Hans Christian Andersen crafted the parable of the emperor’s new clothes to teach children how pomposity and collective denial can produce stupidity and how childlike honesty can cut through it all. The tale centers on a credulous emperor and a circle of courtiers and subjects who were willing to play along with the delusion – a situation now mirrored not only in the Pentagon, but also in the White House and Congress. And the U.S. Navy is caught in in this web of pomposity and collective denial on two fronts. The first involves the Navy’s Fleet Response Program (FRP) and the second is the inconsistency between the Unified Command Plan (UCP) and the Navy’s operating environment – the world’s oceans. These issues might not sound sexy, but they are crucial to understand. Both are related and the net result is an over-extended Navy, bereft of a command-and-control apparatus congruent with its operating environment.
The government of Victor Orbán has systematically exploited the refugee crisis to ramp up a long-standing rhetoric of nationalist intolerance and consolidate its grip on power by passing a raft of emergency powers, further eroding Hungary’s once robust legal checks and balances. Such actions have drawn a storm of international opprobrium – including harsh criticism from the governments of Austria, Croatia and Serbia, all of which have taken a more humane and pragmatic approach to managing the influx of refugees.
Few criticisms of Hungary’s actions have come from neighbouring EU states in East Central Europe, still widely seen as front runners in liberal political and economic reform. Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic initially opted instead to close ranks with Orbán to head off the European Commission’s proposals for compulsory quotas.
On Tuesday 8 September, the United States (US) Diplomatic Mission to South Africa issued a rare security message entitled Terrorist Threat to US Interest in South Africa. The alert warns citizens about a potential attack on US interests and facilities, and advises US citizens in the country to be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance personal security.
The alert came as a surprise to many South Africans and was met with mixed reactions. Some questioned the credibility of the information and the feasibility of a potential attack on the continent’s most advanced liberal democracy, which has been relatively stable since 1994. Conspiracy theories have also emerged, describing the alert as part of a strategy to destabilise South Africa and weaken its economy by creating panic.
“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.”
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.