4 July 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Cyber-Influence Operations

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

… With its growing assertiveness in the international arena, China uses new technologies to achieve its foreign policy goals and project an image of responsible global power … spending billions on influence operations across the world ... fits in with China’s larger aim of expanding its soft power alongside its growing economic and military power … reach of Beijing’s overseas media is impressive and should not be underestimated. But the results are mixed ...

The Governance of the TAPI Pipeline

Mirza Sadaqat Huda

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline has important implications for energy security and regional integration in South Asia. To begin with, it will do much to address South Asia’s growing electricity demand, which will require a 118% increase in installed capacity to 1,067 gigawatts (GW) by 2040.[1] The pipeline will also provide a relatively cleaner fuel that has multiple uses in fertilizer and petrochemical industries. Yet, due to the complexity of large-scale energy projects and the volatility of South Asia’s political landscape, the project is likely to result in a number of critical governance challenges that will require active engagement by the United States and regional partners.

Construction on the TAPI pipeline began in 2015 and is expected to be completed in 2022. Once operational, the pipeline will carry 33 billion cubic meters of gas from the Galkynysh fields in Turkmenistan through Herat, Nimruz, and Kandahar in Afghanistan and Multan, Dera-Ghazi Khan, and Quetta in Pakistan, before culminating at the Indian border town of Fazilka. Partially funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the $10 billion pipeline runs 1,600 kilometers (km) and is expected to be in operation for a period of 30 years. The project has been heralded by multiple U.S. administrations as a facilitator of energy access and peacebuilding in Central and South Asia.[2] Proponents of the pipeline point toward the environmental benefits of replacing coal with gas, as well as the economic incentives provided by transit fees and energy trade. Despite security threats from terrorist groups and conflicts between India and Pakistan, the TAPI project has made significant progress in recent years. Currently, the Turkmen portion of the pipeline is nearing completion and land procurement is underway in Afghanistan.

Taliban doubles number of controlled Afghan districts since May 1


The Taliban has taken control of more than 80 districts in the two months since launching its offensive against the Afghan government after President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would withdraw its forces from the country by September.

In many cases, Afghan security forces have turned over district centers, abandoned military bases, surrendered to the Taliban and handed over their weapons, vehicles and other war material without a fight. The Taliban’s multi-year strategy of gaining influence in rural districts to then pressure the population centers is paying dividends.

Prior to the Taliban offensive, which began in earnest on May 1, the date that the U.S. government originally committed to completing its withdraw under the Doha agreement, the Taliban controlled 73 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, and contested 210, according to an ongoing assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal. The Biden administration moved the withdraw date to Sept. 11, 2021, the 20-year anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attack on American soil – which it plotted and executed largely from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Headed for Multi-Sided Civil War, Warns U.S. General

Trevor Filseth

As fighting escalates in Afghanistan between government forces and the Taliban insurgent group, U.S. and international troops are steadily leaving the country, in accordance with President Joe Biden’s commitment to a full withdrawal by September 11, 2021. On Tuesday, the last German troops left the country, following their twenty-year involvement alongside U.S. forces.

Biden justified the withdrawal on the basis that Afghanistan could no longer serve as a safe haven for terror groups, as it had in the late 1990s under the first period of Taliban rule. However, to prevent the nation from falling into chaos, Biden reiterated total American support for the Afghan government. Earlier in the week, the president met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and Chairman of the High Council for Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah in the Oval Office, where he recommitted the United States to assisting their government during the war.

For their part, the Afghan leaders’ remarks were optimistic, but tinged with frank acknowledgement of the difficulties ahead. Ghani noted that “the Afghan nation is in [an] 1861 moment, like President [Abraham] Lincoln, rallying to the defense of the republic”—although 1861 marked the beginning of an intense and destructive four-year war, rather than the end.

The South China Sea Reveals China’s Grand Strategy

Akshobh Giridharadas

Fire and water are juxtaposed in the phraseology of elements, but Robert Kaplan’s book Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific alludes to how a large water body is now a simmering cauldron. If modern-day geopolitical advantages are said to be shaped by three things, trade, natural resources, and supply chains, then all those three aspects are epitomized by who controls the South China Sea.

In terms of natural resources, the South China Sea has 11 billion barrels of oil, around 190 trillion feet of natural gas, 40 percent of global liquified natural gas (LNG), and 12 percent of the world’s fisheries, caught by 50 percent of all the fishing vessels globally. When it comes to trade, 30 percent of the world’s shipping trade flows through these waterways; that is around between $3-5 trillion worth of trade—or somewhere between the economies of India and Japan. Anything with the “Made in China” tag likely flows through this region.

This region services a market of 2.2 billion people, China’s 1.5 billion and around 650 million people in the region that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) calls home. That itself is one-quarter of global humanity in just a single region.

337. “No Option is Excluded” — Using Wargaming to Envision a Chinese Assault on Taiwan

A Taiwan contingency presents an array of challenges to the US Joint Force. The most obvious deals with time and distance. The Taiwan Strait is about 80 miles wide. Although a formidable obstacle to cross, time and distance factors clearly favor China, as the distance between California and Taiwan is over 6,000 miles. Furthermore, although the United States maintains a strong presence in the Indo-Pacific Theater, they clearly would be at a numerical disadvantage if the PLA decided to initiate an invasion. Finally, the PLA’s significant Area Denial/Anti-Access (A2/AD) capabilities mean that any effort to move a US force across the Pacific will be contested, possibly from CONUS itself all the way across the Pacific. To understand the challenge we face, it is imperative that we imagine what such a fight would entail.

In November 2020, I wrote a previous post arguing that wargaming can help us visualize what the threat can be. It can help us imagine it and provide context to our thinking about it. It can help us check our assumptions, and perhaps even offer thoughts and ideas that we would never have considered. It will not tell us the future, or lay out with certainty what will happen. But it can offer us an opportunity to prevent a failure of imagination of the kind warned against in the 9/11 Commission

ASEAN Cyber Challenge in the Spotlight With New Center

Prashanth Parameswaran

One of the items of note to have come out of the recently concluded virtual ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) on June 15 was the formalization of a cyber center of excellence based in Singapore. While the development itself was not surprising, it nonetheless spotlighted the continued significance of cyber security as a defense issue of importance for Southeast Asian states, as well as some of their key partners.

Cybersecurity has been an increasing focus for Southeast Asian states as well as ASEAN as a grouping in the context of the region’s attempts to balance the opportunities afforded by the digital economy with the challenges posed by the increasing sophistication of cyber threats in an increasingly networked world and their links to other challenges such as terrorism.

Specifically, these issues have been recently addressed by the ADMM, widely characterized as the premier defense institution within ASEAN. Recent years have seen the institutionalization of a new ADMM-Plus cyber security working group in 2016 and the establishment of new bodies like the ASEAN-Japan Cybersecurity Capacity Building Center, which was announced during Thailand’s 2019 ASEAN chairmanship.

The CCP's next century: expanding economic control, digital governance and national security

Introduction: Unlocking anti-fragile China: How Xi reinforces the party state for global leadership

As the CCP celebrates its 100th anniversary, it presents itself as a political goliath brimming with pride and ambition. China’s leaders are convinced that the governance model of the party state is proving itself as the superior political system. “At the same time, the evolving party state is aware of the systemic fault lines that weaken its power. Institutional reforms initiated under Xi Jinping are meant to address governance shortcomings by employing the CCP’s ‘power tools’ of political centralization, mobilization and control,” writes Nis Grünberg. 

Chapter 1: Party-state capitalism under Xi: integrating political control and economic efficiency

To steer the forces of economic liberalization, globalization and marketization, the CCP is turning China’s decentralized state capitalism into a “party-state capitalist” model. MERICS Senior Analyst Nis Grünberg explores this model, which is characterized by centralized leadership, a hybrid economy that blends market capitalism with top-down, macro-economic development plans, and private and public economic actors working with or alongside each other in various constellations.

The Chinese Communist Party Has Always Been Nationalist

Rush Doshi

For a century, the Chinese Communist Party has been a nationalist party. This can be a controversial point today, particularly among those who see the party’s focus on nationalist themes mainly as an instrument to retain power after the tarnishing of Communist ideology. But the reality is much more complicated. The party’s nationalist orientation is embedded in a long, historical line that connects the party of today with the patriotic ferment of the late Qing decline.

In the 1790s, as President George Washington was settling into his first term of office in the United States, the Qing dynasty was at its height. But over the next few decades, repeated provincial unrest, foreign depredations, and a sclerotic government led some officials to sense that China was entering decline. Concerned by the Qing dynasty’s slide, officials like Wei Yuan began to urgently resurrect a tradition in Chinese intellectual history that focused on the state’s pursuit of “wealth and power” (富强) as opposed to the more typical Confucian tradition of “rule of the virtuous”(德治). When China’s ongoing domestic decay collided with European imperial ambition in the disastrous First Opium War, China’s “century of humiliation” began—launching a search among many to find the means to recapture past glory. As Orville Schell and John Delury note in their sweeping intellectual history, Wei Yuan’s resurrection of the 2000-year-old phrase “wealth and power” came at the right time, and it has “remained something of a North Star for Chinese intellectual and political leaders” ever since.

The lives of the party: The Chinese Communist Party turns 100

City streets have been secured. History books scrubbed. Articles and television specials prepped, and leaders at every level of government readied for their solemn, teary close-ups. For the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, nothing will have been left to chance.

The newly formed CCP first met in Shanghai in mid-1921. The precise date is murky, and July 1 was chosen by Mao Zedong years later when he could not remember exactly when the 13 comrades had held their conclave.

For a period, too, some of the attendees were airbrushed out of official accounts, accused of collaborating with the Imperial Army in the treacherous civil war and Japanese occupation in the 1930s.

These days, any Chinese need only hop in a taxi and ask to go to the First Meeting Hall to be dispatched to a museum in one of the city's fanciest districts where the meeting, and all its attendees, has been lavishly recreated.

The Rise of China—How Communist Party Transformed Country into a Superpower


The Communist Party of China (CPC) marks its 100-year anniversary on July 1 with a dogmatic leader in Xi Jinping at the helm, who China watchers say has molded himself after Mao Zedong—equally as ruthless and just as insecure.

The party's humble working-class beginnings, heavily influenced by Russia's socialist uprising in 1917, may be unrecognizable to many today. The People's Republic of China (PRC) is now a technological police state at home and viewed as a formidable nuclear power abroad.

Mao, the founding father of "New China," remains undisputedly the leader who has overseen the biggest upheaval in the country; historians estimate his revolutionary campaigns are responsible for tens of millions of unnecessary deaths. Xi wants to emulate Mao, some say, while others warn he wants China to replace the United States.

1921. The precise date of the CPC's founding is lost to time. What is certain is that its inaugural National Congress took place in Shanghai and Jiaxing from July 23 to August 2. According to official party narrative, July 1 was later selected as its official foundation day.

Marking Party’s Centennial, Xi Warns That China Will Not Be Bullied

Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher

China’s rise is unstoppable, Xi Jinping declared. The country will not be lectured. And those who try to block its ascent will hit a “Great Wall of steel.”

Mr. Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in generations, delivered the defiant message in a speech in Beijing on Thursday that celebrated 100 years of the Chinese Communist Party.

The speech was laden with symbols intended to show that China and its ruling party would not tolerate foreign obstruction on the country’s path to becoming a superpower. The event’s pageantry symbolized a powerful nation firmly, yet comfortably, in control: A crowd of 70,000 people waved flags, sang and cheered in unison. Troops marched and jets flew overhead in perfect formations. And each time Mr. Xi made a pugnacious comment, the crowd applauded and roared approval.

Look Out: How China Plans to Make War on Its Enemies

James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Know: Devising methods for disabling enemy systems-of-systems is nothing new.

So “systems of systems”—not individual warriors or ships, planes, or tanks—go to war? Good to know. That’s what China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) thinks, at any rate. China’s 2015 Military Strategy, for example, vows to employ “integrated combat forces” to “prevail in system-vs-system operations featuring information dominance, precision strikes and joint operations.” This is how China’s armed forces intend to put the Maoist “military strategic guideline of active defense”—the “essence” of Communist China’s way of warmaking—into practice. They will fabricate systems-of-systems for particular contingencies and send them off to battle. Once there they will strive to incapacitate or destroy enemy systems-of-systems. Firm up your own weak spots while assailing an opponent’s and you shall go far.

You might call this “joint operations with Chinese characteristics” after the Chinese fashion. Earlier this year RAND analyst Jeffrey Engstrom’s monograph Systems Confrontation and System Destruction Warfare shone a spotlight on this dimension of Chinese strategic and operational thought. Engstrom consulted primary-source debates about systems-of-systems to assemble his report, letting Chinese engineers and strategists speak for themselves.

Getting Out of Iran's Way

Bradley Bowman and Behnam Ben Taleblu

The Guardian’s diplomatic editor put it best. “If Joe Biden thinks Vladimir Putin deserves to be called a killer, his description of Ebrahim Raisi, the 60-year-old president-elect of Iran, is likely to be unprintable.”

The selection of Raisi—an ultra-hardline cleric responsible for the mass execution of dissidents—provides a timely reminder as to the nature of the regime in Tehran, the threat it represents, and the continued requirement for forward-positioned U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Raisi’s revolutionary resume stands out due to his participation in a four-person “death commission” that oversaw the execution of an estimated 5,000 political prisoners in the late 1980s. And the passage of time has apparently not encouraged any contrition from Raisi. During his first post-election press conference on Monday, Raisi was asked about his role in the mass murders. “I have always defended people’s rights,” he responded. “Human rights have been a pivotal point for me.”

U.S. Goes on Offense to Fight Growing Threat of Cyber Attacks

Kartikay Mehrotra and Alyza Sebenius

For the last several years, FBI agents debated turning the tables on hackers by remotely accessing breached computer networks and booting out the attackers caught in mid-hack.

They got their chance earlier this year after state-backed Chinese hackers compromised thousands of private Microsoft Exchange email servers with the press of a button. In response, an FBI special agent petitioned a Houston federal judge on April 9 for authorization to remotely access hundreds of hacking victims’ to topple the attackers’ digital points of entry.

Put more simply, the FBI out-hacked the hackers.

While some civil liberties advocates worried about potential future abuses, the FBI operation signaled the public unveiling of a more aggressive, all-of-government approach toward cybersecurity.

America’s Defense Electronics Supply Chain Is Dangerously Thin And Falling Behind

Eric Tegler

Supply chain stories aren’t sexy. Maybe that’s why the dangerously fragile, technologically lagging American defense electronics supply chain isn’t registering on the national security risk meter. But it should. The U.S. is facing shortages and security vulnerabilities with printed circuit boards and integrated circuit substrates crucial to the sexiest weapons systems we have.

Over the last year, the global semiconductor shortage has received manifold attention but the broader U.S. electronics supply chain has been almost completely ignored.

“When we say that the problem is urgent we really mean it. It’s falling on deaf ears,” says Todd Brassard, chief operating officer of Calumet Electronics, a Michigan-based printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturer.

Calumet, which with a workforce of 300 makes high-reliability circuit boards for aerospace and defense, industrial controls, utilities, and medical sectors, typifies the small firms that make up a critical link in the supply of defense electronics. The kind of PCBs and IC substrates it turns out are the base hardware in every American weapons/ISR system.

Hugging the Old Bear: Updating The American Playbook for the Long Game

Alexander Grinberg

If the United States sees any value in attempting to build amicable relations with Russia in a post-Vladimir Putin future, it must set aside certain dangerous assumptions that have shaped and spearheaded American strategic policy in the Post-Cold War unipolar world. America’s strategy for dealing with Russia is outdated. The dangerous assumption that practicing Cold War era brinkmanship and hardlining actions to counter Putin’s strongman strategy as an effective tool only serves to strengthen his position. Putin is an experienced autocratic leader who has learned how to balance internal pressure from both his oligarchs and his people. He understands the American playbook, and he uses American predictability to strengthen his position. Based on America’s historical decisions in Syria and in Ukraine, Putin has assessed that the United States does not have the will to follow through on its threats. To avoid a strategic miscalculation, the United States should pursue soft power engagement that will put substantial external pressure on Russia to incentivize a change in its behavior.

Scotland’s Complicated Quest for Independence

Antonia Colibasanu

This week, the conservative Sunday Times newspaper published the results of a poll showing that support for Scottish independence has dropped to its lowest level in two years. It’s not surprising, considering that since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the issue of independence has come second to more urgent problems that need to be addressed. However, in May, when the pro-independence Scottish National Party and the Green Party won a collective majority in Scottish parliamentary elections, the possibility of holding another independence referendum was put back on the agenda.

Since 2016, the independence debate has been tied to Scotland’s rejection of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union. Last week, a report released by the Scottish government about Brexit’s impact on Scotland concluded: “Brexit is having a tangible and harmful impact on the quality of life of the people of Scotland and on Scottish businesses.” It seems that the Scottish government isn’t done making its case for independence. But it’s also redefining its priorities as it grapples with a number of more urgent challenges. The current calls for independence should therefore be seen less as a real push for sovereignty and more as political bargaining with London. After all, Scotland understands full well that the Commonwealth is critical for London – perhaps now more than ever.

The Free World vs. China and Friends: It’s ideology, stupid

Kaush Arha

US President Joe Biden’s first overseas tour, comprising the Group of Seven (G7), NATO, and United States-European Union (EU) summits, was a laudable lap of shoring up US allies in the defense of democracy, as they confront the resurgent autocracy of China and its friends Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela. The transatlantic alliance, along with the Quad (the United States, India, Japan, and Australia) nations committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific, find themselves in an epochal war of ideas between democracy and autocracy. Let’s call it the Free World vs. China and Friends.

Biden deserves credit for the necessary rallying of allies around American and universal values—work that his predecessor appeared constitutionally incapable of doing, notwithstanding the tireless efforts of a few Trump administration Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials. In American football terms, Biden has done well to get the ball to the two-yard line in rousing the Free World to advance the cause of liberty. Now he has to punch the ball into the end zone.

Rules-based order: What’s in a name?


The rules-based order (RBO) concept is a bit like the Australian property market – just when it seems to have peaked, it surges again.

The RBO has endured despite its extremely uninspiring name and the return of “great power competition”. Observers might expect that this competition would come at the expense of rules. But the RBO was invoked again and again in the latest round of US-led summits.

In its communique, leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) reaffirmed their commitment to the RBO and asserted that “China’s stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order”. That echoed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s earlier statement that “our purpose is not to contain China, to hold it back, to keep it down. It is to uphold this rules-based order that China is posing a challenge to.”

When Does a ‘Cyber Attack’ Demand Retaliation? NATO Broadens Its View


In the 14 years since NATO first declared that a “cyber attack” could amount to an assault requiring collective action, alliance members have never made it quite clear what would constitute such an attack. But now they appear to be broadening the still-hazy definition.

Since the Wales Summit of 2014, analysts have largely worked under the assumption that a cyberattack would have to be as destructive as a kinetic attack to reach the legal threshold that would trigger defensive actions. This view was reinforced throughout the years by NATO’s use of the grammatical singular, i.e., “a cyberattack,” and the equivalency drawn between a kinetic attack and the effects and scale of a cyberattack.

At the Cyber Defense Pledge Conference in 2018, for example, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said, “NATO leaders agreed that a cyber-attack could trigger Article 5 of our founding treaty. Where an attack on one Ally is treated as an attack on all Allies.” As recently as June 7, Stoltenberg told the Atlantic Council: “In a way it sends a message that a kinetic attack can of course cause a lot of damage, and so can of course a cyberattack. It does not matter whether it is a kinetic attack or a cyberattack. We will assess as allies when it meets the threshold for triggering Article 5.”

How great powers should compete

Source Link

MILAN, Italy – At the recent G7 and NATO gatherings, China was singled out as a strategic competitor, a calculating trading partner, a technological and national-security threat, a human-rights violator and a champion of authoritarianism globally.

China denounced these characterizations, which its embassy in the United Kingdom called “lies, rumors and baseless accusations.” The risks that such rhetoric poses should not be underestimated.

Many in the West disapprove of China’s single-party governance structure, just as vocal elements in China disparage Western liberal democracy, which they argue is in terminal decline. The real danger, however, is that officials on both sides seem to have embraced a zero-sum framework, according to which the two sides cannot simply coexist; one side must “win.”

By this logic, both sides must always be trying to crush the competition. So, for China, the West — especially the United States — must be seeking to reverse its rise (which, in reality, was facilitated in no small part by the U.S.). And, for the West, China is determined to leverage its economic might, including its huge internal market, to reshape the global system in its image and to its benefit.


DJ Shyy, Curtis Watson, Kelvin Woods

As the fifth generation (5G) technology deployment rate increases and standards continue toward steady state, researchers have turned their attention toward 6G. New use cases and the potential of performance shortfalls have started the research buzz. Early efforts center on key fundamental research that will support target goals such as 1 Tbps peak data rate, 1 ms End-to-End latency, and up to 20yr battery life for this next generation of communication networks.

To support this research, international conferences have sprung up; for instance, 6G wireless summits and 6G symposiums where several key research topics have started to rise to the top. Topics include THz communications, quantum communications, big data analytics, cell-free networks, and pervasive artificial intelligence (AI).

In this paper we focus on pervasive AI, which has the potential to drastically shape the new 6G network. To achieve the faster rates and lower latency performance gains, an efficient network will be required. The network must dynamically allocate resources, change traffic flow, and process signals in an interference-rich environment.

The Connection of Everything: China and the Internet of Things

John Lee

Main findings and recommendations

Massive growth in devices connected to the internet raises technical and policy challenges on a new scale. This ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is diffusing power to a growing range of actors worldwide who build and operate connected devices and the underlying infrastructure, both physical and virtual.

The IoT is amplifying both rewards from technological leadership and risks from inter-connection across borders. Sovereign governments are responding by imposing increasing control over the internet within their jurisdiction, leading to growing fragmentation of cyberspace governance on national lines.

China now plays a significant role in shaping the IoT, which is growing with the technological footprint of Chinese firms. This is being driven by the incentives of private industry, and by the Chinese state’s sustained policies to boost the role of Chinese actors in IoT development, including technical standardization.

Army Tests Network Capabilities at Joint Readiness Training Center

Yasmin Tadjdeh

Soldiers are testing new tactical gear in support of the Army’s efforts to modernize its network capabilities.

The service has been embarking on a series of capability sets as it works to advance its connectivity through Army Futures Command’s network cross-functional team. Technology developed under Capability Set 21 was recently put through its paces at the Joint Readiness Training Center, which is located at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The training center offered the Army a “full force-on-force brigade exercise,” said Col. Rob Ryan, chief of operations for the network team. Soldiers were able to train in realistic terrain using radios enabled with more powerful waveforms.

Commanders had more situational awareness and understanding during the exercise because of CAPSET 21 technologies, he said during remarks at the C4ISRNET Conference.

“Awareness means you think you know what’s going on. Understanding means you can act on what’s going on,” he said. “That’s a huge difference in the fog and friction of battle.”

America's Military Needs a Digital Defense Upgrade

Frank Ponds

Early on in my Navy career, I learned firsthand about the critical importance of protecting sensitive information in a challenging security environment.

While assigned to the staff of then-Amphibious Force, Seventh Fleet (CTF-76),I had the unique opportunity to visit Shanghai, China as a member of the advance team in preparation for a goodwill port visit by Sasebo, Japan-based USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43). It was the first U.S. Navy port visit to China since the Tiananmen Square Massacre seven years earlier, so the stakes were high, even if unclassified.

Shortly after our arrival for the site survey, we discovered that our hosts intended to challenge our ability to communicate in confidence privately. We realized that every single word uttered, verbally or electronically, was monitored. The Shanghai experience shows that communications must be guarded closely because rival powers like China will continually seek to undermine it even if it is mundane, let alone highly classified.

While getting the correct information to the right people at the right time sounds straightforward, information assurance is exceptionally challenging, especially in a contested environment with constantly evolving technology. The risks are prevalent and pernicious, as evidenced by a string of high-profile and highly effective cyberattacks against tech and energy sector targets like SolarWinds, Yahoo, E-Bay, the Colonial Pipeline and more.

The Gray Zone in the Definition of Gray-Zone Warfare: Challenges for Japan-U.S. Cooperation

Hideshi Tokuchi


China’s approach to asserting its claim over the Senkaku Islands through gray-zone activities seems intended to circumvent the U.S. defense commitment under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. As a result, the concept of “gray zone” must be understood so as not to block alliance cooperation to achieve common security goals. Gray-zone warfare violates the sovereignty and national interests of foreign countries in a manner that does not rise to the level of armed attack. The challenge for Japan and the U.S. is how to effectively cooperate with each other outside the commitment of Article 5 of their security treaty. Given the allies differing interpretations of the term “armed attack,” they should devise a practical way for operational cooperation, including coordination of their rules of engagement. With the rapid development of the China Coast Guard and China’s problematic new Coast Guard Law, cooperation to address China’s gray-zone warfare has become even more pressing for the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Great Power Competition Requires Theater Deterrence

Admiral James Stavridis, U.S. Navy (Retired)

With publication of Advantage at Sea, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have a cogent, broad-based strategic theory of how to apply naval power in the turbulent 21st century. Advantage focuses on the growth of peer competition with China and Russia, while reemphasizing traditional broad naval objectives of power projection, sea control, strategic deterrence, and strategic sealift. Though these four pillars of naval activity go back in one form or another to Alfred Thayer Mahan, they remain a sound structure through which to view the application of maritime power at a strategic level.1

But moving from high-end global strategy to operational activity requires understanding that tactical competition and physical geography drive much of the needs of and choices available to planners—hence, the “geo” in geopolitics.2 The key theaters of competition between the United States and China and Russia are clear: the South China Sea and the North Atlantic, including much of the Arctic Ocean. There are other zones of concern (the Arabian Gulf and eastern Mediterranean, for example), but the South China Sea and North Atlantic are central to renewed great power competition. They will require a new and very specific conceptual approach if the Sea Services are to succeed in their overall mission: theater deterrence.

Advancing Decision-Centric Warfare: Gaining Advantage Through Force Design and Mission Integration

Bryan Clark, Dan Patt & Timothy A. Walton

Advancements in digital communication and virtualization are creating opportunities and challenges for integrating military capabilities similar to those associated with the emerging Internet of Things. Contemporary discussion in the Department of Defense (DoD) frames the military use case for integration as multi-domain operations, in which capabilities from different services and operating environments are combined to achieve a common objective. However, this paradigm merely perpetuates long-standing approaches to joint operations and misses the fundamental shift underway toward the centrality of information and decision-making in warfare. Attrition is receding as a mechanism to achieve national security objectives as computing and communication innovations enable military forces to gain a decision-making advantage through capability arrangement and orchestration that improves their own adaptability and creates uncertainty for opponents. To exploit this emerging opportunity, commanders in the field will need the ability to identify and implement new force combinations, communications paths, and courses of action.

This report describes a new model for joint force design and integration, where elements of military capability are able to be composed and tailored to the needs of specific operational challenges close to the time of use. Combined with appropriate command and control processes and systems, this model of mission integration has the potential to provide military advantage against capable adversaries through the surprise generated from force composition and recombination. Mission integration could also reduce the cost of operations and modernization by enabling aggregation of less-expensive weapons systems to realize capabilities provided today by large multimission platforms or formations.