against ISIS began last November, and raised questions about the ability for the U.S. to conduct cyber warfare in other countries’ domains whose networks happened to be used by ISIS. According to a former official quoted in The Washington Post, the operations included denying ISIS propaganda experts access to their online accounts, and remotely erasing battlefield video footage from ISIS servers. 

Even as cyber warfare is being waged against ISIS on a daily basis, Army Cyber Command is still seeking ways to greater integrate cyber operations with ground combat operations.

“We are doing work on integration, particularly with electronic warfare, cyber, information warfare in the crucible of our combat training center, explained Lt. Gen. Nakasone. It’s “the idea of being able to bring those capabilities together to see if a commander can utilize them.”

Despite the attention being dedicated to the cyber fight against ISIS, Lt. Gen. Nakasone was clear that Army cyber teams are doing their best to support ground commanders everywhere.

“There is a finite availability of any resource,” Lt. Gen. Nakasone admitted. However, “as we look to the future we are going to provide support to a variety of commanders and we are going to do that to the best of our ability,” he said.

India Inc's cyber war


Industrialist Adi Godrej has a pretty simple but solid explanation for why cybersecurity is an imperative for Corporate India. Just like physical security of factories and corporate offices is important, companies must be equally focussed on cybersecurity, the Godrej Group chairman explains. Good cyber defences serve to ward off possible attacks since cyber attackers know exactly who is vulnerable, he says. Godrej’s views are bound to find resonance across India Inc as companies here, as well as those across the world, become increasingly aware of the risks of cyber attacks. As Indian businesses embrace the online world aggressively, these risks are even more palpable and real, as some recent cases have underscored. Whether it is a bank, etailer or even a manufacturing company, cyber attacks can cripple and bring even the biggest companies down to their knees if cybersecurity is not taken as top priority. 

Corporate bosses and boardrooms are now well aware of this massive risk following the WannaCry ransomware attacks and other similar events and are putting in place strong defences. But despite the awareness and the progress being made on this front, it is obvious that a lot more needs to be done. This is borne out by EY’s recent Global Information Security Survey which showed that as many as 75 percent of Indian CXOs admit that they lack confidence in their companies’ cybersecurity processes. IBM India’s Managing Director Karan Bajwa, on the other hand, tells Associate Editor Aveek Datta, who put together the cover story for this issue, that while security has very high mindshare among customers, the share of wallet is still very poor. Datta’s story takes a close look at the threat and what the companies are doing to mitigate it.

Obama cybersecurity czar: We gave Trump a head start

by Alfred Ng

Michael Daniel spent four years working on cybersecurity for the White House. But he knows there's much more to be done.

The US government's cybersecurity could be a lot better than it is, and President Barack Obama's cyber czar knows why it's in such rough shape.

Michael Daniel was cybersecurity coordinator during Obama's last four years in office. We caught up with him at Black Hat on Thursday, more than six months after Obama left the White House, to talk about President Donald Trump's policies on security, what attacks Americans should be looking out for and the trouble with getting people to listen.

A lot has changed for security in the six months since Trump moved into the White House on Jan. 20. Trump signed an executive order calling for an overhaul on cybersecurity, investigators continue to dig into Russian influence on the election via hacked emails and the world received a wake-up call from not one, but two massive ransomware attacks.

As for Daniel, he's now the president of the Cyber Threat Alliance, a collective of security experts and researchers dedicated to protecting the world from hacks, vulnerabilities and exploits.

DHS Is Failing to Meet Its Cyber Responsibilities

By Steven Bucci

The threats we face in the cyber realm are greater than ever before. Our enemies grow bolder and more capable, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is dithering at a time when the agency should be leading in this critical area. 

Cyber issues have gone political. One only has to read the headlines to recognize that. As important as that part of the field is, it cannot be allowed to hold back improvements in America’s actual cyber defenses. As the cyber threats have grown (from nation-states, terrorists, and cyber activists), America has responded with an ad hoc patchwork of defenses. No one believes that what we now have is sufficient. 

DHS is responsible for defending the “.gov” domain of the Internet. This covers the entire Federal government structure except for the military and intelligence community, as well as many local and state government entities. It is a huge task. Over the years, DHS built up the National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS), but done so in a piecemeal fashion. It has been a noble effort, but faced with present threats, it fails pretty regularly. That is unacceptable.

Marketing to Extremists: Waging War in Cyberspace

By Andrew Byers and Tara Mooney

Online, the Islamic State is a technologically savvy, sophisticated, and nimble organization that learns from its mistakes and from the actions of the Western intelligence services and NGOs that have sought to counter it. It is no secret that past and current efforts to reach potential terrorists before they can become radicalized and committed to a path of jihad and terrorism have proved inadequate. To use the language of online marketers, countering ISIS’s online activities will require quality content disseminated on a massive scale, with careful product placement. Placing counter-messaging products into platforms and forums that extremists frequent will increase the chances of potential terrorist recruits coming into contact with narratives outside of ISIS’ control.

ISIS’s cyber efforts have paid off; the FBI told Congress in July 2016 that “the message of radicalization spreads faster than we imagined just a few years ago.”[i] The number of foreigners who have been inspired by the Islamic State’s online propaganda to travel to Syria and Iraq (or elsewhere) and participate in the fighting is unclear, but most estimates place the tally at more than 20,000. Others have been set on the path of radicalization by ISIS’s online propaganda and have become “lone wolf” attackers in the United States or in Europe.[ii] Demographically speaking, the people who ISIS is most interested in targeting for recruitment came of age in the twenty-first century as “digital natives”; they have lived their entire lives surrounded by ubiquitous online communications and have embraced it in technologically sophisticated ways.[iii] ISIS knows how to appeal to these potential jihadis. Reaching them with counter-messages will require a sophisticated and multi-faceted approach.

The CEO’s guide to competing through HR

By Frank Bafaro, Diana Ellsworth, and Neel Gandhi

Technological tools provide a new opportunity for the function to reach its potential and drive real business value.

A leading US healthcare company was struggling recently to recruit more nurses and stem high staff turnover. Patients were suffering, and the crisis was beginning to hit revenues.

Instead of just continuing to “firefight,” however, the company’s human-resources department responded by launching an in-depth analysis of the tenures in the group’s nursing population, noting in its study some surprising correlations between length of service, compensation, and performance.

HR leaders quickly saw the source of the problem—as well as a solution. They raised the minimum rewards for those early in their tenure and tweaked the total rewards for those with longer career paths, with the result being that the company retained more early-tenure, high-performing nurses. When the company rolled out the plan more widely, employee engagement increased and productivity jumped by around $100 million.

The story shows what can happen when HR steps out of its traditional siloand embraces a strategic role, explicitly using talent to drive value rather than just responding passively to the routine needs of businesses. That’s a transformation many companies have been striving to make in recent years as corporate leaders seek to put into practice the mantra that their people are their biggest asset.