27 August 2017

There is a lot of support for Pakistan in Kashmir: Ex-army General

Former head of Northern Command of Indian army Lieutenant General (R) DS Hooda has said that Pakistan is enjoying widespread support in Kashmir valley, saying Kashmir issue has no military solution to it, and that it can only be solved through bilateral talks.

“If we say that the Kashmir issue has a martial solution, it will be false. The issue is an internal and multifaceted issue,” Lieutenant General (R) DS Hooda was quoted as saying in an interview to BBC Urdu. The General also spoke of the popularity Pakistan enjoys in the Kashmir valley.

“There is a lot of support for Pakistan too. The Indian army’s role is to bring the security situation at a level that encourages political activity within the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Hooda said in the interview.

Talking over the issue of “surgical strikes” the retired army general said, “After detailed consultations prior to the strikes we concluded that an all-out war with Pakistan cannot be triggered, and so we decided to execute our plan and take some risk.”

“The Indian Army was ready to deal with any situation in Kashmir. I cannot share the details but a lot of detailed discussions were held at the army headquarters. It wasn’t that we all of a sudden decided to carry out a surgical strike. We had been planning for quite a time.”

The retired general in the interview also said that carrying out an operation in the area has become a ‘severe headache’ and a great challenge as the Indian army ‘doesn’t want civilians to get harmed.

Civil–Military Relations and Professional Military Education in India

Anit Mukherjee

This article analyzes the ways in which civil–military relations shape professional military education (PME). Its main argument is that military education benefits from a civil–military partnership. In doing so, the article examines the role of civil–military relations in shaping PME in India. While describing the evolution of military education in India, it analyzes its weaknesses and argues that this is primarily due to its model of civil–military relations, with a limited role for civilians. Theoretically, this argument challenges Samuel Huntington’s notion of “objective control”—which envisaged a strict separation between the civil and military domains. Conceptually, this article argues for a greater dialogue on military education among civilians, both policy makers and academics, and military officers and not to leave it to the military’s domain—as is currently the practice in most countries.

Trump singled out India to do more in Afghanistan. That could easily backfire.

By Christopher Clary 

Trump calls on India to provide more economic assistance to Afghanistan

President Trump addressed U.S. troops and the nation from Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 21 to announce his plan going forward in Afghanistan. (The Washington Post)

In the middle of Monday night’s fairly orthodox speech on Afghanistan, President Trump swerved into a brief discussion of India. It would have been odd to summarize a “comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia” without mentioning India, with 1.3 billion people. But the president, after studying “Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle,” used the occasion to prod India to do more to solve America’s 16-year Afghanistan problem.

Consistent with his mercantilist worldview, Trump highlighted that “India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States.” This is true: India shipped approximately $24 billion more in exports to the United States in 2016 than it imported from the United States. After underlining India’s vulnerability, Trump then stressed, “We want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”
India already gives a lot to Afghanistan 



President Donald Trump has announced the results of his “comprehensive review” of U.S. strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia and – as many have already noted – they are uninspiring. Sixteen years of war leads to bouts of soul-searching, but it seems we aren’t obliged to turn up any new thinking in the search.

Any Afghanistan policy review is necessarily a Pakistan policy review. This is simply because, as many experts and even the president has realized, Afghanistan is not “solvable” absent some dramatic change in Pakistani behavior. Jeff Smith, for example, concludes that unless this current review “starts and ends with a decisive change in our Pakistan policy, it will produce the same outcome as every Afghan strategy before it.”

The logic that a change of Pakistani strategy is a necessary condition for any prospect of Afghan success is fairly simple. A 2010 study by the RAND Corporation examined 30 counter-insurgency campaigns and found none were successful so long as there was significant cross-border insurgent support. And, for years now, the U.S. government has concluded that Pakistan provides a safe haven for, among others, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network as they engage in violent operations in Afghanistan. Some believe that in addition to providing operational space for insurgent groups to train, fundraise, and escape pressure, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies may directly provide weapons and money to these groups.

Why Are We Losing in Afghanistan?

By Daniel Byman

After much soul-searching, President Donald Trump intends to order the deployment of more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Although he avoided giving a specific number of troops in his speech to the nation Monday night, the president laid out the case for renewing the U.S. involvement in that country, citing the legacy of 9/11, the dangers of premature withdrawal and the range of security threats in the region. Although Trump lamented that Afghanistan has become America’s longest war, he optimistically promised, “We will win.” Even with the additional troops, however, Trump aims to accomplish more with fewer resources than the United States used in the past; a continued stalemate is the likely outcome.

Afghanistan today looks grim. The United States has spent more than a trillion dollarsand lost more than 2,400 troops there, and the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, declared the strategic situation a “stalemate” early this year (though he argued that the equilibrium favors the government). In May, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that conditions in Afghanistan “will almost certainly deteriorate” in 2018 even with a modest increase in U.S. support. The security situation began to degrade dramatically in the final years of the George W. Bush administration, and there was little progress in the eight years of the Obama administration. Barack Obama left office with more than 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan—significantly fewer than the 100,000-troop peak during his term—as well as almost 5,000 international troops. These forces and their Afghan allies failed to secure the country. Government power has declined: As of November 2016, the government controlled only 57 percent of Afghanistan. But Afghanistan has so far avoided reverting to a base for terrorist attacks on the West or to the grim days of Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Mapping Terrorist Groups Operating Inside Pakistan

By Bill Roggio & Alexandra Gutowski

Yesterday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs took umbrage with President Trump’s speech where he called out Pakistan for harboring terrorist groups. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that “Pakistan does not allow use of its territory against any country,” and denounced the so-called “false narrative of safe havens.”

Pakistan’s denial is laughable on its face. For decades, the country has permitted a number of jihadist groups to openly operate under its aegis. Many of these groups – such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Muhahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami – were created with the support of Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

A map depicting the location some of these groups have known to operate from is embedded to illustrate the support Trump spoke about.

How the U.S. Can Pressure Pakistan


Can anything stop the South Asian nation’s support for militants?

President Trump announced Monday a new strategic review for the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. He offered tough words for Pakistan, which supports militants inside Afghanistan, but gave few details of how the U.S. could persuade it to change its ways. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that U.S.support for Pakistan would be conditioned upon its leaders’ ability to “change their approach” of backing militant groups that are “disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan.”

Complaints about Pakistan’s apparent unwillingness to cooperate with the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan date back almost to the U.S.-led invasion of the country following the attacks of September 11, 2001: The country is known to provide support and a safe haven not only for the Taliban, but also groups that target neighboring India in Kashmir and elsewhere, not to mention the al-Qaeda leadership that’s believed to be inside the country. 

“Every time Pakistan has been pressured, it has always done something to appease the United States,” Hussain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington who is now director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, told me. The problem, he said, is every step Pakistan takes is treated as “a great leap forward,” leading the U.S. to shower incentives on the country. “And then the one step forward,” he said, “has been followed by two steps backwards.”

Trump Goes from Afghanistan War Skeptic to True Believer

Christopher A. Preble

In his address to the nation on Monday evening, President Donald Trump explained that his “original instinct,” when he came into office, “was to pull out” of Afghanistan. But “decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,” and so he, like his two predecessors, has determined that U.S. forces will remain there. “The American people are weary of war without victory,” he explained. So victory is what the president promised them.

Specifically, he pledged to apply force strategically in order “to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.”

On five separate occasions, President Trump referred to a “new strategy” for Afghanistan, but the details are sketchy. Don’t be distracted by the assertions that Trump expects more of our Afghan partners, or that he will put pressure on Pakistan—and we really mean it this time. The relevant point is this: presented with an opportunity to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Trump chose to keep it going. And going. “A core pillar of our new strategy,” he explained, is “a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.” Withdrawal, should it ever come, won’t be based on “arbitrary timetables.” Although he said “our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check,” make no mistake: the U.S. military presence is open-ended.

Climate Change and Migration in Pakistan

By Aymen Ijaz

Islamabad needs to start working on proper plans to handle the human impact of climate change. 

Climate change is an inexorable and contemporary threat with drastic impacts on the survival and living patterns of mankind. Pakistan ranks seventh among the most adversely affected countries by climate change on the Global Climate Risk Index 2017. Pakistan has suffered the devastating impacts of natural disasters and climate change in the recent years, witnessing an earthquake in 2005 and heavy floods in 2010. Climate change have rapidly increased in Pakistan, causing and exacerbating disasters, forcing people to flee their homes and seek shelter elsewhere, thus leading to a climate-induced migration.

There is a direct and deep linkage between climate change and migration. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessed that the magnitude of human displacement may increase due to climate change in the 21st century. There is a difference between climate refugees and climate migrants. Those who leave their place of residency because of sudden environmental change are referred to as environmental refugees, while those who leave due to gradual, long-term climate change are called climate-induced migrants. Generally, there are three types of migration patterns induced by changes in the environment and climate: 1) temporary migration due to cloud bursts, torrential rains, flash floods and so on. Such migrants temporarily leave their homes with the hope to return after the calamity is over; 2) permanent migration due to sea intrusion, in which the seawater encroaches the coastline and forces people to move permanently further inland; and 3) migration caused by Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), in which people live a nomadic life under climate insecurities.

India Feels the Heat From China's Belt and Road

By Dhruva Jaishankar

In May, when China organised a major summit in Beijing around its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as 'One Belt, One Road', or OBOR), one invited country was completely absent: India. In response to queries, New Delhi issued only a short statement that underscored the benefits of 'enhanced physical connectivity' but listed a set of criteria that such initiatives must follow. These included avoiding 'unsustainable debt,' taking into account 'environment protection,' making a 'transparent assessment of project costs,' guaranteeing the transfer of 'skill and technology' to local communities, and respecting 'sovereignty and territorial integrity.'

The message was clear: BRI did not satisfy these requirements. India's concerns have since been partially echoed by other major countries and companies including the European Union, the United States, and Japan.

There are certainly reasons to be somewhat sceptical about BRI's future success. There are gaps between the sums promised and delivery on the ground. New investment commitments might bedeclining. Chinese companies have often struggled in new operating environments. Much of the financing has gone to pet projects or constituencies of local leaders. Chinese initiatives have sometimes resulted in popular protests (and occasionally violent opposition) in Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and East Africa. And Beijing's propensity to sweep many existing initiatives under the BRI umbrella or shower state support on nominally-linked projects tends to inflate its importance. Despite the bold public face, some Chinese analysts and businesspeople acknowledge these deficiencies in private.

The PLA at 90: On the Road to Becoming a World-Class Military?

China recently celebrated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with a parade and military exercises at the Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia (CCTV, July 30). Although the display was characterized as a demonstration of China’s growing military might—particularly new equipment and weapons platforms, including advanced missiles and aircraft—the event also provided important indications of the PLA’s approach to operations and the first-ever demonstration of an actual military operation during a parade. The PLA’s anniversary celebration thus reflected its progress toward becoming a “world-class military” and confidence despite remaining challenges related to the ongoing, historic reforms. Shortly after the parade, Xi Jinping announced: “The PLA has basically completed mechanization and is moving rapidly toward ‘strong’ informationized armed forces,” achieving the 2020 goal of its “three-step development strategy” (PLA Daily, August 2).

PLA Parades in Perspective

Traditionally, PLA parades such as those held in Beijing in 2009 and the 2015 Victory Day Parade—have tended to be highly choreographed displays that are counterproductive in terms of the force’s operational capabilities in actual combat (实战), taking considerable time away from training for the units involved (China Brief, September 24, 2009). For prior parades in Beijing, units from all over the country were required to send personnel and equipment to prepare for the drive down Chang’an Jie months in advance, losing the opportunity to train in a more realistic way for almost an entire training season.



In July 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced victory and the end of the “fake Daesh [ISIL] state”. But the prime minister was careful with his wording. He did not want to proclaim another “mission accomplished” in relation to a Salafi-jihadi group. Iraq has been there before: Consider the fate of al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2005, or the Islamic State of Iraq in 2008. Prime Minister Al-Abadi, according to interviews with his advisors, is well aware that the roots of the Islamic State — neglect, marginalization and corruption — remain rife and that Iraq is far from entering a post-Islamic State (ISIL) phase in this sense.

The international community has fewer qualms. It is already starting to view Iraq as “post-Islamic State” to which it can apply its standardized state-building formula, including in the area of security sector reform. For one, the United States intends to supersize its train and equip efforts for Iraq’s Security Forces by expanding the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq’s remit from the army to include civilian and police security organizations. It will have about $13 billion to spend.

How ISIS harnesses commercial tech to run its global terrorist network

By: Mark Pomerleau 

When it comes to the cyber operations of the Islamic State group and other militant organizations, they have been aspirational in terms of discussing cyber activities almost from the start.

Most cyber operations by the Islamic State group and other militant organizations have been on a fairly low level and merely aspirational, according to the deputy director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.

John Mulligan was giving a keynote address at the DoDIIS Worldwide Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on Tuesday.

From a practical standpoint, cyber activity to date has been largely confined to doxing, where groups such as ISIS find available information and generate kill lists related to security or military personnel, then encouraging others to conduct attacks against those individuals, Mulligan said. This is done through some low-level hacking and the exploitation of low-hanging fruit.

The U.S. government has seen some low-level defacement of websites, he added, but nothing particularly substantial.

The gap between the perception that entities able to do the most harm in cyberspace — to include sophisticated nation-states — probably have lesser intent and entities with more nefarious intent — to include terrorists or criminals — have lesser capability is closing, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May.

Why Russia Wants the US to Stay in Afghanistan

By Samuel Ramani

On August 15, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, urged the United States to withdraw its military presence from Afghanistan and end its 16-year campaign to stabilize the war-torn country. Kabulov’s fierce condemnations of the U.S. war in Afghanistan were praised by senior members of the Russian upper house, like Senator Alexey Pushkov, who claimed that the United States lost the war in Afghanistan due to Bush’s reckless use of force and Obama’s inability to end the war in a timely fashion.

Even though Russian policymakers have scathingly criticized the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a closer examination of Moscow’s Afghanistan strategy reveals that Russia’s strategic interests are furthered by the retention of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Despite his recent statements to the contrary, Kabulov accepted this geopolitical reality in a January 2017 interview with Interfax where he stated that “everything would collapse” in Afghanistan if the United States withdrew troops from the conflict zone.

In light of Kabulov’s previous assessment, U.S. President Donald Trump’s August 21 decision to expand counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan aids Russia’s efforts to stabilize the country in two critical ways. First, Trump’s decision to maintain a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan allows Russia to influence the security situation in Afghanistan through diplomatic pressure on Washington, rather than through the deployment of its own military personnel. Second, Russian policymakers believe that an expanded U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will prevent the Taliban from further expanding its territory and steer the Taliban towards embracing Russia’s vision for a political resolution of the Afghanistan war.

Collision at sea

James Goldrick

The recent spate of US Navy accidents at sea has focused attention on the state of that service and raised questions about readiness and operational effectiveness in the Seventh Fleet. It has also been the subject of obvious schadenfreude on the part of at least one Chinese media outlet. Although each incident is unique, the worry is that training and material standards are not being maintained at the right levels, with suggestions this may be the result of inadequate funding and excessive operational commitments.

The answer to the US Navy’s concerns will be complex. Various media outlets are now listing both recent and historic incidents involving US Navy units. Those lists are long, but it must be remembered that the US Navy has several hundred ships in commission, most of which are at sea undertaking complex and demanding work every day of the year. The amount of sea time and the demanding deployments of the Seventh Fleet’s forward-based ships are unlikely to be direct contributors to the accidents, most notably the Fitzgerald collision in June. Indeed, the accumulated experience of the bridge teams should make them more at ease with handling complex traffic situations than those new to the trade.

All seagoing navies go through bad patches, which may stem from systemic problems, but also result from individual misjudgements and sheer bad luck. The Australian Navy had the trauma of the Melbourne-Voyager collision in 1964 and then the aircraft carrier Melbourne’s collision with the destroyer USS Frank E Evans in 1969, although the latter incident was primarily the fault of the American ship. The US Navy had a bad patch in the mid-1970s that included a collision between the carrier John F Kennedy and the cruiser Belknap that destroyed the cruiser’s superstructure and caused eight deaths. The Royal Navy’s destroyer Southampton collided with the container ship Tor Bay while on escort duties near the Strait of Hormuz in 1988, while her sister ship Nottingham nearly sank after grounding on Wolf Rock near Lord Howe Island in 2002.

Are ‘Restrictions’ Keeping Us From Winning in Afghanistan?


An Army intelligence expert and retired special forces warrior lay out what red tape the President should cut in Afghanistan.

Red tape and bureaucracy are always good targets for new managers eager to show fast progress, and so Donald Trump, in his first presidential speech on Afghanistan, promised to lift restrictions that he said prevented commanders in the field “from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.” But how much do such restrictions really matter?

Defense One put the question to two Army officers with multiple deployments to the region, one a retired Special Forces operator; the other, an intelligence officer now in the Reserves. They both named several restrictions that they called obstacles to greater success in Afghanistan. But they weren’t the same restrictions, or the same obstacles, and that’s as good an indication that there’s no quick fix to America’s longest war.

On Monday, Trump said he would “expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos through Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.”

The intelligence officer said this line left him shaking his head. Targeting, of course, can mean many things, the most straightforward of which is “picking a human to capture or kill.” But Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Haqqani network, and others “were pretty much fair game,” especially for the special operations community, he said. “There never seemed to be serious restrictions on groups that were considered ‘terrorist networks.’”

Assessing the “Extent” of State Sponsored Terrorism: Impotent International Law?

By Anant Mishra

Nations in the history of international relations have been engaged in conflicts, using “conventional” tactics, or through “non-traditional” means. Although, the global community is prepared to counter such “acts” of war with strong and appropriate legal means in an effort to resolve the disputes between countries, the actors of terrorism continue to pose a grave threat to the states involved in disputes, fearing a much “uglier” twist. Nations have been evading the “dire repercussions” of a war using “varied tactics”. Most common and frequently used device is the nation’s apprehension in using its national armed forces but continue to retain aggressive tactics without directly involving the state in the conflict–a proxy war.

This gives the state, an opportunity to openly deny its involvement in the conflict, preventing in angering members in the international community and rescuing itself from harsh measures such as embargo or international sanction. Hence it is imperative for policy makers, legal experts of international community, to deliberate on the acts of the state, covert or not, qualify for an aggression of war against a sovereign country, inviting international sanctions. Through this article, policy makers and academicians, must examine the international legal norms suitability to identify the state as an instigator of “state-backed” violence towards a sovereign country under the United Nations General Assembly adopted 1974definition of Aggression.

Undue reverence for company founders harms Indian firms

THE chairman of Microsoft, John Thompson, occasionally reminds one of its directors, a fellow by the name of Bill Gates, that his vote in board meetings is no more or less important than that of other members. Contrast that with Infosys, an Indian technology firm, whose own retired founder succeeded in getting its boss to quit on August 18th, after a months-long whispering campaign (see article). The board was dismayed, but the outcome was all too predictable, given India’s penchant for treating corporate founders as latter-day maharajahs.

Indian companies come in all shapes and sizes, from clannish outfits whose tycoon bosses routinely stiff minority investors, to giants like Infosys whose corporate governance (usually) matches Western norms. What unites them is that they accord undue deference to “promoters”, as India dubs a firm’s founding shareholders. The exalted status bestowed on promoters is a pervasive feature of the Indian corporate landscape. Of the 500 largest listed Indian firms, according to IiAS, an advisory firm, 344 are controlled in practice not by boards answerable to all shareholders, but directly by promoters.

B-52, B-2 and B-21 Bombers Are Getting Nuclear-Tipped Cruise Missiles

Dave Majumdar

The U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin and Raytheon a pair of contracts worth about $900 million each to develop the stealthy Long Range Standoff — or LRSO — nuclear-tipped cruise missile.

Each contact will run for 54-month period of performance during which the two companies will perform technology maturation and risk reduction work on their respective designs. At the end of the 54-month TMRR phase, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center will choose a single contractor for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development and Production and Deployment phases of the program in 2022.

“This weapon will modernize the air-based leg of the nuclear triad,” Air Force secretary Heather Wilson said.

“Deterrence works if our adversaries know that we can hold at risk things they value. This weapon will enhance our ability to do so, and we must modernize it cost-effectively.”

The LRSO will start to be fielded in the late 2020s. It will be able to fit on all of the Air Force’s nuclear-capable bombers including the Boeing B-52, Northrop Grumman B-2 and the new B-21 Raider, replacing the antiquated AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile.

“Secretary Wilson and I are responsible for organizing, training, equipping, and presenting ready nuclear forces to the Strategic Command commander,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said.

What Really Won World War II (and It Wasn't Nuclear Weapons)

“We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible.”

The above quote is attributed to William Knudsen, president of General Motors and Roosevelt’s wartime director of production management, a man who was intimately involved in the massive production drive that made the U.S. military the best supplied military in the world during World War II.

That is the argument made by This Is Capitalism, in conjunction with the WWII Museum in New Orleans, a website by Stephens, Inc. dedicated to reinforcing the appreciation of Capitalism in American society.

This Is Capitalism has teamed up with the WWII Museum in New Orleans to produce two fascinating videos on the role of U.S. private industry in WWII. These short but informative videos discuss the ways in which two of America’s most influential entrepreneurs during World War II impacted the strategic course of the war.

William ‘Bill’ Knudsen’s story is detailed in the video Capitalism in World War II: The Arsenal of Democracy. President of General Motors Bill Knudsen’s chief contribution to the war effort was his role as Roosevelt’s wartime director of production management. The Arsenal of Democracy describes how the merger of political and economic leadership in the United States created the greatest war economy of World War II.

General Atomics sheds light on the future of unmanned tech

By: Valerie Insinna

POWAY, Calif. — As the manufacturer of the Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, General Atomics is one of the most prodigious defense contractors working today. It is also one of the most secretive and reclusive, opting to keep new developments under lock and key.

Until now.

The company invited reporters on Aug. 15 and 16 to a media open house at their headquarters in Poway, California, for a series of briefings about emerging technology and GA’s growth path for the MQ-9 Reaper.

Here is a snapshot of what the company is working on.

A Reaper that can fly in national airspace

General Atomics is racing to make its MQ-9B Sky Guardian the first UAV certified to fly through civil airspace in the United States and Europe without needing special permissions from the Federal Aviation Administration or NATO.

Sky Guardian looks and flies like a baseline MQ-9 Reaper, but is pretty much a completely new aircraft, said a GA official that was not authorized to speak on the record. Almost all GA media day briefings were made available “on background,” meaning that journalists were not permitted to attribute information to specific subject matter experts.

Report: Critical infrastructure under risk of ‘9/11-level cyber attack’

By: Mark Pomerleau

A successful cyberattack on the nation’s critical infrastructure has long been considered a looming and catastrophic threat. It’s not difficult to imagine what such an attack would look like given Ukraine has served as a test case of sorts following an attack on its grid, which has been attributed to Russian cyber actors.

A draft report by the U.S. president’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council, or NAIC, assesses that: “The time to act is now. As a Nation, we need to move past simply studying our cybersecurity challenges and begin taking meaningful steps to improve our cybersecurity to prevent a major debilitating cyber attack.”

The report, “Securing Cyber Assets, Addressing Urgent Cyber Threats to Critical Infrastructure,” offers nearly a dozen recommendations for key government stakeholders to prevent “a watershed, 9/11-level cyber attack.”

They include the establishment of a separate, secure communications network for the most critical networks; a private sector-led pilot of machine-to-machine information sharing technologies; strengthening the capabilities of the cyber workforce; and establishment of protocols to declassify cyberthreat information to be shared with infrastructure owners and operators.



Cold War culture produced some enduring witticisms, but few are wiser than this gem from Dr. Strangelove: “The whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret.” In a recent War on the Rocks article, Joshua Rovner portrays cyber capabilities as the anti-Doomsday machine: nations use them in public but see little blowback. Rovner bases his conclusions off empirical work he’s done with Tyler Moore, published in a new journal article.

I don’t buy the argument (at least as it was written up for War on the Rocks). Before I get to why, though, one important caveat: I applaud Rovner and Moore for trying to bring more data-driven research methods to the intersection of cyber-security and international affairs. Too often, the research in this area lacks empirical observation. But data, especially in a field that’s mostly hidden from public view and which requires technical knowledge to understand, has its limits. Incomplete numbers lie.

Rovner’s most important argument is straightforward: “There may be good reasons to eschew offensive cyber operations … but officials need not be deterred by the fear of extensive and lasting collateral damage.” To get there, he argues that Stuxnet and the operations revealed by Edward Snowden did not cause much blowback, even though each went public in a way that the United States did not intend.

Cyber Threat Data Sharing Needs Refinement

By Constance Douris

Technologies are being interconnected and integrated onto the nation’s electric grid to decrease weaknesses. However, these physical and computerized elements multiply the number of access points for cyber risks, making protection of the grid challenging. If done correctly, sharing cyber threat information eliminates the chances for one cyber threat or attack to affect multiple stakeholders.

In theory, one entity identifies a cyber threat or attack and shares the collected information with public and private sector partners. The intelligence is then applied to protect these partners’ networks. The intent is for data and systems to become more secure and less prone to cyberattacks when intelligence and resources are shared among many stakeholders. Without data sharing, it is almost impossible to detect, defend and contain systemic attacks early.

While sharing cyber threat data sounds easy, it is complicated by legal, operational and privacy issues. The private sector believes the government is good at collecting threat intelligence, but is hesitant to embrace it as an equal partner. Furthermore, the private sector fears it may be exposed to lawsuits for disclosing sensitive personal or business information. Released threat data could harm a company’s reputation and even cause its stock price to drop. The data could also be used for regulatory actions or for law-enforcement and intelligence collection activities. Hence, the private sector is reluctant to share threat data without an incentive.

Senate Intelligence Committee takes aim at cyber vulnerabilities

By: Mark Pomerleau 

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual intelligence bill is taking aim at the process by which the federal government discloses cyber vulnerabilities.

The bill, which passed in the committee at the end of July by a vote of 14-1, calls for the head of each element of the intelligence community to submit a report to Congress detailing the process and criteria used to determine whether to submit a vulnerability for review under the vulnerabilities equities process.

The vulnerabilities equities process was established by the Obama administration and is a process by which the government discloses certain vulnerabilities discovered by both the public and private sectors in the name of cybersecurity for all. The government retains sets of discovered exploits or vulnerabilities, in some cases zero-day vulnerabilities, as a means of collecting intelligence against certain targets. Legislation has been introduced to codify the vulnerabilities equities process, as it is merely policy.

The Protecting our Ability To Counter Hacking, or PATCH, Act is a bipartisan bill to address issues of cybersecurity transparency and accountability that arise from researchers hoarding zero-day software vulnerabilities that can impact government agencies, vendors and customers.