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Sept. 8, 2016

Fifty Shades of Friction Combat Climate, B-52 Crews, and the Vietnam War

“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.

Aug. 30, 2016

Cross-Functional Teams in Defense Reform: Help or Hindrance?

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.”

Aug. 17, 2016

Frontier Security: The Case of Brazil

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.

July 18, 2016

The Soviet Biological Weapons Program and Its Legacy in Today’s Russia

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.

July 12, 2016

Will Technological Convergence Reverse Globalization?

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.

July 1, 2016

Reflections on U.S.-Cuba Military-to-Military Contacts

The strategic import of U.S.-Cuba relations was underscored by President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba from March 20–22, 2016, and his comment that he had come to Cuba “to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.” Geography also reinforces the strategic importance of both countries to one another. Cuba sits astride the intersection of the three large bodies of water dominating the approaches to the southern United States. The large island nation is in a position to block, complicate, or facilitate U.S. border control efforts in many ways. Partnering with Cuba also might allow the United States to benefit from Cuba’s notable record of using soft power effectively in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.

June 1, 2016

The NATO Warsaw Summit: How to Strengthen Alliance Cohesion

It is often stated that cohesion constitutes the center of gravity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Yet divergent domestic pressures and external threat perceptions are threatening to pull Allies apart and leave the Euro-Atlantic security architecture in shatters. When NATO Heads of State and Government meet in Warsaw on July 8–9, 2016, the stakes will be high. Not since the end of the Cold War has the security outlook been as bleak or the collective resources for meeting multiple threats as meager.

May 10, 2016

Supporting Democracy in Erdoǧan’s Turkey: The Role of Think Tanks

This paper examines the Turkish think tank sector as part of a strategy to invest in Turkish democratization in a manner that does not prejudice security cooperation or the broader bilateral relationship. The United States for over 60 years has promoted a Turkey that is politically stable, economically prosperous, militarily capable, and democratically mature. As we head into 2016, the good news is that Turkey has had a party capable of ruling and winning elections for 14 years, is a G20 economy, retains one of the strongest military and security establishments in the world, and has established civilian authority over the military in a durable manner. The bad news is that this substantial progress has not resulted in a more transparent government fully committed to Western democratic norms. Instead the result has been a frequently unpredictable ally led by an increasingly authoritarian, albeit popular President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who flouts Western norms with relish and deviates from Western strategic consensus with ease. The sustained dialogue, mutual understanding, consultation, and compromise that mark good partnerships are noticeably absent—and the formerly substantial American influence over Turkish policymaking is greatly diminished. At the same time, the United States has an image problem to accompany its influence deficit, having experienced a sustained loss of trust among the Turkish public.

April 5, 2016

China's Goldwater-Nichols? Assessing PLA Organizational Reforms

In the past few months, China has announced a series of major reforms to the organizational structure of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA): the Central Military Commission (CMC) has been revamped, the four general departments dissolved, new service headquarters created, and five new theater commands established in place of the seven military regions (MRs). These changes are part of a sweeping transformation of PLA institutions, force structure, and policy that will be ongoing through 2020. In pursuing these reforms, China’s leaders hope both to tighten central political control over a force that was seen as increasingly corrupt and to build the PLA into a credible joint warfighting entity. Yet important obstacles remain, and it may be years before the implications of these reforms come into full view.

March 29, 2016

National Security Reform and the 2016 Election

There are few issues of greater intrinsic importance to the United States than national security reform—or one riper for resolution. Twenty years ago most senior leaders were skeptical of allegations that the national security system was “broken”; they believed the system functioned well enough to manage the Nation’s most pressing problems. Since then numerous prominent experts have been sounding the alarm from inside the system and from without. No fewer than nine blue-ribbon groups have argued in favor of system reforms (see tables 1 and 2). The overwhelming majority of scholars publishing independently on the issue favor reform. During the 2008 Presidential election, the momentum in favor of national security reform was so strong that many thought it was inevitable. This presumption was reinforced when President Barack Obama appointed well-known proponents of reform to senior positions in the National Security Council staff, Department of State, Department of Defense (DOD), and Intelligence Community. Yet reform did not take place during the Obama administration, and so far it has not been an issue in the 2016 Presidential race, either. This paper examines why reform was sidetracked, whether it could emerge as a campaign issue during the 2016 Presidential election, and why it is in candidates’ and the Nation’s interest that it does.