The CSS Blog Network

Is the DoD Innovating? How the New Budget Stacks Up

Image: Flickr.

Editors note: This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 17 March 2014.

As the Pentagon faces inevitable budget cuts, “innovation” and “adaptation” are the buzzwords of the day, but are they reality? The recent Department of Defense (DoD) Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) identifies innovation as a core theme, and Department leaders have gone to great lengths to stress that they have chosen to protect key investments for the future, even in lean times. The capability areas that DoD says it is protecting—cyber operations, special operations forces, and development of a new long-range bomber—indeed make sense strategically and will be extremely useful in future operating environments. DoD has also stressed that it is maintaining research and development funding in order to retain the U.S. military’s technological edge.

These overarching principles are almost certainly the right ones, but resources need to back them up. As the saying goes: “if it ain’t in the [budget], it ain’t.” In some areas, DoD is putting its money where its mouth is. » More

Cloaks of Invisibility: The Latest Frontier in Military Technology

Japanese and US snipers during an exercise, courtesy of Marines/flickr

Fiction and reality have meshed to incredible extents in the past decades, and it is no longer a surprise to see sci-fi-inspired inventions used in everyday life. The military field has been no exception and is now at the cusp of groundbreaking innovations that could change war-making to its core.

The next frontier in defense technology is so-called “stealth” technologies, in which the U.S. military has already invested huge funds. New research is opening up the prospect of achieving something close to invisibility on the battlefield, a breakthrough likened to Harry Potter`s famous invisibility cloak. While most stealth technologies are designated to elude enemy radars, new invisibility technologies could conceal objects in real time, not just from radar but from the naked eye. » More

Australia Startled by Chinese Naval Excursion

HMAS Success

Photo: U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons.

The Australian public is being reminded of Indonesia’s importance to the country’s foreign and defence policy—pastpresent and future.

Last Thursday, many Australian viewers switched their televisions over to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in an attempt to escape from the media frenzy surrounding the release of Australian citizenSchapelle Corby from prison in Indonesia. They found the national broadcaster’s Lateline program reporting on another, far more significant story emanating from their near north.

On February 1, the Chinese navy (PLAN) sent a taskforce of three warships from Hainan in southern China through the Sunda Strait in Indonesia, along the south coast of Java and past Christmas Island into the Indian Ocean. Two Chinese destroyers accompanied an advanced 20,000-ton amphibious ship, capable of carrying hundreds of marines, and conducted a series of combat simulations before heading north through the Lombok and Makassar Straits and into the Pacific. » More

Arctic Rhetoric

Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 conducting Arctic training. Photo: UK Ministry of Defence/flickr.

This article was originally published on the World Policy blog on 17 January 2014.

Despite ongoing cooperation between Arctic nations – Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States– mainstream rhetoric often implies Arctic stakeholders are teetering on the brink of conflict. To a great extent, this sentiment is reflected in mass media and political banter, inflaming the passions of audiences. This is true, not only in the U.S. but also elsewhere, evidenced in the mass media reporting of other Arctic nations and beyond.

Consider, for instance, the impact of headlines pronouncing a “New Cold War” or a “Rush for Riches,” headlines not uncommon in U.S. media. Some reactions may be visceral– insidiously implanting notions of fear, lust, or chaos into the very core of society. Similarly, political banter suggesting belligerent rivalries reminiscent of bygone years may well influence public opinion to the detriment of strengthened Arctic relations. » More

The Rise of China – A View from Singapore

 Ng Eng Hen

Singapore’s Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen (right). Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet/flickr.

In international relations, there exists diplomatic theater and diplomatic facts. A recent example of theater is the agreement between China and the United States to expand their military exchanges and bilateral scientific contacts. The reality, however, is something quite different. The US Department of Defense, for example, continues to comply with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2000, which forbids any contact with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) staff members that might result in the “inappropriate exposure” of key US operational plans, dispositions or activities. China’s astronauts, in turn, remain banned from the International Space Station and, more recently, its scientists were prohibited from attending an academic conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center.

At the heart of these prohibitions is the US Congress. Over the past few years it has thwarted the funding for joint Sino-American projects; it has voiced concerns about the potential theft of US space technology; and it played a key role in terminating an exchange program that helped facilitate Sino-America dialogue on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unsurprisingly, leading American scientists are upset about the missed opportunities that these restrictions represent. Yes, they include missed chances for collaborative research, but they also represent a lost opportunity for each country to gain deeper insights into the long-term strategic interests of each other. » More

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