15 December 2020

Cross-Border Data Access for Law Enforcement: What Are India’s Strategic Options?


Access to cross-border data for the state’s law-and-order-related functions is an integral piece of the law enforcement puzzle. State agencies’ ability to access data for such purposes is, however, shaped not only by domestic laws and practices but also by the laws of other countries and the state’s international commitments. In the case of India, the use of international cooperation mechanisms to balance efficient data access with protections for citizens’ privacy remains a relatively underexplored facet of its digital strategy. With its growing digital market, economic relevance for large global businesses, and strategic relationships with countries like the United States and those in the European Union (EU), India is well placed to not merely participate in but rather to lead the discussions on international data agreements on behalf of the developing world.

This paper evaluates India’s present mechanisms for data access by law enforcement authorities and existing arrangements for cross-border data access. It also analyzes the emerging global movement toward direct data access arrangements. Such arrangements authorize agencies in one jurisdiction to make direct data requests to service providers based in another jurisdiction. The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act in the United States is an example of a legislative instrument that allows the United States to enter into executive agreements of this nature. Similar discussions are also underway in Europe under the European Commission’s e-evidence proposal involving its twenty-seven member countries and among the sixty-five states that are party to the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crimes. To date, India has not taken any concrete steps to evaluate the pros and cons of such arrangements. Neither has it paid serious regard to the critical and interconnected issue of reforming its domestic framework on lawful data access to ensure adherence with the fundamental right to privacy.

Addressing the Effect of COVID-19 on Democracy in South and Southeast Asia

Joshua Kurlantzick

South and Southeast Asia have demonstrated mixed results in combating the coronavirus pandemic, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has been a political boon for illiberal leaders. (Illiberal leaders undermine open societies and free political systems; they usually still allow elections, but they damage or outright destroy political institutions and norms and attack civil liberties.) These politicians include leaders such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, elected in free and fair elections, and more autocratic leaders such as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose elections have been increasingly unfree and unfair. In South and Southeast Asia, illiberal leaders, many of whom are illiberal populists, have used the pandemic as an opportunity to consolidate political and economic power, regardless of whether these actions contribute to actual public health responses.

South and Southeast Asia have had some of the most extreme COVID-19-related democratic regressions in the world. Even before the coronavirus emerged, growing political polarization, illiberal populism and sectarianism, the legacy of authoritarian rule, and the continuing influence of militaries in politics were undermining democratic politics in these regions. And combating COVID-19 does require some limitations on freedom, at least until an effective vaccine becomes available. In fact, even some longtime democracies in developed regions have struggled to balance addressing public health concerns and protecting citizens’ freedoms. Meanwhile, as news media worldwide remain focused on the pandemic, democratic regression in developing countries is receiving less attention.

China Leadership Monitor

During the past eight months of the global COVID pandemic, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been active in promoting China’s claims in the South China Sea. This essay evaluates PLA statements, military exercises and operations, and deployment of relevant platforms and weapons in the South China Sea during this period. I leverage Chinese-language sources in addition to my own operational knowledge from over a decade of military experience to provide greater context for these activities. I argue that the greatest change in the PLA’s role in the South China Sea has not been operational. Instead, the most interesting development has been the fact that the PLA has taken on a more significant signaling role. Specifically, the Chinese military seems to be purposefully using, and perhaps even exaggerating, its capabilities and activities to enhance deterrence against the United States. This may be seen as necessary as the US increases its own efforts to push back on China’s militarization of the South China Sea. In other words, the PLA has taken a more active role in China’s South China Sea strategy, but not necessarily a more aggressive one.

In March 2020, the majority of the world went into lockdown, restricting internal movements to varying degrees to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.[1] Largely due to a failed government response, the United States has had the most disastrous experience with the pandemic, leading the world in total COVID cases and deaths to date.[2] Consequently, there has been a surge of concern about US military readiness.[3] The ability to fight if necessary and meet the demands of assigned missions is the foundation of US deterrence around the world. Thus, this concern about readiness has naturally evolved into a debate about the degree to which countries such as China are taking advantage of the global pandemic to make military gains.[4]

Countering China: Germany in the Indo-Pacific Region

China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific area potentially jeopardises the security and economic interests of Germany. This has led the German government to adopt policy guidelines towards the region with the main element strengthening cooperation with ASEAN members and countries such as India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Although the document signals an evolution of the German strategy regarding China, which is increasingly viewed as a competitor, implementation of the course may be limited by concerns about a deterioration of relations with Germany’s largest trading partner.

In early September, the German government adopted guidelines for policy in Indo-Pacific, defined as the region connected to the Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. The document is intended to form the basis of Germany’s action in a region of growing importance for the world economy, where the political and security interests of numerous countries intersect. At the heart of the guidelines, however, is a response to one of the fundamental challenges of German foreign policy: redefining relations with China. Although the authors of the document do not directly point to China since it could worsen relations with Germany’s largest trading partner, the content of the guidelines indicates that Chinese activities in the region are one of the main reasons for its creation.

Germany’s Interests in Indo-Pacific

The increase in Germany’s involvement in Indo-Pacific is intended to protect its two core interests. The first one is to secure economic relations with the countries of the region. For Germany, Asia (including China) is the second-largest regional trading partner after Europe with an export/import share of 14.6% and 20%, respectively. In addition, Asian markets remain a constant focus of interest for German companies: in 2018, Germany recorded an increase in investment in China (+5.5%), India (+6.1%), South Korea (+4.2%) and other countries in the region.

The Geopolitics of the Mekong and A Radical Proposal for ASEAN to Navigate It

Frederick Kliem

The Mekong sub-region threatens to become yet another space for great power competition. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must work together to overcome the exclusive institutional plurality characterising the Mekong’s multilateral landscape today. In order to do so, it is necessary to connect the Mekong with the South China Sea (SCS) and treat Southeast Asia as one strategic space. ASEAN should ratify a new ASEAN Agreement on South China Sea-Mekong Reciprocity to establish itself at the centre of Mekong management. This way, ASEAN can regain indigenous agency to get a hold on externally imposed geopolitics.

Iconic Moments in Foreign Policy: China-Africa Relations

As China seeks to increase its influence in Africa through its Belt and Road Initiative, it is important to dissect historic China-Africa relations. Particularly in the 1960’s and during the Mao period, China sought to improve economic and cultural relations with several countries in Africa.

The Wilson Center’s office of Congressional Relations works to maintain a vibrant relationship with Members of Congress and their staffs. We organize and run a series of educational programs led by Wilson Center experts, ranging from seminars to podcasts, with the purpose of increasing congressional staffers’ knowledge of international policy. We also coordinate outreach to Capitol Hill, including testimonies by Wilson Center scholars and briefings for Members of Congress. Read more

With U.S. Restrictions on Huawei and ZTE, Where Will Rural America Turn?

By William Yuen Yee

As the U.S. government intensifies its scrutiny of Huawei and ZTE, many challenges now abound for rural Americans and the small wireless carriers that both serve and rely upon equipment from the two Chinese telecom giants. Recent FCC orders, bipartisan congressional legislation, and a slew of Trump administration executive actions require rural American telecom carriers to “rip and replace” existing Huawei equipment. At present, two questions essential to the future of telecommunications access for hundreds of thousands of rural Americans remain unanswered. First, uncertainty lingers over whether Congress will allocate sufficient funds to reimburse rural carriers for the costly process of “ripping out” this extant equipment. Second, an alternative telecom provider has yet to emerge as a clear and viable replacement for both Chinese telecom firms.

On June 30, 2020, the FCC designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats—“covered” companies—under the Communications Act of 1934, which provides for the “regulation of interstate and foreign communication by wire or radio, and for other purposes.” The move prohibited the agency’s annual $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund (USF) from purchasing equipment made by either company. The June FCC order followed the passage of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019, which won unanimous support in the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump in March. Not only did the bipartisan legislation prevent the use of federal subsidies to purchase communications equipment from “untrusted suppliers” like Huawei and ZTE, but it also mandated a “rip and replace” program to remove extant equipment from both Chinese firms. The new law additionally required the FCC to establish a $1 billion fund that reimburses small telecommunications companies (defined as those with less than 2 million customers) for this process, which will be expensive, complicated, and disruptive. Both moves come after President Trump signed an Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain in May 2019 that barred U.S. telecommunications firms from using the equipment of “foreign adversaries.”

The Party That Failed

By Cai Xia

When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, I was full of hope for China. As a professor at the prestigious school that educates top leaders in the Chinese Communist Party, I knew enough about history to conclude that it was past time for China to open up its political system. After a decade of stagnation, the CCP needed reform more than ever, and Xi, who had hinted at his proclivity for change, seemed like the man to lead it.

By then, I was midway through a decades-long process of grappling with China’s official ideology, even as I was responsible for indoctrinating officials in it. Once a fervent Marxist, I had parted ways with Marxism and increasingly looked to Western thought for answers to China’s problems. Once a proud defender of official policy, I had begun to make the case for liberalization. Once a loyal member of the CCP, I was secretly harboring doubts about the sincerity of its beliefs and its concern for the Chinese people.

So I should not have been surprised when it turned out that Xi was no reformer. Over the course of his tenure, the regime has degenerated further into a political oligarchy bent on holding on to power through brutality and ruthlessness. It has grown even more repressive and dictatorial. A personality cult now surrounds Xi, who has tightened the party’s grip on ideology and eliminated what little space there was for political speech and civil society. People who haven’t lived in mainland China for the past eight years can hardly understand how brutal the regime has become, how many quiet tragedies it has authored. After speaking out against the system, I learned it was no longer safe for me to live in China.


Terrorism-Related Simulations

Terrorism-related simulations have been used for a variety of purposes including testing and validating existing plans and procedures; evaluating performance; improving the capabilities and capacities of individuals and organisations to respond to real-life incidents; and identifying gaps in existing training, response plans, protocols, and procedures.

Simulation-based training exercises have been shown to produce short-term learning outcomes. Simulations can increase self-reported confidence in, and knowledge of, emergency response protocols and procedures, and can enhance technical and non-technical skills.

The longer-term impact of terrorism-related simulations is poorly understood. Only one study was identified that evaluated the impact of terrorism-related simulations on a real-life incident, and studies that evaluate the longer-term impact of such simulations are lacking.

There are several important factors to consider when designing and delivering simulations. Simulations must realistically recreate the complexity, uncertainty, and dynamic nature of real-life incidents, and test the technical and non-technical skills, such as collaboration and coordination between different agencies, that are crucial for an effective response.

Would Iran Really Try to Close the Strait of Hormuz?

by Sidharth Kaushal

The recent mining of two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, attributed to Iran by the United States, offers an important window into the strategic thinking of Iran and similarly situated regional powers. The incident is notable because the act of mining a limited number of vessels makes relatively little sense when viewed through the lens of traditional patterns of coercive behavior. Limited coercive acts typically have little value with regards to gaining concessions from a determined opponent. Generally, these acts may serve as a visible demonstration of a state’s willingness to enact some other, more substantial threat, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz outright. However, this requires the state making the threat to have the capacity to make good on its more substantial threats and for its opponents to believe that it is willing to incur the risks entailed. Iran, however, could not shut down the Strait of Hormuz for very long even if it wished to—something noted by President Donald Trump—and is unlikely to incur the substantial risks that an attempt would entail. Iran’s opponents, then, clearly don’t see its limited provocations as harbingers of something worse.

If Iran cannot shut down the Strait of Hormuz, or convince either the United States or its regional allies such as Saudi Arabia that it can do so, then it becomes attendant to ask what the value of limited coercive acts is. One argument goes that limited actions can achieve disruption and price spikes with regards to oil irrespective of whether Iran can shut down the Strait o Hormuz. However, it is unclear how this would help coerce either the United States or Iran’s regional adversaries. Driving up the price of oil globally does not hurt regional countries, which rank among the world’s major oil producers, and will likely have mixed effects on the economic health of the United States, which is an increasingly large player in the energy market. To the extent that limited attacks could serve a coercive role, it would be as costly signals of Iran’s willingness to shut down the Strait of Hormuz entirely—something that would have a major effect on regional powers which rely on the straits for up to 90 percent of their imports and exports. Given that Iran’s ability to sustain such an operation is limited, however, and given that shutting down the Strait of Hormuz entirely entails unacceptable escalatory risks , it is unclear why decisionmakers in Tehran would expect their counterparts in Riyadh or Washington to treat the threat to do so as being credible irrespective of Iran’s limited provocations. Even if leaders worry that they might have miscalculated Tehran’s intentions, the fact remains that Iran’s capabilities cannot sustain the closure of the Strait of Hormuz for a prolonged period of time. To make this threat credible then, Iran’s likely opponents would have to believe that Iran would risk heavy retaliation, the possible dismantlement of IRGCN facilities at Abu Musa and Farsi and a postwar settlement which would almost certainly be negative in order to create a temporary closure of the Strait of Hormuz.

Air Force Research Institute (AFRI)

Strategic Studies Quarterly, Winter 2020, v. 14, no. 4

On the Future of Air and Space Power

Space: New Threats, New Service, New Frontier

Poison, Persistence, and Cascade Effects: AI and Cyber Conflict

Nuclear-Armed Hypersonic Weapons and Nuclear Deterrence

Space Traffic Management in the New Space Age

Missing: Legal Frameworks for Chemical Security

Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones and Contemporary Arms Control

African Infrastructure Development: What Should Be Done to Win the Next Decade?

By Mahmoud Arbouch, Oumayma Bourhriba.

Africa is experiencing economic growth deceleration that reached 2.9% on average between 2010 and 2018, against 5.4% between 2000 and 2010. The sectoral performance of African economies depends critically on the stock and quality of infrastructure, directly as an essential input (for example, energy and transport) and indirectly by increasing total factor productivity. African economic integration can never be fully achieved with poor infrastructure, both in terms of quantity, quality, and access. Africa’s changing demographics will eventually strain the existing infrastructure, particularly the health and education infrastructure, and thus have a detrimental effect on the human capital that forms the backbone of economic growth and development.

The current COVID-19 health and economic crisis comes as a reminder of the necessity of protecting and investing in the individual first of all, as human labour and demand are cornerstones of economic growth. One key message is that a two-fold approach, aiming to address Africa’s infrastructure funding and efficiency gaps, is necessary to develop the continent’s total infrastructure to spur productivity and output and allow significant economic and social development for the continent.

Read more in the full report below.

Overlooked and underrated? The role of youth and women in preventing violent extremism

Moussa Bourekba

In April 2020, Associated Press reported quite unusual, not to say unrealistic, news: a key figure of an international neo-Nazi group linked to plots to attack a Las Vegas synagogue and detonate a car bomb at CNN headquarters has avoided arrest despite of being tracked by the police. Online, he was known as the “Commander” of the Feuerkrieg Division, a group that holds some of the white supremacist movement’s most extreme views. In real life, he was a 13-year old boy receptive to neo-Nazi worldviews from a small town in Estonia. Confronted by the authorities in January, he could not be prosecuted under the criminal code because he was a child under the age of 14.

This case underscores a major challenge faced by counterterrorism policymakers and security agencies: the increasing share of young boys and girls amongst violent extremist groups. At the global level, the unprecedented flow of young men and women who joined the self-proclaimed caliphate has evidenced the ability of terrorist groups to develop youth- and women-targeted propaganda. In Europe, teenagers or pre-teens were involved in just under one-quarter of the terrorist attacks and plots (23%) registered between January 2014 and May 2017. Just a month later, in June 2017, Europol warned that terrorist groups may take advantage of women, young adults and even children, to carry out terrorist attacks in the European Union. Out of 1 056 individuals arrested in the EU in 2018 on suspicion of terrorism-related offences, one fifth were women.


The government of Boris Johnson sees little added value in a contractual arrangement with the EU on foreign, security and defence policy co-operation. It believes that the UK can instead work bilaterally with major EU member-states, who will then bring the rest of the member-states and the EU institutions into line.

The Johnson government’s scepticism about binding external security co-operation arrangements has some justification. The EU has diverse arrangements for foreign, security and defence co-operation with partners, from informal to treaty-based. But even legally-binding consultation mechanisms give third countries little added influence in EU decision-making, while the cost of not having a formal arrangement is minimal.

Given the other difficult issues yet to be resolved in the EU-UK negotiations, there is now no chance of an immediate agreement on foreign, security and defence co-operation, especially one as comprehensive as the EU has proposed. The EU is concerned that in the absence of a structured relationship, UK policy could diverge from its own over time. It worries that London might then try to manipulate the EU by cultivating relationships with certain member-states in the hope of getting them to advocate for UK positions in EU discussions.

Challenges and Opportunities for the Biden-Harris Administration

By: Dina Smeltz

When the Biden-Harris administration takes office, it will assume leadership of a divided nation in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, an economic recession, and a Congress partly controlled by the opposing party. 

These obstacles are formidable. But the 2020 Chicago Council Survey suggests that there are some low hanging fruit that could help to create public receptivity to the new administration’s initiatives. Infrastructure and repairing relations with allies are two areas that are widely supported by the American public. At the same time, partisan differences among the public—to say nothing of those within Congress—will complicate finding the right approach to controlling the COVID-19 crisis, navigating the US relationship with China, and negotiating trade agreements.

The results below list the issues in the order of priorities for the American public. In addition to public opinion, this summary includes results from a recently-released Chicago Council-University of Texas survey of 927 foreign policy opinion leaders including executive branch agencies, Congress, academia, think tanks, the media, and other professional groups.
Contain the COVID-19 Virus

U.S. Nuclear Warhead Modernization and “New” Nuclear Weapons

This brief is the second in the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) Deep Dive Debrief Series that explores emerging or contentious nuclear challenges. These briefs are based on a series of “deep dive” workshops convened by PONI that bring together next generation technical, operational, and policy experts from across the nuclear community to debate and discuss these nuclear challenges. This brief reflects discussion and insights from a deep dive workshop convened by CSIS PONI and the Royal United Services Institute’s (RUSI) UK PONI on September 15, 2020. The brief examines the debate surrounding the development of U.S. nuclear warhead capabilities and whether the United States is or is not creating “new” nuclear weapons. It discusses the expansion of U.S. nuclear warhead capabilities and its potential implications for U.S. relations with the United Kingdom and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), warhead production infrastructure, and arms control and nonproliferation efforts.

Key Conclusions


Would America Approve a Draft to Fight a World War III?

by Brandon J. Weichert

Since the 1970s, the United States has had an All-Volunteer Force (AVF). From the beginning of the United States until the end of the Vietnam War, the country had always conscripted eligible male members of its population to fight—and win—the nation’s wars. Yet, the American experience in Vietnam broke the national consensus on the draft. Since then, policymakers have struggled to square public ambivalence about foreign intervention with what they’ve viewed as preserving the national interest.

Nixon was not alone in his support for an AVF. Many military leaders who had fought in Vietnam supported it, realizing that those who volunteered to serve and fight in a war were usually more effective in combat than those who were simply drafted into service. Despite the strategic failures of the AVF in Afghanistan and Iraq, most military leaders today insist upon preserving the AVF rather than institute conscription. The brilliant economist, Milton Friedman, hailed the creation of an AVF as a momentous step toward national progress. Friedman argued that a conscription force was ultimately one in which its members were slaves until the conflict ends (or they die). On the other hand, Friedman believed that an AVF was a military in which its members had their freedom preserved. The AVF has also fostered a degree of technological innovation that helped to keep the U.S. force smaller than it ordinarily would be—freeing up more Americans to, theoretically, become net contributors to America’s economic miracle. When the draft existed, it was created because warfare was a truly national endeavor. Today, we are told, wars are fought by small teams of elite professionals—like the Medieval knights of old. Should a great power conflict erupt, though, the age of specialization in warfare will go away, and total warfare will again be upon us again.

The All-Volunteer Force is Insufficient

Coronavirus: Poor Countries Set to Suffer as Wealthier Nations Hoard Vaccine

by Ethen Kim Lieser

Roughly seventy poor countries will only be able to vaccinate 10 percent of their populations against the coronavirus because wealthier nations are hoarding more doses than they actually need, according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, an organization that includes Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now, and Oxfam. 

The group noted that richer countries have purchased enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021—if those vaccine candidates currently in clinical trials are all eventually approved for use. Canada topped the list with enough vaccines to inoculate each citizen five times. 

The most recent data, which was culled from analytics company Airfinity that examined deals completed between countries and the eight leading vaccine candidates, revealed that wealthy nations representing just 14 percent of the world’s population have purchased 53 percent of all of the most promising vaccine doses available. 

“No one should be blocked from getting a life-saving vaccine because of the country they live in or the amount of money in their pocket,” Anna Marriott, the health policy manager at Oxfam, said in a news release


At this time of great uncertainty and rapid change, the United States and Japan face extraordinary challenges. These include an unrelenting pandemic, rising nationalism and populism, global economic turmoil, multiple technological revolutions, and renewed geopolitical competition. The U.S.-Japan alliance itself is one of the most important sources of stability and continuity in this period of great uncertainty, but there should be no doubt that together both countries must be prepared for a regional and world order under more stress than at any time in the last 70 years. This is the latest in a series of bipartisan “Armitage-Nye” reports that have assessed the state of the U.S.-Japan alliance and suggested a new agenda for the challenges and opportunities on the horizon. This current iteration has special importance because of shifting power dynamics in Asia and new expectations of Japan. Indeed, for the first time in its history, Japan is taking an equal, if not leading, role in the alliance. Developing a more equal U.S.-Japan alliance is critical to addressing both regional and global challenges. This report has identified issues that both allies should prioritize to advance their relationship as well as global security and prosperity.DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

The global economic cost of COVID-19 vaccine nationalism

by Marco Hafner, Erez Yerushalmi, Clement Fays, Eliane Dufresne, Christian Van Stolk

Vaccine nationalism could cost the global economy up to $1.2 trillion a year in GDP.

As long as there is no vaccine against the disease, the global cost associated with COVID-19 and its economic impact could be $3.4 trillion a year.

If the poorest countries cannot access vaccines, the world could still lose between $60 and $340 billion a year in GDP.

For every $1 spent on supplying poorer countries with vaccines, high-income countries would get back about $4.80.

Millions of people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19 and so far, more than a million have lost their lives because of the pandemic. A huge global research effort is taking place to bring a fast-tracked vaccine to the market. Currently there are more than 165 vaccines being developed, with some already in human trials.

While the COVID-19 outbreak is foremost a public health crisis, it has also caused substantial damage to the global economy. National governments are spending trillions of dollars to fight the negative economic impact, but until there is a vaccine or other treatment widely available, the financial cost will continue to be felt around the world.

5G WIRELESS:Capabilities and Challenges for an Evolving Network

Fifth-generation (5G) wireless promises not just to increase speeds but to enable new applications like automated cars and smart factories.

We reviewed U.S. 5G development. It's still early, with efforts focusing on increasing speed and connecting more devices. Technologies that enable 5G's full potential are expected within the next decade.

We also highlight key challenges to 5G and present policy options to address them. For example, 5G is expected to greatly increase data transmission, which would require more radio frequency spectrum—a scarce resource. To help, policymakers could promote research into more efficient use of radio spectrum.

Forecast of total worldwide mobile data usage

CO20200 | AI Governance and Military Affairs – Artificial Intelligence and Arms Control: What it Means for Singapore

Andrea Gilli, Mauro Gilli

RSIS Commentary is a platform to provide timely and, where appropriate, policy-relevant commentary and analysis of topical and contemporary issues. The authors’ views are their own and do not represent the official position of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. These commentaries may be reproduced with prior permission from RSIS and due recognition to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email to Mr Yang Razali Kassim, Editor RSIS Commentary at RSISPublications@ntu.edu.sg.


Arms control can be pursued and applied to the realm of emerging technologies, but it must be narrow in focus to ensure effectiveness and avoid unintended consequences – like hampering relations with the private industry. What are the implications for Singapore?

MASSIVE AND rapid progress in so-called emerging and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence is generating global concerns because, while countries invest in R&D, their armed forces aim to integrate such technologies in their force structures.

As individual services experiment with the new technologies and develop new operational concepts and warfighting doctrines, new questions on the future of arms control emerge. Can arms control play a role in the governance of artificial intelligence? If so, how?
Killer Robots, Arms Control and Artificial Intelligence

How to deal with AI-enabled disinformation

John Villasenor

This paper was originally published as part of a report jointly produced by Brookings and the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), entitled "AI in the Age of Cyber-Disorder." This report is also part of “AI Governance,” a series from The Brookings Institution’s Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technology (AIET) Initiative that identifies key governance and norm issues related to AI and proposes policy remedies to address the complex challenges associated with emerging technologies.

Rapid disinformation attacks—i.e., attacks in which disinformation is unleashed quickly and broadly with the goal of creating an immediate disruptive effect—are one of the most significant challenges in the digital ecosystem. Consider the following hypothetical: On the morning of Election Day in a closely contested U.S. presidential election, supporters of one candidate launch a disinformation[1] campaign aimed at suppressing the votes in favor of the opposing candidate in a key swing state. After identifying precincts in the state where the majority of voters are likely to vote for the opponent, the authors of the disinformation attack unleash a sophisticated social media campaign to spread what appears to be first-person accounts of people who went to polling places in those precincts and found them closed.

Aircraft Carriers: Fearsome Military Machine Or Floating Casket?

by Robert Farley 

Since the 1950s, the supercarrier has been the most visible representation of U.S. military power and maritime hegemony. Although supercarriers have participated in nearly every military conflict since the commissioning of USS Forrestal in 1955, no carrier has come under determined attack from a capable opponent. In part, this is because supercarriers are very difficult to attack, but the symbolic grandeur of the massive ships also plays a role; no one wants to know what the United States might do if one of its carriers came under attack.

What would happen if a foe attacked a United States Navy (USN) aircraft carrier during a conflict? How would the United States react, and how would it respond?


Circumstances obviously matter for an attack on a U.S. aircraft carrier. An out-of-the-blue attack from a conventionally armed state actor would enjoy the highest levels of success, but would also have an impact on elite and public opinion in the United States that might drive calls for dire retribution. An attack as part of a crisis would seem less extraordinarily hostile, but would nevertheless incur demands for a severe response. Finally, an attack during active hostilities might well represent a significant escalation but would be least likely to elicit an enraged public response. Most devastating of all might be an attack by a non-state actor that resulted in significant casualties and/or the destruction of the carrier. This would undoubtedly inflame U.S. public opinion while leaving the United States without a clear path for response and retribution.

This Is No Job for a General


On January 10, 2017, I sat at the witness table looking at the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, all of them, on both sides of the aisle, uneasy about the meaning of a Trump presidency. Senator John McCain had asked me to testify about the proposed change of law that would allow retired Marine General James Mattis to serve as Donald Trump’s first secretary of defense. I was the Republican pick; Kathleen Hicks, one of the stars of the Democrats’ defense bench, was there for the opposing party. But we agreed on the key point: The law that prohibited officers who had retired in the past seven years from serving as secretary of defense should be changed to make an exception for Mattis.

I concluded my testimony this way:

The principle of civilian control of the military is precious, and essential to our form of government. Making an exception twice in nearly 70 years, while keeping the fundamental legislation intact and reaffirming the arguments behind it, will not, in my judgment, threaten that principle but rather reinforce it.

And that is why Democrats and Republicans alike should refuse to change the law yet again to allow President-elect Joe Biden to appoint retired General Lloyd Austin as his secretary of defense.