26 March 2021

Armenian-Azerbaijani Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh: Geopolitical Implications

 Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd), Consultant, VIF 

The geostrategic sensitive region of region of Nagorno-Karabakh lies at an intersection of political, ethnic and religious borders of Iran, Turkey, Russia and Georgia. On September 27, 2020 the war broke out with Azerbaijan launching an offensive retake Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding previously Azerbaijani-populated regions. The war was won by Azerbaijan.

Russia brokered a peace deal with Armenia and Azerbaijan agreeing to a Russian-mediated settlement to end the six-week war. The cease-fire is seen as a victory in Azerbaijan and as a capitulation in Armenia. Russia’s leading role in stopping the fighting also shows that Moscow continues to be the most influential player in the southern Caucasus.

This monograph provides the background of the conflict, its geopolitical dimensions, details of the cease fire deal and the role of different stakeholders in this conflict.  

Isro demonstrates quantum comm tech; to extend it to Sats next

Chethan Kumar 

BENGALURU: In the first step towards developing quantum satellite technology, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) late last week successfully demonstrated a technology 
enabling secure communication between two buildings that were 300 metres apart using free-space quantum communication technology.

“This is a major breakthrough for SAC (space applications centre) engineers who have demonstrated quantum communication between two buildings on March 19. Today, advanced computers can break encryption and future strategic communication will need quantum communication. Every country will need this and we have demonstrated it,” Sivan

said.The technology will be useful for a range of strategic sectors ranging from defence to digital money transactions, among other things and Isro has plans for extending this to satellites as well.

Just last month, a team led by Prof Urbasi Sinha had demonstrated a similar technology that was developed as part of the Quantum Experiments using Satellite Technology (QuEST) project. In that case, the communication was between two structures that were only 50 metres apart.

Information Bedlam: Russian and Chinese Information Operations During Covid-19

Edward Lucas

The covid-19 public health crisis involves more than a fight against the coronavirus. It has prompted an information war in which the United States and its allies are losing ground to adversaries, particularly Russia and China. While the pandemic enables disruption of the information environment, it also presents a research opportunity. Based on a literature review through January 2021, evaluated at an expert seminar, this policy brief provides a baseline analysis of changing tactics, narratives, and distribution strategies in Russian and Chinese information operations (IOs) relating to the covid-19 pandemic.

Key findings:

China copied Russia’s tactics, spreading disinformation globally for the first time, particularly on the virus’s origins. But it lacks Russia’s skillset;

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) turned to destructive and conspiratorial narratives in an attempt to blunt criticism of its initial failure to contain covid-19;

China’s previous approach built economic ties and influence with political elites, whereas Russia’s lies and disruption targeted broader public opinion;1

Russia’s approach evolved little; it recycled previous narratives, spreading a broad range of covid-19 disinformation;

Evidence supports the theory that Russia seeks to strengthen itself in relative terms by weakening the West, while China seeks to strengthen itself in absolute terms;

Collaboration agreements between state media and circular amplification of narratives during the pandemic do not (yet) amount to evidence of strategic Sino-Russian coordination; and
Covid-19 disinformation has not only hampered public health provision, it makes societies more vulnerable to future IOs.


Europe Can Play a Role in a Conflict Over Taiwan. Will It?

Antoine Bondaz, Bruno Tertrais 

In early February, France revealed that one of its nuclear-powered attack submarines had completed a mission in the South China Sea. The rare announcement, two years after the passage of the frigate Vendemiaire through the Taiwan Strait, was a clear signal of a growing French, but also European, interest in the sensitive region.

European awareness of its strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific is a slow train coming. Even for France and the U.K.—which, as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and nuclear powers with a tradition of power projection, have long been interested in East Asia—there has been a quantum leap in recent years in their appetite for involvement in the region

What’s Next for U.S.-China Military Relations?

By Robert D. Williams 

Thursday's high-level meeting between American and Chinese diplomats in Alaska confirmed that for the foreseeable future, “competition” will be the defining paradigm in U.S.-China relations. But the meeting also highlighted that the two sides are seeking to identify areas where cooperation can proceed alongside competition. One area that Washington and Beijing might look to is updating bilateral risk reduction and crisis management mechanisms. It’s a particularly ripe sphere for modest, practical steps the two governments can pursue to promote safety and prevent miscalculation in waters where their forces are increasingly operating in proximity. Closing the loopholes that currently leave some of the most important players out of existing safety protocols would be a useful first step.

Maritime Crisis Management and China’s “White Hulls” and “Blue Hulls”

Amid an increase in the frequency and intensity of Chinese and American military operations in maritime East Asia, an array of commentators have argued that there is an urgent need for the United States and China to work together to improve bilateral crisis avoidance and communication mechanisms. Nowhere is this need more evident than in the contested waters of the South China Sea and East China Sea. The recent history of U.S.-China military dialogues offers little cause for optimism about the potential for a near-term breakthrough.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration has an early opportunity to test the sincerity of China’s professed desire to prevent and manage the risks of conflict. As an initial good-faith step, Washington and Beijing should work to supplement existing maritime safety protocols to include non-naval vessels such as coast guards and maritime militias.

Chip shortage could present new US-China flashpoint


A supply-chain disruption to one of the world’s most essential technological products is quickly becoming the flashpoint for global tensions. The fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has not just hit international markets in unprecedented magnitudes but has also affected market dynamics in almost unprecedented ways.

Originating in China, the novel coronavirus hit East Asia first. This had a massive impact on business operations in the region, from manufacturing to shipping. But by far the most important consequence of this phenomenon, and the one the world continues to reel from today, was the disruption it inflicted on the global supply of semiconductor chips.

For months now, the world has slowly been inching toward the most severe shortage of these vital devices ever experienced. Companies across industries, from mobile-phone producers to automobile manufacturers, are speaking out on the danger this trend is posing to global production.

While many fields of manufacturing were able to recover – some relatively quickly – from the shock to the system triggered by lockdowns and travel restrictions, chip production has not seen this same comeback.

The US and China finally get real with each other

Thomas Wright

Thursday night’s very public dustup between United States and Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, during the Biden administration’s first official meeting with China, may have seemed like a debacle, but the exchange was actually a necessary step to a more stable relationship between the two countries.

In his brief opening remarks before the press, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan would discuss “our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, and economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.”

Blinken’s comments seemed to catch the Chinese off guard. The last Strategic & Economic Dialogue of the Obama administration, in 2016, began with a conciliatory message from then–Secretary of State John Kerry and resulted in a declaration identifying 120 different areas of cooperation.

In response to Blinken, China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, said that because Blinken had “delivered some quite different opening remarks, mine will be slightly different as well.” He spoke for 16 minutes, blowing through the two-minute limit agreed upon in torturous pre-meeting negotiations over protocol. “Many people within the United States,” he said, “actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States.” He went on to say that “China has made steady progress in human rights, and the fact is that there are many problems within the United States regarding human rights.” He also took aim at U.S. foreign policy: “I think the problem is that the United States has exercised long-arm jurisdiction and suppression and overstretched the national security through the use of force or financial hegemony, and this has created obstacles for normal trade activities, and the United States has also been persuading some countries to launch attacks on China.”

China’s Belt and Road: Implications for the United States

Jennifer Hillman and David Sacks

“The Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy undertaking and the world’s largest infrastructure program, poses a significant challenge to U.S. economic, political, climate change, security, and global health interests.”

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy undertaking and the world’s largest infrastructure program, poses a significant challenge to U.S. economic, political, climate change, security, and global health interests. Since BRI’s launch in 2013, Chinese banks and companies have financed and built everything from power plants, railways, highways, and ports to telecommunications infrastructure, fiber-optic cables, and smart cities around the world. If implemented sustainably and responsibly, BRI has the potential to meet long-standing developing country needs and spur global economic growth. To date, however, the risks for both the United States and recipient countries raised by BRI’s implementation considerably outweigh its benefits.

BRI was initially designed to connect China’s modern coastal cities to its underdeveloped interior and to its Southeast, Central, and South Asian neighbors, cementing China’s position at the center of a more connected world. The initiative has since outgrown its original regional corridors, expanding to all corners of the globe. Its scope now includes a Digital Silk Road intended to improve recipients’ telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence capabilities, cloud computing, e-commerce and mobile payment systems, surveillance technology, and other high-tech areas, along with a Health Silk Road designed to operationalize China’s vision of global health governance.1 Hundreds of projects around the world now fall under the BRI umbrella.

Assessing China's Digital Silk Road Initiative

As part of China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the biggest infrastructure undertaking in the world, Beijing has launched the Digital Silk Road (DSR). Announced in 2015 with a loose mandate, the DSR has become a significant part of Beijing’s overall BRI strategy, under which China provides aid, political support, and other assistance to recipient states. DSR also provides support to Chinese exporters, including many well-known Chinese technology companies, such as Huawei. The DSR assistance goes toward improving recipients’ telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence capabilities, cloud computing, e-commerce and mobile payment systems, surveillance technology, smart cities, and other high-tech areas.

China has already signed agreements on DSR cooperation with, or provided DSR-related investment to, at least sixteen countries [PDF]. But the true number of agreements and investments is likely much larger, because many of these go unreported: memoranda of understanding (MOUs) do not necessarily show whether China and another country have embarked upon close cooperation in the digital sphere. Some estimates suggest that one-third of the countries participating in BRI—138 at this point—are cooperating on DSR projects. In Africa, for instance, China already provides more financing for information and communications technology than all multilateral agencies and leading democracies combined do across the continent.

China’s Approach to Global Governance

For more than two millennia, monarchs who ruled China proper saw their country as one of the dominant actors in the world. The concept of zhongguo—the Middle Kingdom, as China calls itself—is not simply geographic. It implies that China is the cultural, political, and economic center of the world. This Sino-centrist worldview has in many ways shaped China’s outlook on global governance—the rules, norms, and institutions that regulate international cooperation. The decline and collapse of imperial China in the 1800s and early 1900s, however, diminished Chinese influence on the global stage for more than a century.

In the past two decades, China has reemerged as a major power, with the world’s second largest economy and a world-class military. It increasingly asserts itself, seeking to regain its centrality in the international system and over global governance institutions.

These institutions, created mostly by Western powers after World War II, include the World Bank, which provides loans and grants to developing states; the International Monetary Fund, which works to secure the stability of the global monetary system; and the United Nations, among others. President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has called for China to “lead the reform of the global governance system,” transforming institutions and norms in ways that will reflect Beijing’s values and priorities.

Center for Complex Operations (CCO)

Natural Hazards and National Security: The COVID-19 Lessons

The Military in the Time of COVID-19: Versatile, Vulnerable, and Vindicating

China and America: A New Game in a New Era

China and America: From Trade War to Race and Culture Confrontation

Time for a New National Innovation System for Security and Prosperity

Iran’s Gray Zone Strategy: Cornerstone of its Asymmetric Way of War

A Friend to All is a Friend to None: Analysis of Russian Strategy in the Middle East

Negotiating [Im]plausible Deniability: Strategic Guidelines for U.S. Engagement in Modern Indirect Warfare

“GeoEconomics and the Emerging World Order: The Power of the U.S. Dollar”: Interview with the Honorable Jacob J. Lew

The European Union, Cybersecurity, and the Financial Sector: A Primer


In recent years Europe has put an intense focus on legislation concerning information and communication technology (ICT) and cybersecurity for the European financial sector. With compliance being one of the main drivers for cyber resilience, a prudent and consistent regulatory strategy can help to ensure the necessary baseline in security across the financial sector to mitigate institutional and systemic risk. This paper presents a comprehensive overview of the current European regulatory landscape for the financial sector concerning ICT risk and cybersecurity, evaluates the future plans of the European Commission (EC) in this field, and provides recommendations to advance and complement the planned initiatives with the objective to achieve a consistent, effective, and comprehensive legislative landscape for the European financial sector.

The current European regulatory landscape for ICT and cyber risk for the financial sector is multilayered and complex. There exists not one major European cybersecurity legislation for the financial services sector, but rather a multitude of different European and national regulations and sector-specific standards. Financial institutions must adhere to critical infrastructure regulations, general European legislation surrounding topics like data protection, and specific financial sector regulation and standards. These sector-specific standards are further divided into the different subsectors of the financial sector, such as banking and payments, insurance and reinsurance, and financial market infrastructures. Moreover, most European standards do not apply directly to all member states, but rather must be transposed into national legislation, creating further fragmentation and difference.

Lessons from Stealth for Emerging Technologies

Peter Westwick

Stealth technology was one of the most decisive developments in military aviation in the last 50 years. With U.S. technological leadership now under challenge, especially from China, this issue brief derives several lessons from the history of Stealth to guide current policymakers. The example of Stealth shows how the United States produced one critical technology in the past and how it might produce others today.Download Full Report


On the moonless night of January 17, 1991, seven aircraft appeared in the skies over Baghdad. The aircraft were F-117As, better known as Stealth fighters, and they were part of the opening salvo of Operation Desert Storm. Iraq had a formidable radar-based air defense system, but its defenses could not detect the F-117s. Stealth aircraft decimated Iraqi targets during the Gulf War, and no Stealth aircraft were shot down.

Stealth technology—the ability to reduce an aircraft’s radar signature by several orders of magnitude—is one of the most important developments in military aviation in the last 50 years. Stealth gave the United States overwhelming air superiority; instead of needing dozens of aircraft to strike a single defended target, a single Stealth aircraft could destroy multiple targets. Stealth’s performance in the Gulf War also demonstrated U.S. technological preeminence. If the United States could make aircraft undetectable by radar, what else could it do? Stealth represented a gauntlet thrown down to potential economic and military competitors: they would have to match the United States’ seemingly boundless ability to generate new technologies or fall behind.

In Syria, US Commanders Hold the Line — and Wait for Biden


NEAR DERIK, SYRIA — On a bright blue afternoon in February, troops from the Louisiana National Guard load into up-armored vehicles in America’s true forgotten war. The trucks rumble out of a bare-bones base in the seeming middle of nowhere, heading to a small village named Hemzebeg on what the military refers to as a “presence patrol.”

Several weeks earlier, an apocryphal meme claiming President Joe Biden had “invaded” Syria proliferated across right-wing social media channels. In reality, U.S. forces here are carrying out a mission inherited across three administrations that, at least for now, seems poised to continue in perpetuity. But the popularity of the online conspiracy made clear that for some Americans, the roughly 900 troops former President Donald Trump bequeathed Biden are lost in the backlands of a frozen conflict, out of sight and out of mind.

American special operations forces here are prosecuting the fight against what’s left of ISIS. They are supported by conventional troops like those in Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, whose patrols are keeping the roads safe and clear.

Having Survived Trump, What’s Next for Multilateralism?

The United Nations’ ability to carry out its mission has been severely constrained in recent years by its member states. And many of its agencies are now facing funding shortages that could severely curtail their work. In fact, multilateralism of all stripes is under strain, from the International Criminal Court to the World Trade Organization—to the World Health Organization.

The United Nations is perhaps the most prominent manifestation of an international order built on balancing sovereign equality with great-power politics in a bid to maintain international peace. But its capacity to do that—and to meet its other objectives, which include protecting human rights and delivering aid—have been severely constrained in recent years by its member states.

The real power in the U.N. lies with the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council—the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France. And they have used their positions to limit the institution’s involvement in major recent conflicts, including civil wars in Syria and Yemen. Beyond the Security Council, the U.N. has sprouted additional specialized agencies to address specific issues—health, women’s rights and refugees, among others—that have met with varied degrees of success. In some instances, they have been able to galvanize global action around urgent goals, like UNAIDS’ work curbing the international AIDS crisis. But many of those agencies are now also facing funding shortages that could severely curtail their work, not least the World Health Organization, which is leading the global coronavirus response.

Overcoming Water Scarcity Naturally


GLAND – Humanity’s consumption of fresh water has long exceeded the rate of replenishment. Now, researchers are warning that this essential natural resource is running out. If we are to reverse this trend, investing in natural solutions is our best hope.

Less than 1% of all water on Earth is accessible or usable fresh water. Most is held in inland wetlands, including rivers, lakes, marshes, peatlands, and underground aquifers. These wetlands are nature’s water harvesters, cleaners, and bankers. By capturing, purifying, and storing rain and floodwater before releasing it when needed, they enable the global water cycle that ensures a constant supply.

Worldwide, wetlands’ full integration into water planning and management across all economic sectors would bring far-reaching benefits. Sufficient water supplies could stimulate economic growth, reduce conflict, and relieve environmental stress. But that requires significant sustained investment to meet surging demand.

Consumption of fresh water has increased sixfold over the last 100 years, and demand is still rising, with agriculture, industry, and energy accounting for 90% of the total. At least 55% more water will be required by 2050 to meet the demand created by economic growth, urbanization, and a global population of nearly ten billion people.

Chernobyl: A Nuclear Accident That Changed the Course of History. Then Came Fukushima.

Mariana Budjeryn

Editor’s note: This article is part of a collection of expert commentary on nuclear safety published on the tenth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, produced in a collaboration between the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard Kennedy School and the Bulletin.

On April 26, 1986, during a planned safety system test at Chernobyl Power Plant’s Unit 4 that involved an electricity shutdown, a series of operator errors led to the meltdown of the graphite-moderated RBMK-type reactor core. Since the reactor was not protected by a containment chamber, the resulting steam explosion tore through the roof of the Unit 4 and rained chunks of fuel rods and radioactive graphite on the surroundings. The fires, spewing clouds of radioactive smoke into the atmosphere, raged for over a week.

Chernobyl still stands for the world’s worst nuclear accident. The full impact of a nuclear disaster on this scale is difficult to compute, not least because the effects that count most are often those that are most difficult to count. Beyond the number of lives lost and people displaced, beyond the money spent on accident mitigation and remediation, there are long-term health, environmental, social, economic, and political consequences that defy quantification. Thirty-five years on, we are still grappling with the full extent of Chernobyl’s impact on the world. Yet in a very real sense, we live in a world shaped by Chernobyl.

Why investing in nature is key to climate mitigation

A new consultation paper from McKinsey and the World Economic Forum explores the role that natural climate solutions can play in helping to address climate change and the destruction of nature.

As the world looks beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, a consensus is emerging: certain measures to curb the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions will be central to global economic recovery. Awareness is also growing around the urgent need to slow the destruction of the natural world, and it is becoming clear that the two environmental crises—a changing climate and nature loss—are inextricably linked and compounding.

Natural climate solutions (NCS)—conservation, restoration, and land-management actions that increase carbon storage and avoid greenhouse-gas emissions—offer a way to address both crises and to increase resilience as the climate changes. In fact, as argued in a new paper produced by McKinsey in partnership with the World Economic Forum, there is no clear path to deliver climate mitigation without investing in nature. Climate action requires both the reduction of emissions and the removal of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. NCS can help with both, starting today.

The Cybersecurity Risks of Smart City Technologies: What Do The Experts Think?

A new report by an interdisciplinary team of scholars from the University of California, Berkeley aims to help local-level policymakers better understand how cybersecurity risks vary among different “smart city” technologies. The Cybersecurity Risks of Smart City Technologies: What Do The Experts Think? presents results from a 2020 survey in which 76 cybersecurity experts ranked different technologies according to underlying technical vulnerabilities, their attractiveness to potential attackers, and the potential impact of a successful serious cyberattack.

“According to our survey, not all smart city technologies pose equal risks,” the authors wrote. “Cybersecurity experts judged emergency alerts, street video surveillance, and smart traffic signals to be riskier than other technologies in our study. Local officials should therefore consider whether cyber-risks outweigh the potential gains of technology adoption on a case-by-case basis, and exercise particular caution when technologies are both vulnerable in technical terms and constitute attractive targets to capable potential attackers because the impacts of an attack are likely to be great.”

The authors of the report include Karen Trapenberg Frick, Associate Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning; Giselle Mendonça Abreu, PhD Candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning; Nathan Malkin, PhD Candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (and recipient of the 2020 Cal Cybersecurity Fellowship); Alexandra Pan, a PhD Student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Alison E. Post, Associate Professor of Political Science and Global Metropolitan Studies. The research was supported by the CLTC Grants Program.

Are commercial satellites used for intelligence-gathering in attack planning targetable?


If a commercial satellite company supplies photo intelligence used by a customer-nation to launch attacks on the forces of another country, what might the targeted forces do, consistent with international law, to stop such space-based intelligence-gathering? Does international law provide rules in such circumstances?

These are not mere academic questions. Prior to its January 8, 2020 missile attack on Iraq’s Al Assad Air Base (where hundreds of U.S. troops and dozens of aircraft were hosted), the “Iranians monitored [the base] by purchasing photos…taken by commercial satellites” – according to a “60 Minutes” report aired last Sunday.

Evidently, the commercial satellite imagery was key to the planning of the attack that, it seems, Iranians hoped would kill scores of Americans and destroy dozens of aircraft.

Accordingly, could the U.S. have, for example, lawfully attacked that intelligence source in order to deny it to Iranian strike planners? Like so many other issues we see on Lawfire ®, the answer is more complicated than it may seem, so let’s unpack the question a bit by starting with some context.

The military value of commercial satellite imagery

There is a huge market for satellite imagery, as there are many civilian purposes for which it can be used. In fact, worldwide, the “commercial satellite imaging market was valued at USD 3.09 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 5.75 billion by 2025.” For its part, Iran has sought commercial satellite imagery for some time. For example, in 2016 the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran was taking steps to lease or buy satellite services.

Beyond civilian uses, commercial satellites can provide much militarily-useful imagery. In a 2019 report CBS News said the current resolution and quality of satellite photos is such that “U.S. military officers could use commercial satellites for 90 percent of the intelligence they need.”

It is not surprising then that many nations-including the U.S.-are using commercial satellite imagery in their defense enterprise. In fact, last June, press reports indicated that commercial satellite imagery purchases by the U.S.’ National Reconnaissance Office “could reach $400 million by 2023.”

DoD’s Own Bureaucracy Top Barrier To Winning Spectrum Back


WASHINGTON: The Defense Department’s bureaucracy is the main barrier to implementing much-needed capabilities advancement in the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), even as adversaries “aggressively pursue” their own.

“The consequences of getting this wrong could be disastrous,” HASC Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Elise Stefanik observed.

The failure to advance beyond “Cold War capabilities” has occurred despite three comprehensive DoD EMS strategies developed over the past eight years. The latest strategy, finished just months ago, might face the same fate amid DoD bureaucratic morass unless something changes, warned the Government Accountability Office.

The fresh warnings arrive even as many recognize the urgency of this initiative and its importance to the entire military. There was unanimous agreement among experts and lawmakers that the EMS is “the most important environment to modern warfare,” as Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Bryan Clark put it. Yet, he said, EMS remains the “most unheralded warfighting space” within the US defense community.

The EMS enables a broad range of military capabilities, from communications, signals intelligence, and command & control to sensing, navigation, and targeting. Despite its key role in integrating battle networks and the fact everyone uses it every day, “In many ways,” Clark said, “it’s the forgotten domain because we can’t feel it like the land or experience it like we do cyberspace on the computer.”

William Conley, former director for electronic warfare in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the US has persistently failed to elevate EMS to a strategic level versus viewing it as a “capability to achieve tactical outcomes.”

In a cyberattack disaster, DoD needs backup squad to fix networks, restart critical systems

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — With a growing number of cyber breaches, lawmakers and outside experts are pushing to increase the role of the National Guard and National Reserve if a catastrophic cyberattack were to occur.

The idea is to create a special cyber reserve force for crises, and to do a better job of using the cyber expertise of Guard members. These recommendations come from the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission, created by Congress in 2019 to develop a multipronged U.S. cyber strategy to prevent a so-called cyber 9/11. Now, the Defense Department must evaluate the cyber reserve idea and clarify how the state-focused Guard could help with significant federal cyber events, as ordered by the 2021 defense policy law.

In such an emergency, malicious cyber actors may have attacked the power grid, for example, to cut large swaths of electricity, which could be deadly in some weather. Department of Defense cyber warriors, strained by increasing military network threats and new duties defending election integrity, would be further stressed during a potential doomsday scenario.

If the worst happens, cyber Guard and Reserve troops — many with beneficial skills from civilian jobs at the nations’ top cyber firms — could help repair networks, fight intruders and get systems running again. But not without changes.

AI-Controlled F-16s Are Now Working As A Team In DARPA's Virtual Dogfights


The goal of bringing artificial intelligence into the air-to-air dogfighting arena has moved a step closer with a series of simulated tests that pitted AI-controlled F-16 fighter jets working as a team against an opponent. The experiments were part of Phase 1 of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program, focused on exploring how AI and machine learning may help automate various aspects of air-to-air combat.

DARPA announced recently that it’s halfway through Phase 1 of ACE and that simulated AI dogfights under the so-called Scrimmage 1 took place at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) last month.

Using a simulation environment designed by APL, Scrimmage 1 involved a demonstration of 2-v-1 simulated engagements with two blue force (friendly) F-16s working collaboratively to defeat an undisclosed enemy red air (enemy) aircraft.

In the words of DARPA, the ambitious ACE program aims to develop “trusted, scalable, human-level, AI-driven autonomy for air combat by using human-machine collaborative dogfighting as its challenge problem.”

Army participates in first-of-its-kind cyber exercise

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — For the first time, Army leaders combined two exercises to test emerging cyber technology needs in a more real-world tactical environment.

This year, Cyber Quest — an annual demonstration of emerging technology needs at Fort Gordon —was conducted in concert with the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment at Fort Benning. The event is designed to test new concepts and technologies for multidomain battle focused at lower echelons, such as company and below.

Army officials explained that combining the two events more closely aligns to the Army and Department of Defense’s push toward multidomain operations.

“As we move toward multidomain operations … and we look at competition below the level of armed conflict, maneuvering very often will likely send a message as much as it will execute kinetic effects,” Maj. Gen. Neil Hersey, commander of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence, told reporters March 15. “Bringing those two things closer together supports multidomain operations.”

Goodbye, tanks: How the Marine Corps will change, and what it will lose, by ditching its armor

Todd South

One year ago, the top Marine announced the first ­official steps of a major Marine Corps overhaul to shift to a ­Navy-centric warfighting role that would see many changes.

The most noticeable? The elimination of Marine tanks.

And the Corps moved fast. By summer 2020, the ­hulking behemoths of ground combat were being loaded on train cars and rolling away from the storied 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat ­Center at Twentynine Palms, California. Other ­inventories soon followed. And by the end of 2020, an official Marine Corps message allowed both armor officers and enlisted to end their contracts a year early.

At the time of the initial overhaul announcement, the Corps had 452 tanks at its disposal. By December 2020, 323 had been transferred to the Army. The ­remaining tanks were scheduled for transfer by 2023, which included tanks in overseas storage and aboard maritime prepositioning ships, according to Marine Corps Systems Command.

Commandant Gen. David H. Berger has said that should armor be needed by Marines, he would look to the Army to provide that capability.

At the annual Modern Day Marine Military Expo in September 2020, Berger emphasized that the Army’s job is to be big, heavy and lethal while Marines must be light and expeditionary.

“Army is huge,” he said. “We need a big Army. They win our wars. The Marine Corps doesn’t win the wars. We win the battles.”

The Future of Military Engines

The Future of Military Engines looks at the state of the U.S. military engine industrial base and the choices confronting policymakers at the Department of Defense (DoD). The military engine industrial base is closely tied to the industrial base for commercial engines. U.S. engine providers use many of the same facilities and largely the same supply chain for military and commercial engines. The ability to leverage commercial supply chains is critical because supply chain quality underlies the performance advantage of U.S. military engines, both for individual aircraft and military aircraft fleets. International competitors such as Russia and China are seeking to overtake the U.S. in engines. However, the current U.S. advantage is sustainable if it is treated as a national priority. Many military aircraft, especially fighters, require engines with important differences from commercial aircraft. They fly different flight profiles and perform different jobs. 

These differences mean that while DoD can leverage the commercial engine industrial base, it must also make investments to sustain the industrial base’s unique military components. In the next few years, DoD investment in military engines is projected to decrease significantly, particularly for R&D. This presents a challenge as military-unique engineering skills are highly perishable. Four major policy choices confront DoD as it formulates its investment approach to military engines going forward: 1) Priority, 2) Resources, 3) Business Model, and 4) Competition. The DoD is at an inflection point for engine investment, and the time for choosing on these four key policy questions will come in the next few years. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT