Options for Next Generation Blue Force Biometrics

Sarah Soliman is a Technical Analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.  Sarah’s research interests lie at the intersection of national security, emerging technology, and identity.  She can be found on Twitter @BiometricsNerd.  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:  Next Generation Biometrics for U.S. Forces.

Date Originally Written:  March 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June 26, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Sarah Soliman is a biometrics engineer who spent two years in Iraq and Afghanistan as contracted field support to Department of Defense biometrics initiatives.

Background:  When a U.S. Army specialist challenged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004, it became tech-innovation legend within the military.  The specialist asked what the secretary was doing to up-armor military vehicles against Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks[1].  This town hall question led to technical innovations that became the class of military vehicles known as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, the MRAP.

History repeated itself in a way last year when U.S. Marine Corps General Robert B. Neller was asked in a Marine Corps town hall what he was doing to “up-armor” military personnel—not against attacks from other forces, but against suicide within their ranks[2].  The technical innovation path to strengthening troop resiliency is less clear, but just as in need of an MRAP-like focus on solutions.  Here are three approaches to consider in applying “blue force” biometrics, the collection of physiological or behavioral data from U.S. military troops, that could help develop diagnostic applications to benefit individual servicemembers.

1

US Army Specialist Thomas Wilson addresses the Secretary of Defense on base in Kuwait in 2004. Credit: Gustavo Ferrari / AP http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6679801/ns/world_news-mideast_n_africa/t/rumsfeld-inquisitor-not-one-bite-his-tongue

Significance:  The September 11th terrorists struck at a weakness—the United States’ ability to identify enemy combatants.  So the U.S. military took what was once blue force biometrics—a measurement of human signatures like facial images, fingerprints and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (which are all a part of an enrolling military member’s record)—and flipped their use to track combatants rather than their own personnel.  This shift led to record use of biometrics in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom to assist in green (partner), grey (unknown), and red (enemy) force identification.

After 9/11, the U.S. military rallied for advances in biometrics, developing mobile tactical handheld devices, creating databases of IED networks, and cutting the time it takes to analyze DNA from days to hours[3].  The U.S. military became highly equipped for a type of identification that validates a person is who they say they are, yet in some ways these red force biometric advances have plateaued alongside dwindling funding for overseas operations and troop presence.  As a biometric toolset is developed to up-armor military personnel for health concerns, it may be worth considering expanding the narrow definition of biometrics that the Department of Defense currently uses[4].

The options presented below represent research that is shifting from red force biometrics back to the need for more blue force diagnostics as it relates to traumatic brain injury, sleep and social media.

Option #1:  Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The bumps and grooves of the brain can contain identification information much like the loops and whorls in a fingerprint.  Science is only on the cusp of understanding the benefits of brain mapping, particularly as it relates to injury for military members[5].

Gain:  Research into Wearables.

Getting military members to a field hospital equipped with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner soon after an explosion is often unrealistic.  One trend has been to catalog the series of blast waves experienced—instead of measuring one individual biometric response—through a wearable “blast gauge” device.  The blast gauge program made news recently as the markers failed to give vibrant enough data and the program was cancelled[6].  Though not field expedient, another traumatic brain injury (TBI) sensor type to watch is brain activity trackers, which CNN’s Jake Tapper experienced when he donned a MYnd Analytics electroencephalogram brain scanning cap, drawing attention to blue force biometrics topics alongside Veterans Day[7].

 

2

Blast Gauge. Credit: DARPA http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/20/506146595/pentagon-shelves-blast-gauges-meant-to-detect-battlefield-brain-injuries?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=storiesfromnpr

Risk:  Overpromising, Underdelivering or “Having a Theranos Moment.”

Since these wearable devices aren’t currently viable solutions, another approach being considered is uncovering biometrics in blood.  TBI may cause certain proteins to spike in the blood[8]. Instead of relying on a subjective self-assessment by a soldier, a quick pin-prick blood draw could be taken.  Military members can be hesitant to admit to injury, since receiving treatment is often equated with stigma and may require having to depart from a unit.  This approach would get around that while helping the Department of Defense (DoD) gain a stronger definition of whether treatment is required.

3

Credit: Intelligent Optical Systems Inc http://www.intopsys.com/downloads/BioMedical/TBI-Brochure.pdf

Option #2:  Sleep.

Thirty-one percent of members of the U.S. military get five hours or less of sleep a night, according to RAND research[9].  This level of sleep deprivation affects cognitive, interpersonal, and motor skills whether that means leading a convoy, a patrol or back home leading a family.  This health concern bleeds across personal and professional lines.

Gain:  Follow the Pilots.

The military already requires flight crews to rest between missions, a policy in place to allow flight crews the opportunity to be mission ready through sleep, and the same concept could be instituted across the military.  Keeping positive sleep biometrics—the measurement of human signatures based on metrics like amount of total sleep time or how often a person wakes up during a sleep cycle, oxygen levels during sleep and the repeat consistent length of sleep—can lower rates of daytime impairment.

4
The prevalence of insufficient sleep duration and poor sleep quality across the force. Credit: RAND, Clock by Dmitry Fisher/iStock; Pillow by Yobro10/iStockhttp://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9823.html

Risk:  More memoirs by personnel bragging how little sleep they need to function[10].

What if a minimal level of rest became a requirement for the larger military community?  What sleep-tracking wearables could military members opt to wear to better grasp their own readiness?  What if sleep data were factored into a military command’s performance evaluation?

Option #3:  Social Media.

The traces of identity left behind through the language, images, and even emoji[11] used in social media have been studied, and they can provide clues to mental health.

Gain:  It’s easier to pull text than to pull blood.

Biometric markers include interactivity like engagement (how often posts are made), what time a message is sent (which can act as an “insomnia index”), and emotion detection through text analysis of the language used[12].  Social media ostracism can also be measured by “embeddedness” or how close-knit one’s online connections are[13].

 

5

Credit: https://twitter.com/DeptofDefense/status/823515639302262784?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Risk:  Misunderstanding in social media research.

The DoD’s tweet about this research was misconstrued as a subtweet or mockery[14].  True to its text, the tweet was about research under development at the Department of Defense and in particular the DoD Suicide Prevention Office.  Though conclusions at the scale of the DoD have yet to be reached, important research is being built-in this area including studies like one done by Microsoft Research, which demonstrated 70 percent accuracy in estimating onset of a major depressive disorder[15].  Computer programs have identified Instagram photos as a predictive marker of depression[16] and Twitter data as a quantifiable signal of suicide attempts[17].

Other Comments:  Whether by mapping the brain, breaking barriers to getting good sleep, or improving linguistic understanding of social media calls for help, how will the military look to blue force biometrics to strengthen the health of its core?  What type of intervention should be aligned once data indicators are defined?  Many tombs of untapped data remain in the digital world, but data protection and privacy measures must be in place before they are mined.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Gilmore, G. J. (2004, December 08). Rumsfeld Handles Tough Questions at Town Hall Meeting. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=24643

[2]  Schogol, J. (2016, May 29). Hidden-battle-scars-robert-neller-mission-to-save-marines-suicide. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/2016/05/29/hidden-battle-scars-robert-neller-mission-to-save-marines-suicide/84807982/

[3]  Tucker, P. (2015, May 20). Special Operators Are Using Rapid DNA Readers. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/05/special-operators-are-using-rapid-dna-readers/113383/

[4]  The DoD’s Joint Publication 2-0 defines biometrics as “The process of recognizing an individual based on measurable anatomical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics.”

[5]  DoD Worldwide Numbers for TBI. (2017, May 22). Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://dvbic.dcoe.mil/dod-worldwide-numbers-tbi

[6]  Hamilton, J. (2016, December 20). Pentagon Shelves Blast Gauges Meant To Detect Battlefield Brain Injuries. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/20/506146595/pentagon-shelves-blast-gauges-meant-to-detect-battlefield-brain-injuries?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=storiesfromnpr

[7]  CNN – The Lead with Jake Tapper. (2016, November 11). Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://vimeo.com/191229323

[8]  West Virginia University. (2014, May 29). WVU research team developing test strips to diagnose traumatic brain injury, heavy metals. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://wvutoday-archive.wvu.edu/n/2014/05/29/wvu-research-team-developing-test-strips-to-diagnose-traumatic-brain-injury-heavy-metals.html

[9]  Troxel, W. M., Shih, R. A., Pedersen, E. R., Geyer, L., Fisher, M. P., Griffin, B. A., . . . Steinberg, P. S. (2015, April 06). Sleep Problems and Their Impact on U.S. Servicemembers. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9823.html

[10]  Mullany, A. (2017, May 02). Here’s Arianna Huffington’s Recipe For A Great Night Of Sleep. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3060801/heres-arianna-huffingtons-recipe-for-a-great-night-of-sleep

[11]  Ruiz, R. (2016, June 26). What you post on social media might help prevent suicide. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://mashable.com/2016/06/26/suicide-prevention-social-media.amp

[12]  Choudhury, M. D., Gamon, M., Counts, S., & Horvitz, E. (2013, July 01). Predicting Depression via Social Media. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/predicting-depression-via-social-media/

[13]  Ibid.

[14]  Brogan, J. (2017, January 23). Did the Department of Defense Just Subtweet Donald Trump? Retrieved June 03, 2017, from http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/01/23/did_the_department_of_defense_subtweet_donald_trump_about_mental_health.html

[15]  Choudhury, M. D., Gamon, M., Counts, S., & Horvitz, E. (2013, July 01). Predicting Depression via Social Media. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/publication/predicting-depression-via-social-media/

[16]  Reece, A. G., & Danforth, C. M. (2016, August 13). Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://arxiv.org/abs/1608.03282

[17]  Coppersmith, G., Ngo, K., Leary, R., & Wood, A. (2016, June 16). Exploratory Analysis of Social Media Prior to a Suicide Attempt. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Exploratory-Analysis-of-Social-Media-Prior-to-a-Su-Coppersmith-Ngo/3bb21a197b29e2b25fe8befbe6ac5cec66d25413

Biometrics Emerging Technology Option Papers Psychological Factors Sarah Soliman United States

Announcing the Assessment Paper!

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When we started Divergent Options our main effort was our Options Paper.  Our Options Paper used a specific template and focused on assessing a national security situation, providing multiple options to address the situation, and articulating the risk and gain of each option, all in 1,000 words or less.

While we will continue our Option Paper line we are pleased to announce our Assessment Paper.  Our Assessment Paper will still have a 1,000 word limit but will focus on assessing a national security situation only.

——————————Begin Assessment Paper Format———————————–

Jane Doe has served in Organization A in Country X and Country Y.  She presently works at Organization B where she does Z.  She can be found on Twitter @address and writes for website dot 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 Threat Posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  Note:  Titles will always begin with “Assessment of”

Date Originally Written:  September 25, 2014.

Date Originally Published:  September 29, 2014.

Summary:  If left unchecked, ISIL will establish a safe haven in Iraq and Syria where violent extremists and emerging violent extremists from around the world can congregate, assimilate, receive training, and be dispatched globally to conduct operations targeting civilians.  Beyond the conduct of operations, ISIL operatives dispatched worldwide will also be able to establish local cells to expand their influence.  Note:  “Summary” will be five lines of text maximum.  We strongly suggest you write your entire article first and then write the summary.

Text:  United States President Barack H. Obama withdrew United States forces from Iraq in December 2011[1].  The December 2011 withdraw date was set by President George W. Bush in 2008 when he signed a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq.  Following the departure of United States forces from Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pursued a number of policies that made the Sunni population of Iraq, formerly empowered by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, feel marginalized, excluded, and neglected by the Maliki government[2].  The lack of a stabilizing United States presence and Sunni marginalization laid the groundwork for the rise of ISIL.  Note:  This part of the article, called “Text,” is what will be counted against the 1,000 word limit.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ryan, M. (2016, September 26). Who made the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq? Retrieved June 23, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2016/live-updates/general-election/real-time-fact-checking-and-analysis-of-the-first-presidential-debate/who-made-the-decision-to-withdraw-u-s-troops-from-iraq/?utm_term=.7694d4af3b1b  Note:  We prefer APA format for citations, which can be easily done via Citation Machine.

[2]  Something else in APA format.

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Assessment Papers

Authorization for the Use of Military Force Options

Silence Dogood has a background in defense issues and experience working in Congress.  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:  Current operations in the Global War On Terror are carried out under the authority granted by 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).  Given changes in the global security environment, there is currently debate over updating the AUMF.

Date Originally Written:  May 26, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June 22, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is writing from the perspective of a senior policy advisor to member of Congress sitting on either the House or Senate Armed Services Committees.

Background:  Shortly following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Congress passed Public Law 107-40, the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force[1].  The 2001 AUMF states, “the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States…”  The 2001 AUMF is currently used as the legal authority for counterterrorism operations in multiple countries, against multiple organizations, including the Islamic State.

Significance:  Clearly defining ends, ways, means, and costs are central to the military planning process.  This analysis should extend and be central to the policy planning process as well.  Relying on the 2001 AUMF for the campaign against the Islamic State raises questions about whether statutory authority does, or should, to extend to this campaign.  Revisiting force authorization statutes will help mitigate the risk of perpetual war, simplify legal authorities, and strengthen congressional oversight[2].  Terrorism is a tactic, and thus cannot be defeated.  Those who engage in terrorism can be targeted and the environmental factors leading to terrorism can be addressed.  Less than 25% of the current members of Congress held office when the 2001 AUMF passed[3].  Revisiting the 2001 AUMF allows current policy makers the opportunity to reexamine the scope and extent of current counterterrorism operations.

Option #1:  Amend the 2001 AUMF to restrict Presidential authorities to use force.

Risk:  Efforts to restrict potential overreach of Presidential authorities may also restrict the flexibility of military responses to the emerging threats and capabilities of future terrorist organizations.  Restriction would relegate presidential authorities to those granted by Article II of the Constitution and international self-defense laws, such as Article 51 of the UN Charter.  This may initially restrict operational flexibility, as mentioned before.  However, this could also lead to an expansion of Article II powers as counterterrorism operations continue under the premise of Article II authorities.

Gain:  Option #1 provides Congress with a check on the President’s authority to use military force in an extended and expanded Global War on Terror.  This option also incentivizes non-kinetic counterterrorism efforts.  These efforts include targeting terrorism financing, economic development, information operations, and judicial counterterrorism strategies.  Restricted authorities could limit the geographical areas of operations.  They could also restrict targeting authorities to a list of named enemy organizations[4].

Option #2:  Amend 2001 AUMF to update or expand Presidential authorities to use force.

Risk:  Updating the 2001 AUMF to expand Presidential authorities to use force may lead to excessive use of military force.  It could also lead to further legitimizing endless war.

Gain:  An updated and expanded AUMF could clearly define uses of technologies not widely available in 2001, such as armed unmanned aerial vehicles and cyberwarfare. Option #2 could also enable the targeting of terrorist groups unaffiliated with Al Qaeda that pose a threat to the United States.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001)

[2]  Wittes, B. (2014, November 11). A Response to Steve Vladeck on the AUMF Principles. Retrieved from https://lawfareblog.com/response-steve-vladeck-aumf-principles

[3]  Brandon, H. (2017, May 05). An ISIS AUMF: Where We Are Now, Where to Go Next, and Why It’s So Important to Get It Right. Retrieved from https://www.justsecurity.org/40549/isis-aumf-now-next-important/

[4]  Popplin, C. (2015, June 09). National Security Network Proposes Plan to Repeal AUMF. Retrieved from https://lawfareblog.com/national-security-network-proposes-plan-repeal-aumf

Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) Option Papers Silence Dogood United States Violent Extremism

Options to Counter Piracy in the Horn of Africa

Captain Robert N. Hein (U.S. Navy, Retired) was a career Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.  He previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (CG-64) and the USS Nitze (DDG-94).  He can be found on Twitter @the_sailor_dogClaude Berube teaches at the United States Naval Academy, was a 2004 Brookings Institution LEGIS Congressional Fellow and a 2010 Maritime Security Studies Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.  He can be found on Twitter @cgberube.  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:  After lying dormant for a few years, following a large international response, piracy off the Horn of Africa is again threatening the free flow of global commerce.

Date Originally Written:  May 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June 19, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Claude Berube has operated off the Horn of Africa, and has written extensively on piracy and private maritime security companies.  Bob Hein has hunted pirates off Somalia.  Bob’s final assignment was the Deputy Director of Strategy on the U.S. Navy Staff.

Background:  Somali piracy threatens major trade routes.  Over 30,000 ships transit the Gulf of Aden annually.  At its peak in 2007, the cost of Somali pirate attacks to the shipping industry was $7B.  The cost decreased to $1.3B in 2015, and climbed to $1.7B in 2016[1].  In May 2017, the Commander of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Walderhauser, indicated as many as six piracy attacks occurred in the last month[2].  Given the expanse of unpatrolled waters in the region and opportunities for criminal and pirate networks to exploit maritime security gaps, there will inevitably be more attacks.

Significance:  Since the Romans and Carthaginians raised their Navies against each other in the Punic Wars, the purpose of Navies has been to protect the coast, and protect maritime commerce.  Prior to that, Thucydides mentions piracy in History of the Peloponnesian War.  The actions of pirates in Africa led to the establishment and deployment of the U.S. Navy in the early 19th century.  A resurgence in Somali piracy represents a renewed threat to global trade, and the stability of Somalia.

Option #1:  The U.S. cedes the constabulary role for counter-piracy activities to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)).  In April 2017 the PRC deployed its 26th anti-piracy flotilla to the Horn of Africa.  In that time, the PRC escorted 5,900 ships in the region[3], and established a base in nearby Djibouti to maintain a mission to not only protects the PRC’s “One Belt” initiative, but give PRC Naval Commanders experience operating far from home.

Risk:  Taking over this mission allows the PRC to gain experience in operating far from home, a key attribute for an historic land power seeking increased influence abroad.  Prior to its first anti-piracy flotilla in 2008, the PLA(N) had been largely absent in international waters for five centuries.  The PRC may also give a false sense of security to those areas where it does not have a direct interest.  By ceding additional maritime security missions to the PLA(N), the U.S. and its partners empower PLA(N) overseas capabilities and the possibility that regional powers will become more reliant on the PRC.  For example, in 2015 the PRC was able to evacuate its citizens from the growing crisis in Yemen due, in part, to their enhanced capabilities from long-range operations in the region and newer platforms[4].

Gain:  The PRC does provide a short-term solution with a modern navy.  It has the motivation to prove itself as a guarantor of maritime security, not just a consumer.  The PRC has the capability and the desire to contain and curtail piracy in the Horn of Africa if not to simply secure shipping then for longer-range operational and strategic goals.

Option #2:  The U.S. builds capacity in the Somali maritime forces, and trains nascent Somali governments with the tools required to ensure domestic maritime security.  Local Somali governments have had some recent success in counter-piracy activity, rescuing eight Indian mariners captured by Somali pirates[5].  Introducing counter-piracy training, maritime domain awareness and intelligence sharing would go far in allowing regions of Somalia to work together to stop what should be a Somali law enforcement issue.

Risk:  The threat of corruption is a major concern; also the responsibility for building maritime law enforcement capacity would be a political minefield for any host nation.

Gain:  Using the dictum of “Teach a man to fish,” places Somalia in a position to police its waterways will provide a permanent solution to the piracy problem.  It will also ensure illegal fishing or overfishing by other states does not further deplete local fishing grounds[6].  Piracy in Somalia was born of frustrated fisherman who had no recourse against foreign fishing boats poaching their grounds.  Giving Somalia the ability to not only deter piracy, but also police their waters against illegal fishing should provide a complete long-term solution.

Option #3:  The U.S. continues to enable Private Maritime Security Companies, (PMSCs), to provide on-board armed guards at the shipping companies’ discretion.  To date, no ship with an armed team aboard has been successfully taken by Somali pirates.

Risk:  PMSCs are subject to market fluctuations.  As piracy rose in 2006-2008, PMSCs proliferated providing a wide spectrum of cost, capabilities, and legitimacy.  Ceding full maritime security control to unregulated PMSCs or to PMSCs from non-partnered nations could have other consequences as well, such as future military operations employing a trained, unaligned and unregulated force.  Additionally, many of the smaller shipping companies, favored by pirates, cannot afford PMSCs thus potentially identifying the smaller shipping companies as soft targets.

Gain:  Working with shipping companies and PMSCs would ensure the U.S. and its partners contribute to regulation of legitimate and capable PMSCs and would deny the PLA(N) an opportunity to enhance its capabilities through gaining experience in counter-piracy operations.

Option #4:  Coalition operations in the region continue.  In addition to independent operations, Somali piracy resulted in the creation of several key partnerships including Combined Task Force 151, the European Union’s Operation ATALANTA, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Operation OCEAN SHIELD.

Risk:  Coalition investment of time, money, staff, and platforms for any operation takes away from other missions.  If other missions such as North Korea, Iran, and threats in the Mediterranean Sea have a higher immediate priority, then coalition ships might not be available if the pirate threat level is assessed as low.  In November 2016, for example, NATO concluded Operation OCEAN SHIELD as it shifted resources to the Baltic and Black Seas[7].

Gain:  Coalition operations enhance interoperability between traditional and new partners.  The larger the coalition, the fewer resources each nation has to contribute.  In most maritime operations, few countries can go it alone.

Other Comments:  While the options are limitless, the options presented here are those the authors assess as being the most feasible and acceptable.

Recommendation:  None


Endnotes:

[1]  CNBC Int’l, Luke Graham, “Somali Pirates are Back,” 03 May 2017

[2] The Trumpet, Anthony Chibarirwe, “Somali Pirates are Back,” 19 May 2017

[3]  The Diplomat, Ankit Panda, “As Somali Pirates Return, Chinese Navy Boasts of Anti-Piracy Operations,” 16 April 2017

[4]  The Diplomat, Kevin Wang, “Yemen Evacuation a Strategic Step Forward for China,” 10 April 2015

[5]  The New York Times, Hussein Mohamed, “8 Indians rescued from Somali Pirates, Officials say,” 12 April 2017

[6]  Asia Today, Hong Soon-Do, “Chinese Illegal Fishing Threatens World Waters,” May 2017

[7]  Reuters, Robin Emmott, “NATO Ends Counter-Piracy Mission as Focus Shifts to Mediterranean,” 23 November 2016

Bob Hein China (People's Republic of China) Claude Berube Horn of Africa Option Papers Piracy

Divergent Options on The Loopcast

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On June 11, 2017 the Divergent Options Team of Phil Walter, Steve Leonard, and Bob Hein joined Chelsea Damon and Sina Kashefipour of The Loopcast for a 62 minute discussion of the origin and intent behind Divergent Options.

You can access the podcast via the The Loopcast here, download the MP3 here, or access it via iTunes here.

If you enjoy The Loopcast please consider making a donation to support it via Patreon.

 

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U.S. Options to Address a Growing People’s Republic of China Army (Navy)

Thomas is a junior sailor in the United States Navy.  He can be found on Twitter @CTNope.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the United States Navy, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.  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:  Worrying trends in military shipbuilding by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Date Originally Written:  April, 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June, 15, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the current balance of naval forces, both qualitatively and quantitatively, between the U.S. and the PRC, must be examined or the U.S. will face severe policy consequences.  The article is written from the point of view of U.S. Navy (USN) leadership as they assess the growth of the People’s Liberation Army’s (Navy) (PLAN).  This article focuses on options that U.S. policymakers have in response to the trends in the PRC’s military shipbuilding, not the trends themselves.

Background:  Since the mid-2000’s the PRC’s economic situation has vastly improved, most evident as its GDP has grown from 1.2 billion to 11 billion over fifteen years, a growth of over 900 percent[1].  This growth has enabled the PRC to embark on a remarkable shipbuilding program, achieving vast strides in training, technology, capabilities, and actual hull count of modern vessels[3][2].  This growth is creating security challenges in the Pacific as well as igniting tensions between the U.S. and the PRC, as the disparity between the USN and the PLAN shrinks at an alarming rate[4].  These developments have been closely watched by both the U.S. and her Partners, challenging U.S. policymakers to address this new, rising maritime presence while maintaining security in the region.

Significance:  In the U.S. there is a growing bipartisan voice concerned about an assertive PRC[5], as halfway across the globe Asian nations wearily observe the PRC’s growth.  A more powerful PLAN allows greater flexibility for PRC officials to exert influence.  These impressive shipbuilding trends will embolden the PRC, as now they can brush aside actors that held credible deterrence when competing against an unmodernized PLAN.  If current trends in the capacity of PRC shipbuilding and technological advancement continue, the PLAN will be able to challenge the efforts of the USN and U.S. Partners to continue to keep sea lanes of communication open in the space around the disputed ‘nine-dash-line’ as well as other parts of the Pacific.  It is plausible that in the long-term the PLAN will emerge as a near-peer to the USN in the Pacific; as U.S. has to provide for its own security, the security of others, and the security of the Global Commons, while the PRC only has to provide security for itself and its interests.

Option #1:  Platform centric approach.  Review the current force structure of the USN to decide how large the force needs to be to satisfy U.S. policy goals and modify the fleet accordingly.

Risk:  Focusing too heavily on platforms could leave the USN without the tools needed to be on the technological forefront during the next conflict.  Also, a focus on building legacy systems could take resources away from initiatives that require them.

Gain:  An increased number of platforms would allow U.S. policymakers more flexibility in how they decide to most effectively use the USN.  Additionally, more hulls would not only contribute to the deterrence generated by the USN, but also improve the readiness of the USN as more ships can remain in port and undergo maintenance, while other ships conduct missions.  Option #1 maximizes readiness for the next conflict.

Option #2:  Modernization approach.  Focus on improving today’s platforms while additionally investing in the future with disruptive technologies, but do not undertake an extensive build up of hulls.  In this option the fleet would still expand in accordance with current programs, to include the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, and Virginia Class Submarines, but these production runs would be cut short to save funds.

Risk:  In the mid-term the USN might not have the hulls necessary to address global security concerns.  However, having fewer hulls does not mean that the USN can’t fight and win, instead, it will require that the USN’s leaders adapt.

Gain:  Investing in the future could yield powerful technologies that change the calculus on how the U.S. employs military forces.  Technologies like the railgun or unmanned systems change the way the USN fights by improving critical traits such as firepower and survivability.  Future technologies could create even greater offsets than previously discovered technologies, with the advent of artificial intelligence on the horizon, future applications appear limitless.  Option #2 increases the chance that the U.S. will continue to operate at the cutting edge of technology.

Option #3:  Balanced approach.  Modify the USN’s size, but not as broadly as the first option, instead providing additional funding towards Research and Development (R&D).

Risk:  This option could prove to be too little, too late.  The USN would benefit from the handful of additional hulls, but PRC shipbuilding pace might negate the benefit of the extra vessels.  The PRC could possibly out-build the USN by adding two new hulls for every one the USN commissions.  Likewise, the USN might need significantly more resources for R&D efforts.

Gain:  The USN would receive additional Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, LCS Frigates, and Virginia Class Submarines.  In addition, this option would free up more funds to put into R&D to keep the USN ahead of the PLAN in terms of technology.  Overall, this would keep the USN on a balanced footing to be “ready to fight tonight” in the short to mid-term, yet still on a decent footing in the long-term, from R&D efforts.  Option #3 could turn out to be the best of both worlds, combining the increased readiness through hulls as well as continued technological innovation.

Other Comments:  The PLAN still has many issues, ranging from naval subsystems, to C4I, to training and manning[3], but they are correcting their deficiencies at an impressive rate. As such, there is a cost for the U.S. in terms of both omission and commission.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  The World Bank Statistics. Retrieved from: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?

[2]  Gabriel Collins and LCDR Michael Grubb, USN. “A Comprehensive Survey of China’s Dynamic Shipbuilding Industry, Commercial Development and Strategic Implications”.     Published August 2008. Retrieved from: https://www.usnwc.edu/Research—Gaming/China-Maritime-Studies-Institute/Publications/documents/CMS1_Collins-Grubb.aspx

[3]  Ronald O’Rourke . “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress”. Retrieved from: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf

[4]  Shannon Tiezzi with Andrew Erickson. “Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: Measuring the Waves”.  Retrieved from: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/chinese-naval-shipbuilding-measuring-the-waves/

[5]  Various. “Hotspots Along China’s Maritime Periphery”.
Retrieved from: https://www.uscc.gov/Hearings/hotspots-along-china%E2%80%99s-maritime-periphery

Capacity / Capability Enhancement China (People's Republic of China) Maritime Option Papers Thomas United States

Call for Papers: Options for Great Power Interaction

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Summary:

Divergent Options is calling for papers discussing options that Great Powers, Nations, Organizations, Groups, or Individuals have regarding Great Powers.  While there are different definitions or theories behind what a Great Power is, Divergent Options is not wedded to any one of them.

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our article template which is designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by August 4, 2017.

If you are not interested in writing on this topic we still welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea.  We look forward to hearing from you!

A Few Questions From Twitter Followers & Elsewhere to Inspire Potential Writers:

What role should Great Powers or one specific Great Power have in the world?

On what issues should Great Powers attempt to lead the world?

How can nations band together to protect their interests from a Great Power?

How can nations work with a Great Power to pursue their interests?

What is more important to a Great Power, individuals, administrative behavior, or the constraints of the international system?

What are options for Great Power cooperation on counterterrorism / stability / peacekeeping / counterinsurgency in the age of “America First?”

Call For Papers Great Powers