DOD Report Forecasts Future Military Environment

The U.S. Joint Forces Command has updated its assessment of emerging geopolitical and technological trends and estimated their potential impact on future military operations in the new Joint Operating Environment (JOE) 2010 report (pdf).

“We will find ourselves caught off guard by changes in the political, economic, technological, strategic, and operational environments,” the report states. “We will find ourselves surprised by the creativity and capability of our adversaries. Our goal is not to eliminate surprise – that is impossible. Our goal is, by a careful consideration of the future, to suggest the attributes of a joint force capable of adjusting with minimum difficulty when the surprise inevitably comes.”

The JOE 2010 report is not overly sophisticated.  It is full of clumsily formulated truisms.  (“Modern wars are fought in more than simply the physical elements of the battlefield.”)  It recycles tired maxims from Sun Tzu.  It misspells Hitler’s first name.

But it also presents a number of stimulating assertions and provocative observations.  For example:

Growing financial deficits “will likely mean far fewer dollars available to spend on defense… Indeed, the Department of Defense may shrink to less than ten percent of the total Federal budget…. If the U.S. enters a financial regime in which defense is to be cut by a third or more, Joint Force planners must carefully explore new areas of risk as force posture and procurement budgets shrink.”

“Future Joint Force commanders will find conflict over water endemic to their world, whether as the spark or the underlying cause of conflicts among various racial, tribal, or political groups, …with armed groups controlling or warring over remaining water, while the specter of disease resulting from unsanitary conditions would hover in the background.”

“The challenges that Chinese leadership confronts at present are enormous, and an unsuccessful China is perhaps more worrisome than a prosperous one. China is confronting major internal problems that could have an impact on its strategic course. The country will face increasing demographic pressures as its population ages. Due to its ‘one child’ policy, China may grow old before it grows rich. Furthermore, a cultural preference for male heirs will create a surplus male population nearing 30 million by 2020.”

“The open and free flow of information favored by the West will allow adversaries an unprecedented ability to gather intelligence. Other nations without the legal and cultural restraints found in the U.S. may excel at capturing, assessing, or even manipulating this information for military purposes as an aid to waging the ‘Battle of Narratives.’ Indeed, adversaries have already taken advantage of computer networks and the power of information technology not only to plan and execute savage acts of terrorism, but also to influence directly the perceptions and will of the U.S. Government and the American population.”

“It is by no means certain that the United States and its allies will maintain their overall lead in technological development over the next 25 years. America’s secondary educational system is declining in a relative sense when compared to leading technological competitors, e.g., India and China.”

The previous edition (pdf) of the JOE report in 2008 generated unwanted controversy when it explicitly identified North Korea and Israel as nuclear weapons states, and warned of a threat to the stability of Mexico from criminal gangs and drug cartels.  Regrettably, perhaps, most of those rough edges have been smoothed out in the latest report.

Moletronics, Insonification, and More from JASON

Nearly two dozen reports from the JASON defense advisory panel have just been added to the archive of JASON reports on the Federation of American Scientists website.

New additions (all pdf) include a 2004 report on “DNA Barcodes and Watermarks,” a 2001 report on “Moletronics” or molecular electronics, and a 1998 report on “Insonification for Area Denial” (where “insonification” means the projection of focused sound waves).  Scanned copies of older JASON reports have been OCR’d to render them word searchable.

A partial, chronological list of unclassified JASON titles from 1963 to 2009 (pdf) was prepared by Allen Thomson, who also helped gather the latest additions to the online collection.

The JASON panel is regularly tasked to investigate challenging, complex issues that are on the horizon if not the forefront of defense science.  But many of the panel’s reports are sufficiently well written that they are at least partially intelligible to non-specialists.  No new JASON reports have been approved for public release since October 2009.

White House Promotes Prizes for Open Government

Executive branch agencies should “increase the use of prizes and challenges as tools for promoting open government,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a memorandum to agency heads (pdf) this week.

“It is Administration policy to strongly encourage agencies to utilize prizes and challenges as tools for advancing open government, innovation, and the agency’s mission,” OMB said.

The memorandum, as promised in the December 2009 White House Open Government Directive (pdf), is intended to provide “a framework for how agencies can use challenges, prizes, and other incentive-backed strategies to find innovative or cost-effective solutions to improving open government.”

The substance of the desired improvements was not spelled out in the latest memo, but the earlier Directive said that “The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government.”  None of these principles is instinctive or can be taken for granted, and the prize program is an evidently sincere effort to help overcome bureaucratic resistance to greater openness.

“A prize should not be an end in itself, but one means within a broader strategy for spurring private innovation and change,” the new OMB memo said.

Army: FOIA Requesters Are “Not an Adversary”

Slowly and unevenly, the Obama Administration’s open government message is filtering down to the agency level.

We have entered “a new era of open government,” Army officials informed a government audience recently.  There will be “increased emphasis on the Freedom of Information Act… Agency FOIA programs must be improved… Commanders need to direct all agency personnel to place a higher priority on timely assistance to FOIA personnel.”

The FOIA requester “is not an adversary,” the Army FOIA Management Conference was told, according to November 2009 briefing slides (pdf) that were released last month.

In reality, many FOIA proceedings are quite adversarial.  But perhaps the Army meant that both FOIA requesters and FOIA responders are part of the same process, and therefore ought to cooperate as far as possible.  It’s a wholesome message to send.

Congressional Oversight, and More from CRS

New Congressional Research Service reports obtained by Secrecy News that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“Visa Security Policy: Roles of the Departments of State and Homeland Security,” March 8, 2010.

“Legislative Options After Citizens United v. FEC: Constitutional and Legal Issues,” March 8, 2010.

“FY2011 Budget Documents: Internet and GPO Availability,” March 8, 2010.

“House Committee Markups: Manual of Procedures and Procedural Strategies,” February 25, 2010.

“Congressional Oversight: An Overview,” February 22, 2010.

New Industry Biosecurity Conference To Host Experts from Government, Academia

A tight funding environment for academic research, coupled with rapid technological advances, has created an environment where innovation will increasingly occur in industry and at start-up companies.  Regulation in new fields, such as synthetic biology, trails the cutting edge of research, creating an extra need for industry to be involved in the discussion surrounding biosecurity.

A new conference hopes to fill this role by bringing top Administration and Agency officials directly to the site of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) annual meeting.  Organized with the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) and the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response (ISTAR), the new Biosecurity conference is notable in that it demonstrates a commitment by BIO to examine biosecurity issues.

Looking to foster the discussion, the Obama administration is sending a significant number of participants from various relevant agencies; Gary Samore, the White House Coordinator for the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services, are expected to participate in the opening session.  The conference will also hold sessions on food security, public health surveillance, countermeasures, and risk mitigation.

More information is available at the conference web site,

Testing the No-New-Nuclear-Weapons Pledge

The Air Force is considering a replacement for the nuclear air-launched cruise missile. Will the NPR agree or adhere to Barack Obama’s no-new-nuclear-weapons pledge?

By Hans M. Kristensen [updated March 18, 2010]

One of the important tests of Obama Administration’s nuclear nonproliferation policy will be whether the long-delayed Nuclear Posture Review will approve new nuclear weapons.

During his election campaign, Barack Obama promised not to build new nuclear weapons, a pledge that recently has been reiterated by the administration.

Yet the Air Force’s budget request for 2011 includes several projects that, if approved, would contradict the pledge. Continue reading

Pentagon Study Critiques 2003 Transition in Iraq

The transition of U.S. military forces in Iraq to post-major combat operations in 2003 was marred by failures in leadership and planning, according to an internal report (pdf) prepared for the Pentagon that was partially declassified and released this month under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The transition that occurred was not the one that was planned,” the 2006 report delicately stated.

“Insufficient and untimely availability of resources impeded effectiveness of post-combat operations and contributed to a difficult transition.”  Intelligence support, joint command and control, and communications infrastructure all “fell short of expectations or needs.”

See “Transitions in Iraq: Changing Environment, Changing Organizations, Changing Leadership,” Joint Center for Operational Analysis, 21 July 2006.

The newly disclosed report was cited in a 2008 book by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.  According to Gen. Sanchez’s account, the report had been suppressed at the direction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who did not welcome its critical findings.

In 2008, U.S. Joint Forces Command told TPM Muckraker that the report had been completed but was classified and not publicly available.  (“Pentagon Report on Iraq Debacle ‘Remains Classified'” by Paul Kiel, May 6, 2008). Now portions of it have been released.

Another newly declassified report found no corroboration of allegations that the DoD Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) had withheld information from the 9/11 Commission.  The DoD Inspector General said there was no basis for such a claim.  But the 2008 IG report, formerly classified Secret, provides some new details on the operation of the JFIC.  See “Review of Joint Forces Intelligence Command Response to 9/11” (pdf), September 23, 2008.

Navy Intel Oversight, Protecting Unclassified Info

The U.S. Navy has released some new guidance pertaining to intelligence programs, including the following items (both pdf).

“Oversight of the Department of the Navy Military Intelligence Program,” SECNAV Instruction 5000.38A, February 5, 2010.

“Required Operational Capabilities and Projected Operational Environment for Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command Forces,” OPNAV Instruction 3501.382, March 1, 2010.

The Department of Defense has invited comment on a proposal to modify and enhance controls on unclassified DoD information held in industry in order to protect such information from unauthorized access and disclosure.  The proposed changes may be altered at a later date, the DoD notice states, in response to ongoing development of a government-wide policy on “controlled unclassified information.”  See the March 3 DoD Federal Register notice here.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration issued its own proposed rule on the handling of “restricted information” in a March 4 Federal Register notice.

Book: A Genius for Deception

One of the few unclassified discussions of official U.S. policy on the use of “cover stories” to conceal classified activities and operations advised that “Cover stories must be believable.”  (1992 draft SAP Supplement [pdf], at p. 3-1-5).

But such pedestrian guidance would not have been needed by British military and intelligence officials during the past century because they had an almost instinctive gift for concealment and misdirection, writes Nicholas Rankin in “A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars” (Oxford University Press, 2009).

From the emergence of camouflage (a word that entered the English language in 1917) to the development of modern propaganda to the strategic deceptions of World War II, the author treats familiar figures such as T.E. Lawrence and John Buchan (author of The 39 Steps) and many unfamiliar ones.

“A Genius for Deception” is surprisingly colorful, with an endless stream of strange, offbeat and sometimes appalling anecdotes that the author has culled from his extensive reading and research.

He quotes an enterprising British intelligence officer in World War I who discovered that the German officers’ latrines in an East Africa camp “were a good source of soiled documents and letters, yielding ‘filthy, though accurate information’.”

In a personal epilogue, Rankin observes that the calculated deception of an enemy is ethically distinct from and not to be confused with propaganda directed at one’s own people.