16 February 2021

Dam Agreement Highlights India’s Soft Power Gambit in Afghanistan

By Priyanjali Simon

Amid Afghanistan’s political churn, New Delhi and Kabul signed a $236 million dollar deal for the construction of Shahtoot Dam on February 9. This developmental project would provide safe drinking water to approximately 2.2. million people and boost cross-country irrigation facilities. The MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed during a virtual meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his Afghan counterpart, Mohammed Haneef Atmar. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “gift of life” with the signing of the agreement.

Plans for developmental projects have been a vital component of India’s foreign policy calculations in its neighborhood. Approximately 150 developmental projects in Afghanistan are underway, as announced by the Indian government in 2020. The new projects include better road connectivity, economic development, a water supply network for Charikar city and a hydropower plant, just to name a few. Infrastructure projects and developmental assistance to conflict-ridden countries have been an important tool to increase Indian presence in its neighborhood. New Delhi’s engagement with Afghanistan have been built upon historical, cultural and civilizational links. While many of India’s neighbors view it as a “big brother,” Afghanistan has welcomed the Indian presence in the region. New Delhi envisions itself as a key contributor to Afghanistan’s stability, and its objectives in the country have been three fold: to ensure that democracy in Afghanistan is sustained, pushing back against Pakistan’s influence in that country, and arresting the Taliban’s presence in the region which could potentially lead to the resurgence of terrorist activities.

The US Needs a New Indian Ocean Strategy, Now

By Louis Bergeron, Nick Iorio, and Jeff Payne

The U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) maneuvers into formation with the Sri Lankan navy medium endurance cutter Sayura (620) and the offshore patrol vessel Samudura (621) while departing Colombo, Sri Lanka.Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jordan Kirk Johnson

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) matters a great deal to the United States. Robert D. Kaplan said as much a decade ago with his book “Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.” Spanning from East Africa and the Middle East to South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia, the IOR is the connective fabric, via sea lines of communication and telecommunications fiber optic submarine cables, linking the economies of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia, and Australia. It is also a priority route and theater for U.S. military global power projection capability and capacity. Absent an articulate strategy ruthlessly executed, the United States risks becoming an afterthought in the Indian Ocean, seceding half of the Indo-Pacific to China, which seeks to exert more economic and military presence in the IOR.

Several encouraging signs point to the “Indo” piece of the Indo-Pacific gaining attention in U.S. strategic thinking. The maturation of the “Quad,” a loose security partnership of the United States., India, Australia, and Japan, shows promise. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) has quantitatively and qualitatively enhanced military engagement in the eastern IOR. The new Biden administration has also tapped a collection of security professionals who understand the import of the whole Indo-Pacific to fill key roles.

U.S.-India Artificial Intelligence Cooperation

Katherine B. Hadda

The Biden administration plans to prioritize federal funding for U.S. research and development on artificial intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies. If products created from these technologies are to enter the global marketplace, administration officials will need to work with like-minded countries to create new AI standards and principles consistent with democratic values and fair markets. India is well-placed to be an essential part of these efforts, as the world’s largest democracy, a key advocate for the developing world, and the home of a significant informational technology (IT) sector already well-meshed with the United States. A successful partnership will, however, require the resolution of existing bilateral disagreements affecting digital trade and investment.

The United States and India are logical partners in charting the future growth of AI, which promises economic growth and social benefits to both countries in key sectors such as healthcare, education, energy, financial technology, retail, and mobility. While India is not yet a major AI player, it has a talented IT workforce and strategic plans to develop its AI capacity. Many of the largest U.S. investors in India are leaders in the development and application of AI and related technologies. This includes IT-focused firms such as Microsoft and Google; e-tailers Amazon and Walmart; and aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed. Google and Facebook have together invested more than $10 billion in Reliance Jio, which aims to develop platforms in AI-forward sectors such as education and healthcare. U.S. companies such as IBM and Intel have partnered with the Indian government to educate Indian students in the skills needed to work in AI and related fields. On a government-to-government basis, the United States and India have cooperated on India’s “smart city” planning and deepened their defense relationship significantly over the past years, both sectors which will rely on AI and machine learning.

China: Still the world’s growth engine after COVID-19

By Felix Poh and Daniel Zipser

Consumers, one of the key drivers powering China’s economic rebound, have regained confidence and are spending at levels seen before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early January, our main concern was choosing where to go with our families to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Then, just a few days before the holiday began, the announcement of a lockdown in Wuhan threw all our plans into disarray. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it literally overnight. Measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus drastically altered the way consumers behaved and how companies ran their operations. Everyone from frontline staff to executives were impacted by a temporary ban on travel, the move to remote working, and the impossibility of entertainment or excursions outside home. Even though China’s recovery is now gaining momentum, all of us are grappling with a new environment in which digital tools and innovation have proved indispensable.

At McKinsey, we redoubled our efforts to help clients and colleagues in China to maneuver through the crisis. We also worked hard to share crucial lessons with other parts of the world, connecting the dots on best practice on reopening businesses while keeping workers and consumers safe. Meanwhile, we conducted extensive research over the course of the past few months to help China-focused consumer and retail companies to emerge from the pandemic in a position of strength. Drawing on proprietary insights, we investigated how consumer behavior shifted and will continue to shift during and post-COVID-19, how consumer and retail companies are responding, and how China is faring versus other markets. We collaborated with Oxford Economics to project macro-economic recovery curves; conducted monthly polls of executive opinion on likely recovery scenarios; tapped into research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) on long-term trends; took our weekly “pulse” surveys, which were conducted multiple times to assess consumer sentiment in China and 44 other countries worldwide; and executed an in-depth analysis of over 100 million points-of-sale data on purchase behavior before, during, and after the COVID-19 crisis.

First Biden-Xi Phone Call Shows Not Much Has Changed in US-China Relations

By Shannon Tiezzi

On February 10, three weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden took office, he had his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The call took place just ahead of China’s Lunar New Year holiday and the leaders apparently started their conversations wishing each other well in the coming Year of the Ox.

According to the White House read-out, Biden mentioned “preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific” among his priorities, a clear signal that the Trump-era formulation is here to stay. Biden then launched into a litany of complaints that were also frequently spoken of by Trump administration officials: “President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.”

However, one notable difference between the administrations was that Biden left the door open for what he called “practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies.” In particular, the White House said Biden had discussed with Xi “views on countering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change, and preventing weapons proliferation,” laying out some possible areas of cooperation. Even here, though, major differences remain – for example, the Biden administration has remained outspoken about China’s lack of transparency on COVID-19.

How to Think About Chinese-Owned Technology Platforms Operating in the United States

By Gary Corn, Jack Goldsmith 

Today the technology and law programs that we supervise at the American University Washington College of Law and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, are publishing a report entitled “Chinese Technology Platforms Operating in the United States.” The report sets forth a framework for understanding the various threats posed by Chinese-owned technology platforms operating in the United States (e.g. TikTok), and for assessing the various costs and benefits of proposed responses to these threats. The report is a joint-product by a group of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives on these matters: Jennifer Daskal, Chris Inglis, Paul Rosenzweig, Samm Sacks, Bruce Schneier, Alex Stamos, Vince Stewart and the two of us.

Some background and elaboration:

Among the many challenges the Biden administration has inherited, a frayed U.S.-China relationship figures prominently. The Trump administration's approach to China was driven by China’s emergence as a great power competitor, and frictions inherent in that recognition manifested across a range of issues not the least of which were trade and regulation of Chinese technologies. The Trump administration took direct aim at a number of technologies, from Huawei’s 5G to Chinese manufactured small drones. In late 2020 and early 2021, it took steps to effectively ban TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps from operating in the United States, at least in their current form.

The China model has come to America


China envy runs strong among America’s progressive elite. The Communist Party of China’s hold on power and centralized decision-making has long appealed to progressives infuriated with their inability to mandate solutions to global warming (and other progressive priorities).

Tom Friedman, an established bellwether of elite opinion, has been voicing this exasperation for more than a decade. Last weekend he reduced the genocide in Xinjiang to “bad stuff with the Uighurs,” of less concern than Chinese excellence in high-speed rail.

Far too few Americans grasp the implications of such a view taking root among their own elite. Though more and more Americans are awakening to the challenges inherent in China’s growing economic, technological, and military capabilities, few understand the threat that China’s governing philosophy and structures pose to the US.

As David Goldman has explained, though the CPC is nominally Communist, China is what it has been for millennia: an empire run by oligarchic mandarins. The appeal to an American elite that sees itself as a worthy meritocracy enamored of governance by bureaucratic experts is obvious.

The Vaccine Race: China Expands its Global Influence

Hiddai Segev, Galia Lavi

Many countries are looking to the COVID-19 vaccines with the hope of overcoming the pandemic and beginning economic recovery. While the drug companies in the West operate as independent for-profit businesses, in China the government directs the research and development efforts of both state and privately owned companies, and uses them as a tool in its policy through official visits in the international theater, cooperation agreements, commitments to supply vaccines, and the provision of loans and other financial assistance. The vaccines developed in China are also among the most sought-after: a map of vaccine approvals in various countries illustrates China's growing global economic and political influence.

With over 100 million infections and 2.3 million deaths from COVID-19 worldwide (as of early February 2021), many countries are looking to vaccines in the hope of overcoming the pandemic. Some 70 vaccines are currently in trial stages in various countries, but only 11 vaccines have been approved to date for use in at least one country. Among the vaccines developed in the West, the approved vaccines are those developed by the German-American company Pfizer and the American company Moderna, which are already used in Israel. Other vaccines that have successfully passed the three development stages and been approved are the Russian vaccines Sputnik V and EpiVacCorona, the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, and the Chinese vaccines developed by Sinopharm, Sinovac, and CanSino.

The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War

Robert D. Blackwill

To preserve peace in the Taiwan Strait, Robert D. Blackwill and Philip Zelikow propose the United States make clear that it will not change Taiwan’s status, yet will work with allies to plan for Chinese aggression and help Taiwan defend itself.

Taiwan “is becoming the most dangerous flash point in the world for a possible war that involves the United States, China, and probably other major powers,” warn Robert D. Blackwill, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy, and Philip Zelikow, University of Virginia White Burkett Miller professor of history.   

In a new Council Special Report, The United States, China, and Taiwan: A Strategy to Prevent War, the authors argue that the United States should change and clarify its strategy to prevent war over Taiwan. “The U.S. strategic objective regarding Taiwan should be to preserve its political and economic autonomy, its dynamism as a free society, and U.S.-allied deterrence—without triggering a Chinese attack on Taiwan.” 

“We do not think it is politically or militarily realistic to count on a U.S. military defeat of various kinds of Chinese assaults on Taiwan, uncoordinated with allies. Nor is it realistic to presume that, after such a frustrating clash, the United States would or should simply escalate to some sort of wide-scale war against China with comprehensive blockades or strikes against targets on the Chinese mainland.”

The WHO Investigation Shows Beijing Still Pulls the Strings


The highlights this week: What to make of the WHO investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, the Biden administration announces a comprehensive review of U.S. strategy toward China, and how the pandemic may have affected China’s birth rate.

Who Pulls the Strings?

A weekslong World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the origins of the coronavirus came to a spluttering end this week. The investigators simultaneously dismissed suspicions that the virus could have originated in a laboratory leak and endorsed Beijing-backed conspiracy theories about possible origins beyond China.

The investigation was a propaganda victory for the Chinese authorities and a bizarre misstep by WHO, which botched early information about the pandemic while pandering to Beijing and has faced frequent criticism for being too close to China. The Biden administration was quick to express skepticism, with good cause.

All indications are that the coronavirus originated through zoonotic transfer, most likely connected to China’s largely unregulated trade in wild animals. But numerous theories have hypothesized that the virus emerged from one of Wuhan’s laboratories, one of which was conducting research on bats. The only evidence for this is sketchily circumstantial—despite leaks from the Trump administration pushing the story.

I’ve Studied Terrorism for Over 40 Years. Let’s Talk About What Comes Next.

By Martha Crenshaw

Dr. Crenshaw, the author of “Countering Terrorism,” has been teaching and writing about political science and terrorism since 1972. She is a senior fellow emerita at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a professor emerita at Wesleyan University.

In the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol, much of the nation’s attention was focused on “why.” But another question is equally important: “What next?”

The problem the authorities faced on Jan. 6 was not an inability to respond, but failure to anticipate the threat. Going forward, counterterrorism efforts should emphasize connecting the dots in the far-right extremist universe — not a simple task, given the dispersed and fast-moving nature of the threat. I have studied terrorism for well over 40 years; we can draw lessons from experiences around the world to consider both what might happen if the far-right groups that shook Washington turn to terrorism, and how we react if they do.

To begin with, it is unlikely those who promoted the Jan. 6 assault will ever again draw such impressive crowds into the streets. Followers are likely to be intimidated by the prospect of punishment or disillusioned by failure and a sense of abandonment. The chaotic assault on the Capitol may have exceeded the bounds of tolerance of even the most ardent “Stop the Steal” loyalists. Their fervor may dissipate, especially if those elites in power who called for confrontation switch course or stay quiet.

How Israel became a tech powerhouse


Israel has earned a reputation in recent years as a tech powerhouse. It has the second highest concentration of high-tech companies in the world after Silicon Valley and the largest number of start-ups per capita in the world.

But how did a state the size of New Jersey with nine million inhabitants become a technology giant and a favourite destination for tech multinationals?

To understand Israel’s position as a technology pioneer, it is necessary to look at the country’s history and the priority it gives to higher education and state-backed research. More than three decades before the State of Israel was established in 1948, European Jewish immigrants founded the country’s first university: the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and one of its founders, put great emphasis on science and technology as drivers of the Zionist national project. He was fascinated by 20th century technology, and written correspondence from the 1950s reveals the statesman’s interest in the then nascent fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“From day one, it was decided by our founding fathers that we should put more emphasis in the ‘quality factor’ than in the ‘quantity factor’,” says Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, former Israeli MP and chairman of the Israel Space Agency and the Israel National Council for Research and Development.

Memo To Washington: The World Doesn’t Care What You Think


There’s political unrest in the former Soviet Union. A coup in Burma. More repression in Hong Kong. Vaccine chaos in Europe. Warring governments in Libya. Barriers to reinstating the nuclear agreement with Iran. Continuing war in Yemen. The specter of a rising China.

None of these challenges are about America. In some cases, other governments are simply responding to what we’ve already done. Nevertheless, even then domestic imperatives shape and drive international policies.

This reality is recognized everywhere on earth except in Washington. Members of the Blob, the foreign policy establishment, are convinced that the entire world revolves around them. In their view, there is nothing more important than what they think and do. By which global events inevitably are, or certainly should be, determined.

For instance, last week, Brett Bruen, a former Obama administration official, declared: “What you’re seeing in both Moscow as well as in Myanmar are efforts to test the president. How far is he willing to go?”

Why The U.S. Marines Want To Ditch Their Tanks

By Caleb Larson

In preparation for a future fight in the western Pacific Ocean against a near-peer rival, the Marine Corps is undergoing some of the most radical change it has ever experienced in its long and storied existence. Along with getting rid of a number of artillery battalions, the Marines have also divested all of their tanks, to the consternation of some.

In the not-so-distant future, the Marines anticipate they’ll need to hop from island to remote island, somewhat like their island-hopping campaign of Second World War fame — though this campaign is updated for the 21st century.

Why the Marines Wants to Ditch Their Tanks

The logic behind the recent tank divestment is two-fold: the United States’ main battle tank, the M1 Abrams, has steadily ballooned upwards in weight, so much so that it now faces logistical hurdles due to being just too dang heavy. Especially in a maritime environment, getting 74-plus ton tanks from ship to shore would be challenging. Essentially the plan is, if it doesn’t swim, it doesn’t fight.

There is, however, another reason the Marines may have little use for tanks in the future: long-range, precision fire.

In the past, part of the Marine tank mission profile was to take out other enemy tanks in pitched armor vs. armor battles. Now however, Marines will be able to take out enemy armor from much father distances than a tank is capable of, and without a heavy 74-ton armored platform.

Russian Electronic Warfare Operators Want to Leave NATO in the Dark

by Sebastien Roblin

Here's What You Need to Remember: Western militaries depend on extensive command-and-control infrastructure and near real-time tracking of troop positions as force multipliers. However, Russian electronic-warfare batteries wield a multitude of systems to jam or spy upon frontline communication systems — including radio, cellular, satellite and even GPS.

The U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group was formed in 2006 to identify gaps in U.S. military doctrine, equipment and field tactics, and to study how potential adversaries are developing tactics to exploit them. In 2017 the group released the 61-page Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook, based on observation of Russian tactics in Ukraine and to a lesser extent Syria, as well as published doctrine and public statements.

The handbook paints an intimidating picture of a military ready to combine old strengths in artillery and anti-aircraft systems with new technologies and tactics, leveraging drones, electronic warfare, information warfare and massed sniper fire.

To be clear, the document doesn’t set out to paint the Russian military as an indomitable juggernaut.

America Is Back. Europe, Are You There?


For four long years, I received countless emails and text messages from European diplomat friends distressed by the Trump administration’s reckless, ham-handed foreign policy. Last month, gratefully, those messages turned into expressions of relief and hope for the Biden administration. After having suffered a president who treated America’s oldest allies with contempt while embracing autocrats and adversaries, Europeans are looking forward to a more cooperative Washington under a Biden administration.

Now it’s time for the United States to send a message to its friends in Europe: The window of opportunity for reinvesting in the trans-Atlantic relationship is not indefinite. It is time, dear allies, to get your act together.

At the beginning of December, the European Union published an agenda for cooperation with the United States. It was a remarkably thoughtful and wide-ranging document, clearly not something that had been thrown together as these papers sometimes are, but rather the product of forward-looking policy-makers thinking about opportunities that a new U.S. administration might bring for joint action from climate change to technology policy to relations with China.



Can Washington keep its friends feeling secure and, at the same time, reduce the prominence of nuclear weapons in its national security? That is the needle that President Joe Biden’s administration will try to thread as it faces growing policy tension between alliance management requirements and anticipated adjustments to the U.S. nuclear posture.

Regional threats in Asia and Europe are growing more complex, whether from North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear missile arsenal, China’s combative “wolf warrior” diplomacy, or Russia’s use of cyber attacks and attempted assassinations. The United States also confronts a credibility deficit resulting from President Donald Trump’s transactional treatment of America’s traditional security allies. As a result, U.S. allies in both Asia and Europe express greater fears of alliance decoupling and demand more U.S. assurances.

At the same time, growing fiscal pressures and a desire to revise some aspects of Trump’s nuclear policy propel putative changes to how the United States postures nuclear weapons, both to deter adversaries and assure allies. In particular, the Biden administration could seek to remove ambiguity about whether the United States would use nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks. The 2020 Democratic Party election platform avowed that “the sole purpose of [the U.S.] nuclear arsenal should be to deter — and, if necessary, retaliate against — a nuclear attack.” As vice president, Biden supported sole purpose, so at least the administration seems likely to consider it in the context of their policy reviews. A sole purpose declaration could give U.S. deterrent threats greater credibility and dampen crisis escalation risks with adversaries but potentially at some cost to alliance assurance.

Moscow’s Climate Change Dilemma

It is not the Biden administration that Russia should be concerned about when it comes to climate, but its own inaction, which Moscow risks paying for in both economic and security terms over the coming decade.

Climate change seldom makes it onto the U.S.-Russian talks agenda, but that’s about to change. It’s an unavoidable issue that could either exacerbate bilateral tensions further, or present new opportunities for cooperation.

The environment is already materializing as a top cross-agency priority for U.S. President Joe Biden. Economic landscapes are going to change substantially in the countries attempting to transition to net-zero carbon emissions, and they will shape supply and demand dynamics in geoeconomics. Geopolitical competition will be defined by it as various powers vie for transition models that lead to comparative advantages in the creation of new markets and partnership opportunities. China, the United States, and the EU are the major powers in this race for now, while Russia remains reliant on its hydrocarbon-exporting politico-economic paradigm.

Accompanying this structural change is another dynamic: with the appointment of John Kerry as a climate czar sitting on the U.S. National Security Council, climate change will be treated as a matter of national and foreign security. This effectively means that climate spoilers will be eventually considered as a new threat category to the United States and to global stability. Together, these changes will have a significant impact on Russia in the years to come.

The Global Risks Report 2021

In partnership with Marsh McLennan, SK Group and Zurich Insurance Group

The 16th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report analyses the risks from societal fractures—manifested through persistent and emerging risks to human health, rising unemployment, widening digital divides, youth disillusionment, and geopolitical fragmentation. Businesses risk a disorderly shakeout which can exclude large cohorts of workers and companies from the markets of the future. Environmental degradation—still an existential threat to humanity—risks intersecting with societal fractures to bring about severe consequences. Yet, with the world more attuned to risk, lessons can be drawn to strengthen response and resilience. In 2020, the risk of a pandemic became reality. As governments, businesses, and societies grapple with COVID-19, societal cohesion is more important than ever.Download PDF

Harvard’s Most Popular Course is Free, Online

Frederik Bussler

This introductory computer science course covers algorithms, data structures, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development.

Over 2 million students have taken this hallmark computer science course — which started off in 1989 as an exclusive, on-campus course, with just around 200 students a year. Today, attending Harvard in-person costs over $70,000 a year.
Why is CS50 Famous?

CS50 is an extremely famous course, and for good reason.

CS50’s claim to fame has its roots in Harvard Professor David Malan, who The Harvard Crimson describes as having a “cult of personality” for his unique teaching style.

Now you can understand the praise of YouTube’s CEO: “CS50 changed my life.”

Robert Bowden, a member of the technical staff, says that the digital experience is essentially equal to the in-person experience:

Chancellor Merkel's Failure in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Markus Feldenkirchen

Before the arrival of the pandemic, the script for the final phase of Angela Merkel's tenure as chancellor had essentially been written. The tone would be a mixture of admiration and premature nostalgia. Every comparison with a possible successor would put Merkel in an even better light.

The worship of Merkel then became even more adoring in the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic, with Germany having emerged with far fewer bumps and bruises than other countries in Europe. Some of that was luck, but some of it wasn't. Merkel had recognized the dangers presented by the virus early on and introduced the correct measures. In one of her rare speeches to the nation, she found the correct tone of concern and solidarity, thus motivating millions of Germans to stay home. Had she resigned last summer – which she obviously could never have done in the middle of such a crisis – she would almost certainly have been sanctified.

Last spring, at a time when we still knew little about the virus, closures were the only effective instrument that politicians had available to them. There was no real necessity for creativity or elan to do the right thing. All policymakers had to do was close the country down. And Merkel did so with the necessary conviction.

Want to Redefine Readiness? Here’s Where to Start


In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. and Marine Corps Commandant David Berger argued that a “fixation” on military readiness had prevented the U.S. defense enterprise from shifting resources towards great power competition, as prescribed by the 2018 National Defense Strategy. To move ahead, they want to redefine readiness from the “short-term and narrow view” that dominates thinking in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. This is a welcome development from two of the military’s senior-most leaders, and a chance to think more deeply about the topic.

Among policymakers, readiness is most commonly thought of as the military’s short-term preparedness for operations. From a strategic perspective, defense leaders consider tradeoffs among readiness, force structure, and modernization. As Brown and Berger observe, readiness is too often conflated with the availability of forces for “immediate deployment.” Investing in, or “rebuilding,” readiness has similarly become a panacea for solving all of the military’s issues. But the challenges additional readiness funding alleviates are opaque. Is it for training? Maintenance for equipment? Funds for ongoing operations?

Readiness doesn’t exclusively refer to the military’s status in terms of current availability and health. In a broad sense, it can refer to military preparedness from the tactical level to the strategic for different types and sizes of units over different timeframes. As Columbia’s Richard Betts succinctly articulated a quarter-century ago, readiness boils down to three questions: readiness for what? For when? And of what?

How to stop handing our cybersecurity keys to hackers


On Wednesday, I return to Capitol Hill, at least virtually, to testify in front of Congress, this time in front of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. The committee is holding a timely hearing on cyber threats to American businesses and government agencies and what we can do to improve our collective security and resilience. I was the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) from November 2018 to November 2020. Although I am testifying in my personal capacity, my new venture, Krebs Stamos Group, now represents SolarWinds, the company whose software was hijacked by Russian government cyberspies as a part of a broad campaign targeting U.S. government and private sector systems that resulted in compromises at multiple federal agencies and at private companies.

Leading the CISA and its predecessor organization for the last four years helped to shape my view of the various cyber actors looking to compromise our nation’s digital infrastructure. The cyber threat landscape is more complicated than ever, with foreign governments and criminal gangs alike building capabilities that enable everything from run-of-the-mill cybercrime, information operations, intellectual property theft, destructive attacks and operations with kinetic effects. The bulk of the malicious cyber activity targeting the United States emanates from four countries — Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

We Must Reorient US Cyber Strategy Around the Only Safe Assumption


This oped is adapted from Dmitri Alperovitch's Feb. 10, 2021, testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee.

Almost half a decade ago, I coined the phrase: “We do not have a cyber problem; we have a China-Russia-Iran-and-North Korea problem.”

Cyberspace is not a separate virtual world, immune from the forces that shape the broader geopolitical landscape. Instead, it is an extension of that landscape, and the threats we face in cyberspace are not fundamentally different from the threats we face in the non-cyber realm.

China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are the four primary strategic adversaries whose malignant activities in cyberspace we try to counter on a daily basis, as we do their more traditional tactics in the physical world. Often, these battles are joined by non-state actors, such as the most well-organized cybercriminals. These actors inflict enormous damage on our economy by launching ransomware attacks and stealing financial data from our businesses and citizens, and it is no coincidence that they operate with impunity from the safety of their homes in these very same countries.

These countries conduct a variety of cyber operations against us on a daily basis, ranging from cyber-enabled espionage against our government to the theft of intellectual property from our companies to destructive attacks that shutdown business operations to the interference in the foundation of our democracy: our elections.

Have the floodgates opened on the age of cyber sabotage? A hidden hand seizes control of computers managing a city's water supply - in a bid to poison thousands. Terrifyingly, writes TOM LEONARD, it's far from a one-off


Last Friday at 8am, a computer operator at a water treatment plant in Florida noticed the cursor moving across his screen as if being controlled by an invisible hand.

The operator assumed that, as often happened at the plant, which provides drinking water to the small city of Oldsmar (population 14,600), it was just his supervisor remotely checking into the system.

But when the mystery user logged in again a few hours later and began clicking through the plant’s controls, it rapidly became clear that this wasn’t the boss.

For within minutes, the intruder had increased by 100 times the level of sodium hydroxide going into the water supply.

In low concentrations, sodium hydroxide — also known as lye or caustic soda — is harmless and controls water’s acidity level. But in high concentrations it can be lethal, causing severe harm to human tissue.

After boosting the amount of it in the water from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts, the visitor signed out of the system.

U.S. Cyber Weapons Were Leaked — And Are Now Being Used Against Us, Reporter Says


In December 2020, a U.S. cybersecurity company announced it had recently uncovered a massive cyber breach. The hack dates back to March 2020, and possibly even earlier, when an adversary, believed to be Russia, hacked into the computer networks of U.S. government agencies and private companies via SolarWinds, a security software used by many thousands of organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

New York Times cyber security reporter Nicole Perlroth calls the SolarWinds hack "one of the biggest intelligence failures of our time."

"We really don't know the extent of it," Perlroth says. "What we know is that this thing has hit the Department of Homeland Security — the very agency charged with keeping us safe — the Treasury, the State Department, the Justice Department, the Department of Energy, some of the nuclear labs, the Centers for Disease Control."

Perlroth says the fact that the breach went undetected for so long means that the hackers likely planted "back door" code, which would allow them to re-enter the systems at a later date.

"We're still trying to figure out where those back doors are," Perlroth says. "And that could take months, if not years, to get to the bottom of."

In her new book, This is How They Tell Me The World Ends, Perlroth writes about the global cyber weapons race and how the U.S. went from having the world's strongest cyber arsenal to becoming so vulnerable to attack.

Does the U.S. Need a Cyberdefense Czar?

By Kara Swisher

But that happened this week when Senators Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican — the two leaders of the Intelligence Committee — issued a joint statement calling the United States response to the recent huge breach of government and corporate networks by Russians “disjointed and disorganized.”

They are right.

The cyberattack was discovered in December in the midst of the political crisis around former President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to accept the election results. Hackers working for Russia’s S.V.R. intelligence agency had slipped malware into the code of the widely used SolarWinds software. Once the company sent out updates to users, the hack burrowed deeply into places like the Departments of Defense, State and Justice, as well as big tech companies like FireEye and Microsoft.

Noting that the “federal government’s response so far has lacked the leadership and coordination warranted by a significant cyberevent” and that “we have little confidence we are on the shortest path to recovery,” Mr. Warner and Mr. Rubio suggested that President Biden create a single high-level position to deal with this cyberthreat. The senators said the new position should have “the authority to coordinate the response, set priorities, and direct resources to where they are needed.”

Comply-To-Connect Is on Track To Provide Key Capabilities for the Defense of Government and Private Networks

By Dan Gouré

There is no shortage of security challenges facing the new Biden administration. One of the most important of these is securing federal government agencies, especially the Department of Defense (DoD), against cyber intrusions. Several factors are increasing the urgency of this task. The pandemic has led to a large remote federal workforce using various systems, networks and applications. Even when the pandemic ends, working remotely is likely here to stay. However, the federal government moved more of its activities to the cloud and radically expanded the number of endpoints (computers and other smart devices) on its networks well before the COVID-19 outbreak. The potential attack surface is enormous, particularly when you include the DoD's connected sensors, platforms, command and control centers, and weapons systems that are part of what some are calling an "Internet of Military Things."

The evolution of government networks is dramatically increasing the opportunities for hostile actors to access them. The SolarWinds supply chain attack exposed vulnerabilities in major commercial and public-sector enterprises, including the U.S. Treasury and the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Commerce and Defense. The discovery of the SolarWinds vulnerability set off a scramble within commercial and government networks worldwide to determine where devices were running the Orion product that was infected with malware.

LongShot: The DARPA Drone That Could Change Warfare

By Caleb Larson

In a recent announcement, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, revealed that it had awarded contracts to General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman to develop an “air-launched unmanned air vehicle (UAV) with the ability to employ multiple air-to-air weapons.”

DARPA envisions the new drone, dubbed LongShot, as a stand-off munition of sorts, able to ferry missiles from a fighter jet or bomber through highly contested airspace that would normally pose a risk to pilot and/or crew.

LongShort, Explained

DARPA explained the LongShort drone as a “novel UAV that can significantly extend engagement ranges, increase mission effectiveness, and reduce the risk to manned aircraft.”

Essentially DARPA wants to take away the risk from human pilots and transfer that to drones. “It is envisioned that LongShot will increase the survivability of manned platforms by allowing them to be at standoff ranges far away from enemy threats,” the DARPA announcement explained, “while an air-launched LongShot UAV efficiently closes the gap to take more effective missile shots.”

How Do You Measure a Revolution in Military Affairs?

By Jacob Parakilas

Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay,” that dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.Credit: Flickr/Chris Devers

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently awarded contracts to several defense companies to begin design work on a novel concept: an air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle that would carry its own air-to-air munitions. In other words, a carrier aircraft – a large, lumbering airlifter rather than a sleek, nimble fighter jet – would launch a drone, which would fly closer to a target and, if necessary, engage it with guided munitions. That arrangement would both keep human pilots much farther back from potential harm and provide more flexibility than a missile with a similar range.

If the concept itself seems baroque and complex – one analyst dubbed it “the turducken of lethality” – it is. Like many potentially game-changing military technologies, it may not be feasible; efforts to launch and recover small aircraft from large ones mid-flight have a checkered history, after all.

But if it is effective, it could fundamentally change how air power works: fighter aircraft, which have defined air superiority since World War I, might be relegated to specialist roles if not made obsolete. And that, in turn, creates a separate issue, one shared by other “game-changing” military technologies: If a new piece of hardware has in fact changed the world, how will we know?