Steven Aftergood

Recent Activity from Steven Aftergood

An Introduction to Defense Policy

Most people are not going to read a book-length study of nuclear weapons command and control, and they shouldn’t have to. But those who need a quick sketch — whether they are reporters, students, or regular citizens — can now find a concise, two-page introduction to the topic from the Congressional Research Service. See Defense […]

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US Army: Hand and Arm Signals

Under ordinary circumstances, the U.S. Army relies on high-speed digital communications. But sometimes that is not an option, and soldiers must revert to more primitive methods. “When electrical and/or digital means of communication are inadequate, or not available,” a new Army publication explains, messages may be transmitted “through the use of hand-and-arm signals, flags, pyrotechnics, […]

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Talking About the Defense Budget, and More from CRS

The U.S. defense budget is comprised of several distinct components, including “base” and supplemental spending, nuclear weapons expenses, veterans benefits, and other defense-related costs. When discussing “the defense budget,” it is therefore important to specify what is being described. Depending on what is included or excluded, “total” U.S. defense spending each year can vary by […]

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“Competing Observables” Complicate Deception

Deception plays an important role in many military operations. But is hard to deceive an opponent (or anyone else) when evidence of that deception is visible in plain sight. A new military term — “competing observable” — has been introduced to capture this problem. In the context of military deception, an ordinary “observable” is defined […]

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Science & Technology Issues Facing Congress, & More from CRS

Science and technology policy issues that may soon come before Congress were surveyed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. Overarching issues include the impact of recent reductions in federal spending for research and development. “Concerns about reductions in federal R&D funding have been exacerbated by increases in the R&D investments of other […]

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Proposed NSA Headquarters Expansion Under Review

The National Security Agency is proposing to expand and modernize its headquarters site at Fort Meade, Maryland. “For NSA/CSS to continue leading the Intelligence Community into the next 50 years with state-of-the-art technologies and productivity, its mission elements require new, centralized facilities and infrastructure,” according to a newly released Final Environmental Impact Statement for the […]

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Judge Gorsuch’s Jurisprudence, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service examines the judicial record of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil M. Gorsuch in advance of his Senate confirmation hearing. “The report begins by discussing the nominee’s views on two cross-cutting issues — the role of the judiciary and statutory interpretation. It then addresses fourteen separate areas […]

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CIA Asserts State Secrets Privilege in Torture Case

The Central Intelligence Agency formally asserted the state secrets privilege this week in order to prevent disclosure of seven categories of information concerning its post-9/11 interrogation program, and to prevent the deposition of three CIA officers concerning the program. The move was first reported in the New York Times (“State Secrets Privilege Invoked to Block […]

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History of Attorney General Recusal, and More from CRS

“The recent announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he would recuse himself from any investigations into President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign has raised questions about how often recusals by the Attorney General have happened in the past.” “While there is no official compilation of recusals, it appears that Attorneys General of the […]

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Declassification of Indonesia Files in Progress

Updated below The National Declassification Center has completed declassification review of more than half of the classified files from the U.S. Embassy in Djakarta, Indonesia from the turbulent years of 1963-1966. The remainder of the task is expected to be completed by this summer. So far, 21 of 37 boxes of classified Djakarta Embassy files […]

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