Prior focus: Global Views

Five New Rules for Defense Innovation

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter at Stanford University. Image: Rosa Jiménez Cano/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 21 September, 2015.

“Silicon Valley folks? Their main focus is on speed to market.” A senior executive at Raytheon recently uttered this quote in response to the innovation push launched by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and expanded by his successor, Ash Carter. The remark illustrates a frustration shared across the traditional defense industrial base over a series of “innovation initiatives” being rolled out by the Department of Defense (DOD). These initiatives have been spurred by a growing sense that the Pentagon’s historic technological advantage is slipping as a result of numerous shortcomings: DOD’s flagging research and development (R&D) spending, an abysmal technology transition rate, and questionable returns on industry Independent Research & Development (IRAD). There is no doubt that something must be done to ensure U.S. defense-related innovation remains world-leading. Yet despite DOD’s best efforts, it is far from clear that the department has sufficiently considered how it can further leverage the already existing defense industrial base to support this endeavor. Certainly, “non-traditional” companies should be a larger player in the defense innovation marketplace. But as the previously mentioned Raytheon executive noted, “When you’re making technology in the defense market, you also have to address other aspects, including mission assurance, acquisition compliance — these things are important … there’s an overhead to that.” » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

The Latino Politics of the Cuba Deal

Newspaper depicting President Obama in Che Guveara fashion. Image: Mark Hillary/Flickr

This article was originally published by the World Policy Blog on 17 September, 2015.

True to Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to directly engage radical regimes without preconditions, and in spite of having no diplomatic relations with them, his administration negotiated a breakthrough diplomatic deal. Meanwhile on the domestic front, the president has thus far prevailed over vehement congressional opposition and a storied, ethnically-based foreign policy lobby in pursuit of such an agreement.

While this capsule description fits the “Iran deal,” that titanic political battle has eclipsed a similar case that preceded it only seven months before: the agreement to restore normal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. And rather than any negotiation with Iran, it may be the Cuba precedent that is more clearly instructive of the political strategy accompanying Obama’s use of his executive powers in the context of divided government and acute partisan polarization in Washington. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Militant Attack and Support Zones in Afghanistan: April – September 2015 (Institute for the Study of War)

Attack and support zones of ISIS, Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan (click for detailed view). Map: Evan Sterling/Institute for the Study of War

This report was originally published by the Institute for the Study of War on 7 August, 2015.

Taliban elements and other militant groups are conducting operations across Afghanistan, including spectacular attacks against major population centers and U.S. bases. The Haqqa­ni Network, a Taliban aligned-group, continues to pressure the ANSF and NATO forces with spectacular attacks in Kabul and Khost. Taliban elements are also conducting numerous ground assaults to seize district centers, especially in northern and southern Afghanistan. These campaigns comprised the 2015 warm weather from April 2015- September 2015. There have been several notable developments following the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar onJuly 29. First, Taliban militants have claimed control of two district cen­ters in Helmand on August II and August 26. Second, ISIS’s Wilayat Khorasan have claimed control of seven district centers in Nangarhar over the course of July and September. Third, Taliban infighting has escalated as different factions compete and express varying positions on who should lead the Taliban movement. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

Chinese and Russian Cyber Espionage: The Kaiser Would Be Jealous

Espionage Image: Alan/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 11 September, 2015.

After the OPM hack, there were suggestions that the Chinese might be building digital dossiers on every U.S. government official, or even on all Americans. More recent reports have the Russian and Chinese intelligence services exploiting personally identifiable information about Americans from security clearance databases, airline records, medical records and many other sources on a massive scale. The Los Angeles Times has reported that the head of the National Counterintelligence Executive has confirmed that foreign powers are doing these things. Other, anonymous sources told the Times that “at least one clandestine network of American engineers and scientists who provide technical assistance to U.S. undercover operatives … overseas has been compromised as a result.” It has even been suggested that the Russian and Chinese services are throwing data from the Ashley Madison breach into the mix. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

A Brave New Iraq? It Starts with Tackling Corruption and Rebuilding State Legitimacy

Plastic model of Iraqi regions, courtesy of Jan Sefti/flickr

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 10 September, 2015.

While global attention focuses on Islamic State (IS), recent mass protests throughout Iraq have prompted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to promise what many long believed impossible: tackling the systemic corruption endemic to the Iraqi political system.

Moving decisively to cut the fat, al-Abadi slashed the Iraqi cabinet by one-third. He abolished the positions of 11 ministers, three deputy presidencies, three deputy prime ministers and a total of four ministries altogether – although this, worryingly, includes the portfolios for human rights and women’s affairs. » More

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