7 February 2020

Controversial Hydel Project in India’s Northeast On Way To Completion

By Rajeev Bhattacharyya

A hydel dam in India’s Northeast that was stalled following large scale protests is now scheduled for completion in three-and-a-half years.

Straddled across the twin states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project was stuck for the past eight years due to various issues. All the hurdles were removed following a judgment by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that dismissed a petition that had raised concerns over the project.

The Lower Subansiri project, which will produce 2000 megawatts of power, is being developed as part of India’s hydropower program to generate a total of 50,000 megawatts. Among the Central Electricity Authority (CEA)’s prefeasibility studies of 162 projects, a total of 5,600 megawatts was planned on the Subansiri river across three components. The river originates in Tibet and is one of the largest tributaries of the Brahmaputra.

The run-of-the-river project is expected to incur an expenditure of over $2.8 billion. It will consist of a concrete gravity dam, which will be 116 meters high from the river bed level and 130 meters from the foundation with a length of 284 meters.

Concerns Over Safety Measures

China’s Military Advancements in the 2010s: Air and Ground

By Rick Joe

The first decade of the 21st century has seen the Chinese military (People’s Liberation Army or PLA) undergo a number of major changes, which many observers around the world have kept a keen eye on. Indeed, among the world’s major military forces, the breadth and speed with which the PLA and the Chinese military industry have changed from the beginning of 2010 to the end of 2019 is quite remarkable.

Sometimes it can be easy to lose the forest for the trees; therefore as we enter the 2020s, it seems an opportune time to take a step back and review the most major and visible developments the PLA and Chinese military industry have experienced in the 2010s. For the sake of brevity, these are not wholly exhaustive. Part I will cover the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF), and the Chinese Army (PLAA/GF) and institutional and organizational domains, and Part II will review the Chinese Navy (PLAN) and Chinese Strike (PLARF).

Air Forces

J-20 and the introduction of stealth – By far the most headline grabbing development for the PLAAF this decade was the J-20 stealth fighter. The first prototype emerged in late 2010 and made its first flight in early 2011. Since then the J-20 has completed the major development milestones in its current form and entered service with combat units in 2018.

Raytheon engineer arrested for taking US missile defense secrets to China

By Justin Rohrlich Tim Fernholz

When Wei Sun, a 48-year-old engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems, left for an overseas trip last year, he told the company he planned to bring his company-issued HP EliteBook 840 laptop along.

Sun, a Chinese-born American citizen, had been working at Raytheon, the fourth-largest US defense contractor, for a decade. He held a secret-level security clearance and worked on highly sensitive missile programs used by the US military.

Since Sun’s computer contained large amounts of restricted data, Raytheon officials told him that taking it abroad would not only be a violation of company policy, but a serious violation of federal law, as well.
Sun had access to sensitive missile defense technology.

Sun didn’t listen, according to US prosecutors. While he was out of the country, Sun connected to Raytheon’s internal network on the laptop. He sent an email suddenly announcing he was quitting his job after 10 years in order to study and work overseas.

Is the U.S. Sleepwalking Into a Sino-Centric World Order?

By Lulio Vargas-Cohen

While the U.S. is at a crossroads in navigating the most important foreign policy issue of the century, the U.S. public remains unengaged about the importance of getting U.S.-China relations right.

Americans have witnessed what happens in a Wuhan food market, a Xinjiang detention center, or a government compound in Beijing, ripples not only across China but the entire world. In China, we are observing a nation undertaking bold policies to move up the economic value chain, modernizing its military to project power beyond its borders, and building a global web of economic and political links. The U.S. is no less exposed to this evolution than many of China’s closest neighbors; indeed, the bilateral U.S.-Chinese relationship is now the world’s most consequential. We can expect it will remain so for the rest of our lives.

Despite this reality, the U.S. public has not been engaged in a broader discussion about the impact that a risen China will have on both global affairs, or the policy choices the country’s leaders will need to evaluate and navigate moving forward. 

Americans do recognize China’s emergence—it is seen as the second most influential nation today, and deemed a "critical threat" by a plurality of the population. This is paired, however, with a muted interest in the issue. Asked by Gallup about the most important challenges facing the country, relations with China does not even register as a rounding error.

China's growing 5G dominance is a disaster for US security


While Democrats and the media focus on the impeachment hoax in an attempt to re-litigate the results of the 2016 election, America’s greatest enemy is exerting dominance as the world’s leading actor in the next generation of wireless technology.

China’s influence over the fifth generation of wireless technology, more commonly known as 5G, is a lot more important than some TV commercials might have you believe. The first country to deploy 5G will own the economy of the future, establish itself as the worldwide leader in technology and innovation, and have an upper hand in terms of national security. It is crucial that America — not one of our greatest adversaries, such as China — continue to lead the world. 

This issue has become more and more of an interest of mine. I have consistently warned of the rise of China and its malevolent aims toward America. Additionally, 5G is an issue that will impact students and millennials more than any other generation, because the future of 5G’s ownership and implementation will dictate the privacy and online security of my mobile-focused, tech-obsessed generation.

China and Nuclear Restraint

By Rod Lyon

China increasingly finds itself depicted as the bête noire of nuclear arms control. The U.S. government has said the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty collapsed because of Chinese actions outside the treaty and not merely Russian violations inside it. Moreover, President Donald Trump has proposed transforming the current strategic nuclear arms agreement between the U.S. and Russia—New START—into a trilateral agreement which covers China’s strategic nuclear forces as well.

On its face, arguing for a more energetic Chinese role in arms control is an easy task. Certainly, China’s conventional missile inventory has developed in leaps and bounds since 1987, when the INF Treaty first went into effect. And in broader geopolitical terms, today’s landscape looks considerably different to the one upon which the arms control regime was originally constructed. In the long run, arms control agreements will become less credible, and less strategically meaningful, if they can’t adapt to reflect the shifting power distribution of the international order.

Besides, arms control has upsides for its participants: it locks in power, rather than merely locking it down, and it reduces the risks of unregulated strategic competition. As Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at Carnegie, argues in the latest issue of Arms Control Today, ‘Over time, China’s own interest will align with arms control for several reasons … [T]he major-power competition between Washington and Beijing is going to be a long-term reality … [I]t is in no one’s interest, including China’s, to allow this competition to become completely uncontrolled and unregulated.’

The Kurdish Tragedy: What America Can Learn From Its Foreign Policy Fumbles in Iraq

by Ryan Gardiner

Although the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) proved a vital partner in fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and its territory has served as a rare oasis of stability in a war-torn country, the October 2019 American pullout from the northern Syrian border region brought to bear the unrealistic notion of an enduring American partnership with the SDF and the unclear nature of the U.S. presence. Given what we already know, it is surprising that America’s military and political leadership did not foresee this eventuality.

The Turkish army’s invasion into Kurdish-dominated SDF territory has resulted in over one hundred thousand internally-displaced persons and accusations of war crimes committed by Turkey and its militias. The invasion and the behavior of the invading forces have resulted in a widespread outcry from Western media sources, American politicians, and many of America’s allies. Despite this, the Syrian pullout should not have surprised anyone due to Turkey’s growing security concern of an empowered Syrian Kurdish enclave, the nature of the American-Turkish relationship, and America’s unclear policy regarding its long-term presence in Syria.

From the outset of the U.S.-Syrian Kurdish partnership, marked by the 2014 battle of Kobani, where the United States first provided Kurdish ground forces with air support, Turkey’s opposition and hostility to the arrangement should have signaled the political dilemma that would follow. The battle of Kobani marked not only the beginning of a U.S.-led effort to actively assist the Syrian Kurdish forces on the ground, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), but it also laid bare Turkey’s priority of curbing more nuanced Kurdish ambitions rather than combatting the obvious threat of a brutal ISIL that had abutted its southern flank.

Remote Warfare and the Problem With the Suleimani Hit

By Phil W. Reynolds
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The killing of Qassem Suleimani, however justified, will carry costs for the United States. The rub doesn’t lie in the argument over whether the Suleimani hit was preemptive or retributional, if it was an assassination or even if it was legal. Instead, the problem lies in the method. Its very success has inevitably contributed to a lowering of the threshold of war with the strategy of remote warfare. Remote warfare, with drones and robots, removes the decision for war far from Jus ad Bellum, the idea of justice in war. Reciprocity, the idea that the enemy can strike back, is the risk that drives careful deliberation before action. With no risk, these decisions come quicker and easier.

These strikes have, as their locomotive power, a temporal element. Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, implied as much when an ‘imminent threat’ drove the decision to strike. While wars are rather ho-hum and sleepy, preemptive strikes are exciting, quick and made for the short attention spans of domestic audiences. The power and speed and finality are sexy! Added to this is the nightmares of Vietnam and never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those long slogs have prepared the body civic to accept the seduction of remote warfare as invulnerable and riskless. 

By making the person, Suleimani, the purpose of war, not geography in the traditional sense of a battlefield, the foundational premise of war has been fundamentally changed. The calculus that the remote warfare enthusiasts must solve is that death without the understanding of justice breeds more targets. The assumption that it does not is buttressed by a massive bureaucratic program and statistics of success, which are misleadingly simple. The positive reinforcement of the tactics of preemption leads to more killing in an amaranthine loop.

Trump’s Unfair Middle East Plan Leaves Nothing to Negotiate

By Martin Indyk 

You’ve got to hand it to the Middle East peace team of U.S. President Donald Trump. It has proposed a comprehensive and creative resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And even though Trump is quick to decry the failed efforts of past administrations, his team actually drew on the concepts, the principles, and even the wording of previous plans. Past U.S. mediators, however, tried to establish a basis for agreement by bridging the disparate positions of the two sides. The Trump team simply resolved the issues by sleight of hand: it decided each of the final status issues—borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, and mutual recognition—in Israel’s favor before the negotiations even begin.

For instance, U.S. negotiators have always paid particular attention to securing the border between Jordan and a future Palestinian state, lest that frontier become a gateway for armies or terrorists crossing into the West Bank and thence into Israel. During the administration of former President Barack Obama, a team of U.S. security experts, in consultation with their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, developed a plan by which Palestinian security forces could gradually assume control of the border; over a period of many years, the Palestinian forces would have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment and capabilities. 

As Challenges Mount, Can Europe Correct Its Course?

The liberal European order that emerged after World War II and spread after the collapse of the Soviet Union is now under attack from both within and without. The European Union—the ultimate expression of the European project—has become a convenient punching bag for opportunistic politicians in many of its member countries, as anti-EU sentiment has become part of the broader populist platform of protectionism and opposition to immigration. The EU still managed to withstand its latest challenge when the gains made by populist parties in last year’s European Parliamentary elections fell short of expectations.

Nevertheless, Britain’s withdrawal from the union, known as Brexit, has now become official, and there is no way of knowing whether the populist wave has crested. Illiberal governments hold power in Hungary and Poland, and a far-right party was part of a coalition government in Austria until its recent collapse. Centrist leaders seem unable to come up with a response to immigration that doesn’t alienate more voters than it unites.

Navigating the Storms at the UN Security Council

Richard Gowan

Splits among the five permanent members of the Security Council or P5 (China, France, UK, Russia and the U.S.) on issues from Syria to Venezuela are now a regular and frustrating feature of UN diplomacy. Nevertheless, meeting at a Holocaust commemoration in Israel last month, French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed convening a leader-level meeting of the five at this September’s UN General Assembly session. Does this initiative suggest that relations among the P5 are about to take a turn for the better?

Perhaps marginally, but the outlook for Council relations remains fairly bleak. Looking at the Council’s agenda for the next several months, there are reasons to believe that the P5 face a factious 2020, risking more divisions over crisis situations from Mali to North Korea, and above all the tangle of conflicts in the Middle East. That said, putting a summit on the calendar for September – if only as a symbolic reminder of the P5’s role in founding the UN 75 years ago – could create a modest incentive to ease their differences.
A Time of Tensions

Escalating to Deescalate? Why Turkey Is Targeting Syria’s Army

Aron Lund 

For the first time in Syria’s nine-year war, the Turkish military this week launched direct attacks on the Syrian army. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that he ordered howitzers and F-16 fighter jets to hit President Bashar al-Assad’s forces near the Turkish border in response to the killing of eight Turkish soldiers in Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

“We are determined to continue our operations to ensure the safety of our country, our nation and our brothers in Idlib,” Erdogan warned. Turkey’s defense minister, Gen. Hulusi Akar, later claimed 76 Syrian soldiers were “neutralized” in attacks on more than 50 different targets in the area. The Assad government has not offered its own casualty figure, but the clashes have raised the stakes in a long and brutal battle over Idlib. ..

The Epidemic of Despair

By Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Since the mid-1990s, the United States has been suffering from an epidemic of “deaths of despair”—a term we coined in 2015 to describe fatalities caused by drug overdose, alcoholic liver disease, or suicide. The inexorable increase in these deaths, together with a slowdown and reversal in the long-standing reduction in deaths from heart disease, led to an astonishing development: life expectancy at birth for Americans declined for three consecutive years, from 2015 through 2017, something that had not happened since the influenza pandemic at the end of World War I.

In the twentieth century, the United States led the way in reducing mortality rates and raising life expectancy. Many important health improvements—such as the decline in mortality from heart disease as a result of reductions in smoking and the increased use of antihypertensives and the decrease in infant mortality rates because of the development of neonatal intensive care units—originated in the United States and precipitated mortality reductions elsewhere as knowledge, medicines, and techniques spread.

AFRICOM’s Assessment of U.S. Security Challenges in Africa

Yacqub Ismail

While there have been reports of a possible U.S. drawdown of forces in Africa as part of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s review of U.S. force posture around the globe, the top U.S. general in Africa, General Stephen J. Townsend, presented his assessment to the U.S. Senate that: “A secure and stable Africa is an enduring American interest.”

In the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy, which serves as a guidance for the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. government prioritized addressing security challenges from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as well as violent extremist groups. AFRICOM’s new strategic approach to secure its interests on the continent are guided by the following: partner for success; compete to win; and, maintain pressure on non-state actors.

In AFRICOM’s area of responsibility, according to General Stephen Townsend, both China and Russia “recognized the strategic and economic importance” of the African continent and to address that, both countries are attempting to “expand their influence across the continent,” while violent extremist networks are “expanding in Africa at a rapid pace.” With China establishing its first military base overseas in Djibouti, just miles away from the largest U.S. military base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier, along with major investments in key infrastructures like seaports and airports that could be leveraged to “increase China’s geopolitical influence” throughout Africa.

Pentagon weapons tester hones in on cyber tools

Mark Pomerlau

The Pentagon’s weapons tester has bolstered its focus on cyber capabilities pursued by the department through U.S. Cyber Command and its service acquisition executives, according to its annual report.

The report by the Director Operational Test and Evaluation office, or DOT&E, provides insight into how the Department of Defense monitored the progress of its maturing cyber force in 2019.

For the first time, DOT&E noted that it is working with relevant stakeholders to monitor the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, which Cyber Command created last year to help guide capability development, shape programs and prevent the armed services from building their own one-off tools that don’t play well with others.

Notably, three major programs were mentioned by name in the report that did not appear in last year’s version:

How NIST is exploring new data security best practices

Andrew Eversden

The cybersecurity leaders at the National Institute of Standards and Technology want industry help on two new projects related to data confidentiality.

In a Feb. 4 notice in the Federal Register, NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a hub for private-public collaboration on cybersecurity projects, released its first call for industry to “provide products and technical expertise to support and demonstrate security platforms” for NIST’s work in identifying cybersecurity challenges as part of its Data Confidentiality Building Block.

NIST has launched two new projects under its new building block in an effort to “establish tools and procedures to defend, detect, and respond to data confidentiality events,” NIST officials wrote in the notice.

The first project, “Data Confidentiality: Identifying and Protecting Assets and Data Against Data Breaches,” seeks to provide practical solutions to identifying and protecting the confidentiality of data.

The second project, “Data Confidentiality: Detect, Respond to, and Recover from Data Breaches,” will provide guidance on handling and recovering from confidentiality breaches.

These are the top 15 emerging jobs of 2020, according to LinkedIn

Michelle Cheng
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LinkedIn’s third annual US emerging jobs report has identified the 15 fastest-growing jobs, as well as the skills and cities most associated with them. This year the company found that the number of artificial intelligence and data science roles continue to expand across nearly every industry. For the first time, robotics has made an appearance on the list, and at least five roles in the ranking include the word “engineer” in the title.

But it’s not just high-tech roles that have seen a lot more hiring action in the past five years, which is how far back LinkedIn looks to measure the emergence of roles based on user profile data and hiring growth trends. Product owners, “customer success specialists,” and sales development representatives are also in high-demand, LinkedIn says.

Only one job on the list generally doesn’t require a four-year degree, which is that of behavioral health technicians. Since 2015, hiring for this role has grown 32% a year, due in part to the increased insurance coverage for mental health, according to the report.

LinkedIn also notes that Washington DC and the surrounding metros are attracting new tech talent, including cybersecurity, data science, and artificial intelligence experts, “nearly in line” with the major tech hubs of San Francisco and New York. And mid-size US metros such as Austin, Texas, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are continuing to attract tech talent thanks in part to lower costs of living and increased remote-work opportunities.

The Pentagon Is Spending Millions on Hunter Drones With Nets

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After an F-22 Raptor nearly collided with a cheap drone in 2017, the U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command received permission to shoot down unmanned flying objects that get too near its airbases. But shooting down drones over cities is a less-than-ideal solution to a growing problem. So the U.S. military is trying a new tack: spending millions of dollars on defensive drones armed with nets.

The Defense Innovation Unit, or DIU, is contracting with Utah-based Fortem Technologies for its SkyDome anti-drone system, which marries net-armed drones called DroneHunters with a radar system dubbed TrueView. While other anti-drone systems look for the radio signals that connect drones to their operators – and then try to jam or home in on them — SkyDome can discard the assumption that an incoming drone is emitting anything at all. 

“It’s very easy to program a drone to fly completely autonomously. It can be done with a commercial, off-the-shelf drone,” Fortem’s CTO and co-founder Adam Robertson. 

The SkyDome combines radar, sensors aboard the DroneHunters, and even other sensors. It’s an ensemble approach that mimics, somewhat, the way an animal or human might hunt in the wild, using a variety of data sources to make targeting determinations. “It allows us to take from any source all of the intelligence that’s available. We have ground-based radar systems that are excellent at detection,” Robertson said. “I have camera systems where I can use the radar to point a camera and look at things.”

Germany Needs a Bigger, Stronger Army

Andreas Kluth,
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(Bloomberg Opinion) -- German tank crews have of late been practicing with Volkswagen minibuses because as many as three in four of their Puma tanks are in the repair shop — or rather, they’re waiting endlessly to be repaired, owing to Kafkaesque bureaucracy. Ordering backpacks, bullet-proof vests, helmets, visors and all sorts of other gear can take years in the German army. About 20,000 job openings can’t be filled because so few young people want to enlist. Officers complain that standards are being lowered, and that new recruits are “fatter, weaker and dumber.”

This is all according to Hans-Peter Bartels, an ombudsman appointed by parliament to audit the country’s armed forces. Among his devastating conclusions this week was this simple observation: Germany’s army would currently be unable to contribute adequately to the collective defense of NATO, the Western alliance, if any member were attacked.

With laser weapons coming, the US Navy’s newest super carrier has space and power to spare

By: David B. Larter  

ABOARD THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER GERALD R. FORD IN THE VIRGINIA CAPES — The U.S. Navy is trying to find an alternative to shooting down anti-ship missiles with other missiles, and the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford could prove useful in this pursuit.

A major difference with Ford over its Nimitz-class predecessors is its twin A1B nuclear reactors that produce more than three times the electrical power of the reactors on Nimitz — more than 100 megawatts.

That means Ford, with survivability questions looming over aircraft carriers, can support large, power-sucking equipment such as lasers, according to Capt. J.J. Cummings, the Ford’ commanding officer.

“When you talk about innovation in the Navy, this is where it lives,” Cummings said, referring to his ship. “We’re lighter — designed lighter — than Nimitz class.

Modly: Navy Needs More ‘Distributed’ Fleet

by Richard R. Burgess

An E-2D Hawkeye prepares to land on the deck of the USS Gerald R. Ford. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly says the Ford and other carriers of its class present big targets for potential adversaries and that the Navy needs to lean more toward the distributed fleet concept. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ruben Reed

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s top official was mum on details of the recently completed Integrated Force Structure Assessment (IFSA), but he said the Navy needs a more distributed fleet to counter peer competitors. 

“There are going to be a lot of new things in this that weren’t in the 2016 Force Structure Assessment,” said acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly, who answered questions from an audience at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank, speaking of the IFSA. “It is a spectacular step forward in thinking about what our force structure should look like.” 

Air Force Finally Releases New Images of Stealthy B-21 Future Bomber

By Oriana Pawlyk
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New photorealistic renderings of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber have officially landed.

The Air Force together with the bomber's manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, published three new concepts of the next-generation bomber, showing the stealth aircraft in various hangars at bomber bases across the U.S.

One shows a concept of the B-21 tucked away in a hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, currently a B-1B Lancer base; a second shows the aircraft at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, which currently houses the B-2 Spirit; and a final photo presenting the B-21 at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, also a B-1 base.

Last year, the service announced the B-21's first operational base would be at Ellsworth and would also host the bomber's first formal training unit. Whiteman and Dyess are expected to receive B-21 Raiders "as they become available," the service said at the time.

The B-21 is still years away. Officials have said first deliveries should begin in the mid-2020s, but have been careful not to broadcast too many other details in order to protect details about the B-21's technology.

Navy Arms Surface Sea Drones For Ocean Attack

Kris Osborn
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(Washington, D.C.) Armed surface drones at sea could surveil and attack enemy targets, conduct forward reconnaissance on enemy positions and provide human decision makers with combat essential command and control data -- all as part of massive, great power war on the open seas.

Maritime drones can have both offensive and defensive uses, all while keeping sailors and surface ships at safer standoff ranges. Navy strategies see them operating in coordinated groups of drone boats networking vital war information between surface, air and even undersea regions across wide-spanning segments of ocean.

Such missions are fast being increasingly enabled by advances in autonomy, fortified by computer algorithms performing a growing number of procedural functions historically done by humans. Of course developers are quick to emphasize that, regardless of advances in autonomy, current doctrine requires that human decision makers remain "in the loop" when it comes to making decisions about attacking with lethal force.

Naturally, enabling these kinds of technical advances are part of a massive strategic shift for the Navy as it pivots its attack concepts to incorporate an expanded fleet of surface and undersea drones. The initiative, as described by Capt. Pete Small, Program Executive Officer, Unmanned Systems, includes new levels of autonomy, advanced command and control, emerging software and various weapons configurations. Speaking in January at the 32nd annual Surface Navy Association Symposium, Small said many of these efforts to advance autonomy at sea are part of an emerging Navy program called Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture.

Dumb or smart? The future of military robots

By Ross Davies

As armies look to advance their use of robots, they are faced with the choice of either developing ‘dumb’ software able to follow human instructions, or ‘smart’ technology that can carry out tasks autonomously. Both systems raise questions, as Ross Davies reports.

It has been over 20 years since a contract was first drawn up to develop the PackBot, a multi-mission tactical mobile robot.

One of the PackBot’s first deployments was to trawl the remains of the World Trade Centre following the 9/11 attacks. In 2002, it was used by US troops in Afghanistan in dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The current model, the 510, comes with a videogame-style controller, allowing operators the capability of lifting up to thirty pounds worth of IEDs.

According to data from publicly available US military contracts, the government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, per unit, on the 510. Beyond the PackBot, the military is now one of the biggest funders and adopters of artificial intelligence technology, as it looks to fashion more sophisticated weapon systems.


By Craig Whitlock

Aconfidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history. They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials.

The U.S. government tried to shield the identities of the vast majority of those interviewed for the project and conceal nearly all of their remarks. The Post won release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act after a three-year legal battle.

In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in nearly two decades of warfare.