15 March 2021

A 'me first' approach to vaccination won't defeat Covid

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Vaccines manufactured in India for the global vaccine access programme, Covax, have
reached Ghana, Ivory Coast and Colombia over the past 10 days. This was undoubtedly a moment of celebration that the miracle of science was being shared – but it was offset by the shame that many countries hit hard during the pandemic have still not received any vaccines.

Safe and effective vaccines have been developed and approved at record speed, giving us a crucial new way, in addition to traditional public health measures, to protect people from the virus. Now we must ensure they’re available to everyone, everywhere. Sharing doses, boosting manufacturing by removing barriers and ensuring that we use data effectively to target left-behind communities is key to ending this crisis.

I appreciate that India is sharing doses now, and also welcome G7 countries committing to sharing a portion of their vaccines, as well as pledging significant amounts of new funding to Covax.

However, of the 225m vaccine doses that have been administered so far, the vast majority have been in a handful of rich and vaccine-producing countries, while most low- and middle-income countries watch and wait. A me-first approach might serve short-term political interests, but it is self-defeating and will lead to a protracted recovery, with trade and travel continuing to suffer.

Any opportunity to beat this virus should be grabbed with both hands. New variants are appearing that show signs of being more transmissible, more deadly and less susceptible to vaccines. The threat is clear: as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it has more opportunities to mutate and potentially undermine the efficacy of vaccines everywhere. We could end up back at square one.

U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan: What Are Biden’s Options?

By Max Boot

How many U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and what is their mission?

There are currently 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with 6,346 U.S. contractors [PDF]. U.S. force levels peaked at 100,000 in 2011. Under a withdrawal agreement [PDF] signed by the Donald J. Trump administration and the Taliban in February 2020, there should be no U.S. troops left in Afghanistan by May 1.

Some of the remaining U.S. troops conduct Special Operations missions with Afghan partner forces against international terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The rest train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Operation Resolute Support. For the first time ever, there are more allied troops in Afghanistan (about eight thousand) than U.S. forces there. While small in number, U.S. personnel still provide important functions, including intelligence and air support for Afghan forces. The United States also provides Afghanistan with a critical $4.8 billion in assistance per year, which funds 80 percent [PDF] of the Afghan government’s security expenditures.

What has the Joe Biden administration said about the May deadline?

On January 28, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that “the Taliban have not met their commitments,” casting doubt on whether U.S. forces will exit by May 1. No final decision has been made.

Biden Team Pivots to Asia


Welcome to Foreign Policy’s Security Brief. Hope everyone is mentally preparing to lose an hour of sleep with the upcoming daylight saving time. (And for those quietly cursing this, there are some U.S. senators who agree.)

The highlights this week: Biden team takes off for Asia on China tough talk tour, a U.S. warship comes home after logging 99,000 miles at sea, the National Security Council beefs up on cybertalent, and more.

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Tough Talk Express

Travel plans for you may lie off in the future, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin—who already have their vaccine shots—are a step ahead.

This weekend, top Biden administration officials will take off for a multiday visit with U.S. allies in Asia, headlined by high-level visits in Japan and South Korea next week, a move that’s designed to signal the new president’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific—and an opportunity to signal the new team’s resolve when it comes to dealing with an assertive China.

How Biden Can Stand With Hong Kong

Steven Feldstein 

Earlier this month, hundreds of Hong Kongers thronged outside a courthouse in West Kowloon to
protest the arrest of 47 activists and opposition lawmakers, who were attending an arraignment hearing inside. When the police took them into custody in early January, along with eight other activists, it was one of the most brazen acts of repression in the city since Beijing imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong last summer. With this latest action, Hong Kong authorities have jailed or driven into exile every notable opposition voice in the territory.

The national security law was designed to crack down on pro-democracy protests and restore government control to the restive city. Before the coronavirus pandemic temporarily quieted political activity, Hong Kongers had spent months organizing vast demonstrations in the streets. At times, the masses of citizens marching reached astonishing levels, with organizers estimating that more than 1 million people had turned out for a mass demonstration on June 9, 2019, to protest a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China

America Will Only Win When China’s Regime Fails


Competition between the United States and China has begun, but how will it end? There is a bipartisan consensus that Sino-American relations will be defined primarily by rivalry across multiple regions and dimensions of statecraft for years to come. Yet there is little clarity on what U.S. leaders hope will happen after that. Washington has accepted the reality of competition without identifying a theory of victory. There is no lack of suggestions, but U.S. leaders have yet to articulate how this competition will lead to something other than unending tension and danger.

At several points, the Trump administration argued that rivalry with China was caused by the nature of the Communist Party, implying that the rivalry would last as long as the regime did. Yet the administration also insisted, confusingly, that its approach was not based “on an attempt to change the PRC’s domestic governance model.” Similarly, the Biden administration has accepted strategic competition with China—“extreme competition,” as the president phrased it—without publicly clarifying how that competition might ultimately be resolved.

There are many possible outcomes to the Sino-American competition, from the United States ceding a sphere of influence to China, to mutual accommodation, to Chinese collapse, to a devastating global conflict. Yet if the goal of competition is to secure a better peace by means short of war, then the pivotal question becomes whether the United States can achieve this outcome by changing the minds of Chinese leaders—convincing them that expansion and aggrandizement is futile—or whether it will require the decline of Chinese power or the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s Military Is Outmatched


The highlights this week: Why the Quad should take an honest look at the Chinese military’s capabilities, Beijing and Washington gear up for bilateral meetings in Alaska, and China’s government punts on setting a five-year GDP growth target.

The Quad Takes on the PLA

The leaders of Australia, Japan, India, and the United States will meet on Friday in a virtual summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, otherwise known as the Quad—the informal forum largely directed at possible Chinese threats. Recent congressional testimony by U.S Adm. Philip Davidson has drawn attention ahead of the meetings, particularly in India, which remains nervous about conflict with Beijing. Davidson testified that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hasn’t withdrawn from several positions in the disputed Ladakh region, despite recent agreements.

But portrayals of China’s overwhelming force are misleading—at least if you’re in Washington rather than New Delhi, which is genuinely outmatched. Even using outside estimates of China’s military budget, its spending—roughly $200 billion—is less than one-quarter of the annual U.S. defense budget of around $934 billion, including the Defense Department and other outside defense-supporting agencies. Even as the United States takes Beijing’s increasingly aggressive stance seriously, that reality shouldn’t be forgotten.

What makes the PLA a challenge for the United States isn’t its size or capabilities in absolute terms, but its concentration in a relatively narrow field: anti-access/area denial, or missile and electronic technology designed to raise the costs of military intervention anywhere close to China itself. For example, Chinese missiles, launched from bases along the coastline, could make it nearly impossible for the United States to move ships through local waters. This presents a serious problem for U.S. strategists, especially given growing Chinese aggression toward Taiwan.

‘Not Enough Being Done’ to Counter China’s Growing Aggression, US Military Officials Warn


PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii — More must be done to counter China, which may soon build on its Hong Kong crackdown with military aggression toward Taiwan, India, and other neighbors in the coming years, leaders of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command say.

“Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions,” INDOPACOM commander Adm. Philip Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years.”

Davidson’s testimony followed even stronger words from other frustrated senior military officials last week.

“We have been trying to convey in Washington a sense of urgency,” one official told reporters traveling with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. “We are optimistic that a new administration will do even more, but frankly there’s been less walk than talk” on the issue for several years. Taiwan, perhaps Bhutan, and possibly even India, which has a border dispute with Beijing, are all potential targets for Chinese expansion, argued the senior military official.

To the Chinese government, “these are all Chinese territories. They’re coming after them,” said a second official.

China has a broad strategy to “resolve,” or absorb, Taiwan in the near future. Chinese President Xi Jinping has set a deadline of 2049 to absorb the island country and other territories that the Chinese government considers historically Chinese. Recent events may have accelerated that timeline, said the U.S. officials.

‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’ On Chinese Dominance Over Semiconductors, Shipbuilding


WASHINGTON: A new bipartisan House Armed Services task force is pushing to get language into the coming 2022 defense budget to shore up support for domestic supply chains, as Washington grows increasingly concerned by Chinese dominance over several areas critical to national security.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, where clear vulnerabilities were found in supply chains for protective and medical equipment, Defense Critical Supply Chain Task Force co-chair Rep. Elissa Slotkin told reporters today that “we’re seizing on the interest from a lot of corners around the country.”

The task force, co-chaired by Rep. Mike Gallagher, is looking across commercial tech and defense-related supply chains for similar gaps.

Slotkin said they want to make sure their final report and legislation actually makes a difference in how money is spent on the domestic manufacturing base, but also ensuring appropriators in Congress move money around where possible. The task force will also take a longer view, both lawmakers said, and will look for ways to tie their final language in with larger movements within the 2022 defense budget.

“I think this is going to be part of a much bigger conversation and debate about what to do about the top line of the budget, and how to spend our money, how to make trade-offs, and how to make sure that legacy systems that maybe need to be off ramped,” are identified. “I’m certainly not going to shy away from making recommendations” and push for them to be funded, she said.

What Is the Iran Nuclear Deal?

Kali Robinson

Signed in 2015 by Iran and several world powers, including the United States, the JCPOA placed significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

President Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, claiming it failed to curtail Iran’s missile program and regional influence. Iran began ignoring limitations on its nuclear program a year later.

President Biden has said the United States will return to the JCPOA if Iran resumes compliance, stressing that diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.


The Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a landmark accord reached between Iran and several world powers, including the United States, in July 2015. Under its terms, Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief.

However, the deal has been in jeopardy since President Donald J. Trump withdrew the United States from it in 2018. In retaliation for the U.S. departure and for deadly attacks on prominent Iranians in 2020, including one by the United States, Iran has resumed some of its nuclear activities. President Joe Biden has said the United States will return to the deal if Iran comes back into compliance, but analysts say that renewed diplomacy would have to overcome major political hurdles. And a revival of Iran’s nuclear weapons program would dramatically escalate tensions in the Middle East, they say, raising the prospects for conflict between Iran and its regional rivals, including Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Who are the participants?

A Look Into the Middle East’s Future


Recently, the prominent researchers Shibley Telhami, of the University of Maryland, and Marc Lynch, a George Washington University professor, published a major poll examining the future of the Middle East. They surveyed 521 experts on the region, 71 percent of them based in the United States and the rest living elsewhere. Among the issues covered was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Arab Spring uprisings.

Perhaps the most striking takeaway was how the experts saw the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A majority, 52 percent, said that a two-state solution was no longer viable, while 42 percent said it could be achieved, but not within the next decade. The more important finding was how these mostly U.S.-based experts viewed the political situation in Israel and the occupied territories. Fully 59 percent described the status quo there as that of a one-state reality akin to apartheid, while 7 percent described it as a one-state reality with inequality, but that could not be compared to apartheid.

Anyone familiar with the political sensitivities of U.S. institutions can understand the courage needed for a U.S.-based expert to describe Israel’s system as it is: a racist, apartheid regime. When asked about the most likely scenario if a two-state solution were no longer possible, 77 percent predicted a one-state reality akin to apartheid.

Yemen’s Tragedy: War, Stalemate, and Suffering

Kali Robinson

Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels are fighting for control, with a Saudi-led military coalition backing the government.

The country’s humanitarian crisis is said to be the worst in the world, due to widespread hunger, disease, and attacks on civilians.

The UN-backed peace process has stalled, and the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as terrorists has prompted fears of continued conflict and further suffering.


Yemen, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula, has become the site of grievous civilian suffering amid an intractable civil war. Many analysts say the fighting, now seven years old, has turned into a proxy war: Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who overthrew the Yemeni government, are pitted against a multinational coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has displaced more than one million people and given rise to cholera outbreaks, medicine shortages, and threats of famine. The United Nations calls the humanitarian crisis in Yemen “the worst in the world.” The chaos has also allowed the al-Qaeda affiliate in the region to expand its foothold.

What are Yemen’s divisions?

The Fukushima Plant Is Still Leaking Poison After a Decade


On Thursday, Japan commemorated the 10th anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant accident that was a defining moment even in a country well used to natural disasters. Now often simply referred to as “3/11,” the events tested the resilience of the Japanese people and raised doubts about their trust in authority. But through the smallest amounts of good luck, it did not bring the country to its knees.

The quake that hit off Japan’s northeast coast just before 3 p.m. on Friday, March 11, 2011, was an astounding 9.1 on the moment magnitude scale, making it among the five strongest earthquakes ever recorded. It was the largest ever on record to hit quake-prone Japan and left more than 18,000 people dead or missing.

In Tokyo, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako led a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., the time the quake hit 10 years ago. “The magnitude of the damage brought about by the disaster is so profound that the unforgettable memory of the tragedy still persists in my mind,” Naruhito said, and he noted that even a decade later, work remains. Of the 160,000 residents evacuated at the time, 40,000 people were still displaced as of early 2019.

A 6.0 quake is a strong one; a 9.1—the scale increases exponentially—is catastrophic. If it had taken place closer to a city, the quake itself would have caused massive loss of life; even as it was, it sent skyscrapers in central Tokyo 150 miles to the south rocking back and forth like ships caught in a storm, with office chairs gliding across the floor. And yet, the structural damage from the severe shaking was remarkably limited, a testament to Japan’s building construction codes that had been tightened repeatedly over the years for just such an event.

10 years after Fukushima: Are Japanese nuclear power plants safe?

By Jun Tateno 

Immediately after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident in 2011, the Japanese government shut down all of its nuclear power plants. Following, they reviewed their nuclear regulations that had been widely criticized as influenced by promotion groups and the former nuclear regulatory body. Since then, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was established in 2012, set new standards, examined all plants, and allowed those that passed to restart. While this process remains in progress, it is worth asking: Are the restarted Japanese nuclear power plants safe?

Sole reliance on expert judgment. “It is natural for professionals to determine safety,” the Nuclear Regulation Authority argued following the Fukushima disaster. Toward this end, the authority’s staff conducted a review to determine whether individual facilities satisfied earthquake and severe accident countermeasure requirements. Then the authority restarted plants based on the results, without clarifying for the public what had caused the Fukushima accident. The authority also did not provide information or form a consensus on nuclear power use. This sole reliance on a closed group of experts may reproduce conditions that led to the Fukushima accident. Perhaps it is no surprise that, in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, more than 60 percent of Japanese citizens opposed restarting nuclear power plants. Most Japanese remain concerned that a severe accident will occur again.

Biden Fires a Warning Shot at Iran


After only a month in power, President Biden has used lethal military force in reaction to Iranian-sponsored attacks on Americans in Iraq.

The strike, said to be by F-15 jets, apparently attacked buildings owned by Iraqi Shiite militia groups along the Iraqi-Syrian border. It’s worth pausing to note that those Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite groups and not the government of Iraq control that part of the border. In other words, Iran and its proxies control a route from Iraq through Syria to Lebanon, where the largest Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, is situated. The borders have been erased.

The Biden strike is a message to Iran, a warning shot against continuing attacks by the militias Tehran backs. According to press reports, Biden was presented with a range of options and chose one of the softest — a limited strike inside Syria rather than Iraq.

There is a logic to this choice. First, U.S. attacks inside Iraq would likely complicate life for Prime Minister Kadhimi, whom we are generally supporting, and spur the forces hostile to any U.S. presence — not least the Iranian-allied militias — to demand that all U.S. forces be expelled. Second, should further Iranian-sponsored attacks require Biden to hit Iranian-backed forces again, this limited strike allows him to say he tried patience and restraint and they failed.

Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene

by Caitlin Flanagan

“Next it’ll be a heliport,” said a member of the local land-use committee after the school’s most recent remodel, which added two floors—and 12,000 square feet—to one of its four buildings, in order to better prepare students “for the exciting world they will inherit.” Today Dalton; tomorrow the world itself.

So it was a misstep when Jim Best, the head of school—relatively new, and with a salary of $700,000—said that Dalton parents couldn’t have something they wanted. The school would not hold in-person classes in the fall. This might have gone over better if the other elite Manhattan schools were doing the same. But Trinity was opening. Ditto the fearsome girls’ schools: Brearley, Nightingale-Bamford, Chapin, Spence.

How long could the Dalton parent—the $54,000-a-kid Dalton parent—watch her children slip behind their co-equals? More to the point, how long could she be expected to open The New York Times and see articles about one of the coronavirus pandemic’s most savage inequalities: that private schools were allowed to open when so many public schools were closed, their students withering in front of computer screens and suffering all manner of neglect?

The Dalton parent is not supposed to be on the wrong side of a savage inequality. She is supposed to care about savage inequalities; she is supposed to murmur sympathetically about savage inequalities while scanning the news, her gentle concern muffled by the jet-engine roar of her morning blowout. But she isn’t supposed to fall victim to one.

In early October, stern emails began arriving in Best’s inbox. A group of 20 physicians with children at the school wrote that they were “frustrated and confused and better hope to understand the school’s thought processes behind the virtual model it has adopted.” This was not a group with a high tolerance for frustration. “Please tell us what are the criteria for re-opening fully in person,” they wrote. And they dropped heavy artillery: “From our understanding, several of our peer schools are not just surviving but thriving.”

How Biden Can Make the Quad Endure


On March 12, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden and three counterparts will virtually convene the first ever summit-level meeting of the Quadrilateral framework (or Quad)—a forum composed of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. This once-informal group has become more formalized in recent years, but it has been hampered by its lack of a clear functional agenda. And the group is unlikely to cohere, much less endure, without one.

To succeed, the Quad needs to evolve from a China-focused club of four to a group of first movers on an array of specific functional challenges. The best way to do this is for the four countries to form the core of a rotating set of problem-solving coalitions in the Indo-Pacific. This rotating roster would always include the Quad countries but would also pull in other regional partners on an ad hoc and issue-by-issue basis, depending on which countries bring the most capacity—and will—to the table.


The Quad began nearly seventeen years ago with a joint response to a tangible and urgent crisis, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. For nine days in December 2004 and January 2005, these four countries’ navies provided rapid and effective relief to injured and displaced people all around the Indian Ocean littoral.

How a Post-Trump America Can Support Democracy Abroad

Thomas Carothers, Frances Z. Brown

As President Joe Biden and his team seek to revitalize U.S. support for democracy globally, they face an ugly reality: the image of U.S. democracy has been profoundly tarnished in the eyes of the world. Of course, for years the United States was hardly an unblemished democratic exemplar, whether because of dark money in U.S. politics, legislative gridlock, or weak election administration—not to mention deeper sociopolitical deficits like racial injustice, mass incarceration, and acute economic inequality. But the political horror shows of the last four years—culminating in the riotous January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, incited by an American President trying to subvert a legitimate election—drove America’s democratic standing to a new low.

The damage undercuts the power of the American example at a moment when global debates are surging over the relative merits of democracy versus alternative political models. It weakens appeals from U.S. officials to foreign counterparts to respect democratic norms. It burdens U.S. democracy engagement with doubts from many prospective partners about both America’s basic democratic capability and legitimacy.

How should the Biden Administration take account of this marred domestic political reality as it sets out to renew U.S. international democracy support? A common refrain among commentators is that before supporting democracy internationally, the United States must first get its own democratic house in order. That’s an appealing idea, but not very useful advice. To be sure, the United States must engage—as the new administration has promised to do—in serious domestic political reform. But in areas like election administration, campaign financing, and gerrymandering, the problems to be addressed will be with us for many years. Are we supposed to simply stop supporting democracy worldwide in the meantime?

Getting the Quad Right Is Biden’s Most Important Job


On March 12, U.S. President Joe Biden will lead
the first Quadrilateral Security Dialogue talks with the leaders of Australia, India, and Japan. Making the Quad work could be Biden’s most important task in Asia but doing so requires a specific agenda that builds on shared goals. And it’s not just about China—it’s about getting Asia right.

Biden faces a resurgent China, more confident than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. That will make it harder to deal with a host of challenges in Asia, from maritime security to North Korea. In the face of such risks, the Biden administration is right to continue former U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to reinvigorate the group.

The Quad can play an important role in countering Beijing’s “might makes right” foreign policy, but it has a bigger role than that. Never envisioned as a formal alliance, the group is more an aspiration that is grounded in common interests among the most important democracies in Asia. And it offers the best opportunity to lead a robust values-based partnership in the Indo-Pacific for those democracies and other like-minded nations.

The four Quad countries first acted collectively in response to the devastating 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, providing disaster response aid in Indonesia in particular. The Japanese prime minister proposed a more formal Quad plan during his first term as premier in 2006. Yet the shortness of Abe’s first stint in office as well as concern by Canberra and New Delhi over alienating China led to little action beyond a 2007 meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ASEAN) and a naval exercise in September that year.

With Lula Back, Is Brazil’s Center Doomed?

Frida Ghitis

The news hit Brazil like an earthquake. Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, widely known as Lula, was suddenly free to run for president in next year’s election. That was the principal, if potentially reversible, result of a surprising decision issued Monday by a Brazilian Supreme Court judge, tossing out criminal corruption cases against the iconic leftist leader. The 2022 presidential race has now taken on a dramatic new player who poses a major threat to the reelection of Brazil’s controversial far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

The court ruling, which still faces possible challenges, sets the stage for an extraordinarily divisive election next year, with two personalities whose political views are polar opposites and who each inspire their own passionate supporters. Brazil has spent years in the grip of political acrimony, and the next election is all but certain to make it much worse.

The conventional wisdom is that the presence of Lula and Bolsonaro on the ballot all but forecloses the possibility that a centrist candidate could emerge victorious. But the conventional wisdom could be wrong. Brazilian voters, not unlike those in the United States, are exhausted from headline-grabbing, outrage-inducing, family-splitting political leaders. Just as the long-time centrist Joe Biden might have seemed too moderate and too low-key to take on Donald Trump last year, the appeal of a calm, steady hand during a time of crisis in Brazil could yet surprise the pundits.

Host of challenges await next Pentagon CIO

Andrew Eversden

The list of IT issues awaiting the U.S. Defense Department’s next chief information officer is filled with pressing concerns to harness the power of emerging technologies and defend the military against those capabilities.

On that list:
Reevaluate the department’s cybersecurity approach, which has come under question after a major federal government hack.
Potentially decide whether to take a new tact with cloud services for the DoD, if a plan for an enterprise-wide cloud doesn’t survive a court challenge.
Change how employees think about data, securing acceptance for stricter controls to keep it safe and the pushing them to view it as a strategic resource.

Those all tie back to a 2019 digital modernization strategy outlining how the Pentagon will optimize its IT environment for future wars. Implementation must be the priority for the CIO that President Joe Biden will choose, or the DoD risks being unprepared for fights against near-peer adversaries, experts told C4ISRNET.

“That strategy … needs to be our North Star because I know we got it right, in terms of the areas we laid out. But we must get to the nitty gritty of implementation and get it right,” said acting CIO John Sherman, who served three years as intelligence community CIO before jumping last summer to Pentagon deputy CIO.

More work needed to integrate cyber and information ops, former official says

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense needs to do more to align cyberspace and emerging operations within the larger information environment, according to a former top cyber official.

“If cyber as a domain is in its adolescence, then information is surely in its infancy,” Thomas Wingfield, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy in the Trump administration, said March 4 during U.S. Cyber Command’s legal conference.

When he took over in November 2019, he said his third policy priority for the job was to help integrate cyber and information as doctrines and domains, however, this is “so far from resolution.”

Wingfield noted that adversaries see information and cyber as a coherent whole and are moving forward with speed and confidence.

While information warfare has been around for decades, the scale and scope has been amplified by the global nature of cyberspace, affording adversaries not only a global reach, but a much more tailored approach.

Congress saw gaps and charged DoD to designate a person — the principal information operations adviser — to counsel the defense secretary on information operations.

Space Is a Great Commons. It’s Time to Treat It as Such.


Traditionally, commons are areas beyond state dominion that host finite resources available to all (like the oceans) or that provide non-excludable global benefits (like the atmosphere). Outer space is no different, though some dispute this fact. Beyond micrometeoroids, the only natural resource in near-Earth space is the volume of Earth orbits themselves. Space is available for all to use, and states and commercial enterprises use satellites in Earth orbits to deliver agricultural, educational, financial, and security benefits to communities around the globe.

Yet not all leading space powers have endorsed the concept of outer space as a great commons. The United States has not consistently considered space to be a commons. Former president Donald Trump’s administration repeatedly rejected this position, explicitly stating that “the United States does not view [space] as a global commons,” a sentiment reiterated by Congress. This view was a departure from the position of former president Barack Obama’s administration, which reflected a commitment to “safeguarding the global commons . . . to optimize the use of shared sea, air, and space domains.” Meanwhile, other significant space-faring states and organizations recognize space as a commons, including China, which has used the phrase a “global public domain.”

Benjamin Silverstein is a research analyst for the Space Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The failure to manage Earth orbits as a commons undermines safety and predictability, exposing space operators to growing risks such as collisions with other satellites and debris. The long-standing debris problem has been building for decades and demands an international solution.



This article, the first in a series on digital defense, will look at how the United States should bring tech experts and the innovative ideas they develop into the Department of Defense at an accelerated rate, and why those innovations should be shared with allies. It will be followed by stories on how safety science can inform the use of artificial intelligence in the military, and on how the Army’s 1941 Louisiana Maneuvers can be a model for virtual training of the armed forces today to face future conflicts, not past wars.

The world stands on the brink of a new way of war, as digital technology takes over the military just like it has taken over entire industries in the civilian sector — the retail business, financial services, and the media. Companies that have not embraced software are being leapfrogged and left behind. In the military this can be a matter of life or death. Both of the writers of this story have seen in our careers the consequences of relying on antiquated systems from past wars: soldiers reduced to using paper maps in combat in Afghanistan because they had no functioning digital mapping, servicemembers in Afghanistan blown up in vehicles lacking state-of-the-art protection, soldiers badly injured in Iraq by Islamic State drones dropping grenades on them because they lacked simple electronic jamming devices to stop them. It is not that the technologies to deal with these problems did not exist — all were available in the private sector. They simply didn’t exist in the military when and where they were needed. Nor is it just a question of updating technology. To be able to fight the wars of the future, the military should come to see itself as a software-enabled enterprise.

A ‘Crazy Huge’ Hack


Last week, the U.S. government announced that hackers had broken into Microsoft’s Exchange email service in January, targeting thousands of government agencies and businesses across the country. Since then, alarm has only grown as the true scale and scope of the attack has come into focus.

The number of suspected targets now dwarfs even those victimized during last year’s massive SolarWinds attack, the breach of security software used by scores of government agencies. While the perpetrators of SolarWinds are thought to be Russian, this time China has emerged as the prime suspect. But just what were the attackers after, and what can be done to stop the next hack before it occurs?

To get answers to these and other questions, FP’s editor at large Jonathan Tepperman spoke on Tuesday with Chris Krebs, who led the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency from 2018 to November 2020 (when he was fired by then-President Donald Trump for disputing Trump’s claims of election fraud). Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Jonathan Tepperman: Last Friday, you wrote on Twitter that the Microsoft Exchange attack was “a crazy huge hack” and said that “the sheer scale and speed” were terrifying. What have we learned since then, and what do we know about what’s going on?

Get US ‘AI Ready’ By 2025: JAIC’s Lt. Gen. Groen, NSCAI’s McFarland


WASHINGTON: What’s the most significant challenge to getting the Defense Department ready for AI? It’s the idea held by many that “AI is some future thing,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, head of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. AI is already here, he said. “If we want AI to be our future, then AI has to be our present.”

Groen currently leads to the DoD’s JAIC, which he characterized as a “do tank” in a town of think tanks. JAIC currently leads implementation and integration of AI across all departments of the DoD. Groen admitted it’s “an enormous challenge” and that it “takes time to turn this big defense ship.” One of JAIC’s goals is to “get the transformation to occur faster, accelerate it.”

Groen’s comments came during a virtual event on Wednesday. Katharina McFarland, a member of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, was the other panelist.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Groen and McFarland talked about what’s necessary to get the nation “AI ready” by 2025, which was a key finding in the NSCAI’s recently released final report.

Approximately half of NSCAI’s final recommendations focus on defense. “We’re already working on two-thirds of them,” Groen said, adding that partnerships with the U.S. domestic private sector and academia are important in pursuing JAIC’s defense-focused AI goals.