17 March 2024

NATO member Turkey takes role of 'active neutrality' in Red Sea crisis

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Israel’s war on Gaza has significantly internationalized with its expansion into the Red Sea since November. This body of water, which is critical from the standpoint of global trade, is consequently becoming increasingly militarized.

Members of NATO have been divided in their responses to the Red Sea security crisis. Some states in the Transatlantic alliance have favored a more militaristic approach to dealing with Houthi missile and drone attacks against commercial and merchant vessels. But others have warned that such action only risks escalating tensions.

Beginning on January 12, the U.S. and UK — with nonoperational support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands — began bombing dozens of Houthi targets in various parts of Yemen. Additional rounds of bombing followed, and Washington and London are continuing these strikes against Ansarallah. However, France, Italy, and Spain have notably refused to take part in those U.S.-led military operations while instead opting for a more diplomatic approach to the Red Sea security crisis.

Turkey says ‘no’ to bombing the Houthis

The NATO member most staunchly opposed to such Western military intervention against Ansarallah is Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went as far as accusing Washington and London of “trying to turn the Red Sea into a sea of blood.”

Erdogan’s remark should be at least partly understood within the context of Turkish domestic politics at a time in which much of the general public is angry about Israel’s industrial slaughter in Gaza. Particularly in the Turkish social media sphere there is a “rising tendency to glorify the Houthi war against Israel,” said Betul Dogan-Akkas, an assistant professor of international relations at Ankara University, in an interview with RS. She explained that there is a general lack of knowledge among the general Turkish public about the Houthis but also a shared belief that state and non-state actors should support Gaza, which many Turks perceive the Houthis to be doing.

What the French evisceration of Algeria has to do with Gaza today


A brutal attack by militants “mercilessly slaughtering” civilians in their homes occurred simultaneously with attacks against military targets of an occupying power. These attacks resulted in an overwhelming military retaliation that killed so many people, one soldier wrote, “they had to be buried with bulldozers.”

While this sounds like coverage of October 7 and the current Gaza War, these are descriptions of the 1955 “Philippeville massacre” in Algeria. That event marked a major turning point in the Algerian War of Independence against 125 years of French occupation. It led to seven more years of brutality that killed 300,000 to one million Algerians and threatened a civil war in France. It also sowed seeds for future violence in Algeria and around the world.

Americans should reflect on the history of the French experience in Algeria in the context of the current Gaza War and the longer history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The United States has played a major role in this conflict, one which people across the Middle East clearly recognize and resent, even if most Americans do not.

It is important to recognize the bigger picture and historical context in which events occur. Confusing specific actions, such as the Philippeville massacre or Hamas’s 7 October attacks with the overall goals of an insurgency risks mistaking means for ends, resulting in a fundamental misunderstanding of the overall situation.

Prior to the Philippeville massacre, Algerian nationalists struggled for over a century against French rule. Emir Abd al-Qadir resisted French occupation for over a decade in the 1830s, and other major revolts occurred in the 1860s-70s. Moderate Algerians called for reforms, a constitution, and amelioration of social and economic concerns.

Hamas has been shattered. Now it is fighting to survive

Neri Zilber and Andrew England 

On the 14th floor of Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, high up in the defence minister’s office, a large pyramid adorns the wall made up of images of Hamas’s top ranks. The title: “Status of leadership assassinations.” 

After five months of ferocious conflict in Gaza, those still alive greatly outnumber the mostly mid-ranking commanders whose fate is illustrated by a giant red X across their faces. 

At the top — and still decidedly active — are Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and the handful of other leaders responsible for Hamas’s devastating October 7 attack that killed 1,200 people and triggered the war. 

But the Xs on the pyramid are gradually spreading, just as Hamas’s fighting options appear to be dwindling. Israel is trying to confirm reports that Marwan Issa, the Hamas number-three in Gaza known as “the shadow man”, was killed in an air strike over the weekend. 

Moreover, the quasi-state in Gaza that Hamas used to rule is wrecked, its forces are decimated and the strip’s population is enduring a deepening humanitarian catastrophe. 

Israel has yet to achieve all its wartime goals. But for Hamas, an Islamist militant group founded to destroy the Jewish state, victory now has largely narrowed to one thing: survival. 

“Let’s assume that all of Gaza lies in ruins, and someone will stand there left from Hamas, a wounded soldier, and will raise a Hamas flag — they’ve won the war,” said Micha Kobi, a retired former senior official in Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. “That’s what they believe.” 

That too is the challenge for Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly vowed to “eliminate” Hamas. As long as the group’s top leadership and fighters remain at large, the Israeli premier will fall short of his call for “total victory” — and risk being viewed as a failure by many in Israel. 

Visas for Afghans Who Helped US Military Running Low Amid Congressional Gridloc

Rebecca Kheel

The program that allows Afghan allies to immigrate to the U.S. is in danger of running out of visas this summer as approving more of the visas becomes a sticking point in Congress' negotiations over an upcoming government funding bill.

Supporters of the State Department-run Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, program are pushing to include 20,000 visas in the bill being negotiated now to fund about half of the federal government, including State, for the remainder of fiscal 2024, which started nearly six months ago. But, those supporters say, House Republicans are standing in the way.

Sources briefed on the negotiations told Military.com that House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has over the last week softened his stance, going from opposing any new visas to being amenable to at least a few thousand more. But with the high stakes of potentially abandoning allies who helped the U.S. military during the 20-year war in Afghanistan, backers of the SIV program are still working to keep up the pressure on negotiators to ensure the program doesn't lapse.

"Following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover, the need to expeditiously process SIV applications and ensure that all eligible applicants have a visa has never been more urgent," a bipartisan group of 15 senators, led by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote in a letter Thursday to Senate leadership.

"There have been credible reports of hundreds of Afghans killed while waiting for the SIV application to be processed," the 10 Democratic and five Republican senators added. "Congress must ensure that the visas are available to bring every eligible SIV applicant -- including the surviving spouse in cases where our Afghan ally has already been killed -- to the United States."

The Afghan SIV program was created in 2009 to give Afghans who served as interpreters for the U.S. military, as well as their family members, a path to escape Taliban threats to their lives and resettle in the U.S.

Afghanistan Resistance Battlefield Update

Throughout February, the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan conducted several successful operations, inflicting casualties on enemy forces across various regions of the country. Afghanistan experienced heavy snowfalls in February, especially in mountainous regions resulting in extreme cold temperatures. Consequently, most NRF forces maintained their positions, while guerrilla forces in areas closer to cities were active in launching attacks. This strategy included a missile strike in the capital, Kabul, carried out at night to prevent civilian harm.

The NRF continues to engage in unconventional warfare, aiming to weaken the enemy and seize critical weaponry in anticipation of launching more extensive military campaigns aimed at the liberation of provinces through conventional means. Presently, NRF forces have established a presence in twelve provinces.

As they progress through the base-building phase, there's a strategic plan to escalate operations following the cold season's end, marking a continued effort to expand their operational footprint.

On February 3, 2024, NRF forces launched an assault on a Taliban outpost in the "Bereshna Kot" area of Kabul's 7th district. This operation, executed at 10:15 PM, resulted in the deaths of two Taliban terrorists and injuring two. The targeted outpost is known to house a workshop for repairing military vehicles
of the Taliban.

Trump launched CIA covert influence operation against China

Joel Schectman and Christopher Bing

Two years into office, President Donald Trump authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to launch a clandestine campaign on Chinese social media aimed at turning public opinion in China against its government, according to former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the highly classified operation.

Three former officials told Reuters that the CIA created a small team of operatives who used bogus internet identities to spread negative narratives about Xi Jinping’s government while leaking disparaging intelligence to overseas news outlets. The effort, which began in 2019, has not been previously reported.

During the past decade, China has rapidly expanded its global footprint, forging military pacts, trade deals, and business partnerships with developing nations.

The CIA team promoted allegations that members of the ruling Communist Party were hiding ill-gotten money overseas and slammed as corrupt and wasteful China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which provides financing for infrastructure projects in the developing world, the sources told Reuters.

Although the U.S. officials declined to provide specific details of these operations, they said the disparaging narratives were based in fact despite being secretly released by intelligence operatives under false cover. The efforts within China were intended to foment paranoia among top leaders there, forcing its government to expend resources chasing intrusions into Beijing’s tightly controlled internet, two former officials said. “We wanted them chasing ghosts,” one of these former officials said.

Chelsea Robinson, a CIA spokesperson, declined to comment on the existence of the influence program, its goals or impacts.

China now leads the world in nuclear and conventional hypersonic missiles, U.S. intelligence warns

Bill Gertz

China now boasts the world’s largest arsenal of hypersonic missiles, which can hit U.S. targets with both nuclear and conventional warheads, a senior U.S. intelligence analyst told Congress on Tuesday.

Russia also has deployed three types of the ultra-high-speed maneuvering weapons that also can be equipped with either nuclear or conventional warheads and fired the first hypersonic weapon in combat against civilians in Ukraine, senior defense and military officials testified during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing.

The advances have fueled fears that the U.S. has fallen behind its two most potent adversaries in a critical facet of the modern arms race.

Despite the dual-use advanced missile threats, Pentagon officials told the House panel’s strategic forces subcommittee that the U.S. has no plans to equip its planned future hypersonic missiles with nuclear warheads, over concerns that such weapons would prove strategically destabilizing.

The hearing on hypersonic missiles revealed that several recent U.S. test failures have left the Pentagon scrambling to catch up to China and Russia in developing and deploying new high-speed missiles that travel faster than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

Jeffrey McCormick, an intelligence analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center, said China “dramatically” tested and built hypersonic missiles over the past two decades for both nuclear and conventional strike systems against the U.S. and now has “the world’s leading hypersonic arsenal.”

Beijing’s most lethal hypersonic missile is the DF 17, deployed in 2020 and which can travel at least 994 miles, “enabling it to reach U.S. military basing and fleet assets in western Pacific,” he said.

China’s Infatuation With F-22 Raptor Continues; Claims Its ‘Hypersonic UAV’ Has Better Aerodynamics

In recent years, China has increasingly focused on benchmarking its military technology against the United States’ most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-22 Raptor.

This infatuation with the F-22 Raptor is palpable in China’s relentless drive for technological advancements to match or surpass the capabilities of the formidable stealth fighter.

From claiming to develop cutting-edge quantum radar systems to ground-to-air hypersonic missiles designed specifically to counter the F-22s, Chinese military innovations have frequently been juxtaposed against the F-22’s capabilities.

The F-22 Raptor hailed as the world’s most advanced and powerful stealth fighter, is so highly regarded by the United States that it has refrained from selling the aircraft to even its closest allies, emphasizing its strategic significance and unparalleled capabilities.

Now, China has set its sights on challenging the aerodynamic performance of the F-22 with its latest technological innovation: “a new breed of unmanned hypersonic aircraft.”

Hong Kong-based SCMP claimed that Chinese researchers have developed a new drone that boasts a lift-to-drag ratio of 8.4 during subsonic flight, placing it on par with its American F-22.

File: F-22 Raptor

The lift-to-drag ratio, a key indicator of aerodynamic efficiency, plays a crucial role in an aircraft’s ability to resist gravity and maintain flight stability.

Haiti Is Facing an Insurgency, Not a Gang Problem

Alexander Causwell

For the past four and a half years, Haiti’s internal security has steadily deteriorated. In 2019, the United Nations concluded 15 years of peacekeeping operations in the country, which had been initiated to address growing instability in the wake of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s 2004 ouster. Under the U.N. mission, an estimated 10,000 international nongovernmental organizations channeled foreign aid into Haiti to help support its social services. But the U.N.’s departure forced many aid groups to withdraw, spiraling the country into social unrest once again.

The 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse was the most visible harbinger—and catalyst—of impending state collapse. That foreign mercenaries managed to kill the president, as both Haitian officials and U.S. prosecutors allege, was itself a signal of Haiti’s eroded internal security. De facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry then assumed control of the government without a roadmap to new elections. Henry’s lack of legitimacy made him unpopular and further compromised the country’s stability.

Now, the Haitian state has functionally disintegrated. Henry traveled to Nairobi in late February to secure Kenya’s leadership of a new U.N.-authorized Multinational Security Support mission for Haiti. But his absence from Port-au-Prince undermined the prospects of the planned intervention by emboldening gangs that already controlled most of the capital to make further advances.

Jimmy Chérizier, who leads the G9 Family and Allies gang and is known by his nom de guerre, “Barbecue,” apparently orchestrated a mass prison break in Port-au-Prince, freeing upward of 4,000 prisoners. This faction has claimed responsibility for attacks on government institutions, including Toussaint Louverture International Airport, the apparent aim of which was to prevent Henry’s return. Chérizier declared his intent to oust Henry, threatening “civil war” and “genocide” unless the leader resigned. The Haitian National Police, whose ranks have dwindled from around 9,000 to an estimated 5,000 over the past two years, is losing ground daily.

Does Putin want to end the war? We should test him


This past Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for an interview in which he yet again made clear that, despite the insistence of pro-diplomacy voices in the West, he was not ready to negotiate an end to the Ukraine war, because Kyiv’s uncertain battlefield prospects meant Russia could secure further advances by continuing the war.

“It would be ridiculous for us to start negotiating with Ukraine just because it’s running out of ammunition,” Putin told interviewer Dmitry Kiselyov, according to one particularly viral and widely cited tweet by Wall Street Journal chief foreign affairs correspondent Yaroslav Trofimov.

Except that’s not what Putin said. In fact, by reading the full text and seeing the quote in context instead of as a selectively edited soundbite, it’s clear he was putting out the exact opposite message:

"For us to hold negotiations now just because they are running out of ammunition would be ridiculous. Nevertheless, we are open to a serious discussion, and we are eager to resolve all conflicts, especially this one, by peaceful means."

What is true is that Putin once more restated the more stringent conditions for peace talks he adopted last year, namely that Moscow will not give up the four regions it officially annexed in September 2022 and that, given the state of the battlefield, Ukraine will have to accept the loss of this territory.

“Are we ready to negotiate? We sure are,” he said. “But we are definitely not ready for talks that are based on some kind of ‘wishful thinking’ which comes after the use of psychotropic drugs, but we are ready for talks based on the realities that have developed, as they say in such cases, on the ground.”

Silicon Valley wants its cut of US military spending

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It’s official — the Pentagon is becoming a bank. Well, sort of. At a March 8th event on dual-use technology at SXSW in Austin, Texas, director of the Office of Strategic Capital Jason Rathje announced that his team has officially received the internal authority to grant executive loans and loan guarantees, a first within the Pentagon.

The Office of Strategic Capital, or OSC, was created in response to growing concern over China’s investment in next-generation technology. According to its investment strategy, released Friday, March 8th, the OSC will invest in firms researching and developing 14 “critical technologies,” including hypersonics, quantum computing, microelectronics, autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence.

After surviving a rocky first year — punctuated by allegations of conflicts of interest from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and hard questions over its funding — the OSC is now close to licensing its first funds as part of a joint lending program with the Small Business Administration. OSC loans require private funding to match their loans, giving a pathway for smaller defense tech companies with aggressive investment strategies to enter the mix.

Venture capitalists have poured money into many of the items now on the “critical technologies” list, making them well-poised to benefit from OSC loans. By one New York Times estimate, venture capital firms went from spending around $6.7 billion on military tech in 2016 to $34 billion in 2022.

However, they have generated relatively few government contracts so far, leading some tech entrepreneurs to accuse the Pentagon of paying lip service to innovation without actually funding innovative ventures. According to Palantir, a “unicorn” of the defense tech world founded by Peter Thiel, the top 100 venture-funded military start-ups have only generated somewhere between $2-5 billion in government contracts. Part of this is because of Silicon Valley’s"move fast and break things" approach, which sees the Pentagon’s bureaucracy as little more than a straightjacket.

Switzerland: Europe’s critical vulnerability

Constanze Stelzenmüller

It is not difficult to list the contributions that Switzerland could make to Europe’s security; what is more interesting is the question of why it should do so. But one thing at a time.

Recently, Swiss journalist Roger de Weck told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that his country is “the niche […] where things happen that are forbidden elsewhere.” The Swiss criminal law professor and corruption hunter Mark Pieth describes this somewhat whimsically as the “pirates’ harbor.” The aspects of Swiss politics they are referring to are well-known and regularly scrutinized in the established Swiss media. Their critique goes well beyond an understanding of neutrality that is increasingly alienating Switzerland’s neighbors and which—by way of example—prohibits even democratic neighbors from passing on armaments produced by former Swiss companies to a Ukraine fighting against a brutal aggressor.

Switzerland, which likes to see itself as a storm-tossed island of the blessed, is in reality the world’s largest (and very tolerant) offshore financial center. It has long been a hub for the global commodities trade and a huge magnet for seemingly endless flows of less-than-licit data, money, goods, and people that make up the dark underbelly of globalization. All of this is served by a dense and anything-but-transparent network of lawyers, consultants, and brokers.

Even before the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, this state of affairs was a nuisance to many other states. But in the context of Europe’s greatest security crisis since 1945, it allows the Kremlin to undermine Western sanctions (which Switzerland is at least participating in), thereby potentially prolonging the war. In geo-economic terms, this makes Switzerland a critical vulnerability in Europe’s security policy.

There are plenty of concrete proposals to close this security gap. Switzerland could create a supervisory authority for commodities trading; or even better, become part of international monitoring efforts. The G7 countries and the European Union would like to see Switzerland make more of an effort to close loopholes in the prosecution of sanctions-breakers; they are also calling for Bern to join the international REPO (Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs) task force, which tracks down Russian kleptocrats’ hidden assets. After all, the Swiss Bankers Association itself estimates that at least 150 billion Swiss francs (approximately $171 billion) of Russian assets are held in Swiss accounts.

Europe’s refineries in demand as Ukraine war boosts oil margins

Lukanyo Mnyanda

When energy trader Vitol launched a bid to buy one of Europe’s largest oil refineries last month, it demonstrated how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has boosted competition for increasingly scarce refining capacity.

The agreed deal to purchase a controlling stake in Saras, which has a refinery in Sardinia, from the family of Italian billionaire Massimo Moratti came less than a year after Vitol had lost out to rival Trafigura in a battle for control of another giant refinery in Sicily.

Europe’s refineries have been in long-term decline, as major oil companies shut plants to try to meet net zero emissions targets and face the threat of electric vehicles.

But, with war in Ukraine and tensions in the Red Sea, energy analysts now believe they may have a profitable future after all, thanks to elevated margins for refined oil products such as diesel and gasoline. Those margins could be driven even higher if Europe suffers further supply shocks.

The danger to supplies from sudden geopolitical instability was highlighted on Wednesday as drone strikes by Ukraine on refineries inside Russia contributed to a 2.7 per cent jump in the price of Brent crude.

“For refiners that can be the last standing, and for companies with a higher risk appetite that are acquiring these ageing assets, there is arguably more money to be made than ever refining crude in Europe,” said Elliot Radley, head of European refined product prices at Argus Media, a data group.

Europe will have reduced its crude distillation capacity by about 7 per cent by 2026 compared with levels in 2020, according to Argus. Taking into account plant closures and sales, Shell will have reduced its capacity by 33 per cent over that period, while BP’s will have fallen by 10 per cent.

Craig Martell, the Pentagon’s first-ever Chief Digital and AI Officer, to depart in April


Officials in the Pentagon’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office are preparing for their nascent hub’s first permanent leader — Craig Martell — to depart from his post on April 15, DefenseScoop has learned.

The Defense Department made a lot of buzz around hiring Martell in early 2022, when he opted to resign from his role as head of machine learning for Silicon Valley rideshare company Lyft to take the helm as the CDAO’s first chief.

According to several current and former DOD officials who spoke to DefenseScoop on the condition of anonymity, Martell’s planned exit from the CDAO is “imminent” — and he and the rest of the leadership team are currently getting set for a period of transition.

A CDAO spokesperson later told DefenseScoop that Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Dr. Radha Plumb will serve as the office’s new permanent chief.

Four predecessor organizations — the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), Defense Digital Service (DDS), Office of the Chief Data Officer, and the Advana program — were combined to form the CDAO, which was announced in late 2021 and reached full operating capability in 2022.

The office falls under the direct purview of Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who ultimately steered its launch to centralize oversight and expedite the adoption and implementation of the department’s data and AI initiatives.

On the heels of a long and deliberate hiring process, Martell was tapped to lead the CDAO in April 2022.

Army 4-star eyes new opportunities, exercises focused on sustainment, logistics in Indo-Pacific


Although the US military plans to participate in a variety of Indo-Pacific-centered exercises in the coming years, a four-star Army general is eyeing one in particular that will let the joint force to test how well it can keep itself supplied in a fight — both across the vast waters of the Pacific and further from the front back home.

Speaking at an Association of the US Army breakfast today, Army Materiel Command head Gen. Charles Hamilton broadly detailed a multi-pronged plan designed, in part, to shore up military sustainment contingency blueprints.

First, in August, he is gathering together senior military leaders — including commanding generals from Air Mobility Command, US Transportation Command, Air Force Materiel Command — and industry for a “seminar” at the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. Once there, the group will focus on the first 30 to 60 days of a conflict in the Indo-Pacific.

“That’s a congested space. There’s a lot of moving pieces and what we’ve got to do is detangle it … and integrate better in this time,” said Hamilton. Part of that discussion, he added, will include contested logistics inside the theater, but also explore the nuts and bolts of how the services work together inside the United States.

“There’s no way we go into a large-scale fight without relying on allies and partners for supply chain airfields [and ports]. … We’ve identified [those], you know, down to every airfield and port there is,” he said.

“Have we done the same thing here in the United States? If I’m moving something out of Fort Cavazos, and I get bogged down, am I going to go all the way to Fort Sam [Houston] or Fort Bliss to continue that Army movement?” Hamilton later added, referring to three spread out Army bases in Texas. “Or am I going to coordinate with two Air Force bases that are in between those two areas? We’re probably not there yet. That’s part of that joint conversation we’ve got to have.”

Army seeks $255M to procure more than 3,000 IVAS augmented reality systems in fiscal 2025


The Army is requesting $255 million in fiscal 2025 to buy more of the latest variant of Microsoft’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, as the service gears up for operational testing.

That amount would go toward procuring 3,162 IVAS 1.2 heads-up-display systems, according to newly released budget justification documents. The HUD/puck tactical kits will come with conformal wearable batteries, advanced battery chargers, and a “tactical cloud package.”

The proposal also includes $98 million for research, development, test and evaluation related to the technology, officials told reporters last week during a meeting to preview the Army’s budget proposal, which was officially rolled out Monday.

IVAS is one of the Army’s highest-priority modernization initiatives. The tech includes ruggedized headgear with augmented reality capabilities, inspired by Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 device. The service aims to use the equipment for both training and battlefield operations for dismounted troops.

“Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) HUD provides a multiple generation single platform for [a] Soldier to fight, rehearse, and train in day and night that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries,” budget justification documents state.

The new variant, known as IVAS 1.2, was developed to address soldier complaints stemming from testing of previous versions.

Why America Must Invest in DOE Labs To Win the AI Race Against China

Matt Hourihan & Divyansh Kaushik

The breadth of artificial intelligence (AI) applications is staggering, from bolstering national defense to revolutionizing energy systems and advancing scientific discovery. This technology is pivotal in shaping our technological and economic competition, particularly with China. To secure our advantage, we must harness a powerful but often overlooked asset: the Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratory system. These seventeen labs, with their thousands of top-tier scientists and engineers, are pivotal in maintaining our national security, driving energy innovation to benefit consumers and businesses, and pushing the boundaries of scientific breakthrough. Yet, to fully leverage AI’s potential, decisive action and leadership from both Congress and the White House are imperative.

Why Investment is an Ongoing, Strategic Advantage

Investing in DOE national labs is not just about maintaining technological leadership; it’s a strategic imperative for national security, providing a bulwark against the multifaceted threats posed by technological ascendancy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The dual-use nature of AI and other emerging technologies necessitates a strategic approach that balances innovation with security, ensuring the United States remains at the forefront of military, scientific, and energy advancements. The consequences of inaction are dire, potentially ceding ground to China in critical areas that could determine the future balance of global power.

The DOE labs are already at the forefront of AI research, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in areas such as quantum computing, robotics, and nuclear energy. However, to fully harness AI's potential for national security purposes, we must significantly increase our investment in these institutions. This entails not only funding for advanced research projects but also support for the development of high-performance computing infrastructure, and the cultivation of a skilled workforce capable of leading the next wave of scientific innovation.

Pulling the Plug on NATO


“Trump Will Abandon NATO” heralded a headline in the January-February 2024 issue of The Atlantic. “If reelected, he would end our commitment to the European alliance, reshaping the international order and hobbling American influence in the world,” warned the subheading.

Anne Applebaum, the author of the article, quotes with an air of stunned disbelief Donald Trump saying at various times that he doesn’t “give a s***” about NATO, that European conflicts are not worth American lives, and that pulling back from Europe would save the U.S. lots of money. “NATO, founded in 1949 and supported for three-quarters of a century by Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike, has long been a particular focus of Trump’s ire,” she writes:

As president, Trump threatened to withdraw from NATO many times—including, infamously, at the 2018 NATO summit. But during Trump’s time in office, withdrawal never happened. That was because someone was always there to talk him out of it. [Former National Security Advisor John] Bolton says he did; [Secretary of Defense] Jim Mattis, [White House Chief of Staff] John Kelly, [Secretaries of State] Rex Tillerson [and] Mike Pompeo, and even Mike Pence are thought to have done so. But they didn’t change his mind. And if Trump is reelected in 2024, none of those people will be in the White House.

Applebaum laments that all of these voices of restraint have broken with the former president and that “there isn’t another pool of Republican analysts who understand Russia and Europe.” In a second term, she continues, Trump would be surrounded by people who either share his dislike of America’s international security alliances or don’t know anything about them and don’t care. “The damage he did in his first term was reparable,” John Bolton told her. “The damage in the second term would be irreparable.”

Arming Poland Faster is Critical to U.S. Interests, NATO’s Security

Greg Alan Caires

Twenty-five years ago, Poland joined NATO. Since then, it has emerged as a leading force for stability in Central and Eastern Europe, consistently demonstrating its adherence to the alliance’s values and principles.

Poland reliably exceeds NATO’s goal of member countries spending at least 2% of GDP on defense and is spending 4% this year. This commitment to burden sharing is especially important at a time when the alliance is facing a resurgent Russia.

Because of this, the Polish armed forces are highly interoperable with NATO forces. A well-trained and professional all-volunteer force, organized according to NATO requirements, they frequently exercise with other NATO forces, and for 10 years did their part in trying to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan. Poland also participates in U.N. peacekeeping missions and is forging closer defense cooperation with its neighbors. This proactive approach strengthens regional security and promotes a more stable Europe.

While Poland has a respectable domestic defense industry, its need to quickly modernize and expand its military to help deter Russian aggression has prompted significant weapons purchases from the U.S. and South Korea.

Contracts for new or enlarged orders of American M1 Abrams and Korean K2 tanks, HIMARS rocket- and Korean K9 self-propelled artillery systems, Patriot missile batteries, Korean FA-50 light attack jets, Apache attack helicopters and Javelin anti-tank weapons have all been inked since the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

Putin Says Russia Has Built Rare Nuclear Weapons

Jon Jackson

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said only Russia and the United States have the rare distinction of possessing a modern "nuclear triad," before adding that his country's arsenal is more advanced.

A "nuclear triad" refers to a military structure that consists of land-launched nuclear missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles. China and India—as well as possibly Israel—are said to have nuclear triads, along with the U.S. and Russia.

Throughout the course of the war that Putin launched on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, he and other Kremlin officials have frequently made public mentions of Russia's nuclear power. Western observers have accused Russia of nuclear saber-rattling for such talk, saying the threats are made to discourage outside support for Kyiv.

"Our triad, the nuclear triad, it is more modern than any other triad. Only we and the Americans actually have such triads. And we have advanced much more here," Putin said during a Wednesday interview that aired on Russian state television, according to a translation by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

In this pool photograph distributed by the Russian state news agency Sputnik, Russian President Vladimir Putin during an interview at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 12. During the interview, Putin discussed his country's nuclear arsenal.

The Russian leader then discussed the possibility of using nuclear weapons should his nation's sovereignty be threatened.

"We are ready to use weapons, including any weapons—including the [nuclear] weapons you mentioned—if it is a question of the existence of the Russian state or damage to our sovereignty and independence," Putin said.

CO of USS Ohio Gold Crew Removed from Command


The commander of the gold crew of the guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN-726) was removed from command, the Navy announced on Wednesday.

Rear Adm. Nicholas Tilbrook, commander of the Washington state-based Submarine Group, removed Capt. Kurt Balagna “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” according to the statement.

“The prospective commanding officer, Capt. Andrew Cain, has assumed duties as commanding officer,” reads the release.

A Navy official told USNI News the relief was related to conduct rather than performance reasons, but did not provide details.

Balagna had commanded the gold crew of Ohio since 2020, according to a copy of his Navy biography reviewed by USNI News.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1993 and commissioned in 1997 after graduating from the University of Illinois. Balagna previously was the executive officer of attack boat USS Virginia (SSN-774) and commanded the attack boat USS Annapolis (SSN-760).

Duplication and Obsolescence: The Marine Corps’ Missile Dilemma

James Conway & Jerry McAbee

In 2019, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps began restructuring and reorganizing the Marine Corps to better assist the United States Navy in deterring and, if necessary, defeating the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in a joint naval campaign. Central to this effort was the total divestment of some Marine Corps combat capabilities and significant reductions in others, all made to help fund the cost of new weapons and equipment.

The cornerstone of the new capabilities is ground launched anti-ship missiles. This new Marine missile force comes at the loss of substantial Marine Corps combined arms capabilities needed to fight and win against global threats other than the PLAN. The loss of tanks, assault breaching equipment, and every type of bridge in the inventory along with significant reductions in infantry, cannon artillery, and fixed, rotary, and tilt-rotor aircraft were not balanced against any new systems replacing them. For some items like tanks and bridging, there was no plan to provide Marines with alternative capabilities. As a result, the Marine Corps is acquiring too many and the wrong types of missiles and associated systems at the expense of other necessary weapons, especially those necessary to support the requirements of combatant commanders outside the Indo-Pacific region or perform a different type of mission.

Does a modern Marine Corps need rockets and missiles? We believe it does. However, this capability should be aligned with the broader roles they play on the modern battlefield and not primarily against naval targets. This includes protection against manned and unmanned aircraft and ballistic missiles in addition to fires in support of Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) across the range of military operations. The number, unit cost, and types of missiles acquired must be fairly weighed against other Marine Corps requirements, and more importantly, in concert with the missile arsenals and concepts of employment of the other services. In this regard, two questions are worth asking: how much duplication is wise and what type of missiles are needed for the future?

What’s in the US Intelligence Community’s 2024 Annual Threat Assessment?

Catherine Putz

The United States “faces an increasingly fragile global order strained by accelerating strategic competition among major powers, more intense and unpredictable transnational challenges, and multiple regional conflicts with far-reaching implications,” the U.S. intelligence community’s 2024 Annual Threat Assessment states.

The assessment, an unclassified summary of which has been published annually since 2006 (with the glaring exception of 2020), is self-advertised as providing “a public window into national security risks.” As the introduction to the 2024 unclassified summary states, the “assessment focuses on the most direct, serious threats to the United States primarily during the next year.”

These threats fall into two broad but interwoven categories in the 2024 assessment: state actors and transnational issues.

Among the identified state actors are China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea – par for the course. While the assessment says that the order in which these threats are presented “does not necessarily indicate their relative importance or the magnitude of the threats…” it’s notable that the section on China is the largest and widest ranging, taking stock of everything from China’s regional and global activities, to economic and technology concerns, to military and WMD issues, to cyber, intelligence and “malign influence operations.”

China, the assessment states, “may attempt to influence the U.S. elections in 2024 at some level because of its desire to sideline critics of China and magnify U.S. societal divisions.”

When it comes to Russia, many of the same categories are repeated with tailored concerns such as those relating to the Russian defense industry, which the assessment states “is significantly ramping up production of a panoply of long-range strike weapons, artillery munitions, and other capabilities that will allow it to sustain a long high-intensity war if necessary.”

Space Development Agency would get $4.3B in FY ’25 budget request


The Space Development Agency is asking for a topline of about $4.3 billion for fiscal 2025, including money for the upcoming launch of its first operational tranche of satellites and work to develop future capabilities.

The request is 8.5 percent less than the $4.7 billion that the agency asked for in fiscal 2024, marking a shift from the steady increase in funding SDA has received each year since it was founded in 2019. At press time, Congress has not passed a full-year 2024 appropriations bill and the Defense Department is operating under a continuing resolution.

The Space Development Agency is in charge of fielding a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) known as the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA). The agency launched the first demonstration satellites in 2023 and wants to begin fielding operational space vehicles in two-year increments — referred to as tranches — beginning in late 2024.

Recently published budget justification books show that SDA is moving away from development needed for Tranche 1 and is now focusing on production and delivery of the payloads. The agency also wants to ramp up work on Tranche 2, supporting ground infrastructure and battle management software, all while initiating work on Tranche 3.

According to a funding chart provided by SDA, most of the budget request is for research and development — around $3.9 billion, in total. The organization is also looking to buy four space launches for $357 million in fiscal 2025, which is less than the $529 million it asked for in FY ’24 to cover five launches. Rounding out the request is $56 million for operation and maintenance, per the budget documents.

Two Commanders in Marine Corps' West Coast Infantry School Fired on Same Day

Drew F. Lawrence

The Marine Corps relieved two commanders at its West Coast infantry school earlier this month, citing "loss of trust and confidence in their ability to execute the responsibilities of their commands," according to a statement from the service on Thursday.

Col. Seth "S.W." MacCutcheon, the commander of the School of Infantry-West, and Maj. Nicholas Engle, the commander of the Reconnaissance Training Company, were both relieved on March 8 by Brig. Gen. Farrell Sullivan, the commanding general of the service's training command.

Both units are based out of Camp Pendleton, California, and follow five other firings of leaders in charge of training programs in the Marine Corps in the last eight-plus months. The reconnaissance training company is a subordinate unit to the School of Infantry-West, also known as SOI-W.

A spokesperson for the service would not specifically say why the firings occurred and if they were related. However, they occurred on the same day.

"There were a number of factors that informed the commanding general of Training Command with sufficient information for him to come to the determination that a relief was appropriate," Maj. Joshua Pena, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told Military.com on Thursday.

The relief of MacCutcheon comes months after the school's top enlisted leader was also relieved, again for loss of trust and confidence. The Marine Corps did not disclose then why Sgt. Maj. Steven Burkett -- known as "Sergeant Major Kettlebell" for his athletic accomplishments -- was fired, though Burkett was fired by MacCutcheon himself in July.

The SOI-W firings were unrelated and Burkett's relief was "specifically tied to that individual," according to Pena.