Options for United States Military Assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Northern Iraq

Brandon Wallace is a policy wonk who spends his time watching Iraq, Kurdish borders, data, and conflict in the Middle East of all varieties.  Brandon can be found on Twitter at @brandonwallacex and at his website www.brandonlouiswallace.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.

National Security Situation:  As the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) looms closer and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) ponders its future relationship with greater Iraq, the United States must decide what, if any, military assistance it will provide to the Kurds.

Date Originally Written:  July 7, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 10, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This options paper is written from the hypothetical perspective of a senior policy advisor for a policy maker in the United States government.

Background:  The KRG, a semi-autonomous region in Northern Iraq with intentions of secession, requires both intrastate and external sponsors to sustain functionality.  The KRG depends on resource allocations from the central Government of Iraq (GOI) in Baghdad, as well as assistance from the United States and other international partners.  The campaign to defeat ISIS requires a functioning KRG partnership, resulting in several partners providing additional capital and arms to the region.  Without such assistance, the KRG faces serious economic turmoil.  The GOI allocates 17 percent of the federal budget for the KRG, yet the budget does not balance KRG spending.  The KRG carries an inflated public sector wherein 70 percent of KRG public spending is devoted to payroll[1]. The KRG must also support internally displaced people (IDP).  This year, KRG debts exceeded US$22 billion[2].

Moreover, the KRG cannot sustain itself through oil sales.  It is estimated that the maximum output of KRG oil production is nearly 800 kbd (Thousand Barrels Per Day)[3].  To balance the budget, the KRG would need oil to sell at nearly US$105[4].  Today oil trades at roughly US$50.

Significance:  The KRG’s ability to receive independent assistance from the United States has profound implications for the United States’ relationship with the GOI, Kurdish commutes in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and relations between neighboring states.  Yet, the KRG has been a valuable non-state partner in the fight against ISIS.  The United States paid the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs (the military forces of the KRG) US$415 million for their role in the Mosul Operation to topple ISIS- this does not include military equipment and other forms of aid from the United States and international partners[5].

Option #1:  The United States sustains its current level of military assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  This option risks dissatisfaction with bordering countries of the KRG.  Sustained support implies United States complicit backing of the KRG to the GOI, Iran, Turkey, and a significantly crippled Syria.  Further, military assistance, specifically cash payments from the United States, contributes to the bloating KRG payroll.

Gain:  The KRG will continue to be an important partner in the campaign against ISIS.  As ISIS is driven out of its controlled territories, a well-supported Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces will be necessary for security operations post-Mosul.  No allied actor is so upset by United States support of the KRG as to dramatically obstruct the campaign against ISIS.  Option #1 carefully mitigates the reservations of other actors while accelerating counter-ISIS operations.

Option #2:  The United States diversifies and increases its assistance to the KRG.

Risk:  Significantly increasing independent assistance to the KRG, without involving the GOI, will likely be met with open hostility.  If the United States increases its support to Kurdish groups, anxious governments with Kurdish minorities may attempt to undermine United States’ interests in retaliation.

Conversely, the United States may choose to diversify its assistance to the KRG by changing its lending model.  Last July, an International Monetary Fund loan of US$5.25 billion conditionally reserved US$225 million for KRG road infrastructure and small projects[4].  However, adopting this model, setting conditions for KRG sharing with the GOI, opens the United States to risks.  The KRG may not have the stability to repay a loan, and it is likely the GOI, who may be better positioned to pay off the loan quickly, will insist on the KRG meeting a 17 percent repayment share.  The symbolism of any conditional loan or military transfer to the KRG will certainly strain relations with the GOI.

Gain:  United States’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Foreign Military Assistance (FMA) programs in Iraq require the approval of the GOI, even when agreements are specifically directed at the KRG.  Per United States law, the FMS and FMA are limited only to interaction with central governments.  To secure large-scale military sales directly to the KRG would require a congressional change to existing United States’ laws.  Option #2 would surely win the favor of the KRG, and it may expedite counter-ISIS operations across northern territories.  Expanding the scope of assistance to the KRG by lending conditionally or giving conditionally to the GOI, could force Erbil, capital of the KRG, and Baghdad to broaden collaboration in developing the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).  Option #2 ensures the KRG does not return to relative isolation from the international community in a post-ISIS future.

Option #3:  The United States ceases all military assistance to the KRG and relies on the GOI to allocate resources.

Risk:  This option to cease assistance to the KRG may hinder security operations in Northern Iraq, and it diminishes the United States’ presence in the region- a vacuum other countries may fill.  For example, this option will certainly please Iran.  Conversely, the KRG will likely interpret this move as aggressive.

Gain:  Providing the GOI full authority in distributing assistance communicates a strong faith in the central government and the Iraqi state.  Further, this consolidation of assistance to a single power center in Baghdad may simplify bureaucratic procedure and empower the ISF.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


[1]  Coles, I (2016, February 16) Iraqi Kurdish deputy PM says deal with Baghdad ‘easy’ if salaries paid. Retrieved June 06, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-idUSKCN0VP22Z

[2]  Natali, D (2017, January 3) Is Iraqi Kurdistan heading toward civil war? Retrieved June 7, 2017, from http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/01/kurdistan-civil-war-iraq-krg-sulaimaniya-pkk-mosul-kurds.html

[3]  Jiyad, A. M (2015, July 7) Midyear Review of the State Budget and Oil Export Revenues. Retrieved June 5, 2017, from http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ahmed-Mousa-Jiyad-Mid-Year-Review-of-the-State-Budget-and-Oil-Export-Revenues.pdf

[4]  Grattan, M (2017, June 25) David Petraeus on US policy under Donald Trump, the generational war against Islamist terrorism, and dealing with China. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://theconversation.com/david-petraeus-on-us-policy-under-donald-trump-the-generational-war-against-islamist-terrorism-and-dealing-with-china-80045

[5]  Knights, M (2016, July 28) The U.S., the Peshmerga, and Mosul. Retrieved June 6, 2017, from http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-u.s.-the-peshmerga-and-mosul

Allies & Partners Brandon Wallace Capacity / Capability Enhancement Iraq Kurdistan Option Papers United States

Options for Avoiding U.S. Complicity for Coalition War Crimes in Yemen

Michael R. Tregle, Jr. is a U.S. Army judge advocate officer currently assigned as the Brigade Judge Advocate for the 101st Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY).  A former enlisted infantryman, he has served at almost every level of command, from the infantry squad to an Army Service Component Command, and overseas in Afghanistan and the Pacific Theater.  He tweets @shockandlawblog and writes at www.medium.com/@shock_and_law.  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:  On January 31, 2017, the United Nations (U.N.) Panel of Experts on Yemen issued a report concluding that widespread violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)[1] had occurred in the Yemeni armed conflict.  Noting numerous violations throughout 2016 alone, including targeting civilian persons and objects, excessive collateral damage, deprivation of liberty, and torture, the Panel concluded that some of these violations amounted to war crimes.  The U.S. provided billions of dollars in logistical support, munitions, and intelligence sharing to the Saudi-led coalition that was responsible for the IHL violations.  Such support could render the United States liable for Saudi violations under the law of state responsibility[2] or as an aider and abettor.

Date Originally Written:  May 19, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June 29, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty officer in the U.S. Army.  This article is written from the point of view of the United States toward continued support of the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni war in light of war crimes allegations made by the U.N. Panel of Experts on Yemen.

Background:  Until October 2016, U.S. support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen included the provision of munitions, including weapons and precision guidance kits, refueling capability, and other logistical support.  Following a coalition attack on a funeral in Sana’a that killed 132 civilians and injured nearly 700, which was carried out with a U.S.-supplied GBU-12 precision guided bomb, the United States denounced the attack and suspended further arms sales to Saudi Arabia[3].  The Trump Administration recently announced the resumption of over $100 billion in arms sales to the Saudis, much of which is likely to be used in Yemen[4].  More recently, another key coalition ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was accused of detainee abuse and disappearances, though the link between U.S. support and these accusations is less clear[5].

Significance:  Once the U.S. became aware of the violations, continued support to a Saudi coalition responsible for war crimes could render the U.S. vicariously liable for those crimes.  The principle of state responsibility renders states legally responsible for the wrongful acts of others when the state aids or assists in the wrongful act and knows of the circumstances making that act wrongful.  Similarly, aider and abettor liability could render the U.S. liable if it knew, or should have known, that the aid it provided could result in war crimes[6].  U.S. liability could take many forms, ranging from international condemnation to the indictment of key U.S. arms-sale decision makers in the International Criminal Court as principles to war crimes.  If nothing else, continued support of the Saudi-led coalition in light of the U.N. allegations would erode U.S. credibility as an advocate for human rights and the rule of law and empower other states to ignore international norms protecting civilians in conflict.

Option #1:  The U.S. ceases all arms sales and other support to the Saudi-led coalition until the coalition demonstrates improved compliance with IHL and greater protection of civilians in Yemen.  Such compliance can be ensured through neutral observers, assurances from coalition members, and the provision of U.S. trainers and advisors to improve coalition targeting procedures and detention and interrogation practices.

Risk:  This option risks damaging the longstanding security relationship with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, key allies in the region.  Furthermore, cutting off all support may well strengthen the Houthi opposition in Yemen and foster still worse humanitarian conditions on the ground.  If the U.S. fully absolves itself of supporting the Saudis in Yemen, very little international leverage to compel coalition compliance with IHL will remain, possibly leading to even more violations.

Gain:  This option seeks to maintain U.S. credibility as a world leader in protecting the victims of conflict and demonstrates a willingness to hold even its closest friends accountable for violations.  It further ensures that the U.S. will not be complicit in any way in continued war crimes or other IHL violations in Yemen, thereby avoiding international condemnation or legal liability.

Option #2:  The U.S. continues arms sales and logistical support to the Saudi-led coalition regardless of its compliance with international law.  This option represents maintaining the status quo, and has been implicitly endorsed by the Trump administration[7].

Risk:  As a result of this option, the U.S. will certainly face international condemnation and potential legal liability for supporting a Saudi regime that the U.S. knows is engaged in widespread IHL violations and potential war crimes.  At best, the U.S. reputation as a leader in upholding IHL and human rights norms will be damaged.  At worst, senior U.S. officials could be indicted as principles to war crimes under theories of state responsibility or aiding and abetting the coalition’s conduct.

Gain:  The U.S. cements its relationship with Saudi Arabia as a key ally in the region and makes clear that defeating the Houthi rebellion, and by extension denying Iranian influence in the region, is of greater import than compliance with IHL.  This option signals to coalition allies that they have U.S. support in imposing their will on Yemen, whatever the cost.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


[1]  International Humanitarian law refers to the international law of war or law of armed conflict.  The three terms are synonymous.

[2]  See also Ryan Goodman & Miles Jackson, State Responsibility for Assistance to Foreign Forces (aka How to Assess US-UK Support for Saudi Ops in Yemen), Just Security, Aug. 31, 2016, https://www.justsecurity.org/32628/state-responsibility-assistance-foreign-forces-a-k-a-assess-us-uk-support-saudi-military-ops-yemen/; Ryan Goodman, Jared Kushner, the Arms Deal, and Alleged Saudi War Crimes, Just Security, May 20, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/41221/jared-kushner-arms-deal-alleged-saudi-war-crimes/.

[3]  Phil Stewart & Warren Strobel, U.S. to Halt Some Arms Sales to Saudi, Citing Civilian Deaths in Yemen Campaign, Reuters, Dec. 13, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-saudiarabia-yemen-exclusive-idUSKBN1421UK.

[4]  Jared Malsin, The Big Problem with President Trump’s Record Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia, Time, May 22, 2017, http://time.com/4787797/donald-trump-yemen-saudi-arabia-arms-deal/?xid=homepage.

[5]  Ryan Goodman & Alex Moorehead, UAE, a Key U.S. Partner in Yemen, Implicated in Detainee Abuse, Just Security, May 15, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/40978/uae-key-partner-yemen-implicated-detainee-abuse/.

[6]  Aiding and Abetting liability is described in U.S. Dep’t of Def., DoD Law of War Manual para. 18.23.4 (May 2016).  For a more detailed explanation, see Ryan Goodman, The Law of Aiding and Abetting (Alleged) War Crimes:  How to Assess US and UK Support for Saudi Strikes in Yemen, Just Security, Sep. 1, 2016, https://www.justsecurity.org/32656/law-aiding-abetting-alleged-war-crimes-assess-uk-support-saudi-strikes-yemen/; Ryan Goodman, Jared Kushner, the Arms Deal, and Alleged Saudi War Crimes, Just Security, May 20, 2017, https://www.justsecurity.org/41221/jared-kushner-arms-deal-alleged-saudi-war-crimes/.

[7]  See Malsin, supra note 3.

Law & Legal Issues Michael R. Tregle, Jr. Option Papers United States War Crimes Yemen

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.


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].



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.


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.

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].



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.


[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

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.


[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

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.


[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

U.S. Options to Develop a Cyberspace Influence Capability

Sina Kashefipour is the founder and producer of the national security podcast The Loopcast.  He  currently works as an analyst.  The opinions expressed in this paper do not represent the position of his employer.  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 battle for control and influence over the information space.

Date Originally Written:  May 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  May 29, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that there is no meat space or cyberspace, there is only the information space.  The author also believes that while the tools, data, and knowledge are available, there is no United States organization designed primarily to address the issue of information warfare.

Background:  Information warfare is being used by state and non-state adversaries.  Information warfare, broadly defined, makes use of information technology to gain an advantage over an adversary.  Information is the weapon, the target, and the medium through which this type of conflict takes place[1][2][3].  Information warfare includes tactics such as misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, psychological operations and computer network operations [3][4][5].

Significance:  Information warfare is a force multiplier.  Control and mastery of information determines success in politics and enables the driving of the political narrative with the benefit of not having to engage in overt warfare.  Information warfare has taken a new edge as the information space and the political are highly interlinked and can, in some instances, be considered as one[6][7][8].

Option #1:  The revival of the United States Information Agency (USIA) or the creation of a government agency with similar function and outlook. The USIA’s original purpose can be summed as:

  • “To explain and advocate U.S. policies in terms that are credible and meaningful in foreign cultures”
  • “To provide information about the official policies of the United States, and about the people, values, and institutions which influence those policies”
  • “To bring the benefits of international engagement to American citizens and institutions by helping them build strong long-term relationships with their counterparts overseas”
  • “To advise the President and U.S. government policy-makers on the ways in which foreign attitudes will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of U.S. policies.[9]”

USIA’s original purpose was largely designated by the Cold War.  The aforementioned four points are a good starting point, but any revival of the USIA would involve the resulting organization as one devoted to modern information warfare.  A modern USIA would not just focus on what a government agency can do but also build ties with other governments and across the private sector including with companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter as they are platforms that have been used recently to propagate information warfare campaigns [10][11].  Private sector companies are also essential to understanding and limiting these types of campaigns [10][12][13][14].  Furthermore, building ties and partnering with other countries facing similar issues to engage in information warfare would be part of the mission [15][16][17].

Risk:  There are two fundamental risks to reconstituting a USIA: where does a USIA agency fit within the national security bureaucracy and how does modern information warfare pair with the legal bounds of the first amendment?

Defining the USIA within the national security apparatus would be difficult[18].  The purpose of the USIA would be easy to state, but difficult to bureaucratically define.  Is this an organization to include public diplomacy and how does that pair/compete with the Department of State’s public diplomacy mission?  Furthermore, if this is an organization to include information warfare how does that impact Department of Defense capabilities such as the National Security Agency or United States Cyber Command?  Where does the Broadcasting Board of Governors fit in?  Lastly, modern execution of successful information warfare relies on a whole of government approach or the ability to advance strategy in an interdisciplinary fashion, which is difficult given the complexity of the bureaucracy.

The second risk is how does an agency engage in information warfare in regards to the first amendment?  Consider for a moment that if war or conflict that sees information as the weapon, the target, and the medium, what role can the government legally play?  Can a government wage information warfare without, say, engaging in outright censorship or control of information mediums like Facebook and Twitter?  The legal framework surrounding these issues are ill-defined at present [19][20].

Gain:  Having a fully funded cabinet level organization devoted to information warfare complete with the ability to network across government agencies, other governments and the private sector able to both wage and defend the United States against information warfare.

Option #2:  Smaller and specific interagency working groups similar to the Active Measures Working Group of the late eighties.  The original Active Measures Working Group was an interagency collaboration devoted to countering Soviet disinformation, which consequently became the “U.S Government’s body of expertise on disinformation [21].”

The proposed working group would focus on a singular issue and in contrast to Option #1, a working group would have a tightly focused mission, limited staff, and only focus on a singular problem.

Risk:  Political will is in competition with success, meaning if the proposed working group does not show immediate success, more than likely it will be disbanded.  The group has the potential of being disbanded once the issue appears “solved.”

Gain:  A small and focused group has the potential to punch far above its weight.  As Schoen and Lamb point out “the group exposed Soviet disinformation at little cost to the United States but negated much of the effort mounted by the large Soviet bureaucracy that produced the multibillion dollar Soviet disinformation effort[22].”

Option #3:  The United States Government creates a dox and dump Wikileaks/Shadow Brokers style group[23][24].  If all else fails then engaging in attacks against adversary’s secrets and making them public could be an option.  Unlike the previous two options, this option does not necessarily represent a truthful approach, rather just truthiness[25].  In practice this means leaking/dumping data that reinforces and emphasizes a deleterious narrative concerning an adversary.  Thus, making their secrets very public, and putting the adversary in a compromising position.

Risk:  Burning data publicly might compromise sources and methods which would ultimately impede/stop investigations and prosecutions.  For instance, if an adversary has a deep and wide corruption problem is it more effective to dox and dump accounts and shell companies or engage in a multi-year investigatory process?  Dox and dump would have an immediate effect but an investigation and prosecution would likely have a longer effect.

Gain:  An organization and/or network is only as stable as its secrets are secure, and being able to challenge that security effectively is a gain.

Recommendation:  None


[1]  Virag, Saso. (2017, April 23). Information and Information Warfare Primer. Retrieved from:  http://playgod.org/information-warfare-primer/

[2]  Waltzman, Rand. (2017, April 27). The Weaponization of Information: The Need of Cognitive Security. Testimony presented before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Cybersecurity on April 27, 2017.

[3]  Pomerantsev, Peter and Michael Weiss. (2014). The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money.

[4]  Matthews, Miriam and Paul, Christopher (2016). The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model: Why It Might Work and Options to Counter It

[5]  Giles, Keir. (2016, November). Handbook of Russian Information Warfare. Fellowship Monograph Research Division NATO Defense College.

[6]  Giles, Keir and Hagestad II, William. (2013). Divided by a Common Language: Cyber Definitions in Chinese, Russian, and English. 2013 5th International Conference on Cyber Conflict

[7]  Strategy Bridge. (2017, May 8). An Extended Discussion on an Important Question: What is Information Operations? Retrieved: https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2017/5/8/an-extended-discussion-on-an-important-question-what-is-information-operations

[8] There is an interesting conceptual and academic debate to be had between what is information warfare and what is an information operation. In reality, there is no difference given that the United States’ adversaries see no practical difference between the two.

[9] State Department. (1998). USIA Overview. Retrieved from: http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/usia/usiahome/oldoview.htm

[10]  Nuland, William, Stamos, Alex, and Weedon, Jen. (2017, April 27). Information Operations on Facebook.

[11]  Koerner, Brendan. (2016, March). Why ISIS is Winning the Social Media War. Wired

[12]  Atlantic Council. (2017). Digital Forensic Research Lab Retrieved:  https://medium.com/dfrlab

[13]  Bellingcat. (2017).  Bellingcat: The Home of Online Investigations. Retrieved: https://www.bellingcat.com/

[14]  Bergen, Mark. (2016). Google Brings Fake News Fact-Checking to Search Results. Bloomberg News. Retrieved: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-07/google-brings-fake-news-fact-checking-to-search-results

[15]  NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence. (2017). Retrieved: http://stratcomcoe.org/

[16]  National Public Radio. (2017, May 10). NATO Takes Aim at Disinformation Campaigns. Retrieved: http://www.npr.org/2017/05/10/527720078/nato-takes-aim-at-disinformation-campaigns

[17]  European Union External Action. (2017). Questions and Answers about the East Stratcom Task Force. Retrieved: https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/2116/-questions-and-answers-about-the-east-

[18]  Armstrong, Matthew. (2015, November 12). No, We Do Not Need to Revive The U.S. Information Agency. War on the Rocks. Retrieved:  https://warontherocks.com/2015/11/no-we-do-not-need-to-revive-the-u-s-information-agency/ 

[19]  For example the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 acts more with the issues of funding, organization, and some strategy rather than legal infrastructure issues.  Retrieved: https://www.congress.gov/114/crpt/hrpt840/CRPT-114hrpt840.pdf

[20]  The U.S Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 also known as the Smith-Mundt Act. The act effectively creates the basis for public diplomacy and the dissemination of government view point data abroad. The law also limits what the United States can disseminate at home. Retrieved: http://legisworks.org/congress/80/publaw-402.pdf

[21]  Lamb, Christopher and Schoen, Fletcher (2012, June). Deception, Disinformation, and Strategic Communications: How One Interagency Group Made a Major Difference. Retrieved: http://ndupress.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratperspective/inss/Strategic-Perspectives-11.pdf

[22]  Lamb and Schoen, page 3

[23]  RT. (2016, October 3). Wikileaks turns 10: Biggest Secrets Exposed by Whistleblowing Project. Retrieved: https://www.rt.com/news/361483-wikileaks-anniversary-dnc-assange/

[24]  The Gruqg. (2016, August 18). Shadow Broker Breakdown. Retrieved: https://medium.com/@thegrugq/shadow-broker-breakdown-b05099eb2f4a

[25]  Truthiness is defined as “the quality of seeming to be true according to one’s intuition, opinion, or perception, without regard to logic, factual evidence, or the like.” Dictionary.com. Truthiness. Retrieved:  http://www.dictionary.com/browse/truthiness.

Truthiness in this space is not just about leaking data but also how that data is presented and organized. The goal is to take data and shape it so it feels and looks true enough to emphasize the desired narrative.

Capacity / Capability Enhancement Cyberspace Option Papers Psychological Factors Sina Kashefipour United States

Evolution of U.S. Cyber Operations and Information Warfare

Brett Wessley is an officer in the U.S. Navy, currently assigned to U.S. Pacific Command.   The contents of this paper reflect his own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by U.S. Pacific Command, Department of the Navy or Department of Defense.  Connect with him on Twitter @Brett_Wessley.  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:  Evolving role of cyber operations and information warfare in military operational planning.

Date Originally Written:  April 19, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  May 25, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is intended to present options to senior level Department of Defense planners involved with Unified Command Plan 2017.

Background:  Information Warfare (IW) has increasingly gained prominence throughout defense circles, with both allied and adversarial militaries reforming and reorganizing IW doctrine across their force structures.  Although not doctrinally defined by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), IW has been embraced with varying degrees by the individual branches of the U.S. armed forces[1].  For the purposes of this paper, the definition of IW is: the means of creating non-kinetic effects in the battlespace that disrupt, degrade, corrupt, or influence the ability of adversaries or potential adversaries to conduct military operations while protecting our own.

Significance:  IW has been embraced by U.S. near-peer adversaries as a means of asymmetrically attacking U.S. military superiority.  Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently acknowledged the existence of “information warfare troops,” who conduct military exercises and real-world operations in Ukraine demonstrating the fusion of intelligence, offensive cyber operations, and information operations (IO)[2].   The People’s Republic of China has also reorganized its armed forces to operationalize IW, with the newly created People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force drawing from existing units to combine intelligence, cyber electronic warfare (EW), IO and space forces into a single command[3].

Modern militaries increasingly depend on sophisticated systems for command and control (C2), communications and intelligence.  Information-related vulnerabilities have the potential for creating non-kinetic operational effects, often as effective as kinetic fires options.  According to U.S. Army Major General Stephen Fogarty, “Russian activities in Ukraine…really are a case study for the potential for CEMA, cyber-electromagnetic activities…It’s not just cyber, it’s not just electronic warfare, it’s not just intelligence, but it’s really effective integration of all these capabilities with kinetic measures to actually create the effect that their commanders [want] to achieve[4].”  Without matching the efforts of adversaries to operationalize IW, U.S. military operations risk vulnerability to enemy IW operations.

Option #1:  United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) will oversee Military Department efforts to man, train, and equip IW and IW-related forces to be used to execute military operations under Combatant Command (CCMD) authority.  Additionally, USCYBERCOM will synchronize IW planning and coordinate IW operations across the CCMDs, as well as execute some IW operations under its own authority.

Risk:  USCYBERCOM, under United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) as a sub-unified command, and being still relatively new, has limited experience coordinating intelligence, EW, space and IO capabilities within coherent IW operations.  USSTRATCOM is tasked with responsibility for DoD-wide space operations, and the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) are tasked with intelligence, EW, and IO operational responsibility[5][6][7].”  Until USCYBERCOM gains experience supporting GCCs with full-spectrum IW operations, previously GCC-controlled IO and EW operations will operate at elevated risk relative to similar support provided by USSTRATCOM.

Gain:  USCYBERCOM overseeing Military Department efforts to man, train, and equip IW and IW-related forces will ensure that all elements of successful non-kinetic military effects are ready to be imposed on the battlefield.  Operational control of IW forces will remain with the GCC, but USCYBERCOM will organize, develop, and plan support during crisis and war.  Much like United States Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) creation as a unified command consolidated core special operations activities, and tasked USSOCOM to organize, train, and equip special operations forces, fully optimized USCYBERCOM would do the same for IW-related forces.

This option is a similar construct to the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs) which ensure GCCs are fully supported during execution of operational plans.  Similar to TSOCs, Theater Cyber Commands could be established to integrate with GCCs and support both contingency planning and operations, replacing the current Joint Cyber Centers (JCCs) that coordinate current cyber forces controlled by USCYBERCOM and its service components[8].

Streamlined C2 and co-location of IW and IW-related forces would have a force multiplying effect when executing non-kinetic effects during peacetime, crisis and conflict.  Instead of cyber, intelligence, EW, IO, and space forces separately planning and coordinating their stove-piped capabilities, they would plan and operate as an integrated unit.

Option #2:  Task GCCs with operational responsibility over aligned cyber forces, and integrate them with current IW-related planning and operations.

Risk:  GCCs lack the institutional cyber-related knowledge and expertise that USCYBERCOM maintains, largely gained by Commander, USCYBERCOM traditionally being dual-hatted as Director of the National Security Agency (NSA).  While it is plausible that in the future USCYBERCOM could develop equivalent cyber-related tools and expertise of NSA, it is much less likely that GCC responsibility for cyber forces could sustain this relationship with NSA and other Non-Defense Federal Departments and Agencies (NDFDA) that conduct cyber operations.

Gain:  GCCs are responsible for theater operational and contingency planning, and would be best suited for tailoring IW-related effects to military plans.  During all phases of military operations, the GCC would C2 IW operations, leveraging the full spectrum of IW to both prepare the operational environment and execute operations in conflict.  While the GCCs would be supported by USSTRATCOM/USCYBERCOM, in addition to the NDFDAs, formally assigning Cyber Mission Teams (CMTs) as the Joint Force Cyber Component (JFCC) to the GCC would enable the Commander influence the to manning, training, and equipping of forces relevant to the threats posed by their unique theater.

GCCs are already responsible for theater intelligence collection and IO, and removing administrative barriers to integrating cyber-related effects would improve the IW capabilities in theater.  Although CMTs currently support GCCs and their theater campaign and operational plans, targeting effects are coordinated instead of tasked[9].  Integration of the CMTs as a fully operational JFCC would more efficiently synchronize non-kinetic effects throughout the targeting cycle.

Other Comments:  The current disjointed nature of DoD IW planning and operations prevents the full impact of non-kinetic effects to be realized.  While cyber, intelligence, EW, IO, and space operations are carried out by well-trained and equipped forces, these planning efforts remain stove-piped within their respective forces.  Until these operations are fully integrated, IW will remain a strength for adversaries who have organized their forces to exploit this military asymmetry.

Recommendation:  None.


[1]  Richard Mosier, “NAVY INFORMATION WARFARE — WHAT IS IT?,” Center for International Maritime Security, September 13, 2016. http://cimsec.org/navy-information-warfare/27542

[2]  Vladimir Isachenkov, “Russia military acknowledges new branch: info warfare troops,” The Associated Press, February 22, 2017. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/8b7532462dd0495d9f756c9ae7d2ff3c/russian-military-continues-massive-upgrade

[3]  John Costello, “The Strategic Support Force: China’s Information Warfare Service,” The Jamestown Foundation, February 8, 2016. https://jamestown.org/program/the-strategic-support-force-chinas-information-warfare-service/#.V6AOI5MrKRv

[4]  Keir Giles, “The Next Phase of Russian Information Warfare,” The NATO STRATCOM Center of Excellence, accessed April 20, 2017. http://www.stratcomcoe.org/next-phase-russian-information-warfare-keir-giles

[5]  U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Joint Publication 2-0: Joint Intelligence”, October 22, 2013, Chapter III: Intelligence Organizations and Responsibilities, III-7-10.

[6]  U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Joint Publication 3-13: Information Operations”, November 20, 2014, Chapter III: Authorities, Responsibilities, and Legal Considerations, III-2; Chapter IV: Integrating Information-Related Capabilities into the Joint Operations Planning Process, IV-1-5.

[7]  U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Joint Publication 3-12 (R): Cyberspace Operations”, February 5, 2013, Chapter III: Authorities, Roles, and Responsibilities, III-4-7.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  U.S. Cyber Command News Release, “All Cyber Mission Force Teams Achieve Initial Operating Capability,” U.S. Department of Defense, October 24, 2016.  https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/984663/all-cyber-mission-force-teams-achieve-initial-operating-capability/

Brett Wessley Cyberspace Information and Intelligence Option Papers Planning Psychological Factors United States