18 June 2019

India’s Ailing Health Sector

By Neeta Lal

Poor quality (yet expensive) healthcare is becoming a national crisis for India.

Even as the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party celebrates the triumphant return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a second term with a historic mandate in the just-concluded 17th Lok Sabha elections, one of the greatest challenges confronting the new government will be the nation’s health.

Lack of hospitals, missing doctors, ill-equipped health professionals, and paucity of funds have dogged the Indian health sector for decades. But as the country stakes a claim at the geopolitical high table under a nationalist government, its human development indices — including citizens’ wellness — are increasingly coming under scrutiny.

And the picture isn’t looking good. According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, the Indian medical industry fares poorly on many critical parameters, including quality of health care as well as qualification of doctors, traditionally regarded as a prized human resource in the West.

Reformist government? Time for Modi sarkar 2.0 to walk the talk

By: M Govinda Rao

The major problem faced in the country is in the factor markets. It is time that the government came out with the law and regulations regarding land consolidation and leasing, to allow for non-exploitative contract farming.

The spectacular mandate for the BJP and the NDA government back in power for the next five years has brought in a lot of hope, that the new government will fast track the reforms agenda to accelerate growth and increase employment in the country. Congratulations to the new Finance Minister on her well-deserved elevation. She has the job cut out, to immediately focus on getting the sagging economy back on track.

Unfortunately, the timing of the assumption of reins by the new government has come with disappointing news on economic front. The last quarter GDP growth at 5.8 per cent was the lowest in the last five years. In addition, the unemployment rate at 6.2 per cent was the worst since 1972-73. The core sector growth at 2.8 per cent has shown a five month low.

The withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) by the United States comes as an additional setback.

The growth estimate of GDP for 2018-19 at 6.8 per cent is lower than the 7 per cent estimated earlier, and is much below the 7.2 per cent recorded in the previous year. Since the last five quarters, the gross value added (GVA) has shown a systematic deceleration from 7.9 per cent in Q4 of 2017-18 to 5.7 per cent in the Q4 of 2018-19.

Is Bangladesh Winning in the US-China Trade War?

By Anu Anwar

The implications for Bangladesh of the trade war are significant, if Dhaka can seize opportunities and avoid the pitfalls ahead.

As the U.S.-China trade war intensified, pundits on both sides of the Pacific and elsewhere are calculating: Who is the real winner? Indeed, it is not China or the United States, but countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Chile that could benefit from the widening trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies. The impending effect of the trade war on supply chain dynamics and investment patterns could help these countries emerge as potential winners of the conflict.

For Bangladesh, China and the United States have been long-time, stable trade partners. The volume and values of trade are very significant with both countries. However, the nature of trade with both countries is different. Bangladesh’s top import partner is China, with Bangladesh importing over $15 billion in Chinese goods, as of 2017. Meanwhile, the United States is the second largest destination for Bangladesh’s exports, taking in more than $5.8 billion in 2017 (Germany was the largest destination at just over $6 billion).

Whither Hong Kong?

Over the past week, Hong Kong has witnessed its largest demonstrations since the Occupy Central movement in 2014. The protests have centered around amendments introduced in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) and supported by Chief Executive Carrie Lam to Hong Kong’s extradition law. While the past two decades have seen multiple large protests in Hong Kong, the scale and breadth of the ongoing clash reflect a deepening discomfort many in Hong Kong feel being under mainland-Chinese rule.

Q1: What is controversial about the amendments?

A1: Hong Kong currently has extradition treaties with 20 countries and provides legal assistance to 32 countries. Two laws, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, were introduced in 1997 right before Hong Kong was handed over to China to regulate the practices of extradition and legal assistance with other jurisdictions. The two laws specifically deny the applicability of those laws to mainland China because of deep concerns about the limits of rule of law in China and the desire to implement the “one country, two systems” of ensuring Hong Kong can maintain its internal social, economic and legal system until 2047. Under the current legal framework, Hong Kong’s government is legally bound not to respond to extradition requests from mainland China.

What Are China's Intentions in Antarctica?

By Nengye Liu

Reviewing China’s activities and commitments under the 60-year-old Antarctic Treaty.

In 2019, the world is celebrating 60 years of the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed by 12 countries on December 1, 1959. For six decades, the Antarctic Treaty and its related agreements, known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), have successfully ensured peace and devoted the whole continent to science. The ATS proved to be resilient, but also has not seen any significant development since the 1990s, when the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol) was adopted to ban mining in Antarctica. The ATS is now facing a number of challenges, such as climate change.

China, a contracting party to the Antarctic Treaty, has become one so-called “challenger,” at least according to Western narratives. In this piece, I review the relations between China and the ATS in order to answer some of the most pressing questions being raised over Beijing’s intentions.

Chinese Exports of Rare Earth Minerals Drop Like a Rock Amid Escalating Trade War With US

Earlier, officials from the Pentagon and the US Department of Commerce indicated that they were looking to make deals with other rare earth producers worldwide in a bid to reduce the US reliance on Chinese supplies of the strategic minerals.

China's exports of a group of seventeen rare-earth elements have dropped a whopping 16 per cent, from 4,329 metric tonnes to 3,640 metric tonnes, between April and May, fresh customs data cited by the South China Morning Post has revealed.

May's dip means rare earths exports have declined by a total of 7.2 percent in the first five months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, reaching 19,265 tonnes.

The US and other countries around the world are highly dependent on Chinese-mined rare earths, with the Asian country producing 120,000 tonnes, or 70 percent of the world total of the minerals, in 2018, according to US Geological Survey figures. For comparison, the US, which depends on imports for nearly 80 percent of its rare earth supplies, mined just 15,000 tonnes of the minerals during the same period.

China sets cross-border data flow rules

By Liu Caiyu 

China's cybersecurity regulator on Thursday released a draft guideline on cross-border data transfers, which will prevent the flow of personal information overseas if it risks undermining national security and public interests, in the latest move to safeguard personal data security and the country's national cyberspace sovereignty.

Personal information, including ID, address and phone number collected in China by network operators, should be assessed before being sent overseas, according to the draft rule released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on Thursday.

Information that potentially undermines national security, public interests or the security of personal information should be prevented from being sent overseas, the draft rule said.

The purpose to draft the guideline is to protect personal information security, safeguard the country's cyberspace sovereignty, national security, public interest as well as the legitimate interest of citizens, the CAC said in a statement on its website.

The draft could prevent network operators which commercially use personal information from threatening personal rights and national security amid the ongoing escalated tension with the US on trade and cyberspace security, Chinese experts said.

Huawei Tit-for-Tat Cyber Law May Threaten US Tech Titans' Access to Chinese Market – Reports

Last month, the Treasury barred US companies from doing business with Huawei without a government license, with the measure seen as being part of the broader trade conflict between Beijing and Washington.

New draft guidelines released by the agency in charge of China's information infrastructure make it possible for Beijing to restrict US companies from cross-border data transfers if they threaten to "impact national security, damage public interest or [are] not fully secured."

If passed, the new regulations, published by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country's powerful internet regulator, may restrict US companies from doing business in the country and thus, according to data security resource CPO Magazine, "represent a clear tit-for-tat in the escalating trade and cyber war between the US and China."

A summary of the rules published by the Global Times on Thursday specifies that network operators are required to assess personal data, "including ID, address and phone number" information before it is sent outside the country, and prevent this from happening if doing so might pose a threat to the protection of personal information, national security and China's "national cyberspace sovereignty."

The State Of Iraq – OpEd

By Neville Teller

The years of internal conflict that followed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq in 2003 have at last been succeeded by a degree of precarious stability.

Iraq is a federation of three elements held in uncertain balance – the Shia majority, the Sunni minority and the Kurds in their northern autonomous region of Kurdistan. But it also faces the aftermath of the Islamic State (IS) caliphate that dominated large areas of the country for more than three years. In addition the government has to cope with the presence of two competing power brokers lodged within their body politic – the US and Iran.

Iraq’s political parties, mirroring the balance of politico-religious power underlying the Lebanese constitution, have reached an informal agreement under which the presidency is reserved for Kurds, the premiership for Shia Arabs, and the post of speaker of parliament for Sunni Arabs. Accordingly, in October 2018 the veteran Iraqi Kurdish politician Barham Salih was elected by parliament to serve as president for the first of a maximum of two four-year terms. In line with the political agreement, Salih appointed Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shi’ite, as prime minister.

The U.S. Army and the Battle for Baghdad

PDF file 3.8 MB 

The U.S. Army's many adaptations during the Iraq War were remarkable, particularly in the areas of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, personnel, and leader development and education. The Army has already institutionalized some of those adaptations; however, other important lessons have not yet been institutionalized. In an effort to help the U.S. Department of Defense and the Army retain institutional knowledge and capabilities and fully prepare leaders for future conflicts, RAND researchers recount the Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, and offer lessons learned and recommendations. For example, if the United States engages in a similar conflict in the future, the Army should prepare to prevent insurgencies; provide robust division, corps, and theater headquarters; and consider making advisement a necessary assignment for career advancement. Instability and insurgency are part of the future, and if history is any guide, the United States will look to the Army to deal with these challenges. Thus, the ultimate goal of this report is to help the Army continue to institutionalize the lessons from the Iraq War and the Battle for Baghdad to minimize the amount of adaptation the Army will have to undergo when it is called to serve in similar circumstances.

Scaring the Bear – Russia and Future Armour

Will F Owen

To state that the greatest threat to a tank is another tank is a faith-based assertion that lacks technical veracity. Nothing about the new Russian T-14 means the West has been caught napping or lags behind.

Western analysts, both academics and military have a long, storied career of overstating the effectiveness of Soviet and the Russian armoured forces arguably dating back to 1945 or even before.

Analysing threat armour is rarely objective. Tanks are emotional objects as are AFVs in general but ‘tanks’ seem to be a bizarre area of discrete study which defies military logic – rare as that maybe! The outcome of popular Russian analysis is almost always conclusions that are used as a stick to beat western armour programs while ignoring costs, force structure, engineering, military and historic fundamentals. Why is this the case? No one who has been inside a T-72, T-80 and/or their derivatives has ever climbed out and said, “I want to go to war in this,” assuming they have spent time inside Leopard-2 or Challenger-2. This is even more the case should you have spent some time inside a Merkava IV and even got a good nights sleep in one. What can Russia teach the West about armour? Less than you think.

Why America Needs a New Way of War

By Chris Dougherty

For the first time in decades, it is possible to imagine the United States fighting—and possibly losing—a large-scale war with a great power. For generations of Americans accustomed to U.S. military superiority and its ability to deter major wars, the idea of armed conflict between great powers may seem highly improbable. The idea that the United States—with the most expensive armed forces in the world by a wide margin—might lose such a war would seem absolutely preposterous. Nevertheless, the possibility of war and U.S. defeat are real and growing.

Given that U.S. armed forces’ last major conventional combat operations were the massively lopsided victories against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991 and 2003, many Americans might be wondering how this could come to pass. This report makes the case that one salient issue is that the American way of war—the implicit and explicit mental framework for U.S. military strategy and operations—that coalesced after the Gulf War is no longer valid.

Getting to Know the Competition

By Cortez A. Cooper III

Americans are slowly but undeniably facing a new reality in global great power relations that will define the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy for the foreseeable future. The 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy mark an acknowledgment by not only the current administration but also a broad, bipartisan swath of government and private sector entities that China's increasing swagger as it emerges on the world stage warrants a more confrontational approach toward the country.

Although untested in battle for four decades, China’s military is one reason for the nation’s growing confidence. The People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, has modernized and could become an attractive tool for Chinese leaders weighing options to solve regional disagreements. As American policymakers and legislators consider responses—and commit taxpayer resources accordingly—perhaps it’s time for Americans to raise their PLA awareness. Enter the “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019,” authored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and released Thursday.

The Growing Risk of a 2020 Recession and Crisis


Across the advanced economies, monetary and fiscal policymakers lack the tools needed to respond to another major downturn and financial crisis. Worse, while the world no longer needs to worry about a hawkish US Federal Reserve strangling growth, it now has an even bigger problem on its hands.

NEW YORK – Last summer, my colleague Brunello Rosa and I identifiedten potential downside risks that could trigger a US and global recession in 2020. Nine of them are still in play today.

Many involve the United States. Trade wars with China and other countries, along with restrictions on migration, foreign direct investment, and technology transfers, could have profound implications for global supply chains, raising the threat of stagflation (slowing growth alongside rising inflation). And the risk of a US growth slowdown has become more acute now that the stimulus from the 2017 tax legislation has run its course.

A Truly Special Relationship: The Time Is Now for a U.S.-UK Free Trade Agreement

by Kim R. Holmes

The British-American trade pact should set a new global standard: the only acceptable level of tariffs is zero.

President Donald Trump and outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May recently reiterated their desire to reach an “ambitious” free-trade agreement when Britain leaves the European Union.

To that I can add only: Faster, please. The goal should be to have a U.S.-UK trade pact ready for approval as quickly as possible.

We would almost certainly have had a free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom today, had Britain had not joined the European Economic Community in 1973. After all, the United States has free-trade agreements with nations as varied as Jordan, Australia, and Colombia. So why not the United Kingdom? The European Union has stymied U.S. free trade with Britain for forty-six years because it controls foreign trade relations for all members, including Britain.

Following a televised low-speed highway chase, O.J. Simpson is arrested for the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Water Wars: U.S.-China Divide at Shangri-La

By Amy Zeng

The Shangri-La Dialogue, the highest profile annual security forum in Asia, was heldfrom May 31 to June 2 in Singapore. Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered an opening speech that received widespread praise from Chinese netizens for its “objective analysis” of Sino-U.S. ties. Lee called on both Beijing and Washington to avoid conflicts in the region and suggested the U.S. has “the most difficult adjustment to make” in terms of accepting that “China will continue to grow and strengthen.”

Speaking at the same forum, U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan madepointed references to China’s efforts at militarizing artificial features on disputed islands in the South China Sea. He denounced these efforts as a “toolkit of coercion” and said the U.S. would no longer “tiptoe” around Chinese behavior in the region.

Taking the stage a day after his U.S. counterpart, Chinese Minister of Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe said China built “limited defense facilities” in the face of “heavily armed warships and military aircraft,” presumably referring to those of the U.S. and its allies. He also stated the Chinese military will “resolutely take action” to defend claims over Taiwan and disputed South China Sea waters. General Wei is the highest-ranking Chinese official to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue in eight years.

Why America Needs a New Way of War

By Chris Dougherty

For the first time in decades, it is possible to imagine the United States fighting—and possibly losing—a large-scale war with a great power. For generations of Americans accustomed to U.S. military superiority and its ability to deter major wars, the idea of armed conflict between great powers may seem highly improbable. The idea that the United States—with the most expensive armed forces in the world by a wide margin—might lose such a war would seem absolutely preposterous. Nevertheless, the possibility of war and U.S. defeat are real and growing.

Given that U.S. armed forces’ last major conventional combat operations were the massively lopsided victories against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991 and 2003, many Americans might be wondering how this could come to pass. This report makes the case that one salient issue is that the American way of war—the implicit and explicit mental framework for U.S. military strategy and operations—that coalesced after the Gulf War is no longer valid.

AI Can Thrive in Open Societies

By Bruce SchneierJames Waldo

According to foreign-policy experts and the defense establishment, the United States is caught in an artificial intelligence arms race with China—one with serious implications for national security. The conventional version of this story suggests that the United States is at a disadvantage because of self-imposed restraints on the collection of data and the privacy of its citizens, while China, an unrestrained surveillance state, is at an advantage. In this vision, the data that China collects will be fed into its systems, leading to more powerful AI with capabilities we can only imagine today. Since Western countries can’t or won’t reap such a comprehensive harvest of data from their citizens, China will win the AI arms race and dominate the next century.

This idea makes for a compelling narrative, especially for those trying to justify surveillance—whether government- or corporate-run. But it ignores some fundamental realities about how AI works and how AI research is conducted.

How China Could Shut Down America’s Defenses

By Keith Johnson, Lara Seligman

The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii prepared to moor at the historic submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on June 6. Each Virginia-class submarine uses nearly five tons of rare-earth materials. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Patrick Dille

President Donald Trump has often argued that China has much more to lose than the United States in a trade war, but critics say his administration has failed to address a major U.S. vulnerability: Beijing maintains powerful leverage over the warmaking capability of its main strategic rival through its control of critical materials.

Every advanced weapon in the U.S. arsenal—from Tomahawk missiles to the F-35 fighter jet to Aegis-equipped destroyers and cruisers and everything in between—is absolutely reliant on components made using rare-earth elements, including critical items such as permanent magnets and specialized alloys that are almost exclusively made in China. Perhaps more worrisome is that the long-term U.S. supply of smart bombs and guided munitions that would have to be replenished in a hurry in the event of U.S. conflict in Syria, Iran, or elsewhere are essentially reliant on China’s acquiescence in their continued production.

Three keys to faster, better decisions

Two years ago, we wrote about how it was simultaneously the best and worst of times for decision makers in senior management. Best because of more data, better analytics, and clearer understanding of how to mitigate the cognitive biases that often undermine corporate decision processes. Worst because organizational dynamics and digital decision-making dysfunctions were causing growing levels of frustration among senior leaders we knew.

Since then, we’ve conducted research to more clearly understand this balance, and the results have been disquieting. A survey we conducted recently with more than 1,200 managers across a range of global companies gave strong signs of growing levels of frustration with broken decision-making processes, with the slow pace of decision-making deliberations, and with the uneven quality of decision-making outcomes. Fewer than half of the survey respondents say that decisions are timely, and 61 percent say that at least half the time spent making them is ineffective. The opportunity costs of this are staggering: about 530,000 days of managers’ time potentially squandered each year for a typical Fortune 500 company, equivalent to some $250 million in wages annually.1

Tanker Strikes Spell Doomsday Scenario For OPEC

By Cyril Widdershoven

An attack by an unknown party on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman has put the Arabian/Persian Gulf region on edge.

After the possible Iranian attack on three vessels offshore the Emirati port of Fujairah last month, the current attack could be setting the scene for a direct military confrontation. Two tankers, the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous, both filled with petroleum and chemical products, such as methanol, were “suspected to be hit by a torpedo”. This statement was made by Taiwanese company KPC and Front Altair’s owner, Norwegian company Frontline and has also been confirmed by the operator of the Kokua Courageous, Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement, which claimed that the ship was damaged in a "suspected attack." 

The last hours, search and rescue operations have been performed by the US, Iran and others. No direct accusations have been made at present, but indicators point to Iran or Iranian proxies, even as Tehran already has denied any involvement.

Summer Book List 2019

Last Christmas we asked a group of senior leaders what books they would recommend a leader has on their Christmas list. Well Christmas is now far behind us. The cold is a distant memory and most of us are looking forward to relaxing in the sun over the summer. And if you are lucky enough to be relaxing with a book in your hand, what should that book be? For our summer leadership book list we have asked the same question we asked last year: “What book would you recommend to a leader, and why?” However, this summer we have asked a more diverse audience. From a Two Star officer, the Army Sergeant Major and a senior Civil Servant, to an innovative Captain and an anonymous Section Commander. We have even asked an Australian anthropologist.

Some of the books are about leadership, others are about war. Every book, whatever the subject, will give you an insight into the way leaders deal with stress, build teams and motivate their people. The newest book came out this year. The oldest is almost 2000 years old. We hope you enjoy them all. And let us know who you would like to get a recommendation from this Christmas, or which book you think they should have recommended.

Leadership: Lessons from the Presidents for Turbulent Times

Recommended by Air Vice-Marshal Chris Luck, former Commandant of the Defence Academy.

Report on National Security Implications of 5G Networks

The fifth generation (5G) of mobile technologies will increase the speed of data transfer and improve bandwidth over existing fourth generation (4G) technologies, in turn enabling new military and commercial applications. 5G technologies are expected to support interconnected or autonomous devices, such as smart homes, self-driving vehicles, precision agriculture systems, industrial machinery, and advanced robotics. According to a Defense Innovation Board (DIB) report, in the military realm, 5G will additionally improve intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and processing; enable new methods of command and control; and streamline logistics systems for increased efficiency. As 5G technologies are developed and deployed, Congress may consider policies for spectrum management and national security, as well as implications for U.S. military operations. Download the link here.

China Accuses US of Most Cyber Attacks Targeting Its Networks in 2018

A report warned that most cyber attacks against Chinese networks in 2018 came from the US, which Chinese experts predicted that the latter is preparing to wage a large-scale "cyberwar" but Beijing is prepared to launch a strong counterattack.

The information came from an annual report released by China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team (CNCERT), The Global Times reported.

The CNCERT said that in 2018, 14,000 servers in the US infected by a Trojan virus or botnet controlled 3.34 million host computers in China; and the number of servers increased 90.8 percent year-on-year, Xinhua News Agency reported.

In 2018, 3,325 US IP addresses with the Trojan virus infected 3,607 Chinese websites, an increase of 43 percent compared with 2017, CNCERT added.

Aside from implanting viruses, the US has long been hacking information from the terminals of Chinese customers and has been utilizing apps to tap, steal information and analyze the information they obtained, a Beijing-based military expert, who also specializes in cybersecurity, told the Global Times on Monday.

5G Availability Will Enhance Cyber Security, Says Verizon’s Chris Novak


As per the latest reports 5G could provide excellent cyber security to individual internet surfers and commercial organizations. During one of his recent interviews, Chris Novak said that the 5G technology will make things easy and better for the masses. Novak further said that extensive level of research has taken place which provides enough proof that 5G provides speed and reliability which is the need of the hour.

Chris Novak gave his statement when companies which are willing to provide 5G services are thoroughly scrutinized. At present, even the Chinese mobile giant Huawei has been accused by the American government. President Trump had accused Huawei that the Company is working for Chinese government.

Due to stringent actions taken by the US government most of the tech companies have provided a limitation on their employees to access Huawei phones. Back on May 16, 2019, the American Department of Commerce had blacklisted Huawei. Now Huawei has to consult the US government if it wants to do business with indigenous companies.

Balancing Data Protection And Research Needs In The Age Of The GDPR

Scientific journals and funding bodies often require researchers to deposit individual genetic data from studies in research repositories in order to increase data sharing with the aim of enabling the reproducibility of new findings, as well as facilitating new discoveries. However, the introduction of new regulations such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can complicate this, according to the results of a study to be presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics on Monday.

The investigators collected experiences of the practical challenges that researchers face. “Their attempts to comply with the requirements of funders and journals to deposit data often clash with the GDPR,” says Dr Deborah Mascalzoni, Senior Researcher at Uppsala University in Sweden and at EURAC Research, Bolzano, Italy. “We need to follow along the path of open science while taking into account ethical and legal rules if we are to be able to comply with both the law and the funders’ requirements.”

Entering the Third Decade of Cyber Threats: Toward Greater Clarity in Cyberspace

By Dan Efrony

Over the course of just a few decades, the world has entered into a digital age in which powerful evolving cyber capabilities provide access to everyone connected online from any place on the planet. Those capabilities could be harnessed for the benefit of humanity; they might also be abused, leading to enormous harms and posing serious risks to the safety and stability of the entire world.

A strategy of international cooperation is crucial to mitigate the threats of abuse of cyberspace, primarily by clarifying the “red lines” in the field of cybersecurity and determining how to verify and enforce states’ compliance with their legal obligations in the field. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (the P5) should have a decisive role in meeting this challenge. Yet while the P5 have had some success when mitigating the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction, the group is unlikely to be able to duplicate this pattern of action in cyberspace considering the rising tensions among the P5 and the geopolitical divisions in cyberspace. These divisions manifested in the 2017 failure of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Information Security (UN-GGE) to produce a consensus report after two decadesand five sessions of governmental groups of experts. Nevertheless, given the significance and seriousness of the risks that cyber operations pose to the safety and stability of states, giving up on collective action altogether is also unacceptable. 

Hackback Is Back: Assessing the Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act

By Robert Chesney

The “hackback” debate has been with us for many years. It boils down to this: Private sector victims of hacking in some instances might wish to engage in self-defense outside their own networks (that is, doing some hacking of their own in order to terminate an attack, identify the attacker, destroy stolen data, etc.) but for the prospect that they then would face criminal (and possibly civil) liability under 18 USC 1030 (the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA). A tricky question of policy therefore arises: Should the CFAA be pruned to facilitate hackback under certain conditions? On one hand, this might produce significant benefits in terms of reducing harm to victims and deterring some intrusions. On the other hand, risks involving mistaken attribution, unintended collateral harms and dangerous escalation abound. It’s small wonder the hackback topic has spawned so much interesting debate (see here and here for examples).

It also has spawned specific legislative proposals. Rep. Tom Graves (R.-Ga.) made a splash in 2017 when he introduced H.R. 4036, a bipartisan bill memorably titled the Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act—that is, the ACDC Act. The bill excited a great deal of commentary, but it never emerged from committee. 

Well, the ACDC Act is back (and, yes, I feel duty bound to say that it is Back in Black, that the bill addresses Dirty Deeds, and that critics fear it puts us on a Highway to Hell). The new bill, jointly sponsored by Rep. Graves as well as Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D.-N.J.) is here.

Cybersecurity for critical infrastructure protection

Cyber risk concerns around critical infrastructure

​Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure have grown increasingly sophisticated—and effective. For financial, political, or military gain, recent attacks were responsible for shutting down Ukraine’s power grid, “self-destruction” of centrifuges in a uranium-enrichment plant in Iran, holding a Los Angeles hospital’s medical records for ransom, and infiltration of email and fare-collecting systems for San Francisco public transit.

To date, damages have been limited to financial loss, inconvenience, and negative publicity, but cyberattacks on critical infrastructure clearly have the potential to pose serious problems, from service disruption to physical threat to human lives.

U.S. Interests and Foreign Military Sales

By Daniel DePetris

Is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia undergoing a concerted campaign to acquire a significant, more lethal, and survivable ballistic missile capability? According to a June 5 report from CNN, the evidence certainly points in that direction.

Citing overhead satellite imagery from private analysts and unidentified U.S. intelligence, the report paints a disturbing but predictable picture: Confronting what it sees as a dangerous adversary in the Middle East, Riyadh is racing to match Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal. “The previously unreported classified intelligence indicates Saudi Arabia has expanded both its missile infrastructure and technology through recent purchases from China,” CNN concluded.

The Trump administration has taken a low-key approach in its response, reiterating the common U.S. position that the Middle East should be a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The last thing countries in the region wish to see is an arms race between Saudi Arabia and Iran at a time when both countries are fomenting proxy warfare against one another in multiple theaters. And yet from Riyadh’s perspective, expanding its own ballistic missile infrastructure is a prudent step to counterbalance a foe that already possesses missiles with a maximum range of 2,000 km. Many nations under the same circumstances would do precisely what the Saudis are reportedly doing today.