26 January 2024

Israel Uncovers Hamas Tunnel Where Hostages, Including Children, Were Held in ‘Inhumane Conditions’

Zachary Rogers

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said troops discovered the tunnel in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis by means of “precise intelligence,” according to The Times of Israel, and that an entrance to the vast tunnel network was found beneath the home of a Hamas commander.

Israeli troops had to fight and kill Hamas gunmen when they first entered the tunnel, Hagari added. No hostages were found, but troops did discover a part of the tunnel that contained evidence hostages were held there.

IDF shared photos of the makeshift space, which included plastic furniture, oscillating fans, sleeping bags and even a child’s drawings and scribblings that were done in crayon.

IDF shared photos of the makeshift space, which included plastic furniture, oscillating fans, sleeping bags and even a child’s drawings and scribblings that were done in crayon.

“The tunnel was rigged with explosives and blast doors designed to protect the terrorists and prevent the advancement in finding our hostages,” Hagari said in the statement.

Early steps in India’s use of AI for defence

Antoine Levesques

India is just starting to use artificial intelligence for national-defence purposes, but it plans to increase these capabilities by working with domestic industry and through burgeoning overseas partnerships.

In November 2023, at a virtual G20 summit hosted by India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about global concerns regarding the ‘negative use’ of artificial intelligence (AI). These remarks were slightly more pessimistic than those made days earlier by his information-technology minister, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, at the Bletchley Park AI Safety Summit in the United Kingdom. Despite any general concerns the government may have regarding AI safety, it is pushing ahead to find military uses for the technology to remain globally competitive, notably as part of the sharpening strategic contest in the Indian Ocean region between New Delhi and Beijing. China has a globally competitive AI sector and could field new military applications of this technology using a relatively small percentage of its defence budget (perhaps as little as 1–2% in the coming years). Pakistan, meanwhile, is also taking steps to acquire AI capabilities for national defence.

The contest to develop national AI capabilities has sharpened significantly since the public launch in late 2022 of highly capable large-language models. India’s current efforts, however, are building on work that began long before this proof of concept. India launched its first national strategy for AI in June 2018 at roughly the same time that an AI task force convened by the government delivered defence-specific recommendations. Those included the creation, effective in 2019, of a high-level Defence AI Council and a Defence AI Project Agency.

In 2022, the government published a list of 75 priority projects related to using AI for defence; these focused on data processing and analysis, cyber security, simulation and autonomous systems, particularly drones. India is also exploring AI applications for underwater domain awareness and border security.

Qatar to Offer Cheaper LNG to India in New Long-Term Supply Deal

Charles Kennedy

QatarEnergy and India are expected to sign soon a new long-term LNG supply deal under which Qatar is set to offer cheaper and more flexible supply to the Asian customer, Reuters reported on Friday, citing trade sources.

Qatar, one of the world’s top LNG exporters, prefers to sign long-term agreements with its buyers and has given its Indian customers until the end of 2023 to negotiate possible extension and/or renewal of the current agreements beyond 2028.

India, for its part, plans to significantly increase its natural gas consumption as it looks to boost its share in the energy mix from 6.3% now to 15% by the end of this decade.

However, the country and its LNG importers are particularly sensitive to surging spot LNG prices and often retreat from the spot market when prices jump. Therefore, India and its large state firms are looking to sign long-term LNG supply deals.

Indian buyers and the Qatari state energy firm have reached an agreement on the terms of the new long-term contracts and a new deal is expected to be signed by the end of January or at the beginning of February, according to one of Reuters’ sources. The new agreement, which would be in force until at least 2050, offers cheaper supply and flexibility in cargo destinations, the source added.

Taiwan’s Doubts About America Are Growing. That Could Be Dangerous.

Damien Cave and Amy Chang Chien

The collection of American memorabilia, vast and well-lit in a busy area of City Hall in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, reflected decades of eager courtship. Maps highlighted sister cities in Ohio and Arizona.

There was a celebration of baseball, an American flag laid out on a table. And in the middle of it all, a card sent to the United States that seemed to reveal the thinking of Tainan, a metropolis of 1.8 million, and nearly all of Taiwan.

“Together, stronger,” it said. “Solidarity conquers all.”

The message was aspirational — a graphic illustration of profound insecurity. Taiwan is a democratic not-quite nation of 23 million, threatened by a covetous China, with a future dependent on how the United States responds to the ultimate request: to fight the world’s other superpower if it attacks and endangers the island’s self-rule.

Now more than ever, the fraught psychology of that predicament is showing signs of wear. With China asserting its claim to the island with greater force, and the United States increasingly divided over how active it should be in global affairs, Taiwan is a bundle of contradictions and doubts — less about its own government’s plans or even Beijing’s than the intentions of Washington.

Vice President Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party won Taiwan’s presidential election this month in part because he looked like the candidate most likely to keep America close.

Preelection polling showed that most people in Taiwan want stronger relations despite the risk of provoking China. They support the recent rise in weapons sales from the United States. They believe President Joe Biden is committed to defending the island — but they worry it is not enough.

Taiwan: After-Election Report

Riley Walters

William Lai (Lai Ching-te) and Bi-Khim Hsiao of Taiwan’s Democratic People’s Party (DPP) won the January 13 election and will be sworn in as president and vice president of the Republic of China, also known as Taiwan, in May. Lai and Hsiao are expected to continue many of the current administration’s policies, including an America-forward foreign policy, as Beijing maintains its hostile position toward Taiwan and the DPP. Despite the party continuity in Taiwan’s presidential office, the ruling DPP will have to work with opposition parties to pass legislation in Taiwan’s legislature for the next four years. Regardless of Taiwan’s internal politics, the international community has expressed considerable support for the democratic success of Taiwan’s election—for example, Hudson President and CEO John Walters sent a letter of congratulations.

Below are some key takeaways from the election results. To learn more about Taiwan’s election, join Hudson on January 23, 2024, at 9:00 a.m. for a public event titled “A Look at Taiwan’s Election Results.”

1. Party continuity in the presidential office. William Lai and Bi-khim Hsiao of the DPP have won Taiwan’s election and will become its next president and vice president, respectively. Roughly 13.95 million people, or 71.4 percent of registered voters, turned out for the election. The Lai-Hsiao ticket won with 40.1 percent of the vote. Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT) finished with 33.5 percent, and Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan’s People Party (TPP) tallied 26.5 percent. This will be the DPP’s third consecutive term in the president’s office, following President Tsai Ing-wen’s two terms. The Lai-Hsiao ticket is the first time a party has broken Taiwan’s “eight-year curse.” No political party has previously held the president’s office for more than two consecutive terms.

Deterrence Gap: Avoiding War in the Taiwan Strait

Jared M. McKinney & Peter Harris

Introduction It has become the conventional wisdom in the United States— among military, diplomatic, and intelligence officials, as well as political commentators—that the People’s Republic of China is growing ever more likely to invade Taiwan.1 For some, this view is rooted in an assessment of Xi Jinping as reckless and risk acceptant in comparison to his recent predecessors. Whereas China’s past leaders were content to defer cross-Strait unification, the argument goes, Xi has staked his political legacy on the promise of reclaiming Taiwan; if he does not deliver in his third or fourth term as paramount leader, he will sacrifice his chance of making an indelible mark on Chinese history and might even be overthrown.2 In a slight variation, Admiral Philip Davidson, US Navy retired, has stated the choice to use force “becomes much more probable within the next six years because of the potential for Xi Jinping’s transition in 2027, as his political future is determined principally by himself, and his ability to garner some support for that may depend on that 2027 timeline.”3 

Another popular view is the balance of military power across the Taiwan Strait is making a Chinese invasion more likely. According to proponents of this argument, decades of investment and strategic planning have made People’s Liberation Army leaders more optimistic than ever that a successful assault on Taiwan will be possible by 2027 or thereabouts; an invasion is becoming more likely simply because it is becoming more practicable.4 One version of this narrative is that People’s Republic of China leaders learned from Russia’s failure to conquer Ukraine that invading powers must show no remorse when launching lightning assaults. From this view, Vladimir Putin’s mistake was that he did not hit Ukraine hard enough in the first few days of the Russia-Ukraine War. Having witnessed this apparent shortcoming, Chinese leaders should not be expected to make the same mistake as Putin; they now know to strike Taiwan hard, fast, and sooner rather than later, before Taipei can fortify itself against invasion and while American arms transfers remain focused on Ukraine.5 

Other theories about Taiwanese vulnerability abound and are united by an augury that the risk of an armed attack on Taiwan is mounting, the implication being that Taipei and its sympathizers abroad must quickly find ways to bolster deterrence across the Strait.

Insulating Ourselves From Chinese Tech and Talent Will Stifle American Industry | Opinion

David P. Goldman

Last November, Newsweek uncovered $30 million in federal research grants which had gone to Chinese AI researcher Song-Chun Zhu, who had received National Science foundation and Defense Department funding while working for Chinese institutions with reported ties to the Chinese military. The exposé led to an inquiry by several House committees, announced on Jan. 17.

I won't second-guess the House investigators or pre-judge the case, but the Zhu affair points to a much bigger problem: China already has decisive advantages in critical data and their application to Artificial Intelligence, making it hard for American researchers to eschew collaboration with China in key fields like medical research and industrial automation. China now graduates more engineers and computer scientists than the rest of the world combined, and it's hard to conduct AI research without Chinese researchers. Trickiest of all is that China—in sharp contrast to the United States—steers its top computer science graduates toward its military industry. The most qualified Chinese specialists are likeliest to have military ties. China lavishes high pay and benefits on top graduates who join its defense industries.

All of which is to say, we need to strike a balance between safeguarding national security and cutting off access to indispensable data, talent, and state-of-the-art practice. There's a fine line between protecting American secrets—and stifling research by excluding the world's biggest pool of data and the talent that analyzes it.

After the Soviet Union surprised the world with the Sputnik launch in 1957, the Eisenhower Administration enacted the National Defense Education Act. This bore fruit during the 1960s, when a burgeoning generation of scientists and engineers backed by NDEA staffed the Apollo program. Military and aerospace hired America's best and brightest.

What the Navy is learning from its fight in the Red Sea

Geoff Ziezulewicz

Thirteen years ago, the current head of the Navy’s surface fleet was captaining the destroyer Carney.

Even in 2010, airborne drones were a threat for which his ship had tactics and munitions at the ready, Vice Adm. Brendan McLane, now the head of Naval Surface Forces, told reporters earlier this month.

“We had a specific tactic to go after it, with a specific munition that we could shoot out our gun,” McLane said.

Fast forward to the present day and McLane has watched his former warship Carney, along with fellow destroyers Gravely, Laboon, Mason and Thomas Hudner, shoot down dozens of attack drones and missiles in the Red Sea in recent months.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have launched attacks at commercial vessels transiting the vital economic waterway, and sometimes at Navy warships themselves. The attacks have come on a regular basis since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, and Israel’s subsequent operations to clear the militant group from the Gaza Strip.

The Navy destroyer Laboon at work in the Red Sea in December. 

The Carney and other warships have been at the spear’s tip for intercepting these attacks, shooting down scores of Houthi air attack drones in the process.

And while it remains to be seen whether last week’s U.S.-led bombing of Houthi sites in Yemen will cause the rebels to meaningfully relent, current Navy leaders and analysts agree: The volume of intercepts in the Red Sea is without modern precedent for the Navy, and the surface fleet is quickly learning from the encounters.

How the United States Can Set International Norms for Military Use of AI

Lauren Kahn

At the AI Safety Summit in the United Kingdom in November 2023, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris highlighted a crucial milestone in the international governance of artificial intelligence (AI). She announced that 31 countries had endorsed the Political Declaration on the Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy amid a flurry of recent U.S. initiatives wrestling with AI challenges. The declaration, which was first adopted at the Responsible AI in the Military Domain (REAIM) summit in February 2023, lays out a series of key principles for military applications of AI. Since the announcement, the number of endorsers has grown to 49, with the list of states spanning all five of the United Nations’ regional groups.

The political declaration has arrived at a critical time: AI has a growing presence on the battlefield and in war rooms. While AI development advances rapidly, our understanding of these systems is trailing. Coupled with increasing geopolitical tensions, ill-considered and poorly informed deployments of military applications of AI could make accidents and miscalculations more likely—especially if nascent international AI governance efforts fail to extend beyond commercial uses or autonomous weapons.

The political declaration is a significant, collaborative step toward establishing international norms for the use of AI in military contexts. It provides both the necessary momentum and the opportunity for states to make real progress. However, additional initiatives and concerted international efforts will be required for the declaration to be effective.

Gaps in Global Military AI Governance Proposals

The ongoing Israel-Hamas and Russia-Ukraine conflicts vividly illustrate the increasingly active roles AI and autonomy are playing in warfare—from algorithms that optimize artillery fire to target-identifying computer vision models, which are said to work almost 50 times faster than human teams. The use of AI also extends beyond kinetic military action. AI is a general-purpose, enabling technology much more like electricity or the combustion engine than a specific weapon or platform like a nuclear weapon, a Patriot missile, or an aircraft carrier. Its increasing prevalence in all aspects of warfighting—from planning, wargaming, and intelligence to targeting and maneuvering on the battlefield—highlights AI’s versatility and extensive applicability.

New Russian Disinformation Campaigns Prove the Past Is Prequel

Darren Linvill, Patrick Warren

On Dec. 13, 2023, Lauren Witzke, a documented QAnon promoter and former Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Delaware, posted a barrage of criticism toward Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter. The post suggested Zelenskyy was preparing to retire to a $20 million home in Vero Beach, Florida, and claimed that “our leaders are buying mansions for elite leaches who facilitate their money laundering operations and crimes against the American people ... CUT OFF UKRAINE!” The post included images of the home in Florida and Zelenskyy’s U.S. naturalization papers.

Witzke’s post was grounded in a lie, the result of very purposeful narrative laundering (that is, the process of hiding the source of false information). This particular laundering campaign is affiliated with the Russian government and aimed largely at undermining Western support for Ukraine. While many who read Witzke’s message rightly questioned it, it was nonetheless reposted more than 12,000 times and viewed (by X’s metric) nearly 10 million times. The narrative was shared in thousands of other posts across platforms, before and after Witzke, including by those who unknowingly linked directly to a covert Russian outlet.

Lies don’t have to be good to be effective. For those who wanted to believe this story, it was easy to do so. Its considerable success didn’t result from typically expected tactics, however. It wasn’t spread using an army of social media bots or an AI-generated video of Zelenskyy. This campaign relies on individuals like Witzke, unknowing dupes with influence and credibility in their online communities.

Since 2016, conversations about disinformation have focused on the role of technology—from chatbots to deepfakes. Persuasion, however, is a fundamentally human-centered endeavor, and humans haven’t changed. The fundamentals of covert influence haven’t either.

The Soviet Union’s most infamous disinformation campaign was Operation Denver, sometimes referred to as Operation INFEKTION, an active-measures campaign created to persuade the world that the United States was responsible for the creation of the AIDS virus. The effort began in 1983 with the planting of a fictitious letter entitled “AIDS may Invade India.” This letter was sent to the editor of The Patriot, an Indian newspaper that was created some years earlier by the KGB for the purposes of spreading pro-Soviet propaganda. The letter claimed it was written by a fictional American scientist and revealed that the AIDS virus originated in the United States, created at the chemical and biological warfare research facility located in Fort Detrick, Maryland. This letter was then cited in later KGB efforts to spread the story. Forty years on, the narrative spun by Operation Denver is still widely believed in some communities, particularly by those inclined to view the U.S. government with suspicion.

It is the decades-old influence tradecraft used in Operation Denver that today’s Russian operations continue to employ, albeit fueled by new technologies applied in creative ways. Narrative laundering, however, is a difficult and risky process. The hardest part of that process is integration, a term borrowed from processes that describe money laundering. This is the final stage of the cleaning process, the point at which information becomes endorsed by more credible and genuine sources. In a pre-digital communication age, Operation Denver took years to move from the initial placement of the information to its integration within Western communities. Today, Russia has significantly decreased the timing of this process from years down to days or even hours. One way they have accomplished this feat is by constructing their own credible sources from whole cloth, as seen in an online publication called DC Weekly.

DC Weekly is part of a wider narrative-laundering campaign and designed specifically to help integrate Russian lies into mainstream, Western conversations. It describes itself as the “definitive hub for the freshest updates and in-depth insights into Washington, D.C.’s political scene. Born in 2002 as a weekly political gazette, we’ve since morphed into an agile digital news portal, delivering instant news flashes to our audience.” While none of this is true, there is no question that the website certainly looks the part. It appears professionally designed and is stocked with a breadth of original content on current news.

A screenshot of the DC Weekly homepage. (Courtesy of Katherine Pompilio, Lawfare. Jan. 12, 2024.)

Our research has shown, however, that DC Weekly is very much relying on readers judging a book by its cover. DC Weekly’s articles each include detailed author descriptions, but these journalists are as fabricated as the website’s own backstory. The bios are fiction, and the profile images are stolen from across the web. Most interestingly, the site’s news content is largely created using generative artificial intelligence (AI), stolen first from Fox News or Russian state media and then given its own spin so that it appears unique to DC Weekly. The DC Weekly article “Plagiarism Concerns Surrounding Artificial Intelligence Platforms Raise Calls for Regulation” by the fictional journalist Roger Pale, for instance, originated from the Fox News article “Promising New Tech Has ‘Staggeringly Difficult’ Copyright Problem: Expert” by the very real Michael Lee. In this way, DC Weekly has a constant flow of new content, necessary for any reliable news source, and a casual reader would not likely be suspicious.

DC Weekly exists to serve as a step in a process to launder Russian lies and distribute them to unsuspecting readers. It has done so at least a dozen times since August, taking stories that operatives move from initial placement on social media, next to foreign news outlets, then to DC Weekly, and finally to genuine influencers and the end reader, cleaning these narratives of Russian fingerprints with each link in the chain. Some of these recent narratives, such as the use of Western aid money to buy luxury yachts, have been accepted as unquestioned truth and discussed publicly by at least one U.S. senator working to end military support for Ukraine.

Screenshots of false Zelenskyy-yacht narrative spread on social media.

Concerningly, as a piece of the Russian disinformation machine, DC Weekly is a relatively replaceable part. Only days after we first partnered with the BBC to report on this ongoing Russian influence operation, DC Weekly’s role was replaced by a new outlet, clearstory.news. Already this page has helped the campaign to spread conspiracies regarding President Zelenskyy’s supposed purchase of a villa in Germany that belonged to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, and the growth of Ukraine’s illegal narcotics industry.

In their report to the U.S. Senate exploring Russia’s disinformation tactics in 2016, Renee DiResta and her colleagues at New Knowledge questioned what the future of disinformation may be, writing, “Now that automation techniques (e.g., bots) are better policed, the near future will be a return to the past: we’ll see increased human exploitation tradecraft and narrative laundering.” Advantages of some technologies, in other words, do not always remain advantages. From the English longbow to the German U-boat, the relative benefit of new offensive tools wanes after introduction as awareness and countermeasures develop.

DiResta was only half right with her nevertheless prescient warning, however. Combined with automation techniques, including generative AI, old Russian tradecraft has been supercharged. The prominence of DC Weekly warns observers that they must be broad minded when it comes to understanding and anticipating the dangers posed by new digital technologies. The drum has been beaten for years regarding the dangers of social media bots and trolls or AI deepfakes breaking down the walls between what is genuine and what is fiction. These threats are real, but, remember, the DC Weekly campaign used neither bots nor deepfakes. It used proven processes that have been around for generations but that have been made faster, cheaper, and more effective by digital technologies. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.

As social media platforms slash the teams responsible for moderation and Congress investigates researchers working to understand and combat the spread of falsehoods, the ability to counter online threats has diminished. This is particularly alarming given the ways in which threats are evolving. Disinformation campaigns are produced by creative professionals, and evolutions in digital technologies are going to continually provide new tools of influence. Civil society can’t forget, however, that the real danger lies in how technology is combined with proven methods of human exploitation. In 2016, Americans were influenced by a few fake online individuals; in less than a decade, this threat has transformed into entirely fabricated networks, systems, and organizations. DC Weekly is a warning of what’s to come.

North Korea’s ballistic-missiles transfer to Russia: Operational constraints thwart objectives

Timothy Wright & Joseph Dempsey

US officials claim that Russia has used North Korean ballistic missiles in Ukraine. While the delivery is evidence of the growing military relations between Moscow and Pyongyang, underlying issues with Russia’s ability to strike important Ukrainian targets could limit results.

United States National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby confirmed on 4 January 2024 what had been anticipated for several months: North Korea has supplied Russia with ‘several dozen’ short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). The transfer signals North Korea’s increasing material support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. It furthermore raises the possibility that Pyongyang – and potentially other suppliers such as Iran – may provide Russia with more missiles.

First use

The US government assesses that Russia launched a single North Korean-designed SRBM against Ukraine on 30 December 2023 with multiple missiles fired on 2 January 2024. Russia’s first use of a North Korean SRBM was apparently a failure: Kirby reported that the missile landed in a field outside of the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporozhye.

There are several possible reasons for the failure. The launch crew may have been unfamiliar with aspects of the missile’s targeting software and launch procedure, or a technical issue with the missile’s guidance software or solid-fuel propulsion caused it to fall short.

Alternatively, Ukrainian air defences may have intercepted the missile. Ukrainian officials had reported before details of the transfer were known that a single Russian ballistic missile was intercepted near Zaporozhye and fell into an open area. Although the missile was initially described by Ukrainian officials as a Russian 9M723 Iskander-M (RS-SS-26 Stone), the Iskander is similar to several North Korean SRBM designs, such as the KN-23, and may have been misidentified.

Russian Military Thought and Doctrine Related to Non-strategic Nuclear Weapons: Change and Continuity

William Alberque

Russian nuclear doctrine, especially regarding its large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons, has become one of the most pressing issues in Euro-Atlantic security. This report aims to build an understanding of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons doctrine through empirical research, including by examining the continuities and discontinuities in doctrine across time, through the Cold War, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and in Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.

Russian nuclear doctrine, especially its doctrine related to non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW), has become one of the most pressing issues in international relations. Publics around the world are paying close attention to the war in Ukraine and Russia’s reckless use of nuclear threats to attempt to coerce Ukraine and the West, as well as its recent declared intention to station NSNW on Belarusian territory. China is watching the conflict carefully and drawing lessons that it may apply in a potential war against Taiwan or elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific – a fact well known to the countries across that region. A particularly concerning development, from the perspective of the West, is Russia’s belief in its ability to gain and maintain escalation dominance, as well as absorb personnel and materiel losses to a degree unimaginable to the West. This tolerance for casualties may also be shared by China. The more that can be understood of Russian doctrine and military thought related to NSNW, the more likely it is that deterrence with Russia can be maintained. Understanding Russia and maintaining deterrence vis-à-vis Russia are a matter of survival for the West.

For the purposes of this paper, the definition of NSNW, taken from the US Department of Defense, is: ‘nuclear weapons designed to be used on a battlefield in military situations. This is opposed to strategic nuclear weapons, which are designed to be used against enemy cities, factories, and other larger-area targets to damage the enemy’s ability to wage war.’1

Foreign developers - including Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Venezuelans - now own at least 40M acres of US land near military bases from coast-to-coast: Government admits it does NOT know full extent of land grab


At least 40 million acres of US farmland, pastures and forests are owned by foreign investors, which officials warn ‘may have consequences for national security.’

A new watchdog report found that foreign ownership of US land - including buyers from adversarial nations like China, Russia and Iran - has increased by 40 percent since 2016, with some plots near sensitive military facilities.

As well as espionage concerns, there is growing alarm about the integrity of America's food supply chains.

But the estimates could be the tip of the iceberg because the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which did the report, told DailyMail.com that US officials are not 'reliably' tracking data on land owners.

The new Congressional analysis has caused fury among Democrats and Republicans, who demanded the Biden Administration clamp down on purchases ‘from adversaries' to shore up America's defenses.

Foreign countries own at least 40 million acres of US farmland, pastures and forests, which officials claimed ‘may have consequences for national security.’ However, a watchdog said the government is not 'reliably' tracking data on land owners. Pictured is only farmland ownership

Democratic Senator Jon Tester said: ‘While we learn more about the specifics around this unfolding situation, it highlights the need for Congress to do more to protect American agricultural security and prevent our foreign adversaries from controlling our country’s food supply while also gaining access to land near sensitive military sites.’

Republican Representative Dan Newhouse also shared his outrage after GAO released its findings.

The Defense Secretary and the Chain of Command: Why Critics Are Wrong About Austin's Emergenc

Lawrence J. Korb and Stephen Cimbala

The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was recently hospitalized for prostate cancer surgery and apparently incommunicado for a few days in early January. Although Austin never lost consciousness or went under general anesthesia, some members of Congress and media commentators have described the situation as reckless and irresponsible and one of great peril for the United States. These critics contend that, by failing to inform the president or the White House staff in good time, Austin left open the possibility of disruption of the civilian and military chains of command by ambiguous delegation of authority during his absence.

Much of that criticism is misplaced, some of it motivated by partisan discontent with the Biden administration's national security policy, while some commentators are simply misinformed. There are at least two reasons these criticisms are simply wrong, and a few reasons the critics are misguided in their complaints.

First, the military chain of command runs from the president, to the secretary of defense, to the combatant commanders who are in charge of the unified or specified warfighting commands for the armed forces. The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and can issue orders at any time with or without the secretary of defense. In fact, on Jan. 11, the Biden administration and the British struck dozens of Houthi targets in Yemen, a matter that President Joe Biden had discussed with his national security team on Jan. 1. Not only did Austin participate in that meeting, he also directed the operation on Jan. 11 from his hospital room.

Three GOP leaders have produced a smart plan for Ukraine. Will MAGA listen?


The “Proposed Plan for Victory in Ukraine,” authored by three prominent Republican congressmen, may be one of the most important documents to come out of Washington in the last two years.

Drafted by Chairman Michael McCaul of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman Mike Rogers of the Armed Services Committee, and Chairman Mike Turner of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the plan is both a decisive repudiation of the pro-Russian stance of MAGA Republicans and their spiritual leader, Donald Trump, and a slap in the face of Democrats who aren’t sure how they want the Russo-Ukrainian war to end.

In short, the plan is right on target. Were it not for its unnecessarily disrespectful language about President Joe Biden — whom the three generally refer to as “Biden,” just as they refer to “Putin,” thereby setting up an equivalence between the two — the document could easily serve as a bipartisan set of policy proposals.

Read page 6 of the plan:

“House Republicans believe President Biden should present a credible plan for victory and arm Ukraine with the weapons it needs to win as soon as possible.” An obvious point, but one worth emphasizing given the Biden administration’s roundly criticized “too little, too late” policy of providing weapons.

“Since the first day of the war, Biden’s debilitating hesitation to provide critical weapons to Ukraine has delayed a Ukrainian victory.”

True, too, alas. Now we get to the core of the plan:

“Ukraine needs the longest-range variant of ATACMS, F-16s, and sufficient quantities of cluster munitions, artillery, air defenses, and armor to make a difference on the battlefield. … A path to victory for Ukraine will require (1) providing critical weapons to Ukraine at the speed of relevance, (2) tightening sanctions on the Putin regime, and (3) transferring [$300 billion of] frozen Russian sovereign assets to Ukraine.”

The Unlikely Showman

Michael Kimmage

Volodymyr Zelensky is among the world’s most famous political figures. Already he had an unlikely path to becoming Ukraine’s president in 2019. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, his physical and moral courage was extraordinary. The David to Putin’s Goliath, he is no less a uniquely 21st- century leader, using his “late-model iPhone… to wage the biggest land war of the Information Age,” as the journalist Simon Shuster writes in his new book, The Showman: Inside the Invasion that Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky’s command of contemporary mass media helped to produce the external support that, in the months following Russia’s invasion, allowed Ukraine to survive.

Zelensky’s fame has been generated by fact and myth. A fact is that his country was attacked for no legitimate reason, and that Russia has regularly targeted Ukrainian civilians in its brutal war. A fact is that Ukraine has defended itself valiantly, showing Russia’s military machine to be severely limited. Interwoven with fact, one myth is that Zelensky personifies democracy, having become synonymous with the future course of democracy in Europe—and perhaps the world over. It is a potent myth, combining the struggle of good against evil and light against darkness with the struggle of democracy against authoritarianism. Understood as myth, Zelensky is as much democracy’s savior as he is Ukraine’s savior. He is a man elevated by the majesty of having a mission.

Shuster’s book is not a take-down of Zelensky. It honors all that Zelensky has done for his country and for Europe, while tracing Zelensky’s personal evolution from actor and producer to wartime leader. Yet Shuster is among the first credible Western journalists to eschew and in some ways to dismantle the Zelensky myth. To this end, Shuster raises three separate questions in The Showman: whether there is an authoritarian streak in Zelensky’s political career; whether he may have mishandled the lead-up to the war; and whether he may excel more at managing the war’s media cadences than at setting achievable strategic objectives. Given Zelensky’s centrality to the war effort, a candid assessment of his career is not a luxury that should be saved for the postwar era. It is a necessity of the present moment.


George Fust

“If the Joint Force does not change its approach to strategic competition, there is a significant risk that the United States will ‘lose without fighting.’” The newest Joint Concept for Competing offers a powerful explainer of the problem, yet fails to fully identify the solution. For an Army whose raison d’etre is to fight and win our nation’s wars, what does it mean to compete? Hostile forces already view themselves as at war with the United States. The Army has a critical role to play in defense of the nation and can contribute prior to conflict. However, to do so effectively some additional considerations must be addressed.

At present, the Army is expected to prepare for conflict during a time of strategic competition. The key term, however, is competition. Of the three phases of the conflict continuum, the most ambiguous for the role of the Army is competition. The Army is manned and equipped to fight. It prepares from home station and certifies at national or regional training centers. And yet, under multidomain operations doctrine and with wide-ranging current requirements, it is increasingly tasked to compete. How can an army deliver effects in competition without forward placement, authorities, or the organizational structure to do so? The competition phase is different than conflict and crisis and consequently should be executed and designed differently.

A one-size-fits-all solution does not work in this instance. The demands are too great and even the most creative leader will struggle to find the time or resources required. In short, the US Army must fundamentally reexamine how it operates in the competition phase. It must be prepared to win in competition so we don’t have to win by fighting. Better yet, it must be able to set conditions during competition so we can win in conflict. These are more than just catchphrases. They provide focus amid ambiguity—ambiguity about competitors, the strategic landscape, and even the fundamental nature of competition and the Army’s role in it.

NATO strikes $1.2 billion deal to restock allies’ ammunition supplies


NATO signed a $1.2 billion contract Tuesday for about 220,000 artillery rounds, a move that comes as allies work to replenish stockpiles depleted by Western military support for Ukraine.

The deal, organized with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, involves 155 mm rounds that can be used by a wide range of weapons systems.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has become a battle for ammunition,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said during a news conference at his Brussels headquarters. “So it is important allies refill their own stocks as we continue to support Ukraine.”

Stacy Cummings, general manager of the procurement agency, said the contract will deliver the rounds within about 30 months.

Artillery ammunition in storage at Blue Grass Army Depot in Lexington, Ky., on Sept. 8, 2022. NATO leaders have agreed to a $1.2 billion contract for hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds to replenish alliance stockpiles. 

US Cyber Command aiming to consolidate disparate programs in warfighting platform in 2024


U.S. Cyber Command plans to begin integration of the disparate factions of its warfighting platform this year.

The Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, or JCWA, was first envisioned in 2019 as a way of getting a better handle on the capabilities, platforms and programs the command is designing and setting priorities for the Department of Defense and its industry partners that are building them.

When Cybercom was first created, it relied heavily on intelligence personnel, infrastructure platforms and tradecraft to build its enterprise. But just like the Army needs tanks and the Air Force needs planes to conduct missions, cyber troops need their own military-specific cyber platforms separate from the National Security Agency, which collects foreign intelligence.

The JCWA encompasses several components that are built by each of the services on behalf of the joint cyber mission force. The services provide them to Cybercom to conduct cyber operations, as executive agents. Now, JCWA is thought of as a singular platform to conduct military cyber ops, made up of the sum of its parts.

JCWA consists of “disparate program shops, not really well synchronized together,” Khoi Nguyen, command acquisition executive and director of the cyber acquisition and technology directorate (J9) at Cybercom, said during remarks at the AFCEA Northern Virginia chapter’s annual Army IT Day conference Jan. 11. “What we’re doing this next year from a delivery perspective is I picked a chief engineer, we’re laying out a JCWA product roadmap that says hey, the next six months, these six components will play around, we’ll be a little bit better, interoperable in these specific areas.”

Coast Guard ship programs facing delays amid national worker shortage

Megan Eckstein

U.S. Navy programs have made recent headlines for falling behind schedule. Now, Coast Guard officials say their service, too, fears several of its acquisition programs are at risk of delays, as four separate shipbuilders vie for limited workers along the Gulf Coast.

Rear Adm. Chad Jacoby, the assistant commandant of the Coast Guard for acquisition, said this month workforce challenges — specifically, needing more highly trained welders and design engineers — are contributing to delays on the Polar Security Cutter program at Bollinger Mississippi, formerly VT Halter Marine.

“If you look across all of our construction programs, every shipyard says they’re going to hire 1,000 or 2,000 more people prior to executing the contracts that we have in place. They all happen to be on the Gulf Coast, so if you add up all those numbers, it’s probably physically impossible for every one of those individual shipyards to hire 2,000 more people” to support on-time ship deliveries, Jacoby said on a Jan. 11 panel at the Surface Navy Association annual conference.

He told Defense News after the panel he is specifically concerned about Bollinger Mississippi in Pascagoula and its Polar Security Cutter; Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Florida, which is building the first four Offshore Patrol Cutters; Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, which will build the next 11 OPCs; and Birdon America, a Denver-based company that will build the Waterways Commerce Cutters with a number of Louisiana- and Alabama-based companies.

“It is one workforce across many states,” the admiral said of the Gulf Coast region. “As each shipyard says they’re going to hire people, they’re definitely competing against each other.”

The Navy has spent billions of dollars in recent years on workforce development, looking to attract and train new workers in the submarine and surface ship industrial bases. Jacoby said the Coast Guard does not have authority to make its own industrial base investments, but has relayed to the Navy its shipbuilding needs.

Pentagon Makes It Official: U.S. Industrial Decline Is Undermining National Defense

Loren Thompson

Earlier this month the Department of Defense released its first-ever National Defense Industrial Strategy, setting forth a framework for revitalizing the sinews of American economic strength most critical to military preparedness.

The document is strikingly similar in tone to a series of industrial assessments issued during the Trump administration, the last of which warned that the “steady deindustrialization” of the United States in recent decades had left the nation militarily vulnerable.

The Trump report recommended “reshoring” critical manufacturing capabilities that had migrated to Asia, bolstering workforce skills, modernizing defense acquisition processes, and partnering private-sector innovators with public-sector resources.

The Biden strategy recommends many of the same steps, reflecting concern over industrial base weaknesses that became apparent during the global pandemic and subsequent efforts to support Ukraine’s military campaign against Russian invaders.

Both documents single out the sorry state of the U.S. commercial shipbuilding industry, which largely ceased to produce commercial oceangoing vessels even as the U.S. became heavily dependent on ocean transit for supplies of everything from pharmaceuticals to rare earths to digital devices.

The Pentagon’s new industrial strategy notes that the shipbuilding workforce has become so attenuated with the disappearance of commercial shipyards that finding workers with the skills needed to support a surge in nuclear shipbuilding has become challenging.

Defense Coproduction: A Proven Model of Success

Mackenzie Eaglen

America—and her allies—keep running out of munitions to prosecute wars and change outcomes. Ukraine’s scale of casualties and ammo consumption to beat back Russia is causing U.S. commanders to call for a fundamental re-think of war planning assumptions and an emphasis on sustained industrial capacity as important to victory as the number of trained and ready troops.

While joint military manufacturing is good in its own right to rebuild depleted western arsenals, coproduction forward and in theater is also needed to solve the logistics and resupply puzzle in tomorrow’s denied access fights.

We’ve Got Allies, So Let’s Use Them

While the U.S. Army’s surge to support allies and build more artillery is showing great progress, these efforts have demonstrated just how brittle our munitions industrial base has become from decades of decline.

It’s not just us, either. Around the globe, our friends and partners are struggling to restore surge capacity for munitions production to supply both their own militaries and Ukraine. Allied capitals across the Atlantic have thus reached similar conclusions that changes are needed quickly to reverse this corrosion of manufacturing might.

Washington must leverage the opportunity of increased demand and strike while the iron is hot.

At a recent CSIS discussion, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Bill LaPlante outlined the Pentagon’s plans to coproduce key munitions with allied partners as a potential remedy to reinvigorate U.S. and allied industrial bases, stating, “We’re going to set up some other co-productions with the Australians, same in Europe and we're going to set up even co-productions with the Ukrainians in their country.”

This followed the announcement from the Pentagon earlier this summer of the intention to coproduce munitions for the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) with Australia by 2025. Urgent expansion of GMLRS production is not only critical to provide “landmark” capability for Ukraine, but also to backfill our own depleted weapons inventories.

Long-range Strike Capabilities in the Asia-Pacific: Implications for Regional Stability

Veerle Nouwens,Timothy Wright, Dr Euan Graham & Blake Herzinger

There are significant efforts across the Asia-Pacific region to acquire or expand long-range strike capabilities. This new report examines the existing and planned capabilities of some of the most significant players in the region, along with national drivers and doctrines. It also analyses the second-order implications for the United States’ alliance framework and for regional stability.

Missile arsenals are growing at an exponential rate in the Asia-Pacific region, as countries there attempt to alter or maintain the regional balance of power. China’s and North Korea’s expanding ballistic- and cruise-missile inventories, along with Beijing’s increasingly assertive behaviour and Pyongyang’s aggressive rhetoric and frequent testing of systems, are undermining regional security and driving other countries to improve their own long-range strike capabilities in response, albeit with widely differing levels of resources. Although most of those other countries are not developing missile types analogous to those now possessed by China and North Korea, their focus on long-range strike capabilities has contributed to a regional arms race that is unlikely to be constrained by arms-control limitations in the foreseeable future. It is therefore highly probable that all the countries of the Asia-Pacific will continue to expand their arsenals horizontally and vertically.

In response to China and North Korea attempting to upset the regional balance of power, Australia, Japan and South Korea have advanced furthest in their efforts to maintain the status quo. Australia’s decision to invest in long-range strike capabilities represents an adjustment of Canberra’s defence posture after supporting operations in the Middle East and the South Pacific for the last two decades. Many of the more advanced capabilities Australia seeks to acquire and develop are integral to the trilateral AUKUS agreement, and some will take more than a decade to come to fruition. In the meantime, to boost its deterrence, Australia is procuring several different types of long-range strike capabilities from allies and partners. Meanwhile, Japan’s decision to acquire long-range land-attack capabilities is a major change for a state that has not had a substantial offensive strike capability since the Second World War. Although these capabilities will be used in accordance with Japan’s post-war constitution, they will allow for a greater division of labour between Japan and the United States in the event of any joint military action.

War is Boyish and Fought by Boys

John Waters

Author Robert Kaplan once shared with me what he believes is the military's greatest weakness: “The general officer corps is sometimes asked to be strategic and understand the world beyond their capability. They are creatures of systems and lack the imagination to truly understand the world.” To the credit of those senior-most leaders, our noncommissioned officer corps is among the best in history. Corporals, sergeants and petty officers have led, bled and persevered time and again, deploying relentlessly to combat zones around the world. Officers deserve credit for promoting the best junior enlisted leaders and extending the trust necessary for intrepid, twentysomething-year-olds to lead squads and teams into harm’s way. In “small wars” such as Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly all the glory belongs to these “small unit” leaders. But their senior officers failed to see through the mystery and marketing, to stop deceiving themselves about effects achieved on backwater battlefields, to stop talking about the number of patrols conducted or IEDs found or raids performed and to ask inconvenient questions about whether it mattered. For years, countless military officers advised that one more year, one more operation, one more raid could be the turning point, redeeming the sacrifices made by thousands of young Americans and their Afghan partners. One lesson of our recent small wars is that all civilians—members of Congress, journalists and everyday Americans, too—ought to tighten the reins.

In his insightful new book, The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare on How Leaders Rise, Rule, and Fall (Basic Books), military historian Eliot A. Cohen examines power through the characters of Shakespeare’s plays. More than a few of the plays selected feature military generals, including the late tragedy Coriolanus about a fatally flawed Roman general who achieved success on the battlefield but failed to comprehend, let alone navigate, the slippery turns of the world. Pride, writes Cohen, was his downfall. Coriolanus “has a boy’s pride, a boy’s lack of judgment, a boy’s soaring self-image, a boy’s generosity, and a boy’s foolish self-absorption.” But Coriolanus’s boyishness is not unique. Quoting Herman Melville’s poem “The March into Virginia,” Cohen reminds us that all wars are boyish and fought by boys: “the champions and enthusiasts of the state.” What follows is part one of our conversation on Shakespeare, power and the skills missing in the great military leader who attempts to exercise political power. Part two will appear next week.