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PRISM Volume 6, No. 3
December 7, 2016
— As the commander of United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), I welcome you to an issue of PRISM dedicated to special operations. SOCOM is responsible for the critical dual missions of providing the U.S. Geographic Commands with trained and ready special operations forces (SOF), as well as synchronizing their actions—we are uniquely created by law to perform both service-like activities and serve as a functional Geographic Combatant Command. In addition, SOCOM serves as the coordinating authority for the Department of Defense National Military Strategic Plan to Counter Trans-Regional Terrorist Organization (NMSP-CTTO). In light of the complexity of today’s security environment, SOF are spread broadly across the spectrum of conflict. As a SOF enterprise we continually strive to be ready, and I am confident we are postured to address today’s trans-regional challenges by virtue of our global perspective and authorities. Nevertheless, we must push ourselves to transform to meet evolving challenges, which entails leveraging developmental technologies and critically revisiting our structures and processes, while at the same time adjusting our tactics, techniques, and procedures to enhance effectiveness.
China’s Future SSBN Command and Control Structure
November 28, 2016
— China is developing its first credible sea-based nuclear forces. This emergent nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) force will pose unique challenges to a country that has favored tightly centralized control over its nuclear deterrent. The choices China makes about SSBN command and control will have important implications for strategic stability.
The NSC Staff: New Choices for a New Administration
November 15, 2016
— Early in every new administration, the President and his national security team are inundated with studies offering advice on how to organize for national security. Many propose sweeping changes in the size, structure, and mission of the National Security Council (NSC) staff, the fulcrum of national security decisionmaking. However attractive superficially, organizational tinkering is unlikely to drive better performance. This paper argues that structure and process are less important than leadership and the quality of NSC staffing. No duty rises higher than the President’s call to defend the Constitution and the people and territory it nourishes. That duty will be tested early and often. An NSC staff that is up to the task will play an enormous role in keeping the United States safe.
The Return of Foreign Fighters to Central Asia: Implications for U.S. Counterterrorism Policy
October 29, 2016
— Central Asia is the third largest point of origin for Salafi jihadist foreign fighters in the conflagration in Syria and Iraq, with more than 4,000 total fighters joining the conflict since 2012 and 2,500 reportedly arriving in the 2014–2015 timeframe alone. As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues to lose territory under duress from U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition activities, some predict that many may return home bent on jihad and generating terror and instability across Central Asia.
India’s Naxalite Insurgency: History, Trajectory, and Implications for U.S.-India Security Cooperation on Domestic Counterinsurgency
October 3, 2016
— The pace of U.S.-India defense cooperation over the past decade—and especially the past 2 years—has been unprecedented and impressive in many areas. These areas include defense technology cooperation, the discussion of a framework for military-to-military agreements, and the expansion of joint military exercises. U.S.-India defense cooperation, however, will remain limited in critical areas where India’s historical independent interests remain firm. Among these areas of Indian reserve include strategic autonomy, the imperatives of domestic federalism, and the preference for a go-slow approach toward redressing civil unrest. Attempts by U.S. policymakers to press harder in these areas will likely prove counterproductive.
Fifty Shades of Friction Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War
September 8, 2016
— “Four elements make up the climate of war: danger, exertion, uncertainty, and chance,” wrote Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz in his seminal On War. He observed that collectively, those four elements comprised the notion of friction, which he defined as “the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper.” Friction has disrupted the implementation of war plans since the dawn of civilization, and despite efforts to minimize its effects, it will continue to do so.
Cross-Functional Teams in Defense Reform: Help or Hindrance?
August 30, 2016
— On May 12, 2016, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) announced its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017. Committee chairman John McCain (RAZ) stated that the bill “contains the most sweeping reforms of the organization of the Department of Defense [DOD] in a generation.” The House Armed Services Committee version of the NDAA contained fewer reforms, but the committee emphasized that reform was necessary because “security challenges have become more transregional, multi-domain, and multi-functional. . . . U.S. superiority in key warfighting areas is at risk with other nations’ technological advances; and . . . [DOD] lacks the agility and adaptability necessary to support timely decisionmaking and the rapid fielding of new capabilities.”
Frontier Security: The Case of Brazil
August 17, 2016
— Over the past three decades Brazil has greatly improved its ability to monitor and control its long border. Achieving better management of the complex frontier security problem required a great deal of patience, trial and error, organizational adaptation, and good leadership. The Brazilian experience yields a number of important lessons for Brazil and for its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. Improving performance required subordination of military priorities to civilian authorities; the repositioning of forces; better military-police cooperation; interagency and international cooperation; investment in technologies to give Brazil an advantage in the contest for best situational awareness; a long-term commitment; and guiding strategy documents supported by both civil and military authorities. Of overarching significance is the way the Brazilian military was able to reestablish the confidence of civilian leaders in the aftermath of decades of military rule. The result was a Brazilian military that is more professional, more respected, and better resourced than before. For the United States, the evolution of Brazilian frontier security is not only a developing good news story for hemispheric relations, but also a learning opportunity, since similar security problems have not always been so well managed in the United States.
The Soviet Biological Weapons Program and Its Legacy in Today’s Russia
July 18, 2016
— In its first Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Case Study, the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD) at the National Defense University examined President Richard M. Nixon’s decision, on November 25, 1969, to terminate the U.S. offensive biological weapons program. This occasional paper seeks to explain why the Soviet government, at approximately the same time, decided to do essentially the opposite, namely, to establish a large biological warfare (BW) program that would be driven by newly discovered and powerful biotechnologies. By introducing the innovation of recombinant DNA technology—commonly referred to as genetic engineering—the Soviets were attempting to create bacterial and viral strains that were more useful for military purposes than were strains found in nature.
Will Technological Convergence Reverse Globalization?
July 12, 2016
— The Economist defines globalization as the “global integration of the movement of goods, capital and jobs,”1 and for decades, the process has been advancing. The combination of labor cost advantages, increasingly efficient freight systems, and trade agreements fueled globalization by providing regional cost advantages for manufacturing. Over the last six decades, it transformed agricultural societies into industrial powerhouses.