10 September 2017

*** The Next War 35 15 What the military doesn’t know it doesn’t know about future threats.

By Isaac Chotiner

How does the military prepare for future unknown threats?

Everyone knows the foreign threats our government deems urgent: cyberwar, a criminal North Korean regime, an aggressive Russia leader. (OK, not everyone in our government ... ) But how does the military prepare for the threats which will eventually arise, but are not yet known? Peter W. Singer is a strategist and senior fellow at New America, and an expert on military technology and planning. And he spends his time studying what threats America is likely to face, and how the armed forces should prepare for them.

I recently spoke by phone with Singer, whose latest book (co-written with August Cole) is Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed the ethical considerations involved in pursuing new military technologies, the ways in which the military tries to stay ahead of the game, and why the Trump administration’s unwillingness to take global warming seriously is so dangerous.

Isaac Chotiner: What is the process by which the military thinks about future threats and prepares for them?

Peter W. Singer: Like it or not, everyone is a futurist in some way, shape, or form. For the military, that means wrestling with everything from how it envisions the future threat to the environment, to how it budgets for what weapons to buy, to how it trains individual soldiers as they go into basic training. When you’re thinking about this space of “wrestling with the future,” it really encompasses almost everything that the military does in a certain way. Even military history programs are about going back and looking at the past, not for its own sake, but for lessons to mine for the future.

*** 杀手锏 and 跨越发展: Trump Cards and Leapfrogging

By Elsa B. Kania

Since the 1990s, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has focused on the development of asymmetric capabilities that target U.S. vulnerabilities. At present, the PLA’s approach is starting to evolve toward a strategy centered upon technological and defense innovation. The PLA is pursuing innovations in “strategic frontier” (战略前沿) technologies with disruptive military applications, including directed energy, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies. The PLA intends to achieve “leapfrog development” (跨越发展), seeking to surpass the U.S. military within critical technological domains in which the U.S. does not possess, and may not be able to achieve, a decisive advantage.

A command and control technician assigned to a missile brigade of the air force under the PLA Central Theater Command operates counter-jamming system during a ground-aerial confrontation drill at a military training base in China's northern Fujian province on Oct. 10, 2016. (81.cn/ Li Ming)

The PLA came late to the information technology revolution in military affairs and has since struggled to develop the capabilities necessary for modern, “informatized” (信息化) warfare. During the first Gulf War, the PLA initially recognized the full extent of its own backwardness relative to the U.S. military, which then revealed transformative U.S. advances in network-centric warfare.[1] Consequently, the PLA embarked upon an ambitious agenda of “informatization,” seeking to enhance its capacity to utilize information in warfare and advance its command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems.[2]

*** A Failure of Strategic Vision: U.S. Policy and the Doklam Border Dispute


On Monday, August 28th, China and India announced a de-escalation of their two month old confrontation along the tri-border area with Bhutan near Doklam. Beijing and New Delhi made this announcement about a week in advance of Prime Minister Modi’s simultaneously-announced intent to visit to China from September 3-5 for the annual BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) Summit.

The peaceful dénouement of this latest dust-up over unresolved Himalayan boundaries between India and China – this time involving Bhutan – appears to have been artfully managed by New Delhi. After 72 days, tensions were diffused as both sides agreed to stand-back from the point of the border dispute. India withdrew its troops and China withdrew its military heavy road construction crew.

The Chinese official version of the settlement omitted mention of its road crew withdrawal while highlighting the Indian troop stand-back. India chose not to challenge the Chinese claim, keeping the terms of the disengagement under wraps. This was a prudent move, for it allowed China’s President Xi Jinping to host the September BRICS Summit free from an ongoing and awkward dispute between host and a guest; and, it allows Xi to enter the upcoming Chinese Communist Party Congress with a claim that he resolved the Doklam dispute without making concessions.

China’s Doklam posturing

Bhartendu Kumar Singh

Contrary to China's hope that perhaps India would back off, as the standoff built up, India refused to blink. The global reaction too tended to lean towards India or was neutral.

WHILE the Doklam crisis has ended, speculation and guesswork continue to masquerade the causes that triggered the crisis. Perceptions and misperceptions overshadow the actual sequence of developments on the ground but there is little doubt that the Chinese leadership wanted to build a road in the disputed area. However, it did eat humble pie, much against its expectations. 

When the crisis was on, some newspaper articles in India postulated it as another example of (insecure) Chinese nationalism. However, the crisis was neither caused nor precipitated by Chinese nationalism. India actually does not figure high in the Chinese calculus of nationalism. The aggressive posturing by the Global Times (a newspaper perceived to enjoy state support in China) at best represents the microscopic viewpoint. Chinese nationalism is still preoccupied with Japan, the US and Taiwan (to some extent). Throughout the crisis period, there were no mass protests against India as has been the case against Japan and the US in the past, often under state patronage. 

An India where knowledge is free

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As India joins the rest of the world in celebrating the 51st International Literacy Day today, I would like to emphasise the important role of literacy in the development architecture of all countries and its crucial role as a development accelerator. It is a day when we recollect our freedom struggle and the words of Mahatma Gandhi who called mass illiteracy a sin and a shame that must be eradicated. It is a day when we reflect on our progress over the last 70 years and evaluate our progress in achieving the goals put forth eloquently by Jawaharlal Nehru on the midnight of August 15, 1947: “To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman”.

As we take stock of our achievements over the years, we can look back with pride at the many milestones we have crossed. Only 18 per cent of our population could read and write in 1947. Today, nearly 74 per cent of our population has basic literacy skills. Over 95 per cent of the country’s children are in school and nearly 86 per cent of young people are functionally literate. This is not a small achievement. However, we have to draw inspiration from our past successes and move forward.

We cannot ignore the fact that today nearly 35 crore youth and adults are outside the world of literates and are unable to participate effectively in the development of the country. About 40 per cent of our schoolchildren do not acquire literacy skills with satisfactory proficiency even after completing elementary education. We have a formidable challenge that needs to be recognised and systematically addressed.

India-China Relations: How long this rivalry?


The short answer to how long will India and China be rivals is: Forever. But rivals need not be enemies and neighbors need not get fratricidal. If there are two large and rising powers in a region, rivalry is inevitable. France and Germany or Brazil and Argentina come readily to mind. A hundred and fifty years ago France and Britain were bitter adversaries. The rise of Teutonic nationalism and of Nazism united the two countries against a common enemy. 

Enmity between nations is usually a consequence of shared of unhappily shared history. The enmity between China and Japan for instance is a consequence of the occupation of a good part of China by Imperial Japan. The enmity between India and Pakistan is due to different perceptions of the same history and was freeze dried for these past few generations by Partition. Parts of India might share the same blood as Pakistan, but that doesn’t matter. Religion is stronger than blood. Worse still is the intense enmity between the two Koreas, where ideology is the driving force. But India and China have had no shared history or competitive ideologies – not now anyway. This is more of a rivalry.

The “end of history” with the triumph of liberal democracy has largely blunted Franco-German rivalry by entwining them economically, while the advent of the European Union has made the borders seamless. The ratification of the Treaty of Tlatelolco of 1967 by Argentina in 1994, making all of Latin America and the Caribbean a nuclear free zone, has more or less eliminated any vestigial military fears Argentina and Brazil may have had. On the other hand go to a Brazil-Argentina soccer match or to a France-England rugby game and you will wonder if things have changed at all? Rivalries, it seems, are forever!

What's Behind Saudi Arabia's Turn Away From the Taliban?

By Samuel Ramani

Saudi Arabia’s increasingly anti-Taliban stance helps Riyadh consolidate its vital regional alliances and isolate Qatar.

On August 7, 2017, Saudi Arabia’s most senior diplomat in Afghanistan, Mishari al-Harbi, described the Taliban as “armed terrorists” in an interview with Afghan reporters. Even though the Taliban’s alliance with Iran has created tensions between Riyadh and the Taliban in recent years, al-Harbi’s hostile rhetoric towards the Taliban surprised many observers, as Saudi Arabia recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government during the 1990s and expressed interest in hosting a Taliban diplomatic base in 2011.

Saudi Arabia’s increasingly hostile rhetoric towards the Taliban can be explained by two main factors. First, the Saudi government’s rhetoric aims to deter private donors in Saudi Arabia from providing financial assistance to the Taliban. Second, Saudi Arabia’s de-legitimization of the Taliban as a political entity seeks to undercut the effectiveness of Qatar’s mediation efforts between the Taliban and Kabul.

Even though Saudi Arabia renounced its diplomatic support for the Taliban in the days leading up to the 2001 war in Afghanistan, the Saudi monarchy continued to allow private donors residing in the kingdom to financially assist the Taliban. Saudi Arabia’s support for the Taliban has consisted of financial donations from prominent Wahhabi businessmen and political elites, and Riyadh’s facilitation of the Taliban’s efforts to extract tax revenues from Pashtun guest workers residing in the kingdom.

Kim Jong-un Isn’t Crazy and China Doesn’t Have a Solution

Doug Bandow

Admittedly no one should expect linear thinking from President Donald Trump. Still, it was a bit jarring to hear him go from calling North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un a “pretty smart cookie” and “gentleman” who the president would be “honored” to meet to a “madman with nuclear weapons.”

Not that the recent phone call with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte was the first time President Trump questioned Kim’s sanity. Last year candidate Trump said Kim was “like a maniac.”

Thankfully President Trump indicated that he didn’t want to use America’s vastly more powerful military against Kim. The president still looks to Beijing for the answer: “I hope China solves the problem. They really have the means because a great degree of their stuff come[s] through China. But if China doesn’t do it, we will do it.” The president didn’t explain what “it” might involve.

No one who pays attention to the Korean Peninsula believes that there is an easy answer to the challenge of a nuclear North Korea. But finding solutions will become even harder if the problem is misdiagnosed.

The North’s leaders, starting with founder Kim Il-sung, appear to be eminently rational. His son, Kim Jong-il, wore platform shoes, had bouffant hair, donned oversized sunglasses and was particularly easy to caricature (think “Team America”). Nevertheless, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and descendent Kim Jong-un have skillfully wielded power, maintained control, deterred the United States and turned their small country into a Weltmacht of sorts.

China: Consolidating Control Over Military Might

China's communist leadership is in the final stages of a massive transition of power. In addition to the huge reshuffles among political cadres underway across all but the highest levels of the government, changes in the top military ranks have quietly been taking shape. At least five of the 11 members of the Central Military Commission — which oversees military affairs — will step down, including one of the committee's two vice chairmen. As China is undergoing substantial military reform aimed at modernization, President Xi Jinping is engaged in the broadest effort to consolidate power over the military since the days of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

Sweeping anti-corruption crackdowns against senior military officials are underway. On Sept. 4, Reuters reported that Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the Joint Staff Department in the People's Liberation Army and a strong contender for vice chairman, had been questioned on suspicion of corruption. Chinese state media made no mention of this but did confirm in late August that Fang had been replaced. If true, the investigation will certainly deprive Fang of his chances for a vice chairmanship. Two other members of the committee, Adm. Wu Shengli and Gen. Zhang Yang, are reportedly also under investigation. These investigations have focused notably on personnel who were allegedly appointed by former vice chairmen and not by Xi's allies, leading many to believe the crackdown is intended to target the power networks of his potential political rivals, including two former vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission, Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou.

China’s digital economy: A leading global force

China has one of the most active digital-investment and start-up ecosystems in the world, according to a new discussion paper from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), China’s digital economy: A leading global force. China is in the top three in the world for venture-capital investment in key types of digital technology, including virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, robotics, drones, and artificial intelligence (AI). China is the world’s largest e-commerce market, accounting for more than 40 percent of the value of worldwide e-commerce transactions, up from less than 1 percent about a decade ago. China has also become a major global force in mobile payments with 11 times the transaction value of the United States. One in three of the world’s 262 unicorns (start-ups valued at over $1 billion) is Chinese, commanding 43 percent of the global value of these companies (Exhibit).

Exhibit 1

Israel Has Launched Its Largest Military Exercise in Almost 20 Years


The Israeli military is in the midst of its largest military exercise in nearly two decades, focusing on a potential war with Hezbollah. 

Held in the north of the country, the roughly two-week drill – dubbed “The Light of Grain” – comes amid rising tension along the Lebanese-Israeli border, where Hezbollah, the Lebanese political party and militia, has maintained a presence for decades.

The drill will simulate “scenarios we’ll be facing in the next confrontation with Hezbollah,” an Israeli defense source told Agence France-Presse.

Tens of thousands of soldiers from multiple branches of the Israeli Defense Forces – including the air force, navy, ground units, intelligence, and cyber command – are set to participate.

On Thursday, senior Hezbollah leader Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, the head of Hezbollah’s governing Sharia Council, dismissed the operation. “The maneuvers that [Israel] is conducting on the border are part of coercions after the triumphs that [Hezbollah] has made against terrorism,” he said, according to the Daily Star.

The line of demarcation between the two countries has been relatively peaceful since the last war in 2006. However, tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have increased steadily over the last several months due at least in part to Israeli actions on the border and Hezbollah’s deep involvement in the Syrian war.

ISIS is Using Low-Tech Means to Inflict Large-Scale Terror

Daniel R. DePetris

Simple firearms, knives, and automobiles can result in a horrific number of casualties.

On Thursday, August 17, Spain became the latest country in the West to live through a crude but deadly terrorist attack perpetrated by a group of jihadist-inspired individuals.

The modus operandi of using a large van to strike Las Ramblas, a central tourist spot packed with people in the heart of Barcelona, is nearly identical to acts of terrorism that have occurred in France, Germany, the United States, the UK, and Sweden over the past year-and-a-half. In each case, a radicalized or psychologically distressed individual hijacks or rents a vehicle, waits for an opportune moment for a vulnerable soft target, and turns that vehicle into a deadly weapon by deliberately running people over on the sidewalk. For a terrorist, killing people with a car in an isolated attack is a lot less dramatic than a series of coordinated and synchronized suicide bombings on mass transit systems planned over a period of months. But ramming attacks have the benefit of being very easy to carry out; indeed, running pedestrians over with a car does not require any particular knowledge, skill or intelligence.

Terrorism in our current age is no longer defined by the terrorist cell meeting halfway around the world in a safe-haven, plotting a spectacular attack months and years in advance. Instead, the Islamic State has made terrorism easy for anybody to conduct. As ISIS’s former chief operational planner and spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, implored to ISIS’s pack of recruits in Western Europe in 2014 and again in 2016, you don’t need to travel to Syria and gain battlefield skills to become a valuable member of the Islamic State’s community. All you need to do is pick up a knife and slash a police officer or hijack a car and run over pedestrians on the sidewalk. No expertise on Islam is required, just a willingness to kill innocent people in the name of the caliphate.

Why Kim Jong-Un wouldn’t be irrational to use a nuclear bomb first

By Vipin Narang 

The nuclear strategy of weaker powers.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is advancing quickly. This year, it has tested a suite of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles that can hit neighbors and American bases in East Asia, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, two intercontinental-range ballistic missiles and a purported thermonuclear weapon capable of flattening a city. Soon Kim Jong Un will be able to deliver it to our shores, if he cannot do so already. 

This, we are told, is an unfortunate but not an existential problem. Although it will reshape geopolitics, there is no real threat of nuclear warfare, because Kim has no death wish. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Americans should sleep well at night, and analysts argue that it would be tantamount to national suicide for Kim to use nuclear weapons against the United States. Kim is ruthlessly rational. If his purpose is to ensure his survival (how better to understand his quest for nukes?), why would he risk it by starting a conflict with Washington he can’t win? Surely it won’t come to war, let alone nuclear war. 

Yes, Kim is brutally rational. And that is precisely why he may have to use nuclear weapons, but not in a first strike against American cities. Kim’s nuclear arsenal exists to stop his enemies’ quest for regime change. If North Korea and the United States wind up shooting at each other, it might make sense for Kim to use nuclear weapons first in a way that increases his chances of survival. The basic idea is to use one set of nuclear devices first to stave off the conventional invasion, and hold in reserve longer range, more powerful devices that threaten the enemy’s cities to deter nuclear annihilation. It’s a doctrine called “asymmetric escalation,” employed by states that are conventionally weak. France used it during the Cold War to deter the more powerful Soviet Union, and Pakistan does the same today against a more powerful India. 

Negotiating A Path To Dialogue With North Korea


The path toward dialogue with North Korea looks fainter by the day. Washington is calling for increased isolation of the North Korean government, announcing expanded arms sales to South Korea and Japan, and promising to deploy additional strategic assets in and around the Korean Peninsula. Even the South Korean government has said that dialogue may have to wait, since North Korea's latest nuclear test and rapid-fire missile launches threaten to destabilize the security balance in East Asia.

Beijing, meanwhile, has kept up its calls for talks, though it also has advocated stronger sanctions on Pyongyang. The most important thing, China insists, is that the United States and North Korea sit down to talk - whether in a multilateral, trilateral, bilateral or whatever possible format. From Beijing's perspective, dialogue is the only way to ease the heightened tensions in Korea, while excessive sanctions or coercive tactics are largely ineffective, if not counterproductive. It's becoming increasingly obvious, however, that Washington and Beijing differ in their thinking about talks with North Korea. Having just returned from two weeks spent engaged in unofficial dialogues and exchanges in the region, I can attest that the gulf separating China from the United States is as wide as the media makes it out to be. But the reasons behind the divergence are different from the ones so often described in the news.

Don’t Panic About North Korea

By Fred Kaplan

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is doing a lot of reckless things these days, but he poses no threat to the United States—or at least no sort of threat that we can’t readily handle. If he deploys a nuclear-tipped missile with the range to strike U.S. territory (as he’ll likely be able to do soon), that will complicate national security policy but in a completely manageable way. It won’t mean that he’s about to attack some American city—or that we need to attack North Korea pre-emptively.

In short, it’s time to pipe down about North Korea—not because Kim is benign or powerless (he’s neither), but because the hysteria coming out of Washington these days is overwrought and is making things worse.

There are two reasons not to be so nervous about North Korea’s recent tests of missiles and nuclear explosives. First, nuclear deterrence—the theory that Country X won’t fire nukes at Country Y if Country Y has nukes it can fire back—works. In the annals of international relations, there are fewer theories that have a better track record than this one. Second, we have thousands of nuclear weapons—stationed worldwide, on land, at sea, and in the air—and there’s no way Kim could launch an attack on us without facing an annihilating retaliatory blow.

Russia's covert cyber-warfare will end in human death warns Latvia's foreign minister

By Jason Murdock 

MI6 chief warns Russian-style 'hybrid warfare' poses threat to UK and Western allies IBTimes UK

Covert cyber-warfare by Russian state-sponsored hackers may soon result in loss of life as Western countries continue to underestimate the Kremlin's hacking, propaganda and misinformation capabilities, according to Latvia's foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

He was speaking ahead of Zapad 2017, a week-long war game by Russian and Belarusian troops set to kick off on 14 September, warning that Moscow officials may attempt to exploit the exercise to test how it can perfect campaigns previously conducted in Ukraine and the US.

"What I am rather worried about is that this hidden cyber-warfare can escalate to a level [...] where we are not going to talk about bank attacks or ransom payments," Rinkēvičs said, as reported by The Telegraph. "At some point, people are going to die."

Russian hackers have been linked to attacks on the US presidential election, the French government, German politicians and the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

If the U.S. Military Strikes North Korea It Could Mean Nuclear War

Daniel L. Davis

I have fought in high intensity, major conventional combat. War on the Korean Penninsula would kill tens of thousands within days, potentially hundreds of thousands.

Early Sunday morning, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un ordered the test of the largest yield nuclear test in the country’s history. In response, President Donald Trump tweeted out a disparaging comment on the president of South Korea and warned that Kim “only understands one thing,” clearly implying military power. The situation on the Korean peninsula is now at the brink of major—and potentially nuclear—war. Only wise, sober and carefully calculated actions from the White House can avoid this destructive outcome; continuing with the military-first method of problem-solving will likely fail, spawning a war.

The president must put aside personal hubris and pride, and instead engage in serious statecraft. The United States dwarfs North Korea in every category: air power, sea power, ground forces, a powerful global economy and a modern nuclear arsenal that could obliterate the tiny ”Hermit Kingdom” a thousand times over. We should not be in reactionary mode, allowing Kim to keep the initiative and set the basis of the crisis.

Despite what many hawkish, so-called ”foreign-policy experts” say in Washington, time is on our side. We should act like the world-class global power we are, take control of the matter from Kim Jong-un, and reduce the tensions and threats to a tolerable steady-state.

Those advocating for a preventive military response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test represent a danger to U.S. security.

The Fake Americans Russia Created to Influence the Election


Sometimes an international offensive begins with a few shots that draw little notice. So it was last year when Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pa., a friendly-looking American with a backward baseball cap and a young daughter, posted on Facebook a link to a brand-new website.

“These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US,” he wrote on June 8, 2016. “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!”

Mr. Redick turned out to be a remarkably elusive character. No Melvin Redick appears in Pennsylvania records, and his photos seem to be borrowed from an unsuspecting Brazilian. But this fictional concoction has earned a small spot in history: The Redick posts that morning were among the first public signs of an unprecedented foreign intervention in American democracy.Photo

A Facebook post, by someone claiming to be Melvin Redick, promoting a website linked to the Russian military intelligence agency G.R.U.CreditThe New York Times

The DCLeaks site had gone live a few days earlier, posting the first samples of material, stolen from prominent Americans by Russian hackers, that would reverberate through the presidential election campaign and into the Trump presidency. The site’s phony promoters were in the vanguard of a cyberarmy of counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts, a legion of Russian-controlled impostors whose operations are still being unraveled.

The Russian information attack on the election did not stop with the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails or the fire hose of stories, true, false and in between, that battered Mrs. Clinton on Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik. Far less splashy, and far more difficult to trace, was Russia’s experimentation on Facebook and Twitter, the American companies that essentially invented the tools of social media and, in this case, did not stop them from being turned into engines of deception and propaganda.

Engaging Religion and Religious Actors in Countering Violent Extremism

Interest and space for including religious actors in policy on countering violent extremism (CVE) has grown over the past few years, but debates over the degree to which ideological, religious, or structural factors contribute to violent extremism have not yielded clear guidance for policymakers and practitioners.

The role of religion as a potential driver of violent extremism is significant, but religion usually interacts with a wide range of other factors and causality is not linear.

An alternative approach that focuses on the role or function of religion in violent extremism—facilitating mobilization, providing a counternarrative, providing a justification, and sanctifying violent acts—shows promise.

Religious leaders are integral members of civil society and key contributors to public and political discourse. Engaging them in all spheres of government work, carefully and with sensitivity to power asymmetries and potential risks, is needed.

Understanding how religious factors affect violent extremism can help inform the design and implementation of CVE solutions that engage the religious sector.

America’s New Deadliest War is Hiding in Plain Sight

By Mackenzie Eaglen

With hurricane relief and the debt ceiling grabbing the headlines, it will be easy to overlook today’s Congressional hearing on recent ship collisions in the Pacific Ocean. But policymakers should not.

Troops are now more likely to die in “peacetime” incidents than active hostilities or combat.

We should all be worried about that trend. Recent U.S. Navy ship collisions in the Pacific and several aircraft crashes have highlighted the tangible and tragic consequences of how “degraded military readiness” manifests. The loss of life stemming from the accidents involving the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain has led to an operational pause in the United States Navy—and for good reason. Something is wrong, and if recent history is any indication, it is likely not just one single issue that can quickly be isolated and fixed.

While Afghanistan is now the longest continuous conflict in American military history, it actually ceased to be the deadliest threat that the military faces several years ago. That dubious honor has belonged to the specter of on-duty accidents, which have been the biggest killer of American servicemembers since 2014.

Reinventing electronic warfare

The Pentagon’s recently completed Electronic Warfare strategy calls for increased investment in advanced electronic warfare technology designed for defense, as well as a proactive use of emerging electromagnetic spectrum systems to attack enemies.

While the new strategy is described by DOD as being “For Official Use Only” -- to be shared with relevant U.S. military developers and defense industry sources – officials familiar with its contents did describe some of it broad parameters and goals.

"The vision of the Electronic Warfare strategy is to be agile, adaptive and integrate electronic warfare to offensively achieve electromagnetic spectrum superiority across the range of military operations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb told Defense Systems.

Babb further articulated that the strategic goals include organizing the electronic warfare enterprise to ensure electromagnetic spectrum superiority, training and equipping EW forces and strengthening partnerships with allies, industry and academia.

This DOD electronic warfare strategy took on new urgency following Russia’s successful use of advanced EW technologies in Ukraine and the pace of global technological progress in the area of EW systems, according to industry and government sources.

SpaceX successfully launches the X-37B, the Pentagon’s secretive autonomous space drone

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In the Pentagon’s vast arsenal there is little quite like it: a super-secret space drone that looks like a miniature version of the space shuttle, but orbits the Earth for months, even years, at a time. Doing what? The Air Force won’t say.

On the tarmac, the X-37B, as it is called, looks tiny, standing not much taller than a person. Its wingspan measures less than 15 feet, and it weighs in at just 11,000 pounds. But over the course of six flights, it has proved to be a rugged little robotic spacecraft, spending a total of nearly six years, probing the hard environment of the high frontier.

On Thursday, after a successful morning launch at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the X-37B headed yet again to the vital real estate known as low Earth orbit, home to the International Space Station and all sorts of military and commercial satellites. The mission is slated to last 270 days, but the Air Force warned in a statement that “the actual duration depends on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance and conditions at the landing facility.”

In other words, there’s no telling how long the thing will be up there.

There’s also no telling what the spaceplane will be doing.

On a fact sheet, the Air Force says that, “the primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.”

Facebook under attack on Capitol Hill for taking Russian money to air ads critical of Hillary Clinton during 2016 election campaign

Facebook is facing intense political fallout and thorny legal questions a day after confirming that Russian funds paid for advertising on the social media platform aimed at influencing voters during last year’s presidential election.

Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday he hopes to call executives from Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to testify publicly about what role their companies may have played, however unwittingly, in the wider Kremlin effort to manipulate the 2016 White House race.

“I think we may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” the Virginia Democrat told reporters in response to Facebook’s Wednesday disclosure that apparent Russian-tied accounts spent some $150,000 on more than 5,200 political ads last year. Warner said Facebook’s disclosure was based only on a “fairly narrow search” for suspicious ad-buying accounts.

Facebook was also the target of a 20-minute monologue by the MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night, in which she pointedly noted the company’s past denials to media outlets including Time, McClatchy and CNN that it had found any Russian-bought ads.

“It raises very interesting questions about Facebook accepting that money to influence the U.S. election without noticing that it was from a foreign source,” she said, adding the Russian purchasers and Americans who knew about the ad buys were now exposed to criminal proceedings.

The Robots Will Run the CIA, Too


The CIA currently has 137 different artificial intelligence pilot projects underway, according to a senior agency official.

Dawn Meyerriecks, the CIA’s deputy director for science and technology, told an audience at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington that the agency has a “punch list” of different artificial intelligence problems that it wants the private sector to work on. The CIA is already coordinating this work with In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital firm, she said.

The intelligence community has been eyeing artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace some of the tedious tasks its analysts perform for a while now. In June, Robert Cardillo, the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, vowed to bring in robots to do 75 percent of the tasks currently being done by employees to analyze and interpret images beamed in from feeds around the globe and in space.

The CIA and other intelligence agencies have been investing in artificial intelligence for decades, and the technology is already prevalent in certain security applications including facial and voice recognition. But there are a growing number of more ambitious practical applications, including in detecting malicious hacking online and helping pilot drones and other autonomous vehicles.

Cyberspying News: Probable Russian hackers gain entry into U.S., European energy sector, Symantec warns

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Advanced hackers have targeted United States and European energy companies in a cyber espionage campaign that has in some cases successfully broken into the core systems that control the companies’ operations, according to researchers at the security firm Symantec.

Malicious email campaigns have been used to gain entry into organizations in the United States, Turkey and Switzerland, and likely other countries well, Symantec said in a report published on Wednesday.

The cyber attacks, which began in late 2015 but increased in frequency in April of this year, are probably the work of a foreign government and bear the hallmarks of a hacking group known as Dragonfly, Eric Chien, a cyber security researcher at Symantec, said in an interview.

The research adds to concerns that industrial firms, including power providers and other utilities, are susceptible to cyber attacks that could be leveraged for destructive purposes in the event of a major geopolitical conflict.