Does the Pentagon Understand What a Navy Is For? | Defense One

A recent report that the Office of the Secretary of Defense has “taken over” planning for the future of the U.S. Navy is hardly good news for the naval service as an institution. But neither is it necessarily good news for the long-term national security of the United States.

Two conditions set the stage. First, OSD and the Joint Staff are “focused like a laser beam” on planning for war against the People’s Republic of China (actually, against the Chinese Communist Party, to which the People’s Liberation Army is pledged). Second, their thinking is stultified by the emergence of an “ideology of jointness,” in which all services and domains must be treated equally in every scenario and in every force structure analysis, and (essentially) have veto power over other services’ programs.

The problem is not that the current OSD leadership is Army-centric (which it is), but that it appears not to understand that armies and navies are vastly, repeat vastly, different tools with much different long-term roles in U.S. territorial and economic security.

Source: Does the Pentagon Understand What a Navy Is For? – Defense One

Vladimir Putin Sheds Legitimacy to Extend His Rule in Russia | Time

The joke almost came true last week as Russians voted to approve amendments to the country’s 1993 constitution.

The most important reform, and the real reason for the exercise, was to reset presidential term-limits, allowing Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for twenty years and is already the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Joseph Stalin, to remain in office until 2036.

Officially, the amendments came into effect once the results of the July 1 vote were published. But Moscow bookstores have been selling copies of the new constitution for weeks, and the Kremlin began referencing it in draft bills as early as May.

Source: Vladimir Putin Sheds Legitimacy to Extend His Rule in Russia | Time

Dutch pin hopes on ‘hydrogen valley’ to revive declining gas region |

Near-silent buses shift around in a residential neighborhood in the province of Groningen, home to one of the greenest industrial areas in the world. We’re in 2026 and the Netherlands gives the world a preview of what a “hydrogen economy” could look like.

Inside the farms and dwellings of Northern Netherlands, the cracks in the walls are the only reminders of the region’s industrial past when natural gas provided jobs and wealth to the entire country, and drilling-induced tremors frequently shook the grounds on which the houses are seated.

By 2026, the Northern Netherlands region aims to become a “Hydrogen Valley”, a geographical area hosting an entire hydrogen value chain – from production to distribution, storage and local end-use.

The region’s plan is to generate both demand and supply for hydrogen, and break the deadlock which is currently stifling growth in the nascent hydrogen economy.

The Northern Netherlands recently won a European grant of €20 million to further develop its hydrogen valley in the coming six years.

Source: Dutch pin hopes on ‘hydrogen valley’ to revive declining gas region –

FBI Opens a New China-Related Counterintelligence Investigation Every 10 Hours, Director Says – Nextgov

Of the FBI’s nearly 5,000 active counterintelligence investigations across the country, “almost half” are related to China, with the bureau opening a new China-related counterintelligence case every 10 hours, according to FBI Director Chris Wray.

Wray, speaking Tuesday at an event hosted by the Hudson Institute, said China is escalating improper and sometimes illegal activity in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, using a mix of sophisticated cyber-intrusion techniques and the corruption of “trusted insiders” to siphon America’s intellectual property.

Specifically, Wray said China is employing economic espionage to target American aviation, robotics, agriculture and health care sectors—part of a broader plan to subvert American economic dominance that has resulted in a 1,300% increase in economic espionage cases linked to China over the past decade. Already, Wray said the American people are victims “of what amounts to Chinese theft on a scale so massive that it represents one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history” and poses a major national security threat.

Source: FBI Opens a New China-Related Counterintelligence Investigation Every 10 Hours, Director Says – Nextgov

Trump’s Gift to Putin | Foreign Affairs

The President’s Privatized Foreign Policy Is a Boon for Russia

For decades, if not centuries, scholars have debated which matters more in international affairs: structural forces, such as the relative power between states, or the ideas and decisions of individual leaders. But at least as far as the United States is concerned, President Donald Trump may put the debate to rest.

After a slow start, Trump has affected almost every facet of U.S. foreign policy. And the story to date is not an inspiring one. Trump has personalized, privatized, and deinstitutionalized foreign policy to the detriment of the national interest. That trend has accelerated in recent months, culminating in two disastrous missteps vis-à-vis Ukraine and Syria. In the process, the American public has suffered, U.S. allies have lost, and U.S. adversaries have gained—none more so than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Three years ago, the United States was the world’s most powerful state, capable of influencing outcomes on every continent and every issue area. But from the beginning of his presidency, Trump chose to pull back. He pursued his withdrawal doctrine with vigor, exiting the 12-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership within days of taking office, then going on to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, the Paris climate accord, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. He has since threatened to leave multiple other multilateral organizations and treaties.

And yet there were hints of continuity with previous administrations, at least in the first year of the Trump presidency. Trump’s senior national security officials resembled those of past administrations in their credentials and experience, especially once H. R. McMaster took over as national security advisor in February 2017. And, like his predecessors, Trump did not dismiss the thousands—maybe tens of thousands—of nonpartisan career professionals in the two dozen departments and agencies involved in making and implementing U.S. foreign policy.

These forces for continuity—along with the U.S. Congress, independent media, business groups, and nongovernmental organizations—shaped and constrained the administration’s foreign policy for a time. Trump’s complaints about “endless wars” did not initially translate into the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, or Syria. In Asia, his administration was more systematic in diagnosing the economic and security threats posed by China, but that shift was already underway before he took office and reflected an emerging bipartisan consensus. Trump berated NATO, but the United States did not withdraw from the alliance.

Even Trump’s Russia policy initially differed little from President Barack Obama’s approach after 2014. Although candidate Trump had considered lifting sanctions on Russia and recognizing its land grab in Crimea as legitimate, the Trump administration increased those sanctions, never recognized Crimea’s annexation, bolstered support for NATO, and even went further than Obama in providing lethal military assistance to Ukraine. Trump did deliver one welcome change in U.S. policy to the Kremlin by no longer discussing democratic reforms or human rights abuses, but that was about it.

For Moscow, this policy continuity was a disappointment. Putin’s surrogates on Russian television lamented Trump’s weakness, which they blamed on the U.S. “deep state”—Trump wanted to do the “right thing,” they claimed, but he was constrained by the conventional foreign policy elites running his national security departments; the professional bureaucrats at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the CIA; and the Russophobes in U.S. “mainstream” media and the Democratic Party.

Putin himself identified domestic politics in the United States as the main obstacle preventing Trump from pursuing a thaw with Russia. He was not wrong. But instead of a sinister deep state working against the U.S. president, it was the national security professionals within his own administration, including his political appointees, who were moderating some of Trump’s most extreme pro-Putin proclivities.

The Kremlin may, at long last, be getting what it wants. Gradually, but especially in the last year, Trump has eroded the normal national security decision-making process, marginalized the professionals who usually shape and execute U.S. foreign policy, and placed his private interests and ill-informed personal theories—often shaped by disinformation and conspiracy yarns—above all else. The result has been a disaster for U.S. national interests and a boon for Russia.

Since McMaster’s exit from the administration in April 2018, standard procedures for making national security decisions have been abandoned. Trump rarely attends National Security Council (NSC) meetings. He prefers to make his own decisions, based on intuition and personal preferences and without expert advice. Earlier this month, his new national security advisor, Robert O’Brien, announced plans to significantly cut the NSC staff and replace many of its career officials with political appointees.

Trump’s now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July revealed just how dysfunctional procedures in the White House have become. There appears to have been no prior discussion of the national security objectives to be pursued on the call. Trump did not read NSC-vetted talking points. Shockingly, then National Security Advisor John Bolton did not brief the president before the call and did not even listen to the conversation. Equally unorthodox, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the line.

Trump’s call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in early October, after which the U.S. president greenlighted a Turkish military incursion into Syria, seems to have followed a similar pattern: no prior NSC meeting to interrogate the wisdom of acquiescing to Erdogan, no briefing before the call, and no talking points prepared by NSC staff. Trump’s strange, unprofessional, and ultimately ineffective letter threatening Erdogan was clearly not a product of normal NSC drafting and clearance procedures, either.

Other departments and agencies have seen their norms and procedures—not to mention their integrity—come under presidential attack as well. Trump’s first target, even before his inauguration, was the CIA, followed by the FBI and the intelligence community at large. In July 2018, Trump stood next to Putin at a summit in Helsinki and publicly rejected the findings of the U.S. intelligence community regarding Russia’s campaign of interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Likewise, Trump has severely damaged the credibility and competency of the State Department, blithely assuming that he can do the hard job of diplomacy by himself. This approach has yet to deliver clear successes in Afghanistan, China, Iran, or North Korea. But it has damaged the president’s relations with career foreign service officers, relations that were further strained by his decision to fire the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, on the basis of unfounded rumors from a private citizen—most likely Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria—another decision taken, by all appearances, in isolation and on a whim—similarly undermined the standing of the Department of Defense and the reputation of U.S. soldiers fighting in Syria, some of whom have expressed humiliation and embarrassment at having abandoned their Kurdish allies. Three institutions critical for U.S. foreign policy—the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Pentagon—now have deeply damaged relations with the president.

Trump’s assault on conventional decision-making processes has allowed him to personalize and privatize U.S. foreign policy, often in ways that benefit the Kremlin more than the White House. That fact was most glaringly and disturbingly on display during the president’s call with Zelensky in July, during which Trump offered to lift the freeze on military assistance to Ukraine and meet the newly elected Zelensky in the Oval Office. In return, Trump asked that Zelensky open new investigations into unsubstantiated allegations of corruption by Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, and purported Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (That account, originally based on a reconstructed transcript of the call, has since been bolstered by further evidence in text messages between State Department diplomats and Ukrainian officials and testimony from U.S. officials involved in U.S.-Ukrainian relations.)

By not even mentioning Russia’s military interventions in Crimea and the Donbas during his call with Zelensky, Trump made clear his indifference to Ukraine’s sovereignty and democratic consolidation. That’s a win for Putin. Trump’s politicization of military assistance weakened the United States’ previously rock-solid commitment to Ukraine’s defense—another gift to Putin. By recording and publishing Zelensky’s obsequiousness and flattery of Trump in the call memo, he made the new Ukrainian leader look weak—yet another deliverable for Putin. Trump’s subsequent repeated references to Ukraine as corrupt have likewise damaged the country’s reputation precisely at the moment when a newly elected president and parliament have an opportunity to break with the corruption of the past. Score one more victory for Putin.

And this list doesn’t include the damage to the United States itself: Trump’s attempt to use taxpayer money in pursuit of private goals tarnishes the United States’ reputation as the leader of the free world. Impeachment proceedings set off by the call will distract his administration from engaging in critical foreign policy issues involving China, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

Trump’s misguided unilateral decisions in Syria also have played into Putin’s hands: Moscow benefits from the tensions that the Turkish offensive against the Kurds has caused within NATO. The Kurds, for their part, are turning to Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad and Putin in their desperate search for a new protector. More generally, the U.S. retreat in Syria has strengthened other U.S. foes—Assad, Hezbollah, Iran, and the Islamic State (or ISIS)—and unnerved the United States’ closest allies in the region. Washington now looks unreliable at a time when Moscow is positioning itself as an alternative power broker in the region—not only to the Kurds but to the Saudis, the Turks, and the Israelis.

A standard process for formulating and executing U.S. foreign policy would have foreseen these dangers and worked to counteract them. Such a process no longer exists, allowing one individual to let his personal interests and misguided intuitions radically reshape U.S. foreign policy. In the two biggest arenas of U.S.-Russian conflict over the last decade—Ukraine and Syria—Trump has just handed Putin and his allies major victories, without a fight and without receiving anything in return.

Source: Trump’s Gift to Putin | Foreign Affairs

How to build Black wealth

Consistent with an extensive literature, we show that, on average, Black households had less wealth than white households. In 2016, for example, the average Black household held $124,000 (or 54 percent) less wealth than the average white household. The median or typical Black household reported about $43,000 (or 56 percent) less wealth than the median white household reported. Again, these results control for household characteristics.

Without cultural change, it is hard to see how public policies alone will be able to close the entire Black-white wealth gap. Nevertheless, reforms could reduce the net worth differential significantly. Policy reform should aim to both redress injustices committed in the past and to provide equal opportunity for all today.

Source: How to build Black wealth

The US Pioneered Digital Contact Tracing. Why Aren’t We Using It to Fight COVID-19? | Defense One

Contact tracing apps detect when a smartphone is in the presence of another app-enabled smartphone whose owner has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

These apps come in two types. One mimics traditional contact tracing by uploading to a central public health server the ID numbers of smart phones that have been close to an infected person’s smart phone. Depending on the app, public health authorities can be notified of the smart phone owners’ identities.

The alternative is an “exposure notification” app that prioritizes privacy by using random numbers to ensure that no one can learn anyone else’s identity. All data are stored on the users’ phones. The Apple-Google collaboration supports these types of apps.

Source: The US Pioneered Digital Contact Tracing. Why Aren’t We Using It to Fight COVID-19? – Defense One

What Police Can Learn From the Military About ‘Soft Power’ | Time

For our police departments, I believe the vast majority of officers would be willing participants in soft-power operations in their own municipalities. These could run the gamut of partnering with social workers in response teams for domestic violence; helping conduct clinics on fitness and sports; participating in educational events alongside teachers in our schools; volunteering in mentoring programs; and working paid hours supporting homeless shelters and food kitchens. Some cities do this with great success, but too often there is a sharp divide between the hard- and soft-power sides of the equation–incorporating the police into the solution would be powerful.

No analogy is ever perfect, but soft power is really about shifting toward a policing strategy across this country that understands the need for police to stop murders but also sees that helping out a community might be the best way to do that.

Source: What Police Can Learn From the Military About ‘Soft Power’ | Time

IBM’s Watson Now Understands Idioms | EE Times Europe

Natural-language processing (NLP) is a particularly difficult task for AI. Complex language such as idioms and sentiment shifters, wherein combinations of words change the meaning of phrases, have made it much harder for machines to understand casual speech. These parts of everyday speech have traditionally been very difficult for machines to spot, but understanding the nuance they add to language is vital to successful NLP.

Source: IBM’s Watson Now Understands Idioms – EE Times Europe

Wanted: Process Engineers Versed in Packaging | EE Times Europe

The new frontier of leading-edge IC design is packaging, according to Arijit Raychowdhury, an expert in digital and mixed-signal design who teaches VLSI courses at the Georgia Institute of Technology and who received the 2018 IEEE/ACM “Innovator Under 40 Award” at that year’s Design Automation Conference.

Integration is the holy grail of VLSI design. Next-generation IC design lives or dies on the next feasible advance in integration. Historically, the VLSI community has depended on progress in process node technology to overcome the next fast-approaching bump on the road toward higher integration. But times are changing.

Source: Wanted: Process Engineers Versed in Packaging – EE Times Europe