12 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 ...

Here’s how we can save Afghanistan from ruin even as we withdraw American troops

Michael E. O’Hanlon

In recent weeks, a narrative about Afghanistan’s likely imminent collapse has begun to develop; with the last U.S. and NATO combat troops leaving the country in coming days it will only intensify. To counter it, the United States needs to help Afghan friends develop a strategy, and a public explanation of key elements of the strategy, that has a good chance of preventing a rapid and complete Taliban takeover of the country.

To be sure, any such strategy could come too late.

Our own intelligence community has now joined the chorus of those predicting the violent defeat of the Afghan government within the year. More than 10% of Afghanistan’s districts (akin to American counties) have fallen to Taliban control since the Biden decision to pull out all forces.

Not only NATO troops but also outside contractors, needed for maintaining the Western-built aircraft and other vehicles we transferred to Afghan security forces over the years, are pulling up stakes. Afghan forces who see compatriots surrendering in other areas, and know there is little prospect of being reinforced if they are attacked, may lose heart and lay down their arms preemptively.

Taiwan’s China dependency is a double-edged sword

Roy C Lee

Taiwan’s remarkable economic performance in 2020 is something to celebrate given most countries globally plunged into recession because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taiwan’s GDP increased by 3.11 per cent in 2020 compared to the global average of negative 4.5 per cent. It is the first time in three decades that Taiwan has achieved a growth rate greater than China’s.

But political debate broke out over one key element that enabled this achievement. Taiwan’s GDP growth in 2020 was mainly underpinned by an increased trade surplus and domestic investment. Exports increased to a record-breaking 4.9 per cent in 2020, with China (Hong Kong included) receiving close to 44 per cent of Taiwan’s exports, a 12 per cent increase from 2019. This makes China Taiwan’s single most important trading partner and a key source of trade surplus.

Many in Taiwan argue that trade dependence on China indicates that the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s approach — keeping China at arms-length while pursuing a closer alliance with the United States — is just political rhetoric. Taiwan, after all, needs China for economic prosperity.

Beijing Eyes New Military Bases Across the Indo-Pacific

Craig Singleton

On a small, sandy atoll smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a rundown airstrip that served as a critical U.S. staging and supply hub during World War II. Today, this 6,000-foot runway in the Pacific island country of Kiribati is once again on the front lines. This time, China has its eyes on this prized piece of geopolitical real estate—one located around 1,800 miles from sensitive U.S. military installations in Hawaii.

Beijing is hardly content to limit its military basing pursuits to the South Pacific. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is already making serious headway securing new bases in Cambodia, Tanzania, and the United Arab Emirates, among other locales. Whether or not Washington can derail Beijing’s plans is anyone’s guess. Either way, U.S. policymakers and military brass could soon wake up to a changed world, where the PLA can project its power far beyond the tense Taiwan Strait.

Although the U.S. Defense Department’s China Task Force recently characterized Beijing as Washington’s “number one pacing challenge,” the Pentagon’s 2022 budget continues a troubling trend of treating the PLA as a long-term, “over-the-horizon” threat. Case in point: The Pentagon’s wish list for its new Pacific Deterrence Initiative doubles down on costly, long-term, platform-centric investments at the expense of urgently pressing priorities, such as security assistance funding to strengthen vital alliances and partnerships. Also missing from the initiative are funds to reassess the military’s regional posture on account of the PLA’s efforts to secure an expanded foothold in the Pacific.

China’s Coming Economic Collapse Is Unavoidable

Glenn Rocess

Most readers will look at the title above and wonder, “What the heck does the ‘Browning of America’ — the coming time when white people will comprise less than half our population — have to do with China’s economic success or failure?”

It has everything to do with it.

About forty years ago, 88 percent of the Chinese population lived on less than two dollars per day. As of 2017, that figure had dropped to less than six percent. The key in this tectonic economic shift was a decision by Deng Xiaoping to open up China’s economy as part of his Four Modernizations. The transformation of China’s economy is unprecedented in human history and has led to the assumption by many (including myself) that China’s economic supremacy (now estimated to occur as soon as 2028) will last for the foreseeable future. This view is further bolstered by the advent of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the largest infrastructure project in human history.

But now it appears their economic supremacy cannot last, and for the most human of reasons: babies. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Yes, you read that right — the Chinese aren’t having enough babies.

Xi Means What He Said About Taiwan

Seth Cropsey & Harry Halem

Xi Jinping’s July 1 speech to commemorate the Chinese Communist Party’s centenary has received much fanfare. Accompanied by great pageantry, the speech was the CCP’s most significant public event in the past decade. All authoritarian states attach significant importance to public gatherings. These events give a visual demonstration of the faux solidarity between leadership and the people.

But events like this also reveal a great deal about an authoritarian regime’s self-perception. In a society like China’s, where a single party holds absolute political power, public pronouncements are a chance to signal to domestic and international audiences precisely how the regime defines itself, what it prioritizes, and which threats it thinks deserve a response.

This is particularly true in China, the world’s literary society par excellence. From the 3rd century Han dynasty to the Qing dynasty’s collapse in 1912, Chinese emperors relied upon a class of scholar-bureaucrats, termed mandarins by the Portuguese, to govern their territories. Selected through competitive intellectual examination, the members of this unique class were steeped in philosophical and historical literature. They attached overwhelming importance to speechcraft and the art of writing. The CCP carries forward this mandarin heritage, and as such, Xi’s directs several subtle signals toward the careful listener.

Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan: A new partnership 30 years in the making?

Katherine Harvey and Bruce Riedel

In April, the news that Iraq was mediating between longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran captivated Middle East watchers. Iraq’s new role as a Saudi-Iran intermediary comes as the Saudis have taken concrete steps in recent years to build a meaningful relationship with their northern neighbor, such as reopening their border last November for the first time since 1990. Yet while the new Saudi-Iraq relationship is indeed noteworthy, Iraq has simultaneously been forging a regional partnership with two other Arab states: Egypt and Jordan. Indeed, Baghdad hosted a summit in late June attended by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and King Abdullah II of Jordan. It was the fourth time leaders of the three countries have met together since March 2019, and the first time on Iraqi soil. It was also the first visit by an Egyptian president to Iraq in more than 30 years.

At first glance, a partnership grouping together Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan appears rather strange. One commentator, not without reason, called it an alliance composed of the “region’s odd fellows.” However, Iraq has historically had important economic relationships with both Egypt and Jordan, and in fact the three countries — along with North Yemen — came together in a very short-lived partnership called the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC) from 1989 to 1990. Today, like 30 years ago, economic cooperation lies at the heart of the trilateral relationship. But then and now it has also had strategic goals. And in the longer term, the new partnership potentially heralds a far more ambitious project to bring together not just Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan, but the countries of the Levant more broadly.

Does “Deterrence” Work?


In late June, after Iranian-backed militias launched a drone attack against U.S. troops in Iraq, U.S. fighter jets responded by dropping bombs on the militias’ facilities in Iraq and Syria. A Pentagon spokesman said the bombing was meant as “a clear and unambiguous deterrent message”—i.e., don’t attack us again, or we’ll attack you again.

And yet, on Wednesday, less than two weeks after the bombings, the same militia fired 14 rockets at an Iraqi air base, which was hosting U.S. forces.

It seems the “deterrent message” didn’t get through.

Then again, deterrent messages often don’t get through. Or they get through, but the recipient isn’t deterred. Many countries, very much including the United States, frequently issue threats, mount attacks, or take other punitive measures as a way of pressuring another country (or militia or some other entity) to stop doing what it’s doing or not to do it in the first place.

China Fires Back at Biden with Conspiracy Theories About Maryland Lab

Bret Schafer

When the Biden administration announced it would reexamine the theory that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese lab, Beijing’s response was deny and deflect. Asked at a May 27 press conference about the U.S. investigation into a possible virus leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian quickly changed the subject. “What secrets are hidden in the suspicion-shrouded Fort Detrick and the over 200 U.S. biolabs all over the world?” he asked in response.

Since then, Chinese diplomats and government officials, in concert with China’s vast propaganda apparatus and covert networks of online agitators and influencers, have worked diligently to focus suspicion on Fort Detrick, a U.S. Army biological research facility in Frederick, Maryland, about 50 miles from Washington. According to data collected by the Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Hamilton 2.0 Dashboard, at least 35 key Chinese officials and state media outlets have mentioned Fort Detrick in more than 115 tweets in nine languages since Zhao’s press conference. Many of those tweets have attempted to smear the lab’s reputation, for example by alleging the U.S. lab is “inextricably linked” with Japan’s notorious Unit 731, a germ warfare unit that targeted China during World War II.

Is Biden Haunted by Vietnam? Should He Be?

Michael Hirsh

When U.S. President Joe Biden was asked at a news conference on Thursday whether there was any comparison between his withdrawal from Afghanistan and the United States’ humiliating retreat from Vietnam a half century ago, his response was unequivocal: “None whatsoever. Zero.”

The president went on to say that in the early 1970s, as the Vietnam War was grinding to a close, North Vietnam’s forces were far more powerful than the Taliban are today. “They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability,” he said. “There’s going to be no circumstance when you’re going to see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.”

The U.S.-supported Afghan security forces, he added, are 300,000 people strong and are “as well-equipped as any army in the world.” And with an air force against “something like 75,000 Taliban,” he added, “it is not inevitable” that the Afghan government will collapse as the South Vietnamese government did.

Biden is well-steeped in the history of the Vietnam War. As a young senator in 1975, he voted against any aid for the collapsing South Vietnamese government. But in contrast to the swift unraveling of South Vietnam, many experts expect a drawn-out civil war in Afghanistan, one that will likely not be conclusive for at least several years. Even if the Taliban do effectively take over the country, the president is no doubt hoping that by then, the war will have retreated from the headlines and he will have won reelection in 2024.

Analysis | The Most Crucial Issue for U.S.-Israel Relations – and It’s Not Iran

Alon Pinkas

On July 1, the Chinese Communist Party celebrated its centenary. The “great, glorious and correct” party, as it gleefully describes itself, was established in 1921 in the midst of a civil war, took power in 1949 after World War II and the Japanese occupation, and has ruled China for 72 uninterrupted years.

“The Sick Man of Asia,” as China was once described, was at the time a poor, backward country of some 400 million, taken over by communists who became a unique brand of Maoists. Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” claimed the lives of approximately 36 million people, and China never really began to emerge from that period until Mao’s death in 1976.

Today, China’s population is over 1.4 billion and its GDP is estimated at $15.6 trillion, making it the second largest economy in the world behind only the United States. It is regarded as an economic and military superpower, capable and willing to project its strength and extend its influence in the Western Pacific, stretching from the Korean Peninsula and Japan in the north, down to Taiwan, leading to Southeast Asia, into Asia’s heart, and farther south and west into Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

The Missing Chips

Chad P. Bown

During the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for semiconductor chips, a key component of all electronics, skyrocketed as many jobs and crucial services moved online and workers upgraded their home offices. Combined with major supply disruptions, the result has been a worsening semiconductor shortage. In May, wait times for chip orders stretched to 18 weeks, four weeks longer than the previous peak. The supply crunch has hit a range of sectors. Automotive plants have idled as they await delivery of chips used in their cars. Makers of microwaves, refrigerators, and washing machines have been unable to fill their orders. Long the obscure concern of experts in the technology sector, semiconductor supply chains have now been thrust into the spotlight.

But the supply of semiconductors was at risk long before the pandemic, and the virus is only partly to blame for today’s shortages. One of the biggest culprits was a sudden shift in U.S. trade policy. In 2018, motivated by national security concerns, the Trump administration launched a trade and tech war with China that jolted the entire globalized semiconductor supply chain. The fiasco contributed to the current shortages, hurting American businesses and workers. Now, the Biden administration must pick up the pieces.

How the U.S. Can Recapture Escalation Control

Matthew Sussex and Cathy Moloney

The belief that the U.S. retains the overwhelming capability to control crises with peer competitors is one of the most dangerous assumptions in American strategic thought.[1] Recent history shows that when America’s rivals challenge the status quo they frequently get what they want. Moreover, they have been able to do so without fighting, or even coming close to it.

This article argues for a more holistic U.S. approach to escalation control. It highlights the need to act earlier and adapt faster to challenges before they develop into crises. This approach has two advantages. First, it represents a more anticipatory and agile way for the U.S. to address strategic rivalry. Second, it better reflects the fact that activities short of war—including lawfare, assertive diplomacy, economic leverage, the adaptation of international norms, civil-military fusion, and information operations—are increasingly overshadowing pure military competition as ways for U.S. competitors to attain their objectives.[2]

Talking About 'Strategic Stability'

Frank Miller

“Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future…Through this dialogue, we hope to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures” Biden-Putin Joint Statement June 16, 2021

It is undoubtedly satisfying to some that Presidents Biden and Putin have agreed to begin “strategic stability” talks. But it should be unsettling to many more to reflect that, while the term is thrown about in academic and even some government circles, there is no agreed definition (even within the U.S. government, let alone between the American and Russian governments) of what “strategic stability” means – or moreover how a discussion around it can “lay groundwork for future agreements."

Strategic stability can be all things to Western arms control theorists. To some, it means “first strike stability” – a situation where neither side has either an incentive or a force structure designed to carry out a disarming first strike against the other. That’s a nice idea, but (historically) Soviet and (now) Russian ICBM forces are designed around first strike, there being no other reason to maintain the heavily MIRVed SS-18 ICBM for decades only to begin replacing it recently with the larger “Sarmat” missile. The flip side of “first strike stability” is allowing each side to retain sufficient second-strike retaliatory capabilities to deter a would-be aggressor from contemplating a first strike; both Washington and Moscow seemingly accept this approach, but only Russia continues to pursue first strike disarming capabilities notionally aimed at reducing U.S. second strike potential – raising questions about the degree to which Moscow truly subscribes to it. Alternatively, strategic stability might mean “arms race stability”, in which neither side begins fielding new weapons systems as long as its potential opponent does not.

Russian Mercenaries in Africa Aren’t Just There for the Money

Natalia Antonova

I will never forget the moment I saw a photo of the journalist Alexander Rastorguev’s body. Sasha, as we called him, was a fixture on the Moscow documentary filmmaking scene and a warm-hearted mentor to my then-husband, whose films I produced. Sasha was a man who loved to tease you in public but a stalwart and generous friend in private.

This man, who once squeezed my shoulder and whispered, “Always remember you’re a good person, Antonova,” had been executed in an efficient manner, shot in the heart with multiple rounds that likely came from an AK or AKM assault rifle. He was killed alongside his colleagues Orkhan Dzhemal and Kirill Radchenko in the Central African Republic, while investigating the local dealings of a notorious Russian private military company. This atrocity occurred in 2018, and it has haunted everyone who knew and loved Sasha, Orkhan, and Kirill ever since.

To this day, the Russian government insists that the motive for the killing was “robbery,” even though there is ample evidence that this is a blatantly cynical lie.

Israel’s Drone Swarm Over Gaza Should Worry Everyone


In a world first, Israel used a true drone swarm in combat during the conflict in May with Hamas in Gaza. It was a significant new benchmark in drone technology, and it should be a wakeup call for the United States and its allies to mitigate the risk these weapons create for national defense and global stability.

Israel’s use of them is just the beginning. Reporting does not suggest the Israeli Defense Forces deployed any particularly sophisticated capability. It seems a small number of drones manufactured by Elbit Systems coordinated searches, but they were used in coordination with mortars and ground-based missiles to strike “dozens” of targets miles away from the border, reportedly. The drones helped expose enemy hiding spots, relayed information back to an app, which processed the data along with other intelligence information. Future swarms will not be so simple.

Often the phrase “drone swarm” means multiple drones being used at once. But in a true drone swarm, the drones communicate and collaborate, making collective decisions about where to go and what to do. In a militarized drone swarm, instead of 10 or 100 distinct drones, the swarm forms a single, integrated weapon system guided by some form of artificial intelligence.

Renewables were the world’s cheapest source of energy in 2020, new report shows

Victoria Masterson

The cost of renewable technologies like wind and solar is falling significantly, according to a new report.

This is fuelling the rise of renewables as the world’s cheapest power.

The cost of large-scale solar projects has plunged 85% in a decade.

Retiring costly coal plants would also cut around three gigatonnes of CO2 a year.

Renewables are now significantly undercutting fossil fuels as the world’s cheapest source of power, according to a new report.

Of the wind, solar and other renewables that came on stream in 2020, nearly two-thirds – 62% – were cheaper than the cheapest new fossil fuel, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Putin Is Testing Biden’s Cyber Resolve

Michael Hirsh

Less than a month after U.S. President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin at their first summit meeting in Geneva that there would be “consequences” for future cyberattacks, the Russian leader appears to be testing Biden’s resolve with a fresh series of attacks reportedly emanating from Russia. Most recently, these include attacks against a Republican National Committee contractor and Kaseya, U.S. information technology firm.

Some cyber experts said such escalation was to be expected ahead of any substantive negotiations between Moscow and Washington. “Putin is going to keep escalating,” said Richard Andres, a cyber expert at the National War College who served under U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “All his probes have been successful in the past. He’s going to try again.” Putin’s goal, Andres and other experts said, seems clear: to define what Biden’s red lines are and what the U.S. president might do to retaliate—and then to see how Biden reacts when Putin counterpunches.

At the Geneva summit, Biden gave Putin a list of 16 “critical” sectors he suggested should be off limits to cyberattacks. Biden also told Putin that Washington has “significant cyber capability,” and if the Russians “violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.” Referring to the Colonial Pipeline hacks—believed to come from a criminal group inside Russia called REvil—Biden also obliquely warned Putin that Russia’s oil and gas pipelines were even more vulnerable, since Russia’s economy is far more dependent on energy than the United States’ economy. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Well, how would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?’ He said it would matter,” Biden said.

Moscow’s Aspirations in North Melting Along With Permafrost

Paul Goble

The climate change–induced melting of the permafrost layer in the Russian High North is now proceeding so quickly that Moscow will have to spend at least 172 billion rubles ($2.6 billion) per year for the foreseeable future to patch up the buildings, highways, rail lines, and oil and natural gas pipelines under threat there. But even if the Russian government can come up with the money, an unlikely prospect, such spending will not prevent the collapse of cities in the region caused by outmigration, which in turn undermines long-term prospects for the Northern Sea Route. The situation is exacerbated by ever more frequent oil and gas spills from damaged pipelines along with the continuing release of methane trapped in the ground, further accelerating the global warming trend. Just as alarmingly, the thawing of the Russian permafrost threatens to spark new epidemics if it releases dangerous virulent microbes that had heretofore been locked away in the frozen tundra. As a result, President Vladimir Putin’s three key goals for the region and Russia as a whole—1) the continued reliance on natural resource exports, most of which originate in the permafrost zone, 2) the expansion of Russian-controlled shipping along the Northern Sea Route, and 3) the projection of Russian power across the Arctic—are being compromised.

Some of these problems were already predicted by the expert community and even acknowledged by some Russian officials (see EDM, September 11, 2018 and December 6, 2018). Yet the speed with which the melting of the permafrost in the High North is now occurring has shocked all but the biggest pessimists, forcing Moscow to focus on what it will cost to salvage the situation and, at the same time, what it will mean if the Russian government proves incapable of doing so (EurasiaNet, The Barents Observer, June 29, 2021; Hse.ru, January 21, 2021).

Russia and China’s conquest of the United Nations

Clifford D. May

After the 20th century’s first great war, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, and other major powers founded the League of Nations. Its primary mission: To keep the peace. It failed, of course, and the result was World War II. After the Second World War, the major powers created a new and, what they hoped, was an improved model: the United Nations.

Keeping the peace was, again, the principal mission, but the U.N.’s contribution to preventing the Cold War from heating up was marginal at best. And wars between lesser powers continued.

There was other work for the U.N. to do. In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly established the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which claimed to “set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.” Today, the authoritarian rulers of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and many other U.N. members do not secure such rights for their subjects. According to Freedom House, 2020 was the 15th consecutive year that the world has seen a “decline in global freedom.”

Need to Fit Billions of Transistors on a Chip? Let AI Do It

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS now helping to design computer chips—including the very ones needed to run the most powerful AI code.

Sketching out a computer chip is both complex and intricate, requiring designers to arrange billions of components on a surface smaller than a fingernail. Decisions at each step can affect a chip’s eventual performance and reliability, so the best chip designers rely on years of experience and hard-won know-how to lay out circuits that squeeze the best performance and power efficiency from nanoscopic devices. Previous efforts to automate chip design over several decades have come to little.

But recent advances in AI have made it possible for algorithms to learn some of the dark arts involved in chip design. This should help companies draw up more powerful and efficient blueprints in much less time. Importantly, the approach may also help engineers co-design AI software, experimenting with different tweaks to the code along with different circuit layouts to find the optimal configuration of both.

Hacker Lexicon: What Is a Supply Chain Attack?

CYBERSECURITY TRUISMS HAVE long been described in simple terms of trust: Beware email attachments from unfamiliar sources, and don't hand over credentials to a fraudulent website. But increasingly, sophisticated hackers are undermining that basic sense of trust and raising a paranoia-inducing question: What if the legitimate hardware and software that makes up your network has been compromised at the source?

That insidious and increasingly common form of hacking is known as a "supply chain attack," a technique in which an adversary slips malicious code or even a malicious component into a trusted piece of software or hardware. By compromising a single supplier, spies or saboteurs can hijack its distribution systems to turn any application they sell, any software update they push out, even the physical equipment they ship to customers, into Trojan horses. With one well-placed intrusion, they can create a springboard to the networks of a supplier's customers—sometimes numbering hundreds or even thousands of victims.

"Supply chain attacks are scary because they're really hard to deal with, and because they make it clear you're trusting a whole ecology," says Nick Weaver, a security researcher at UC Berkeley's International Computer Science Institute. "You're trusting every vendor whose code is on your machine, and you're trusting every vendor's vendor."

Cyber is the New Weapons System of the Future


OPINION — “Right now, the offensive side has all the capability and we on the defensive side have got to run a new defense.”

That was John Sherman, the Defense Department’s Acting Chief Information Officer (CIO) when asked what keeps him up at night during a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on Information Technology and Cybersecurity on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.

“We are going to run a new defense,” Sherman said, “and it’s going to involve making it about the data in the systems as well as artificial intelligence (AI); how we can bring that [AI] to bear so we don’t segment ourselves and have-to-have tens of thousands of defenders doing the work that a set of AI algorithms [can do].”

Sherman is no amateur on the subject. He was the Intelligence Community’s CIO where he introduced advancements in cloud computing, cybersecurity and interoperability capabilities. Before that, as a CIA Deputy Director, he built up the agency’s Open Source Enterprise.

Smaller Aircraft Carriers: Is There Any Point?

Michael Peck

Here's What You Need to Remember: Carriers that have fewer capabilities would affect how the U.S. wages war, such as relying on carrier-based air support when operating far from U.S. airfields and land-based aircraft.

The bottom line of a new study on U.S. aircraft carriers: you can't get something for nothing.

The Navy can buy smaller, cheaper carriers rather than the $13 billion Ford-class behemoths it is currently constructing, according to a new study by RAND Corporation. But smaller and cheaper means reduced capabilities and could prevent the Navy from fighting in hostile waters or providing the air support for ground operations.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The RAND study is a public version of a classified study conducted in 2016 at the behest of the U.S. Navy, which was ordered by Congress to examine cheaper options than the Ford-class carriers.

Hiding and Finding: The Challenge of Security Competition

Seth G. Jones

The Issue
An important component of security competition over the next decade will be the challenge of “hiding and finding,” especially the struggle to identify the locations and activities of adversaries such as China and Russia well outside of Eastern Europe and East Asia. The expanding global nature of competition, improvement of Chinese and Russian denial and deception capabilities, and declining U.S. military footprint in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and other areas will require the United States and its partners to improve air, space, and other surveillance capabilities to monitor adversary actions across the globe.

Much of the United States’ focus on security competition has been preparing to deter or fight China and Russia in such areas as the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. U.S. defense planning—including the Joint Warfighting Concept, which is the Department of Defense’s vision to fight across land, sea, air, space, and cyber domains—primarily concentrates on large-scale combat operations.2 As one U.S. Army strategic document highlights, “The Army of 2035 will continue to fulfill its strategic roles for the Joint Force and the American people. The Army’s most foundational strategic role is the capability and capacity to prevail in large-scale combat.”3 In addition, most wargames and operational plans (OPLANS)—the detailed plans that combatant commanders develop for conducting joint military operations—have focused on major wars against China and Russia.4

Q&A with Bob Newberry, Director of the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate

Mandy Mayfield

Bob Newberry oversees the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate. He reports to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, or SO/LIC, and is responsible for providing a forum for interagency and international partners to discuss mission requirements to combat terrorism, prioritize requirements, fund and manage solutions, and deliver capabilities. Newberry spoke with National Defense Staff Writer Mandy Mayfield about the directorate’s priorities and working with industry. The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

What are some of your top priorities as director of the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate?

The first one is greater affordability at the speed of relevance. That was in the National Defense Strategy. The second: increasing lethal capabilities for small teams and individuals. The strategy talks about an increase in lethality but we really wanted to focus on small teams and individuals.


LTG Richard Formica, U.S. Army Ret.

The U.S. Space Force (USSF) was established on 20 December 2019 as a military service within the Department of the Air Force. According to the National Defense Authorization Act, it is to be organized to provide freedom of operation for the United States in, from and to space and to provide prompt and sustained space operations. This is a vital mission and must remain its focus.

Standing up the new service will not be simple. There are several important tasks that need to be accomplished:

The service headquarters must be organized and staffed;

its place within the Department of the Air Force and DoD must be

it must be physically located and set up in the Pentagon;

Pentagon Warns Of An “Increased Potential” For Nuclear Conflict In Newly Disclosed Manual


AU.S. military manual that only recently became public says that the world now faces a higher probability of conflicts involving nuclear weapons. The document points to multiple nuclear weapons systems and policies being pursued by adversaries and potential adversaries as signs that the world is moving away from de-escalation and is instead moving closer to the reality of a nuclear exchange. While the document avoids placing any weight on United States policy in helping to increase the likelihood of nuclear conflict, it does note that the "flexible" nuclear weapons the US has pursued could be used to defend America and its interests in the event of a regional conflict involving nuclear arms.

A copy of the manual, titled “Joint ­Publication 3-72, Joint Nuclear Operations,” was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) last week through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and posted online on July 6. This and other Joint Publications are meant to outline U.S. military-wide doctrine and are put out through the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This latest iteration of this particular manual, published in April 2020, says it was created to help establish “joint doctrine to govern the activities and performance of the Armed Forces of the United States in joint operations,” and provide “military guidance for the exercise of authority by combatant commanders and other joint force commanders.” In addition, the publication offers advice for “military interaction with governmental and non-governmental agencies, multinational forces, and other inter-organizational partners.”


Matthew T. Archambault

“Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on the back of a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets to the universe.”

— Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in Superman (1978)

Subordinates often ask leaders for suggestions on what they should read. In the Army, professional military reading lists from a range of sources exist, from the chief of staff of the Army to organizations like the Modern War Institute at West Point. Many of these lists’ recommendations are separated by rank or grade while others are separated by categories such as topics like strategy, technology, or operational art. Those lists contain fine suggestions, but a successful reading program, whether personal or organizational, requires purpose. Reading should be done with a purpose in mind. It should not simply be a checklist of what someone else recommended. Regardless of what that purpose is, the time spent should contribute to a goal and leaders have a duty to shape that goal.