White House: Prepare for the Unpredictable

“The Nation must prepare to mitigate an unpredictable global security and national emergency environment,” the White House said in a report to Congress this month.

The report, transmitted by President Trump on April 3, provided principles for reform of the selective service process by which young Americans enter the military. The report was required by section 555 of the 2017 defense authorization act.

“The Nation must be ever mindful of the unpredictable global security environment that requires an effective and efficient means to provide manpower to the national security community, including military and non-military support in a national emergency,” the President’s report said.

How to prepare in practice for the unpredictable is not clear, except that it involves flexibility.

“Any system, process, or program used to identify, recruit, and employ additional skill sets should be effective in times of peace, war, and other levels of conflict or emergency response. Associated initiatives, systems, and processes must be seamless, robust, and able to expand and contract as needed,” the report said.

Congress established a new National Commission to consider changes to the selective service system, and to develop “the means by which to foster a greater attitude, ethos, and propensity for military services among United States youth.”

Why FAS Adjunct Fellowships Matter

It is hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I accepted an Adjunct Fellow role here at FAS. To be honest, my time at FAS has far exceeded any of my expectations. So, I wanted to take a brief moment to reflect on the last two years and, in so doing, make the case for others to consider serving in similar roles in the future.

One of the most important benefits of being at FAS has been the opportunity to engage in global policy debates surrounding two specific topics: 1) emerging security; 2) regional security in East Asia. During the last two years, I was invited to join Track 1.5 and Track 2 initiatives on emerging security issues, attend off-the-record expert exchanges on the future of regional security in East Asia, and participate in next generation foreign policy leadership exchanges in Asia, Europe, and North America. I was also given the opportunity to publish numerous articles in the journals of leading think tanks and provide commentary to international media outlets.

Reflecting upon these milestones, I can assure you that these benefits were of great professional value. They not only helped build my own brand as an expert on these issues but they also: 1) Widened and deepened my knowledge about contemporary security issues; 2) Expanded my global network of contacts working on converging and space technologies; 3) Amplified the reach and impact of my insights on these topics.

But, there were also a number of indirect benefits that often get overlooked. So, I wanted to briefly jot down a few for those considering an adjunct fellowship in the future.

By far the most important was the chance to work with Mark Jansson and Charles Ferguson, who have always supported my professional ambitions within and beyond FAS. In fact, both are now involved in a nonprofit that I founded a few years ago to focus on emerging security issues beyond the domain of WMD. As a consequence, I will have the opportunity to continue to work with them for years to come. And, for this, I remain deeply grateful, as they are true champions for science diplomacy.

Another benefit of my affiliation is that it has enabled my consulting agency to expand into new subject matter areas as a direct result of the knowledge and skills gained under my FAS fellowship. There is no doubt that serving as an unpaid adjunct fellow entails certain sunk costs. These are particular burdensome for those in the private sector who find it difficult to justify the time commitment to their management. However, my experience shows that such affiliations can still benefit those in the private sector. By allowing for such affiliations, business leaders not only illustrate the firm’s commitment to corporate citizenship but also provide its employees with new opportunities to expand their knowledge about contemporary security issues. They also ensure that the business sector maintain a vocal presence on policy issues that will inevitably affect their business interest alongside their country’s national security environment.

While the list of indirect benefits is long, I will only mention one more today. And, this is the benefit for career transition. In my case, I was leaving media after working as a foreign policy commentator and foreign correspondent for the last five years. Serving as an adjunct fellow at FAS provided an opportunity to reposition myself within the global ecosystem of experts on my chosen topics. When I started my fellowship, most of my colleagues in the think tank community identified me as a journalist or commentator. However, two years later, many have come to accept me as a member of the global think tank community. This was evident when I was recently introduced as a “policy wonk” in Tokyo. I owe this new socially constructed role in the expert ecosystem solely to my affiliation with FAS.

In closing, I would like to first express my gratitude to FAS for all that my fellowship has provided, including all of friendships and professional relationships that will endure well beyond my two year fellowship. FAS is like a family and you have always made me feel welcome throughout my fellowship. I also would like to thank those who have contributed to FAS and made my fellowship possible. Finally, I would like to challenge others to consider serving as Adjunct Fellows at FAS as well. The organization provides a platform unlike any other for you to make a policy impact on nuclear and nuclear-related security issues.

From my perspective, it is so important for those with expertise on these issues to contribute to the global discourse on nuclear and nuclear-related security policy. This is especially true of scientists and business leaders whose unique perspective on these issues help to inform policymakers of the real costs and benefits of policy decisions under consideration. It is therefore critical that these actors do not abdicate their own agency on these issues. For, if they do, security at all levels of analysis will be weakened by security policy decision-making that fails to take account for the full spectrum of interests impacted by science and technology policies. I therefore urge those who support the great work of FAS to continue doing so and for those who are considering an adjunct fellowship to put their name forward. Your efforts are making a difference in the world we live in today and the world that our children will inherit tomorrow.

Michael Edward Walsh has served as an Adjunct Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists since 2012. In a few weeks, he will be leaving FAS to focus on other professional commitments. He can be followed on Twitter at @aseanreporting.

Pacific Young Leaders on Disarmament Policy Papers

Last year, the Pacific Islands Society launched a new program entitled the Pacific Young Leaders on Disarmament. The program was designed to provide young leaders from the Pacific Islands Region with an opportunity to have their voice heard on contemporary disarmament topics.

In partnership with the Federation of American Scientists,  Emerging Science and Technology Policy Centre, Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies (CANZPS) at Georgetown University, and Pacific Society at SOAS,the 2013 program welcomed young leaders from American Samoa and Papua New Guinea last spring.

Since then, the participants have been exploring the complex world of diplomacy and disarmament under the careful mentorship of senior diplomats from a number of diplomatic missions in Geneva. Additional mentorship was also provided by academics, think tank fellows, and outside experts .

Today, we are pleased to conclude the program with the publication of their “Statements to the Conference on Disarmament.” These statements reflect the personal views of the participants on how the Conference on Disarmament can better advance the global discourse on disarmament and thereby promote the interests of the Pacific Islands Region.

These statements are the latest in a series of writing assignments conducted as part of the program. This includes previous opinion pieces for the FAS Blog that challenged the young leaders to consider both sides of the debate on the future of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament.

In the next few weeks, these statements will be printed, bound, and delivered to diplomatic missions in Geneva and to various members of Congress in the United States. A copy will also be provided to the SOAS Library for archival purposes.

Following the success of the inaugural class of Pacific Young Leaders on Disarmament, the Pacific Islands Society will announce a call for 2014-2015 Pacific Young Leaders on Disarmament in September of this year.

In addition to the Pacific Young Leaders on Disarmament Program, the Pacific Islands Society will be launching two new programmes this spring, namely the Pacific Young Leaders on Trade and Investment and the Pacific Young Leaders on Public Diplomacy. Applications for participants in the 2014-2015 inaugural class will open 1st May 2014.

About the Scholars: 

Charity Anna Porotesano recently graduated from Grinnell College with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. In 2012, The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation recognized her exceptional leadership potential when she was made a Truman Scholar. Porotesano has since returned to her home of American Samoa to work in education and serve as a youth representative on the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. Charity’s statement is available here (PDF).

Keiko Ono is a recent graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Development Studies. Of Papua New Guinean-Japanese decent, Ono has a strong interest in gender, development and diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region. She also cares passionately about access to higher education having served as the elected Co-President the future of SOAS 2012-2013, where she played a central role in the management and oversight role in over 190 student-led activities. Keiko’s statement is available here (PDF).


Inquiries about any the 2013-14 PYL-D Program – Contact: [email protected]

Opportunities to Support the 2014-15 PYL-D Program – Contact: [email protected]

Pacific Security Scholars Policy Papers

Pacific Security Scholars (PSS) policy papers are now available, examining  security issues and policy implications of emerging security issues in the Pacific region. Lora Vaioleti examines the impact of climate change on food security in Tonga and Briar Thompson examines the impact of 3D Printing on security in Pacific Island Countries.

The inaugural class of the Pacific Security Scholars (PSS) Program provided leading post-graduate and research degree students from Pacific Island countries with an opportunity to be part of the global discourse on “International Security and the Pacific Islands.” The Federation of American Scientists, Pacific Islands Society, Emerging Science and Technology Policy Centre, Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies (CANZPS) at Georgetown University, and Pacific Society at SOAS joined as official partners for its inaugural year.

Under the close guidance  of leading experts in relevant fields, the participants the unique challenges faced by the Pacific Islands. The papers produced by the program’s inaugural class includes in-depth analyses on a security issues ranging from climate change to food security. Their insights are designed to offer tangible policy recommendations to policymakers and policy stakeholders. In so doing, it is hoped that they will provide a valuable mechanism for empowering young leaders from the region to be recognized as next generation leaders for emerging security issues on the world stage.

About the Scholars:

Briar Thompson is a Rhodes Scholar from New Zealand pursuing graduate study at Somerville College, University of Oxford. She has completed an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, in which her thesis focused on how the protection needs of those vulnerable to displacement linked to environmental stress might be provided, with particular reference to Pacific small island states. Starting this fall, Briar will be reading for the Master of Public Policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, where she intends to continue relating her studies to the Pacific region. Briar’s essay examines the impact of 3D printing in Pacific Island countries and security concerns associated with this technology and is available here (PDF).

Lora Vaioleti is a Fulbright scholar who recently worked in a leadership development and strategy role for the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA). A New Zealander of Tongan ancestry, her work has centred on exploring human security challenges within the wider Pacific, especially in regards to climate change and forced relocation. To this end, Vaioleti has led national, regional, and international research projects for a number of Pacific-focused organizations. A continuing research fellow for the Center of Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine, and the Indigenous Maori and Pacific Adult Education Charitable Trust (IMPAECT), she continues to research the latent value of traditional Pacific social practices in increasing human security and social resilience to both abrupt and long-term climate change effects. Vaioleti received a Masters of Management with a concentration in Sustainability from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Lora’s essay examines climate change and its effect on food security in Tonga and is available here (PDF).

German Elections Raise Important Questions about Drones as Tools for Political Opposition, Protest, and Violence

In a few days, Germans will head to the polls to vote in their federal elections.  Few are predicting an easy win for long-standing German Chancellor, Angela Merkel (CDU/CSU), who is expected to face a serious but not insurmountable challenge.

Unlike the SPD, Greens, FDP, and The Left, the Pirate Party has not been a major factor in this election. The party’s inability to connect with voters and “capitalize on widespread unhappiness over state surveillance fuelled by revelations from the American whistleblower Edward Snowden” has meant that it might not even reach the electoral threshold necessary to qualify for parliamentary seats. Far-right German nationalist parties, like the Neo-Nazi leaning National Democratic Party of Germany, have fared even worse.

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After Action Report – Second PfPC Working Group Workshop on Emerging Security Challenges

Earlier today, the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes released its After Action Report to experts who participated in the Emerging Security Challenges Working Group Workshop #2. The PfPC has given permission to the Federation of American Scientists to publicly release these findings.


Lessons Identified / Policy Recommendations

Societies need critical knowledge in advance of technological or scientific changes that may affect security and the state, and yet, few efforts exist to satisfy this need.

Technological change is faster than educational and legal change: Military, defense and policy makers at all levels broadly need education in technology literacy, risk recognition and mitigation.

Emerging Security Challenges (ESC) educational products for policy and military leaders should bring together a mix of practitioners of science and technology and experts from history and the social sciences.


Unanimous acceptance of need for military and defense curriculum and training in the field of emerging security challenges.

Leadership from Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland promised to seek to establish centers of excellence or hire talent in the field of emerging security challenges.

Acceptance that definitional debates are important but must be by-passed in order to facilitate partnership educational mission in ESC; group trust has been generated sufficient to make that possible.

Three publication products planned, two for summer 2013 delivery.

Planning underway for next two workshops and support for Senior Executive Seminar at the Marshall Center.


Government systematically underestimates the potential disruption made possible by technology and scientific advances. Policy makers not only need concrete information and recommendations from which to operate, they also need to decrease stove-piping of issues – a holistic approach to emerging technologies will help.

With emerging technologies and their associated capabilities, new and disruptive capabilities can readily fall into the hands of adversaries or ill-willed individuals. Ubiquitous advances and cost reductions in computing, navigation and hobbyist technologies are apt to reduce barriers to remote and other forms of warfare. Policy makers need to have an increased awareness of the dual-role of emerging technologies and their unintended consequences and possible threat to national and international security.

Alliance risks include force interoperability when a technological leader pursues radical change while domestic political tolerance and blowback for such new technologies encourage further stress and ambiguity in relations.

Projected US defense spending and cuts in Alliance defense budgets are likely to result in new challenges for NATO, particularly as increased high technology defense developments could alter the balance between partners’ capabilities, budgetary plans, and interoperability.

As warfare is outsourced to only those who are “near peers” in technology and societal views shift, decreasing political tolerance for alliance security efforts may stress alliance unity. Support for the traditional transatlantic compact (European political support in return for US military guarantees) may be seen to run counter to individual ‘social contracts’ within the alliance member states.

Policy makers need to be aware of the risks for societal disruption via technologies. Technologies regularly have two sides. For example, information technologies can easily create crowds and amplify social unrest (i.e. Arab Spring lessons via social media networks), yet they are not as useful for controlling the results – the demonstrations, violent protests, etc. Another example can be demonstrated with an everyday use device: Smart Phones. Low price navigation in smart phones is helpful to people and commercial interests, yet these phones have everything needed to acquire and navigate to potential targets.

Military and defense education products are sorely needed at present to extend understanding into risks and opportunities in ESC.

Confronting Emerging Security Challenges: A Call for Ontological Coherence

By Michael Edward Walsh

The concept of emerging security challenges is not new. Mankind has always had to adapt to novel scientific and technological innovations that have changed the nature of war and violence within society. The sudden focus on emerging security challenges is then not driven by their mere emergence but rather by the context in which they are emerging. For this reason, it is critical that security experts not delink the external world from the conversation.

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