Assessment of the Lone Wolf Terrorist Concept

Linda Schlegel holds a BA in Liberal Arts from the University College Maastricht (NL) and an MA in Terrorism, Security and Society from King’s College London (UK).  Her main topics of interest are radicalization, the role of identity in extremism, and societal resilience.  She can be found on Twitter at @LiSchlegel.  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 Lone Wolf Terrorist Concept

Date Originally Written:  November 12, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 11, 2017.

Summary:  The label “lone wolf” is attached easily to an individual attacker by politicians and the media, but must be used with care.  These actors do not perceive themselves as acting alone, but as part of a group.  This group is increasingly found in the virtual realm, begging the question of whether traditional notions of membership in terrorist groups is still a valid indication of whether an attack was perpetrated by a lone wolf or not.

Text:  In recent years, the phenomenon of so-called lone wolf terrorism has increased with more and more attacks perpetrated by single actors.  Lone wolf attacks occur in the context of multiple ideological frameworks and are not confined to a single group or system of belief.  The Islamist attack in Nice, France, in 2016 was just as much the work of a lone actor as the atrocities perpetrated by right-wing extremist Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011.  While governments and the media are quick to attach the label lone wolf to a single perpetrator, one needs to ask what this concept actually entails.  Individuals do not exist in a vacuum and one should not make the mistake of equating the reference to lone action to objective isolation or disengagement from society at large.  It needs to be discussed what the label actually says about the perpetrator, how the perpetrator views himself, and whether there can be lone wolves in the age of global connectivity through social media.

Politically, the concept lone wolf is used to reassure the public and communicate that the danger is no longer immanent.  Academically as well as practically, the concept entails more than this reassurance[1].  Following ideas put forward by Ramon Spaaje in 2010, a lone wolf terrorist can be defined as a person who “operates individually, does not belong to an organized terrorist group or network and whose modi operandi are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or hierarchy[2].”  Therefore, there are two conditions which need to be fulfilled in order to classify someone as a lone wolf.  Firstly, the individual perpetrating an attack cannot have formal membership in a terrorist organization or be part of a network of terrorists.  This does not mean that the lone actor needs to be completely innovative in his ideology or actions.  In fact, radicalization is often driven by organizations disseminating propaganda and terrorists learn from each other even if they belong to very different ideological backgrounds.  Breivik, for instance, took inspiration from Al-Qaeda for his attacks[3].  But lone wolves cannot be recognized members of organizations and take action on behalf of this group.  Secondly, the individual must have planned, prepared and executed the attack without operational support from others and without direct orders to do so.  While seemingly straightforward, these criteria are increasingly difficult to apply in today’s circumstances.

Sociologist Max Weber postulated in his writings that in order to understand a social phenomenon, it is not enough to judge it from the outside, one must put oneself in the shoes of the social actor.  Do lone wolves view themselves as lone wolves?  Most of the time, the answer is no.  Terrorists are rarely motivated by nihilism, they are motivated by altruism[4] and take action on behalf of a group.  Islamist terrorists often claim to act in defense of the ummah, the global community of Muslims, and right-wing extremists on behalf of the white race, the nation or, as Breivik, on a self-composed category such as “Nordic Europeans.”  Lone wolves do not view themselves as lone wolves; precisely the contrary holds true.  Lone wolves often perceive themselves as part of a heroic avant-garde seeking to protect a larger group of people.  It is important to understand that lone wolf is a label attached to an individual by external forces not the actor himself.  One could argue that this by itself does not render the above-mentioned criteria invalid, as objectively the individual was acting alone, regardless of whether he or she believes to belong to an organization or take action on behalf of a group or not.  Membership in groups and “acting alone,” however, are concepts increasingly difficult to apply in a world where terrorist organizations increasingly organize virtually through social media.

What does it mean to “belong to an organized terrorist group or network[5]” when groups of all ideological backgrounds are increasingly organizing in the virtual sphere[6]?  Online, thousands of people access, view, read, comment on and engage with extremist content disseminated by terrorist groups.  Individuals can feel strongly about the virtual community and construct their individual identity in relation to the collective online movement[7].  A network can now refer to a virtual social network spanning the globe with various degrees of real-life and virtual involvement with the organization.  In the age of clicktivism, the notion of membership in a terrorist organization is increasingly less straightforward.  Is it feasible to consider somebody to be a lone wolf if this person was an active member of an online network run by an organized group even if he or she perpetrated the attack alone?  Facilitating lone actor attacks has become part of deliberate strategies of extremist organizations[8] and attacks sometimes represent hybrids between lone actor and “normal” terrorist action.  For example, during the recent attacks in Germany, the attacker was continuously in contact with members of the so-called Islamic State through instant messaging applications[9], including receiving encouragement and practical hints.  Can a case like this still be considered lone wolf terrorism?

Terrorism is constantly evolving and the concept of lone wolf terrorism is not as unambiguous as it might have seemed previously.  Social media has changed the way membership in violent organizations can be conceptualized and calls into question how alone lone wolves really are in the age of instant virtual communication. The lone wolf concept needs to be reevaluated and adapted to changed circumstances.  Should these actors be regarded as peripheral members of terrorist organizations?  How can we conceptualize those that followed general calls for action, but executed attacks individually?  Can we understand some individuals as “remote-controlled” by official members of terrorist organizations?  Currently, there are more questions than answers on the content and validity of the lone wolf concept, but we should be alert and aware that the external conditions have changed, and old responses may not be appropriate anymore to present-day lone actor terrorism.


Endnotes:

[1] For an overview see Ellis, C., Pantucci, R., de Roy van Zuijdewijn, J., Bakker, E., Gomis, B., Palombi, S. and Smith, M. (2016). Lone-Actor Terrorism: Final Report. Royal United Service Institute: London
https://rusi.org/sites/default/files/201604_clat_final_report.pdf

[2] Appleton, C. (2014). Lone wolf terrorism in Norway. The International Journal of Human Rights. Vol. 18 (2), pp.127-142
See also Spaaij, R. (2010). The Enigma of Lone Wolf Terrorism: An Assessment. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Vol. 33 (9), pp. 854-870

[3] Borchgrevink, A. (2012). A Norwegian Tragedy: Anders Behring Breivik and the Massacre on Utoya. Cambridge: Polity Press

[4] Atran, S. (2010). Talking to the enemy: Violent Extremism, sacred values, and what it means to be human. Penguin Books: London

[5] Appleton, C. (2014). Lone wolf terrorism in Norway. The International Journal of Human Rights. Vol. 18 (2), pp.127-142

[6] Garcia, F. (9/3/16). White nationalist movement growing much faster than ISIS on Twitter, study finds. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/white-nationalist-movement-twitter-faster-growth-isis-islamic-state-study-a7223671.html

[7] Berntzen, L.E. and Sandberg, S. (2014). The Collective Nature of Lone Wolf Terrorism: Anders Behring Breivik and the Anti-Islamic Social Movement. Terrorism and Political Violence. Vol 26 (5)., pp.759-779

[8] Burke, J. (6/15/16). Islamist terror has evolved toward lone actors- and it’s brutally effective. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/15/islam-jihad-terrorism-orlando-shooting-paris-attack

[9] Joscelyn, T. (2016). Terror Plots in Germany, France Were ‘remote-Controlled’ by Islamic State Operatives. FDD’s Long War Journal. Retrieved from: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/09/terror-plots-in-germany-france-were-remote-controlled-by-islamic-state-operatives.php

Assessment Papers Linda Schlegel Violent Extremism

Writing Contest Winners

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During a 70 day period from July 26th to October 4th, we ran our 70th Anniversary Writing Contest: Options for a New U.S. National Security Act.  We received four entries in two different categories.  The winners are as follows:

First Place in the category of Most Disruptive is Adam Yefet for his article Options for U.S. National Service.

Second Place in the category of Most Disruptive is Michael C. Davies for his article Victory Over the Potomac: Alternatives to Inevitable Strategic Failure.

Third Place in the category of Most Disruptive is Dr. John T. Kuehn for his article Options for Streamlining U.S. Department of Defense Decision Making.

First Place in the category of Most Able to be Implemented is Jeremy J. Grunert for his article Assessment of Possible Updates to the National Security Act of 1947.

We truly enjoyed our first writing contest and look forward to doing this again in 2018!

 

Contest

2018 Call for Papers Schedule

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We learned a lot our first year, are applying those lessons to our second year, and we hope you can join us!

As always we want to fit into the busy lives of our Writers so we publish our Call for Papers schedule as early as possible.  Also, as always, no one should feel constrained by our Call for Papers schedule.  If you have an idea, get in touch!  E-Mail:  submissions@divergentoptions.org

The full Call for Papers schedule, with background and writing formats, can be found by clicking here.

2018 Call for Papers Schedule:

Topic:  Africa

Call for Papers Begins:  January 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-February 2018

Publish Date:  Late-February 2018

Topic:  The Pacific

Call for Papers Begins:  March 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-April 2018

Publish Date:  Late-April 2018

Topic:  Alternative Futures

Call for Papers Begins:  May 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-June 2018

Publish Date:  Late-June 2018

Topic:  Cyberspace

Call for Papers Begins:  July 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-August 2018

Publish Date:  Late-August 2018

Topic: The Middle East

Call for Papers Begins:  September 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-October 2018

Publish Date: Late-October 2018

Topic:  Europe

Call for Papers Begins:  November 2018

Call for Papers Ends:  Mid-December 2018

Publish Date:  Late-December 2018

Call For Papers

Options for Streamlining U.S. Department of Defense Decision Making

Dr. John T. Kuehn has served at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas since 2000.  He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 with the rank of Commander.  He presently teaches as a Professor of Military History in the Department of Military History, as well as teaching for Norwich University (Vermont), Naval War College (Rhode Island), and Wolverhampton University (UK) as an adjunct professor.  He can be found on Twitter @jkuehn50 and writes at https://networks.h-net.org/node/12840/blog.  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:  Updating the National Security Act of 1947 (NSA 47) so that Department of Defense (DoD) decision-making is as streamlined as possible.

Date Originally Written:  August 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  December 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a retired Naval Officer and values a return to a national defense structure that includes a broader range of advice and decentralization of power as represented by cabinet secretaries.

Background:  NSA 47 has outlived its utility in the service of the national security of the United States.  In a post-Cold War world of the 21st Century, the system the United States used prior to 1947 is much more suitable to its traditions, Constitution, and the range of threats posed today.  NSA 47 has gone beyond the utility it provided to the United States after World War II.  NSA 47 once had value, especially in a bi-polar Cold War strategic dynamic informed by the terror of atomic and thermonuclear weapons[1].  However, NSA 47’s utility and value have degraded, especially with the end of the Cold War in 1989-1991.  History moved forward while the United States’ macro-security structure remained static.  Subsequent reforms to the 1947 re-organization, such as that by the Goldwater-Nichols Reform Act of 1987 (GNA), have merely “polished the bowling ball,” not recast it into a new shape[2].

Significance:  The Project for National Security Reform (PNSR) began looking at this issue in 2008 and found that NSA 47 no longer fit the strategic environment we are currently facing or will face in the 21st Century[3].  The 2011 PNSR did a good job of describing the problem and challenges in reforming and reorganizing the system[4].  However, the 2011 PNSR provided little else—no bold recommendations about how to make this happen.  What follows are options I modified from a summation of recommendations the PNSR solicited from me in 2011-12:

Option #1:  Disestablish the position of Secretary of Defense (SecDef) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).  The SecDef / OSD structure has too broad a span of control and this limits the scope of strategic advice Presidents receive.  The SecDef functions would move back under the civilian secretaries of the military departments: Army, Navy and Air Force.

Risk:  Medium.  The risk here was much lower when I first made this recommendation in 2010.  It is higher right now because of the North Korean situation and the need for unity of command of the nuclear arsenal if the worst happens and the U.S. needs to conduct a retaliatory strike should North Korea use nuclear weapons first.  However, the ultimate transfer of that unity of command could go to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) although the President would have to be a direct participant in any nuclear release, just as he is now.  One need not burn the Pentagon down and start afresh, but certainly who answers to whom is a legitimate topic worthy of serious discussion and, more importantly, serious action—by Congress AND the President.

Gain:  DoD decision-making is decentralized to the Military Departments and thus decisions are made quicker.  OSD manpower is redistributed to the Military Departments and the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thus increasing their respective capability to support the military operations conducted by the Combatant Commands.

Option #2:  Move the civilian Secretaries of Navy, Air Force, and Army back into the cabinet, but retain the SecDef, similar to the way things were organized prior to and during World War II.  The SecDef would still be a part of cabinet, but would be co-equal with the other civilian service secretaries.  Retain the current JCS organization and staff, but enhance the Chairman’s role on the National Security Council (NSC).  As an appointed position, the Chairman can always be relieved in the same manner that President Truman relieved General MacArthur.

Risk:  Low to medium low, for similar reasons listed for Option #1, the security situation is fluid as of this writing with threat of nuclear war.  No other current “crisis,” though, need impede the move to reform.  JCS Chairman role on NSC should include a substantial decrease in the size of the NSC staff, which should leverage more the capabilities of existing organizations like the JCS and the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Gain:  A balance is struck between decentralizing and streamlining decision-making to the Secretaries of the Military Departments while maintaining a SecDef in a coordinating role.  Option #2 is likely more palatable to Congress as current structures are maintained manpower wise yet power is shifted around.

Other Comments:  Congress must be a part of the solution[5].  Policy recommendations need Congressional oversight, responsibility, and accountability so that if a President goes against an NSC-recommended policy or strategy Congress will be in the loop.  One fear has been that this might drive the U.S. toward a “cabinet” system of government and curtail Presidential power.  That fear sounds like a benefit to me.

Additionally, there will be a need for a national debate that includes social media—where politicians quit pre-emptively tweeting and sniping at each other and instead “message” about national security reform—staying on task and staying on message as the public participates in the dialog.  We might turn again to the past, as a generation of millennial Publius’s step forward in a new round of Federalist Paper-type thinking and writing to kick these ideas around and to build real consensus—not just that of Washington insiders[6].  There is no deficit of political and intellectual talent out there-despite what the pundits say and write.  All too often, however, we consult the advice of specially constituted commissions (such as that for 9/11) and then ignore their advice or imperfectly implement only the portions that stop the media howl.

The United States has time.  The current system, as ineffective as it is, is not so broken that we must act quickly and without reflection.  However, I prefer to close with an even more powerful means of highlighting the problem—a story.  Every year, at the end of my World War II series of classes to military officers attending the Army Command and General Staff Office Course, I post the following questions: “The security system that existed prior to and during World War II was so ineffective that it had to be replaced in 1947, right?  This was the same system that the United States used to lose the most desperate and far-ranging war in its history, right?”  Wrong—we won World War II–handily–and we can win again by adopting a system that proved successful in a pre-Cold War world that looks a lot like our world of today.  So-called progress does not always lead to better solutions.  The founders looked backwards to go forward, so can we.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] This is not the first time the author has made this argument, see John T. Kuehn, “Abolish the Office of the Secretary of Defense?” Joint Force Quarterly, Issue 47, 4th Quarter 2007, 114-116.

[2] Recent attempt have been made to have a second round of GNA via the Project for National Security Reform effort, see James Locher et al. “Project for National Security Reform: Preliminary Findings” January 2008 (hereafter PNSR 2008), Washington, D.C.; and more recently the follow-on report from the PNSR from November 2011, “AMERICA’S FIRST QUARTER MILLENNIUM: ENVISIONING A TRANSFORMED NATIONAL SECURITY SYSTEM IN 2026,” see www.pnsr.org (accessed 7/31/2017). Full disclosure, the author was an unpaid consultant for the second report.

[3] PNSR, 2008 and 2011.

[4] PNSR, 2011, p.5.

[5] John T. Kuehn, “I Liked Ike . . . Whence Comes Another? Why PME Needs a Congressional Advocate,” in Joint Force Quarterly 83 (4th Quarter, October 2016): 40-43.

[6] Publius was the pen name for the authors of the Federalist Papers who argued the merits and reasoning behind the Constitution: Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and (especially) James Madison. See, Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, The Federalist Papers (New York: Penguin, 1987), paperback.

Contest Governing Documents John T. Kuehn Option Papers United States

Assessment of the Threat to Southeast Asia Posed by Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing

Blake Herzinger is a private-sector maritime security advisor assisting the U.S. Pacific Fleet in implementation and execution of the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative and Pacific Command-wide maritime security efforts.  He served in the United States Navy as an intelligence officer in Singapore, Japan, Italy, and exotic Jacksonville, Florida.  His writing has appeared in Proceedings, CIMSEC and The Diplomat.  He can be found on Twitter @BDHerzinger.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the Threat to Southeast Asia Posed by Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing

Date Originally Written:  September 24, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 27, 2017.

Summary:  Regional conflict brews in Southeast Asia as states vie for access to fish stocks and, increasingly, rely on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) to meet national requirements.  IUUF risks the collapse of targeted fish stocks, destroys the maritime environment, degrades internal security, and brings national security forces into increasingly-escalatory encounters.

Text:  Over one billion residents of the Asia-Pacific rely upon fish as their primary source of protein, and the fish stocks of the region are under a relentless assault[1].  Current estimates place IUUF at between 11 and 26 million metric tons (MMT) yearly (total legal capture is approximately 16.6 MMT yearly), with an estimated value loss to regional economies of $10-23.5 billion[2][3].  Over a 25 year period, fish stocks in the South China Sea have declined anywhere from 6 to 33 percent, with some falling as much as 40 percent over the last 5 years.  In 2015, at least 490 million people in Southeast Asia lived in chronic hunger, with millions of children throughout the region stunted due to malnutrition[4].

Illegal fishing’s pernicious by-product is the critical damage done to the maritime environment by those flouting fishery regulations.  As large fish become more scarce as a result of industrial-scale overfishing, smaller-scale fishermen turn to dangerous and illegal practices to catch enough fish to survive.  Blast fishing obliterates coral reefs and kills indiscriminately, but despite prohibitions continues at a rate of nearly 10,000 incidents a day in Philippines alone[5].  Cyanide fishing is also still widespread, despite being banned in several Southeast Asian countries.  Used to stun fish for live capture (for aquariums or regionally popular live fish restaurants), cyanide contributes to the devastation of coral reefs across the SCS.  Giant clam poaching also has deleterious effects on reefs across the region as poachers race to feed Chinese demand for these shellfish.  Reefs throughout the Coral Triangle are interdependent, relying on one another for pollination, and as the reefs are destroyed by poachers seeking short-term gains, or even by small fishermen eking out a subsistence lifestyle, the effects of collapse ripple outward across the region.  The region is approaching an inflection point at which the damage will be irreparable.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), which accounts for one-third of global fish consumption and is the world’s largest seafood exporter, fittingly leads the way in aggressively protecting its fishing fleets with an overwhelmingly powerful coast guard that dwarfs any other maritime law enforcement body in Asia[6][7].  As IUUF and environmental destruction cut into maritime resources and competition for those increasingly scarce resources escalates, national maritime law enforcement and naval forces are being rapidly expanded and widely deployed to protect natural resources and domestic fishing fleets.  If unmanaged, the friction generated by these fleets’ increasing interaction could easily explode into violent conflict.

For many countries in the region, the state’s legitimacy rests largely upon its ability to provide access to basic necessities and protect its citizens’ livelihoods.  Tens of millions across East Asia and Southeast Asia depend on fisheries for employment and, in many cases, their survival.  Should fish stocks begin to fail, regional states’ foundations will be threatened.  The combination of inadequate food supply and loss of livelihood could reasonably be expected to spur civil unrest.  In a state such as Indonesia, where 54 percent of the population relies on fish as its primary animal protein, historically weak institutions and propensity for military intervention only amplify the potential consequences of food insecurity.  In the PRC, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) actively encourages illegal fishing to provide its 1.379 billion people with the fish, seafood and marine products that its lower-and-middle-class, as well as elites, expect.  Legitimacy of the CCP, at least in part, is dependent on the continued production of regional fisheries and desire to buttress its legitimacy will continue to drive this vicious cycle.

The above mentioned calamities can occur in isolation, but they are most often interlinked.  For instance, in the infamous 2012 Scarborough Shoal incident, Philippines maritime law enforcement boarded a PRC fishing boat that had been engaged in giant clam and shark poaching, as well as coral reef destruction.  Armed PRC maritime law enforcement vessels intervened and sparked an external dispute that continues in 2017[8].  Ensuing flame wars between Filipino and Chinese hackers and economic measures enacted by the PRC against the Philippines threatened stability in both the domestic and international spheres of both countries.  The threat posed by IUUF is not just about fish, its direct and follow-on effects have the potential to drag Southeast Asia into disastrous conflict.


Endnotes:

[1] Till, G. (2013). Seapower: a guide for the 21st century. London: Routledge Ltd.

[2] Caputo, J. (2017). A Global Fish War is Coming. Proceedings, 143(8), 1,374. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2017-08/global-fish-war-coming

[3] One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on The Verge of Collapse. (2017, August 02). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

[4] Asia-Pacific region achieves Millennium Development Goal to reduce hunger by half by 2015. (2015, May 28). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://www.fao.org/asiapacific/news/detail-events/en/c/288506/

[5] Guy, A. (n.d.). Local Efforts Put a Dent in Illegal Dynamite Fishing in the Philippines. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from http://oceana.org/blog/local-efforts-put-dent-illegal-dynamite-fishing-philippines

[6] Jacobs, A. (2017, April 30). China’s Appetite Pushes Fisheries to the Brink. Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/30/world/asia/chinas-appetite-pushes-fisheries-to-the-brink.html

[7] Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy (Rep.). (2015, August 14). Retrieved https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/NDAA%20A-P_Maritime_SecuritY_Strategy-08142015-1300-FINALFORMAT.PDF

[8] Are Maritime Law Enforcement Forces Destabilizing Asia? (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://csis-ilab.github.io/cpower-viz/csis-china-sea/

Assessment Papers Blake Herzinger Environmental Factors Resource Scarcity South China Sea Southeast Asia

Options for U.S. National Service

Adam Yefet has a Master’s degree in International of Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.  He is based in Israel.  He can be found on Twitter at @YefetGlobal.  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:  A revised National Security Act of 1947 could create a national service requirement.

Date Originally Written:  September 30, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 20, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Adam Yefet has a Master’s degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.  He writes here as an American concerned with U.S. National Security.

Background:  Seventy years after the signing of the 1947 National Security Act, the world is still an unpredictable and dangerous place, but it is not governed by the same fears.  In 1947, the chief concerns of U.S. national security professionals were re-establishing European stability, and preparing for the coming Cold War with the Soviet Union, and ensuring the United States remained atop the new post-war order in an age of industrialized, mass-produced warfare and nuclear bombs.  The urgency of a threat could be measured in the number of troops, tanks, ships, missiles etcetera that enemy states could marshal.  As such, the 1947 National Security Act established an American military and intelligence complex meant to sustain American interests in the face of these challenges.  Today, conventional warfare remains a primary concern, but not the only one.

Significance:  The modern American political environment has revealed intense cleavages in American socio-politics.  Social trust seems on the verge of breakdown as citizens retreat to curated information bubbles not limited to of-the-day political commentary but expanding into the very facts and analysis of events both modern and historical.  Shared truths are shrinking and becoming a thing of the past.  Internal divisions are the greatest existential threat to the United States of America.  A 2017 National Security Act that includes provisions to bridge this divide could reunite the American people behind the values that helped shape America.

Option #1:  Mandatory National Service.  

A new National Security Act could include a provision for one year of mandatory national service to be required of all Americans to be completed between a certain age rage, for example between the ages of 18 and 25.  There would need to a be a number of service options, some existing, some needing to be created, including service in any of the military branches (which would require longer service) or one of several national organizations such as Peace Corps, Teach for America, and City Year.  New services to be created could involve public, local community, and international development, such as public works projects, agriculture development, vocational work, early childhood development, and senior care.  National service will affect all Americans equally, across socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, gender, racial, and religious lines. No one can buy their way out of the program.

Risk:  The creation of a national service program in peaceful and relatively prosperous times would be a massive economic and political endeavor that would reshape several industries with an influx of cheap labor.  The financial investment on the part of the government to train, house, and pay even a meager salary would be enormous.  The transition process within affected industries would be long and complicated and would face a winding legal path.  The executive power to do so and the consent of the government and the governed to receive it may be impossible to create outside the aftermath of a sharp crisis like World War II and the ensuing Cold War that brought about the original National Security Act.

The gaping political divide and widespread political disillusionment the program seeks to solve would be two of the greatest threats to undermine the program before it got started.  A requirement of national service would be anathema to many Americans as an assault on their principles of limited government and freedom.  Bipartisan political support may not be enough in the current political environment.  Prolonged resistance to service could be politicized and create another ugly divide within the nation.  A program plagued by political divides and undermined from the beginning would risk doing more harm than good.

Gain:  This requirement to serve would be an opportunity for young Americans to live, work, and consociate and will bind them to each other in common national cause.  Service will create an equal opportunity for American citizens to work and learn in a team environment with a sense of national purpose.

Americans found a significant common bond in the 20th century in the course of winning two world wars, crossing the Depression in between, and living the fears and competitions of the Cold War.  Success in these endeavors came from a sense of purpose, for American victory, and required massive government investments in people, jobs, infrastructure and science that paid off in the creation of our modern state and economy a modern global order that has delivered peace and prosperity to more people than at any previous time in human history.  A mandatory national service program would give all American’s a common bond of shared burden that comes before political divisions.

Option #2:  Re-Instate the Draft.

The United States military is stretched thin from the two longest wars in the country’s history, and the global deployment of troops and resources.  If these conflicts are going to be seen to a successful end while maintaining the U.S. military as the strongest in the world, the United States must ask more of its citizens.  Global politics are entering a transitional period heralding the decline of the American-led global order established after World War II.  Interstate and intrastate conflicts are spreading across the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe.  The future of international relations and affairs is unknowable but the U.S. military and intelligence apparatus should be prepared for catastrophic events.  The Selective Service and Training Act[1] already requires young men, and now women, to register.  The foundation already exists for America’s men and women to be called to service.

Risk:  The peacetime draft of potentially millions of citizens will require the enlargement of the already massive Defense Department budget.  The long-term increased costs for veteran support areas of the government, especially health care, would be significant.  The influx of potentially millions of troops, many of whom do not want to be there will demand experienced leadership from military and political figures who may not be up to the task.  The draft may have the effect of lowering the standards of the military branches as they seek to find places for new soldiers and retain them into the future to meet the demands of American foreign policy.

Gain:  All Americans will share the burden of America’s global role as a military and economic superpower.  Service will give the United States government the manpower it needs to be prepared for the conflicts of the present and future.  The American people called to service will have a greater appreciation of their responsibility as citizens in the management of American democracy and American foreign policy.  The draft would pull in America’s best and brightest for service to the nation’s security.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] 50 U.S.C. – SELECTIVE TRAINING AND SERVICE ACT OF 1940. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/USCODE-2009-title50/USCODE-2009-title50-app-selective-dup1

Contest National Service Option Papers United States

Assessment of U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Ali Crawford is a current M.A. Candidate at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.  She studies diplomacy and intelligence with a focus on cyber policy and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  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 U.S. Cyber Command’s Elevation to Unified Combatant Command

Date Originally Written:  September 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  November 13, 2017.

Summary:  U.S. President Donald Trump instructed the Department of Defense to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to the status of Unified Combatant Command (UCC).  Cyber Command as a UCC could determine the operational standards for missions and possibly streamline decision-making.  Pending Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ nomination, the Commander of Cyber Command will have the opportunity to alter U.S. posturing in cyberspace.

Text:  In August 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin initiating Cyber Command’s elevation to a UCC[1].  With the elevation of U.S. Cyber Command there will be ten combatant commands within the U.S. military infrastructure[2].  Combatant commands have geographical[3] or functional areas[4] of responsibility and are granted authorities by law, the President, and the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) to conduct military operations.  This elevation of Cyber Command to become a UCC is a huge progressive step forward.  The character of warfare is changing. Cyberspace has quickly become a new operational domain for war, with battles being waged each day.  The threat landscape in the cyberspace domain is always evolving, and so the U.S. will evolve to meet these new challenges.  Cyber Command’s elevation is timely and demonstrates the Department of Defense’s commitment to defend U.S. national interests across all operational domains.

Cyber Command was established in 2009 to ensure the U.S. would maintain superiority in the cyberspace operational domain.  Reaching full operational capacity in 2010, Cyber Command mainly provides assistance and other augmentative services to the military’s various cyberspace missions, such as planning; coordinating; synchronizing; and preparing, when directed, military operations in cyberspace[5].  Currently, Cyber Command is subordinate to U.S. Strategic Command, but housed within the National Security Agency (NSA).  Cyber Command’s subordinate components include Army Cyber Command, Fleet Cyber Command, Air Force Cyber Command, Marine Forces Cyber Command, and it also maintains an operational relationship with the Coast Guard Cyber Command[6].  By 2018, Cyber Command expects to ready 133 cyber mission force teams which will consist of 25 support teams, 27 combat mission teams, 68 cyber protection teams, and 13 national mission teams[7].

Admiral Michael Rogers of the United States Navy currently heads Cyber Command.  He is also head of the NSA.  This “dual-hatting” of Admiral Rogers is of interest.  President Trump has directed SecDef James Mattis to recommend a nominee to head Cyber Command once it becomes a UCC.  Commanders of Combatant Commands must be uniformed military officers, whereas the NSA may be headed by a civilian.  It is very likely that Mattis will nominate Rogers to lead Cyber Command[8].  Beyond Cyber Command’s current missions, as a UCC its new commander would have the power to alter U.S. tactical and strategic cyberspace behaviors.  The elevation will also streamline the time-sensitive process of conducting cyber operations by possibly enabling a single authority with the capacity to make independent decisions who also has direct access to SecDef Mattis.  The elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC led by a four-star military officer may also point to the Department of Defense re-prioritizing U.S. posturing in cyberspace to become more offensive rather than defensive.

As one can imagine, Admiral Rogers is not thrilled with the idea of splitting his agencies apart.  Fortunately, it is very likely that he will maintain dual-authority for at least another year[9].  The Cyber Command separation from the NSA will also take some time, pending the successful confirmation of a new commander.  Cyber Command would also need to demonstrate its ability to function independently from its NSA intelligence counterpart[10].  Former SecDef Ash Carter and Director of Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper were not fans of Rogers’ dual-hat arrangement.  It remains to be seen what current SecDef Mattis’ or DNI Coats’ think of the “dual hat” arrangement.

Regardless, as this elevation process develops, it is worthwhile to follow.  Whoever becomes commander of Cyber Command, whether it be a novel nominee or Admiral Rogers, will have an incredible opportunity to spearhead a new era of U.S. cyberspace operations, doctrine, and influence policy.  A self-actualized Cyber Command may be able to launch Stuxnet-style attacks aimed at North Korea or speak more nuanced rhetoric aimed at creating impenetrable networks.  Regardless, the elevation of Cyber Command to a UCC signals the growing importance of cyber-related missions and will likely encourage U.S. policymakers to adopt specific cyber policies, all the while ensuring the freedom of action in cyberspace.


Endnotes:

[1] The White House, “Statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Elevation of Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/08/18/statement-donald-j-trump-elevation-cyber-command

[2] Unified Command Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.defense.gov/About/Military-Departments/Unified-Combatant-Commands/

[3] 10 U.S. Code § 164 – Commanders of combatant commands: assignment; powers and duties. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/164

[4] 10 U.S. Code § 167 – Unified combatant command for special operations forces. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/167

[5] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[6] U.S. Strategic Command, “U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM),” 30 September 2016, http://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Factsheets/Factsheet-View/Article/960492/us-cyber-command-uscybercom/

[7] Richard Sisk, Military, “Cyber Command to Become Unified Combatant Command,” 18 August 2017, http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/08/18/cyber-command-become-unified-combatant-command.html

[8] Department of Defense, “The Department of Defense Cyber Strategy,” 2015, https://www.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0415_Cyber-Strategy/

[9] Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post, “President Trump announces move to elevate Cyber Command,” 18 August 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/08/18/president-trump-announces-move-to-elevate-cyber-command/

[10] Ibid.

Ali Crawford Assessment Papers Cyberspace United States