Friday News Roundup — September 16, 2022

This week’s headlines have been mostly focused on the ceremonies and traditions remembering the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, while economic headlines at home focused on still-hot inflation and an avoided rail strike that would have snarled supply chains. The Congressional agenda is pared down heading into the midterm campaigns: keeping government open with a CR and questions about permitting reform. Legislation to protect Same Sex Marriage nationwide will wait until after the midterms; meanwhile Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a proposed nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks — to the chagrin of some colleagues and candidates seeking to focus GOP messaging on the economy, not the culture war. While conservative and liberal media reacted as expected to the Florida and Texas governors shipping migrants to Martha’s Vineyard and outside the Vice President’s residence, respectively, it does little to address the actual problems with our immigration system.

On the afternoon of Thursday, September 22nd, CSPC will be hosting a panel on the recently passed CHIPS Act, its implementation, and other remaining Geotech priorities. Learn more and register at our events page here.

Last week, CSPC welcomed three former Ambassadors to Russia to discuss relations with Moscow, the war in Ukraine, and the future of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. Joshua C. Huminski, the Director of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs, sat down virtually with Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Ambassador Sir Roderic Lyne of the United Kingdom, and Ambassador Stanislas de Laboulaye for a wide-ranging conversation, the video of which is available here.

Huminski also penned a pair of book reviews about the Korean peninsula. On Monday, the Diplomatic Courier published his review of Geoff White’s “The Lazarus Heist”, which explored Pyongyang’s surprisingly effective and adaptive global cyber criminal campaign from the Sony Pictures hack through to ransomware and cryptocurrency. It is, according to Huminski, a perfect end-of-summer read. Heading next to South Korea, Huminski reviewed “Shrimp to Whale” by Ramon Pacheco Pardo. While Seoul’s global influence seems natural today, it wasn’t always the case and Pardo explores how South Korea rose from a post-Second World War shrimp among whales to become a whale among whales.

In this week’s roundup, Dan Mahaffee looks at the proposed Taiwan Policy Act and Ethan Brown covers how the Navy is integrating into advanced defense networks. Robert Gerber looks at the GAO’s report on the need for data privacy legislation. As always, we wrap with news you may have missed.

Will Taiwan Legislation Deter or Antagonize China?

Dan Mahaffee

Speaker Pelosi’s CODEL Meeting with Taiwan’s Leaders

One of the few areas of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill is support for Taiwan, and that was reflected in Wednesday’s 15–7 vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to advance the Taiwan Policy Act. The headline number is the $4.5 billion to bolster Taiwan’s defenses, but the legislation also expands U.S.-Taiwan ties, elevates Taiwan’s participation in international bodies, and, importantly, lays out a bevy of sanctions to be levied on China in the event of hostilities over Taiwan. Once again, we find ourselves threading the needle of supporting Taiwan to the maximum extent possible short of provoking China’s invasion.

In terms of the money, it depends on how it is spent — if that is even the amount that makes it through the legislative process. The lessons learned from Ukraine and other modern conflicts can be applied to Taiwan’s future kit, but it will also be important to have the doctrine to match the latest tech. The Ukranians have also shown us the vitality of the will to fight. Morale and the ability to resist will be key to the calculus of a battle for Taiwan, and Beijing is also learning. It is doubtful that a PLA invasion will be so plodding or disjointed. Ukraine has likely shown the PLA planners the importance of shock-and-awe and rapid seizure of objectives. Finally, there is the question of how quickly and realistically the money can be outlayed, equipment purchased, manufactured, and delivered.

I will leave it to the wargamers to provide prognostication on how Taiwan could hold out in a conflict, or what the exact weapons best suited for a potential conflict — though the advances in unmanned and man-portable systems displayed in Ukraine appear better suited than Cold War-era tanks and destroyers. Ukraine has also demonstrated how peacetime predictions of quick capitulations or rapid advances quickly unravel in the fog and friction of war. Still, we must acknowledge the significant differences between Taiwan and Ukraine, where sustaining Taiwan’s resistance at the end of long logistics chains to Japan, Australia, and the United States would be a feat of logistics, military reach, and diplomatic maneuvering.

While we can debate whether the military aid will provoke or deter China — or even arrive in time — the legislation’s codifying of sanctions is also worth noting. Since 2008, as Russia had started attacking its neighbors, the western response had been disjointed. Sanctions were applied haphazardly, even as economic and financial ties grew deeper, as did energy dependence. What was unclear before Russia’s invasion in February was what consequences Moscow would face, and whether the west could implement them. That remains to be seen, especially with Europe’s gas dependence.

The United States and our allies have an even greater dependence on China. So too does China with the west, though Xi Jinping is actively moving to cut that dependence. The Taiwan Policy Act makes it clear what the consequences would be for the Chinese leadership and China’s largest banks, should it take aggressive action towards Taiwan such as an invasion, cyberattack, or blockade. What we must ask ourselves is whether we are in a position to be able to implement these sanctions. It is no good to draw our pistol, knowing it is only loaded with blanks. Furthermore, the deterrent capability of these sanctions will depend on how many allies can join/are willing to join in threatening credible sanctions should Beijing violently upset the status quo. If we see more “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy or the militaristic overreaction like that to Speaker Pelosi’s visit, it becomes easier to convince CEOs, Prime Ministers, and Presidents to hedge their bets on China. We also have to avoid taking the bait of provocation that will come from hawks in Beijing — and at home.

Again, so much of this depends on whether we find ourselves working in the world of “when” or “if.” If it is the former — and that can be inferred from how the Chinese leadership speaks of Taiwan — then we have to acknowledge that the time for deterrence has passed. That accelerates not only the legislative timeline, but also the economic and military timeframe for preparing for conflict. That said, if we are to hope that there is a chance to deter conflict, it will be through credibly demonstrating what China will lose economically — its detachment from the global economy from which it has benefitted should it attack Taiwan. That requires less of a bet on Taiwan — important as supporting it is — and more on hedging our dependence on China and strengthening our own capabilities.

Navy to field JADC2 capabilities Next year

Ethan Brown

A US Navy F-35C before take-off, soon to represent JADC2 integration for the fleet (U.S. Navy Photo)

This space of the roundup has gone to great lengths to cover and theorize on the benefits of an integrated information network for future DoD warfighting — chiefly highlighting the Air Force’s Air Battlefield Management System — but critically assessing the broader DoD’s efforts to implement an All-Domain Operations (ADO) approach to combat networking for the future.

The Air Force and Army have spent the last couple of years performing various on-ramps for their contribution to the integrated network systems, some to decent effect, and always finding new problems that are incorporated into the development process. The Navy, however, has not waited for fielding and testing, but has moved forward by outfitting a Carrier Strike Group with its PROJECT OVERMATCH networking capability.

Undersecretary of the Navy Eric Raven notified a media panel on September 7th of the progress, which to date has been considerably more tight-lipped than Air and Army efforts to provide JADC2 to the Force. “[What] this has to do with is matching up Navy innovation and Navy technologies. What can we bring to the force? This matches up really well with the initiatives across the department on JADC2”.

Now as a refresher, the DoD’s efforts to create a Joint All-Domain network is, quite simply, the ability to network everything, and do it securely in such a way that command and control exists whether the force numbers in the hundreds of thousands, or two operators. The aim is to enable data sharing — sensor feeds, logistics metrics, intelligence collection, maintenance status, threat vectoring, and everything else imaginable onto a network of data compilation that provides the most up to date and accurate battlefield information from the lowest echelon warfighter to the senior leaders commanding the war. This sounds like data overload, and it would be, if not for the system being enabled by intelligent data management, cloud computing, and machine-learning to streamline necessary data between elements. For example, a JADC2-networked F-35 — ideally — can receive accurate and timely targeting data from ground forces engaged in a deep strike operation in hostile territory, which even if the F-35 cannot prosecute, that information can be seamlessly shared to a Carrier Strike Group, with long-range surface fires capabilities. Without necessitating a laborious relay through congested line-of-sight radio channels. And the hierarchy at a Regional Command far away would be able to track this in real-time.

But to make the network function, it needs the nodes — the ships, aircraft, and individual personnel — to host each little sliver of the integrated network. It’s like mesh, or how 5G is purported to operate as our smart devices all bounce signals off one another: the more devices, the more stable the network, but more than one will still function as intended. It should be noted that, while prototype networks of this ilk saw testing and some proving in Afghanistan and Iraq, those battlespaces did not require command and control networks to be hardened against electronic warfare threats to scale from peer adversaries, OVERMATCH, the Air Force’s ABMS, and the Army’s CONVERGENCE, are built to do just that and more in a denied operating environment.

The Navy is fielding OVERMATCH on a task group to see just how a shared network will function afloat, where it matters, between maritime and multi-domain elements like the Marines contingent afloat with the Carrier Group. As the Undersecretary stated, this live-’fire’ exhibit will force the service to experiment, learn in real-time, and craft it into a coherent picture, with the ultimate result, per Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday stated, produce the system “to scale”.

The Defense Department requires command and control, even though the principle of Western warfighting has always hinged on ‘centralized control, decentralized execution’, meaning a strategy exists to vector capabilities, while lower-echelon units are freed up to execute based on their component commanders discretion. But this has always required a network and communications capability that distributes those strategy inputs to direct a coherent force. Interfering in that command and control capability, typically through electronic interference, is the best means for a peer adversary to interrupt how the DoD does its business. By creating a network where the entire subset of systems is integrated for data sharing, the construct of hardening the network against interference is now an advantage against adversary efforts. Simply, it makes it difficult for an enemy EW capability to target network hubs, like the ground stations and individual satellite entities of yesteryear’s C2 networks.

The challenge going forward, even if the fielding of OVERMATCH produces the results for the maritime force as intended, will be integration with sister services. The Air Force has made tremendous strides in creating and implementing its JADC2 capabilities, with a focus on data-sharing across the air and space domains, but the Army’s shared network — built to fuse large maneuver elements with long-distance fires and EW/Cyber/Space capabilities, “needs work”. A similar challenge looms over JADC2 efforts between the Air and Space Forces, strangely enough, but underlines the point that these efforts will be largely a greater issue if the systems cannot achieve integration.

Typically, a Joint program would be a Pentagon-level directive where one-size-must-fit-all — looking at you OCP uniforms — and the different components must accept the product as is. For JADC2, the three key branches (Air Force, Army and Navy) have each developed holistic solutions at scale for their services, based on broad but vectoring guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the near future will require them to cross streams and ensure the networks are able to transcribe with one another. It is not quite as simple as my Android Verizon 5G phone face-timing with an Iphone 5G device on AT&T, but the analogy will serve.

Once underway, the fleet will put the literal proof in the pudding on JADC2 outside the safe confines of the exercise ground. Even if the field test faces problems (inevitable), this marks the next step in achieving a fully integrated defense enterprise, lining the services up for the next challenge of department-wide integration. This is a big and important step in creating a positive capabilities gap with Pacific and European threats.

GAO Issues Warning on Data Privacy, Calls for Legislation

Robert W. Gerber

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report this week that warned: “Consumers generally do not have the ability to stop the collection of their data, verify data accuracy, or maintain privacy.” The GAO is a legislative branch entity that “provides Congress, the heads of executive agencies, and the public with timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can be used to improve government and save taxpayers billions of dollars,” according to the GAO website. It does work at the request of congressional committees.

GAO’s report said that in the absence of federal legislation regarding use or sale of internet users’ data, consumers have “limited assurance that their privacy will be protected.” These concerns are amplified by the proliferation of facial recognition technology and consumer scores that companies use to profile individuals for the purpose of targeted marketing (or denying you a service). These could lead to forms of digital discrimination or “redlining.” The GAO also flagged that Americans, generally speaking, have a low level of understanding of how their data is used, while at the same time collection, bundling, and reselling of customer data is increasing. The release of the GAO report occurred during the same week when a former Twitter security lead told Congress about alleged mishandling of user data at the technology company. Legislation known as the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce committee by a vote of 53–2. But Speaker Pelosi has not allowed a vote on the grounds that the legislation would supersede California’s state level protections and (allegedly) not allow California to continue to innovate rules as technology evolves. Experts say the legislation could have a carve out for states like California, but Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the bill’s sponsor, fears this would undermine national support for the legislation. Continued negotiations on the bill are reportedly still possible. It is noteworthy that some tech companies oppose the bill, and a number of them are located in or near Pelosi’s district.

Former Obama official Daniel Sepulveda posted on LinkedIn: “ADPPA constitutes good work establishing a substantively strong foundation for the development of privacy protections in the digital age going forward,” noting it can be built upon by subsequent rule and enforcement over time. He went on to say, “The GAO is considered by most, I think, as a fairly moderate, nonpartisan, professional, and analytical examiner…Its views are worth taking into consideration.”

The Federal Trade Commission, an independent executive branch agency responsible for enforcing consumer protection laws, has issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on data privacy, alongside a request for public comment, and a public forum which it held this month. But GAO says FTC measures implemented without congressional action would be insufficient.

It is rare to have bipartisan support for anything these days. The saying “don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good” applies to the need to protect consumers in the digital age.” Europe has had comprehensive privacy laws (GDPR) since 2018. Americans deserve similar protections. But this is not only a rights issue. There are also implications for U.S. innovation. We need technology solutions — both in government and the private sector — to make our economy more productive and to improve livelihoods. But a lack of trust in how data is being used undermines the adoption of such technologies. And there is a link to the health of our democracy: we can’t have empowered and engaged digital citizens if there is a low level of understanding of (and confidence in) how data is being used by our institutions.

News You May Have Missed

Pakistan floods serve as a “wakeup call” to climate change

Pakistan has experienced a flood of “apocalyptic proportions,” according to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, following a severe heatwave, which triggered significant glacial melting in its high mountain regions, and a long monsoon. The country received 190% more rain than its 30-year average from June to August. The relentless rains and flooding have killed over one thousand people and impacted more than 30 million people according to non-governmental organization CARE International. Pakistan’s geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change, according to climate experts. In addition, the government has struggled to meet basic infrastructure needs for its 216 million citizens. Pakistan is reportedly working on solutions like early-warning systems and flood mitigation, but climate scientist Fahad Saeed expressed that even a rich nation would be overwhelmed by the kind of flooding that Pakistan is experiencing, using the 2021 flooding in Germany and Belgium that killed dozens of people as an example. This recent weather event has put even more emphasis on understanding climate change and how countries can prepare for it.

Outrage as Iranian Woman Dies following Beating by Morality Police

22-year old Mahsa Amini has passed away after witnesses reported her being dragged into a police van and subsequently beaten. The Tehran police confirmed her arrest for “justification and education” about the hijab and claimed that her subsequent hospitalization was due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Public anger at her death is growing as the regime has continued to crackdown on violations of morality laws — especially those governing the hijab and head coverings for women.

The views of authors are their own, not that of CSPC.

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