24 October 2017

Inside the Foundational Future Technologies

If you follow the money chances are that you will not go wrong.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest defense contractor, a company with more than $47 billion in revenue in 2016. But if the company intends to stay relevant, it needs to develop new capabilities ― and its top technology expert has identified the key pots of money in which he wants to invest. 

There are three “foundational” technologies in which Lockheed Martin will be investing over the next two to three decades. 

The first is “strategic technology thread areas,” areas that “go across pretty much anything Lockheed Martin will do, all these domains whether from undersea to outer space.” Included in that pot are autonomy, directed energy, signal processing and communications, sensor technology and exploitation, and advanced cybersecurity. Usable directed energy weapons, long described in defense circles as just around the corner. Lockheed Martin believes that this technology is truly at a “tipping point”. They are confident that the company’s 60-kilowatt system, which has been used on a Stryker vehicle, can be scaled up to 150 kilowatts or more. The company is working on hypersonic technology as well as the company believes that they on the verge of a revolution in hypersonics. 

The second is enabling technologies ― areas where there is a “huge amount of investment” going on in universities and the commercial tech sector, “These are areas to leverage the huge investments that are going on in the commercial world that are really advancing,” Investments in these areas can be found anywhere from the financial sector to the agricultural world. The enabling technologies include data analytics and big data, advanced electronics, and advanced materials and manufacturing. This is where Lockheed Martin’s LM venture fund, a roughly $100 million pot of money for investing in outside tech companies, most comes into play. 

The third is is made up of emerging technologies that “are kind of longer range, they are iffier bets, they are higher risk.” Among those are quantum computing, communications and cryptology, as well as synthetic biology. 

“We’re in an age today where you can effectively design a living molecular machine, you can compile it using a set of tools that is very much like a program compiler in a programming language, and then you can auto-generate a set of DNA sequences,” Synthetic biology can create molecular machines to build almost anything at that molecular level with molecular precision. 

But while predicting biological technology is going to “revolutionize” the aerospace world, the most exciting potential is quantum technologies, particularly its potential impact on information sciences. The next leap in information technology, computing and sensing is going to come out of the quantum world." It is going to enable us to solve computational problems that we just cannot address today".

Chinese and Indian Competition in Space Heats Up

By: Sudha Ramachandran

On May 5, India began a new diplomatic push in South Asia by launching the “South Asia satellite” into space. Built and launched by the government-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the satellite will provide communications and meteorological data to India’s South Asian neighbors (Economic Times, May 5 and Xinhua, May 5). [1] The satellite is an attempt to not only strengthen India’s ties with its smaller neighbors and promote India-led regional co-operation but also to contain mounting Chinese influence in the region and countering its space co-operation with these countries.

CIA Expanding Its Covert Operations in Afghanistan Into Paramilitary Ops It Previously Avoided

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt and Adam Goldman

The C.I.A. is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country, according to two senior American officials, the latest sign of the agency’s increasingly integral role in President Trump’s counterterrorism strategy. The assignment marks a shift for the C.I.A. in the country, where it had primarily been focused on defeating Al Qaeda and helping the Afghan intelligence service. The C.I.A. has traditionally been resistant to an open-ended campaign against the Taliban, the primary militant group in Afghanistan, believing it was a waste of the agency’s time and money and would put officers at greater risk as they embark more frequently on missions.

Much as outsiders try to reform it, Afghanistan never really changes.

It has absorbed blows for millennia, but always continues on as before, defiantly outside of time as we know it. And yet without even trying to, Afghanistan changes everyone who spends time there. It has certainly changed me. I look at these pictures and I feel as if I’m staring at a mirage. It can’t be. And yet it was.

A Newly Assertive C.I.A. Expands Its Taliban Hunt in Afghanistan

The C.I.A. is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country, according to two senior American officials, the latest sign of the agency’s increasingly integral role in President Trump’s counterterrorism strategy. The assignment marks a shift for the C.I.A. in the country, where it had primarily been focused on defeating Al Qaeda and helping the Afghan intelligence service. 

Silk Road 2.0: US Strategy toward China´s Belt and Road Initiative

Oct 2017

This paper examines how China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) will impact US interests and provides five recommendations for how Washington should respond to the project. These five are that the US should 1) acknowledge the potential benefits of the BRI, and establish mechanisms to monitor, assess and understand the initiative; 2) articulate red lines for when it will avoid or oppose projects; 3) identify how it can offer unique contributions to Asian economic development and the implementation of the BRI; 4) integrate the BRI into the framework for overall US-China relations; and 5) outline its own vision for global infrastructure development.

Tigers in the Haze: Chinese Troops on the Border with North Korea in the “April Crisis”

By: Adam Cathcart

While China is frequently assumed to have a number of “levers” it could use to control North Korea, in fact, its policies across the board—from security to economics—are much more limited. An examination of actions in March and April 2017, when China was confronted with the destabilizing prospect of unilateral U.S. military action against North Korea, and apparently responded by taking more vigorous steps with Pyongyang, provides some useful insight. [1] China allegedly put bilateral economic projects on hold, threatened North Korea in the press with an oil embargo, and may have further captured Kim Jong-un’s attention by mobilizing troops along its border with DPRK (Global Times, April 12). North Korea complained but backed down.

One Belt, One Road: China´s Vision of ´Connectivity´

By Stephen Aris for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

It’s full speed ahead for President Xi Jinping’s plan to construct huge infrastructural links that will tie China more closely together with the rest of the world. Indeed, Beijing is allocating huge amounts of money to the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project, but as Stephen Aris points out today, China’s neighbors remain more than wary of this scheme’s geopolitical implications.

Xi Jinping's Message to the World: China is Back

Scott Moore

China’s 19th Party Congress, which opened this week in Beijing, is a landmark event for the world’s second-largest economy. In China’s one-party state, these congresses determine the country’s leadership, and are held every five years. But this one is special. It’s the first to be held since China’s current top leader, Xi Jinping, took power in 2012, and much has happened since then. Under Xi, the size of China’s economy has grown from 7.2 to 9.5 trillion U.S. dollars.

Is China marching towards the worst world war in history?


MAX HASTINGS examines how the new superpower became emboldened AND embittered - and how its leaders' desire for global domination may lead to a conflict with America ,With the busy lives that everybody leads and one eye on the clock for when Tescoshuts, you might have failed to notice that Beijing has this week been hosting the 19th Congress of the Communist Party. Some 2,300 unswervingly loyal apparatchiks have gathered to cheer to the rafters President Xi Jinping, the most powerful man in the world.

China's Economic Reforms Get Another Chance

The 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress runs Oct. 18-24. The convention marks the start of a transition as delegates name new members to lead China's most powerful political institutions. But the change in personnel is only part of a larger transformation underway in the Party and in the country — a process that began long before the party congress kicked off and will continue long after it ends. This is the third installment in a four-part series examining how far China has come in its transition, and how far it has yet to go.

American-Backed Fighters Capture Syria’s Largest Oilfield From ISIS

The U.S.-led coalition said allied fighters captured Syria’s largest oil field from the Islamic State group on Sunday, marking a major advance against the extremists in an area coveted by pro-government forces. With IS in retreat, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government have been in a race to secure parts of the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province along the border with Iraq.

ISIS After the Caliphate

Scott Atran, Hoshang Waziri, and Richard Davis 

Following the expulsion of the Islamic State, or ISIS, from Mosul in Iraq, and with the imminent fall of the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria, reports have suggested that ISIS fighters are defecting or surrendering en masse. But such bullish appraisals of the collapse of ISIS’s fighting spirit may be over-optimistic. Most people who have fled from ISIS-controlled areas have done so because they were terrified of the invading Shia militias and Shia-dominated Iraqi government forces. 

With Loss of Its Caliphate, ISIS May Return to Guerrilla Roots


Its de facto capital is falling. Its territory has shriveled from the size of Portugal to a handful of outposts. Its surviving leaders are on the run.But rather than declare the Islamic State and its virulent ideology conquered, many Western and Arab counterterrorism officials are bracing for a new, lethal incarnation of the jihadist group.The organization has a proven track record as an insurgency able to withstand major military onslaughts, while still recruiting adherents around the world ready to kill in its name.

North Korea’s deadliest weapon? Its hackers

John Naughton

Rule No 1 in international relations: do not assume that your adversary is nuts. Rule No 2: do not underestimate his capacity to inflict serious damage on you. We in the west are currently making both mistakes with regard to North Korea. Our reasons for doing so are, at one level, understandable. In economic terms, the country is a basket case. According to the CIA’s world factbook, its per-capita GDP is $1,800 or less, compared with nearly $40,000 for the UK and $53,000 for the US. Its industrial infrastructure is clapped out and nearly beyond repair; the country suffers from chronic food, energy and electricity shortages and many of its people are malnourished. International sanctions are squeezing it almost to asphyxiation. And, to cap it all, it’s led by a guy whose hairdo is almost as preposterous as Donald Trump’s.

Russia Seizes Opportunity to Expand Drone Usage

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

During the Russian war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and later the conflicts in Chechnya in the North Caucasus in the 1990s and 2000s, the Russian military went into battle without unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and apparently saw no necessity to acquire them. Instead, aerial reconnaissance and attack missions were carried out using manned aircraft, because, by and large, the opposition in both Chechen wars did not have significant or effective anti-aircraft capabilities.

Blockchain: A new aid to nuclear export controls?


Don’t worry if you have yet to hear about blockchain, the emerging technology set to reshape everything from finance and trade to global governance—you are in good company. According to one recent survey of 12,000 people in 11 countries, 60 percent had never heard of the technology and 80 percent could not explain how it works. Yet, for a technology that few understand, blockchain is sure making waves. The World Economic Foundation (WEF), for example, found that 80 percent of global banks will have initiated blockchain-related projects by the end of 2017. Perhaps even more startling: By 2027, the WEF predicts, 10 percent of global gross domestic product will be held in blockchain technology.

Total Defense: How the Baltic States Are Integrating Citizenry Into Their National Security Strategies

By Marta Kepe and Jan Osburg 

How can small countries with limited resources increase their defensive capabilities? According to Marta Kepe and Jan Osburg, the Baltic states’ adoption of a “total defense” approach to national security is one answer. On top of conventional military activities, this approach aims to enable civilians to protect themselves and to support to their national armies regarding logistics, information and other resources.

Permanent Warfare as Normality

Paul R. Pillar

The newest issue of Foreign Affairs features the theme of “America’s Forgotten Wars”, with a cover illustration that juxtaposes a carefree scene of Americans enjoying a picnic with a scene of American soldiers fighting and incurring casualties in some sandy and desolate battle space. The picture depicts truthfully the detachment between, on one hand, the daily interests and attitudes of most Americans and, on the other hand, the disturbing reality of the United States being engaged continuously in a variety of lethal military operations in multiple lands overseas. Andrew Bacevich has elsewhere provided several reasons why, as he puts it, “the vast majority of the American people could not care less” that their country has become mired in what amounts to permanent warfare abroad. These reasons include, for example, that the true costs of these military expeditions have not been completely tabulated and that “blather crowds out substance” in American public discourse about foreign policy.

‘No silver bullet’: Pentagon struggles to defeat drones in cat-and-mouse game

By: Jen Judson

The U.S. Army, as well as the other services and Pentagon organizations, is on a quest to find enduring countermeasures to defeat enemy drones in what has become a cat-and-mouse game.Much like how a disease builds a resistance to drugs over time, the drone problem, especially in U.S. Central Command’s area of operation, is one that is constantly morphing.According to a Defense Department organization tasked with combating the threat of unmanned aircraft systems, there is no single solution for every drone problem that friendly forces face when fighting the Islamic State group or any other enemy who can acquire cheap, commercially available drones.