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May 7 2016

May 10, 2016




7 May 2016


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Officials: Scant evidence that Clinton had malicious intent in handling of emails

By Matt Zapotosky

National Security

May 5 at 3:36 PM

Prosecutors and FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server have so far found scant evidence that the leading Democratic presidential candidate intended to break classification rules, though they are still probing the case aggressively with an eye on interviewing Clinton herself, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

FBI agents on the case have been joined by federal prosecutors from the same office that successfully prosecuted 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui — and who would handle any Edward Snowden case, should he ever return to the country, according to the U.S. officials familiar with the matter. And in recent weeks, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia and their FBI counterparts have been interviewing top Clinton aides as they seek to bring the case to a close.

CNN reported Thursday that longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin was among those interviewed. A lawyer for Abedin did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The involvement of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not indicative that charges are imminent or even likely. One official said prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not.

Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. (Justice Department)

But the investigation is not over, and if charges are brought, Clinton would face a team that is no stranger to high-profile cases involving classified material. Last year, for example, prosecutors in the district won a conviction of a former CIA officer who was involved in a highly secretive operation to give faulty nuclear plans to Iran and accused of leaking details of the effort to a reporter.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing probe. An FBI spokesman and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement: “From the start, Hillary Clinton has offered to answer any questions that would help the Justice Department complete its review, and we hope and expect that anyone else who is asked would do the same. We are confident the review will conclude that nothing inappropriate took place.”

The Justice Department has granted immunity to at least one former State Department staffer, Bryan Pagliano, who worked on Clinton’s private email server. There is no indication a grand jury has been convened in the case.

U.S. officials also dismissed claims by a Romanian hacker now facing federal charges in Virginia that he was able to breach Clinton’s personal email server. The officials said investigators have found no evidence to support the assertion by Marcel Lehel Lazar to Fox News and others, and they believed if he had accessed Clinton’s emails, he would have released them — as he did when he got into accounts of other high-profile people.

D.C.-area lawyers commonly refer to the Eastern District of Virginia as the “rocket docket” for the speed with which cases move through it. The U.S. Attorney’s Office there has about 300 lawyers and other employees working in Alexandria, Richmond, Norfolk and Newport News and has long had a reputation as one of the most important federal prosecutor shops in the country.

The State Department released 52,000 pages of Hillary Clinton’s emails as part of a court-ordered process. Here’s what else we learned from the publicly released emails. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The district is home to the CIA and the Pentagon, and its prosecutors often find themselves handling terrorism and national-security cases, including the Moussaoui trial.

The office is led by Dana Boente, a veteran federal prosecutor who U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch earlier this year called one of the Justice Department’s “consummate utility players.” In addition to the prosecution of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R), Boente also led the public corruption prosecutions of former congressman William J. Jefferson (D-La.) and of former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin (D) while he was serving a brief stint leading the office in New Orleans.



DARPA to build a cyber attribution system to ID criminals

Michael Heller

Senior Reporter

Published: 05 May 2016


DARPA is taking on one of the most ambitious tasks in cybersecurity — creating a system capable not only of identifying attacks but performing cyber attribution to identify the threat actors themselves.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has begun “soliciting innovative research proposals in the area of cyber attribution.” The goal of this “Enhanced Attribution” program is to develop technologies that can generate “operationally and tactically relevant information about multiple concurrent independent malicious cyber campaigns, each involving several operators.” The hope is that this information will allow the Department of Defense (DoD) to identify threat actors perpetrating attacks and potentially to predict future attacks.

Angelos Keromytis, the program lead at DARPA, admitted in announcing the project that this will be an extremely difficult undertaking but that malicious cyberactors currently operate with little fear of being caught and he wants to be more proactive in identifying threat actors.

“The reason cyber attribution is difficult stems at least in part from a lack of end-to-end accountability in the current Internet infrastructure. Cyber campaigns spanning jurisdictions, networks, and devices are only partially observable from the point of view of a defender that operates entirely in friendly cyber territory (e.g., an organization’s enterprise network),” Keromytis wrote. “The identities of malicious cyber operators are largely obstructed by the use of multiple layers of indirection. The current characterization of malicious cyber campaigns based on indicators of compromise, such as file hashes and command-and control infrastructure identifiers, allows malicious operators to evade the defenders and resume operations simply by superficially changing their tools, as well as aspects of their tactics, techniques, and procedures. The lack of detailed information about the actions and identities of the adversary cyber operators inhibits policymaker considerations and decisions for both cyber and non-cyber response options.”

Craig Young, cybersecurity researcher for Tripwire, said attacker profiling and attribution is “an extremely daunting problem.”

“While it is helpful to recognize tools and infrastructure associated with individuals and groups, it is generally not sufficient for definitive claims as adversaries commonly try to disguise their actions through false flags,” Young said. “In general I would say this is a worthwhile plan but it is also very ambitious and the results of such a system should be taken with a grain of salt.”

Keromytis also noted that sharing data from the Enhanced Attribution program will be a problem to overcome.

“The Enhanced Attribution program aims to make currently opaque malicious cyber adversary actions and individual cyber operator attribution transparent by providing high-fidelity visibility into all aspects of malicious cyber operator actions and to increase the government’s ability to publicly reveal the actions of individual malicious cyber operators without damaging sources and methods.”

DARPA’s deadline for research proposals is June 7 and the aim is to launch the program as soon as November. Keromytis said the cyber attribution technology could be ready to catch common adversaries, like financial criminals and hacktivists by 2018, and by the end of 2020, the system could be capable of catching nation-state threat actors.

Dr. Chase Cunningham, director of cyber threat research at Armor Defense, Inc., based in Richardson, Tex., said meeting that deadline could be possible.

“I would think that it is possible to have some sort of measuring and statistical mapping platform in place that could give some insight mathematically into what the activities are behind certain attacks,” Cunningham said. “It would be very hard to have clearly defined and totally accurate modeling in that short of a time, but with the volume of data that the DoD has, they could certainly be well on their way.”

Michael Angelo, CRISC, CISSP, and chief security architect for Micro Focus, said that the current rate of acceleration for attacks and sophistication of attacks means that “2020 will be too late.”

“The methodology for attacking systems has been automated to the extent that a single entity can attack hundreds of thousands of machines an hour,” Angelo said. “While previous attacks were designed to deliver their impact relatively fast and destroy systems or attempt the exfiltration of data, evolving attacks may remain dormant for quite some time, attempt to lock and ransom data, or even be leveraged for other attacks. Even the ransoming of data seems to be evolving to cover the release of the basic fact you were hacked.”

Cunningham said that while such a cyber attribution system may never produce a 100% accurate identification of the actor behind such an attack, it may be able to “make a well-educated guess about who the likely actors or groups are that are behind a particular action.”

“However, because well trained and seasoned threat groups use things like proxies and a variety of other means to hide their tracks it would be very hard to have really actionable points for any one particular event,” Cunningham said. “Essentially when it is all broken down, without actually having some method for having the bad guys get counter-hacked and the DoD installing some sort of telemetry or beaconing software on the actual bad guy’s machine, they would always be making an analytic leap when they said that ‘this group did this thing at this time.'”



Tensions Simmer in the South China Sea

May 6, 2016 | Erica Evans


China sent a major signal to the U.S. last week, when it turned away the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and accompanying vessels from making a routine port call in Hong Kong – the first time in nearly a decade that China has refused entry to an American military ship. The message to the U.S. was in essence, “this is our turf and we’re in charge.”

The denial of port entry comes just two weeks after Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter criticized China’s military build up in the South China Sea while onboard the Stennis near Scarborough Shoal. Carter was accompanied by Voltaire Gazmin, the Philippines defense minister.

Territorial disputes are nothing new in the South China Sea, home to sea-lanes that support $5 trillion a year in trade. For decades, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries have sought to stake their claim to various uninhabited islands for strategic purposes as well as rights to fishing and oil reserves.

Throughout it all, the U.S. has refrained from officially supporting individual claims while remaining committed to protecting freedom of the seas. However, China upped the ante when it began creating artificial islands, building airstrips and installing military equipment that dwarf the facilities operated by other countries on their South China Sea holdings.

Euan Graham from the Lowy Institute for International Policy explained, “China’s strategic interest in the South China Sea is longstanding, preceding even the current communist regime in Beijing. What has changed is China’s impressive maritime capability.”

In order to deter China from using its increased capability to bully neighbors, the U.S. has conducted two “freedom of navigation operations” since the fall of 2015 in the South China Sea and is expected to conduct a third soon. Other U.S. activities include joint naval patrols and air operations with the Philippines, which began in March and April. But as tensions continue to escalate, there have been calls for an even more robust response to stop China’s expansion.

Admiral Harry Harris, the U.S. military’s top commander in the Pacific, advocates such an approach. According to the Navy Times, he has recommended that the U.S. invest more in submarines and long-range surface missiles for the region and also consider launching aircraft and conducting military operations within 12 miles of the man-made islands. Others are urging the Obama administration to rescind China’s invitation to attend the international Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercise set to take place at Pearl Harbor this summer. However, the Navy Times also reported that the Obama Administration does not necessarily agree with these recommendations.

Meanwhile, China’s military announced Wednesday that they will carry out more exercises in the South China Sea this month, using advanced warships and submarines. And, while an international court of arbitration in The Hague is expected to issue a ruling in favor of the Philippines’ claims that China is illegally occupying the Scarborough Shoal, China has indicated that it will not accept such a ruling and has refused to participate in the proceedings.


China does have some nations on its side. Russia has voiced it support for countering U.S. influence in Asia and agrees that territorial disputes should be handled bilaterally, not on an international stage. Brunei, Cambodia and Laos, have also sided with China against internationalizing South China Sea disputes.

But if the disputes are left up to China and its opponents, then the Philippines, Vietnam, and others will be forced to choose between abandoning their claims and fighting to defend their interests. In reality, the choice is non-existent, because none of them can compete with China’s military might.

According to President and CEO of BowerGroupAsia, Ernie Bower, “the region wants to see much deeper engagement from the rest of the world to balance what they fear may be overzealous plans by China to dictate regional rules, redefine sovereign borders and maritime delineations, and to undercut or ignore international law.”

Accordingly, Vietnam and the Philippines are strengthening ties with the U.S. Besides continuing to offer encouragement to its partners in the region, however, U.S. options also appear to be limited.

In an article for the Diplomat, William Frasure, a Professor of Government at Connecticut College, wrote, “China and the rival South China Sea claimants must be aware of how problematic it would be for an American administration to rouse public support for a military confrontation with China over obscure bits of rock and sand in a corner of the world that, to most Americans, is quite remote.”

According to Frasure, China is confident it can continue unimpeded by the U.S. as it slowly asserts its maritime dominance in the region with the construction of artificial island, docks, and landing strips, and the introduction of new equipment like surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets. And as long as China avoids a direct attack on an American ship or plane, and continues to take small steps, it may indeed succeed in gradually establishing supremacy in South China Sea waters.



An Army Captain Takes Obama to Court Over ISIS Fight


MAY 4, 2016


WASHINGTON — A 28-year-old Army officer on Wednesday sued President Obama over the legality of the war against the Islamic State, setting up a test of Mr. Obama’s disputed claim that he needs no new legal authority from Congress to order the military to wage that deepening mission.

The plaintiff, Capt. Nathan Michael Smith, an intelligence officer stationed in Kuwait, voiced strong support for fighting the Islamic State but, citing his “conscience” and his vow to uphold the Constitution, he said he believed that the mission lacked proper authorization from Congress.

“To honor my oath, I am asking the court to tell the president that he must get proper authority from Congress, under the War Powers Resolution, to wage the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” he wrote.

The legal challenge comes after the death of the third American service member fighting the Islamic State and as Mr. Obama has decided to significantly expand the number of Special Operations ground troops he has deployed to Syria aid rebels there.

Mr. Obama has argued that he already has the authority he needs to wage the conflict against the Islamic State under the authorization to fight the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, enacted by Congress shortly after the attacks.

That argument is controversial because the Islamic State is at odds with the leadership of Al Qaeda and its affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front. Critics contend that the administration is stretching the Sept. 11 authorization too far by applying it to an organization that did not exist in 2001 and that operates far from Afghanistan.

The administration has countered that its position is legitimate because the Islamic State used to be a Qaeda affiliate in Iraq during the Iraq war. In an April 2015 speech, Stephen Preston, then the top Pentagon lawyer, argued that the fact that Al Qaeda splintered after the death of Osama bin Laden did not mean that the authority to keep fighting each successor faction came to an end.

Administration officials have also said the fight against the Islamic State is covered separately by the 2002 authorization President George W. Bush obtained from Congress for the invasion of Iraq, although they are not relying on it.

The administration has asked Congress to enact new authorization for using military force against the Islamic State, but lawmakers have not acted on that request. They have, however, passed military appropriations bills that earmark funds for the effort against the Islamic State, which could suggest that lawmakers have acquiesced to the executive branch’s theory.

Captain Smith’s lawyers are David Remes, who has represented many Guantánamo detainees in habeas corpus lawsuits, and Bruce Ackerman, a Yale Law School professor who published a column in The Atlantic last year arguing that the war against ISIS was illegal and that a serviceman ordered to fight in it would have standing to challenge it in court.

“We want to get this back on the agenda,” said Mr. Ackerman, calling the precedent Mr. Obama is setting a “turning point” for whether constitutional checks and balances on a president’s ability to initiate a new war at his own discretion will survive.

Current and former administration officials have said that in 2014, when confronted by the Islamic State’s rapid conquest of Iraqi territory, Mr. Obama’s advisers presented him with a choice: he could say that bombing ISIS was part of the existing war, or he could say it was a new war. Each theory, they told him, was defensible, but each had its own downsides.

Mr. Obama decided to go with the first one — that the Islamic State campaign was part of the existing post-Sept. 11 war — because he believed that immediate intervention was necessary to halt a disaster but that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was too dysfunctional to vote on any war authorization within 60 days.

That was important because the War Power Resolution, a Vietnam-era law, says presidents must withdraw deployments into “hostilities” after 60 days if Congress has not authorized the operation to continue. In 2011, Mr. Obama’s air war intervention in Libya, which lasted longer than 60 days without congressional authorization, prompted criticism inside and outside the administration.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who has criticized the administration’s use of the 2001 war authorization to cover the Islamic State but is not involved in the suit, said the case was significant because it could overcome a major hurdle to getting a court to review that theory.

But Mr. Goldsmith said Captain Smith faced many other hurdles, including precedents that suggest that when Congress appropriates money for a conflict it has implicitly authorized it. He also predicted that if a court did rule that the conflict was illegal, Congress would authorize the fight to continue – perhaps giving it broader scope than Mr. Obama has wanted.

“We’re in a terrible equilibrium where Congress doesn’t want to step up and play its part in this military campaign and so the president has basically gone forward and done what he thinks he needs to do,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “It would be a lot better for everyone, including the president, if Congress got more involved.

The origins of these principles are best explained in The Quest for Victory by military historian John Alger. He writes that “[a]n examination of some of the more important writings on war—by Sun Tzu, Vegetius, Machiavelli, the duke of Rohan, Jean Charles de Folard. . . the marquis de Silva and Henry Lloyd—conveys both the form and concept of martial principles before Napoleon.” The common thread among this diverse cohort of thinkers is that they all predate the intellectual conceits of the Enlightenment.

The principles of war survived into modernity. While military theory got more complex, convoluted, and complicated from the age of Napoleon on forward, “old-fashioned” maxims managed to hang in there. Even Clausewitz, before he got bogged down in On War, paid them heed in his essay, “The Most Important Principles on the Conduct of War to Complement My Instruction to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince.”

Ironically, the broad acceptance of principles as a valid guide to the study of war was fostered by the military’s growing obsession with the certainty of science as the basis for truth. The preface to Folard’s History of Polybius affirmed: “Science has made progress only through the knowledge of its true principles. War is no different. The knowledge of its principles becomes the foundation on which its study is made.”

Over the course of the nineteenth century, the principles of war were codified and refurbished. They stuck around, though they were pushed further and further into the background as militaries developed more elegant ways of thinking and planning.

By the end of the Cold War, the principles were under all-out assault. They were included in Joint Doctrine—although the Joint Staff tinkered with them by adding three new principles: restraint, perseverance and legitimacy.

As Antulio Echevarria observes, the additional axioms weren’t really “general rules requiring judgment in application.” In other words, they weren’t principles at all. Rather, the additions were “little more than common-sense advice” added to address post–Cold War concerns for sustaining political will in modern conflict. Essentially, the military was playing politics with the fundamental concepts of war. The change illustrates how the principles had drifted from their original purpose; they were ceasing to serve as a critical conceptual framework to think about conflict.

The JCS principles marked the beginning of the end. Military thinkers looked for more relevant, modern conceptual tools. In 1989, Robert Leonhard penned a new set of principles: The Principles of War for the Information Age. Appearing in print right around the time of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the book garnered a lot of attention from military minds thirsting for new thinking. “Under Leonhard’s system,” Echevarria writes, “military leaders would not have to memorize ‘eternal truths’ for later application; instead, they would learn to weigh the pros and cons of opposing concerns. . . ” Still, Leonhard tried to remain true to the traditional notion of providing a simple model to guide strategists’ understanding of the factors that must be considered in military decisionmaking.

Under the stress of ambivalent operations in the Balkans and then intractable conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the effort to sustain the “simple” completely collapsed. In the modern military mind, modern war became too hard for old ideas.



It’s Time to Return to the Principles of War

Newfangled theories distract from the unchanging art of war.

James Jay Carafano

May 4, 2016


Most modern military doctrine should be scrapped. The Pentagon would be far better served if our military thinkers got back to the basics and taught the principles of war—and little more.

Conflict just keeps getting more complicated. In the modern era, the general response has been to develop new concepts for the how the armed forces ought to conduct themselves. “Bold reimaginings” have sprung forth as quickly as weeds. Getting the “strategic narrative” right is but the latest doctrinal flavor of the month.

But while explanations of how we should fight keep getting more cerebral, sophisticated and sensitive to the conditions surrounding contemporary conflicts, the fighting hasn’t gotten any easier. Occam’s razor suggests that maybe all that fresh thinking isn’t helping win wars.

What do smart, elegant doctrines come up short? The easiest explanation would simply dismiss modern military theorists as feckless pseudo-intellectuals. Colin Gray has compared the defense community to the fashion industry. “Expert defense professionals quite literally follow the fashion in ideas. . . The bigger the idea, the greater its conceptual reach and hence its organizing potency, and hence the more compelling the felt need to jump aboard the intellectual bandwagon.” There may be some truth there, but more is going on.

Defense thinkers are not fashion designers. Their debates are about changing outcomes, not aesthetics.

Sure, Pentagon brass may be quick to embrace the latest terms of art. But new terms don’t enter the lexicon unless there’s an original idea that gets people talking. And, make no mistake, thinking anew is important. Attacking orthodoxy, convention and unquestioned assumptions in pursuit of a competitive edge—that’s a good thing.

What’s wrongheaded, though, is the premise of the modern defense debate. The presumption seems to be that, just as farmers must plow the fields and rotate crops every year to get better results, so military thinkers must turn over fundamental military concepts on a regular basis. The belief that intellectual advances will inevitably deliver a better understanding of complex phenomenon is a tenet of faith—and one of the biggest blind spots—in the modern world.

As the Western world moved from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, the Western mind embraced the notion that it had embarked on a sure, steady march of human progress—one that would ultimately lead to a perfect understanding of the physical world. This transformation was most profoundly seen in the scientific revolution.

In search of absolute dominion, other fields of human enterprise, including military affairs, began to don the trappings of scientific thinking. We see it quite plainly in Clausewitz’s magisterial On War. That nineteenth-century treatise is suffused with jargon that appealed to the Enlightenment crowd.

The tradition continues to this day. Western military writers commonly embrace scientific jargon, symbolic of the faith that there is always a better way to think about the natural world. But shoehorning thinking about war into a scientific-sounding narrative is insufficient.

In an essay on rethinking military concepts, James Dubik invokes an Enlightenment-sounding answer about progress in military affairs. “A brief look at scientific revolutions,” he writes, “provides a glimpse of how fundamental is the continuing transformation in the profession of arms.” Yet the comparison is nonsensical. Dubik is trying to comprehend the changing conditions of contemporary conflict. Physical science is trying to gain a greater understanding of an unchanging physical reality.

Even science has a hard time discovering truth, and war is not a science experiment. There is no preordained path to military enlightenment.

More military thinking doesn’t lead inevitably to better thinking. Indeed, lately it seems to have put more trees in front of the forest.

When General Mattis took over Joint Forces Command in 2007, he spearheaded an effort to fight back against overthinking war. At the time, “effects-based operations” served as favored term of art. Mattis pushed back. “We must return clarity to our processes and operational concepts,” he wrote. Military doctrine had created “unrealistic expectations of predictability and a counterproductive information appetite. . . requir[ing] unattainable levels of knowledge about the enemy exercising its independent will.”

Mattis argued that a far better approach would be to “re-baseline our terminology and concepts by returning to time-honored principles.” He was right. Military minds need to get back to first principles.

What if military thinking stripped itself of the modern era’s futile effort to mimic the Enlightenment goal of gaining perfect knowledge and mastery over the affairs of men? What would be left?

They are called the principles of war. Specifically, they are: objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, surprise and simplicity.

New thinking, however, has not made war any easier.

It is time to reverse course. Let’s stop clinging to the notion that the new generation of thinkers is, axiomatically, smarter than those who preceded them.

At its heart, armed conflict remains a dynamic competition between adversaries; each conflict is tinged by the unique circumstances under which it is fought. Why waste time trying to develop complex intellectual tools that, in the end, deliver no better insights than simple, timeless constructs?

There is a case to be made for going simple. For that, the principles might serve well enough.



The Catastrophic Success of the U.S. Air Force

David Barno and Nora Bensahel

May 3, 2016


A retired U.S. Air Force officer recently told one of us about a conversation he had with a senior Air Force leader who outlined plans for a new type of Red Flag training exercise in Nevada (think Maverick vs. Jester in Top Gun). The new exercise would be designed to simulate a contested denied environment that would involve fighting integrated enemy air defenses and capable fighters. The retired officer drily replied, “Oh, you mean war?”

The stunning success of the Air Force in dominating its domain since the 1991 Gulf War has created two looming problems for the service leadership: The Air Force no longer has any substantive experience in how to fight and win in a highly contested environment, and its current airmen have never experienced serious losses of people and machines in air combat. The very profession of arms in air combat — “to fly, fight, and win” in Air Force parlance — may be at risk. The Air Force’s immense success resulting from the courage, skill, and technological superiority of American airmen has now perversely made the service much less ready to fight the next big war.

The United States has led the world in developing airpower since the first rickety biplanes flew in combat. Its doctrine, technology, and leadership for air warfare grew substantially during the 1920s and 1930s, but the size and scope of World War II forever cemented the importance of air superiority in the American way of war. By 1944, U.S. airpower was dominating the battlefields in both the European and Pacific theaters. This effort was immensely costly. More U.S. airmen were lost in just the European theater than marines killed fighting in the Pacific. But by the war’s end, soldiers and marines on the ground could count on airpower to keep away enemy fighters and bombers, provide direct close air support to troops in contact with the enemy, and even airdrop supplies and reinforcements. Dominating the air became a sine qua non in how the United States fought its wars.

The United States also had to fight for control of the air in the major conflicts following World War II. During the Korean War, U.S. Air Force pilots battled capable North Korean and Chinese fighters in air-to-air combat. Bitter dogfights raged over the Yalu River on the northern border abutting China where U.S. airmen even encountered Russian pilots flying Chinese and North Korean MiGs. Fifteen years later, U.S. pilots faced a sophisticated and deadly integrated air defense system over North Vietnam, and lost hundreds of fliers and planes to Soviet-provided surface to air missiles, anti-aircraft guns and advanced MiG fighters.

Since Vietnam, however, the U.S. Air Force has not faced an integrated air defense network system of comparable lethality. Enemy air defenses in the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 air war over Kosovo and Serbia, and in the 2003 invasion of Iraq all rapidly collapsed in the face of well-designed and brilliantly delivered U.S. attacks. No American warplanes have been shot down by enemy aircraft since at least 1991 and none lost to enemy air defenses since 2003.

The long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have only cemented this impressive legacy of success. In the last 15 years combat flying, the United States has maintained utterly uncontested air supremacy. Since early 2003, the U.S. Air Force has been flying its combat missions against enemies that possessed no air force, offered no missile threat, and whose anti-aircraft artillery consisted mostly of small caliber hand-held weapons. Even U.S. operations in Syria have avoided confronting the more advanced air defense network there.

As a result, an entire new generation of Air Force pilots have flown combat missions that have not involved any serious opposition. As a result, the risk to aircraft and airmen in combat has become nearly negligible – accidents have been far more dangerous than enemy action. And for American ground forces, U.S. air superiority is so unquestioned that it almost seems like a state of nature. The U.S. Army has largely disestablished its short-range air defense capabilities, and now for the first time in its history relies entirely upon the Air Force to protect its forces from attacks by manned aircraft.

Yet today, the threat to American air dominance is growing. Growing anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) tactics and capabilities by potential adversaries such as China, Russia, and Iran are of increasing concern for U.S. military leaders. In the near future, the United States may face a range of highly sophisticated adversaries with advanced integrated air defense capabilities. In particular, Russian air defenses in eastern Europe and Chinese weaponry that extends across the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Seas may directly challenge U.S. airpower. Both powers can be expected to deploy highly deadly long range air defense missiles, fifth generation stealthy fighters, sophisticated electronic warfare and cyber attack capabilities (and have likely stolen detailed knowledge of U.S. technology and capabilities).

We are rapidly moving toward a world where the United States will no longer be assured of uncontested air superiority. The key challenge for U.S. Air Force leaders is how to ensure an untested force is fully prepared to wage war in a highly contested environment — to fight and win in the face of lethal threats that haven’t been faced by nearly two generations of military pilots.

The U.S. Air Force needs to take on this challenge in two ways.

First, its leaders must prepare the force both technologically and intellectually for a highly contested air war. These air battles could be anything from the opening gambits of a limited war against a sophisticated nation state, or the first battles of a prolonged conflict. The Air Force’s history of innovation, adaptability, and access to cutting edge technology, including cyber and space capabilities, give it significant advantages on this battlefield. Here the Air Force must move more rapidly towards unmanned and autonomous strike systems, hypersonic cruise and ballistic missiles, and swarming tactics with cheap small-size drones designed to overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses. It must also accelerate its offensive and defensive electronic warfare and cyber capabilities to disrupt adversary systems and protect U.S. warfighting advantages. Building a force with the tactics and technological capability to defeat an adversary in tomorrow’s highly developed A2/AD fights all fall within the Air Force’s long-standing strengths.

The more significant challenge, however, will be building a resilient force that can withstand potentially high casualties. The Air Force is most brittle in this domain since virtually no one serving in today’s force has personally experienced any wartime attrition of either airmen or their airplanes. The service leadership must prepare the force to absorb substantial losses while preserving its capability to fight a deadly and possibly prolonged conflict. This may mean finding new ways to restore mothballed aircraft to active service, re-qualify pilots in retired airframes, stockpiling quantities of precision munitions, and figuring out cheap ways to convert or use dumb bombs more effectively.

Building resilient people – those who can press on day after day into deadly air combat environments when more and more of their squadron mates don’t come home – will be immensely more difficult. Winning a big war from the air may require the same kind of bloody-minded Air Force leadership and stoic resolve not seen since the peak of deadly air combat in World War II. The staggering losses of the strategic bomber community flying against German defenses over Europe in 1943 were strikingly portrayed in the classic movie Twelve O’Clock High. This compelling film shows the unrelenting and intense demands of Air Force combat leadership when losses were so great that virtually no aircrews survived to complete the requisite 25 missions before going home. Many airmen today have never seen or even heard of the movie, and know little of this sobering and heroic part of their service’s history. Screening the film and discussing its meaning throughout the force might be one small step towards bolstering the Air Force profession of arms for a war where many airmen may not return to fly and fight again.

Last week, General David Goldfein was nominated to become the next Chief of Staff of the Air Force, becoming the last of the four U.S. service chiefs to turn over within a 12-month period. (As we wrote last year, this will be only the fourth time in history that every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have changed out in that short period of time.) If confirmed by the Senate, he will need to address both of these challenges. Goldfein will take over a service that has been more successful at its assigned mission that nearly any air force in history — but its unchallenged success may now be its greatest weakness. Today’s Air Force is comprised of leaders and airmen who possess every bit as much courage and fortitude as any of their predecessors. Their dedication and commitment remains the cornerstone that makes every Air Force mission possible. But the next chief will have to help prepare his service to fly, fight, and win in an operational environment where planes and people do not always come home. Tomorrow’s fight for the air will likely be much more intense and lethal than air combat has been during the careers of those serving today. The Air Force must prepare now to meet those formidable challenges.

Lt. General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University. Both also serve as Nonresident Senior Fellows at the Atlantic Council. Their column appears in War on the Rocks every third Tuesday. To sign up for Barno and Bensahel’s Strategic Outpost newsletter, where you can track their articles as well as their public events, click here.



How the ‘Green Zone’ Helped Destroy Iraq

It was only a matter of time before ordinary Iraqis stormed the walled-in palaces of their corrupt politicians.


By Emma Sky

May 01, 2016


While the United States has been fixated on the Islamic State and the liberation of Mosul, the attention of ordinary Iraqis has been on the political unraveling of their own country. This culminated on Saturday when hundreds of protesters breached the U.S.-installed “Green Zone” at the heart of Baghdad for the first time and stormed the Iraqi parliament while Iraqi security forces stood back and watched. The demonstrators, supporters of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, toppled blast walls, sat in the vacated seats of the parliamentarians who had fled and shouted out demands for the government to be replaced. A state of emergency was declared.

This incident should be a jarring alarm bell to Washington, which can no longer ignore the disintegration of the post-Saddam system it put in place 13 years ago. The sad reality is that Iraq has become ungovernable, more a state of militias than a state of institutions. As long as that state of affairs continues, even a weakened Islamic State, which has been losing territory and support, will find a home in Iraq, drawing on Sunni fears of corruption and incompetence by the Shia-dominated government.

The greatest threat to Iraq thus comes not from the Islamic State but from broken politics, catastrophic corruption, and mismanagement. Indeed there is a symbiotic relationship between terrorists and corrupt politicians: They feed off each other and justify each other’s existence. The post-2003 system of parceling out ministries to political parties has created a kleptocratic political class that lives in comfort in the Green Zone, detached from the long-suffering population, which still lacks basic services. There is no translation into Arabic of the term kleptocracy. But judging by the protesters chanting “you are all thieves,” they know exactly what it means.

Originally established in 2003 to protect the American occupiers, the walled-in Green Zone was supposed to have been temporary. But Iraqi elites took it over after the Americans left, spending public money on their mansions, generators, cars, security details, homes overseas and payouts to cronies. In this way the Green Zone has come to symbolize all that is wrong with the legitimacy and capability of Iraq’s government. Safe behind the concrete blast walls and razor wire—at least until Saturday—Iraq’s political elites live in splendid isolation, totally unaccountable to the Iraqi people and using the country’s oil wealth to fund their own luxurious lifestyles. Inside their air-conditioned buildings in the Green Zone, politicians have bickered over how to divide up the country’s budget among them.

In stark contrast, ordinary Iraqis have long been afflicted by car bombs, lack of running water and intermittent electricity—without their government seeming to either care or be capable of improving their situation.

For years, Iraqis have been gathering in the thousands to protest the corruption of the political class and the lack of public services. Iraq is rated 161 out of 168 in Transparency International’s corruption index. The severe drop in oil prices has led to a cut in public-sector salaries in a country where 95 percent of the budget comes from oil revenues and about 7 million people are on the government payroll. The stress on society has brought angry young men out to the streets, demanding an end to the 13-year mismanagement and plundering of billions of dollars by the new political class.

In recent weeks, Sadr, who has been a destabilizing presence since the earliest days of the U.S. occupation, has been calling for people to protest and has threatened a vote of no confidence in parliament if his demands for reform were not met. He has also spoken out against sectarianism and demanded that “those who took Iraq to the abyss should step aside.”

In response to public demands, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a fellow Shia, has been trying to replace the current government with one of technocrats focused on delivering public services rather than using ministries as fiefdoms of patronage. But despite his acknowledgment of the corrosive and corrupting impact of the quota system, there are so many vested interests that it is proving difficult to replace it. The political parties have so far succeeded in preventing these reforms from being implemented as they stand to lose their access to contracts and easy money.

In the past couple of weeks, rather than approving the list of technocrats that Abadi proposed, members of parliament have hurled water bottles and insults at each other, with the video footage widely circulated on WhatsApp.

On Saturday, Sadr accused politicians of blocking reforms and warned that corrupt officials and the quota system should be replaced or the entire government would be brought down. Although he did not call directly for action, his supporters penetrated the Green Zone after parliamentarians failed to reach a quorum to vote on a new cabinet of technocrats.

While this intense power struggle is taking place within the Shia community, it’s going to be even more difficult than it has been in the past to quell Sunni fears. The former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in particular is seeking the downfall of Abadi, presenting himself as the only Shia leader who can handle the security situation and manage the Sadrist protests.

In the middle of this an estimated 5,000 U.S. forces are back in Iraq—without a security agreement endorsed by the parliament. There is a risk that if parliament continues to fail to agree to a new cabinet, the anger of the Iraqi protesters could be directed at the United States, blaming it for the post-2003 political system it established—and that U.S. troops could find themselves diverted from their mission to counter the Islamic State. Ironically, the Obama administration had insisted on parliamentary approval back in 2011 as the legal basis for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq. When that failed to materialize, all U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq in accordance with the 2008 Security Agreement.

They are back. Under the right circumstances, Iraqi forces, with U.S. support, can smash the Islamic State. But Washington should not kid itself: If the root causes that created the conditions for the rise of the Islamic State are not addressed, then some son-of-ISIS might emerge in the future—and the cycle will continue. The main lesson of the Iraq surge of 2007-09—when I was serving as political adviser to U.S. General Ray Odierno—was that if the politics do not come together, tactical successes are not sustainable, and things fall apart.

That is what is happening now. People living in Mosul hate the occupation of the city by the Islamic State, but they also express fears of Shia militia and Kurdish peshmerga. And there does not appear to be a plan for what to do once the Islamic State is defeated. There is no agreement on who will govern the liberated territories, nor how. And it is clear that there will be attacks of Sunnis on Sunnis, as revenge is taken on those accused of collaborating with or cooperating with the Islamic State.

And once the threat of the Islamic State has receded, there is likely to be increased Shia-on-Shia fighting, as well as Arab-on-Kurd fighting.

Reports Sunday indicated that protesters were starting to leave the Green Zone—for now. And Abadi is likely to survive politically—for now. But the sad reality is that his reforms are unlikely to be implemented and the corrupt elites will do everything they can to stay in power. Even partitioning Iraq into three parts—Sunni, Shia and Kurdish—a plan once favored by Vice President Joe Biden, would not resolve the underlying problems of weak governance and corrupt politicians. One way or another, the destructive politics of the Green Zone must end.





Air Force lab seeks airspace in Springfield for drone testing

By Matt Sanctis

Staff Writer

Updated: 4:45 p.m. Thursday, May 5, 2016


The Air Force Research Laboratory is looking to use airspace near the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport to test drone technology, including methods to help the unmanned craft avoid mid-air collisions.

The research lab is working with the Ohio/Indiana UAS Test Center and the Federal Aviation Administration to secure a rougly 10-mile by 10-mile stretch of airspace west of the Springfield airport, said Lt. Col. Danny Slifer, director of operations for the AFRL.

The airspace, if approved through a Certificate of Authorization, would allow researchers to use a ground-based sense-and-avoid technology to provide safe separation between unmanned aerial systems and other aircraft.

“It’s a software system that works with existing radars to create a common operating picture so the UAS operators know where they are in the airspace, but more importantly, know where all the manned aircraft are,” Slifer said.

The AFRL, which is based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is also working closely with air traffic control agencies in Columbus to monitor the airspace and review the data.

The proposal stemmed from the Ohio Airspace Strategic Integration Study, which was developed to solve military airspace requirements while also meeting the needs of other airspace users, said Art Huber, deputy director of operations for the AFRL. The study also looked at ways to promote business growth in Ohio based on developing airspace to fly drones.

As many as eight or nine possible sites were considered initially, Slifer said, including airspace near Wilmington. But the field eventually narrowed to Springfield, in part because it better met radar coverage needs for the project.

David Gallager, a spokesman for the Ohio/Indiana UAS Test Center, declined to discuss the proposal, saying it’s still early in the process.

But he said the region in general has seen rapid growth in testing unmanned aircraft, particularly along the I-70 corridor.

“That whole area all the way from Columbus to Dayton, I feel it’s going to be really active with UAS and it’s going to be a natural fit to use Springfield,” Gallagher said. “There are huge runways and there’s a lot of potential there.”

The AFRL has years of experience operating drones near Wright-Patterson, Slifer said. But the new airspace, if approved, would open more opportunities for research as the technology plays a larger role in the Air Force’s operations.

“It’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of the military and our operations, so I would expect this to be somewhat open-ended,” Slifer said of the research.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 07, 2016

No more Trump Change: The deal’s been sealed.

Rasmussen Reports began its weekly Trump Change survey last August when Donald Trump showed the first signs of going from an entertaining sideshow to a center-ring game changer. When Trump first entered the race, just 27% of GOP voters said he was likely to be their nominee. 
By last week, 93% felt that way.

Most Republicans welcome Ted Cruz and John Kasich finally dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination. Democrats, on the other hand, aren’t so eager for Bernie Sanders to quit.

Still, Sanders’ win in last Tuesday’s Indiana Democratic primary is unlikely to stop Hillary Clinton from being her party’s nominee. Last month, more Democrats than ever said Clinton is likely to win their nomination. We’ll run our Hillary Meter for May next week to test those waters again.

In short, both major political parties appear to have their presidential candidates, and now the mud’s really going to fly.

Trump has inched ahead of Clinton in our latest matchup of the two. But one-in-four voters are threatening to vote third party or stay home if those are their two major party choices.

For those who are wondering, here’s how we do our polls.

Right now, however, as other candidates consider whether to fall in line behind their party’s presumptive standard-bearer, it’s a curse more than a blessing to endorse either Clinton or Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking elected Republican, is one of those who says he is not ready yet to endorse Trump as the party’s nominee.  Ryan is viewed favorably by 59% of Republican voters, but that includes only 27% with a Very Favorable opinion of him.

Remember, too, that 76% of GOP voters think Republicans in Congress have lost touch with the party’s base.

Voters remain lukewarm about President Obama’s national security policies and expect more of the same if Clinton moves back into the White House next January. Trump, if elected, will definitely change things, voters say, but not necessarily for the best.

Since his policies don’t appear to be any more popular, the president must be enjoying a goodbye kiss from voters. His daily job approval ratings remain better than they have been for most of his presidency.

Speaking of Obama’s policies, the U.S. Justice Department is now challenging a new North Carolina’s law that bars people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex, saying the law violates the civil rights of transgendered Americans. Just 21% of Americans favor allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of the opposite sex.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of voters now think there is too much government power and too little individual freedom in America.

Americans often embrace a political idea or an issue in theory, but Rasmussen Reports’ surveying finds that they’re more reluctant to put their money where their mouth is.

Voters appear to be moving away from the idea that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted as written and are now more likely to feel the nation’s foundational document should change with the times.

Fifty-one percent (51%) think this president has been less faithful to the U.S. Constitution than his predecessors in the Oval Office. Only 19% say Obama has been more faithful to the Constitution than previous presidents when taking executive actions.

Just 29% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Americans believe it will be difficult for this year’s college graduates to find a job in the current economy.

Consumers may still have concerns about the U.S. economy and the direction it’s heading, but it’s a different story when it comes to their own finances.

In other surveys last week:

— Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and while Americans don’t think much of it as a holiday, most still believe that being a mother is the most important role a woman can play.

— As warmer weather arrives in much of the United States, most Americans see the mosquito-borne Zika virus as a major potential health problem but are confident public health agencies can handle it.

Even at the height of the Ebola scare in the United States in 2014, Americans were consistently confident in public health agencies’ abilities to control the spread of the virus.

— Like the British themselves, Americans have decidedly mixed feelings about a “Brexit,” Great Britain’s potential withdrawal from the European Union.



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