Defense Primers, and More from CRS

“The President does not need the concurrence of either his military advisors or the U.S. Congress to order the launch of nuclear weapons,” the Congressional Research Service reminded readers last month in an updated “defense primer” on “Command and Control of Nuclear Forces.”

The CRS defense primer series consists of two-page introductions to a variety of basic military and intelligence topics. The primers do not generally present information that is altogether new to specialists, but they are a convenient way to increase national security literacy among non-specialist members of Congress and the public.

Recently updated items in the series include the following.

Defense Primer: Commanding U.S. Military Operations, CRS In Focus, updated December 20, 2018

Defense Primer: Intelligence Support to Military Operations, CRS In Focus, updated December 20, 2018

Defense Primer: U.S. Defense Industrial Base, CRS In Focus, updated December 20, 2018

Defense Primer: Procurement, CRS In Focus, updated December 20, 2018

Defense Primer: Information Operations, CRS In Focus, updated December 18, 2018

Defense Primer: Cyberspace Operations, CRS In Focus, updated December 18, 2018

Defense Primer: President’s Constitutional Authority with Regard to the Armed Forces, CRS In Focus, updated December 17, 2018


Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The Special Counsel Investigation After the Attorney General’s Resignation, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 2, 2019

Government Expenditures on Defense Research and Development by the United States and Other OECD Countries: Fact Sheet, updated December 19, 2018

Executive Branch Ethics and Financial Conflicts of Interest: Disclosure, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 2, 2019

DHS’s Cybersecurity Mission–An Overview, CRS In Focus, updated December 19, 2018

New U.S. Policy Regarding Nuclear Exports to China, CRS In Focus, December 17, 2018

Congress’s Authority to Influence and Control Executive Branch Agencies, updated December 19, 2018

Religious Support to Military Funerals

The US Army has issued updated guidance on military funerals that notably emphasizes freedom of religion and individual choice.

“The Army requires the capability to provide RS [religious support] across austere and isolated locations which accommodates service members’ right to the free exercise of religion and supports resiliency efforts to sustain service members in combat.”

“RS is comprehensive because every individual personally defines what constitutes RS. While not every religious need of every Soldier can be met, chaplains and religious affairs specialists seek to meet as many needs as possible.”

“Due to the religious diversity of the nation and Army, all chaplains must know the funeral practices and religious requirements of various faith groups in the military.”

“Wherever they are conducted, and regardless of the tasks or order of events, military funerals and memorial events pay tribute to those who have honorably served the nation. Each final tribute draws from national, military, and religious traditions, not routinely nor impersonally, but profoundly and with compassion.”

See Religious Support to Funerals and Memorial Events, ATP 1-05.02, November 2018.

“Taking” Marine Mammals for National Defense

The U.S. Navy this month updated its regulations on the use of marine mammals — such as whales, dolphins, and seals — for national defense purposes. See Acquisition, Transport, Care, and Treatment of Navy Marine Mammals, Secretary of the Navy Instruction 3900.41H, 10 October 2018.

The Navy policy on marine mammals follows a 1987 statute (10 USC 7524) under which the Secretary of Defense may authorize “the taking of not more than 25 marine mammals each year for national defense purposes.”

The term “take” in this context is ominously defined (in 16 USC 1362) as meaning “to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.”

Dolphins and some other sea mammals can be trained to detect and track undersea objects, among other missions. See U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program.

The Oceana environmental organization criticized the FY2019 defense authorization act for reducing legal protection for sea mammals.

The act “includes a harmful provision that weakens protections for marine mammals from the U.S. Navy’s use of high-intensity active sonar and underwater explosives,” the organization said.

On the Conduct of Army Information Operations

The planning and execution of US Army information operations are the subject of a new Army manual for practitioners.

Information operations are activities that involve the use of information to support US and allied military objectives and/or to degrade adversary functions. The field of information operations includes military deception, cyberspace operations, and other sub-disciplines.

The first step is to characterize and assess the information environment.

Information Operations (IO) officers “identify human networks, groups, and subgroups that affiliate along religious, political, or cultural lines, including commonly held beliefs and local narratives.”

Once such networks are identified, information operators devise ways to influence, control or subvert them.

“IO officers focus their analysis on preferred means, methods, and venues that each social affiliation uses to interact and communicate and the ways each collectively constructs reality. Analysis examines biases, pressure points, general leanings, and proclivities, especially as they pertain to support or opposition of friendly and adversarial forces.”

SeeThe Conduct of Information Operations, ATP 3-13.1, October 4, 2018.

USAF: Implementing Arms Control Treaties

The implementation of arms control agreements by the Air Force is detailed in a newly updated directive.

The directive addresses Air Force obligations under New START, US-IAEA Safeguard Agreements, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological Weapons Convention.

See Implementation of, and Compliance with, Treaties Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, Air Force Instruction 16-608, September 7, 2018.

Air Force officials are directed to make certain that even their most tightly secured special access programs are in compliance with international obligations. But they are also required to protect information about such programs from “unnecessary or inadvertent” exposure during verification activities.

Army Needs Intelligence to Face “Peer Threats”

U.S. Army operations increasingly depend on intelligence to help confront adversaries who are themselves highly competent, the Army said this week in a newly updated publication on military intelligence.

Future operations “will occur in complex operational environments against capable peer threats, who most likely will start from positions of relative advantage. U.S. forces will require effective intelligence to prevail during these operations.” See Intelligence, Army Doctrine Publication 2-0, September 4, 2018.

The quality of U.S. military intelligence is not something that can be taken for granted, the Army document said.

“Despite a thorough understanding of intelligence fundamentals and a proficient staff, an effective intelligence effort is not assured. Large-scale combat operations are characterized by complexity, chaos, fear, violence, fatigue, and uncertainty. The fluid and chaotic nature of large-scale combat operations causes the greatest degree of fog, friction, and stress on the intelligence warfighting function,” the documentsaid.

“Intelligence is never perfect, information collection is never easy, and a single collection capability is never persistent and accurate enough to provide all of the answers.”

The Army document provides a conceptual framework for integrating intelligence into Army operations. It updates a prior version from 2012 which did not admit the existence of “peer” adversaries and did not mention the word “cyberspace.”

Some other recent U.S. military doctrine publications include the following.

Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, updated August 2018

Foreign Internal Defense, Joint Publication 3-22, August 17, 2018

Integrated DoD Intelligence Priorities, Directive-Type Memorandum (DTM) 15-004, September 3, 2015, Incorporating Change 2, Effective September 4, 2018

Aircraft and ICBM Nuclear Operations, Air Force Instruction 13-520, 22 August 2018

Implementation of, and Compliance with, Arms Control Agreements, SecNav Instruction 5710.23D, August 28, 2018

Pentagon Moves to Support War in the “Grey Zone”

The Department of Defense issued a directive this month based on new authority granted by Congress last year to engage in “low-visibility, irregular warfare” operations.

In the FY2018 defense authorization act (PL 115-91, sect. 1202) Congress specifically authorized the Secretary of Defense “to provide support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing irregular warfare operations by U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF).”

The new authority was needed, Congress said, in order to fill a perceived gap in the US military’s ability to fight in conflicts that are below the threshold of war.

“Adversarial nations are becoming more aggressive in challenging U.S. interests and partnerships and destabilizing regional order through the use of asymmetric means that often fall below the threshold of traditional armed conflict, often referred to as the ‘grey zone’,” according to the Senate Armed Services Committee report (115-125) on the 2018 defense bill (section 1201).

“The committee notes that the ability of U.S. SOF [special operations forces] to conduct low-visibility, irregular warfare operations in politically sensitive environments make them uniquely suited to counter the malign activities of our adversaries in this domain.”

“However, the committee is concerned that the Secretary of Defense lacks sufficient authority to provide support for irregular warfare operations by U.S. SOF to counter this growing threat and therefore believes that granting this authority will provide the Secretary with the necessary options and flexibility to achieve U.S. military objectives,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote last year.

The amount of money that was authorized for this purpose — $10 million per year for three years — is minuscule by conventional U.S. military standards, but it could still be meaningful in the context of irregular warfare.

To begin implementing the new authority, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan this month issued Directive-type Memorandum 18-005 that defines the policies and procedures for employing the funding authorized by Congress. See Authority for Support of Special Operations for Irregular Warfare (IW), DTM-18-005, August 3, 2018.

Bang the Drum Quickly: Army Percussion

The use of percussion instruments in military bands is exhaustively explored in a new publication from the U.S. Army.

“While a civilian percussionist may specialize on one particular percussion instrument, the Army requires a percussionist to be responsible for over 50 percussion instruments” including bongos and cowbells.

A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound when it is struck or shaken.

See Percussion Techniques, Training Circular TC 1-19.30, Department of the Army, July 25, 2018.

“Percussion in military bands derives from the European tradition, with the British having greatest influence,” the Army document notes. “The drum was used as a signaling device from the inception of the American colonies through the Civil War, where it gave way to the bugle. Wind bands prospered during the Civil War, and the wind band was the most accessible means of presenting music to the masses for bolstering morale and esprit de corps. Modern military bands provide music for troop ceremonies, formal military occasions and patriotic gatherings. Bands also provide music for recruiting and community-relations events.”

“Percussion is an important part of the military music structure and composition.”

Congress Urges Cyber Ops Against Russia, Others

Rebuking the Trump Administration for its “passivity,” Congress is pressing the Department of Defense to engage in “active defense” in cyberspace against Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

A new provision in the conference report on the FY2019 national defense authorization act (sect. 1642) would “authorize the National Command Authority to direct the Commander, U.S. Cyber Command, to take appropriate and proportional action through cyberspace to disrupt, defeat, and deter systematic and ongoing attacks by the Russian Federation in cyberspace.” It would further “add authorizations for action against the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“The conferees have been disappointed with the past responses of the executive branch to adversary cyberattacks and urge the President to respond to the continuous aggression that we see, for example, in Russia’s information operations against the United States and European allies in an attempt to undermine democracy.”

“The administration’s passivity in combating this campaign. . . will encourage rather than dissuade additional aggression.”

“The conferees strongly encourage the President to defend the American people and institutions of government from foreign intervention,” the report language said.

The congressional report does not propose an actual cyber strategy, nor does it specify desired outcomes, or address unintended consequences.

Another provision in the new conference report says that the Department of Defense ought to be just as assertive and “aggressive” in cyberspace as it is elsewhere (sect. 1632).

“The conferees see no logical, legal, or practical reason for allowing extensive clandestine traditional military activities in all other operational domains (air, sea, ground, and space) but not in cyberspace,” the report said.

“It is unfortunate that the executive branch has squandered years in interagency deliberations that failed to recognize this basic fact and that this legislative action has proven necessary.”

“The conferees agree that the Department should conduct aggressive information operations to deter adversaries.”

Curiously, the report found it necessary to add that “the conferees do not intend this affirmation as an authorization of clandestine activities against the American people.”

In general, another provision (sect. 1636) states, the U.S. needs to be ready for war in cyberspace:

“It shall be the policy of the United States, with respect to matters pertaining to cyberspace, cybersecurity, and cyber warfare, the United States should employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities, to deter if possible, and respond to when necessary, all cyber attacks or other malicious cyber activities of foreign powers that target United States interests with the intent to… cause casualties among United States persons or persons of United States allies; significantly disrupt the normal functioning of United States democratic society or government (including attacks against critical infrastructure that could damage systems used to provide key services to the public or government); threaten the command and control of the Armed Forces, the freedom of maneuver of the Armed Forces, or the industrial base or other infrastructure on which the United States Armed Forces rely to defend United States interests and commitments; or achieve an effect, whether individually or in aggregate, comparable to an armed attack or imperil a vital interest of the United States.”

Cyber War as a Career Path

Military cyber operations have been normalized to the point that there is now a defined career path for would-be cyber warriors in the U.S. Air Force and a formal curriculum for training them.

The role of a cyber war specialist, which includes defense as well as offense, is “to develop, sustain, and enhance cyberspace capabilities to defend national interests from attack and to create effects in cyberspace to achieve national objectives,” according to a new Air Force training plan that was published this week.

The Air Force training plan outlines the anticipated career progression of its cyber warriors, and describes the tasks that they must master. See Cyber Warfare Operations Career Field Education and Training Plan, CFETP 1B4X1, July 15, 2018.

Offensively, trainees must learn methods such as buffer overflow tactics and techniques, privilege escalation, rootkits, redirection and triggering, tunneling, and so forth. Defensive methods include encryption, secure enclaves, boundary protection, intrusion detection, etc.

A select group of especially competent trainees will be selected “to futher develop their skills in the areas of secure system design, vulnerability analysis, computer network defense (CND), and computer network exploitation (CNE)” in joint programs with the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command.

The programs will enhance students’ technical skills and will help to “bridge gaps between typical Computer Science/Engineering curriculum and those necessary for Computer Network Attack / Exploitation / Defense.”

“Each intern must complete at least one offensive and at least one defensive tour during the program,” the training plan said.

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Some other noteworthy new military doctrinal and other publications include the following.

Human Remains Associated with Sunken Military Craft, SecNav Instruction 5360.2, July 11, 2018. Navy policy normally precludes efforts to recover the remains of those lost at sea. “The Department of the Navy (DON) has long recognized the sea as a fit and final resting place for personnel who perish at sea.”

The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is now named for Senator McCain as well as for his father and grandfather. “As a prisoner of war, [Sen.] McCain represented our nation with dignity and returned with honor,” wrote Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer in a July 12 memorandum memorializing the designation.

The production of electric power for military operations is addressed in a new Army manual. “Modern warfare relies on electrically powered systems, making electricity an essential element that supports warfighting functions.” Though nuclear power systems have previously played a role in the Army, there is no mention of nuclear reactors or isotope power in the new publication. See ATP 3-34.45, Electric Power Generation and Distribution, July 6, 2018.