2 May 2023

The pitfalls of technology in India

In the last decade or so, online platforms, AI-powered services, and delivery portals have become an integral part of people’s day-to-day lives. The government’s Digital India campaign is an example of the rising importance of digital services.

Despite this push towards adoption of technology, lack of access to hardware and lack of know-how is causing the exclusion of many. To put this in perspective, according to the India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide by Oxfam, approximately 70 percent of the population has poor or no connectivity to digital technologies while more than 60 percent of Indian households remains digitally illiterate.

On our podcast ‘On the Contrary by IDR’, host Arun Maira spoke with Kiran Karnik and Osama Manzar on how access to and knowledge of technology is a factor of existing inequalities, and what the government can do to bridge the gap. Kiran Karnik is the former president of NASSCOM and has also worked at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Osama Manzar is the founder and director of Digital Empowerment Foundation, a nonprofit that works on increasing digital literacy in India.

Below is an edited transcript that provides an overview of the guests’ perspectives on the show.

Digital technologies aren’t accessible to all

Osama: The power of real technology is not in inclusion, but in the exclusion that it causes. And this is systemic. I would like to explain this with an anecdote. When I was visiting a digital centre in Chirala, Andhra Pradesh, I saw that there was a long queue of people [with] INR 50, an Aadhaar card, and a phone in their hand. On enquiring further, they told me they were going to give this INR 50 to the service centre [to] update their Aadhaar card. [This is] the role technology plays in inclusion [but also in exclusion]. [People] are excluded if the Aadhaar does not match; they are excluded if [their] data is not updated; they are excluded from food, ration, pension, banking, and so on if by any chance this connectivity doesn’t work. And they’re paying for any discrepancy in [the system].

During COVID-19, the learning of more than 280 million children got affected due to the closure of schools.

Shaky Signal Qualcomm is optimistic about its China business. Should it be?


Last month, Cristiano R. Amon, the amiable young chief executive of Qualcomm, took the stage at the 2023 China Development Forum, an annual gathering of multinational CEOs and government officials in Beijing. The American business community — wary of awkward optics during a time of grim congressional hearings, industrial sanctions and exploding spy balloons — largely kept their heads down at the press-heavy gathering. But Amon, beaming in a sponge-yellow tie, sounded a decidedly upbeat note for his American wireless firm.

“We are proud of the deep relationships we have built over the past 30 years [in China], and the new partnerships we are building today,” he said, before going on to praise China’s “digital transformation.”

Opinion – China’s Global Security Initiative’s Revisionism

Klaus Heinrich Raditio

The Global Security Initiative (GSI) was brought to the public attention by President Xi Jinping during the Boao Forum in April 2022. When it was publicized for the first time, the GSI was far from clear and detailed, but on 21 February 2023, the State Council promulgated the GSI’s Concept Paper that explains the Initiative further. The Paper unravels the mystery behind China’s global power intention (or ambition) and adds to the public interest on the GSI and the implication it may have on the current global order.

As China’s power grows, it aspires to contribute more significantly to the world. Moreover it has an ambition to direct the course of history, instead of becoming a spectator. So far, China has played a key role in the global economy, particularly world trade, technology innovation and development assistance to underprivileged countries. Through the Belt and Road Initiative, China has assisted infrastructure building in 151 states. China thinks it is time to expand its clout beyond economics, especially in the fields that it often suffers deficit – such as political trust.

Bluntly speaking, the GSI is China’s regional and global architecture. It is Beijing’s effort to shape a new world order with Chinese characteristics. On the one hand, China has been successful under the US-dominated ‘Pax Americana’ system that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. On the other hand, after growing in power in recent decades, China thinks the current order can no longer accommodate its growing interests. Hence, China’s need to revise or modify the current world order to accommodate its “dream”.

There are some principles that support the current order in the GSI. Firstly, the GSI upholds the global system based on the UN role, the UN Charter and international law. The GSI perceives UN authority as a means to global governance and peace keeping. Regardless of China’s reservation to the UN on several areas such as the Xinjiang issue, the Concept Paper acknowledges UN as the platform to maintain global peace and growth.

A Civilian U.S. 'Joint Chiefs' for Economic Competition with China?

Barry Pavel and Daniel Egel

America is at the beginning of a new era in history. China's aggressive activities are presenting the greatest sustained challenge to the rules-based international order since the end of World War II. While military capabilities and posture will remain essential—as Putin's invasion of Ukraine has reminded the world—the geopolitical milestones of this new era will be shaped by the intensive and growing economic and technological rivalry between the United States and China.

In order to posture for success in this new era, the United States could create a civilian equivalent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff with a mandate to effectively and efficiently manage the expanding role of U.S. civilian departments in geopolitical and economic competition.

In 1947, at the outset of the last comparable inflection point in history, the United States implemented a series of major structural reforms which President Harry Truman urged as the “best means of keeping the peace.” The 1947 National Security Act (PDF) formalized Truman's vision and established the National Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and structures to ensure the “coordination of the activities of the National Military Establishment with other departments and agencies of the Government concerned with national security.”

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) was one of the coordinating structures formalized in 1947 that would help lay the foundation for a Cold War victory decades later. Though the JCS was initially established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after Pearl Harbor, the 1947 National Security Act gave this body a formal peacetime mandate. Over the next four decades, the JCS would function as a “corporate advisory board (PDF)” in advising the president on military matters and provide, in President Truman's words, “coordination and unified command … [to prevent] future aggression against world peace.”

The geopolitical milestones of this new era will be shaped by the intensive and growing economic and technological rivalry between the United States and China.Share on Twitter

How to Spy on China

Peter Mattis

Over the past few months, as competition with China has intensified, the Biden administration has struggled to provide the United States and its allies with a clear picture of Beijing’s intentions. In mid-February, for example, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that China could soon begin providing Russia with lethal aid for its war in Ukraine—a step that would dramatically change the dynamic of the conflict. But so far, the administration has not been able to confirm plans for such aid or to find concrete evidence that such transfers are taking place. Similarly, in late February,

Russia-China Defense Cooperation

Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Nicholas Lokker


Russia’s war in Ukraine has been a critical test of the depth of Sino-Russian relations. Since Russia’s invasion, China has remained an essential partner for Moscow. Although there have been limits to what Beijing has been willing to do for Russia, China has served as a vital lifeline for the Kremlin including by parroting Russian talking points about the war, increasing purchases of Russian oil and gas, and continuing to export microchips and other component parts to Moscow cut off by the West. Warnings by senior U.S. officials that China is contemplating providing Russia with lethal military aid in support of its war against Ukraine underscore the depth of their partnership.1 Emerging reports that Chinese companies have provided rifles and dual-use equipment such as drone parts and body armor only add credibility to these warnings.2 Although it remains unclear at the time of writing whether China will ultimately decide to send lethal aid to Russia, the last year has provided further evidence that Russia and China are deeply aligned and that the persistence and evolution of their partnership will continue to pose challenges that the United States and its allies must navigate.

This working paper will focus on the challenges that Russia-China military cooperation poses to the United States and its allies and partners. This aspect of their relationship has been one of the most consequential dimensions of their deepening partnership. Already, China has obtained key capabilities from Moscow such as Su-27 and Su-35 fighter aircrafts, S-300 and S-400 air defense systems, and anti-ship missiles, which bolster China’s military posture in the Indo-Pacific.3 Russia too has benefited from a large market for its arms sales and access to technological components it can no longer access following the imposition of Western sanctions in 2014—a need that has grown exponentially since Russia’s reinvasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Meanwhile, more frequent and elaborate joint exercises have signaled to onlooking countries the two partners’ mutual support for each other’s security priorities and willingness to push back against the United States.

The Long Arm of China’s Overseas Influence Operations

Danielle Pletka

On April 17, the FBI arrested two men, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, on federal criminal charges associated with the operation of a Chinese police outpost in Brooklyn, New York. These are the some of the first such charges against the more than a hundred overseas Chinese “police stations” operating internationally, many of them without the permission of the host country. “Today’s charges are a crystal clear response to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] that we are onto you, we know what you’re doing and we will stop it from happening in the United States of America,” Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney, said.

The Long Arm of China’s Overseas Influence Operations

Danielle Pletka

On April 17, the FBI arrested two men, Lu Jianwang and Chen Jinping, on federal criminal charges associated with the operation of a Chinese police outpost in Brooklyn, New York. These are the some of the first such charges against the more than a hundred overseas Chinese “police stations” operating internationally, many of them without the permission of the host country. “Today’s charges are a crystal clear response to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] that we are onto you, we know what you’re doing and we will stop it from happening in the United States of America,” Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney, said.

The two men were allegedly operating a police outpost for the Fuzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau, a branch of China’s Ministry of Public Security. Other such outposts—in Australia, France, Italy, and dozens more from Angola to Uzbekistan—have been engaged in intelligence collection, rendition of dissidents, and organizing protests against regime opponents. But the long arm of Chinese law is only one of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly brazen efforts to collect critical information, influence global public opinion, and shape the direction of foreign political systems.

Everyone recalls, of course, the infamous Chinese spy balloon that collected critical military intelligence as it drifted across the United States, to the consternation of the Biden administration. Chinese cyberattacks have also been responsible for some of the most intrusive breaches of U.S. government websites, including a hack into the personnel files of millions of government employees in the Office of Personnel Management.

Continue reading here.

China’s Updated Espionage Legislation: A Massive Risk to Western Companies

Elisabeth Braw

Today, April 26, China’s National People’s Congress approved amendments to the country’s espionage law—amendments that dramatically expand the definition of espionage. The amended legislation covers not just state secrets but all documents concerning national security—and it doesn’t define what constitutes national security. That, in combination with China’s willingness to weaponize globalization, makes it extremely dangerous for Western businesses to remain in China.

“Chinese lawmakers passed a wide-ranging update to Beijing’s anti-espionage legislation on Wednesday, banning the transfer of any information related to national security and interests and broadening the definition of spying,” Reuters reported on 26 April. The decision came as no surprise, since the rubber-stamp legislature reliably approves all government plans, but especially for the many foreigners working in China the law is shattering all the same. That’s because under the updated legislation, “documents, data, materials, and items related to national security and interests” are treated in the same way as state secrets, China News Service reports. Security authorities, meanwhile, will be given the right to inspect the baggage and electronic devices of people suspected of espionage. The law also obliges Chinese citizens and organizations to report suspected espionage, while logistics and telecommunications companies will need to “provide technical support to fight espionage” and “media organizations will have to educate the public on the issue,” Nikkei reports.

The implications for businesses are both clear and painful. Anyone seen by the Chinese authorities as having mishandled materials related to “national security and interests” can be accused of espionage and held on these grounds. What makes the legislation even more menacing is the fact that “national security and interests” isn’t specified. A law that treats as espionage any sharing of materials that the authorities can decide relate to “national security and interests” is an unmistakable warning that virtually anyone can be arrested on espionage charges.

China’s top chipmaker will ‘struggle’ to make cutting-edge chips competitively

Sheila Chiang

China’s largest chipmaker SMIC won’t be able to produce cutting-edge chips competitively if it continues to be cut off from advanced equipment, analysts told CNBC.

SMIC has been the target of U.S. sanctions since 2020 when it was put on an U.S. trade blacklist restricting its access to certain technology.

It has been unable to obtain the extreme ultraviolet lithography machines which only Dutch firm ASML is currently capable of making.

But with SMIC being the key to China’s chip ambitions, analysts expect the government to step up support for the chipmaker.

China’s largest chipmaker SMIC won’t be able to produce cutting-edge chips competitively if it continues to be cut off from advanced equipment, analysts told CNBC.

China’s largest chipmaker SMIC won’t be able to produce cutting-edge chips competitively if it continues to be cut off from advanced equipment, analysts told CNBC.

State-backed SMIC, or Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co., is making 7-nanometer semiconductor chips, placing it in the league of Intel and others.

However, SMIC has been the target of U.S. sanctions since 2020 when it was put on a U.S. trade blacklist which restricts its access to certain technology. It has also been unable to obtain the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines — which only Dutch firm ASML is capable of making.

Russia and China are waging a propaganda war against the US — why are we silent?


In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 20th National Congress of China’s ruling Communist Party in Beijing, China, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. China on Sunday opens a twice-a-decade party conference at which leader Xi Jinping is expected to receive a third five-year term that breaks with recent precedent and establishes himself as arguably the most powerful Chinese politician since Mao Zedong. (Ju Peng/Xinhua via AP)

Biden administration officials, like most of their recent predecessors, defensively deny that U.S. policy is to contain, hold down, or wage a new Cold War against China.

By contrast, the Chinese Communist Party continues to pursue expansionist economic, political and military goals and challenge the West at every level, especially in the informational and ideological domains. Beijing — along with its strategic allies and partners Russia, Iran and North Korea — sees the West in decline and strives to hasten its fall, just as the Soviet Union and its acolytes attempted in the original Cold War.

In fact, Moscow continues to roll out and recycle some of the same disinformation and propaganda gambits it employed for the Soviet Union, such as its recent accusations of a U.S. biological warfare campaign in Ukraine. Baseless as the claims are, they divert attention, at least for some, from the actual crimes against humanity being perpetrated by Russian forces in Ukraine as well as Vladimir Putin’s criminal actions in Russia itself, where he crushes domestic opposition to the war and his regime, often murderously.

What is missing from the West’s response to the open assault of Russia and China on the rules-based international order is a sustained information counter-offensive similar to the strategic communications campaign waged by the United States and the Free World against the Soviet Union.

China’s shrinking population and constraints on its future power

Michael E. O’Hanlon 

According to official U.N. estimates, April 2023 is the month during which, in all likelihood, India will overtake China in population. That is a fascinating story in and of itself, since China has been the world’s most populous country for centuries.

But the real significance of this story, especially for geopolitics, is not about who’s number one. Rather, combined with other demographic realities, the trends send a clear message that China is not 10 feet tall. Any sense of Western defeatism based on fears about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) economic and strategic rise should be tempered with the many constraints affecting that country, beginning with its demographics. None of this is to trivialize the significance of China’s rise or the challenges it could pose to the United States and its allies along the way. But it is far from obvious that, hegemonically speaking, time is on China’s side. That observation should provide some tempering perspective on the question of how soon China might use force to attempt reunification with Taiwan or try to displace the United States strategically in the broader Indo-Pacific region. For some U.S. scholars, these kinds of demographic trend lines may persuade Beijing that its window of opportunity to carry out aggression is closing — meaning that it should use force soon. But there are huge risks and downsides to such an attempt given the current correlation of military forces, and the difficulty of achieving a decisive victory in a great-power war. Thus, a more compelling interpretation is that China’s presumed future dominance is not preordained on any timetable. The PRC is, and will be, formidable, to be sure. And it is dangerous. But it is not poised to establish hegemony in either the first or second half of the 21st century as some kind of historical inevitability.

Back to the data. What is fascinating is not just that India will, at the level of about 1.4 billion citizens, slightly overtake China sometime this month (or at least, let’s say, this year — acknowledging the uncertainties in these kinds of population counts). The curves displaying their population trajectories over time have very different shapes. China’s population is, in fact, already declining. Its population will likely decline faster and faster in the decades to come — even if the PRC government has other wishes — because Chinese citizens are already choosing to have far fewer babies than had been expected when the earlier one-child policy was gradually relaxed, then lifted, in the last couple decades. Those trends can be expected to continue in a society that is becoming richer, and more expensive, and also has a gradually improving social safety net and retirement system. Indeed, according to current projections, China’s population is likely to drop below 1 billion by 2080 and below 800 million by 2100. Those specific numbers will surely change; the downward shape of the curve almost certainly will not.

China has military-civil fusion strategy, advanced technologies can be used for weapons modelling, surveillance: US Assistant Secy of Commerce

New Delhi [India], April 28 (ANI): Amid US efforts to clamp down on China’s access to advanced technologies that could be used for military purposes, a senior Biden administration official has said that Beijing has a “military-civil fusion strategy” which makes it very difficult for companies to know end users and really advanced technologies can be used for weapons modelling and to violate human rights through data surveillance.

Interacting with the media here, Thea D Rozman Kendler, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration said that the US government had last year put out rules against China’s acquisition of advanced circuitry that can be used for Artificial Intelligence and supercomputing and it is an area of focus.

Kendler, who is in India to build on the momentum of US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to the country last month, said the two countries share a common security outlook which makes cooperation much easier.

During her visit, Kendler met Indian government officials and industry to discuss dual-use export controls issues.

She also engaged in final planning for the US-India Strategic Trade Dialogue (USISTD), the first meeting of which is slated to be held in Washington next month.

Answering queries, she said that US does not want technological innovations to be used for harming global peace and security.

“United States and India share a common security outlook which makes cooperation much easier between us. We want to make sure that innovations we are working on together makes the world a better place and aren’t being used to harm global peace and security and so we have great cooperation with Indian government on all of that,” Kendler said.

What it will look like if China launches cyberattacks in the U.S.


While much of the cybersecurity world’s attention is on fending off Russian hacks against Ukraine, American officials are increasingly worried about another growing threat: attacks by China on U.S. soil.

If China invades Taiwan, they say, it is likely to unleash a volley of digital strikes against the United States at the same time.

Beijing continues to issue bold threats against the island. Most recently, China renewed military drills around the island in response to last week’s meetings in the U.S. between Taiwan’s president and House leaders — a meeting China called a “provocation.”

Top lawmakers, the U.S. intelligence community and cybersecurity officials have warned in recent weeks that if an invasion happens, China would likely try to hobble critical U.S. systems with cyberattacks on military transport systems like ports and railroads, or against key civilian services like water and electricity.

“If Xi Jinping moves on Taiwan, we should assume he’ll launch cyberattacks against the United States as part of the operation,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), chair of the House Select Committee on China, said in an emailed statement. “This would likely include attacks on our electrical grid, water systems and communications infrastructure — especially near key military installations.”

'The time to act is now': Rep. Gallagher previews first House hearing on China

Chinese hackers could also attack the networks of companies that provide services to the military or to critical infrastructure operators, holding their systems hostage for ransom payments.

Secularism: A Religion of the 21st Century

Shafi Md Mostofa

The contentious relationship between religion and secularism has been a debated topic for over a century. Undoubtedly, secularism emerged as a response to religion or religious establishments dismissing metaphysical matters as irrelevant to human life on Earth. Scholars have predominantly studied secularism as a political ideology rather than a religion. Consequently, it has been posited that as societies advance, the influence of religion would decline. However, contrary to expectations, religions have also adapted to address the challenges posed by secularism or ‘secular religion’.

To substantiate my argument, I draw on the etymological meaning of religion, which is “to bind people.” From this perspective, secularism can also be seen as a religion, as it has the power to bind people together. If we consider Durkheim’s definition of religion as “beliefs and practices related to sacred things,” we can see that secularism also encompasses beliefs, practices, and sacred concepts. For instance, a fundamental belief of secularism is that “man is inherently good,” as suggested by Rousseau, which reinforces Locke’s idea of laissez-faire or individual freedom. This belief is central to the theory of individualism, which holds that man has the ability to determine their own future well-being. As such, secularism regards humanity as sacred, with the flourishing and fulfilment of human desires being of utmost importance. This perspective allows for concepts such as same-sex marriage to be recognized as a fulfilment of human pleasure, in contrast to religious perspectives that prioritize marriage and procreation. Secularism also encompasses practices such as non-religious national (for example, Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand) and cultural events (for example, New Year Celebrations across the globe), which can be seen as secular rituals that bind communities together. It is noteworthy that certain Asian religions, like Buddhism and Jainism, do not subscribe to the belief in a god, yet they are classified as religions and have millions of adherents.

Why Are Foreign Powers Scrambling to Court Africa?

Cameron Hudson

There’s a new scramble for Africa going on. But unlike the infamous conference of Berlin of 1885 that saw European powers carve up the continent for their aggrandizement and exploitation, today’s great power competition is more of a courtship. Becoming Africa’s “partner of choice” on everything from growing their economies to protecting their borders is Washington’s stated objective, but preventing others from doing the same remains an even higher, if unspoken, priority.

Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris became the fifth high-ranking U.S. official to visit the continent just this year, who have combined to visit fully one-quarter of the continent’s 54 countries. But the United States is not the lone courtier. Russian, Chinese, French and English officials are crisscrossing the continent too with their own promises of political partnerships, humanitarian assistance, splashy development projects, and reforms to postwar international institutions that for decades have been seen by Africans as perpetuating paternalist power dynamics.

Framing the U.S. approach is the Biden administration’s recent U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa. Announced last August in South Africa, it correctly puts its finger on the present and future conditions on the continent that underpin Washington’s current interest.

Africa is home to many of the rare earth critical minerals essential to powering the next generation of innovation and green growth. From copper to cobalt, the supply chains for products ranging from solar cells to next-generation batteries all start in Africa and securing reliable access to these minerals, currently dominated by China, is imperative to U.S. economic and national security.

AUKUS Is a Big Deal, and Big Deals Should Lead to Big Debates

James Carouso

As in any good democracy, when a major decision is taken by the government, considerable criticism should be expected. The AUKUS submarine deal agreed in San Diego on March 13 certainly falls in that “major decision” category. This is the largest single defense procurement in Australia’s history for a technology Australia has no experience with, and it bears a development and delivery timeline that stretches out decades. It has also angered the country’s largest trade partner, China.

Australian defense minister Richard Marles has explained that AUKUS will provide the capability to deter efforts by another nation—China—to block the sea routes Australia depends on. Australia’s current deterrent capability is considered insufficient or missing entirely. Furthermore, leaders of Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom agreed to cover the looming gap in Australian capability by rotating U.S. and British nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) to Australia. These rotations will take place until the first delivery of the U.S.-made SSNs to Australia in the 2030s. The three nations will also work together to build a new class of SSNs called SSN-AUKUS that will help maintain the shipbuilding capacity in the United Kingdom and expand this industrial skillset to Australia.

With major Australian political parties actively supporting AUKUS and the Greens and parliamentary independents offering only muted criticism, the most active and vociferous Australian critics of AUKUS are retired political and government officials. Their critiques fall into three principal categories:The Borg Group: Resistance to China’s rise is futile, so Australians may as well make the best of that inevitability. This is related to the “let’s just hope for the best, she’ll be right” crowd. The problem with this argument is that resistance has shown to be effective. Australia refusing to kowtow to China’s economic coercion, and China now rolling back its economic sanctions against Australia (regardless of AUKUS) demonstrates that pushing back and standing up for Australian sovereignty—including the right to criticize another nation—actually works.

Great-Power Competition and Conflict in the 21st Century Outside the Indo-Pacific and Europe

Raphael S. Cohen, Elina Treyger, Irina A. Chindea, Christian Curriden, Kristen Gunness, Khrystyna Holynska, Marta Kepe, Kurt Klein, Ashley L. Rhoades, Nathan Vest

Research QuestionsUnder what conditions could the United States expect to become involved in a secondary-theater conflict in which China, Russia, or both are also involved?

What are the implications for the Department of the Air Force, the joint force, and the U.S. government at large?

During the Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden administrations, the United States made countering the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific and, to a lesser extent, checking Russian revanchism in Europe core priorities of its national security strategy. Historically, however, great-power competition and conflict have taken place outside the theaters of core concern to the competing powers. This report — the summary of a four-volume series — explores where and how the United States, China, and Russia may be competing for influence in these secondary theaters (Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America); where and why competition might turn into conflict; what form that conflict might take; and what implications the findings have for the U.S. government at large, the joint force, and the Department of the Air Force. This research was completed in September 2021, before the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The report has not been subsequently revised.

Key Findings

Competition in secondary theaters is most likely to focus on the historical power centers.

Assessing Commercial Contributions to U.S. Space Force Mission Resilience

Osonde A. Osoba, George Nacouzi, Jeff Hagen, Jonathan Tran, Li Ang Zhang, Marissa Herron, Christopher Lynch, Mel Eisman, Charles Barton

Research QuestionWhat are the advantages of using the resilience assessment framework to assess mission performance and mission resilience of various systems?

Over the past few years, commercial space services have significantly increased in capability and capacity in many missions of interest to the U.S. Space Force (USSF). As the USSF considers incorporating such commercial space services into its missions, it needs a principled and flexible assessment framework for evaluating how commercial contributions affect the performance and resilience of various USSF missions.

This report describes the resilience assessment framework that RAND Project AIR FORCE developed to assess the potential impact of select commercial services on USSF space mission performance. The framework includes four components to help analysts consider the additional mission performance and mission resilience that a proposed commercial service could provide.

The prospect of incorporating commercial capabilities into defense missions also raises the question of trustworthiness and information assurance. The assessment framework includes a subframework focused on grading information contributions from commercial services for trustworthiness.

To demonstrate how the framework can be tailored to diverse missions by specifying the relevant mission assets or infrastructure, the commercial services available, and the mission performance measures, the authors apply the framework to two example missions: tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and data transmit and receive network. They then discuss their findings and propose several recommendations for the USSF to fully leverage the benefits of evaluating commercial capabilities with the resilience assessment framework.

A lecture on the history, challenges, politics of US information warfare


I had the privilege of speaking at Amerikahaus in Munich this week on the topic of “The politics of US information warfare.” The trip was made possible by the Yale Club of Germany and its Munich Dialogues on Democracy program in association with Amerikahaus. At a personal level, thank you to Bartley Grosserichter of the Yale Club of Germany, who leads the Munich Dialogues on Democracy program, and to Dominick Raabe of Amerikahaus. Also, thanks to

Asha Rangappa as it was my appearance in her lecture series that led to Bartley reaching out.

The video below is of the lecture Wednesday, which was about 30 minutes of me providing some overview discussion points that I hoped would help spark an engaging question-and-answer period. I’ve long held to the principle that a conversation on “public diplomacy” should be that, a conversation rather than one-way transmission of what I think the audience must know.

1 It should be noted that a discussion on the severe limitations imposed on US public diplomacy through neglect, poor leadership, and absent support taking place at Amerikahaus, a facility once supported by the US Information Agency, was not lost on me – and certainly not by the organizers – even if I didn’t mention it in my lecture.

This evening lecture followed a fun – for me at least – series of sessions starting at about 9:30 with the entire 11th-grade class of the Munich International School. Broken into three groups, I used the recent Robert Gates op-ed as an essay to interrogate and analyze in an interactive, conversational way. The conversations also went where the students wanted to go, so the topics were not restricted to the op-ed or its subject. I am told they liked it and learned something, so that’s nice.

Experts react: The US and South Korea strike a deal on nuclear weapons. What’s next for the alliance?

Atlantic Council experts

US President Joe Biden welcomed South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to the White House on Wednesday to commemorate seventy years of the US-South Korea alliance and the war that forged it—but this state visit is no backward-looking affair. While the top items on the agenda (nuclear weapons and microchips) were invented nearer to 1900 than today, the two leaders are navigating the political tensions around those technologies to find a common future. Below, Atlantic Council experts break down the two leaders’ Washington Declaration on nuclear weapons, how the leaders are addressing Seoul’s concerns over US industrial policy, and more.

This is the day US-South Korea truly became a nuclear-armed alliance

The new Nuclear Consultative Group that Biden and Yoon announced today for the South Korea-US alliance is a major step forward for the alliance’s efforts to deter, prepare for, and respond to North Korea’s nuclear coercion tactics and aggression. Today may be marked as the day that the US-South Korea alliance truly became a nuclear-armed alliance—even if the nuclear weapons are still US-owned and US-controlled, we can now consider nuclear weapons to be an alliance capability.

However, this is just a step and one that requires a great deal of follow-through to realize its promise. This announcement opens the door for a whole new level of necessary hard work in the alliance on nuclear issues, as the presidents alluded to today. War plans and training will have to be continually revised to account for new approaches and new realities, particularly including North Korea’s rapidly growing strategic and tactical nuclear and missile capabilities. The alliance will have to conduct new military exercises and table-top simulations with nuclear considerations at the forefront, incorporating the lessons learned each time. Mindsets will also have to change—rather than focusing on how the United States will “provide” extended nuclear deterrence to South Korea through threats of US nuclear punishment, the focus going forward should be on how to integrate US and South Korean capabilities and approaches to a wide spectrum of nuclear and non-nuclear aggression. The mindset within the alliance will also have to fully come to grips with the harsh reality that nuclear deterrence may fail, meaning that the alliance should be prepared to be resilient in the face of nuclear attacks and to launch a coordinated counterattack as an alliance.

Not every North Korean missile needs a response. South Korea and the US should focus more on readiness and deterrence.

Jessica Taylor

During their summit this week in Washington, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and US President Joe Biden discussed alliance measures to improve deterrence against North Korea, including the establishment of a new Nuclear Consultative Group. Going forward, the allies should focus on this type of strategic measure rather than on a reactive approach to North Korea’s weapons tests and demonstrations.

Earlier this month in one of the latest tit-for-tat rounds, the alliance responded to North Korea’s testing of its new solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-18, with air drills. South Korea’s defense ministry stated that the drills were to demonstrate “the powerful strength of the alliance and the United States’ will to provide extended deterrence against the recent series of North Korea provocations.”

There are many ways to strengthen the US-South Korea alliance, including through planned military exercises that demonstrate alliance cohesion and resolve. But it is far from clear that quick drills in response to North Korean provocations—the short-order shows of force that risk becoming more and more frequent as Pyongyang tests more missiles than ever—are effective. They might even be counterproductive. So why does the alliance continue to respond in this manner?
Efforts to regain public confidence

After a few troublesome years for the US-South Korea alliance, Yoon and Biden moved to reestablish large-scale exercises and quick responses to North Korean “provocations” in order to display efforts to strengthen deterrence, with the aim of regaining public confidence. Under the previous administrations in Seoul and Washington, the alliance had dramatically scaled back its military activities in an attempt to better enable diplomacy with North Korea. As it became clear that there was no acceptable deal to be made with Kim Jong Un on his nuclear and missile programs, North Korea resumed, and then escalated, its missile launches and nuclear rhetoric. Coupled with former US President Donald Trump’s disparaging of the alliance, the South Korean public’s faith in US security guarantees deteriorated. As a result, now most of the South Korean public supports Seoul developing its own nuclear weapon capability—in part because they are losing faith in the deterrence extended by the United States, particularly the “nuclear umbrella.”

AI Is Eating the World


In a post-AI world will OnlyFans even need real girls? (Shutterstock)

Every week I highlight three newsletters.

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1. Social Media News

Parker Malloy has a long and very smart post about the end of an era of journalism:

Facebook used to be a great place to get referral traffic; Twitter, not so much. Still, it’s only gotten worse as the platforms underwent the enshittification process.

In just the past few weeks, Twitter’s Elon Musk stripped journalists and news outlets of verification badges in an effort to turn the site into a pay-to-play hellhole. Verification used to mean that the person posting something was who they claimed to be. When my account was verified in 2015 or so, it involved me having to send a scan of my driver’s license to Twitter. Now, anyone willing to pay Musk $8 per month gets "verified" (they do not actually verify your identity)and

For whatever reason, Twitter’s Elon Musk has decided to implement platform policies that punish users for linking to outside websites (like this newsletter, for instance!) in what will ultimately be a doomed effort to turn Twitter into an “everything” app where content simply lives on Twitter. That… is not what journalists/bloggers/content creators/whatever want.

This isn’t about Musk Twitter so much as it’s about the referral traffic economic mode of journalism.
1 For the last 15 years or so, the model for media companies has been to drive enormous amounts of traffic to individual stories via referrals from social media (and search). That model was never sustainable. It is currently dying.

Also: It’s about to get a lot worse. Let me give you an even darker view of the future of . . . well, not journalism, but content.

WEIRD AI: Understanding what nations include in their artificial intelligence plans

James S. Denford, Gregory S. Dawson, and Kevin C. Desouza 

In 2021 and 2022, the authors published a series of articles on how different countries are implementing their national artificial intelligence (AI) strategies. In these articles, we examined how different countries view AI and looked at their plans for evidence to support their goals. In the later series of papers, we examined who was winning and who was losing in the race to national AI governance, as well as the importance of people skills versus technology skills, and concluded with what the U.S. needs to do to become competitive in this domain.

Since these publications, several key developments have occurred in national AI governance and international collaborations. First, one of our key recommendations was that the U.S. and India create a partnership to work together on a joint national AI initiative. Our argument was as follows: “…India produces far more STEM graduates than the U.S., and the U.S. invests far more in technology infrastructure than India does. A U.S. -India partnership eclipses China in both dimensions and a successful partnership could allow the U.S. to quickly leapfrog China in all meaningful aspects of A.I.” In early 2023, U.S. President Biden announced a formal partnership with India to do exactly what we recommended to counter the growing threat of China and its AI supremacy.

Second, as we observed in our prior paper, the U.S. federal government has invested in AI, but largely in a decentralized approach. We warned that this approach, while it may ultimately develop the best AI solution, requires a long ramp up and hence may not achieve all its priorities.

Finally, we warned that China is already in the lead on the achievement of its national AI goals and predicted that it would continue to surpass the U.S. and other countries. News has now come that China is planning on doubling its investment in AI by 2026, and that the majority of the investment will be in new hardware solutions. The U.S. State Department also is now reporting that China leads the U.S. in 37 out of 44 key areas of AI. In short, China has expanded its lead in most AI areas, while the U.S. is falling further and further behind.

NSA Cybersecurity Director Says ‘Buckle Up’ for Generative AI


AT THE RSA security conference in San Francisco this week, there's been a feeling of inevitability in the air. At talks and panels across the sprawling Moscone convention center, at every vendor booth on the show floor, and in casual conversations in the halls, you just know that someone is going to bring up generative AI and its potential impact on digital security and malicious hacking. NSA cybersecurity director Rob Joyce has been feeling it too.

“You can’t walk around RSA without talking about AI and malware,” he said on Wednesday afternoon during his now annual “State of the Hack” presentation. “I think we’ve all seen the explosion. I won’t say it’s delivered yet, but this truly is some game-changing technology."

In recent months, chatbots powered by large language models, like OpenAI's ChatGPT, have made years of machine-learning development and research feel more concrete and accessible to people all over the world. But there are practical questions about how these novel tools will be manipulated and abused by bad actors to develop and spread malware, fuel the creation of misinformation and inauthentic content, and expand attackers' abilities to automate their hacks. At the same time, the security community is eager to harness generative AI to defend systems and gain a protective edge. In these early days, though, it's difficult to break down exactly what will happen next.

Joyce said the National Security Agency expects generative AI to fuel already effective scams like phishing. Such attacks rely on convincing and compelling content to trick victims into unwittingly helping attackers, so generative AI has obvious uses for quickly creating tailored communications and materials.

Brace Yourself for the 2024 Deepfake Election


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WAS once something the average person described in the abstract. They had no tactile relationship with it that they were aware of, even if their devices were often utilizing it. That’s all changed over the past year as people have started to engage with AI programs like OpenAI’s DALL-E and ChatGPT, and the technology is rapidly advancing.

As AI is democratized, democracy itself is falling under new pressures. There will likely be many exciting ways it will be deployed, but it may also start to distort reality and could become a major threat to the 2024 presidential election if AI-generated audio, images, and videos of candidates proliferate. The line between what’s real and what’s fake could start to blur significantly more than it already has in an age of rampant disinformation.

“We’ve seen pretty dramatic shifts in the landscape when it comes to generative tools—particularly in the last year,” says Henry Ajder, an independent AI expert. “I think the scale of content we’re now seeing being produced is directly related to that dramatic opening up of accessibility.”

It’s not a question of whether AI-generated content is going to start playing a role in politics, because it’s already happening. AI-generated images and videos featuring president Joe Biden and Donald Trump have started spreading around the internet. Republicans recently used AI to generate an attack ad against Biden. The question is, what will happen when anyone can open their laptop and, with minimal effort, quickly create a convincing deepfake of a politician?

There are plenty of ways to generate AI images from text, such as DALL-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion. It’s easy to generate a clone of someone’s voice with an AI program like the one offered by ElevenLabs. Convincing deepfake videos are still difficult to produce, but Ajder says that might not be the case within a year or so.

6 Tips for Using ChatGPT to Brainstorm Better


OpenAI’s chatbot responds in a conversational tone to text prompts, and millions of users continue to experiment with it. The chatbot helps software developers with coding, scientists with research, and students with homework. With a little repetition and exploration, ChatGPT is worth trying out as part of your brainstorming process.

Business leaders can use it to consider multiple approaches for crucial conversations or long-term decisions. Adventurous couples can ignite discussions with ChatGPT about their next romantic adventure. Nerdy journalists can waste half of their afternoon spitballing ideas to cover niche smartphone games.

Keep in mind that the tool sometimes gives incorrect responses, so approach a chatbot’s answers with healthy skepticism. Make sure to double-check any sources it cites to make sure they actually say what the AI thinks it says, or if they even exist. Also, ChatGPT is trained on data that’s not completely up to date. Best to keep your questions about sports scores, restaurant hours, and movies to watch for Google or the new Bing.

You can sign up for a free ChatGPT account on OpenAI’s website. Want the most powerful version responding to your brainstorming prompts? Consider paying $20 a month for ChatGPT Plus with GPT-4. It’s fun to play around with other chatbots as well, like Jasper and Google’s Bard, to see how your answers compare.
Find a Clear Starting Point

Just because an algorithm is involved does not mean everything changes about the process. A good brainstorm still starts with a strong premise. Find your core question or topic of exploration. Use this information to try multiple approaches to your prompts.

Ask the chatbot a bunch of short questions in quick succession. OK, what happens if you craft longer prompts? Experiment to see whether you get better answers from a one-paragraph prompt or a three-paragraph prompt.

Gauge the Limitations and Biases of the Tool

The DOJ Detected the SolarWinds Hack 6 Months Earlier Than First Disclosed


THE US DEPARTMENT of Justice, Mandiant, and Microsoft stumbled upon the SolarWinds breach six months earlier than previously reported, WIRED has learned, but were unaware of the significance of what they had found.

The breach, publicly announced in December 2020, involved Russian hackers compromising the software maker SolarWinds and inserting a backdoor into software served to about 18,000 of its customers. That tainted software went on to infect at least nine US federal agencies, among them the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the Treasury Department, as well as top tech and security firms including Microsoft, Mandiant, Intel, Cisco, and Palo Alto Networks. The hackers had been in these various networks for between four and nine months before the campaign was exposed by Mandiant.

WIRED can now confirm that the operation was actually discovered by the DOJ six months earlier, in late May 2020—but the scale and significance of the breach wasn’t immediately apparent. Suspicions were triggered when the department detected unusual traffic emanating from one of its servers that was running a trial version of the Orion software suite made by SolarWinds, according to sources familiar with the incident. The software, used by system administrators to manage and configure networks, was communicating externally with an unfamiliar system on the internet. The DOJ asked the security firm Mandiant to help determine whether the server had been hacked. It also engaged Microsoft, though it’s not clear why the software maker was also brought onto the investigation.

It’s not known what division of the DOJ experienced the breach, but representatives from the Justice Management Division and the US Trustee Program participated in discussions about the incident. The Trustee Program oversees the administration of bankruptcy cases and private trustees. The Management Division advises DOJ managers on budget and personnel management, ethics, procurement, and security.