15 December 2019

New Strategy to Tackle Floods and Erosion in India’s Disaster Prone Northeast

By Rajeev Bhattacharyya

The Indian government has decided to implement a “consolidated strategy” to tackle floods and erosion in the frontier zone of the northeast, which is one of the most disaster-prone regions in Asia.

Topping the list in the new policy is a plan to set up the North East Water Management Authority (NEWMA) to facilitate a coordinated approach to check the twin dangers in the eight states of the region. The new agency will replace the Brahmaputra Board, which was set up in 1982 for the same purpose.

Giving details of the new plan, Assam Water Resources Minister Keshav Mahanta informed the state assembly that there were four attempts earlier to form a new agency in the northeast since the past several years, but they failed due to the opposition from other states in the region. He added that the entire process has been fast-tracked following an intervention by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Assam has been the worst hit by flooding and erosion among all the states in the country. The Brahmaputra, the biggest river in the region, flows through the state with a total of forty-three tributaries on the north and south banks.

Everyone Knew We Were Losing in Afghanistan


Afghanistan has long been the overshadowed war, eclipsed in public attention by the invasion of Iraq and a dozen other stories. Even so, the American occupation of Afghanistan grinds on, with an end seeming remote and any kind of positive resolution even more so.

It’s bitterly appropriate, then, that on Monday—with more hearings in the impeachment of Donald Trump and the release of a long-awaited Justice Department inspector-general report into the Russia investigation sucking up attention—The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock delivered a devastating suite of articles about Afghanistan.

Based on a tranche of thousands of documents obtained by the Post in litigation, as well as some previously released memos, the report shows that for nearly two decades, America’s leaders—Democrat and Republican; civilian and military; elected, appointed, and career civil servant—have lied to us about how the war in Afghanistan is going. Yet while this story risks being overshadowed by the fresher stories coming out of Washington, there’s a straight line between the years-long dissembling about Afghanistan and the chaos of the Trump administration today.

If Ukraine Is Impeachable, What’s Afghanistan?

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As the House Judiciary Committee drafts articles of impeachment intended to remove President Donald Trump from office, let us pause to reflect on the subject of relative malfeasance. Allow me to stipulate that Trump is unfit for office. He is a coarse, vulgar, and dishonest demagogue. Yet I want to suggest that his transgressions, while notable, pale in comparison with a far greater crime that unfolded right before our eyes, for years, well before his election.

That crime is the Afghan War. Now, withholding security assistance from a beleaguered nation threatened by Russia in return for political favors is a despicable act. This is true even if that nation is one that Washington only recently decided to classify as vital to U.S. interests. 

But a misguided war that drags on inconclusively for more than 18 years is, I submit, a far greater crime. This is especially the case if that war has cost the United States more than $1 trillion, with 2,300 U.S. troops and more than 3,800 American contractors killed, and another 20,000 GIs wounded in action, many grievously. And that’s not counting the more than 100,000 members of Afghan security forces and Afghan civilians killed along the way.

Lies Have Kept Us in Afghanistan. But the Truth May Not Set Us Free.

By Ross Douthat

In fighting successfully to publish documents showing that United States officialdom has been telling lies for years about our military endeavors in Afghanistan, The Washington Post has shown how little has changed since the Vietnam era — and yet also how much more sustainable, strangely, our own era’s quagmires seem to be.

The sameness lies in the substance of the revelations. In the Afghanistan document trove, as in the Pentagon Papers, you can see military and civilian officials feeding the press over-optimistic assessments of a likely unwinnable conflict, conducting clever statistical manipulations to create illusions of success, telling hard truths in private while lying subtly or baldly in their public statements. All quagmires seem to require a similar culture of bureaucratized dishonesty, a similar mask of optimism with the death’s head underneath.

The differences begin with the absence of a draft and a much lower American casualty rate, but they extend to the larger political and cultural landscape as well. The Pentagon Papers weren’t the first great disillusioning moment of the Vietnam era; by the time they came out, public trust in government had already fallen considerably from its early-1960s high.

Why a Deal with the Taliban May Be Inevitable

By Christoph Reuter

It's a clear, warm autumn morning, and hundreds have gathered to pay their last respects to Najmullah, the revered commander of the militia in the village of Warduj, who fell in the battle against the Taliban. It is said that Najmullah never showed fear, that he always encouraged his men and that he loved trees more than anything else.

The imam recites the funeral prayer under an ancient walnut tree, the huge canopy breaking up the sunlight into shimmering dots. Najmullah's relatives then carry his body, wrapped in a green shroud, through the small town's Bazaar Street to the cemetery, a silent stream of people trailing behind.

With nine new graves having been added in the past two weeks alone, there aren't many plots left. The land here along the river is valuable, and there isn't much of it up here.

As the funeral procession turns into the cemetery, two groups of men come into view, hacking their way through the hardpacked soil, one pit on the left and another on the right. One is the grave for Commander Najmullah, while the other is reserved for the 16-year-old Taliban fighter Bahreddin, who died in the same battle the previous night. Only a handful of relatives have come to Bahreddin's funeral, and they are eyed with suspicion by the militiamen. Nevertheless, the imam recites the funeral prayer for him as well.

Which Way for Europe on China?


STOCKHOLM – Recognizing that the European Union is facing a number of vexing challenges on the world stage, Ursula von der Leyen, the new European Commission president, has promised to lead a “geopolitical Commission.” Echoing this sentiment, Josep Borrell, the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has challenged the EU to decide whether it wants to be a global “player,” or just a “playground” for other powers. So, which way will Europe go?

Of all the challenges Europe faces, few are as important as forging a strategic policy for managing its relationship with China. The stakes are enormous. The EU is China’s largest trade partner, and China is the EU’s top trade partner after the United States, with bilateral trade exceeding $1.1 billion per day.

Over the past few years, the US has adopted an increasingly aggressive approach to China. In fact, “confronting” China seems to be one of the few things that unite Americans politically nowadays, even though no single factor is driving US policy. President Donald Trump seems primarily concerned with the bilateral trade deficit, whereas the US security establishment worries about China’s ongoing military and technological development, which could eventually position it to challenge US strategic supremacy.

China Still Needs Hong Kong

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After another massive march on the weekend, Hong Kong’s protests have passed the six-month mark. Since they started, the protests have taken a toll on the economy and the city has fallen into its first recession in 10 years. Hong Kong is expected to run a budget deficit for 2019, the first since 2004. Increasing violence and a growing sense of unease are leading to predictions that Hong Kong is finished as a business hub and that it has outlived its usefulness for China.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If the protests continue to grow and cause more unrest, this will certainly affect Hong Kong’s business hub status as multinationals might move their operations and capital elsewhere to places like Singapore. But while Beijing wants to diminish Hong Kong’s political rights and autonomy, it also wants to exploit its status as a global financial center – and it doesn’t have any easy options to replace it, as two recent events show.

The Belt and Road: Calculating Winners and Losers

By Shannon Tiezzi

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled the Belt and Road Initiative (then referred to separately as the Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road) in two speeches in the fall of 2013, proponents have described the massive undertaking as “win-win.” Increasing connectivity will help the entire world prosper, the argument goes. Critics sneer, however, that “win-win” means China wins twice: by exporting its labor and materials surplus abroad and by gaining strategic footholds in foreign countries.

But because the BRI is a relatively new concept and few of its projects have been completed, it’s difficult to actually put a numerical value on the benefits – for China or for any other country. Without a way to quantify the costs and benefits, it’s hard to definitively answer the question of which countries stand to come out ahead – and which might be better off bowing out.

A working paper from the World Bank released earlier this year, however, attempts to put a number on the gains (and, in a few cases, losses) to be expected from BRI infrastructure construction. The paper, authored by François de Soyres, Alen Mulabdic, and Michele Ruta, attempts to quantify the impact of BRI-related transportation infrastructure projects on gross domestic product (GDP). As the authors note:

Why Does China Say It Won't Use Nuclear Weapons First in War?

David Axe

China has reaffirmed its policy of never being the first in a conflict to use nuclear weapons. Experts refer to this policy as “no first use,” or NFU.

The NFU policy reaffirmation, contained in Beijing’s July 2019 strategic white paper, surprised some observers who expected a more expansive and aggressive nuclear posture from the rising power.

Notably, the United States does not have a no-first-use policy. “Retaining a degree of ambiguity and refraining from a no first use policy creates uncertainty in the mind of potential adversaries and reinforces deterrence of aggression by ensuring adversaries cannot predict what specific actions will lead to a U.S. nuclear response,” the Pentagon stated.

Chinese state media posted the government’s white paper in its entirety. "Nuclear capability is the strategic cornerstone to safeguarding national sovereignty and security," the paper asserts.

How to Revive the WTO

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NEW YORK – December 11, 2019, is the 18th anniversary of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. It also marks the start of an era in which the WTO no longer has a functioning appellate body to adjudicate trade disputes among member countries. Why is the WTO imploding, and can it be resuscitated before it’s too late?

Before China joined the WTO in 2001, many feared that its membership could doom the organization in one of three ways. First, Chinese rule breaking might be so common, skeptics claimed, that it would trigger an explosion of cases against the country that would overwhelm the appellate body of seven judges. Second, China might express its grievances by bringing countless potentially frivolous cases against other countries, which would also exceed the organization’s capacity constraint. And, finally, China might ignore any WTO ruling against it, undermining the system’s credibility and usefulness.

None of that happened. Of the 349 trade disputes brought to the WTO for adjudication since the end of 2001, China has been a defendant in 44, or 12.6% of the total – in line with the country’s 12.8% share of global exports in 2018. Interestingly, this number is fewer than the 99 brought against the United States and the 52 brought against the European Union during the same period. Part of the reason is that China has continued to reduce tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, and ease investment restrictions, in accordance with – and sometimes going beyond – the terms of its WTO accession agreement. In fact, few countries have reduced such barriers more than China has during this period.

Facing Up to China’s Military Interests in the Arctic

By Anne-Marie Brady

China’s military ambitions in the Arctic, and its growing strategic partnership with Russia, have rung alarm bells in many governments. In May 2019, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Defense annual report on China’s military capabilities had a section on China’s military interests in the Arctic and the possibility of Chinese submarines operating in the Arctic basin (Department of Defense, May 2019). In August 2019, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg raised concerns about what he diplomatically referred to as “China’s increased presence in the Arctic” (Reuters, August 7).

From a nuclear security point of view, the Arctic is China’s vulnerable northern flank. The flight path of U.S. and Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) targeted at China transit the Arctic. [1] Key components of the U.S. missile defense system are also located in the Arctic.

Chinese submarine-based ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) operating in the Arctic could restore China’s nuclear deterrence capability (Huanqiu Ribao, October 28, 2013). China currently operates six nuclear-powered attack submarines, four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and fifty diesel attack submarines, with more under construction. If Chinese nuclear-armed submarines were able to access the Arctic basin undetected, this would be a game-changer for the United States, the NATO states and their partners, and the wider Asia-Pacific (Huanqiu Ribao, April 11, 2012). China would be able to target missiles at the United States and Europe with ease; such ability would strengthen China’s military dominance in Asia and bolster China’s emerging position as a global military power. [2]

Iranian Missiles in Iraq

Iran-backed militias within Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have acquired short-range ballistic missiles from Tehran, supplementing their existing arsenal of unguided rockets.

These militias’ small, harassing rocket attacks targeting U.S. facilities in Iraq have already disrupted American diplomatic and business activities in the country.

Israeli airstrikes on PMF missile depots have killed and injured dozens of Iraqis , straining relations among the United States, Iraq, and Israel.

Further Iranian missile proliferation in Iraq could increase the number of potential rocket launch sites, impede the attribution of Iranian missile attacks, and locate launch sites closer to U.S. and allied forces in the region.

In discussions of Iran’s regional missile proliferation, Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels tend to dominate the conversation. This focus is for good reason: Hezbollah today possesses an estimated 130,000 rockets and short-range missiles, and the Houthis have fired over 250 projectiles into Saudi Arabia since 2015.1 Yet Iran’s strategy of arming proxies with rockets to harass, distract, and deter its regional adversaries has expanded to include factions of a third group. Collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, these militias have taken on increasing importance.

Iran’s Regional Influence Campaign Is Starting to Flop

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As a new wave of demonstrations engulfs the Middle East, one common factor connects the protests from Baghdad to Beirut: a deep and widespread feeling of antipathy toward the Iranian regime. This is especially true in the bloodied towns and cities of Iraq—a country Iran’s leaders have regarded as theirs since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Since the outbreak of the protests in early October, various security forces, including Iranian-backed Shiite militias, have killed more than 400 Iraqis and wounded some 20,000 others. Not only is there good reason to believe that much of the brutality has taken place at the behest of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, but the available evidence seems to confirm it.

Aware of the anti-Iranian mood on the Iraqi streets—exemplified by protesters beating their shoes against portraits of Khamenei, just as they had done with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003—an unnerved Khamenei did not hesitate to intervene.

Will Protests in France Force Macron to Back Down on Reforms?

Judah Grunstein 

The transportation strikes and labor protests that have paralyzed France for the past week are proof once again of the gap between President Emmanuel Macron’s lofty international reputation and his domestic fall from grace. Lionized abroad as a young, dynamic outsider, courageous reformer and liberal champion, Macron is decried at home for his tone-deaf arrogance, illiberal imperiousness and seeming disregard for France’s less fortunate and most vulnerable citizens.

The strikes and demonstrations are just the beginning of what promises to be a lengthy fight over Macron’s plans to reform France’s pension system. Two years ago, Macron faced down the unions to push through labor market reforms. Now, he is trying to tackle the crown jewel of France’s social safety net, which is also the third rail of French politics: the generous but unwieldy collection of over 40 job- and sector-specific pension plans that vary in everything from payouts and retirement age to years of required work activity. ...

Trump’s War on the World Trade Organization

By Farah N. Jan and Megan Phansalkar

The Trump administration’s hard line position on international commerce has paralyzed the World Trade Organization (WTO) since a compromise did not materialize in Geneva this week. The WTO was instituted 25 years ago to prevent protectionism and adjudicate trade violations. However, for the past two years, the United States has played by its own rules by imposing unilateral tariffs and asserting American dominance. This in turn threatens the rules-based international trading order.

The Trump administration has chosen to focus its efforts on U.S.-China trade negotiations, disregarding the existential threat posed to the Appellate Body of the WTO. Traditionally, the Appellate court adjudicates disputes between member states; it is currently composed of just one judge. In normal circumstances, the court has seven judges, but a minimum of three is required for a quorum. The Appellate Body fell to one judge on December 10 since member states did not make new appointments. That in turn has halted all appeal judgements on trade matters until a new solution is reached. In addition, the United States has also threatened to block the Appellate Body’s budget. Currently, Roberto Azevedo, the director-general of the WTO, has stressed that the organization will look for both temporary and long-term solutions during this crisis period.

Courting Disaster: How Not to Manage Existential Threats to National Security

by Robert Gallucci
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There are a small number of threats to our nation’s security, involving truly catastrophic consequences, which may be managed by good public policy. Some of these involve uncertainties over scientific or technological developments that could lead to good, as well as very bad outcomes. Think designer biology, quantum computing and artificial intelligence. But two stand out both for the certainty and magnitude of their destructive impact: climate change and nuclear weapons.

Climate change is happening to us now and some of its consequences are evident. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and species are being lost to us forever. If we were the frog in that pot, then we would have noticed a warming trend. Indeed, we seem to have improved in recent years in both our awareness of the many ways in which climate change will badly damage our lives and exactly what kinds of things we should be doing now if we want to limit that damage. But we, in the United States, are not doing them, or at least our government is not doing what it should be doing. Our government is behaving as if we had an option to “put America first,” as though we had our own climate and had no need to share the planet. We have approached the Paris Agreement as though it were the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opting out to make a better deal with . . . the climate. We are acting as though we did not have children and grandchildren. We are not pursuing a public policy appropriate to manage the existential threat of climate change.

U.S. Strategy — Strategic Triage and the True Cost of War: Supporting Enduring Commitments versus “Endless Wars”

By Anthony H. Cordesman

There are good reasons why the United States should constantly reexamine the cost of its military commitments and deployments overseas, and especially of its active uses of military force. The U.S. may not face endless wars, but it does face endless threats and instability. History has not ended and will not end, and “Globalism” has not put the world on a path towards growth, progress, peace, and stability.

The ISIS territorial “Caliphate” may be gone, but ISIS, its affiliates tied to its global network, Al Qaida, and a host of other extremist and terrorist movements survive. No MENA, South Asian, or Central Asian country has made a major reduction in the political, economic, or demographic causes of instability that triggered the political upheavals in the Arab World in 2011 or that shape the future of all too many countries in the developing world.

Defeating one movement in one location does not secure even a single country in the face of continued failures in politics, governance, economic, and demographics that have been the source of extremism, uprisings and civil war. And, these same failures affect all too many countries in the rest of Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore these forces, let them destabilize the global economy, or become direct threats to the United States.

TrickBot gang is now a malware supplier for North Korean hackers

By Catalin Cimpanu
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A report published today reveals that North Korea's government-backed hacking units are renting access to elite hacking tools and access to hacked networks from the operators of the TrickBot botnet.

The revelation comes to confirm a trend observed in recent years -- namely that the lines between regular cybercrime and nation-state cyber-espionage operations are blurring.

This trend came to light in 2017 when a report revealed how the mastermind behind the GameOver Zeus malware botnet had been helping Russian intelligence gather sensitive documents from the computers he was infecting.

But Bogatchev wasn't an isolated case. Just last week, the US charged the administrator of the Dridex malware botnet, accusing him of the same thing -- of collaborating with Russia's state intelligence in their search for sensitive data.

These two cases show a direct contact between the creators of popular malware and a country's intelligence apparatus.

The ‘Russia Hoax’ Is a Hoax


A report by the FBI inspector general debunks the claims that the investigation into political interference by the Kremlin was a left-wing conspiracy to depose the president.

If you are following mainstream news outlets, you know that in 2016, Donald Trump benefited from a Russian hacking and disinformation campaign designed to help him get elected even as he sought permission from the Russian government to build a hotel in Moscow. You know that he deflected blame from Russia for that campaign, even as he sought to benefit from it politically. You know that shortly after the election, Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office that he didn’t mind their efforts on his behalf, inviting further interference. And you know that while those acts may not have amounted to criminal conspiracy, the president’s insistence that there was “no collusion” flies in the face of established facts.

If you are ensconced in the pro-Trump propaganda universe of Fox News and its spawn, you know something different. You know that the Russia investigation was a “hoax” developed by the “deep state” and the media, an attempt by a fifth column within the FBI to engage in a “coup,” a conspiracy, a frame job, “nothing less than the attempted overthrow of the U.S. government.” Any evidence of wrongdoing by the president, in this universe, has been manufactured by Trump’s shadowy and powerful enemies—George Soros, liberals in the FBI, Barack Obama.

U.S. Lawmakers Move to Punish Turkey for Buying Russian Missile System

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U.S. lawmakers finalized a sweeping deal on the annual defense policy bill late Monday that, among other key provisions, would take steps to punish Turkey for its purchase of a controversial Russian missile system that Western officials say threatens NATO air defenses and the F-35 fighter jet.

The news comes as U.S. President Donald Trump continues to hold off imposing congressionally mandated sanctions in response to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400, which arrived in Turkey this summer and which the Turkish military recently began testing against U.S.-made F-16 fighters. Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the administration must choose from a menu of options ranging from light to harsh sanctions if foreign partners make a significant purchase of Russian military equipment.

“The time for patience has long expired. It is time you applied the law,” Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a recent letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Failure to do so is sending a terrible signal to other countries that they can flout U.S. laws without consequence.”

Trump officials weigh encryption crackdown


Senior Trump administration officials met on Wednesday to discuss whether to seek legislation prohibiting tech companies from using forms of encryption that law enforcement can’t break — a provocative step that would reopen a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.

The encryption challenge, which the government calls “going dark,” was the focus of a National Security Council meeting Wednesday morning that included the No. 2 officials from several key agencies, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Senior officials debated whether to ask Congress to effectively outlaw end-to-end encryption, which scrambles data so that only its sender and recipient can read it, these people told POLITICO. Tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have increasingly built end-to-end encryption into their products and software in recent years — billing it as a privacy and security feature but frustrating authorities investigating terrorism, drug trafficking and child pornography.

Encryption Backdoors Won't Stop Crime But Will Hurt U.S. Tech

Michael Hayden

As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to hold its latest hearings on encryption Tuesday morning, I am reminded of an article I wrote four years ago cautioning America’s leaders against making technology and security policy decisions for short-term gains without considering the second- and third-order implications down the road.

Unfortunately, the encryption debate has changed little since then. Law-enforcement agencies advocate for “extraordinary access” to encrypted data to aid investigations - claiming that Americans should accept the security risks inherent in providing this backdoor to protected communications. Meanwhile, technology companies defend the use of end-to-end and device encryption as a key protection against cyberthreats. Then, as now, encryption’s advocates have the stronger argument.

Building the tech talent pipeline

By Davis Carlin, Nora Gardner, Bryan Hancock, and Brooke Weddle

Amazon’s search for its HQ2 location sparked fierce competition among US metropolitan areas, as their leaders viewed the headquarters as a game changer for economic development. However, the bidding process also shone a spotlight on the issues of talent development and retention—common challenges for metropolitan areas around the world.

While low interest rates have given companies easy access to money, a reliable pool of qualified workers has become the scarcer capital. And if technology is now the growth engine for business, tech talent and the institutions that produce it are the fuel. Regions recognize that tech workers such as data analysts, web developers, engineers, and the like are a prerequisite for economic development. Yet few metropolitan areas understand the dynamic talent ecosystem—including skills, diversity, and mobility—and how to take coordinated action to move the needle.

When the HQ2 bid was announced, the Capital Region (which encompasses Baltimore; Richmond and northern Virginia; and Washington, DC) had already begun to implement programs to deepen its talent pool. The goal of these efforts was to ensure the region had enough workers with the right skills to satisfy the demand for tech talent across the private and public sectors. To better understand the talent landscape, McKinsey partnered with the Greater Washington Partnership to conduct in-depth research into the Capital Region and other top US metro areas (see sidebar, “About the research”). The result was unprecedented visibility into talent imbalances and common trends as well as new insights into how civic leaders can deal with them effectively.

Can We Get Social Media to Work for Society?

As debates rage over the need to regulate Facebook and other social media giants, a question that keeps coming up is whether these platforms can be regulated without stifling innovation. In this opinion piece, Ravi Bapna argues that the answer may lie — among other factors — in a combination of business model innovation and creative regulation. Bapna is a professor of business analytics and information systems at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

If you feel overwhelmed by the deafening din from the punditry — that includes just about anybody from former founders to lawmakers to presidential candidates — about how toxic Facebook is, you are not alone. The litany of issues, questions and its responses when lined up are as dizzying as they are telling of the times in which we live.

Should Facebook — and other tech platforms — be regulated? CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it should be. Should the regulator be Congress, the Federal Communications Commission or both? Should Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram be broken up? Is Facebook a platform or a publisher, and thereby subject to, say, libel laws, or free equal airtime laws for political candidates?

Congress wants more answers on cyber operations and tools

By: Mark Pomerleau   

The first draft of the annual House defense authorization bill has several provisions aimed at understanding DoD's new cyber posture.

The National Defense Authorization Act, which was finalized late Dec. 9 by congressional defense committees, has over 30 cyber-related provisions. Here are seven oversight items included in the bill:

Modification of acquisition authority

In 2016, Congress granted U.S. Cyber Command limited acquisition authority — capping acquisition funds at $75 million per year, sunsetting in 2021.

This year’s bill amends the authority to say that the command cannot obligate or expend more than $75 million on new contract efforts.

Readiness of the cyber mission force

Congress wants more answers on cyber operations and tools

By: Mark Pomerleau 

The National Defense Authorization Act, which was finalized late Dec. 9 by congressional defense committees, has over 30 cyber-related provisions. Here are seven oversight items included in the bill:

Modification of acquisition authority

In 2016, Congress granted U.S. Cyber Command limited acquisition authority — capping acquisition funds at $75 million per year, sunsetting in 2021.

This year’s bill amends the authority to say that the command cannot obligate or expend more than $75 million on new contract efforts.

Readiness of the cyber mission force

The bill requires the secretary of defense to create metrics for the assessment of the readiness of the cyber mission force and brief Congress on such metrics.

Following the May 2018 full operational capability of the cyber mission force, Cyber Command said it was shifting its focus from building the force to readiness. The command has articulated its own metrics that it is putting into practice to measure readiness.

The Government Accountability Office in a March report took aim at DoD and Cyber Command for building the force too quickly, which led to readiness issues.

A Government Accountability Office report assesses that Cyber Command's cyber mission force teams need to improve aspects of training.

More requirements for separating the National Security Agency and Cyber Command

The bill adds elements to previous legislation that DoD must certify before it can sever the so-called dual-hat relationship between the NSA and Cyber Command, which also share a leader.

The Pentagon would have to meet a series of new requirements before U.S. Cyber Command could split from the National Security Agency, according to a proposal from a Senate defense committee.

The changes include a requirement that each organization have robust command-and-control systems for planning, deconflicting and executing military cyber operations and now national intelligence operations as well, a requirement that tools for cyber operations are sufficient for achieving required effects and a Cyber Command can acquire or develop them and that the cyber mission force “has demonstrated the capacity to execute the cyber missions of the Department.”

In a change from the Senate panel’s version of the bill, for which there was no analogous portion in the House-passed version, the final bill also requires DoD to provide the defense committees with a briefing on the current and future partnership between the NSA and Cyber Command.

These briefings should include information on common infrastructure and acquisition, operational priorities, research and development partnerships and projected long term efforts.

Authorities for cyber operations and policies governing them

After the Trump administration modified the rules for approving cyber operations from the previous administration, there has been a protracted fight between the executive and legislative branches to see the underlying documentation governing the change.

The White House has reservations about disclosing when it delegates cyber authorities to the Secretary of Defense.

The bill requires no later than 30 days after its enactment and upon request from committees, the president must allow them to read a copy of all so-called National Security Presidential Memorandums relating DoD operations in cyberspace.

Another provision in the bill requires congressional committees be notified in writing when authorities articulated in these policy documents are delegated from the president to the secretary of defense for military operations in cyberspace no later than 15 days after the delegation.

Report on cyber operations

The secretary of defense must deliver a report to Congress no later than March 1 of each year summarizing all named military cyber operations that were conducted in the previous calendar year.

This report must be organized by adversarial country and should include a raft of specifics to include, among others, the objective and purpose, impacted countries or entities, methodologies used for the cyber effects, specific cyber mission force teams involved, infrastructure used and costs.

Study of cyber capabilities

Congress wants the Defense Science Board to study future cyber war-fighting capabilities of DoD.

Within the past year, Cyber Command created the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, which guides cyber capability and development in five broad areas.

The Defense Science Board study should provide a technical evaluation of the architecture, especially key acquisition program priorities such as Unified Platform, Joint Cyber Command and Control and the Persistent Cyber Training Environment.

The provision in the bill also directs the study to include information on capability requirements, speed of development, coherence of the architecture, technical evaluation of tool development, evaluation of operational planning and targeting of Cyber Command and recommendations.

Study of cyber command elements

The bill directs the Pentagon’s principal cyber adviser to examine the best way to organize and staff four military cyber agencies.

The study would look at what it means it would mean if the personnel in these agencies were moved from services to joint organizations. It would also consider what would happen if those billets were moved to Cyber Command.

Cyber Command has pointed to recent successes for operating forces globally, but questions remain regarding how it uses forces.

The first of the organizations would be the Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber (JFHQ-C). The four JFHQ-Cs deploy offensive cyber teams within the combatant commands. They provide planning, targeting, intelligence and cyber capabilities to the combatant commands they’re assigned and are led by the heads of the four service cyber components.

The second is the Joint Mission Operations Centers.

The third group is what’s known as cyber operations-integrated planning elements. These are small teams currently being created by each service cyber component that will serve as a forward element of the JFHQ-C locally at the combatant command staff to help coordinate cyber effects for battle plans.

The fourth are the Joint Cyber Centers at each combatant command.

If You Can’t See ’Em, You Can’t Shoot ’Em: Improving U.S. Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting

By Seth Cropsey
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The United States today faces the greatest challenge to its international stature since the mid-twentieth century. America’s adversaries, despite their differences, threaten to come together in a coalition that can dominate Eurasia and by extension, jeopardize American strategic interests and values globally.

Of several potential flashpoints for confrontation, the Western Pacific has the potential to be the most decisive. The most powerful of the three U.S. rivals is China, and it is the only adversary with the economic and political power to field a technologically sophisticated, quantitatively superior military force.

Of course, there has been a noticeable, necessary, and welcome increase in discussion of America’s operational and theater strategies in the Pacific, alongside a military and civilian focus on responding to renewed great power competition. But there is a current lack of appreciation for the critical role of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISR/T) capabilities in naval combat success. This operational blind spot has concrete ramifications for the balance of power in the Western Pacific and the ability of the United States to force a political settlement without conflict.

Pentagon Prototypes 5G With Innovation On-Ramp

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WASHINGTON: As the Defense Department scrambles to keep ahead of China, it’s relying more and more on public-private partnerships called consortia to connect it to innovative high-tech firms. The latest example comes in an announcement Monday that only members of the National Spectrum Consortium can bid on pilot projects to install prototype 5G networks to manage radar and radio spectrum, “smart warehouse” logistics, and other functions on four military bases.

The consortium’s 260 current members – ranging from universities to start-ups to corporate giants like AT&T and Lockheed Martin – have been working with the Pentagon on 5G at least since January, holding industry days with almost 500 attendees and submitting over 260 white papers to educate officials on the art of the possible. Now the Defense Department, working through Army Contracting Command, has entered into a five-year Section 815 Other Transaction Authority agreement with the Consortium.

Amazon, Google, Microsoft: Here's Who Has the Greenest Cloud

“Data is the new oil” may have outlasted its usefulness as a metaphor, but one aspect still rings true: Both industries have a serious environmental footprint. According to the Department of Energy, data centers account for about 2 percent of all electricity use in the US.

That means the cloud—which powers every Netflix binge, PUBG match, and email—has a lining made not of silver, but of carbon. For individuals, the bits in question don’t amount to much. The digital footprints of businesses, however, can be large enough to ding the environment. For them, finding the greenest way to store their data would help cut down on their emissions. But how does a high-minded plutocrat go about that? The answers are not always obvious.

The top three cloud providers—Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure—account for approximately two-thirds of all rentable computing services, so WIRED has compiled a guide to help you understand how they decarbonize your data.

What Makes a Cloud Green?