15 January 2020

CBRN Terrorism: Need For More Deterrence? – Analysis

By Kyler Ong*
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According to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and IHS Markit, IS orchestrated between 41-76 alleged chemical attacks, mostly involving chlorine and sulphur mustard, in Iraq and Syria between 2014-2017 at the height of its operations. Unprecedented in scale then, it was also likely the first time an Islamist terrorist group had successfully assembled and deployed chemical payloads on projectiles.

CBRN attacks still constitute a terrorism risk in Southeast Asia and beyond. In 2017, Indonesian authorities foiled a plan by a pro-IS Jamaat Ansharud Daulah (JAD) cell to build a radiological dispersal device with uranium-233. In the same year, two IS-linked brothers attempted to use hydrogen sulphide in a foiled attack in Australia. A year later, European authorities disrupted three bio-terror plots by alleged IS-linked elements involving the use of ricin and anthrax. And this October, Indonesian authorities again foiled a suicide attack plot by IS elements using abrin-filled explosives.
Intent, Capability and Opportunity

In counter-terrorism, threat calculations are usually based on the traditional Intent, Capability and Opportunity triad framework. Notwithstanding the absence of any chemical attack claims, IS has justified the use of CBRN weapons in its propaganda materials. The launch of a bio-terror campaign by a pro-IS media outlet, al-Abd al-Faqir Media, in July and August 2018 respectively, is one of the more recent expressions of this continued intent.

Missiles of China

The People’s Republic of China is in the process of building and deploying a sophisticated and modern missile arsenal, though one shrouded in secrecy due to intentional ambiguity and unwillingness to enter arms control or other transparency agreements. Beijing features its missiles most prominently in its developing anti-access/area denial doctrines, which use a combination of ballistic and cruise missiles launched from air, land and sea to target U.S. and U.S. allied military assets in the Asia-Pacific theater. China is also developing a number of advanced capabilities such as maneuverable anti-ship ballistic missiles, MIRVs, and hypersonic glide vehicles. The combination of these trends degrade the survivability of foundational elements of American power projection like the aircraft carrier and forward air bases. China also has a relatively small but developing contingent of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S. homeland, as well as a growing fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

China’s Growing Power for a Food Secure World

Food is power, and China is a hungry player with the drive and capacity to feed a growing world. The U.S.-China relationship is at the forefront of U.S. policymakers’ minds, sparking congressional debates and making headlines on topics from trade to cybersecurity. But what many are not discussing inside or outside the Beltway is China’s ambitious agricultural development goals that will surely impact the global food supply.

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream” is a vision for China to become a world-class innovator by 2049. The political will and ability to confront future food security challenges are demonstrated by the country’s position as the largest public agricultural research and development (R&D) system in the world, with 33 percent of Chinese citizens working in the agriculture sector, more than the entire U.S. population. Today, China supplies 20 percent of the world’s food on only 13 percent of the country’s arable land.

Food is more than a basic life need. Food is a cause and consequence of conflict, migration, and political instability, and therefore the necessity to increase food security should be a strategic priority among global leaders. A crucial yet missing aspect in U.S.-China policy discussions is the influence food insecurity has on economies, livelihoods, and U.S. national security. China is on a trajectory that rivals the United States in food production because of its booming agricultural R&D investments, pipeline of science and engineering workforce, and interest and influence in Africa. The next 30 years will see the global population approach an anticipated 10 billion people. Agricultural production must increase by 25 to 70 percent to feed this growth. China’s actions are forward-thinking, and the result may be China outpacing the United States as a global agricultural powerhouse.

Mismatch: U.S. Preparation for Future Conflict During China’s Second Cultural Revolution

Russell W. Glenn
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Multi-Domain Operations must “pull us from the comfort of our tactical-level trenches to develop capabilities that inform up to the strategic level of war…. We cannot do this alone. The armed services can win battles and campaigns, but winning wars takes the whole of government…. It is never just about the fight.”[i]

-- General Stephen Townsend

Initial thoughts

The U.S. Army introduced a new doctrine in 1982, then updated that guidance four years later. AirLand Battle (ALB) was among the most revolutionary advances in formalized army thinking since Emory Upton and Arthur Wagner helped guide the service away from massed formations and volley fire in the years following the Civil War. The country’s primary ground force was in the final stages of recovery from tremors remaining after the earthquake that was the Vietnam War. Its focus had returned to the defense of Western Europe and the Warsaw Pact as primary adversary. AirLand Battle replaced existing doctrine, penned in 1976, that had proven controversial. Very tactical in focus, many felt that earlier effort relied too greatly on technology and was out of touch with soldiers and their leaders.

Army Plans to Expand Asian Cyber Efforts to Counter China

By Anthony Capaccio

The unit, which Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy detailed at an event in Washington on Friday, would also be equipped to hit land- and sea-based targets with long-range precision weapons such as hypersonic missiles, possibly clearing the way for Navy vessels in the event of conflict.

The Army task force would help neutralize some capabilities China and Russia already possess and are intended to keep U.S. carrier groups away from the Asian mainland, McCarthy said in an interview. It’s not clear how quickly the unit, which would likely be based on islands east of Taiwan and the Philippines, can be deployed.

The move is designed to “neutralize all the investments China and Russia have made,” McCarthy said. It would be bolstered by a new agreement with the National Reconnaissance Office that develops and manages U.S. spy satellites, he said. Under that accord, Army tactical units will be better able to tap information gleaned from existing and future low Earth orbit satellites, he said.

US Scanning Cyberspace For Signs Of Iranian Aggression – Analysis

By Jeff Seldin

U.S. government officials are watching and waiting, with many believing it is only a matter of time before Iran lashes out in cyberspace for the U.S. drone strike that killed Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani last week.

According to the latest advisory from the Department of Homeland Security, there are still “no specific, credible threats” to the United States. But officials say Iran’s public assurances that it is done retaliating mean little.

“Iran has been one of the most malicious actors out there,” a senior State Department official said Thursday. “We’re very concerned about Iran’s capabilities and activities.”

U.S. government officials have been hesitant to comment in any detail on what Iranian cyber actors have been up to in recent days, though they note Iran’s capabilities are on par with Russia, China and North Korea when it comes to using cyber to target industrial control systems or physical infrastructure.

Iranian Propaganda To Fill The Streets At Qassem Soleimani’s Funeral – OpEd

By Hassan Mahmoudi

With The killing of Qassem Soleimani, Iran supreme leader Khamenei lost his most important handler and lever in the middle east region. Khamenei did not say anything at the funeral, he just cried. Khamenei, at great expense, tried to drive around the casket of this butcher of people, who also made 6 million Syrians homeless, in the city of Mashhad, Ahwaz, Qom, Tehran, and Kerman. Government propaganda for the funeral of this criminal is reminiscent of Hitler’s fascist propaganda in June of 1942 for Reinhardt Heidrich, the main organizer of the Holocaust. Like Heidrich, Suleimani was a cruel executioner and right-hand man of his leader.

Tricks for gathering crowd for Qassem Soleimani’s Funeral were despicable.

The Iranian regime attempted to convert Qassem Soleimani’s funeral into the injection of fresh blood into his propaganda and raw materials for his propaganda agencies.

Qassem Soleimani’s death is a significant blow to the Islamic Republic militarily and politically. However, the Regime wants to cease this occasion for propaganda and wants to pick up the fruits of its investment by kick-starting its extensive and expensive project of making a hero out of him.

Staying in the Gulf: The Changing Cost and Strategic Advantages

Despite growing geopolitical tension, the United States still has vital interests in the Gulf region. In this presentation, the CSIS Burke Chair outlines the benefits of a continuing presence in the Gulf from both a strategic and economic perspective. In addition, the report demonstrates how U.S. engagement in the region fits into the context of broader military and budgetary commitments.

When Iran Attacks

On January 8, 2020, Iran used ballistic missiles to attack U.S. air bases in Iraq, in response to the U.S.-targeted killing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Qasem Soleimani. The attack against U.S. bases in Iraq demonstrates that Tehran continues to rely on its missile forces as a tool for signaling, diplomacy, propaganda, deterrence, and retaliation. The precise character of the attack also confirms that Iran’s missile capabilities have advanced considerably in recent years. Such deliberate targeting may have allowed Iran to avoid killing U.S. military personnel, thereby achieving strategic effects while minimizing the risk of further escalation. It also serves, however, as a warning that Iran’s missiles pose a credible threat to U.S. and allied military forces in the region.

Q1: What did Iran do?

A1: Around 1:30 a.m. local time on January 8, Iran fired around 15 ballistic missiles against two military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. troops, Ain Al Asad air base near Baghdad and another facility near Erbil in northern Iraq. Iran likely launched the missiles from its missile bases around Kermanshah near Iraq, which it has used for previous missile launches into Iraq and Syria over the past two years.

Iran is not one crisis, but three, for the U.S.

The killing of Qassem Soleimani has not provoked a crisis — it has provoked three crises. The obvious one is in U.S.-Iran relations, which have been poisonous for four decades. A somewhat less obvious one is in the global counterterrorism fight in Iraq, which relies on a steady U.S. hand.

The third is in Great Power relations, where both Russia and China seek to have the United States taken down a peg. While the potential crisis of war with Iran has been averted, for now, Iran remains a stubborn challenge for the United States, and the other two crises continue unabated.

The Soleimani Strike: A Necessary Debate and New Frontiers for the Use of Force

A U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad airport killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Friday, January 3, 2020.

Soleimani was the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), a U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). In the last week, members of Congress and the Trump administration have engaged in a debate over the strike’s rationale and justification. While this has been largely cast in the media and by some analysts as a partisan tug-of-war, in issues pertaining to the use of force, the Constitution remains an “invitation to struggle” between the legislative and the executive branch. Moreover, this debate is necessary for the health of U.S. democracy given the shifting nature of warfare. Americans deserve to know how their military is being used.

Q1: What is the U.S. administration’s rationale for the strike?

A1: Pursuant to the War Powers Resolution, on January 4, 2020, the Trump administration submitted notification to Congress of the Soleimani strike. Among other matters, the notification set out “the constitutional and legislative authority for the action.” Unfortunately, it has been classified and its contents unavailable to the public. Still, several different rationales have publicly been provided by the administration.

An Argument Against Killing Qasem Soleimani

Alex Deep

Qasem Soleimani led an organization, which according to Pentagon estimates, killed about 600 American service members in Iraq since 2003. Leaders of other groups similarly responsible for the deaths of Americans have met similar ends: Osama bin Laden, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and several members of the Haqqani family to name a few. The decision to kill the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force is part of a broader US policy to change Iranian activities that threaten US interests and the forces that work to achieve those interests. Yet in this regard, the United States faces a fundamental misalignment of ends and means. US officials continue to demand that Iran halts its support to Shi’a proxies in the Middle East, its development of more advanced ballistic missiles, and its potential pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the same time, US actions do nothing but embolden and strengthen the domestic political elements in Iran who want to expand those very activities. While Qasem Soleimani is not Franz Ferdinand and World War III is certainly not on the horizon, the United States has again failed to understand that its actions to change Iranian activity will undoubtedly have the opposite effect. 

The United States has no equivalent to Qasem Soleimani, so it is difficult for Americans to grasp his importance to Iran as a country and to Iranians as a population. This was a man who many analysts considered the second most powerful person in Iran after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and enjoyed the support of eight in ten Iranians according to recent polling conducted through a University of Maryland project. For Americans, imagine if Dwight D. Eisenhower came back from the dead and was put in charge of the US military. From there, imagine that Iran killed him with a roadside bomb while he was visiting deployed service members in Iraq. In that scenario, it seems unlikely that American policy-makers or the American population would opt to change its behavior more in line with Iranian desires. By the way, Dwight Eisenhower’s approval rating at its peak was lower than that of Qasem Soleimani. Not surprisingly, Iranian officials have threatened retaliation rather than acquiescence, and Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah and the various Popular Mobilization Forces have promised revenge.

The Perils of Seeking an American "Victory" over Iran

Louis René Beres

Following recent events in Iraq, most notably the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleiman, President Donald Trump is apt to seek some sort of larger or longer-term “victory” over Iran. Though his favored operational stance is more likely to be incremental than sudden – that is, than some substantial “bolt-from-the-blue” war-initiating strike - there will still be multiple dangers of an uncontrolled escalation. Plausibly, going forward, both states, assuming mutual rationality, will actively pursue approximately the same principal objective.

This goal will be to achieve “escalation dominance,” but without suffering any corollary consequences of a major war.

There will be more factors to consider. Here, as a pertinent “antecedent” consideration, the basic idea of a traditional military “victory” would be flawed. Inherently, it could no longer carry operational significance because it could no longer express any tangibly identifiable correlates.

After the Soleimani Strike, What’s Next for Iraq and the Region?

Elie Abouaoun and Sarhang Hamasaeed

With tensions between Iran and the U.S. already simmering, the January 3 U.S. airstrike that killed powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani is sure to have ripple effects across the region. Maj. Gen. Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, coordinated Iran’s military operations and proxies across the Middle East.

A series of developments in recent weeks led to the U.S. decision to kill Soleimani. On December 27, Kataib Hezbollah, which is part of the Iranian-supported Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), carried out an attack in Kirkuk that killed a U.S. contractor. The U.S. responded with airstrikes on Kataib Hezbollah bases in Iraq and Syria, killing over 20. Days later, the PMF organized a siege on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Two days after the siege ended on January 1, a U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad airport killed Soleimani and a leader of the PMF.

What does this mean for Iraq and the region? And what comes next? USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed and Dr. Elie Abouaoun explain.

Why is Soleimani’s death so consequential? What impact could it have in the region?

U.S. Scanning Cyberspace for Signs of Iranian Aggression

Jeff Seldin – Voice of America

WASHINGTON - U.S. government officials are watching and waiting, with many believing it is only a matter of time before Iran lashes out in cyberspace for the U.S. drone strike that killed Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani last week.

According to the latest advisory from the Department of Homeland Security, there are still “no specific, credible threats” to the United States. But officials say Iran’s public assurances that it is done retaliating mean little.

“Iran has been one of the most malicious actors out there,” a senior State Department official said Thursday. “We’re very concerned about Iran’s capabilities and activities.”

U.S. government officials have been hesitant to comment in any detail on what Iranian cyber actors have been up to in recent days, though they note Iran’s capabilities are on par with Russia, China and North Korea when it comes to using cyber to target industrial control systems or physical infrastructure.

“DHS [Department of Homeland Security] is operating under an enhanced posture to improve coordination and situational awareness should any specific threats emerge,” a department spokesperson told VOA.

Iran's Escalation Phases Since May 2019

This analysis is co-published by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute.

Iran has been escalating its attacks on American and allied targets since May 2019. Iran has shot down an American drone, attacked American bases with rockets culminating in the death of an American contractor, and assaulted the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. These Iranian attacks established the context for the U.S. drone strike that killed Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander Qassem Soleimani and leading Iranian proxy in Iraq Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020. Iran’s escalations occurred in phases and were part of an orchestrated campaign to achieve its strategic objectives, including sanctions relief and the ouster of the U.S. from Iraq and the region. 

A new ISW-CTP graphic by Nicholas Heras, Frederick Kagan, Kyra Rauschenbach, and Jason Zhou illustrates the phases of Iran's campaign.

Beyond Soleimani: Implications for Iran’s Proxy Network in Iraq and Syria

by Nakissa Jahanbani – Combatting Terrorism Center
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Early on January 3, U.S. airstrikes near Baghdad International Airport killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF) Major General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi politician and militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Commission and the founder of the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia. These strikes occurred against a background of rising escalation between the United States and Iran in Iraq, particularly after December 27 when Kata’ib Hezbollah, a prominent Iranian proxy, killed a U.S. citizen and pro-Iranian militia members attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad just four days later.

Considered by many to be one of the principal architects of Iran’s extensive regional reach, Soleimani cultivated relationships with dozens of proxies throughout the Middle East and beyond. But while the international focus on Soleimani’s death is warranted, the death of al-Muhandis is significant in its own right, both due to his role in Iraq, but also in what it signals about what Soleimani’s, and by extension Iran’s, priorities in Iraq were. In one strike, the United States removed two of the most critical actors in Iranian regional strategy, and the global audience was left wondering: what is next for IRGC-QF’s role in the region, particularly its relationships with its partner militias in Iraq and Syria?...

Soleimani Was More Valuable in Politics Than in War

By Maysam Behravesh

The Islamic Republic of Iran has suffered a loss with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, its most prominent military general. The nature and dimensions of that injury, however, are not a simple function of Soleimani’s high-profile regional role. The Quds Force, the external operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, will outlast its erstwhile commander, as will Iran’s regional security policy. But Soleimani’s assassination must still occasion soul searching within an establishment that failed to foresee the danger to his person and that has now lost a conspicuous star from its firmament.

Viewed from Tehran, the success of the U.S. air strike on Soleimani and his longtime colleague Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, looks like a counterintelligence and security failure on the part of the Islamic Republic. An increasing number of unofficial accounts and news media reports suggest that intelligence leaks and breaches in Soleimani’s security protocol made the general’s effective elimination possible.

“We know that the Americans have been chasing the two men for a long time, but without success,” an Iraqi paramilitary leader said on January 4. “It is clear that they [the Americans] have recruited some people close to the two to follow their movements and determine the place and time to assassinate them.” Two people who were aboard the plane that transported Soleimani have reportedly been detained by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces for further investigations.

U.S. Failures on Informational Strategies Complicate Iraq Situation

By Michael Rubin

Across Iran, hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to mark General Qassem Soleimani’s death. The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Qods Force unit for more than two decades, Soleimani was revered in Iran. In 2015, for example, Tabnak.ir, an Iranian news website affiliated with more pragmatic factions inside the Islamic Republic, published a poll in which their audience voted Soleimani as one of the most respected figures in Iran. In the wake of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack on East Ghoutra, a Damascus suburb, Iranians polled by the reformist Khabar Online, a theoretically independent news site inside Iran, voted Soleimani “man of the year.”

The problem is not that ordinary Iranians support terror; they do not and, indeed, over the decades have often been victims of it. Rather, Iranians see Soleimani primarily as a nationalist hero both because he carefully cultivated his own image and because he most Iranians have not heard any alternative narrative. If they consume only Iranian media, they would be unaware of Soleimani’s role in Syrian sectarian cleansing or terrorism more broadly.

Perspectives on Taiwan: Insights from the 2019 Taiwan-U.S. Policy Program

The papers in this compendium were written by the nine members of the 2019 TUPP delegation. Each participant was asked to reflect on their in-country experience and produce a short article analyzing a policy issue related to Taiwan. These papers are a testament to the powerful impact that follows first-hand exposure to Taiwan.

This report is made possible by the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, the Global Taiwan Institute, and the London School of Economics Alumni Association.

What to Watch in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2020

2020 will be another pivotal year for sub-Saharan Africa. The region will hold presidential or general elections in as many as 11 countries. It will be a make-or-break moment for key transitions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Sudan. Conflicts will fester in Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Sahel, Somalia, and South Sudan. The region’s governments, opposition, and private sector will continue to leverage claims of “great power competition” to exact economic concessions, silence external criticism, and challenge contradictions in U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa.

To preview some of the top stories in 2020, the CSIS Africa Program presents its annual list of key countries and issues to watch this year. (Read last year’s forecasts.)

1. Publics Oppose Third Terms Extensions in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire (Jon Temin)

Popular resistance to efforts by Guinean president Alpha Condé and Ivoirian president Alassane Ouattara to extend their terms in office will grow. In both countries, there is considerable public hostility to the idea of third terms. According to Afrobarometer polling, 86 percent of citizens support a two-term limit in Cote d’Ivoire and 84 percent in Guinea—two of the highest figures on the continent. This support for leadership rotation will probably spur protestors to continue to mount rallies in Guinea, where Condé has already unveiled his plan to revise its constitution. Similarly, it could unite a divided opposition in Cote d’Ivoire if Ouattara follows through on his vow to enter the race if his longstanding political rivals run for the presidency. West Africa has long performed relatively well in democratic governance, with leaders showing a commitment to term limits, exemplified by Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou and Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari’s recent pledges to step down in 2021 and 2023, respectively. As democracy activists in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire hit the streets to block third terms bids, they will appeal to the region and broader international community for support.

What Is NATO Good For?

By Mike Sweeney

In 2019, The Strategy Bridge announced a writing contest on NATO at 70: The Past, Present, and Future of the Atlantic Alliance. Today, we’re pleased to present the first-place essay.

What is NATO good for? This is a question that gets asked a lot these days, and there is an increasing tendency among many to mimic 1960s rocker Edwin Starr and shout, “Nothing!” Indeed, the run-up to the alliance’s 70th anniversary was accompanied by an outpouring of doubts about NATO’s future and usefulness. At War on the Rocks, the alliance was said to be both endangering American lives and overflowing with strategic liabilities as a result of expansion.[1] The Wall Street Journal asserted that the alliance was effectively deceased.[2] Writing in The National Review, Douglas MacGregor found “dead” insufficient, instead declaring NATO to be a zombie, while Gil Barndollar merely called for the alliance to retire at 70.[3] MIT’s Barry Posen beat everyone to the punch with his OpEd in The New York Times in March calling for a major reassessment of America’s role in the alliance.[4]
…better policies on how NATO is used should be the focus, rather than scrapping it altogether…

Of course, NATO’s obituary has been written many times before. In the opening to Why NATO Endures, quietly one of the best books on the alliance, Wallace J. Thies wryly notes that Henry Kissinger owns the unique distinction of having declared the alliance to be in serious peril in each of the first six decades of NATO’s existence.[5] For the time being, better policies on how NATO is used should be the focus, rather than scrapping it altogether or withdrawing U.S. support. Key to this will be working to enhance strategic stability between the alliance and Russia. 


James Long 

The Pentagon is making highly visible and badly needed progress on innovation, as shown by things like the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act’s emphasis on software reform. And yet critics rightly highlight Pentagon structural flaws as impediments to deeper transformation. Evidence that we are innovating on the fringes while ignoring deep obstacles includes our enduring inability to define a military-innovation career path. Given these parallel trends—making visible gains while continuing to be encumbered by invisible constraints—we must challenge the Pentagon’s antiquated models for driving change.

Part of this disconnect stems from the inherent limitations of enterprise-level efforts. As Army Futures Command grapples with massive weapons programs, and Pentagon technologists steward the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, those personnel cannot simultaneously tackle other capability gaps, like creating an enterprise-level software development pipeline. Since this enterprise-level model confines modernization efforts to small pockets of defense talent, like Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams, these gaps linger on, large enough to inhibit daily operations, but too small to justify assigning overburdened personnel.

5G powers Air Force 'smart base of the future'


As Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida’s panhandle continues to rebuild after taking a direct hit from Hurricane Michael in 2018, it’s getting not only a makeover, but a modernization, too.

The Air Force is working with AT&T to create a “smart base of the future,” including reconstructing and transforming the Tyndall ’s communications infrastructure with 5G-powered capabilities. Although the base buildout is expected to take three to five years, AT&T will light up 5G in mid-2020, enabling Tyndall to start taking advantage of benefits such as support for augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR).

“The Department of Defense really stands at the cusp of some of the most revolutionary changes in the market that they’re leading, and I think they’re game-changing,” said Mike Leff, vice president for defense at AT&T Global Public Sector. “The power of 5G has the potential to revolutionize and transform DOD operations, particularly on military bases, to significantly enhance mission readiness and enabling new mission capabilities like never before.”

One potential use case he pointed to is supporting flight-line operations by streaming massive amounts of data to warfighters using data platforms, sensors and aircrafts’ onboard systems so that crews on the ground and in the sky can more easily communicate.

Here are the network technologies the Army wants for 2023

By: Mark Pomerleau

The Army is outlining specific technology areas that it wants industry to explore for its tactical network capabilities.

The Army’s incremental “capability set” build seeks to add capabilities to the network every two years beginning in 2021. Technologies in this area should enhance network capacity, resiliency and convergence solutions that are available for demonstration and experimentation.

The Army is starting now to identify technologies and conduct tests that will inform its network upgrades in 2023, 2025 and beyond.

The Army issued a call for white papers to the C5 Consortium Jan. 6 for technology areas it wants to insert into the 2023 tactical network, according to an Army release. This follows a briefing to industry in Austin, Texas, in November when the Army provided what it thinks its vision is for capabilities in that build.