7 August 2021

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

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 ...

Tangled Wires: Preparing India’s Power Sector for the Clean Energy Transition


Almost none of the world’s largest polluters have enacted policies compatible with the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius, a threshold past which climate disruption is projected to become even more frequent, severe, and unpredictable.

Fortunately, despite the absence of adequate government support, renewable energy has grown at an astonishing pace in recent years thanks to its plummeting cost. India, for example, has more than doubled its stock of wind and solar power in the last five years, driven less by sustainability concerns than by clean energy’s potential for cost-effectively meeting citizens’ pressing development needs.

However, the low prices of wind and solar projects disguise the structural costs renewable energy poses for grids when deployed at larger scales. The intermittent, unpredictable nature of the electricity generated by such technologies—in contrast to the stable, on-demand flow of power from traditional fossil fuel generation—requires fundamental changes to how countries invest in and operate their grids.

Turkey may not be able to rely on Pakistan in Afghanistan


Now that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is in full swing and there are barely any NATO troops left in the country, the Taliban’s brutal offensives are paying off. The insurgents’ political victory is not inevitable, but the Taliban have already managed to claim large swaths of territory, hoping to secure Kabul as the ultimate prize.

Although fighting in major Afghan cities including Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Herat is ongoing, the militants control much of the rural area including the strategically important regions near Pakistan and Iran.

But Afghanistan is no longer an American problem, and Washington is reducing its large military presence to intelligence operations and diplomatic missions. As such, President Joe Biden’s administration has been in talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to delegate the defense of Kabul Airport to Turkish forces.

Taliban, Afghan forces battle for control of Helmand’s capital


After days of heavy fighting with Afghan security forces, the Taliban has entered Laskhar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. The city is in danger of falling to the Taliban.

The Taliban is now battling Afghan security forces in the heart of the city. Clashes are occurring close to the police and National Directorate of Security headquarters, the city’s main prison, and the governor’s compound. The Taliban has also taken control of the city’s main radio station, and has begun broadcasting its Voice of Sharia programming.

Taliban fighters have been photographed and filmed in numerous location throughout the city, including main squares, markets and other places.

Flights out of Bost Airport, which is directly south of the city, have been suspended and the Taliban have been firing rockets at the facility. The government still controls the airport, which is a vital lifeline for Afghan security forces as the Taliban controls all of the districts surrounding the city and the roads are highly contested. The security sitiuation in the neighborhood of Karez, which is directly west of Bost Airport, is tenuous.

The Challenges of Mapping Taliban Control in Afghanistan

Jonathan Schroden

On April 14, President Biden announced that the United States would withdraw its military forces from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11 of this year. Since that time, the Taliban have engaged in an intense offensive to capture rural territory, district centers, roads and border posts, all in an attempt to pressure the country’s cities and, by extension, its government.

The speed of the Taliban’s offensive caught many observers by surprise. This, combined with the reduced international presence in Afghanistan that has accompanied the U.S. military’s withdrawal, resulted in significant confusion as to exactly where the Taliban has made gains and what the relative balance of strength is between the insurgent group and the government. Many media outlets turned to a single source to help them understand what has been happening and illustrate it to their audiences: the Long War Journal map of “Taliban Contested and Controlled Districts in Afghanistan” (Figure 1). Since 2014, the journal has been tracking and updating who “controls” each of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts, using a combination of news reports and statements from the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. The journal’s maps are color-coded for three categories of districts: those under Taliban control, those under government control and those that are contested. As of July 31, 2021, Long War Journal listed 223 districts under Taliban control, 73 under government control and 113 as contested.

Delta puts China on brink of a new Covid crisis


China’s seemingly impregnable Covid-19 firewall is springing leaks, with the country logging more local cases in 20 days than in the previous five months combined.

At least 15 of the nation’s 31 provinces have confirmed Delta strain infections over the past two weeks, marking China’s biggest outbreak this year. The disease’s spread is believed to have started from a foreign flight at Nanjing’s airport in early July.

The National Health Commission (NHC) said 328 cases have been reported since last month, including in the central city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the global pandemic. Authorities reported 99 new cases on Monday, according to reports.

Millions are now in lockdown as authorities close down cities and restrict travel to arrest the contagion’s further spread. The outbreak has been sparked in part by a recent easing of mask-wearing and social distancing, a laxity caused by the fact the country was Covid-free for many months.

A Glimpse of Chinese Ballistic Missile Submarines

Matthew P. Funaiole
Source Link

Tucked away on the southern edge of Hainan Island sits one of China’s most important military facilities—Yulin Navy Base. Located near the beachfront resorts of picturesque Sanya, the eastern portion of the base houses China’s fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), commonly known as “boomers.” Unlike aircraft carriers, destroyers, and other large surface vessels, submarines spend much of their time out of sight, making them much harder to track and analyze.

Commercial satellite imagery from July 8, 2021, captured one of China’s Type 094 Jin-class SSBNs returning to port at Yulin. Although partially obscured by clouds, at least one other Type 094 is also visible at the submarine facilities. Clearer imagery from July 15, shows two Type 094s—along with two Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs)—docked along four piers, which are protected by a nearby surface-to-air missile site.1

The Type 094 is the only vessel in the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) dedicated to launching nuclear weapons. According to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the platform represents China’s “first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent.”

The long game

Rush Doshi

It was 1872, and Li Hongzhang was writing at a time of historic upheaval. A Qing Dynasty general and official who dedicated much of his life to reforming a dying empire, Li was often compared to his contemporary Otto von Bismarck, the architect of German unification and national power whose portrait Li was said to keep for inspiration.1

Like Bismarck, Li had military experience that he parlayed into considerable influence, including over foreign and military policy. He had been instrumental in putting down the fourteen-year Taiping rebellion—the bloodiest conflict of the entire nineteenth century—which had seen a millenarian Christian state rise from the growing vacuum of Qing authority to launch a civil war that claimed tens of millions of lives. This campaign against the rebels provided Li with an appreciation for Western weapons and technology, a fear of European and Japanese predations, a commitment to Chinese self-strengthening and modernization—and critically—the influence and prestige to do something about it.

China Is Closing the Door on More Than Just Democracy in Hong Kong

Howard W. French

Before sitting down to write this week’s column, I opened a large and tattered, white, padded envelope that had arrived from Hong Kong late last week to find the final issue of the city’s once famously feisty newspaper, the Apple Daily, which was forced by local authorities to shut down for political reasons on June 24.

A Chinese friend had sent it to me from the city long renowned for being efficient and smooth-running. For the month that it took the package to arrive, therefore, I had wondered whether it had been held up for inspection by Hong Kong authorities trying to suppress news abroad of events on the island in recent months. My wariness was only heightened by the condition of the envelope upon its arrival. ...

In Search of Victory

Edward Lucas

The threats from Russia and China are different but overlap.

I have spent most of my life countering the Kremlin but now spend my time chiefly on China. Which is worse?

On the surface, the answer is easy. For Russia’s neighbors, it is a big threat. The Baltic states, central Europe, and countries like Moldova, Georgia, or Ukraine worry constantly. Russia can and does invade them, cut off their natural gas supplies and subvert their politics.

For other countries, the threat is China. It is far more totalitarian — even Vladimir Putin doesn’t put a million people in mind-control camps — and ten times bigger than Russia. The Chinese Communist Party has explicit ambitions for global domination and pursues them credibly, with rapid economic growth, burgeoning soft power, and effective political leadership. Those ambitions would sound absurd coming from the Kremlin, which runs a stagnant, Italy-sized economy — and does so badly.

China’s Afghan conundrum


Beijing traditionally looked with discomfort at the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, urging Washington to withdraw. Now, as the security situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, China has changed tack, criticising the US for the “abrupt” nature of its exit. While not baseless, such criticism is indicative of Beijing’s growing anxiety about Afghanistan’s trajectory.

Partly this concern is economic. Chinese firms have first dibs on developing some of Afghanistan’s impressive natural resources. This includes the world’s second-largest copper deposit. But China’s overall economic relationship with Afghanistan is relatively small. It has other reasons to worry about its neighbour.

Chinese strategists have long sought to avoid what they view as the mistakes of the West in becoming militarily and even politically – beyond a certain level – entangled in unstable developing countries

What Does Iraq Want From America?

James Jay Carafano

It’s easy to read too much into the agreement that U.S. President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi recently forged to end the U.S. combat mission there. As much as some observers might wish otherwise, this doesn’t signal a larger strategy shift. It looks to be more an act of political expediency.

Our impending exodus is basically a symbolic political favor for the Iraqi government, which is trying to straddle a difficult balance between Iranian and American influence – and to survive the upcoming parliamentarian elections in October.

Iran continues to expand its influence there, principally through the Shia militias in the country. In this regard, American support is a valuable counterbalance against Tehran’s encroachment on the nation’s sovereignty, as well as persistent concerns about a resurgence of transnational Islamist terrorist activity. On the other hand, the government wants to minimize criticism that the regime is allowing the Americans to impinge on their national sovereignty. The high-profile announcement of the end of U.S. combat action is the country is meant to address that.

Austin misses an opportunity in Singapore but scores big in Philippines


In his speech last week in Singapore on the security situation in Southeast Asia, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated the Biden administration’s emphasis on the need for multinational cooperation to meet the challenges from China and North Korea.

“I’m here to represent a new American administration, but also to reaffirm enduring American commitments,” he said. “… I’ve come to Southeast Asia to deepen America’s bonds with the allies and partners on whom our common security depends. Our network of alliances and friendships is an unparalleled strategic asset. And I never take an ally for granted.”

The latter point reflected the charge that the Trump administration ignored America’s allies and strategic partners in the region. While Trump may have seen them as burdensome freeloaders, the people he chose and empowered to implement U.S. national security policy certainly did not share that view.

The U.S. and China Must Rule Out an All-Out Cyberwar

Ariana Wolde

The United States can’t play Cold War politics forever—diplomacy is going to have to come back around. In its latest attempt to back China toward the edge of the global stage following a wave of disruptive cyber-attacks, the United States is missing a crucial opportunity to correct the course of international security. Indeed, America has historically mastered the domains of land, air and sea. Cyberspace won’t be so easy.

In a game in which the players are constantly changing, the line between ally and adversary becomes blurred. Both state and non-state actors are able to shoot their best shot without crossing a single border, putting critical U.S. infrastructure, supply chains and sensitive information in boundless danger.

The traditional rules of war theory are made irrelevant in cyberspace. That’s why the chaos of espionage and election interference seems almost inevitable. But a road to rules is possible. In 2015, the Obama administration reached an agreement with Beijing to stop mutual espionage in cyberspace for commercial advantage. The agreement silenced critics when Chinese intrusions in U.S. infrastructure dropped by an astonishing ninety percent. For those who still need convincing, this proves the power of words over the blame game. In fact, when Trump took office and began a trade war that would obliterate all goodwill, China once again resorted to hackers for the intel it could no longer obtain legitimately.

America needs a new great-power strategy

Joseph S. Nye

During the four decades of the Cold War, the United States had a grand strategy focused on containing the power of the Soviet Union. Yet by the 1990s, following the Soviet Union’s collapse, America had been deprived of that pole star. After the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, US President George W. Bush’s administration tried to fill the void with a strategy that it called a ‘global war on terror’. But that approach provided nebulous guidance and led to long US-led wars in marginal places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2017, the US has returned to ‘great-power competition’, this time with China.

As a grand US strategy, great-power competition has the advantage of focusing on major threats to America’s security, economy and values. While terrorism is a continuing problem that the US must treat seriously, it poses a lesser threat than rival great powers. Terrorism is like jujitsu, in which a weak adversary turns the power of a larger player against itself. While the 9/11 attacks killed more than 2,600 Americans, the ‘endless wars’ that the US launched in response to them cost even more lives, as well as trillions of dollars. While Barack Obama’s administration tried to pivot to Asia—the fastest growing part of the world economy—the legacy of the global war on terror kept the US mired in the Middle East.

How the Biden Administration Will Give China What It Wants

Brandon Weichert

Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden and his advisers have talked a good game about taking on China. This is a surprise to many of us who assumed that Biden would basically kowtow to Beijing. Even on the important matter of the origins of COVID-19, the Biden team has refused to totally dismiss claims that the disease originated from a lab in Wuhan. After a recent cyberattack, in fact, the Biden Administration took the previously unimaginable course of action and publicly accused China of being responsible for the recent Microsoft “cyberattack spree” (they were). This was something not even former President Donald Trump, a noted China hawk, had done.

Yet, as with so many things in the political realm today, appearances can often be deceiving. Perception is rarely reality, after all.

For example, President Biden likes to appear as though he is calling the shots. Although, the reality is much more complicated than that. Multiple reports have surfaced that suggest Mr. Biden is not the one driving his administration. Instead, there are multiple centers of power, all of which are competing with one another on a multitude of issues, such as the administration’s China policy or its Global Warming policy.

America is back. But is it really?

Dalibor Rohac

At the beginning of his presidency, Joe Biden vowed to “repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.” Six months into his term, is America really back, as the president is fond of saying?

That is hardly the impression one gets in Afghanistan, where the American pullout has provided a new momentum to the Taliban’s insurgency, punctured only with occasional, half-hearted U.S. airstrikes. If the Taliban’s ascent to power is indeed just a matter of time, Biden’s presidency thus risks overseeing the most dramatic rollback of women’s rights in the world in a generation as well as the re-emergence of Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorist groups and as a place for regional power competition.

Afghanistan might be a distant place, but the lesson of both 9/11 and of Europe’s 2015 refugee crisis is that the West cannot insulate itself from consequences of instability and conflict elsewhere in the world. True, America cannot be everywhere. Yet, by default, America was in Afghanistan. As of late, U.S. presence, which provided a significant degree of stability, came at a reasonably low cost to American blood and treasure. The burden of proof should have been on the advocates of withdrawal to demonstrate in what ways the status quo was supposedly unsustainable and how giving up on Afghanistan was consistent with the broader agenda of America’s international re-engagement.

How Democracies Can Win an Information Contest Without Undercutting Their Values


Dueling French and Russian trolls sparred with one another online as they vied for influence in multiple African countries, Facebook revealed late last year. It was the first time the platform called out individuals affiliated with a Western liberal democratic government for coordinated inauthentic behavior on its platform. The French operation, which had been underway since 2018, used fake accounts to pose as locals in target countries, commenting on content related to current events and pushing back on criticisms of French foreign policy posted by the Russian operation. “We have these two efforts from different sides of these issues using the same tactics and techniques,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said of the episode, “and they end up looking sort of the same.” That is a problem.

Democracies should not emulate the disinformation tactics of authoritarian regimes like Russia and China. Specifically, democracies should not seek to covertly influence public debate either by deliberately spreading information that is false or misleading or by engaging in deceptive practices, such as the use of fictitious online personas. While it can be tempting to fight fire with fire and combat authoritarian information manipulation with equivalent tactics, doing so will only deepen public distrust of political discourse—eroding the very basis of democracy and bolstering arguments used to defend autocratic rule. Responding to information manipulation in kind allows autocrats to dictate the terms of the competition—and it all but ensures that the contest will play out on terrain where democracies are at a disadvantage. These long-term costs outweigh any transitory foreign policy benefits that democracies may seek to gain. Instead, democracies should leverage their comparative advantages—which for advanced democracies often include strong rule of law, a healthy respect for human rights, considerable soft power, advanced cyber capabilities, and a vibrant network of partners and allies—and respond on their own terms.

Universities Maintain Ties to Malign Chinese Entities Following Confucius Institute Closures

Craig Singleton

The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) announced the closure of its Confucius Institute (CI) in early July, ending the university’s 14-year involvement in a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) program aimed at promoting Beijing’s preferred political narratives. However, in a move consistent with CI closures in other states, UCA has elected to maintain a relationship with its former CI partner university in China, raising important questions for policymakers seeking to monitor China’s malign influence on college campuses.

CIs are CCP-sponsored educational organizations that offer Chinese language, culture, and history programming at the primary, secondary, and university levels. They are also a key element in China’s “United Front,” a network of groups and key individuals that seek to co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to the CCP’s policies and legitimacy. In 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress that CIs “offer a platform to disseminate Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party propaganda, to encourage censorship, and to restrict academic freedom.”

Britain kowtows to China in the South China Sea

Tom Rogan

They will not say that this was Boris Johnson's finest hour.

The British prime minister, America's nominally closest ally, isn't really that close to America.

That's the only credible assessment to make of Monday's ignominious departure of the country's HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier strike group from the South China Sea. As I noted on July 23, there was great consequence in what the strike group did or did not do before departing those waters.

After all, China makes outrageous claims to the near entirety of the South China Sea. Rich with energy and fishing stocks, these waters also see more than $3.5 trillion in annual trade flows. China gets the value. In turn, it has constructed a network of artificial islands in the South China Sea. They're not for vacation resorts, but rather for fortresses: China has manned its islands with missile, naval, and air bases. Beijing wants to use these forces to extract political concessions from all those transiting the waters (most of the world's nations). But the impact will be especially significant for regional states such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. China is to the 2020s Pacific rim what Imperial Japan was to the 1930s Pacific rim.

Germany's Post-Merkel Choice: Commercial Interests or the Transatlantic Relationship?

Iulia-Sabina Joja

President Joe Biden was also speaking for Chancellor Angela Merkel when he said at their meeting last week in Washington in the context of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline “we will see.” Indeed, “we will see” is on the mind of most Transatlantic and Russian policymakers as Germany embarks on the most important political transition in decades. This transition from Chancellor Merkel to a yet unknown leader will have a heavy bearing on Transatlantic-Russian relations. Chancellor Merkel, albeit in Germany’s reluctant foreign policy style, has played—for good and for bad—Europe’s anchor role towards Russia. For good, she was the one who, despite the pro-Russian lobby both at home and among some fellow EU member states—held European sanctions against Russia together. For good and for bad, she was also the lead on the Minsk Agreements that contained Ukraine’s Donbas conflict. For bad, she has bent European security interests to accommodate Germany’s consumer gas prices, at the price of U.S. sanctions, now temporarily lifted by President Biden. In similar terms, Chancellor Merkel has played an anchor role for Transatlantic relations, oftentimes bridging the Atlantic gap between American-skeptical Europeans, and—in their own ways Euro-skeptical—American Presidents.

Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat We're Facing—Period. | Opinion


There is extensive science that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are completely unprecedented. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have not been this high in over 800,000 years. Modern humans have been around for a little bit less than half that. If you look at the last 10,000 years, at the evolution of agriculture, at the entire development of civilization, that has all taken place in a time of remarkable climate stability. It's that stability that has made it possible for civilization and the societies we know to develop.

The fact that we are now so far outside the bounds of anything that we've seen in the course of human evolution is an emergency. It's a cause for huge concern.

Carbon dioxide has always been in the atmosphere and it's an incredibly important part of our planet that we have had this warming layer. What's really critical here is to realize is that you can cherry-pick specific statistics to support an argument, but there is no scientific debate about the fact that the buildup of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is causing dangerous climate change.

Daily Memo: Cyber Wars Can Become Hot Wars

Biden’s warning. U.S. President Joe Biden warned that cyberattacks could spark a shooting war. This follow’s last week’s launch of the U.S.-led multilateral cybersecurity coalition, which promptly put the spotlight on alleged Chinese attacks on Western firms and critical infrastructure.

Election meddling. Biden also accused Russia of attempting to interfere in U.S. congressional elections next year, saying Moscow was already spreading disinformation to sway the result. Meanwhile, U.S. and Russian representatives met in Geneva for the first round of strategic stability talks.

China meets Taliban. A Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. China supports the Taliban’s role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction but wants the group to cut ties with an Islamic movement responsible for attacks in China’s mostly Muslim Xinjiang region, Wang said.

Spillover threat. Islamic State fighters are moving into Afghanistan from countries like Syria and Libya, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. Russia is taking steps to counter the rising terrorist threat, including moving weapons and equipment to support the neighboring army in Tajikistan and training Tajik military personnel, Shoigu said. He also promised assistance from the 201st Russian base in Tajikistan.

Letter dated 19 May 2020 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) addressed to the President of the Security Council

The key development since the previous report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team (S/2019/481) has been the efforts made to establish a peace process, initially through talks between the Taliban and the United States of America, aimed at reaching an agreement to end the 18-year war.

Multiple rounds of talks held over the course of 16 months culminated in a signature ceremony with the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Abdul Ahmad Turk (TAi.024) on 29 February 2020 in Doha. The agreement provided for United States military drawdown in exchange for Taliban counter-terrorism measures, exchanges of prisoners between the Taliban and the Government of Afghanistan, removal of sanctions and the launch of intra-Afghan talks aimed at achieving a permanent ceasefire

Cyber Warfare Begins With Military Precision

Jeremy Miller and Dawn Yankeelov

Educating small businesses and implementing workforce development is key to readiness.

The small business sector must seize the day and immediately begin taking the steps necessary to implement tools for cyber resilience and cyber readiness. Scaling cybersecurity services, education and training are crucial to national security.

Regarding the cyber warfare landscape for 2021, the most critical group to secure is the small and midsize business sector (SMBs), particularly following the pandemic. When working with tech-specific organizations and the military, process management and a sense of purpose can overcome inertia and apathy until a financial loss appears.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the United States is home to 31.7 million small businesses that employ nearly 61 million workers—half of the private-sector workforce. Small businesses account for 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses.

Military communications payloads could hitchhike on future GPS satellites

Sandra Erwin

WASHINGTON – The next generation of Global Positioning System satellites could host additional payloads to provide communications services, the U.S. Space Force said in a request for information.

The RFI issued last month by the Space and Missile Systems Center asks contractors to pitch ideas for hosting communications payloads on GPS 3F satellites, the newest version of GPS currently being developed by Lockheed Martin.

GPS satellites provide positioning, navigation and timing data. The Space Force is now deploying GPS 3 satellites. The first of the more advanced GPS 3F version is projected to launch in 2026. These new satellites will have more room and power to support hosted payloads.

Exploring the Feasibility and Utility of Machine Learning-Assisted Command and Control

Matthew Walsh, Lance Menthe, Edward Geist, Eric Hastings

This report concerns the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) systems to assist in Air Force command and control (C2) from a technical perspective. The authors present an analytical framework for assessing the suitability of a given AI system for a given C2 problem. The purpose of the framework is to identify AI systems that address the distinct needs of different C2 problems and to identify the technical gaps that remain. Although the authors focus on C2, the analytical framework applies to other warfighting functions and services as well.

The goal of C2 is to enable what is operationally possible by planning, synchronizing, and integrating forces in time and purpose. The authors first present a taxonomy of problem characteristics and apply them to numerous games and C2 processes. Recent commercial applications of AI systems underscore that AI offers real-world value and can function successfully as components of larger human-machine teams. The authors outline a taxonomy of solution capabilities and apply them to numerous AI systems.

Responsible Cyber Offense

Perri Adams, Dave Aitel, George Perkovich, JD Work

News of the SolarWinds hack emerged with reports the incident had triggered an emergency Saturday meeting at the National Security Council. In the weeks that followed, the story dominated headlines. Whereas most offensive cyber operations rarely receive concentrated focus, the name of a Texas-based information technology software company, SolarWinds, became ubiquitous across mainstream news outlets and quickly synonymous with the Russian hacking operation that targeted it. Policymakers, corporations and the entire cybersecurity industry were soon asking, “How do we address SolarWinds?”

Russian state actors had breached SolarWinds’ network to insert a backdoor into a software product used in critical networks across the United States. The hackers then snuck through their carefully hidden entrance to infiltrate the State Department, Treasury Department, Microsoft, and many other government and corporate networks from among the thousands of compromised organizations now open to them. The scale of the attacks, along with the high-profile nature of many of the targets, encouraged the widespread coverage and subsequent reaction from elected officials. Congressional hearings were scheduled, and then-President-elect Biden pledged to address the issue.

Air Force Professional Military Education

Lawrence M. Hanser, Jennifer J. Li, Carra S. Sims, Norah Griffin, Spencer R. Case

Professional military education (PME) for U.S. Air Force officers is part of a complex system for preparing officers of all services for command and staff work in a joint context. The system must accommodate thousands of officers every year — some in-residence at service schoolhouses, some through fellowship opportunities at varying locations, and still others through distance learning.

There is an apparent imbalance in the assignment of Air Force officers to specific PME programs: A greater proportion of officers who are ranked lower by the central developmental education board are assigned to PME at Air University than those higher on the rankings, who tend to be assigned to non–Air Force schoolhouses or fellowship programs.

The authors examine the process for selecting officers for assignment to in-residence schools and fellowships and review U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense policies on PME. Drawing on interviews with Air Force leaders who oversee and conduct PME and on recent graduates' opinions of these programs, the authors make recommendations designed to help the Air Force improve its system of PME to better serve the organization and its members.