The Danger of War without Sacrifice


Iraq Casualties - Copy


“The movement to the all-volunteer force (AVF) has enhanced the training and professionalism of the United States’ military.

But it has also insulated policymakers from criticism they would no doubt face for starting and maintaining two wars of choice in the Middle East while going after militants in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.

When the United States eliminated the draft in 1973, it did so in response to the deeply unpopular war in Southeast Asia and to criticism that the draft was unfair: young men who could afford to attend college, for example, were able to obtain deferments that allowed them to avoid military service.

It is simply unimaginable that the United States would still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and that a former Senator who voted for the Iraq War would be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee if the United States still drafted young Americans into military service.

The AVF has not been a perfect solution to the United States’ military-manpower problems. When the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stretched the AVF to the breaking point, the United States turned to short-term military contractors because it could not attract enough individuals to volunteer for military service at the going rate of compensation.

Reservists and National Guard units were called up repeatedly, with little advance notice or training, to be recycled through these war zones so that Presidents Bush and Obama did not have to make the tough decision to call up draftees. The brave individuals who have served in the United States’ armed services since 2001 have sacrificed greatly (and so have their families), but they constitute a stoic minority among a vast public that has little or no direct experience of the toll these conflicts have taken on America’s men and women in uniform.

During the Second World War, everyone knew someone who was serving in the military; now, the active forces and veterans are a seldom-acknowledged minority who—in the eyes of many members of the elite—get what they deserve by volunteering for service. This is no “greatest generation” bonded together by common ideals of service and sacrifice.

Although Americans no longer face the possibility of conscription for themselves or their children, they remain remarkably intolerant of casualties resulting from American military operations. Knowing this, policymakers are choosing to use force in ways that minimize risks to those who are part of the AVF. For example, the United States is increasingly opting for military campaigns conducted entirely from the air and made possible by the rise of precision-targeting technologies, beginning with the 1999 NATO campaign over Kosovo and seen more recently with the 2011 operation to oust Muammar el-Qaddafi (at the start of the operation, President Obama explicitly pledged not to send U.S. ground troops).

Similarly, the drone campaign allows the United State to use force without placing American troops at risk and in places where the United States is not formally at war. As the “War on Terror” drags on, the growing reliance on small groups of special operations forces and military “advisers” constitutes another variant of this trend toward low-footprint and tightly limited operations that seek to inflict targeted damage while minimizing exposure for both soldiers in the field and policymakers in Washington.

All of these strategies for the use of limited force from a distance—what we might call “standoff strike warfare”—are politically attractive for policymakers who know that the American public is leery of additional long-term commitments overseas, but these strategies are not fostering and will not generate the long-term political outcomes (stability in Libya, for example) in which the United States is interested.

“Hold on,” you say—“doesn’t the United States spend a huge amount of money on defense every year? How can we say that Americans don’t have to pay anything to use force overseas? Aren’t cruise missiles expensive?” It is true that the American defense establishment costs a lot. In 2015, the United States spent about $600 billion on defense, which was more than the next seven biggest spenders combined. Relative to the size of the American economy, however (nearly $18 trillion in 2015), this is not a large figure—a little more than 3% of annual GDP. In the early Cold War period, the United States routinely spent nearly 10% of GDP on defense annually. By contrast, the United States spent about 16.4% of its GDP on healthcare last year. In other words, the baseline cost of the U.S. defense establishment might seem high in absolute terms but is quite modest compared with historical trends.

Most importantly, the operating costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have generally circumvented normal budgeting procedures: much of the operating expenses for these wars came from special supplementary budget requests. Americans did not have to shoulder these additional costs through tax increases, however; instead, at the height of these wars Congress passed major tax cuts at a cost of at least $1.5 trillion (or $2.8 trillion if we include the extensions passed in 2011). To put this in perspective, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated to have cost about $1.26 trillion through 2011. Instead of paying for America’s wars of choice with current revenues, policymakers in Washington turned to deficit spending to finance these two wars while handing out tax cuts and passed the bill for these foolish conflicts on to our children and grandchildren.

Why does this matter? These changes in the manner in which the United States conducts its military operations have paralleled the expansion of executive authority over foreign policy. The Obama administration asserted in 2011 that it did not need Congressional approval for the Libya intervention because of the “limited” nature of the operation. Similarly, we have been told that the most recent bombings of Libya in August 2016 are permitted under the authorization for the use of military force passed by Congress in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. In other words: no oversight is necessary or possible.

It is no accident that the United States has evolved a model for the use of military force that shields Americans from the costs of U.S. action overseas. If the public does not have to pay, why would they bother to protest? This does not imply that there has been a long-running conspiracy to eliminate checks and balances from America’s foreign-policy apparatus. Instead, pressure from an American public unhappy about wars in the Middle East combined with advances in technology and commitment to a liberal interventionist foreign policy pushed successive administrations to develop this standoff strike model of warfare, while the fear of international terrorism allowed Americans to tolerate an overreaching executive branch. When we combine the standoff strike model of warfare with these recent expansions in the scope of executive power, we have a truly frightening foreign-policy machine: a model for the use of force that costs the vast majority of Americans nothing (at least in the short term) and an executive who thinks (s)he is entitled to use force without congressional approval. This is not a recipe for making prudent policy in a democracy, nor does it promise to be an effective long-term strategy for securing the United States’ interests.

Donald Trump may not have sacrificed much, but the vast majority of Americans have not had to make any sacrifices in service of the United States’ wars, either. Ask yourself: what have YOU sacrificed for the war effort? Unless you or someone in your immediate family served in the military in the last fifteen years, the answer is probably “nothing.” The standoff strike model of warfare reflects a desire to shield a war-weary American public from the true costs of the United States’ interventionist foreign policy in exchange for a diminished capacity to coerce target states and a steadily expanding interpretation of the president’s powers. Until and unless something happens to supplant the standoff strike model, the United States is likely to continue to blunder along using cheap force in limited and ineffective ways for the foreseeable future.”




New Army Rapid Capabilities Office

Defense dot Gov

Image: “Defense.Gov”


” An Army rapid capabilities office will aim to quickly field technology and put it in the hands of soldiers.

Katrina McFarland, acting assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said the office would bring together professionals from around the service including requirements officers, logisticians and engineers.

The office will have a focus on speed, she said. “We’re going to have a discussion about process and how that process can help or not in terms of speed,” she said. “You’ll see when the rapid capability office comes out how that was taken into account.”

Meanwhile, Army leaders emphasized the need for more collaboration between the service, industry and academia.

“At the Army Materiel Command we’re committed to fostering a culture of innovation,” said Gen. Dennis Via, commander of AMC. “This year we initiated the innovation campaign on behalf of the U.S. Army to facilitate evaluation, feedback and … collaboration across the material enterprise because that’s what we need to ensure that our soldiers … continue to be the best equipped fighting force the world has ever known.”

Innovation cannot be achieved all at one, but is an evolving process that will require the military to work alongside industry and academia, he said.

Gen. David Perkins, TRADOC commander, said innovation requires collaboration. “Generally speaking, the number one characteristic of an organization that has a high rate of innovation is that they have a high rate of collaboration,” he said. “The people that innovate the most aren’t necessarily the people that put in the most money and R&D and all.”

While there may be many innovative ideas in the Army, the harder part is executing it, he noted. That requires that priorities be set, he said. “There are not endless resources,” he said. “At the end you have to set priorities. … If you take a look at organizations that have innovation there are priorities.”
Repeating an often-used catchphrase, Murphy said the Army would have to do more with less as budgets are tightened.

“There are some fiscal realities,” he said. “Five and a half years ago the Army’s budget was about $100 billion more a year. We’ve taken about a 39 percent cut. Of the three departments in the Pentagon, we’re the largest … but as far as our innovation budgets, it’s basically about $36 billion less than the closest department.”

AIS3 — a two-day summit that kicked off Aug. 16 and taking place at the College of William & Mary’s School of Education — is the third iteration of a series of innovation meetings the Army has hosted over the past year. AIS3 is focusing on collaboration between the Army, the Defense Department, industry and academia.”

Genetically Modifying Bacteria for Tinier Computers




“A microbe so common it’s found everywhere could one day be wiring the military’s nanotechnology.

The biosynthetic microbe could wire future nanoelectronics after Navy-funded researchers supercharged its conductivity.

The bacteria, called Geobacter, thrive where organic life normally couldn’t in an “unprecedented” way, said Derek Lovley, a microbiology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst working with the U.S. Navy.

Here’s how it works. Rather than expelling electrons through oxygen-based respiration, Geobacter grow hair-like protein filaments that transfer electrons out of the cell onto surrounding iron minerals. Over the past year, Lovley and a team of researchers genetically modified those protein filaments to supercharge their conductivity, as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Office of Naval Research. The researchers tweaked two of the protein’s amino acids, halving their size and increasing their conductivity 2,000-fold, ONR officials announced Tuesday:

Research like Dr. Lovley’s could lead to the development of new electronic materials to meet the increasing demand for smaller, more powerful computing devices,” said Linda Chrisey, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department, which sponsors the research. “Being able to produce extremely thin wires with sustainable materials has enormous potential application as components of electronic devices such as sensors, transistors and capacitors.”

The filaments conduct electricity the same way copper does, making them promising alternatives for wiring in the military’s future nanoelectronics. Although this first test comes nowhere near copper’s conductivity, the modified Geobacter pili already are as effective as man-made alternatives like carbon nanotubes, Lovley said. Better yet, they have none of the issues associated with manufacturing large quantities of the carbon nanotubes, which has proved difficult to scale up due to resource constraints and laborious purification processes.

“We usually grow [Geobacter] on acetate, or acetic acid, which is basically what’s in vinegar—those kind of cheap and renewable resources,” he said. “And it’s very stable for a protein … so for example, they’re stable in boiling water. Stable at a very basic or very high pH. For a protein for they’re remarkably robust and stable.”

The bacteria could pair with other synthetic biological innovations the military is pursuing, including transmitting electricity to other bioengineered microbes producing butanol as an alternative fuel for the military’s remote outposts.

Beyond wiring and transistor applications, Lovley said he envisions a future with “the wire itself being a sensor.” If there’s a chemical the military wants to detect without exposing troops to—say, one found in explosives or toxic pollutants—researchers could further modify Geobacter so the nanowire itself binds with that chemical whenever the two come into contact, Lovley said. The altered bacteria could then be added to a silicon chip on an unmanned vehicle.

Though Lovley and his team discovered Geobacter’s conductive nanowires a decade ago, it was only last year that they started brainstorming in earnest with colleagues in polymer science about modifying the bacteria’s properties.

“The idea that there was a microbe that would make a wire to conduct electricity out of the cell was pretty revolutionary, and there was a lot of controversy,” he said. “So we really spent like nine of those 10 years studying the biological role.”

ONR’s Rear Adm. Mat Winter said the Navy has been sponsoring the Geobacter research for many years among the three-to-four thousand grants it awards to academic partners annually.

“It’s important to keep that volume focused” on basic research, said Winter,, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last month. That creates “solution space so that ideas that can be knitted together for capabilities to emerge.”

In Geobacter’s case, this has paid off. Before genetically engineering the microbe’s filaments, Lovley’s team had already discovered its ability to serve as microbial fuel cells. The Navy is exploring applications of that now, including sustainably powering sensors embedded on the ocean floor.

“We continue to focus on advanced materials in our laboratories and understanding how we can do microbial energy, where we’re taking the positive electrons that are made on the microbes on the seabed, and we’re capturing those, and we’re hooking up some red and black connectors, and we’re gathering the electricity,” Winter said at CSIS. “So we’re not there yet, but … machines at the nano-level are going to be an incredible game-changer.”

After $1.3 Billion Overrun Boeing Receives New $2.8 Billion Contract




“Boeing got the most recent contract for a replacement tanker back in 2011 after a decade of failed deals, illegal actions by the company, bumbling by the Air Force and perhaps the most vigorous public fight over a weapons system’s contract in at least 20 years.

Will Boeing be able to produce it at the rate the Air Force expects and will it perform as well as the service hopes? We’ll see.

Believe it or not, Boeing really has made progress on the KC-46 tanker, after incurring at least $1.3 billion in cost overruns. Today, it got the only kind of proof that really matters to a corporation: they got the government’s promise of $2.8 billion for doing their job.

The contract award of $2.5 billion is for the first two LRIP production lots of seven and 12 planes. Including options, Boeing plans to build 179 of the 767-based airborne tankers for the Air Force to replace the ancient KC-135 fleet.

The tanker uses a boom to refuel Air Force planes and hoses that extend from the wings and center body to refuel Navy, Marine Corps and allied aircraft.”

Boeing Wins $2.8B For KC-46 Tanker Low Rate Production



Army Struggles To Open Up To Industry


Army Bureaucracy


“The service wants industry, academia and its own internal fiefdoms to work together better and earlier.

The goal is to explore the art of the possible on weapons programs before the Army locks in official requirements that have — far too often — proven too ambitious, too expensive or too inimical to innovation.

The next time the Army holds a conference on how to improve its relations with industry, it should actually let industry into the most important session, Maj. Gen. Bo Dyess told his four-star superiors at the Army Innovation Summit here. It just has to get around its own lawyers.

But the largest service keeps finding its biggest enemy is itself. “I frankly have concerns about the Army,” Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told the conference, especially because it has less in-house engineering expertise than the Air Force and Navy have to manage complex programs. While the entire Defense Department has procurement problems, Kendall continued, “the Army, I think, has a particular problem with this because they have so many different communities” — from tankers and helicopter pilotsto logisticians and cyberwarriors — “and they’re all competing for resources.” It takes a bureaucratic tour de force just to get all the Army’s different tribes working with each other, let alone with outsiders, which is why the first two Innovation Summits focused on coordination within the massive Army Materiel Command.

With high-powered participants like Kendall, Army Undersecretary Patrick Murphy, Army Materiel Command chief Gen. Dennis Via, and Training & Doctrine Command chief Gen. David Perkins, this third Army Innovation Summit showcased commitment to reform from the service’s top leaders. “We have to act with a sense of urgency at those earliest stages,” Murphy told me. “The more you collaborate, the more you innovate.”

But with a last-minute decision by Army lawyers to bar industry attendees from helping to write recommendations, the summit also made crystal clear how many devils remain in the details.

Conference organizers planned to have industry representatives in the working groups writing recommendations, Dyess told four-stars Via and Perkins in the final session of the summit. But then, said Dyess, “about ten days ago we got the calls: ‘hey, the lawyers at AMC have talked to the lawyers at TRADOC, and their interpretation of the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) says that we should not let them in.’” Fortunately for next time, Dyess added, Army acquisition executive Katrina McFarland may have a work-around.

“I’ve got great lawyers at TRADOC, I’m sure Dennis (Via) has great lawyers,” Gen. Perkins said, “but Army policy should be very clear so it doesn’t take a lawyer to figure it out….We just can’t do this event by event by event.” Perkins has been pushing requirements reformsince 2014. (Nor is he exactly a lover of process and rules: He took his brigade into downtown Baghdad in 2003 without waiting for his superiors to approve.) Staying true to form, Perkins turned to the rest of the room and told everyone: “If we could actually hear any input from the folks in industry and academia that the lawyers barred from the meeting, that would be helpful.”

“We really want academia and industry to participate,” agreed Gen. Via. “We’ll find how we can do that.”

Industry’s Laments

In the open sessions where they could participate, industry representatives certainly weren’t shy. They say they want dialogue with the Army from the earliest stages of a project — before the service sets requirements or appoints a program manager. They want to talk about engineering, not just generalities, so they can understand what the Army really wants and so the Army can understand what industry can really do. They want the Army to tell them what problem to solve, on what schedule and at what price — but not to prescribe the specific solution.

“The biggest issue is restrictive requirements that are so narrow and so focused, that they’re not focused on the what that the Army wants, but on the how,” said Dan Zanini, a retired Army officer now at SAIC. “Then you really limit where you can go” with innovative alternatives.

“We look at RFIs (Requests For Information). We look at RFPs (Requests for Proposal). We look at requirements; they’re tightly refined and there’s no room… to innovate, to make this better,” said Jesse Nunn, president of Future Research Corporation.

“This first part of breaking down barriers is having this summit,” Nunn continued. “That offered me the opportunity to come here as a small business and participate.”

In the commercial world, “we have many organizations and events like this that bring people together (to) talk about the issues,” said David Bem, chief technology officer of PPG. In the defense world, however, events like the Army Innovation Summit are rare and precious. “Today we find (what the Army wants) through our contacts at the laboratories, or we look for solicitations, and I would argue that’s a fairly inefficient process,” he said.

The Army can collaborate and communicate with them, industry participants said. The summit is testimony to that — despite the legal snafu over who could help write recommendations. On a larger scale, BAE System’s Mark Signorelli praised the “constant” and “daily” communication that developed the lifesaving MRAP (Mine Resistant Armor Protected) vehicles to replace vulnerable Humvees in Iraq. More recently, just this month the Mobile Protected Firepower program (MPF) shared draft requirements documents with industry at an unprecedentedly early stage, long before they’re fixed.

“We have to be sharing ICDs (Initial Capabilities Documents), CPDs (Capabilities Production Documents), CDDs (Capability Development Documents), so you can drive industry’s investment (towards) what the Army wants,” said Boeing VP Bill Phillipps, a retired three-star general. “Sharing that information with us is critical.”

That communication also has to keep going. Currently, it tends to shut down at crucial stages because the Army fears legal repercussions if one competitor seems to be getting more information than another. So the easiest way to be fair is to stop talking to everyone. It’s this same fear, incidentally, that led Army lawyers to exclude all industry participants from the Army Innovation Summit’s recommendation-writing sessions.

“In some programs, pre-CDD, there’s a lot of exchange of information and ideas,” said BAE’s Signorelli. “The problem is that at the point when the door closes, it’s closed until the RFP comes out.”

At the same time, ironically, companies complain of information overload because there are too many uncoordinated Defense Department initiatives urging “innovation.” Secretary Ash Carter created both the Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) and the Strategic Capabilities Office, on top of the existing Pentagon office for Emerging Capabilities & Prototyping. The Army is following the Air Force and Navy in creating a Rapid Capabilities Office. Army TRADOC has its “mad scientist” conferences.  There are other funding sources such as DARPA, the Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF), the Rapid Equipping Force (REF), and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

“You’ve got to have a central point… where the Army is putting their issues and their problems” for industry to read, said Nunn.

Army Recommendations

While industry and academia weren’t allowed inside the working groups, the Army officers and civilians writing up the recommendations tried to include their ideas, Maj. Gen. Dyess said.

Communication is so poor that “industry and academia do not know what the government wants,” said Dyess. While there are many voices speaking for the military, they’re not consistent or coordinated, he said: “There’s no synchronization across different forums.”

The No. 1 recommendation for immediate action out of Dyess’s group: reinstate the annual Army science conference that was shut down after 2013’s budget sequester and conference scandals involving the GSA and VA. That will reopen a crucial venue for communication.

On a larger scale, said Dyess, the Army needs to catalog and publish for all to see all its upcoming industry days. TRADOC should compile the list of industry days held by all its requirements developers, while the Assistant Army Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics & Technology should do so for events hosted by program managers and program executive officers. Army University should index and summarize Army-sponsored research publications. Technology roadmaps and requirements should also go in a central library, added Maj. Gen. Kirk Vollmecke.

Gathering all this information takes time and money. So will restoring specialist positions that assisted requirements developers by analyzing missions and threats, as will reviving personnel exchanges between different parts of the Army. But it’s necessary, Dyess said.

It’s a big agenda. But it’s a significant step forward just to hold the summit, bringing together as it does industry, Army Materiel Command, and Training & Doctrine Command. “The Army is extraordinarily busy supporting every combatant command, so you can become consumed just in day-to-day business that you have,” General Via told me. “The ability to pause and just have a conversation is the first step.”

Army Struggles To Open Up To Industry




The Hidden Costs of America’s Addiction to Mercenaries

apfin dot org



“Washington’s reliance on unheralded private military contractors to fight its wars has mutated into a strategic vulnerability.

Since 2009, the ratio of contractors to troops in war zones has increased from 1 to 1 to about 3 to 1.

Private military contractors perform tasks once thought to be inherently governmental, such as raising foreign armies, conducting intelligence analysis and trigger-pulling. During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they constituted about 15 percent of all contractors. But don’t let the numbers fool you. Their failures have an outsized impact on U.S. strategy. When a squad of Blackwater contractors killed 17 civilians at a Bagdad traffic circle in 2007, it provoked a firestorm in Iraq and at home, marking one of the nadirs of that war.

Contractors also encourage mission creep, because contractors don’t count as “boots on the ground.” Congress does not consider them to be troops, and therefore contractors do not count again troop-level caps in places like Iraq. The U.S. government does not track contractor numbers in war zones. As a result, the government can put more people on the ground than it reports to the American people, encouraging mission creep and rendering contractors virtually invisible.

For decades now, the centrality of contracting in American warfare—both on the battlefield and in support of those on the battlefield—has been growing. During World War II, about 10 percent of America’s armed forces were contracted. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that proportion leapt to 50 percent. This big number signals a disturbing trend: the United States has developed a dependency on the private sector to wage war, a strategic vulnerability. Today, America can no longer go to war without the private sector.

Why did this happen? During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, policymakers assumed a quick and easy victory. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2002, the Iraq War would take “five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When these wars did not end in mere months, the all-volunteer force found it could not recruit enough volunteers to sustain two long wars. That left policymakers with three terrible options. First, withdraw and concede the fight to the terrorists (unthinkable). Second, institute a Vietnam-like draft to fill the ranks (political suicide). Third, bring in contractors to fill the ranks. Not surprisingly, both the Bush and Obama administrations opted for contractors.

Today, 75 percent of U.S. forces in Afghanistan are contracted. Only about 10 percent of these contractors are armed, but this matters not. The greater point is that America is waging a war largely via contractors, and U.S. combat forces would be impotent without them. If this trend continues, we might see 80 or 90 percent of the force contracted in future wars.

Contracting is big business, too. In the 2014 fiscal year, the Pentagon obligated $285 billion to federal contracts—more money than all other government agencies received, combined. That’s equal to 8 percent of federal spending, and three and a half times Britain’s entire defense budget. About 45 percent of those contracts were for services, including private military contractors.

This means that contractors are making the ultimate sacrifice. Today, more contractors are killed in combat than soldiers—a stunning turnaround from the start of the wars Iraq and Afghanistan, when fewer than 10 percent of casualties were contractors. By 2010, more contractors were dying than troops. However, the real number of contractor deaths —versus the “official” tally—remains unknown.

Even more troubling: Most of those fighting for the United States abroad aren’t even Americans. Private military companies are multinational corporations that recruit globally. When I worked in the industry, my colleagues came from almost every continent. According to a recent Pentagon report, just over 33 percent of private military contractors in Afghanistan are U.S. citizens.

Many of the larger private military companies also hire local “subs” or sub-contractors, often invisible to U.S. government officials and reporters. In 2010, during the height of the wars, a Senate investigation found evidence that these “subs” were linked to murder, kidnapping, bribery, and anti-Coalition activities. Similarly, in a 2010 report titled “Warlord, Inc.,” the House of Representatives found that the Department of Defense had hired warlords for security services. What happens to these subs when the big contractor goes home? In some notable, alarming cases, they go into business for themselves, breeding  mercenary markets in the wake of a U.S. intervention.

For example, a U.S. Senate investigation in 2010 found that the British private military company  ArmorGroup sub-contracted two Afghan military companies that it called “Mr. White” and “Mr. Pink” to provide a guard force. The investigation found evidence that they were linked to murder, kidnapping, bribery, and anti-coalition activities.

Giving birth to such markets is just one of the many ways that contractors encourage dangerous policymaking. Unlike the Pentagon or CIA, private military companies do not report to Congress, circumventing democratic accountability of the armed forces. Worse, they shield themselves from inquiry by invoking the need to protect proprietary information and are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, unlike the military or intelligence community. This makes them ideal for dangerous missions requiring plausible deniability. Sometimes, even Congress can’t find out what these firms do.

This effectively lowers the barriers of entry into conflict, inviting moral hazard. Take, for example, Obama’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State, essentially a “light footprint” campaign that (theoretically) involves few ground troops. It eschews the Bush administration’s big and costly military presence overseas, and shuns the quagmire of “nation-building.” Instead, in theaters ranging from the Middle East to South Asia, it relies on precision strikes from U.S. aircraft, clandestine ground units, and local allies. However, you cannot hold ground with airplanes, special-forces raids, and unreliable partners. Terrorists will return onceU.S. forces leave. This means you can never achieve victory, when your victory conditions are “deter” and “defeat” ISIS.

In response, the Obama administration has quietly accelerated deployments. From an initial 274 troops sent to Iraq in 2014, the White House has crept up to 4,647 troops, the maximum allowed under the current troop cap. But these troops are only half the story. The U.S. government has surged another 4,970 contractors onto the ground. And a footprint of nearly 10,000 doesn’t look so light.

Contractors, then, allow policymakers to wage war outside of the public eye. Their deaths rarely attract headlines the way those of fallen American soldiers do. And yet the consequences are no less far-reaching for being hidden. America’s reliance on contractors to fight its wars has launched a new breed of mercenary around the world. 2015 saw major mercenary activity in YemenNigeria,UkraineSyria, and possibly Iraq. Mercenaries in these places are not new; what is new is the increased size and expanded scope of their work. For example, in Nigeria, they pushed out Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, in a few months. The Nigerian military could not achieve this in six years.

No international laws exist to regulate the mercenary industry. What we’re left with: If anyone with enough money can wage war for any reason they want to, then new superpowers will emerge: the ultra-rich and multinational corporations. Oil companies and oligarchs should not have armies.”


Using & Protecting the “Internet of Things” (IOT)




“Like most technological advancements, the internet of things (IoT) brings with it issues and opportunities when it comes to cyber.

IoT is going to be a huge challenge when it comes to cyber defense.

The Defense Department likely will leverage all emerging IoT assets to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and to meet or exceed their operating principles.

All of the new IoT sensors create new information sources and new opportunities for automation that facilitate quicker response.

This has not escaped the attention of DoD. In fact, one report by Govini determined that the entire federal IoT market had a 20 percent year-over-year growth in fiscal year 2015. That trend is likely to continue as DoD applications increase, according to the report.

You can be sure that our adversaries have been busy examining emerging IoT devices and systems and determining how they can use them, as well as how they can target these digital assets.

For example, look at the challenges that are beginning to pop up with cellular IoT sensors. As the name suggests, these are sensors that use cellular communications to transmit the data they collect to the system or systems that use that data. That communication is often unencrypted, so the theft and use of that data is entirely possible.

Now consider that most IoT devices do not have firewalls or antivirus so the device itself is exposed. Similar concerns were echoed by Marine Corps Maj. Scott Cuomo, who spoke at the IoT summit hosted by the AFCEA DC Chapter. Some worry that the data could be intercepted, changed and rebroadcast to its intended recipient.

The remote IoT devices will be difficult to protest as it stands now. Why have we not learned lessons from the past? We should have already mandated all IoT devices used in mission critical system applications or critical infrastructure applications have some level of cybersecurity built in. We need a new recipe that integrates cybersecurity before the solution is fully baked.”


The Pentagon Needs Help To Take Down Small Drones

Drones dangerous-payloads-en



“Tiny drones are proliferating and making their way onto the battlefield.

The Pentagon calls for solutions.

The FAA isn’t the only government body worried about the harm that small drones could cause. On Thursday, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA,released a request for information for new measures to defeat small UAVs, which, they say, are “creating new asymmetric threats for warfighters.”

Small “UASs’ size and low cost enable novel concepts of employment, which present challenges to our current defense systems,” according to the request.

DARPA is looking for technology to “detect, identify, track, and neutralize these systems on the move, on a compressed timeline, and while mitigating collateral damage and providing flexibility to operations in multiple mission environments.”

More than a few technologies exist to counter drone threats, but jamming can pose a threat to nearby electrical and computer equipment. One of the more interesting solutions so far comes out of Japan where Tokyo police are deploying drones armed with nets to capture other drones.

By itself, most small drones don’t pose a great danger but they can easily be modified with a variety of payloads. Pro-Russian forces fighting in Ukraine use drones to spot and target enemy positions. Last August, a group of hackers at DEF CON unveiled a small garage-built drone that flies around looking for vulnerabilities in computer networks.

Isreali Aerospace Industries markets something that they call a multi-rotor loitering munition for ground forces, basically a quadcopter with a bomb strapped to it that hovers in the air until the operator decides to kill someone with it. Hamas and Hezbollah’s use of small drones goes back to 2004. ISIS, too, is experimenting with small intelligence drones (and possibly armed ones as well). In July, the Pentagon switched $20 million toward a new anti-drone effort.

Any drone under 55 lbs is considered small by FAA standards. The agency projects that more than seven million small UAVs could cloud America’s skies by the year 2020. The development community for small drones is also growing rapidly, bolstered by trends in 3D printing and tiny off-the-shelf computer systems like the Raspberry Pi. Anybody with an internet connection can create their own drone at minimal cost. As large as seven million sounds, the figure might be woefully conservative.”


Pentagon Wants Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Explain Itself

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“Effort aims to nurture communication between machines and humans by investing in AI that can explain itself as it works.

Humans won’t make full use of AI until they trust it won’t fail, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA].

The Pentagon wants to incorporate artificial intelligence into more systems but first needs to ensure its employees fully understand what drives AI, a new broad agency [BAA] announcement suggests.

Potential applications for defense are endless—autonomous aerial and undersea war-fighting or surveillance, among others

An intelligence analyst who receives recommendations from algorithms about what to investigate further “needs to understand why the algorithm has recommended certain activity,” the BAA said. And the personnel overseeing a new autonomous system needs to know why it makes decisions so they “can decide how to use it in future missions.”

DARPA [DEFENSE ADVANCED RESEARCH PROJECTS AGENCY] is looking for researchers who can create prototypes for AI systems that display their decision-making rationale—a feature DARPA calls “Explainable AI” or “XAI.” The agency also wants teams that study the psychological theory behind effective explanations—should a machine describe its actions using analogies or examples?—and assess if a user’s trust in an AI system grows if it explains itself. DARPA hosted a Proposers’ Day on the topic Thursday.

The end user, DARPA writes, is any person who “depends on decisions, recommendations or actions produced by an AI system, and therefore needs to understand the rationale for the system’s decisions.”

Ultimately, the user should be able to understand the answers to questions like “why did you do that,” “when do you fail,” or “when can I trust you.”

Historically, the inner-workings of the most sophisticated machine-learning systems, such as deep learning, are the least transparent to a user, according to DARPA. But the easiest to understand, such as simple decision trees, aren’t as accurate.

Explainable AI could help humans apply it to more sectors globally, but it’s especially important for the Defense Department, which is “facing challenges that demand the development of more intelligent, autonomous and symbiotic systems,” the BAA said.”



How the Pentagon Became Walmart

Aerial View From Over Arlington Va

(Photo By USAf/Getty Images)


“Asking warriors to do everything poses great dangers for our country — and the military.

Our armed services have become the one-stop shop for America’s policymakers.

Here’s the vicious circle in which we’ve trapped ourselves: As we face novel security threats from novel quarters — emanating from nonstate terrorist networks, from cyberspace, and from the impact of poverty, genocide, or political repression, for instance — we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing every new threat through the lens of “war,” thus asking our military to take on an ever-expanding range of nontraditional tasks. But viewing more and more threats as “war” brings more and more spheres of human activity into the ambit of the law of war, with its greater tolerance of secrecy, violence, and coercion — and its reduced protections for basic rights.

Meanwhile, asking the military to take on more and more new tasks requires higher military budgets, forcing us to look for savings elsewhere, so we freeze or cut spending on civilian diplomacy and development programs. As budget cuts cripple civilian agencies, their capabilities dwindle, and we look to the military to pick up the slack, further expanding its role.

“If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The old adage applies here as well. If your only functioning government institution is the military, everything looks like a war, and “war rules” appear to apply everywhere, displacing peacetime laws and norms. When everything looks like war, everything looks like a military mission, displacing civilian institutions and undermining their credibility while overloading the military.

More is at stake than most of us realize. Recall Shakespeare’s Henry V:

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage 

In war, we expect warriors to act in ways that would be immoral and illegal in peacetime. But when the boundaries around war and the military expand and blur, we lose our ability to determine which actions should be praised and which should be condemned.

For precisely this reason, humans have sought throughout history to draw sharp lines between war and peace — and between the role of the warrior and the role of the civilian. Until less than a century ago, for instance, most Western societies maintained that wars should be formally declared, take place upon clearly delineated battlefields, and be fought by uniformed soldiers operating within specialized, hierarchical military organizations. In different societies and earlier times, humans developed other rituals to delineate war’s boundaries, from war drums and war sorcery to war paint and complex initiation rites for warriors.

Like a thousand other human tribes before us, we modern Americans also engage in elaborate rituals to distinguish between warriors and civilians: Our soldiers shear off their hair, display special symbols on their chests, engage in carefully choreographed drill ceremonies, and name their weapons for fearsome spirits and totem animals (the Hornet, the Black Hawk, the Reaper). And despite the changes ushered in by the 9/11 attacks, most of us view war as a distinct and separate sphere, one that shouldn’t intrude into our everyday world of offices, shopping malls, schools, and soccer games. Likewise, we relegate war to the military, a distinct social institution that we simultaneously lionize and ignore. War, we like to think, is an easily recognizable exception to the normal state of affairs and the military an institution that can be easily, if tautologically, defined by its specialized, war-related functions.

But in a world rife with transnational terrorist networks, cyberwarriors, and disruptive nonstate actors, this is no longer true. Our traditional categories — war and peace, military and civilian — are becoming almost useless.

In a cyberwar or a war on terrorism, there can be no boundaries in time or space: We can’t point to the battlefield on a map or articulate circumstances in which such a war might end. We’re no longer sure what counts as a weapon, either: A hijacked passenger plane? A line of computer code? We can’t even define the enemy: Though the United States has been dropping bombs in Syria for almost two years, for instance, no one seems sure if our enemy is a terrorist organization, an insurgent group, a loose-knit collection of individuals, a Russian or Iranian proxy army, or perhaps just chaos itself.

We’ve also lost any coherent basis for distinguishing between combatants and civilians: Is a Chinese hacker a combatant? What about a financier for Somalia’s al-Shabab, or a Pakistani teen who shares extremist propaganda on Facebook, or a Russian engineer paid by the Islamic State to maintain captured Syrian oil fields?

When there’s a war, the law of war applies, and states and their agents have great latitude in using lethal force and other forms of coercion. Peacetime law is the opposite, emphasizing individual rights, due process, and accountability.

When we lose the ability to draw clear, consistent distinctions between war and not-war, we lose any principled basis for making the most vital decisions a democracy can make: Which matters, if any, should be beyond the scope of judicial review? When can a government have “secret laws”? When can the state monitor its citizens’ phone calls and email? Who can be imprisoned and with what degree, if any, of due process? Where, when, and against whom can lethal force be used? Should we consider U.S. drone strikes in Yemen or Libya the lawful wartime targeting of enemy combatants or nothing more than simple murder?

When we heedlessly expand what we label “war,” we also lose our ability to make sound decisions about which tasks we should assign to the military and which should be left to civilians.

Today, American military personnel operate in nearly every country on Earth — and do nearly every job on the planet. They launch raids and agricultural reform projects, plan airstrikes and small-business development initiatives, train parliamentarians and produce TV soap operas. They patrol for pirates, vaccinate cows, monitor global email communications, and design programs to prevent human trafficking.

Many years ago, when I was in law school, I applied for a management consulting job at McKinsey & Co. During one of the interviews, I was given a hypothetical business scenario: “Imagine you run a small family-owned general store. Business is good, but one day you learn that Walmart is about to open a store a block away. What do you do?”

“Roll over and die,” I said immediately.

The interviewer’s pursed lips suggested that this was the wrong answer, and no doubt a plucky mom-and-pop operation wouldn’t go down without a fight: They’d look for a niche, appeal to neighborhood sentiment, or maybe get artisanal and start serving hand-roasted chicory soy lattes. But we all know the odds would be against them: When Walmart shows up, the writing is on the wall.

Like Walmart, today’s military can marshal vast resources and exploit economies of scale in ways impossible for small mom-and-pop operations. And like Walmart, the tempting one-stop-shopping convenience it offers has a devastating effect on smaller, more traditional enterprises — in this case, the State Department and other U.S. civilian foreign-policy agencies, which are steadily shrinking into irrelevance in our ever-more militarized world. The Pentagon isn’t as good at promoting agricultural or economic reform as the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development — but unlike our civilian government agencies, the Pentagon has millions of employees willing to work insane hours in terrible conditions, and it’s open 24/7.

It’s fashionable to despise Walmart — for its cheap, tawdry goods, for its sheer vastness and mindless ubiquity, and for the human pain we suspect lies at the heart of the enterprise. Most of the time, we prefer not to see it and use zoning laws to exile its big-box stores to the commercial hinterlands away from the center of town. But as much as we resent Walmart, most of us would be hard-pressed to live without it.

As the U.S. military struggles to define its role and mission, it evokes similarly contradictory emotions in the civilian population. Civilian government officials want a military that costs less but provides more, a military that stays deferentially out of strategy discussions but remains eternally available to ride to the rescue. We want a military that will prosecute our ever-expanding wars but never ask us to face the difficult moral and legal questions created by the eroding boundaries between war and peace.

We want a military that can solve every global problem but is content to remain safely quarantined on isolated bases, separated from the rest of us by barbed wire fences, anachronistic rituals, and acres of cultural misunderstanding. Indeed, even as the boundaries around war have blurred and the military’s activities have expanded, the U.S. military itself — as a human institution — has grown more and more sharply delineated from the broader society it is charged with protecting, leaving fewer and fewer civilians with the knowledge or confidence to raise questions about how we define war or how the military operates.

It’s not too late to change all this.

No divine power proclaimed that calling something “war” should free us from the constraints of morality or common sense or that only certain tasks should be the proper province of those wearing uniforms. We came up with the concepts, definitions, laws, and institutions that now trap and confound us — and they’re no more eternal than the rituals and categories used by any of the human tribes that have gone before us.

We don’t have to accept a world full of boundary-less wars that can never end, in which the military has lost any coherent sense of purpose or limits. If the moral and legal ambiguity of U.S.-targeted killings bothers us, or we worry about government secrecy or indefinite detention, we can mandate new checks and balances that transcend the traditional distinctions between war and peace. If we don’t like the simultaneous isolation and Walmartization of our military, we can change the way we recruit, train, deploy, and treat those who serve, change the way we define the military’s role, and reinvigorate our civilian foreign-policy institutions.

After all, few generals actually want to preside over the military’s remorseless Walmartization: They too fear that, in the end, the nation’s over-reliance on an expanding military risks destroying not only the civilian competition but the military itself. They worry that the armed services, under constant pressure to be all things to all people, could eventually find themselves able to offer little of enduring value to anyone.

Ultimately, they fear that the U.S. military could come to resemble a Walmart on the day after a Black Friday sale: stripped almost bare by a society both greedy for what it can provide and resentful of its dominance, with nothing left behind but demoralized employees and some shoddy mass-produced items strewn haphazardly around the aisles.”

How the Pentagon Became Walmart