13 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 Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

Afghanistan Was a Limited War With Limited Success

Hal Brands

Another limited war, another unsatisfying outcome. The US is on the brink of withdrawing from Afghanistan, just shy of 20 years after it invaded that country, and well short of any desired resolution. At best, America will leave behind a mess; at worst, withdrawal may precipitate strategic setbacks and a humanitarian disaster.

That legacy will be seen as a commentary on America’s post-9/11 wars — conflicts, critics allege, that were launched in a fit of unipolar hubris. But Afghanistan fits within a larger pattern. The US has a long, checkered history in wars fought with limited means for limited aims, simply because these are the conflicts in which it is hardest for a superpower to succeed.

Wars differ significantly in their intensity, goals and conduct. At one end of the spectrum are total wars in which societies mobilize nearly all of their resources and seek the total destruction of the enemy: Think of World War II or the wars that followed the French Revolution. Toward the other end of the spectrum are limited wars in which a combatant mobilizes a fraction of its resources, seeks something less than total victory, and accepts constraints on how it fights.

When JFK hosted Pakistan’s president at Mount Vernon

Bruce Riedel

Sixty years ago, on July 11, 1961, an extraordinary state visit occurred at Mount Vernon, the home of America’s first president, George Washington. It was a summit meeting that still reverberates today.

It was First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy who conceived of the summit at Mount Vernon between her husband John F. Kennedy and Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan. She was inspired by the Kennedys’ visit to the Habsburgs’ Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna earlier in the year. She quietly approached the managers of the Mount Vernon estate, who eagerly agreed to host the Pakistanis. She also arranged for the jewelry store Tiffany’s to provide the flowers and decorations for the dinner.

Pakistan was an important partner for the United States in 1961, linked by treaty to the containment of the Soviet Union and China. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) flew U2 surveillance flights from Pakistani bases to monitor China’s emerging nuclear arsenal. The CIA also secretly supported Tibetan rebels fighting for independence from an airbase in what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Difficult Decisions Lie Ahead for Pakistan Amid US Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Umair Jamal

Last week, Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs briefed the country’s top civilian leadership about the emerging threats from Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of the United States from that country.

The meeting was important for several reasons. For one, rarely does Pakistan’s military leadership invite leaders of political parties for a briefing on national security. The timing of the meeting, and the issues discussed, underscore the growing concern in Pakistan over the fast evolving situation in Afghanistan and its own tribal areas along its western border.

For several months now, Pakistan’s opposition leaders have been calling for such a meeting to understand Pakistan’s strategy in Afghanistan, including its policy on the issue of giving military bases to the U.S.

From the military’s perspective, the meeting was aimed at building some sort of consensus with the political leadership before the potentially messier phase of the Afghanistan crisis, including the likely worsening of the refugee situation, the rise in cross-border attacks, and further speculations on the provision of military bases, gains momentum. For more than a year now, Pakistan’s politicians have dragged the military into politics to settle scores, and at times, have even questioned Pakistan’s foreign and security policy.

The China-Pakistan Partnership Continues to Deepen

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

The China-Pakistan military and strategic relationship continues to deepen. Recently, the Pakistan Army inducted its first batch of Chinese-made VT-4 battle tanks. The VT-4 tanks, built by the Chinese state-owned defense manufacturer, Norinco, were supplied to Pakistan starting in April 2020. Pakistan is the third country to procure the VT-4 tanks, after Thailand and Nigeria. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media and public relations wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces, has said that “the VT-4 is compatible with any modern tank in the world integrating advanced armour protection, manoeuvrability, firepower capabilities and state-of-the-art technology.” The army further noted that these third-generation tanks will be used “in an offensive role by strike formations.” The sale and induction of the Chinese tanks are just another indication of the continuing consolidation of the strategic partnership in the face of the evolving international conditions in the region.

Similarly, Pakistan’s use of Chinese-made combat drones or unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) against India cannot be ignored. After being an importer of drones, China today has emerged as a major exporter of civil and combat UAVs to a number of countries. In December, Chinese state media advertised a decision to sell 50 Wing Loong II UCAVs to Pakistan, claiming that it “would be a nightmare for Indian ground formations in high-altitude areas as India’s military does not have the ability to respond to the new-age stand-off weapons.”

Taliban Try to Polish Their Image as They Push for Victory

Najim Rahim and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

KABUL, Afghanistan — In June, when the Taliban took the district of Imam Sahib in Afghanistan’s north, the insurgent commander who now ruled the area had a message for his new constituents, including some government employees: Keep working, open your shops and keep the city clean.

The water was turned back on, the power grid was repaired, garbage trucks collected trash and a government vehicle’s flat tire was mended — all under the Taliban’s direction.

Imam Sahib is one of dozens of districts caught up in a Taliban military offensive that has swiftly captured more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s districts, many in the north, since the U.S. withdrawal began in May.

It is all part of the Taliban’s broader strategy of trying to rebrand themselves as capable governors while they press a ruthless, land-grabbing offensive across the country. The combination is a stark signal that the insurgents fully intend to try for all-out dominance of Afghanistan once the American pullout is finished.

Special Report-Afghan pilots assassinated by Taliban as U.S. withdraws

Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, Hamid Shalizi

KABUL, (Reuters) - Afghan Air Force Major Dastagir Zamaray had grown so fearful of Taliban assassinations of off-duty forces in Kabul that he decided to sell his home to move to a safer pocket of Afghanistan’s sprawling capital.

Instead of being greeted by a prospective buyer at his realtor’s office earlier this year, the 41-year-old pilot was confronted by a gunman who walked inside and, without a word, fatally shot the real estate agent in the mouth.

Zamaray reached for his sidearm but the gunman shot him in the head. The father of seven collapsed dead on his 14-year-old son, who had tagged along. The boy was spared, but barely speaks anymore, his family says.

Zamaray “only went there because he personally knew the realtor and thought it was safe,” Samiullah Darman, his brother-in-law, told Reuters. “We didn’t know that he would never come back.”

At least seven Afghan pilots, including Zamaray, have been assassinated off base in recent months, according to two senior Afghan government officials. This series of targeted killings, which haven’t been previously reported, illustrate what U.S. and Afghan officials believe is a deliberate Taliban effort to destroy one of Afghanistan’s most valuable military assets: its corps of U.S.- and NATO-trained military pilots.

Taliban says it controls most of Afghanistan, reassures Russia

Polina Nikolskaya

MOSCOW, July 9 (Reuters) - A Taliban delegation in Moscow said on Friday that the group controlled over 85% of territory in Afghanistan and reassured Russia it would not allow the country to be used as a platform to attack others.

Foreign forces, including the United States, are withdrawing after almost 20 years of fighting, a move that has emboldened Taliban insurgents to try to gain fresh territory in Afghanistan.

That has prompted hundreds of Afghan security personnel and refugees to flee across the border into neighbouring Tajikistan and raised fears in Moscow and other capitals that Islamist extremists could infiltrate Central Asia, a region Russia views as its backyard.

At a news conference in Moscow on Friday, three Taliban officials sought to signal that they did not pose a threat to the wider region however.

The officials said the Taliban would do all it could to prevent Islamic State operating on Afghan territory and that it would also seek to wipe out drug production.

Offensive Realism and the Rise of China: A Useful Framework for Analysis?

Frank Kuhn

Within the last decade, the rise of China has emerged as probably one of the foremost issues in the Western world and beyond. International relations scholars and policymakers alike are grappling with the implications of an increasingly more powerful People’s Republic of China (PRC). What seems to be the most likely trajectory for Chinese foreign policy? And which strategies should be implemented to meet what at this time appears to be the most consequential challenge to the Western liberal international order?

In quest for analytical frameworks to make sense of the rise of China, it seems that the lessons from offensive realism—closely associated with John J. Mearsheimer—have attained conventional wisdom: As China’s relative power grows, it will adopt an increasingly assertive and competitive strategy (Shifrinson, 2020, p. 175). Therefore, an intense US-Chinese security competition with ample potential for armed conflict would appear likely; “China cannot rise peacefully,” writes Mearsheimer (2010, p. 382).

Recreating a Nation’s Identity Through Symbolism: A Chinese Case Study

Ananya Sood

It has been 50 years since the purge, persecution, bloodshed, and chaos of the Cultural Revolution in China, and yet, the lingering horrors of the 1960s remain fresh in the memories of the Chinese people. The decade between 1966 and 1976 witnessed the proletariat attempt to transform the order according to its own outlook of the world, as dictated by then Chairman Mao Zedong. However, this ideological struggle between socialism and capitalism, and the desire to bring about a cultural change in China, turned out to be less of a class struggle and more of an attempt by Mao to retain his power within the Communist Party. This militant call by Mao resulted in unprecedented violence, destruction, and loss of life in China, making it one of the most horrifying events in Chinese history.

This paper attempts to analyse the role of political symbols used by Mao to mobilise the masses during the period of the Cultural Revolution, how these symbols transformed the nationalist movement into a struggle for power, and the effects these events had on the overall economy of China. The methods used for the purposes of analysis and cumulation in this paper are largely qualitative, based on secondary sources such as research papers, editorials, newspaper articles, and speeches. This paper covers the major objects of political symbolism that were used in the era of the Cultural Revolution – the Little Red Book, the propaganda posters, Mao badges, and other forms of art, respectively – and the social and economic effects these had on the Chinese people.

Wanna Know How To Stop China From Being a Bully? Watch a Christmas Story.

James Holmes

Some opine that Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping bears a striking resemblance to Winnie the Pooh. Nah. He’s Scut Farkus, the bully from the 1983 comedy classic A Christmas Story. Scut was a ruffian with “yellow eyes! so help me God, yellow eyes!” (see the video below) according to narrator Ralphie Parker, a schoolboy in Gary, Indiana, in the early 1950s. Along with his “crummy little toady” Grover Dill, who had “green teeth,” Scut terrorized Ralphie and his mild-mannered circle of chums for the glee of it.

Bigger, stronger, and meaner, Scut keeps Ralphie & Co. from banding together in an effective opposing alliance. Rather than join together and use superior numbers to fight back, the smaller kids typically either run away, or leave whoever falls into the bully’s clutches to his fate. That usually means getting his arm twisted behind him or otherwise demeaned till he says Uncle.

In other words, the weak submit to the law of the schoolyard: might makes right. This is a law that appeals to the strong and lawless.

China Is Weaker Than Xi Will Admit


Xi Jinping, China’s strongman leader, recently gave a strident speech on the centennial of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. Predictably, he focused on achievements of the Party and left out significant blemishes—for example the catastrophic Great Leap Forward in the 1950s, the sanguinary Cultural Revolution from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, and the suppression of democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He also obliquely threatened the interventionism of the United States and the West by saying that foreign powers would “crack their heads and spill blood” if they tried to stop China’s rise. Yet Xi’s bravado hides significant weaknesses that afflict his country.

Ironically, much of the U.S. foreign policy and national security establishment is also using Xi’s speech to help the Chinese leader magnify China’s strengths as a threat to the United States and minimize that country’s weaknesses. What more could a potential adversary ask for? Curiously, in the American political system, interest groups need a potent threat, whether domestic or abroad, to attract public attention and therefore extra cash to their proposed policy program. As during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the U.S. foreign policy establishment is happy to overstate the threat that China poses to American security while minimizing U.S. strengths and China’s weaknesses.

What next in Israel and Iran’s shadow war?


“It’s starting again.” The messages have been pouring in over recent weeks. My phone lights up, humming as the encrypted messaging apps deliver their covert payloads. 

Most recently, it’s Israelis getting in touch. When Israel and Hamas clashed in Gaza in May, the Israeli Defence Forces won a decisive victory. But Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, also made its point: launching drone attacks alongside the hundreds of missiles it fired. “Where are they getting them?” people wanted to know about the new “Shebab” drones, which had a strong resemblance to Iran’s Ababil 2 drone. Israel may be fighting Hamas, but it knows the greater threat lies in Tehran.

The month before, however, it was Iranians, concerned for their safety. “What are you hearing over there?” Pinged contacts in Tehran as I followed events from Athens. “Will we be attacked?”

Biden faces further battle over Putin’s pipeline

Diane Francis

US President Joe Biden’s efforts to strike a deal with Germany over Vladimir Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline are coming under further critical scrutiny and encountering additional domestic opposition as recent developments underline the Kremlin’s continued readiness to use energy supplies as a geopolitical weapon.

Talks between the United States and Germany are ongoing over possible ways to avert negative consequences from the completion of the Baltic Sea gas pipeline. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said these discussions aim to “ensure that Russia cannot use energy as a coercive tool directed at Ukraine or anyone else.”

However, opponents argue that coercion is the main objective of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. They also point out that none of the solutions currently being discussed would actually work, even if implemented. There is additional alarm over the fact that countries likely to be most adversely affected by the pipeline, such as Ukraine and Poland, are not involved in the current discussions.

The U.S. Economy’s Coming Dual Crisis: Rising Inflation And Economic Overheating?

Desmond Lachman

Much of the current inflation debate is centered on the supply-side factors that have driven US inflation up to its highest level in the past few decades. Will these factors prove to be temporary, in which case there is no need for concern? Or will they prove to be more lasting, in which case policy action might be needed to prevent inflation from spinning out of control?

While relevant, this debate seems to miss the bigger inflation picture. The real question that should be posed now is how can the US avoid sustained higher inflation at a time that the economy is receiving an unprecedented demand boost from the combined effect of a number of factors. The largest peacetime budget stimulus on record, the easiest monetary policy conditions in many years, and the drawing down of the record amount of household savings that were built up during the Covid lockdown.

To be sure, the recent surge in consumer price inflation to 5 percent has been driven largely by supply-side factors. These have included Corona-related disruptions to food and building material supply chains as well as serious disruptions to the production of electronic chips so necessary for modern-day industrial production. They have also included labor supply shortages that have been induced by generous supplemental unemployment benefits and by school closures that have made it difficult for parents with young children to return to work.

Amid Calls to Defund Police, Departments Struggle to Finance Cybersecurity


As America inches toward Primary season in anticipation of the 2022 elections, narratives around rising crime rates continue to unfold as a source of political tension.

In wake of the protests following the murder of George Floyd and subsequent calls to defund the police, Republican lawmakers like Mitch McConnell have directly tied what he sees as "an explosion of violent crime" to calls to "defund the police."

2020 saw homicides in the U.S. increase by what early FBI reports estimate to be around 25%, an increase of 4,000 to 5,000 additional murders. The FBI does not release its official totals until the fall, so that figure may shift, yet Gun Violence Archive reported 611 mass shootings in 2020, more than the reported totals for either of the previous two years. Data collected by AH Datalytics reveal murder up 17% for 2021.

While the focus on gun violence and violent crime will remain key political issues for the nation's lawmakers and police forces, a separate form of crime continues to emerge as a security threat to American law enforcement, and it's a form of crime that many police stations stand less equipped to deal with than the threat of an armed shooter—a cybersecurity attack.

Democrats Investigating Russian Hack Into RNC Computer Systems


The United States is investigating a cyberattack against the Republican National Committee (RNC), White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. Though it has not been determined who committed the attack, Russian hackers are believed to be responsible.

The investigation will reportedly be conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Psaki said, according to Bloomberg.

Psaki spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One while traveling with President Joe Biden to Illinois. "We will determine attribution and make a decision accordingly," she stated.

The cyberattack occurred last week on Synnex, a contractor that provides IT services for the RNC. It is unknown if any sensitive information was exposed during the hacking. Danielle Alvarez, the GOP communications director, has denied its computers were hacked, but did say one of its Synnex providers was exposed. In a statement on Tuesday, Alvarez also claimed that "no RNC data was accessed."

Two Weeks After the Surfside Condo Building Collapse, What We Know and Don't Know


Two weeks after the Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, collapsed, officials still don't know what caused the building to suddenly fall but have lost hope of finding anyone alive.

The 12-story condominium building partially collapsed in the early-morning hours of June 24 while many residents were asleep. In the weeks since, the death toll continued to climb as the number of survivors remained stagnant at only two, both of whom were found within hours of the collapse, and on Wednesday, rescue efforts transitioned to recovery efforts.

Officials have vowed to thoroughly investigate the collapse, but the process could take weeks or even months. Here's what we know—and don't know—two weeks after the collapse.

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.

Faltering fightback: Zelensky’s piecemeal campaign against Ukraine’s oligarchs

Andrew Wilson

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has declared a “fightback” against oligarchs.

Zelensky is motivated by worries about falling poll ratings, pressure from Russia, and a strong desire for good relations with the Biden administration.

The fightback campaign has resulted in action against some oligarchs but, overall, it is incomplete.

The government still needs to address reform issues in other areas, especially the judiciary, and it has an on-off relationship with the IMF because of the latter’s insistence on conditionality.

The campaign has encouraged Zelensky’s tendency towards governance through informal means. This has allowed him to act speedily – but it risks letting oligarchic influence return and enabling easy reversal of reforms in the future.

Digital Trade as a Global South Challenge

Marco Cepik

In December 2020, in the Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce (JSI), the World Trade Organization (WTO) reiterated the importance of multilateral development of digital commerce rules. Despite the reduction in international trade (estimated at -4.85% in total and -9.2% in goods trade), compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, digital commerce has been one of the answers to boost economic resilience and recovery (WTO, 2020a). There are three main challenges for assessing digital commerce’s global contribution to the economic restoration and equitable social development.

The first challenge is conceptual. According to the Handbook on Measuring Digital Trade, a comprehensive definition of ‘digital commerce’ considers all digitally ordered and digitally delivered (OECD, WTO, and IMF, 2020). International trade that is digitally ordered corresponds to the OECD definition for e-commerce, that is, “the purchase and sale of goods or services conducted on computer networks using methods specifically developed for this purpose.” As such, the service or product delivery may be physical or digital. In turn, the digitally delivered commerce corresponds to ‘transactions delivered remotely in electronic format, using computer networks for this purpose. Although quite broad, the definition excludes international trade conducted by telephone or e-mail.

Opinion | Could Ransomware Become a Geopolitical Weapon? Game Theory Says Yes.


Over the weekend, the REvil ransomware gang locked up the data of more than 1,000 businesses in an unprecedented supply-chain attack on the software firm Kaseya, demanding $70 million for the data’s release. While it’s unclear which, if any, of the individual businesses have paid the group anything, just a month ago JBS and Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $11 million and $5 million, respectively, to resume operations after a ransomware attack.

The fact that attackers can mount these attacks so frequently and extort large sums of money from victims shows that encryption has emerged as a really good way to hold hostages. What if an adversary state or a terrorist group starts using the same tool to demand something more than money?

Today, ransomware is treated mostly as a criminal problem, but it may also soon be a geopolitical issue. I use game theory to study ransomware, and I’ve also examined how adversaries like North Korea use cyber tools for strategic goals. My research suggests it’s only a matter of time before encryption is used for geopolitical gains. The incentives built into ransomware attacks — for both the attacker and the victim — will make it easier for smaller, poorer players to extract concessions from more powerful adversaries. But the good news is that two can play at that game: In the future, encryption might also become a way for countries to proportionally respond to cyberattacks without causing all-out war in cyberspace.

Russian Criminals Cross Biden’s Cyber Red Line

Samantha Ravich & Annie Fixler

Over the weekend, Russian cybercriminals launched a supply chain-based ransomware attack of unprecedented scale that began with the breach of an American information technology (IT) firm. Coming three weeks after President Joe Biden warned his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, of the consequences of cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, the incident will be an early test of the administration’s resolve.

The hackers breached Miami-based IT company Kaseya and, from there, penetrated Kaseya’s clients, which include managed service providers (MSPs). These MSPs use Kaseya’s software to automatically install software and security updates on their clients’ networks. The hackers used this software supply chain to launch ransomware attacks against more than 1,500 companies in 17 countries. The FBI said that the bureau and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency “may be unable to respond to each victim” because of the size of the incident. The Russian-speaking REvil cybercriminal group claimed responsibility for the attack and demanded a $70 million ransom to provide a decryption key to resolve the entire attack.

Launching a Ransomware Attack Against a Nation Is Far Easier Than You Think


As ransomware attacks surge to unprecedented levels, the intricacies of mounting such a potentially destructive and deceptive operation would seem to be far beyond the reach of the average netizen.

But the power to paralyze a company or a nation with malicious intent may be more readily available than is commonly thought—although it is illegal, especially for users in the United States.

A U.S. military cyberwarfare officer who spoke to Newsweek on the condition of anonymity described a very simple process for doing a great deal of damage.

"All you need is a Tor Browser and the links to the right underground markets," the officer said. "There's forums, and you can Google them."

Tor, also known as The Onion Router, is a popular free and open-source software that enables anonymous communication and browsing. It provides a door into a virtual bazaar in which points of access, exploits and even entire ransomware toolkits are available on the dark web—essentially, the entire supply chain for a cyberattack.

A Tech Group Suggests Limits for the Pentagon’s Use of AI

THE PENTAGON SAYS artificial intelligence will help the US military become still more powerful. On Thursday, an advisory group including executives from Google, Microsoft, and Facebook proposed ethical guidelines to prevent military AI from going off the rails.

The advice came from the Defense Innovation Board, created under the Obama administration to help the Pentagon tap tech industry expertise, and chaired by Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO and chairman. Last year, the department asked the group to develop ethical principles for its AI projects. On Thursday, the group released a set of proposed principles in a report that praises the power of military AI while also warning about unintended harms or conflict.

“Now is the time,” the board’s report says, “to hold serious discussions about norms of AI development and use in a military context—long before there has been an incident.” A section musing on potential problems from AI cites “unintended engagements leading to international instability,” or, put more plainly, war.

How JEDI’s Ghost Will Bring Bitter Rivals Together


Now that the Defense Department has canceled its signature $10 billion enterprise cloud computing contract, what’s next for the military’s cloud needs?

Defense Department officials say that the solution will look a lot like a marriage between what’s being offered by Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services. It won’t be the single massive cloud envisioned as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, affectionately called JEDI, but the bottom line from Tuesday’s announcement is that the Pentagon is not going back to the days of small, distributed cloud environments that don’t interconnect.

Rumors of the JEDI cloud contract’s cancellation had been circulating for weeks and there have been clues recently as to what kind of cloud the Pentagon wants. Two weeks ago, Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, the Joint Staff’s chief information officer, and director of command, control, communications and computers/cyber spoke about the possible collapse of the JEDI contract during the Defense One Tech Summit. Whatever the outcome of the legal fight over JEDI, he said, the Pentagon would continue to pursue an enterprise cloud option, if a bit messier than the original JEDI concept.

US Army to test electronic warfare coders at the edge during upcoming exercise

Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — The Army will pilot a new idea to place coders and software developers at the tactical edge to reprogram electronic warfare and radio frequency systems.

The pilot, dubbed Starblazor, will try to identify gaps in Army capabilities and provide information for its doctrine and policies.

Mainly, Starblazor will help the Army learn what is needed to train the cyber and electronic warfare operators with existing equipment and what these personnel will need for a future fight, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Eric Colon, CEMA technician at Army Cyber Command, told C4ISRNET.

The Starblazor effort will take place this summer during the larger Defender Pacific, a division-sized war game for joint multidomain operations in support of Indo-Pacific Command, which will also test new technologies and concepts.

America's Electronic Attackers May Have a Secret Mission


It’s no secret that the American-led coalition fighting ISIS have made good use of electronic warfare, scrambling terrorists’ communications and potentially neutralizing their improvised explosive devices (IED). An official U.S. military guide on the subject suggests electronic attackers in Iraq, Syria, and beyond may have another, secret mission.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has a regulation covering electronic warfare that outlines basic policies, capabilities, and responsibilities for forces performing the role throughout its so-called “area of responsibility,” which stretches from Egypt through the Middle East and into Central Asia. Though many sections talk in general terms, using established Pentagon-wide definitions, the document includes notes specifically for the Command’s staff and the units they oversee, including functions labeled as either confidential or secret.

The War Zone obtained a partial and still heavily redacted copy of the record, officially known as USCENTCOM Regulation 525-18, Electronic Warfare, dated 2012, via the Freedom of Information Act. The document’s overall classification is secret and American officials can only release its full contents to anyone besides other U.S. units, or relevant authorities from Australia, Canada, or Great Britain – a grouping commonly known by the acronym ACGU or the nickname “Four Eyes.”


Dr. Robert J. Bunker

For almost 20 years, mission command has been a key component of command and control (C2) in the U.S. Army. However, with the advancements in the realm of artificial intelligence and the resultant utilization of autonomous and semiautonomous weapon systems in warfare, it is necessary to examine the extent to which these machines can cooperate within this construct.

Mission command, properly understood, empowers subordinate decisionmaking and decentralized execution appropriate to any given situation. It is solely meant for human-to-human C2. Like war itself, it is an inherently “human endeavor . . . not a mechanical process that can be precisely controlled by machines [or] calculations.” Systems that use machine algorithms for their decisionmaking processes are in direct variance to the emotive- and moral-seeking components of human cognition. Humans experience love, fear, camaraderie and hate—machines do not. Nor do they understand honor, integrity or self-sacrifice. Faced with this conflict, how can the deployment of machines work in concert with the Army’s C2?