Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Jeremy J. Grunert is an officer in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, currently stationed in the United Kingdom.  He has served in Afghanistan, Qatar, and Turkey.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Editors Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Able to be Implemented.


Title:  Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947

Date Originally Written:  September 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 16, 2017.

Summary:  The National Security Act of 1947 played a significant role in establishing the U.S. as the global superpower it is today.  Despite the broad range of challenges facing the U.S. today, a large-scale update to the Act is likely as dangerous as it is politically infeasible.  Instead, Congress may adopt incremental changes to address threats facing our nation, beginning with the system of classification and security clearance review.

Text:  The National Security Act of 1947 (hereafter “NSA”), signed into law by President Harry Truman on July 26, 1947, is the progenitor of the U.S. intelligence and military establishment as we know it today.  The NSA created the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency; established the United States Air Force as an independent military service; and merged the United States’ military services into what would become the Department of Defense, overseen by one Secretary of Defense.  The NSA’s reorganization of the defense and intelligence agencies set the stage for the United States’ post-World War II rise as, first, a military superpower, and, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, a global hegemon.

Seventy years after the passage of the NSA, the U.S. finds itself in an increasingly challenging security environment.  The lingering war in Afghanistan; the continued threat of terrorism; Russian military adventurism and cyber-meddling; a rising People’s Republic of China; and an increasingly bellicose North Korea all present significant security challenges for the U.S.  Given the solid foundation the NSA provided for the United States’ rise to global hegemony in the difficult period after World War II, is it time to update or amend the NSA to meet the challenges of the 21st Century?

Drastically altering the U.S. security framework as the original NSA did is likely as unwise as it is politically infeasible.  The wholesale creation of new intelligence and military services, or far-reaching changes to the structure of the Department of Defense, would result in confusion and bureaucratic gridlock that the U.S. can ill afford.  Instead, any updates to the NSA would be better done in an incremental fashion—focusing on areas in which changes can be made without resulting in upheaval within the existing security structure.  Two particular areas in which Congressional action can address serious security deficiencies are the realms of intelligence classification and security clearance review.

Proper intelligence classification and proper intelligence sharing—both among organizations within the U.S. national security establishment and between the U.S. and its foreign allies—is imperative to accomplish the U.S.’s strategic aims and protect its citizens.  Improper classification and over-classification, however, pose a continuing threat to the U.S.’s ability to act upon and share intelligence.  At the same time, a mind-bogglingly backlogged system for granting (and renewing) security clearances makes ensuring the proper people are accessing classified information a continuing challenge[1].

Congress has previously amended the NSA to address over-classification[2], and, in conjunction with other Congressional actions, may do so again.  First, whether within the NSA or in a new piece of legislation, Congress may examine amending portions of President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order (EO) 13526.  Specifically, Congress could mandate a reduction of the automatic declassification time for classified intelligence from 10 years to 5 years, absent an agency showing that a longer period of classification is necessary.  Additionally, Congress could amend § 102A of the NSA (codifying the responsibilities of the Director of National Intelligence, including for such things as “Intelligence Information Sharing” under § 102A(g)) by adding a paragraph giving the Director of National Intelligence the authority to create a rapid-reaction board for the speedy declassification or “step-down” of certain classified intelligence.  Chaired, perhaps, by the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (who can be delegated declassification authority per EO 13526), this board would be used to quickly reach “step-down” decisions with respect to intelligence submitted to the board for release at a certain specified level of classification.  A particularly good example of this sort of request would be a petition to “step-down” certain SECRET//NOFORN (i.e. only releasable to U.S. persons) intelligence for release to U.S. allies or coalition partners.  The goal would be to have a clear method, with a fixed timeframe measured in weeks rather than months, for the review and possible “step-down” of classified information.

Congress may also attempt to address the ever-growing backlog of security clearance applications and renewals.  One way to confront this problem is to amend 50 U.S. Code § 3341(b) and update Title VIII of the NSA (“Access to Classified Information”) to decentralize the process of investigating security clearance applicants.  Section 3341(b) currently requires the President to select a single agency to “direct[] day-to-day oversight of investigations and adjudications for personnel security clearances” and to “serv[e] as the final authority to designate an authorized investigative agency or authorized adjudicative agency” for security clearances[3].  Currently, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts the vast majority of security clearance investigations for U.S. government employees.  The massive backlog of clearance investigations, however, belies the idea that a single government agency can or should be responsible for this undertaking.  Congress could also amend § 3341(b) to allow an agency chosen by the President to establish minimum standards for security clearance investigation, but permit the decentralization of investigative responsibility into the military and intelligence agencies themselves.

An update to Title VIII of the NSA would work in conjunction with an amendment to § 3341(b).  Specifically, Congress could add a paragraph to § 801(a) of the NSA requesting the President require each executive agency, at least within the Defense and Intelligence communities, to establish an investigative section responsible for conducting that agency’s security clearance investigations.  Under the aegis of the minimum standards set forth in § 3341(b), this would allow the various Defense and Intelligence agencies to develop additional standards to meet their own particular requirements, and subject potential clearance candidates to more rigorous review when necessary.  Allowing greater agency flexibility in awarding clearances may reduce the likelihood that a high-risk individual could obtain a clearance via the standard OPM vetting process.

The changes to the National Security Act of 1947 and other laws described above are small steps toward addressing significant security challenges.  Addressing the security challenges facing the United States requires incremental changes—changes which will address concrete problems without an upheaval in our Defense and Intelligence agencies.  Focusing on fixing deficiencies in the United States’ classification and security clearance review systems is an excellent place to start.


Endnotes:

[1] Riechmann, D. (2017, September 11). Security clearance backlog leads to risky interim passes. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/security-clearance-backlog-leads-to-risky-interim-passes/2017/09/11/b9fb21dc-972b-11e7-af6a-6555caaeb8dc_story.html?utm_term=.e487926aac60

[2] Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-258, 124 Stat. 2648 (2010). Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/laws/reducing-over-classification-act-2010

[3] 50 U.S.C. § 3341(b).  Retrieved September 22, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/50/3341

Assessment Papers Contest Governing Documents Jeremy J. Grunert Security Classification United States

Victory Over the Potomac: Alternatives to Inevitable Strategic Failure

Michael C. Davies has written three books on the Wars of 9/11 and is a progenitor of the Human Domain concept.  He currently works for an international law firm.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 

Editor’s Note:  This article is an entry into our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  The author submitted this article under the contest heading of Most Disruptive.


National Security Situation:  Unless the National Security Act of 1947 is scrapped and replaced, the United States will inevitably suffer grand strategic failure.  After 16 years of repeated, overlapping, and cascading strategic failures[1], the ineptitude of the U.S. national security system has been laid bare for all to see.  These failures have allowed America’s enemies to view the National Security Act’s flaws and provided the time and space to develop effective competitive strategies against the U.S. and successfully threaten both the international order and the U.S. social contract.

Date Originally Written:  September 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 9, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of an individual who previously conducted research on the Wars of 9/11 at the U.S. National Defense University and concluded that the United States of America, as a government, a military, and a society, is currently functionally and cognitively incapable of winning a war, any war.

Background:  Because the U.S. national security system, modeled via the 1947 Act, is built for a different era, different enemies, and different mental models, it is incapable of effectively creating, executing, or resourcing strategies to match the contemporary or future strategic environment.  The deficiencies of the current system revolve around its inability to situate policy and politics as the key element in strategy, competitively match civilian and military forces with contemporary and future environments and missions, maintain strategic solvency, end organizational stovepipes, and consider local and regional politics in strategic decision-making.

Significance:  Without immediate and revolutionary reorganization, a series of ever-more consequential strategic failures is inevitable, eventually leading to grand strategic failure.

Option #1:  Revolutionary Reorganization.

The list below offers the necessary revolutionary reorganization of the national security system to negate the previously mentioned deficiencies.

  1. Command and control of the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) is moved to the Department of State.  Senate-approved civilian Ambassadors are given unity of command over all civilian and military forces and policymaking processes in their area.
  2. The Department of State is reorganized around foreign policymaking at the GCCs, super-empowered Chiefs of Mission in each country[2], and functional areas of expertise[3].
  3. The Department of Defense is reorganized into mission-centric cross-functional corps[4].
  4. The intelligence community is rationalized into a smaller number of agencies and reorganized around, and made dependent on, the above structures.
  5. The National Security Council is curtailed into a presidential advisory unit, a grand strategy unit headed by the Secretary of State to align national objectives, GCC policies, civilian and military force structures, and budgets, and a red team cell.
  6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff remain, but transfer all organizational power to the GCCs and the cross-functional corps.  The Chairman remains as the President’s chief military advisor.  The heads of each military Service will retain a position as military advisors to the President and ceremonial heads of the respective Services.
  7. A second tier is added to the All-Volunteer Force to allow for rapid scaling of civilian personnel into military service as needed, negating the need for National Service and the use of contractors.  Second tier individuals undertake a fast-track boot camp, provided functional training according to skills and need, given operational ranks, and assigned to units as necessary to serve a full tour or more.

Because of the magnitude of power given to the Executive Branch by this Act, the War Powers Resolution must be redrafted into a constitutional amendment.  Congress must now approve any action, whether a Declaration of War or an Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF), within 5 days of the beginning of combat by simple majority.  The President, the relevant GCC Ambassador, and the relevant country-team Ambassador(s) will be automatically impeached if combat continues without Congressional approval.  All majority and minority leaders of both houses and the relevant Committees will be automatically impeached if an authorizing vote is not held within the 5-day period.  Any AUMF must be re-authorized at the beginning of each new Congressional term by a super-majority of both houses.

Risk:  This reorganization will cause significant turmoil and take time to organizationally and physically relocate people, agencies, and bureaucratic processes to the new structure.  Large-scale resignations should be expected in response also.  Effective execution of policy, processes, and institutional knowledge will likely be diminished in the meantime.  Furthermore, the State Department is not currently designed to accept this structure[5], and few individuals exist who could effectively manage the role as regional policy proconsul[6].  This reorganization therefore demands significant planning, time, and care in initial execution.

Gain:  This reorganization will negate the current sources of strategic failure and align national policy, ground truth, and effective execution.  It will free the President and the Executive Branch from attempting to manage global politics on a granular level daily.  It will enable local and regional expertise to rise to the forefront and lessen the impact of ideologues and military operationalists on foreign policy.  And above all else, America will be capable of winning wars again.

Option #2:  Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency.

The implementation of all the recommendations from the Project for National Security Reform’s, Forging a New Shield[7], will allow for superior strategic decision-making by lessening the negative impact of organizational stovepipes.

Risk:  The maintenance of a strong President-centric system, Departmental stovepipes, and the military Services as independent entities that overlay Forging’s proposed interagency teams retains too much of the current national security system to be forcefully effective in negating the factors that have caused repeated strategic failures.  This option could be also used to give the appearance of reform without investing the time and energy to make its goals a reality.

Gain:  This reorganization can be readily adopted onto current national security structures with minimal disruption.  Demands for a ‘Goldwater-Nichols for the Interagency’ is an oft-repeated call to action, meaning that significant support for these reforms is already present.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Kapusta, P. (2015, Oct.-Dec.) The Gray Zone. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/27727

[2] Lamb, C. and Marks, E. (2010, Dec.) Chief of Mission Authority as a Model for National Security Integration. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratperspective/inss/StrategicPerspectives-2.pdf

[3] Marks, E. (2010, Mar.) A ‘Next Generation’ Department of State: A Proposal of the Management of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2010/0103/oped/op_marks.html

[4] Brimley, S. and Scharre, P. (2014, May 13) CTRL + ALT + DELETE: Resetting America’s Military. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/05/13/ctrl-alt-delete

[5] Schake, K. (2012, March 1) State of Disrepair: Fixing the Culture and Practices of the State Department. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.hooverpress.org/State-of-Disrepair-P561.aspx

[6] Blair, D., Neumann, R., and Olson, E., (2014, Aug. 27) Fixing Fragile States. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://nationalinterest.org/feature/fixing-fragile-states-11125

[7] Project for National Security Reform (2008, Nov.) Forging a New Shield. Retrieved Sept. 10, 2017 from http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Uploads/001/Media/pnsr_forging_a_new_shield_report.pdf

Contest Governing Documents Michael C. Davies Option Papers United States

Assessment of North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Sam Bocetta is a retired engineer who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems.  Past projects include development of EWTR systems, Antifragile EW project and development of Chaff countermeasures.  Sam now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part-time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for Gun News Daily.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of North Korea’s Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Chemical Weapons, and Small Arms

Date Originally Written:  August 25, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  October 2, 2017.

Summary:  Syria has repeatedly used chemical weapons for large-scale assaults on its own citizens.  North Korea has been instrumental in helping develop those weapons, despite numerous sanctions.  Without being put in check, North Korea’s current regime, led by Kim Jong Un, will likely continue this behavior.

Text:  A confidential report released by the United Nations (U.N.) in August of 2017 indicates that North Korea had sent two shipments, which were intercepted, to front companies for the Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC)[1].  The SSRC is known to handle Syria’s chemical weapons program.  These shipments violate sanctions placed on North Korea, and U.N. experts note that they are looking into reports about Syria and North Korea working together on chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and conventional arms.

One U.N. member state believes the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) has a contract with Syria and both intercepted shipments were part of that contract.  In 2009, the U.N. Security Council blacklisted KOMID under concerns that it was North Korea’s key arms dealer and exported supplies for conventional weapons and ballistic missiles.

This is just the latest example of North Korea’s ties to chemical weapons.  In February of this year, Kim Jong Nam, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, died in Malaysia[2].  Malaysian police called the death an assassination done using the nerve agent VX, which is part of the same chemical weapons family as sarin but considerably more deadly.  North Korea has denied any involvement in Kim Jong Nam’s death and attributes the death to a medical condition.  Many didn’t believe this denial, and the incident led to people calling for North Korea to be put back on the list for state sponsors of terrorism[3].  In April, the United States’ House of Representatives voted 394-1 in favor of putting Korea back on that list[4].

North Korea has continually crossed the line and ignored sanctions regarding its weapons programs and supplying weapons to other nations.  This puts the United States and its allies in a difficult position, as they can’t let North Korea operate unchecked, but they can’t trust the country’s current regime to comply with sanctions and agreements.

North Korea’s ties to Syria are particularly concerning.  Syria has used chemical weapons for years, and even though it made a deal with the United States and Russia in 2013 to destroy these weapons, it didn’t follow through.  There have been multiple uses of weaponized chlorine and sarin, a nerve agent, although the Syrian government has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

North Korea has made its support for Syria clear both publicly and privately.  In April 2017 Kim Jong Un sent a message of congratulations to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, for the anniversary of the country’s ruling party[5].  This was the same time that Assad was using chemical weapons on his own people, killing 86, which prompted worldwide outrage and a missile strike by the United States on the Syrian airbase of Shayrat[6].

In addition to this public message, there have been several shipments from North Korea to Syria intercepted in recent years.  Contents have included ampoules, chemical suits, masks, and other supplies vital in developing chemical weapons.  North Korea has increased its assistance of Syria during the latter nation’s civil war by sending more chemical weapons, providing advice to the Syrian military and helping with the development of SCUD missiles, which can deliver chemical weapons[7].

Although Syria’s use of chemical weapons is appalling[8], it’s North Korea which is proliferating those weapons and others.  In 2007 North Korea was building a nuclear reactor in the Syrian desert.  The Israeli Air Force destroyed the reactor.  The desert where the reactor once was, as of this writing, is territory of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Without the attack by Israel, ISIS might have possessed a nuclear reactor that was near completion.  And with the right help and ability to operate unchecked, it is easy to imagine ISIS trying to weaponize the reactor in some manner.

Yet even when the United States catches a North Korean weapons shipment, diplomatic issues can make it difficult to take any action.  That’s what happened in December 2002, when a North Korean ship, the So San, was stopped by anti-terrorist Spanish commandos after weeks of surveillance by the United States[9].  The ship had 15 SCUD missiles on it, which were hidden beneath sacks of cement, and it was on its way to Yemen[10].  In 2001, Yemen, known for harboring terrorists, agreed to stop getting weapons from North Korea.  When the So San was first stopped, the Yemeni government said it wasn’t involved in any transaction related to the ship.

Once the United States commandeered the vessel, Yemen changed its story, filing a diplomatic protest stating that it did purchase the missiles from North Korea as part of an old defense contract and that the United States needed to release the missiles.  It took hours of negotiating between Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was president of Yemen at the time, and both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney.  Saleh guaranteed that the missiles would only be used for Yemen’s defense and that the nation wouldn’t make any more deals with North Korea, and the United States released the ship.  The United States was developing a counterterrorism partnership with Yemen at that time, and there were few other options to keep the relationship on good terms, but this incident shows that catching North Korea’s weapons shipments is far from the only challenge.

Efforts to halt the spread of chemical and nuclear weapons by North Korea may lead to destabilizing the current regime.  Although there are worries that this destabilization will lead to loose Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the evidence suggests that the spread of WMD is even more likely under Kim Jong Un’s rule.  Sanctions and more thorough inspections of North Korea’s shipments may help here, but it will require that the United States takes a hard-line on any weapons shipments originating from North Korea, and doesn’t allow them simply for diplomatic reasons.

Other approaches may involve penalizing ports that aren’t inspecting shipments thoroughly and flagging those states that reflag ships from North Korea to conceal their country of origin.  Although this could work, it will take time.  It’s all a matter of determining whether the risk is greater with a more aggressive stance towards North Korea or allowing them to continue proliferating weapons.


Endnotes:

[1] Nichols, M. (2017, August 21). North Korea shipments to Syria chemical arms agency intercepted: U.N. report. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-syria-un-idUSKCN1B12G2

[2] Heifetz, J. and Perry, J. (2017, February 28). What is VX nerve agent, and what could North Korea do with it? Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/world/vx-nerve-agent/index.html

[3] Stanton, J. (2017, February 24). N. Korea just killed a guy with one of the WMDs that caused us to invade Iraq … in a crowded airport terminal, in a friendly nation. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/02/24/n-korea-just-killed-a-guy-with-one-of-the-wmds-that-caused-us-to-invade-iraq-in-a-crowded-airport-terminal-in-a-friendly-nation/

[4] Marcos, C. (2017, April 3). House votes to move toward designating North Korea as state sponsor of terror. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/327106-house-votes-to-move-toward-designating-north-korea-as-state-sponsor

[5] Stanton, J. (2017, April 7). If Assad is the murderer of Idlib, Kim Jong-un was an accessory. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/04/07/if-assad-is-the-murderer-or-idlib-kim-jong-un-was-an-accessory/

[6] Brook, T.V. and Korte, G. (2017, April 6). U.S. launches cruise missile strike on Syria after chemical weapons attack. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/04/06/us-launches-cruise-missile-strike-syria-after-chemical-weapons-attack/100142330/

[7] Tribune, W. (2013, August 26). Reports: Cash-strapped N. Korea ‘stepped up’ chemical weapons shipments to Syria. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://www.worldtribune.com/archives/reports-cash-strapped-n-korea-stepped-up-chemical-weapons-shipments-to-syria/

[8] Stanton, J. (2017, August 22). Latest cases of chemical proliferation remind us why Kim Jong-Un must go. Retrieved August 25, 2017, from http://freekorea.us/2017/08/22/latest-cases-of-chemical-proliferation-remind-us-why-kim-jong-un-must-go

[9] Lathem, N. (2002, December 12). Korean SCUDs Can Skedaddle; Yemen Gets to Keep Missiles by Promising ‘Defense Only’. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://nypost.com/2002/12/12/korean-scuds-can-skedaddle-yemen-gets-to-keep-missiles-by-promising-defense-only/

[10] Goodman, A. (2002, December 12). U.S. lets Scud ship sail to Yemen. Retrieved August 28, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/asiapcf/east/12/11/us.missile.ship/

Arms Control Assessment Papers North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Sam Bocetta United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Options for Constitutional Change in Afghanistan

David Benson is a Professor of Strategy and Security Studies at the United States Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), part of Air University in Montgomery, Alabama.  His area of focus includes online politics and international relations.  He can be found on Twitter @davidcbenson.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States is attempting to broker peace in Afghanistan allowing it to remove troops, leaving behind a stable country unlikely to be used to stage transnational terror attacks.

Date Originally Written:  August 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 25, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article provides a neutral assessment of two possible courses of action available to the U.S. and Afghan Governments.

Background:  Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic, religious and linguist state.  Nicknamed “the graveyard of empires,” the disparate nature of the country has prevented both foreign empires and domestic leaders from consolidating control in the country.  The most successful domestic leaders have used Afghanistan’s rough terrain and complicated ethnography to retain independence, while playing larger states off each other to the country’s advantage.

The U.S. and its allies have been conducting military operations in Afghanistan for 16 years.  In that time, the coalition of opposition known as the Taliban has gone from control of an estimated 90% of the country, down to a small fraction, and now controls approximately 50% of the country.  At the time of the U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban was a pseudo-governmental organization capable of fielding a military that used modern tactics, but since than has devolved into a less hierarchical network, and in some ways is better thought of as a coalition of anti-government forces.  Although officially a religious organization, the Taliban has historically drawn its greatest support from among the Pashto majority in the country.  The current Afghan government is at Kabul and has supporters amongst every ethnic group, but has never controlled much territory outside of Kabul.

Following the collapse of the Taliban the U.S.-sponsored government installed a constitution which established a strong central government.  Although the constitution recognizes the various minority groups, and provides protections for minority communities, it reserves most authority for the central government.  For example, though the government recognizes 14 ethnic groups and as many as 5 language families as part of Afghanistan, it still calls for a single centrally developed educational curriculum.  The president even appoints regional governors.

Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his key advisors have raised the possibility of a negotiated solution in Afghanistan.  Such a negotiation would necessarily include the Taliban, and Taliban associated groups.  Insofar as the ongoing conflict is between the central government and those opposed to the central government, a natural accommodation could include a change in the government structure.

Significance:  Afghanistan was the base of operation for the terrorist organization al-Qa’ida, and where the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States were planned.  The importance of the September 11th attacks in the U.S. and international consciousness cannot be overstated.  The perceived threat of international terrorism is so great that if Afghanistan is not stable enough to prevent transnational terror attacks from originating there, regional and global powers will be constantly tempted to return.  Afghanistan is also a potential arena for competition between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.  India seeks an ally that can divide Pakistan’s attention away from India and the Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan wants to avoid encirclement.

Option #1:  Do not change the constitution of Afghanistan which would continue to centralize authority with the government in Kabul.

Risk:  The conflict never ends.  The Afghan constitution provides for a far more centralized government than any western democracy, and yet Afghanistan is more heterogeneous than any of those countries.  Ongoing populist revolts against elite leadership personified by Brexit in the United Kingdom and the election of President Trump demonstrate the desire for local control even in stable democracies.  Combined with Afghanistan’s nearly 40 year history of war, such desires for local control that are currently replicated across the globe could easily perpetuate violence in the country.  Imagine the local popular outrage in the U.S. when Barack Obama and Donald Trump were elected if the President also appointed the governors of every state, and dictated the curriculum in every school.

A second-order risk is heightened tension between India and Pakistan.  So long as Afghanistan is internally fractured, it is a source of conflict between India and Pakistan.  If Pakistan is able and willing to continue to foment the Taliban to thwart India’s outreach into the country, then this raises the possibility of escalation between the two nuclear countries.

Gain:  Afghanistan externally looks more like other states, at least on paper.  The Taliban and other terror groups are in violation of local and international law, and there is a place in Kabul for the U.S. and others to press their claims.  The advantage of the constitution as it now stands is that there is a single point of institutional control.  If the president controls the governors, and the governors control their provinces, then Afghanistan is a more easily manageable problem internationally, if not domestically.

Option #2:  Change the constitution of Afghanistan decentralizing some governing authority.

Risk:  Once the Afghan constitution is on the table for negotiation, then there is no telling what might happen.  The entire country could be carved up into essentially independent territories, with the national state of Afghanistan dissolving into a diplomatic fiction.  Although this would essentially replicate de jure what is de facto true on the ground, it could legitimize actors and outcomes that are extremely deleterious for international peace.  At worst, it might allow bad actors legal protection to develop power bases in regions of the country they control without any legal recourse for other countries.

Gain:  A negotiated solution with the Taliban is much more likely to succeed.  Some Taliban members may not give up their arms in exchange for more autonomy, and perhaps even a legal seat at the table, but not all people fighting for the Taliban are “true believers.”  The incentives for people who just want more local control, or official recognition of the control they already exercise, change with a constitution that cedes control from the central government.  Ideally the constitution would replicate to some degree the internal autonomy with external unity created in the 20th under the monarchy.

Other Comments:  War, even civil war, is always a political problem.  As such, a political solution may be more practical than a military one.  While changes can be applied to force structure, rules of engagement and strategy, until all involved are willing and able to change the politics of the situation, failure is imminent.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

None.

Afghanistan David Benson Governing Documents Option Papers United States

U.S. Options for Basing Forces to Deter North Korea

Mark Loncar is retired from the United States Air Force and is a graduate of the Defense Intelligence College, now called National Intelligence University.  He served in South Korea for 23 months.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. faces a growing existential Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

Date Originally Written: August 1, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a U.S. foreign policy advisor.

Background:  North Korea recently tested another ballistic missile, the second major test in a month, as part of a nuclear weapons program that, if brought to fruition, could threaten the U.S.  Policymakers in the U.S. are understandably reticent because of the serious threat that North Korea may respond with aggressive military action against South Korea and bring the U.S. into another Korean conflict.

The U.S. security commitment to its South Korea ally has not been in doubt since the Korean War started in 1950.  However, the positioning of U.S. forces in South Korea has been debated, and over the years, the number of U.S. troops has decreased from the mid-30 thousands before the North Korean nuclear program started in the 1990s to around 28,000 today.  Amid the present North Korean nuclear challenge, it is time to reexamine the utility of keeping U.S. forces in South Korea.

Significance:  The Korean peninsula is no longer the center of gravity in any hostilities between North Korea and the U.S. as North Korea’s ICBM capability, according to media reports, could reach Honolulu, Anchorage, and Seattle.  U.S. policy must adapt to this drastic expansion of the threat in order to end the impasse that characterizes U.S. dealings with the North Korean ICBM challenge.  In expanding his nuclear capability to ICBMs, North Korean President Kim Jong-un has turned what was a Korean peninsula-centric issue into more of an eyeball-to-eyeball existential threat to the U.S..

Option #1:  U.S. forces remain positioned in South Korea.

Risk:  U.S. policy options concerning the North Korean nuclear program will continue to be limited due to the risk of war to South Korea.  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea preserves the status quo, but does not move the U.S. closer to a solution to the North Korean nuclear challenge.  Having U.S. forces in South Korea also complicates U.S. – South Korea relations and gives South Korea leverage in how the U.S. should respond to the North Korean nuclear issue, further constraining U.S. freedom of movement to respond to North Korea.

Gain:  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea signals U.S. resolve in the Korean Conflict through a sharing of risk with South Korean allies.  This option maintains a U.S. capability to respond quickly and forcibly to North Korean conventional incursions and other hostile actions against South Korea.

Option #2:  U.S. forces redeploy from South Korea to present cleaner options for dealing with North Korean nuclear weapons threat.  The policy would relocate U.S. forces from South Korea to Japan and other countries and bases in the region.  A continued U.S. military presence near the Korean peninsula will help to reassure South Korea and Japan that the long-time security commitments will abide.  The redeployment would also represent a continuation of major U.S. conventional capability in the area to counter any North Korean conventional aggression.

Risk:  Perception of outright appeasement by U.S. allies.  How could the U.S. proceed with redeployment of forces from South Korea without communicating to friends and adversaries that it would be engaging in all-out appeasement of the North Korean regime and surrendering important U.S. and allied interests in Northern Asia to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)?

Gain:  The removal of U.S. forces from South Korea would be a major inducement for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program or for the PRC to pressure it to do so.  Indeed, North Korea’s paranoia concerning U.S. – South Korea intentions toward its regime could be significantly pacified by moving U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula.  At the same time, the stakes would be raised for Kim Jong-un and his PRC benefactors to change behavior on terms attractive to all parties—agreeing to a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a reduced threat of war on the peninsula.

Second, removing the threat to U.S. forces on the peninsula would present less cumbersome options for the U.S. with respect to the North Korean nuclear weapons challenge, especially concerns about war on the Korean peninsula.  The U.S. would also be less constrained in deciding to preempt or respond directly to North Korean nuclear aggression.  This is the real capability of such a redeploying U.S. forces from South Korea.  North Korea and the PRC would be on notice that if North Korea continued its nuclear weapons ICBM development after a redeployment of U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula, the regime’s action may be met with the gravest of responses.

Third, this option would deny North Korea a pretext for attacking South Korea should the U.S. strike Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities.  Such a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would come only after a U.S. redeployment from the peninsula and the North Korean regime’s obstinate refusal to scrap its nuclear weapons program.  In this security construct, any North Korean attack below the 38th parallel in retaliation for a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would likely elicit the immediate destruction of the North Korean state.

Other Comments:  An opportunity is in reach to have a return to the status quo without a Korean peninsula-centric relationship.  This relationship would be more North Korea-South Korea focused, with the U.S. and the PRC overseeing the relationship.  The U.S. would no longer be in the middle of the mix with its own forces physically present in South Korea.  It may not be the best the U.S. could hope for – that would be a democratic government in North Korea if not an eventual unification of North and South Korea.  However, a U.S. redeployment to incentivize peninsula denuclearization and present cleaner options concerning North Korea’s nuclear weapons program may be a more viable alternative than accepting and having to deter a North Korean global ICBM capability, or to fight another war on the Korean peninsula.  In the end, by removing U.S. forces from South Korea, friend and foe should understand that if North Korea refuses to scrap its nuclear weapons capability, it will be the North Korean regime alone against the overwhelming power of the U.S..


Endnotes:

None.

China (People's Republic of China) Mark Loncar North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Ray Leonardo previously worked in the defense industry.  He presently works as a graduate researcher in international relations with interests that include power transition, alliance structure, great power politics, and conflict.  He can be found on Twitter @rayrleonardo and writes for rayrleonardo.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Date Originally Written:  July 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 11, 2017.

Summary:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) overtaking of the United States as the largest global economy will bring difficult and potentially dangerous consequences.  Continued peace will depend upon the PRC’s satisfaction with the current international system created by the United States, among others.  History and PRC foreign policy indicate the odds of a peaceful power transition may be lower than expected.

Text:  “…[T]he United States welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in global affairs[1],” was often stated by United States’ President Barack Obama during his multiple summits with PRC President Xi Jinping.  The United States has little influence in slowing the rapid economic growth of the PRC.  Most forecasters predict the PRC will overtake the United States as the largest economy sometime during the first quarter of this century.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PRC is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2021[2].  Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations are concerned that the rise of the PRC will not be so peaceful and their concerns are backed up by theory.

History has shown that rising powers who challenge the status quo, and, or hegemonic nations often create a fertile environment for conflict.  Historical cases indicate that it is power parity (balance of power), rather than a dominated or disproportional relationship (hegemony), that increases the likelihood of war.  This research falls under the theory of Power Transition[3].  Power Transition theory is directly at odds with the often accepted Balance of Power theory, the latter of which states that a balance of power among nations leads to peace[4].  Various theories including nuclear deterrence have formed under the Balance of Power pretext, but the historical data does not back this theory.  Conflict is more apt to break out under conditions where states are about equal in relative power.

Research on power transitions shows that the potential for conflict is dependent on several variables, two of which include relative power and the satisfaction of the rising power[5].  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measurement for state power but measuring a state’s satisfaction within the international system is a more challenging task.  Regardless of statistical models, one can see through previous cases of great power transitions that conflict is most likely once the rising power has overtaken (regarding relative power) the previously dominant state.  Conflict is even more plausible when the rising power is highly dissatisfied with the current international system.  This is assuming, as is the case today, that the dominant state (The United States), has created an international regime that of which mirrors its own political and economic systems (Bretton Woods), but also mirrors the dominant nation’s socio-political philosophy and values.

Many factors play into a country’s satisfaction.  One can look at the PRC’s rapid economic rise as proof that they have found a way to be successful in an international system created by the West, particularly by the United States.  However, even as the PRC’s economics can be closely aligned with most of the world under the guise of “capitalism,” it must not be ignored that the PRC has very differing views on political systems, individual rights, and traditional western socio-political values.  The PRC government adopts a foreign policy that is textbook realism in so much that its use of force will never be used to promote “Chinese” or “eastern” values abroad.  The PRC has little concern for human rights domestically, never mind protecting human rights on the international stage.

Twenty-first century conflict in East Asia will be fought on water.  The PRC’s recent build up of artificial islands and claims to various islands in the South China Sea are constant and increasing[6].  This is due to many factors, most of which impact their economy and security.  The PRC’s actions show a consistent effort to leverage regional neighbors, particularly those who lay claim to various land masses throughout the South China and East China seas.  The PRC’s regional foreign policy is not surprising; however, the United States and its allies should be questioning how the future global policy of the PRC will look.  Will the PRC’s aggressive regional policy in the early parts of this century be thought of as a microcosm for their mid-century global policy?  The PRC’s aggressive policy toward countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia shows a strong dissatisfaction with the regional status quo.  The PRC understands the leverage that it has over many of its smaller neighbors and seeks to capitalize on it sooner rather than later.

There is no reason why U.S. officials should assume the PRC will peacefully rise through the international system without leveraging the power and control that comes with being the hegemonic nation.  The PRC will seek to advance their interests even as it may be on the backs of other smaller or even major powers.  With the PRC calling more of the shots regarding our international institutions, capitalist economies will still flourish, the bilateral and multilateral trade will continue to grow, but the principles and values that of which upon these institutions were built will continue to erode.  Human rights will take a back seat on the world stage, and over time few nations will care about the well-being of their trade partner’s people.


Endnotes: 

[1]  Office of Press Secretary, The White House (2015, September 25). Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

[2]  OECD Data (Edition 2014). GDP Long-term Forecast Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart

[3]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[4]  Schweller, R. L. (2016, May). The Balance of Power in World Politics Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-119

[5]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[6]  Ives, M. (2017, August 4). Vietnam, Yielding to Beijing, Backs Off South China Sea Drilling Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/asia/vietnam-south-china-sea-repsol.html

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Power Transition Ray Leonardo United States

Options for U.S. National Guard Defense of Cyberspace

Jeffrey Alston is a member of the United States Army National Guard and a graduate of the United States Army War College.  He can be found on Twitter @jeffreymalston.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United States has not organized its battlespace to defend against cyberattacks.  Cyberattacks are growing in scale and scope and threaten surprise and loss of initiative at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.  Shortfalls in the nation’s cybersecurity workforce and lack of division of labor amongst defenders exacerbates these shortfalls.

Date Originally Written:  July 23, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This paper is written from a perspective of a U.S. Army field grade officer with maneuver battalion command experience who is a senior service college graduate.  The officer has also been a practitioner of delivery of Information Technology (IT) services and cybersecurity for his organization for over 15 years and in the IT industry for nearly 20 years.

Background:  At the height of the Cold War, the United States, and the North American (NA) continent, organized for defense against nuclear attack.  A series of radar early warning lines and control stations were erected and arrayed across the northern reaches of the continent to warn of nuclear attack.  This system of electronic sentries were controlled and monitored through a series of air defense centers.  The actual air defense fell to a number of key air bases across the U.S. ready to intercept and defeat bombers from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics entering the NA airspace.  The system was comprehensive, arrayed in-depth, and redundant[1].  Today, with threats posed by sophisticated cyber actors who directly challenge numerous United States interests, no equivalent warning structure exists.  Only high level, broad outlines of responsibility exist[2].  Existing national capabilities, while not trivial, are not enough to provide assurances to U.S. states as these national capabilities may require a cyber event of national significance to occur before they are committed to address a state’s cyber defense needs.  Worse, national entities may notify a state after a breach has occurred or a network is believed to be compromised.  The situation is not sustainable.

Significance:  Today, the vast Cold War NA airspace has its analog in undefended space and gray area networks where the cyber threats propagate, unfettered from active security measures[3].  While the capabilities of the myriad of companies and firms that make up the critical infrastructure and key resource sectors have considerable cybersecurity resources and skill, there are just as many that have next to nothing.  Many companies and firms cannot afford cyber capability or worse are simply unaware of the threats they face.  Between all of these entities the common terrain consists of the numerous networks, private and public, that interconnect or expose all of these actors.  With its Title 32 authorities in U.S. law, the National Guard is well positioned to take a key role in the unique spot interface between private industry – especially critical infrastructure – in that it can play a key role in this gray space.

There is a unique role for the National Guard cyber forces in gray space of the internet.  The National Guard could provide a key defensive capability in two different ways.

Option #1:  The National Guard’s Defensive Cyberspace Operations-Element (DCO-E), not part of the Department of Defense Cyber Mission Force, fulfills an active role providing depth in their states’ networks, both public and private.  These elements, structured as full-time assets, can cooperatively work to negotiate the placement of sensors and honeypots in key locations in the network and representative sectors in their states.  Data from these sensors and honey pots, optimized to only detect high-threat or active indicators of compromise, would be aggregated in security operations centers manned primarily by the DCO-Es but with state government and Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR) participation.  These security operations centers provide valuable intelligence, analytics, cyber threat intelligence to all and act to provide depth in cybersecurity.  These units watch for only the most sophisticated threats and allow for the CIKR private industry entities to concentrate their resources on internal operations.  Surveilling gray space networks provides another layer of protection and builds a shared understanding of adversary threats, traffic, exploitation attempts returning initiative to CIKR and preventing surprise in cyberspace.

Risk:  The National Guard cannot be expected to intercept every threat that is potentially targeted at a state entity.  Negative perceptions of “mini-National Security Agencies (NSAs)” within each state could raise suspicions and privacy concerns jeopardizing the potential of these assets.  Duplicate efforts by all stakeholders threaten to spoil an available capability rather than integrating it into a whole of government approach.

Gain:  Externally, this option builds the network of cyber threat intelligence and unifies efforts within the particular DCO-E’s state.  Depth is created for all stakeholders.  Internally, allowing National Guard DCO-Es to focus in the manner in this option provides specific direction, equipping options, and training for their teams.

Option #2:  The National Guard’s DCO-Es offer general support functions within their respective states for their Adjutants General, Governors, Department of Homeland Security Advisors, etc.  These elements are tasked on an as-needed basis to perform cybersecurity vulnerability assessments of critical infrastructure when requested or when directed by state leadership.  Assessments and follow-on recommendations are delivered to the supported entity for the purpose of increasing their cybersecurity posture.  The DCO-Es fulfill a valuable role especially for those entities that lack a dedicated cybersecurity capability or remain unaware of the threats they face.  In this way, the DCO-Es may prevent a breach of a lessor defended entity as the entry point for larger scale attacks or much larger chain-reaction or cascading disruptions of a particular industry.

Risk:  Given the hundreds and potentially thousands of private industry CIKR entities within any particular state, this option risks futility in that there is no guarantee the assessments are performed on the entities at the greatest risk.  These assessments are a cybersecurity improvement for the state overall, however, given the vast numbers of industry actors this option is equivalent to trying to boil the ocean.

Gain:  These efforts help fill in the considerable gap that exists in the cybersecurity of CIKR entities in the state.  The value of the assessments may be multiplied through communication of the results of these assessments and vulnerabilities at state and national level industry specific associations and conferences etc.  DCO-Es can gradually collect information on trends in these industries and attempt to use that information for the benefit of all such as through developing knowledge bases and publishing state specific trends.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Winkler, D. F. (1997). SEARCHING THE SKIES: THE LEGACY OF THE UNITED STATES COLD WAR DEFENSE RADAR PROGRAM(USA, Headquarters Air Combatant Command).

[2]  Federal Government Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2017, from https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/marketing/Cybersecurity/2013march21_cyberroleschart.authcheckdam.pdf

[3]  Brenner, J. (2014, October 24). Nations everywhere are exploiting the lack of cybersecurity. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/joel-brenner-nations-everywhere-are-exploiting-the-lack-of-cybersecurity

 

 

 

Cyberspace Jeffrey Alston Non-Full-Time Military Forces (Guard, Reserve, etc) Option Papers United States