24 May 2020

Bridging Strategy and Space: Indian Defense Reforms

By Nilanthan Niruthan

“Space is the unsung achievement of Indian industry in many ways.” This observation was made by PS Raghavan, chairman of India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), while discussing sweeping defense reforms undertaken by the Indian government last week. These reforms were not only made to hasten the country’s economic revival in a post-COVID era, but also to strengthen its national security interests, particularly defense manufacturing and procurement. A big emphasis of the reforms was on trying to encourage public-private partnerships in the space sector. 

In recent years, India has been a surprisingly significant player in this arena. As a growing geopolitical power, the space domain has been prioritized in the security discourse as a crucial base to be grown. This is clear from various policy positions taken in the last two years, particularly the announcement of a manned space mission to begin in 2022, preparations for a “space doctrine” by the National Security Council and most importantly, conducting an anti-satellite test as a display of power to its rivals. When the test was conducted, India gained membership to a very exclusive club with the United States, Russia, and China as the only countries to have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities. The fact that New Delhi did it before the United Kingdom and France, both of whom are permanent members of the UN Security Council, might well be the first signs of the old global military hierarchy giving way to a new one. 

Is There a Gulf?

Bridging Strategy and Space: Indian Defense Reforms

By Nilanthan Niruthan

“Space is the unsung achievement of Indian industry in many ways.” This observation was made by PS Raghavan, chairman of India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), while discussing sweeping defense reforms undertaken by the Indian government last week. These reforms were not only made to hasten the country’s economic revival in a post-COVID era, but also to strengthen its national security interests, particularly defense manufacturing and procurement. A big emphasis of the reforms was on trying to encourage public-private partnerships in the space sector. 

In recent years, India has been a surprisingly significant player in this arena. As a growing geopolitical power, the space domain has been prioritized in the security discourse as a crucial base to be grown. This is clear from various policy positions taken in the last two years, particularly the announcement of a manned space mission to begin in 2022, preparations for a “space doctrine” by the National Security Council and most importantly, conducting an anti-satellite test as a display of power to its rivals. When the test was conducted, India gained membership to a very exclusive club with the United States, Russia, and China as the only countries to have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities. The fact that New Delhi did it before the United Kingdom and France, both of whom are permanent members of the UN Security Council, might well be the first signs of the old global military hierarchy giving way to a new one. 

Is There a Gulf?

China’s Growing Political Clout in Nepal

By Kamal Dev Bhattarai
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In the last week of April 2020, Nepal’s ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) suffered a serious internal rift as rival factions within the party threatened to unseat Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. Oli had come into power in 2018 with a five-year mandate.

Rival factions within the NCP were engaged in signature campaigns to demonstrate majority support in their favor. Senior leaders of the party, including co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, appeared to gang up against Oli. As the intra-party rift escalated, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi held a series of meeting with top party leaders including Oli, Dahal, Nepal, and Jhala Nath Khanal. According to local media reports, the Chinese ambassador requested that ruling party leaders maintain unity, and avoid a party split. The rival factions have since backtracked from their position seeking Oli’s resignation.

Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said that Hou’s meetings with political leaders were part of China’s efforts to strengthen Kathmandu’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. But the series of meetings with specific ruling party leaders, namely those who were at obvious loggerheads with Oli, clearly demonstrated Chinese concerns about a possible internal rift within the ruling party.


Cybersecurity strategist Peter Singer told Wired that there has never been a better time than the COVID-19 pandemic to be a government hackerHEATHER ZEIGER MAY 20, 2020

The United States has formally accused China of both funding and operating cells of hackers who infiltrate research labs working on responses to COVID-19. From a statement released jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity Advisory Unit:

[The PRC-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors] have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with Covid-19-related research. The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options.PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT, “PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA (PRC) TARGETING OF COVID-19 RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONS ” AT FBI & CISA

Many countries have a vital national interest in vaccines, medicine, and tests so some illicit information-gathering might be expected. The question raised recently at Wired is, at what point is a response warranted?

Trump Stumbles in Effort to Confront China at WHO

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The Trump administration set itself two goals for this week at the World Health Organization: secure international support for an “immediate investigation” into the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, and restore Taiwan’s observer status at the United Nations health agency. It got neither.

The setbacks underscore the challenges Washington is facing in rallying international support for a tougher line against Beijing in the months after one of the biggest pandemics in a century began its spread from Wuhan to more than 200 countries. It also set the stage for a volcanic reaction from President Donald Trump, who warned late Monday that he may make good on a threat to withdraw from WHO and cut hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. assistance to the U.N. health agency.

“It is clear the repeated missteps by you and your organization in responding to the pandemic have been extremely costly for the world,” Trump wrote in a letter to WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “If the World Health Organization does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership.”

What Will The World Look Like After COVID-19?

Sometimes change can accelerate even in the darkest times. We have seen increased use of technology to avoid the virus, yet have a sense of normalcy. The two biggest trends are working from home and shopping online. Square recently announced it is allowing employees to stay home to do work permanently. Even after this is over, there will be more people working from home than prior to the pandemic.

That’s an obvious perspective, but the main question is how much of a change there will be. Whenever a big event happens, there always claims that the world will never be the same. With the rally in the stocks that benefit from these changes, the market is either thinking everything will be different or is short term oriented. When true optimism on the potential for a vaccine or cure occur, the work from home and online shopping stocks underperform, supporting the notion that some of this movement is short term.

Why Creating a Covid-19 Vaccine Is Taking So Long

THE RACE IS on for a Covid-19 vaccine, but the pace is less hare and more tortoise. And necessarily so: Developing a vaccine that’s both effective and safe is grueling, methodical work.

“When experts optimistically say that they expect a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, they’re talking about an emergency use authorized vaccine, not a fully-approved one,” says Dr. Seema Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative.

No one can say for sure when a Covid-19 vaccine might arrive, because vaccine development is broken into several stages, each with a highly variable timeline. “But here’s a comparison,” Yasmin says. “The fastest vaccine we previously developed was for mumps, and that took four years to develop. And typically it takes 10 to 15 years to develop a vaccine. So 12 to 18 months would be record-breaking.”

Now, about those stages. The first is the exploratory phase, in which drug companies tinker with different approaches. With Covid-19, for instance, some drugmakers are trying to develop a nucleotide-based vaccine, which uses the virus’s genetic code instead of its proteins. Typically, the exploratory phase could take two to four years, though new technologies are speeding up the progress. Also, this novel coronavirus is similar to the first SARS virus, so that may give researchers a head start.

Sharpening the knives for Huawei

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Among China hawks in the United States, it seems that the greatest national security threat is posed by the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, eclipsing even that of the People’s Liberation Army. That threat has prompted the Trump administration to tighten the screws on Huawei, first restricting its access to the U.S. market, then pressing allies to do the same, then cutting off the company’s access to U.S. suppliers, and then again urging allied governments to force their businesses to follow the U.S. lead.

Last week, U.S. officials announced the “5G national security trifecta,” a series of inter-related measures that could truly hobble Huawei if Washington’s partners follow suit. Japan appears ready to do so. The steps are a reminder that its network of like-minded countries is Washington’s most important security asset and the U.S. undermines that network at its peril.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump has increasingly restricted Huawei’s access to U.S. markets and supplies, banning its use within the U.S. and putting it on lists of companies to which the export of U.S. goods deemed important to national security is restricted.

Why the WHO Investigation Won’t Work

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Welcome to Foreign Policy’s weekly China Brief. The highlights this week: Beijing backs a WHO investigation, tensions rise along the China-India border, and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen begins her second term.

China’s Influence Will Derail WHO Investigation 

China’s participation in a “comprehensive review” of the origins of the coronavirus led by the World Health Organization (WHO) is unlikely to produce any real results. While WHO agreed to launch an investigation backed by most of its member states, China’s influence within the organization means that the results are likely to come late—and to be compromised. An actual investigation would require a level of access and transparency that is now unthinkable as China’s party-state system reaches new peaks of paranoia.

Only Chinese officials possess the bureaucratic knowledge and coercive power required to meaningfully investigate the possibilities, such as a covered-up biosafety accident or deliberate delays by the local authorities seeking to protect themselves. That’s why even Russia—an ally of China—backed the call for a WHO investigation: Moscow is confident that the odds of the organization producing a result unfavorable to Beijing are low.

In China’s Crisis, Xi Sees a Crucible to Strengthen His Rule

By Steven Lee Myers and Chris Buckley
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Before an adulatory crowd of university professors and students, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, offered a strikingly bold message about the global coronavirus pandemic. Summoning images of sacrifice from Communist Party lore, he told them that the calamity was ripe with possibility for China.

“Great historical progress always happens after major disasters,” Mr. Xi said during a recent visit to Xi’an Jiaotong University. “Our nation was steeled and grew up through hardship and suffering.”

Mr. Xi, shaped by his years of adversity as a young man, has seized on the pandemic as an opportunity in disguise — a chance to redeem the party after early mistakes let infections slip out of control, and to rally national pride in the face of international ire over those mistakes. And the state propaganda machine is aggressively backing him up, touting his leadership in fighting the pandemic.

Now, Mr. Xi needs to turn his exhortations of resolute unity into action — a theme likely to underpin the National People’s Congress, the annual legislative meeting that opens on Friday after a monthslong delay.

Which Post-Pandemic Government?


CHICAGO – Even with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, speculation has turned to what society will look like afterward. Citizens, shocked by how easily their lives can be upended, will want to reduce risk. According to the emerging new consensus, they will favor more government intervention to stimulate demand (by pumping trillions of dollars into the economy), protect workers, expand health care, and, of course, tackle climate change.

But every country has many layers of government, so which one should expand? Clearly, in the United States, only the federal government has the resources and mandate for nationwide decisions on issues such as health care and climate change. Yet it doesn’t necessarily follow that this level of government should grow larger still. After all, it could adopt policies that protect some constituencies while increasing the risks faced by others.

In the case of COVID-19, some countries have centralized decision-making about when to impose and lift lockdown measures, whereas others have left these choices to state governments, or even municipalities. (Others, like India, are in transition between these approaches.) What has become clear is that not all localities face the same trade-offs.

China Is Its Own Worst Enemy


NEW DELHI – The global backlash against China over its culpability for the international spread of the deadly coronavirus from Wuhan has gained momentum in recent weeks. And China itself has added fuel to the fire, as exemplified by its recent legal crackdown on Hong Kong. From implicitly seeking a political quid pro quo for supplying other countries with protective medical gear, to rejecting calls for an independent international inquiry into the virus’s origins until a majority of countries backed such a probe, the bullying tactics of President Xi Jinping’s government have damaged and isolated China’s communist regime.

The backlash could take the form of Western sanctions as Xi’s regime seeks to overturn Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” framework with its proposed new national-security laws for the territory, which has been wracked by widespread pro-democracy protests for over a year. More broadly, Xi’s overreach is inviting increasing hostility among China’s neighbors and around the world.

How Did Chinas COVID-19 Shutdown Affect U.S. Supply Chains?

by Sebastian Heise
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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on trade between the United States and China so far. As workers became sick or were quarantined, factories temporarily closed, disrupting international supply chains. At the same time, the trade relationship between the United States and China has been characterized by rising protectionism and heightened trade policy uncertainty over the last few years. Against this background, this post examines how the recent period of economic disruptions in China has affected U.S. imports and discusses how this episode might impact firms’ supply chains going forward.

Based on data for the first four months of 2020, this post shows that U.S. imports from China declined sharply in February and March, before bouncing back in April. The decline was partially offset by growing imports from countries outside of China, such as Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh. As perhaps could have been expected, firms with established supply chain relationships in these countries benefited the most from the disruptions in China. Those reliant on China were largely unable to find suppliers in other countries on such short notice. Additionally, large U.S. importers were more likely to continue relationships with their Chinese suppliers during the shutdown than small importers were.

A Snapshot of U.S. Trade

How Many Bridges Can Turkey’s Erdogan Burn?

With his sweeping overhaul of Turkey’s political system in 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to cement his near-total control over the country. But an electoral setback in the Istanbul mayoral election in June 2019, the worst of Erdogan’s career, pointed the way to a potential rebirth of the political opposition, even as it highlighted Erdogan’s willingness to destabilize Turkey’s democracy to maintain his grip on power.

The victory by Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, in June came after the Supreme Election Council sided with Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to overturn an earlier ballot in March that was also narrowly won by Imamoglu over the AKP’s candidate. The Supreme Election Council’s decision underscored how severe the erosion of democratic institutions has been under Erdogan and the AKP. And Erdogan’s interference with the initial outcome points to a potential future in which the regime may no longer even look for institutional cover when it decides to subvert democratic norms.

The Post-COVID-19 World Will Be Less Global and Less Urban

The COVID-19 pandemic will reverse the trends of globalization and urbanization, increasing the distance between countries and among people. These changes will make for a safer and more resilient world, but one that is also less prosperous, stable and fulfilling, writes Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett in this opinion piece. (This article originally appeared as part of Penn on the World after COVID-19, a joint project of Penn Global and Perry World House.)

For the past four decades, globalization and urbanization have been two of the world’s most powerful drivers. Global trade increased from under 40% of the world’s GDP in 1980 to over 60% today. Over the same period, the number of people living in cities more than doubled to over 4 billion people today — more than half the world’s population.

COVID-19 will reverse both of these trends, increasing the distance both between countries and among people. Some will laud these changes for increasing safety and resilience. But a world that is less global and less urban would also be less prosperous, less stable and less fulfilling.

Here are two core predictions about the world after COVID-19:

The United States and the New World Disorder: Retreat From Primacy


In the 1951 science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, an alien in human form visits the planet accompanied by a giant metallic robot and delivers an ultimatum: change your warlike ways or face obliteration. The movie ends with world leaders pondering their choice.

It would be nice to imagine that, like the threat of an alien invasion, the cruel and merciless coronavirus, which is posing the most serious public health threat seen in a century, would bring world leaders to their senses, leading to less competition and more international coordination. But that’s highly unlikely.

Instead, the basic pattern of international relations is unlikely to change for the better. Far from transforming the world, the pandemic may deepen preexisting trends toward a more competitive and less globalized international arena where large and small powers collide more often than they cooperate.

Aaron David Miller is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, focusing on U.S. foreign policy.

The Future of Trump’s ‘America First’ Agenda Hangs on Pompeo’s Scandals

Candace Rondeaux 

Whether the world knows it now or not, how the U.S. Congress handles the White House’s abrupt firing of the State Department’s top watchdog could be more than a make or break moment for the future of “America First” diplomacy. It could also determine the trajectory of American presidential politics for years to come. If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo survives the escalating scandal surrounding President Donald Trump’s decision last week to force out State Department Inspector General Steve Linick—at Pompeo’s request—Pompeo’s much-anticipated run for the presidency in 2024 is all but assured.

On Wednesday, Pompeo bluntly stated in a televised press conference that he had been wanting to fire Linick for quite a while, openly acknowledging that he had advised Trump to get rid of the one congressionally approved official charged with looking into fraud, waste and abuse at the agency Pompeo oversees. Pompeo’s defiant and stunningly arrogant admission came on the heels of news reports that he pushed for Linick’s ouster in part because the inspector general’s investigation into controversial U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia was getting too close for comfort to the secretary of state and his inner circle. ..

Why Russia Decided On Having Only 1 Aircraft Carrier

by Kyle Mizokami

Here's What You Need To Remember: As a land power, the Soviet Union could never allocate enough of the country’s resources to build a real fleet of aircraft carriers. There was always some other perfectly reasonable—and eminently practical—way to spend the country’s rubles, whether it was on the Army, or the Air Force, and later on nuclear weapons. Even today, the Russian Navy’s nonstrategic forces face stiff competition from land and air forces, and the future of Russian naval aviation is again cloudy at best.

The Soviet Union was one of the largest, most industrial proficient countries the world has ever seen. Yet for all of its engineering talent and manufacturing capacity, during the seventy-four years the USSR existed it never fielded a true real aircraft carrier. The country had several plans to build them, however, and and was working on a true carrier, the Ulyanovsk, at the end of the Cold War.

After the Communists’ victory in 1917, science and engineering were pushed to the forefront in an attempt to modernize Russia and the other Soviet republics. The military was no exception, and poured resources into then-advanced technologies such as tanks, airborne forces, and ground and aerial rockets. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was linked to several carrier projects, including the first effort, Izmail.

Get Ready For a New Arms Race: Why Nuclear Strategic Stability Won’t Work With China

by Bradley A. Thayer

China’s expansion of nuclear weapons has not received the attention it deserves due to its threat to U.S. interests and for strategic stability. China’s actions undermine the ability of the United States to deter attacks against the United States, to extend deterrence to its allies, and to protect its interests. Strategic stability results when both or all sides in a deterrence relationship have little incentive to race for superiority. During the dénouement of the Cold War, strategic stability obtained for the United States and Russia. However, strategic stability will not obtain with respect to China for three reasons.

First, while the common estimate of China’s nuclear weapons is approximately three hundred, due to China’s lack of transparency, it is possible that China has significantly more than this estimate. This month, there have been calls within China for expanding its nuclear arsenal to one thousand strategic warheads, to say nothing of nuclear weapons on intermediate-range or other forces. While the United States has taken a “strategic holiday,” the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has used the opportunity to expand their arsenals, as well as cyber and conventional capabilities. When one reflects upon the considerable effort to create strategic systems, as well as cyber and conventional capabilities, inescapable conclusions are, first, that the causes of their expansion is rooted in their own grand strategic objectives of achieving hegemony and, second, the decision to expand their forces was sown long ago. China has used our strategic passivity to expand.  What Reagan’s Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger said in the Soviet context remains true today: "When we build, they build, when we stop, they build.” 

Can U.S. Foreign Policy Change?

By Bonnie Kristian

The Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 has been marked by speculation, unfounded forecasts, and foot-dragging. President Trump’s personal performance has too often been dismissive, defensive, and deceptive.

The result, a rising narrative contends, is a global leadership vacuum that China is rushing to fill. (This take has been a steady feature of recent years, but COVID-19 has given it fresh legs.) “The regime in Beijing was quick to recognize the opportunity the pandemic presented,” argues a piece at Der Spiegel. Bloomberg envisions a possible “shifting [of] the global balance of power,” while The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum describes how Chinese propaganda is finding success in an atmosphere “profoundly changed” by “the American president’s simultaneously catastrophic and ridiculous failure to cope.”

There’s no denying Trump is the subject of international ridicule; the Atlantic story marshals an array of foreign press clippings to glimpse international lack of confidence in the president, which Pew Research data also demonstrated before the pandemic began. But it doesn’t follow that the United States moving away from a foreign policy of managing world affairs is to our detriment. On the contrary, a more restrained and humble foreign policy would serve us well.

In this pandemic and after, U.S. foreign affairs should become less dependent on personal presidential gravity and military intervention and more reliant on diplomacy, trade, and leadership through example rather than coercion.

Deglobalization’s Dangers

The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled growing calls from political leaders in rich countries for an overhaul of global production and trade. But reshoring and protectionism are unlikely to be a panacea for a depressed and disrupted world economy.

In this Big Picture, Harvard’s Dani Rodrik is optimistic, noting that although the retreat from hyper-globalism could potentially endanger human prosperity, it could also result in a more sensible, less intrusive model that focuses on areas where international cooperation truly pays off. Richard N. Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations hopes so, because governments cannot ignore or wish away globalization: only effective multilateral action can tackle threats such as disease, climate change, cyber-attacks, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism.

But Amina Mohamed, a Kenyan government minister who formerly chaired the World Trade Organization’s General Council, worries that many governments today seem to be forgetting the importance of international cooperation, and urges them to reject trade protectionism. Likewise, the World Bank’s Célestin Monga argues that dismantling global value chains and erecting barriers to foreign direct investment in response to the pandemic would only make a bad situation worse and hurt developing economies disproportionately. And Yale’s Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg says that the COVID-19 crisis has not furnished any good arguments against trade or global supply chains – although the latter need some built-in redundancy to make them more crisis-resilient.

For ethical artificial intelligence, security is pivotal

Jan Kallberg

The market for artificial intelligence is growing at an unprecedented speed, not seen since the introduction of the commercial Internet. The estimates vary, but the global AI market is assumed to grow 30 to 60 percent per year. Defense spending on AI projects is increasing at even a higher rate when we add wearable AI and systems that are dependent on AI. The defense investments, such as augmented reality, automated target recognition, and tactical robotics, would not advance at today’s rate without the presence of AI to support the realization of these concepts.

The beauty of the economy is responsiveness. With an identified “buy” signal, the market works to satisfy the need from the buyer. Powerful buy signals lead to rapid development, deployment, and roll-out of solutions, knowing that time to market matters.

My concern is based on earlier analogies when the time to market prevailed over conflicting interests. One example is the first years of the commercial internet, the introduction of remote control of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and manufacturing, and the rapid growth of the smartphone apps. In each of these cases, security was not the first thing on the developer’s mind. Time to market was the priority. This exposure increases with an economically sound pursuit to use commercial off the shelf products (COTS) as sensors, chipsets, functions, electric controls, and storage devices can be bought on the civilian market for a fraction of the cost. These COTS products cut costs, give the American people more defense and security for the money, and drive down the time to conclude the development and deployment cycle.

One Tiny Chip Can Transmit 40 Terabytes of Data per Second

by Bill Corcoran
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Our internet connections have never been more important to us, nor have they been under such strain. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made remote working, remote socialisation, and online entertainment the norm, we have seen an unprecedented spike in society’s demand for data.

Singapore’s prime minister declared broadband to be essential infrastructure. The European Union asked streaming services to limit their traffic. Video conferencing service Zoom was suddenly unavoidable. Even my parents have grown used to reading to my four-year-old over Skype.

In Australia telecommunications companies have supported this growth, with Telstra removing data caps on users and the National Broadband Network (NBN) enabling ISPs to expand their network capacity. In fact, the NBN saw its highest ever peak capacity of 13.8 terabits per second (or Tbps) on April 8 this year. A terabit is one trillion bits, and 1 Tbps is the equivalent of about 40,000 standard NBN connections.

The Pentagon’s $800M Effort to Embed AI In Decisions in ‘All Tiers’

By Aaron Boyd 
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That’s the goal of a five-year task order from the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to Booz Allen Hamilton.

Through its partnership with the General Services Administration’s Centers of Excellence, the Defense Department’s central artificial intelligence program signed an $800 million contract with Booz Allen Hamilton for AI-powered warfighter support tools.

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, issued a five-year task order—awarded through GSA’s Alliant 2 governmentwide acquisition contract—to “deliver artificial intelligence-enabled products to support warfighting operations and be instrumental in embedding AI decision-making and analysis at all tiers of DoD operations,” according to a release Monday.

Booz Allen Hamilton will focus on identifying and integrating advanced analytical tools with existing DOD datasets to create “a definitive information advantage to prepare for future warfare operations.” The work will include “data labeling, data management, data conditioning, AI product development, and the transition of AI products into new and existing fielded programs and systems across the DoD.”

How AI Will Soon Change Special Operations

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When Gen. Richard D. Clarke was leading special operations forces in Afghanistan years ago, he spent 90 percent of his time thinking about moving and shooting — “the raid, the mission, the kill-capture mission, the destruction of enemy forces,” Clarke said last week at the annual SOFIC conference. But when he returned to Afghanistan last year as the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, he found that U.S. leaders were focusing most of their mental energy on information.

Commanders now spend about 60 percent of their time mulling what the Taliban and the Afghan population are thinking, and how U.S. actions might influence that, Clarke said. “As we look at the info space and in our fight for competition…working in the information space can have the greatest impact in the coming years.”

Clarke said AI will play a big role in SOCOM’s future information-warfare efforts. This summer, the command will stand up a new office to harness AI for language translation, scanning captured laptops and cellphones, collating and countering Taliban messaging, and more.