26 March 2019

India-Indonesia Naval Patrols Highlights Maritime Collaboration

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

The Indian and Indonesian navies have just begun their 33rd coordinated patrol exercise from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and it will go on until April 4. The exercise includes the Indonesian Naval Ship KRI Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin and Maritime Patrol Aircraft CN-235, along with Indian vessels and aircrafts, with the two militaries undertaking patrolling on their respective sides of the 236 nautical miles long International Maritime Boundary line.

Simultaneously, the Indian Coast Guard ship INS Vijit is undertaking a four-day visit to the Indonesian port of Sabang in a further demonstration of the increasingly close maritime collaboration. India’s growing involvement in Sabang port has been seen over the past year – last July, another Indian naval ship, INS Sumitra, had also visited Sabang.

These developments underscore the close maritime cooperation between the two countries over the past few years, and their widening defense relationship more generally. While the close relationship between the two countries in some senses is not new – they were both champions of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) in the 1950s for instance – strategic alignment had been far from clear, and the defense aspect of that has only begun to take off more in recent times.

Helmand’s Flower That Threatens Us All: The Opium Trade and Peace in Afghanistan

by Matthew S. Reid and Cybele C. Greenberg 

A peace deal in Afghanistan may be on the horizon. The latest round of high-level negotiations between the United States and the Taliban ended last week in Doha without a formal agreement, but with cautious optimism on both sides. If the U.S. envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, gets the deal he reportedly seeks, all parties in Afghanistan will observe a general cease-fire, the United States will withdraw its forces, the Taliban and the Afghan government will open a dialogue, and the Taliban will pledge to harbor no foreign terrorist organizations on Afghan soil.

These developments are, in theory, encouraging: the United States’ longest war may finally be coming to an end. But in practice, the peace negotiations are unlikely to achieve Washington’s main national security objective in Afghanistan—preventing the formation of a terrorist safe haven—if they do not include a plan to directly address the country’s opium problem…

These countries are home to the highest proportion of refugees in the world

Johnny Wood

By the end of 2017, persecution, conflict and violence had forced 68.5 million people from their homes. 

That figure – from the UNHCR’s 2018 Global Trends Report – includes 25.4 million refugees (over half of whom are under the age of 18), 3.1 million asylum-seekers and 40 million internally displaced people.

The number of people displaced by conflict and persecution is the highest on record with one in every 110 people worldwide either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced.

Good neighbours

The vast majority of refugees are living in middle- and low-income countries. While Turkey has the world’s largest refugee population, Lebanon and Jordan are hosting the highest number relative to population size.

What aircraft does the US Air Force need to beat China and Russia? This new study has an answer.

By: Valerie Insinna

WASHINGTON — Last September, the U.S. Air Force revealed that it will need a total of 386 operational squadrons to take on future threats posed by Russia and China. A new congressionally mandated study posits that number may not be enough.

Further, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study — which has been obtained exclusively by Defense News — goes on to recommend that the Air Force begin developing a handful of new technologies not in its plans, including a stealthy weaponized drone, a new unmanned reconnaissance plane that can penetrate into contested spaces, and refueling tankers that are unlike anything in its current inventory.

The study is the result of language in the 2018 defense policy bill, which called for the Air Force, the government-funded research firm MITRE Corp. as well as CSBA to make recommendations for the future force structure of the Air Force.

In its study, which was delivered to Congress earlier this month, CSBA found critical shortfalls in the tanker, bomber, fighter, strike/reconnaissance drones, and command-and-control/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance inventories, with the bomber, tanker and drone fleets especially needing a bump in aircraft numbers.

China: Tech Cold War With U.S. Continues Despite New Foreign Investment Law

Mark Rosenberg

A robot passes an employee working on a mobile phone assembly line at a Huawei Technologies Co. production base in Dongguan, China, on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Huawei, China’s biggest smartphone maker, is using its financial and political clout to fight U.S. allegations that the company was involved in bank fraud, technology theft and spying 

Our bottom line on the U.S.-China trade dispute remains the same: while recent developments (including the delayed 1 March deadline and ongoing negotiations) bode well for tariff relief, the broader –– and important –– conflict over technology access/“transfer” and development will continue, per our most recent Insight.

As such, China’s new national foreign investment law –– signed on 15 March and scheduled to enter into force on 1 January 2020 –– will not substantially defuse tech-driven national security tensions with the United States. Instead, its primary import lies in increasing the likelihood that both sides will conclude a formal bilateral agreement to remove the U.S. tariffs imposed in the context of the trade dispute in 2018-2019, with China reciprocating in kind.

China’s Plan for Railway to Uzbekistan Is Transforming Central Asian Geopolitics

By: Paul Goble

Chinese plans to construct a railway from Xinjiang through Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan and onward to Turkmenistan will, if realized, transform the geopolitical situation in the region. This rail corridor promises to open up new possibilities for regional countries to bypass Russia in pursuit of foreign markets. And if completed, this railway will accelerate China’s gradual displacement of Russia as the dominant power in post-Soviet Central Asia, particularly given that Beijing has already demonstrated its willingness to use its economic might to extract political concessions from governments there. Finally, this railway will reduce Chinese dependence on routes passing through Russia, thus increasing Beijing’s freedom of action.

At the same time, however, Beijing’s plans have the potential to promote instability in Kyrgyzstan, where the proposed route will pass through the predominantly ethnic-Uzbek south of the country. Southern Kyrgyzstan still does not have any rail links with the north or the capital, Bishkek. Consequently, some Kyrgyzstanis worry that the planned Chinese project could eventually threaten the territorial integrity of their country. To that end, Bishkek is seeking to invite Russian involvement into the project.

Why China Still Isn't Winning its War on Pollution

By Grace Guo

China’s policy-makers certainly won’t be amused to learn that the average concentration of PM2.5 increased by 5.2 percent in the year’s first two months, especially in the context of the ambition to see the country achieve pollution-free status by 2020. This lofty goal was re-affirmed during the recent session of the 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and National People’s Congress, where Ecology and Environment Minister Li Ganjie insisted that high-quality economic growth cannot coexist with a desiccated environment.

In the wake of the “Two Sessions”, Chinese officials have been quick to release good news about China’s progress toward bluer skies, with Li emphasizing air quality improvements in Beijing and across other parts of the country. His ministry reported a drop in the average level of PM2.5 particles in 338 cities by more than 9 percent in 2018 compared to the year before. Coupled with a joint report released in early March by the UN Environment Program and the Beijing Municipal Ecology and Environment Bureau (BEE) calling Beijing’s war on pollution a “model for other cities”, China’s trajectory to environmental health seems exponential.

Don’t Celebrate Too Soon

Evasive Action: Why America Needs to Avoid a Cold War with China

by Peter Harris

Are the United States and China on the brink of a new Cold War? If the question is whether U.S.-China relations are destined to closely replicate the U.S.-Soviet rivalry, then the answer is surely “no.” As Joshua Shifrinson has recently (and rightly) argued, today’s superpowers coexist in an international setting much different from—and more forgiving than—that which existed between 1947 and 1989.

But this hasn’t stopped a broad range of scholars, analysts, and policy practitioners from debating the usefulness of the Cold War analogy, and unearthing a range of discrete, nuanced lessons that can help to shed light on twenty-first century geopolitics. Overall, most analysts seem to agree with Kori Schake , who has noted that even if U.S.-China relations unfold differently to the U.S.-Soviet relationship, the challenges facing U.S. leaders today “bear some interesting resemblances to the [early] Cold War.”

It’s Time for America to Downgrade Its Alliance With Saudi Arabia

Steven Metz 

For many decades, shared fears of common enemies—from the Soviets to the Iranians, Saddam Hussein and extremist movements like al-Qaida and the Islamic State—pushed America and Saudi Arabia into an uneasy embrace. But today that calculus is no longer enough to sustain their alliance. For the United States, the strategic costs of the Saudi relationship have come to outweigh the benefits, as the tensions and unnaturalness of the partnership make it increasingly intolerable. 

The U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia can be traced back to the 1930s, when the kingdom first began producing petroleum. By the 1970s, Saudi Arabia was an integral part of a broad American effort to prevent Soviet domination of the Middle East and protect Western access to Gulf oil. The Iranian revolution in 1979 broadened the definition of regional stability for both the United States and Saudi Arabia, adding fear of revolution from within Gulf nations to the external threat from the Soviet Union. After the end of the Cold War, Washington and Riyadh simply shifted their focus to Iran and to Saddam Hussein in Iraq—both opponents of the Saudi-led and American-backed regional order. Along the way, the U.S.-Saudi relationship became primarily a military one, with the United States providing training, logistics and intelligence support, and the Saudis buying significant amounts of American military equipment, thus making the U.S. military and defense industry staunch backers of the partnership.

The New Zealand shooter finds support in Islamophobic corners of China’s internet

By Isabella Steger & Echo Huang

Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian gunman who carried out the deadly mosque shooting in New Zealand on Friday (March 15), said in his screed that “the nation with the closest political and social values” to his own is China, and that he admired “non-diverse” nations.

While Tarrant, who now faces one charge of murder, didn’t elaborate on his views of China—which was one of many global references(paywall) he dropped that investigators are now examining—his hatred of Islam certainly has support from corners of China’s internet.

One anonymous post (link in Chinese) on social network WeChat titled “The words on the New Zealand shooter’s guns reflect the deep anxiety of European white men”—a reference to the white supremacy markings on Tarrant’s rifles, and his grievances over Muslim immigration to western countries—has garnered at least 100,000 views at the time of writing, the maximum number of views on a post displayed by the platform. The piece lays blame on Christchurch officials for allowing the construction of mosques, and claimed this resulted in more Muslims coming to the city. It even alleged that the shooting was staged by left-wing politicians.

Are security concerns over Huawei a boon for its European rivals?

In the days of pre-internet capitalism the troubles of one dominant company in an industry tended to be good news for its rivals. In today’s hyperconnected world a threatened ban by Western governments of Huawei, the Chinese market leader in telecoms gear, is also a worry for its competitors. Both Ericsson, a Swedish company, and Nokia, a Finnish one, would prefer the geopolitical saga to end, the better to focus on competing for contracts related to the launch of super-speedy “fifth generation” (5g) mobile-phone networks.

The American government is not letting up its campaign to persuade allies to freeze Huawei out of 5g tenders. It worries that Huawei’s kit may contain “back doors”—deliberate security flaws inserted to allow Chinese spooks eavesdrop on, or attack, phone networks. Earlier this month, in a letter to Germany’s economics minister, America’s envoy to Berlin, Richard Grenell, threatened to cut back American co-operation with German security agencies if the country allowed Huawei or other Chinese firms to participate in the roll-out of 5g. Mike Pompeo, America’s secretary of state, suggested in Hungary recently that doing business with Huawei could tip decisions on where America stations troops.

Trump Blockade of Huawei Fizzles in European 5G Rollout

By Stefan Nicola

Last summer, the Trump administration started a campaign to convince its European allies to bar China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from their telecom networks. Bolstered by the success of similar efforts in Australia and New Zealand, the White House sent envoys to European capitals with warnings that Huawei’s gear would open a backdoor for Chinese spies. The U.S. even threatened to cut off intelligence sharing if Europe ignored its advice. So far, not a single European country has banned Huawei.

“There are two things I don’t believe in,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a conference Tuesday in Berlin. “First, to discuss these very sensitive security questions publicly, and second, to exclude a company simply because it’s from a certain country.’’

Europe, caught in the middle of the U.S.-China trade war, has sought to balance concerns about growing Chinese influence with a desire to increase business with the region’s second-biggest trading partner. With no ban in the works, Huawei is in the running for contracts to build 5G phone networks, the ultra-fast wireless technology Europe’s leaders hope will fuel the growth of a data-based economy.

NATO Is Thriving in Spite of Trump

By Charles Kupchan

NATO’s foreign ministers will gather in Washington, D.C., on April 4 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance. But their festivities will hardly mask the profound anxiety about NATO’s future that is building on both sides of the Atlantic. U.S. President Donald Trump is, of course, the leading cause of the disquiet. His broadsides against allies for not spending enough on defense, his public ambiguity about whether the United States will stand by its commitment to collective defense, and his reported desire to withdraw the United States from the alliance raise fears that 2019 could be a year for eulogizing NATO rather than feting it. 

Trump’s diatribes are not the only cause of the unease. A broadening chorus of realist strategists claims that the United States is overdue for a major strategic retrenchment and that it is past time for Europe to tend its own garden. Even staunch defenders of NATO express doubts about its future. Some worry that the growing U.S. preoccupation with East Asia will lure the United States away from its Atlantic calling and generate transatlantic tensions over how to deal with the rise of China. Others fear that democratic backsliding among members is compromising the alliance’s values-based solidarity. Close NATO watchers are concerned that EU efforts to more deeply integrate European foreign and defense policy could ultimately weaken the Atlantic link. And debate rages on both sides of the Atlantic as to whether NATO enlargement has enhanced or eroded European stability and whether to continue expansion despite the costs to the West’s relationship with Russia.

Back to the Nuclear Precipice


Long a global leader in efforts to reduce nuclear-weapons stockpiles and limit nuclear proliferation, the United States is now fostering the conditions for a new global arms race. With hawks calling the shots in US President Donald Trump's administration, a nuclear conflagration in one of the world's hot spots is becoming more likely.

MADRID – Ten years ago, during his first trip to Europe as US president, Barack Obama delivered an historic speech in Prague. Much to the delight of the crowd, Obama described a world free of nuclear arms as being both desirable and within reach. That declaration was unprecedented for an American president, and would contribute to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize later that year.

Obama also used the occasion to reassure Czechs – and Europeans generally – that the United States would never turn its back on them; that its commitment to the principle of collective defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty was permanent and unconditional. Those words now seem like a relic of a bygone era.

Superpower Constrained

By Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson contends that the US’ longstanding role of international leadership is under threat. Washington is struggling to manage external challenges —including great power competition and globalization— and domestic constraints, such as the underfunding and mismanagement of the military and diplomatic corps. Unfortunately, prospects for reform are uncertain given the dysfunctionality of the US political system. So what does all this mean for the future of US foreign policy? Further, what implications could this have for European policymakers? Here’s Thompson’s answer.

The US’ longstanding role of international leadership is under threat. It is struggling to manage external challenges, including great power competition and globalization, and domestic constraints, such as underfunding and mismanagement of the military and diplomatic corps. Unfortunately, prospects for reform are uncertain given the dysfunctionality of the US political system. This should worry European policymakers and will hopefully hasten their efforts to develop a more robust and independent Common Security and Defense Policy. 


The Rich Can Fight Inequality, Too

Many wealthy people in the United States and elsewhere support the objective of curbing extreme economic inequality. They should not allow allow themselves to be silenced by right-wing accusations of hypocrisy.

This response can have a powerful dampening effect. Most people do not like to think of themselves as hypocrites. So the wealthy are faced with a choice: either give away some of their assets and then campaign against inequality, or just keep quiet. Most prefer the second option.

This is unfortunate, because global inequality is reaching intolerable levels. What’s more, wealth tends to remain in families over time. Inequality is becoming dynastic, with some people born rich and vast numbers who are poor from the moment they appear on Earth.

The injustice of this is so grotesque that just thinking and talking about it should prompt us to demand corrective action. But by stopping the most influential segment of society from expressing dissent, the right has stymied the first step in this process.

Yes, the U.S. Could Be Drawn Into Yet Another Big War

By Michael J. Mazarr

Sixteen years ago this week, the George W. Bush administration sent U.S. forces crashing into Iraq without a real plan for what to do after defeating Saddam Hussein. It is easy to forget that moment’s fervent convictions about the Iraqi dictator’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda—and the calamity into which Iraq soon descended. It all seems to belong to another era. The debate today is more about how we got out of Iraq than how we got in.

The idea that the U.S. would do anything like Iraq again feels ridiculous. We appear to have learned our lesson, and America’s political climate hardly seems primed for new military adventures. No imminent threat demands a response. President Donald Trump arrived in office determined to reduce U.S. commitments abroad, not to multiply them. He is aiming for a deal with North Korea, not war; pulling troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, not pushing more in.

Water is a growing source of global conflict. Here’s what we need to do

Kitty Van Der Heijden

The most intensive drought ever recorded in Syria lasted from 2006 to 2011. Water scarcity hit households, businesses and infrastructure, while in the countryside crops failed, livestock died, and entire families moved to the country’s cities. The subsequent eruption of civil war in 2011 led to as many as half a million deaths, as well as massive migration flows to neighbouring countries and beyond, and untold misery. Syria’s war has been a tragic illustration of the central, driving role that water insecurity can play in instability and conflict.

This is no surprise. In 2017 alone, water was a major factor in conflict in at least 45 countries, including Syria. Its importance as a resource means that water-related insecurity can easily exacerbate tensions and friction within and between countries. It can be weaponized; nefarious actors can gain control of, destroy, or redirect access to water to meet their objectives by targeting infrastructure and supplies. Advancements in cyber attacks on critical infrastructure raise further concerns as to the security of water systems.

Don't compare data to oil – digitization needs a new mindset

Olli-Pekka HeinonenHermanni Hyytiälä

We must be able to make the utilization of knowledge and the processes of collective learning more visible in order to be able to operate better in the future. We must also be aware of the biases, weaknesses and blind spots in our thinking. We must improve our understanding of the way our minds work, both on an individual and communal level. Cognitive and organizational ergonomics are the new black in working life and decision-making.

The word “smart” seems to be in vogue. Talk of smart cities, smart traffic, crowd wisdom and artificial intelligence is on everyone’s lips. Intelligence, knowledge, competence, skills and the ability to learn have crept into the discussion on leadership and organization, now representing the core of the competitiveness of organizations. Data is referred to as the new oil. Both raw materials can be turned into money through skilled utilization, but as oil resources dwindle, the amount of data is increasing exponentially.

We have learned to refine oil into many uses that improve our quality of life, but harm the environment. In the industrial age, high on oil fumes, we honed production and logistics processes to peak efficiency.


The title above comes from Mr. Martin Feldstein’s March 21, 2019 Op-Ed, “The Debt Crisis Is Coming Soon,” in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Mr. Feldstein is the former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under POTUS Ronald Reagan, and is currently a professor at Harvard.

“The most dangerous domestic problem facing America’s federal government is the rapid growth of its budget deficit and national debt,” Mr. Feldstein writes.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), “the deficit this year/2019, will be $900B, more than 4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), and more than the entire U.S. defense budget. “It will surpass $1T in 2022,” Mr. Feldstein warns. “The federal debt is now 78 percent of U.S. GDP,; and by 2028, it is projected to be nearly 100 percent of GDP. All this will have serious economic consequences, and the CBO understates the problem,” he added. The CBO “has to base its projections on current law — in this case, the levels of [current/projected] spending, and future tax rules and rates that appear in law today.”

Entering the age of hack back

BY David Ignatius 

WASHINGTON -- When the debris settles after special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation into Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election, America will still be left with the underlying problem that triggered the probe in the first place -- the threat of malicious cyberattacks against political parties, corporations, and anybody else who uses the internet.

Here's a disturbing fact: Even after all the uproar that has surrounded Mueller's inquiry, the U.S. government can't do much to protect most private citizens or organizations against attacks. There's better security now for election systems and critical infrastructure, but that doesn't help the banks, hedge funds, law firms and other companies with sensitive data -- which are basically on their own.

Mueller's findings about President Trump will have their own fiery afterlife on Capitol Hill, which nobody can predict. But Congress should also be thinking about the less-sexy fallout from the investigation, which highlighted the vulnerability of all data to foreign spies, meddlers and information pirates.

Huawei and 5G: What Are the Alternatives?

By Elise Thomas

Speaking about his politically embattled company’s chances to build national 5G networks, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei recently told the BBC, ‘If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South.’

He’s right. Unless something changes in the near future, Huawei is going to win the fight for 5G in the developing world.

It will win not on political strategy, or on diplomacy, or on bizarre public communications campaigns, but for the same reasons that Chinese companies have come to dominate so many other industries—because it can produce at huge scale for a cheaper price than its competitors.

Huawei isn’t just undercutting its competitors on price; it’s also a leader in the field in 5G research and is playing a central role in setting global standards for the technology. China invested early and deeply in 5G development, and is rapidly moving ahead of other nations in its domestic implementation of 5G networks.

Big Tech Is Watching – and Being Watched


The rapid rise of today’s Silicon Valley giants, and the apparent power they wield over social and political life, suggest that we have entered a new epoch of economic history. If so, where is the digital revolution heading, and how might it be harnessed for the public good?

CAMBRIDGE – The maturation of the digital revolution has defined the first two decades of the twenty-first century. The central economic disasters of this period – the 2008 global financial crisis and consequent “Great Recession” – were driven by the proliferation of digital securities and the illusion that digital programs could measure and manage their attendant risks. And the social environment in which individuals consume information and execute transactions has been reconstructed according to the terms set by Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook.

Cyber Threats Are Emerging Faster Than DHS Can Identify and Confront Them


Secretary Nielsen: “The discipline of understanding what is emerging is where I find we are lacking."

The Homeland Security Department needs to do a better job anticipating cyber threats on the horizon on top of defending against yesterday’s attacks, according to Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Both efforts will rely heavily on partnerships with industry and the cyber research community, she said.

“The rate at which the threats and risks are emerging is outpacing our ability to identify and assess and address them,” Nielsen said Tuesday at the agency’s cyber and innovation showcase. “The discipline of understanding what is emerging is where I find we are lacking. Failure to look at the future or limiting our thinking based on what we’ve observed in the past, those in and of themselves are risks.”

Hybrid Star Wars: Lessons from The Battle of Endor


In an excerpt from an upcoming anthology of Star Wars-themed essays, a former NATO supreme commander revisits a forest moon in a galaxy far, far away.

When Return of the Jedi opens, the Alliance is still licking its wounds from the beatings they took from the Empire on Hoth and in Cloud City in the Empire Strikes Back. Politically, the Alliance’s goal is to wrest control of the galaxy back from the Empire; therefore, their military strategy is to avoid defeat while looking for an opportunity to deal a surprise blow to their much stronger enemy.

What if satellite communication was as simple as roaming cell service

By: Adam Stone

Cpl. Nicholas L. Dye (left), satellite transportable terminal operator, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and Spc. Emmanuel L. Tate, signal systems support specialist, HHC, 1st Bn., 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., work together to position their Satellite Transportable Terminal to ensure the strongest signal at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Feb. 28, 2015. Tate and Dye, were validating their communication operating systems for mobile training exercises. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gregory T. Summers, 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., Public Affairs)

The satellites that the U.S. Department of Defense relies on for communications often each have their own ground control systems that are designed to work with specific families spacecraft. But as space becomes more a more contested, with enemies looking to undermine the United States’ information advantage, that set up can lead to problems on the battlefield.

Where CYBERCOM wants to expand the mission force

By: Mark Pomerleau

Details regarding specific programs and dollar amounts for Department of Defense cyberwarriors are becoming clearer amid recently released budget documents.

The requests for fiscal 2020, released March 18, provide insight into the direction of certain programs and where U.S. Cyber Command is looking to spend to equip its cyber mission force.

Despite having its own unique acquisition authority, Cyber Command as a combatant command relies on the services to procure systems, infrastructure and tools as executive agents (the Air Force being the primary executive agent for most CYBERCOM systems).

As has also been outlined in previous budget requests, Cyber Command seeks to develop and expand infrastructure and capabilities under four broad areas: joint common services, joint access platforms, joint tools and joint analytics.

A DoD AI expert is coming — and that could mean big things for directed energy

By: Aaron Mehta   

WASHINGTON — A vacant Pentagon position on artificial intelligence will be filled “quite soon,” with a focus on cross-cutting artificial intelligence through various technologies, according to undersecretary of research and engineering Michael Griffin.

Griffin, speaking to the Directed Energy Summit March 20, was asked about how AI can be applied to directed-energy weaponry, which elicited him to say, “What I know about AI can be written on the back of a tiny postage stamp."

Hence, Griffin said, the R&E team is “bringing on board a very capable person quite soon, I won’t name him here, to head up AI. He will, in fact, as one of the assistant directors, be reporting directly to us, and one of our goals ... that we want him to explore [is] answering exactly the question you’ve posed: How do we integrate AI across the other priorities?”

Moscow Increasingly Ready for Major Military Confrontation

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

In the last several years, the Russian military has drastically increased its battle readiness in apparent preparation for a possible major conflict with an opposing massive ground force (see EDM, September 29, 2016; December 6, 2017; January 15, 2019). The massive buildup was first publicly reported in September 2016 by first deputy defense minister and chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov. He discussed the issue in a briefing to Russian journalists following the conclusion of the Kavkaz 2016 military exercise which was centered on Crimea and the Black Sea region. Kavkaz 2016 has since been overlapped by even larger Russian war games, but in 2016 they were the biggest such maneuvers since the 1980s. In 2016, Gerasimov told journalists that front-line combat units—so-called battalion tactical groups (BTG)—will be primarily manned by contract soldiers to increase their battle readiness and will be supported by new special logistical field units. According to Gerasimov, at the time of the Kavkaz 2016 exercise, the Russian Land Forces together with the Airborne Troops (Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska—VDV) had 66 standing BTGs. These units are reinforced battalions with additional armor (tanks), heavy guns, other artillery and multiple-rocket launch systems (MRLS), anti-aircraft capabilities, sapper or pioneer detachments, and other auxiliaries that may be added in accordance with possible specific missions. A typical Russian BTG is 800–900 men strong. The BTG as a basic fighting unit appeared within the Russian military organization during the Chechen wars. Because a BTG is reinforced with armor, firepower and added capabilities, it can be deployed in battle separately or easily merged with other BTGs to form flexible task forces. In September 2016, Gerasimov disclosed plans to double the number of standing BTGs to 125 by 2018 (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 15, 2016).

‘This is Not About Me and Google,’ Says Dunford, Who Will Meet Execs Next Week


Artificial intelligence businesses in China help an authoritarian government and erode America’s military advantage, the Joint Chiefs chairman said.

Sharpening his warnings to U.S. technology companies, Gen. Joseph Dunford has twice in a week publicly argued that their artificial intelligence work in China is strengthening the ruling Communist Party and eroding America’s military advantage. Next week, the Joint Chiefs chairman says, he’s going to tell Google executives directly.

Last week, Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Google’s AI venture in China was of “direct benefit” to the People’s Liberation Army. Google defended its work as benign because it does not work directly with China’s military — a premise the Marine general rejected on Thursday.