WASHINGTON: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace just released what a spokesman calls the “the first and only unclassified strategic net assessment of the future security dynamic between China, Japan, and the United States-including relative military capabilities and domestic and external variables.”
For those who don’t wallow deeply in the Pentagon’s unique world, a net assessment is a pretty rare bird. A net assessment is not based on a war game or derived from operations research. It includes those elements and more. One expert described it this way: “Scenarios, war games, trend analysis, and considered judgment are the methods most widely used in net assessment studies and analyses.” Keep reading →
At 1:03 pm today, the US Air Force launched a robotic space plane that can stay in orbit for over a year. That’s good news for the nation’s troubled space program. The X-37B, as it’s called, is pretty cool — and highly classified. But beyond the veil of secrecy, what’s it really good for? The answer is intriguing but hardly obvious.
First of all, despite some overheated speculation, the Boeing-built X-37B is probably not a space fighter, a space bomber or some kind of satellite-killer to take on the burgeoning Chinese space program. For long-range strikes on ground targets, the Air Force has a much more modest — and affordable — program for a Next-Generation Bomber, basically a souped-up B-2 that won’t even break the speed of sound, let alone reach orbit. And the military has had working anti-satellite weapons since the 1980s: The current satellite-killer is the Standard Missile SM-3, which launches off the Navy’s Aegis ships. You don’t need a robot space plane to do either job. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a serious contender to be the next Defense Secretary, may have given us a glimpse of his policies today as he argued today that diplomacy rather than military power is the way to resolve emerging global crises.
[Click here for an alternative view from another contender, Michele Flournoy -- who would be the first-ever female Secretary of Defense] Keep reading →
[After meeting this morning with Amb. Susan Rice, Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, spoke to reporters today at a 12noon roundtable at the Foreign Policy Institute's annual conference, where she promised there "absolutely" would be a hold if Amb. Rice is nominated for Secretary of State -- and potentially, a hold on any administration nominee for the position -- until the administration answers Congress's questions about the terrorist attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi. (Click here for Jon Huntsman's exhortation to his fellow Republicans to back off on Benghazi). What follows is our rush transcript of her remarks.]
My meeting with Amb. Rice — I actually came out of the meeting more troubled than I went in, for a couple of reasons…. Keep reading →
Our clever Chinese friends at Next Media Animation have done it again with a video offering their unique perspective on the scandal that has enveloped two of our top military leaders — and several women.
We haven’t pursued these stories with much gusto, keeping our focus on strategy, policy and politics and leaving the prurient and sad events to our colleagues who are more driven by each day’s fleeting events. Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The head of Air Force Space Command worries that tightening defense budgets and looming force structure cuts could reduce his critical space and cyber capabilities.
“Because these capabilities are so vital, and the need to maintain local and global capabilities, space and cyber capability doesn’t really scale well with force structure reductions,” Air Force Gen. William Shelton said Wednesday. “You either maintain global coverage or you don’t.” Keep reading →
ORLANDO: The terrorists who attacked the Benghazi consulate, killing US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and four others, apparently maintained web, cell and radio silence before they acted, giving the US no hint an attack was imminent.
“If people do not emit or discuss their behavior, it’s hard to find out what they are going to do,” Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper said at the huge annual conference of intelligence professionals called Geoint. The U.S., he made clear, did not have tactical warning of the attacks. He noted that there were anti-American protests in 54 countries when the attacks occurred, clearly implying the intelligence community had its hands full that day. Keep reading →
PENTAGON CITY: Hungry for answers on how to make more effective use of the tens of thousands of hours of video gathered by Predators, Global Hawks and other military eyes in the sky, Air Force officials recently visited NASCAR, the car racing people, to learn better and faster ways of mining video data.
“We have a lot of ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) information. We have too much ISR information,” Frank Konieczny, the service’s Chief Technology Officer, told a Monday lunch organized by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). “We can tag the data, what latitude and longitude it has… but unless someone can quickly go through it on the spot we can’t correlate the data.” Most data is tagged by intelligence analysts or airmen days or weeks after a flight so it can be used for change detection analysis, to build more accurate maps or to add data to existing maps. Keep reading →
China unveils a new “stealth” jet, but we don’t know how stealthy it is or when it might fly actual missions. China unveils a new aircraft carrier. Its leaders boast about extending China’s reach, but the carrier doesn’t have any planes and we aren’t sure when they might build them. Monitoring a rapidly developing China, whose language is unknown to most Americans and whose government is obsessed with secrecy, requires a degree of speculation. Perhaps by design, China makes it hard to separate fact from fiction and intent from aspiration.
Estimations of Chinese capabilities and interpretations of Chinese intent based on single-source or dated information will not yield useful analysis. Distinctions must be made between official Chinese policy and the opinions of individual Chinese researchers. This is especially true when discussing China’s space programs. Given the dual-use nature of the overwhelming amount of space technology, as well as the competitive character of U.S.-China relations, technical information can easily be misinterpreted through a prism of assumed ill intent. While the military must consider worst-case scenarios, recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have clearly demonstrated the dangers of basing policy decisions and consequent military strategies on poor technical assessments. Keep reading →