THINK TANK CENTRAL

Your single destination for high-quality content from top think tanks around the world. Fresh reports and analysis as they are released to ensure valuable thought leadership work isn’t lost in the daily noise.

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In a September 2017 research study from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Col. Matt Hurley, USAF Ret., a senior fellow at Mitchell, examines opportunities for the US Air Force to modernize how C2ISR assets are designed and implemented in the field, according to a press release. “Today, the US Air Force’s ‘Big Wing’ C2 and ISR aircraft provide critical situational awareness of air and surface activity, as well as adversary intentions across the spectrum of conflict,” it reads.  “The three in-demand assets that make up what is known as the ‘Iron Triad’ are the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), and the RC-135V/W Rivet Joint electronic and signals intelligence gathering aircraft. This Mitchell study addresses the past, present, and future of these valuable aircraft, and the future operating environment where airborne command and control and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C2ISR) will be even more vital to successful military campaigns and contingency operations.”

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A Sept. 6, 2017, report assembled by a 10-person team of Atlantic Council experts and entitled the “State Department Reform Report,” examines the institution’s “structure and process, personnel, budget, congressional relations, and USAID,” according to a press release, and offers reform recommendations in each of these areas. “The report serves as a foundation for reform efforts that will lead to the empowerment of the State Department at a time when a rapidly evolving global environment consistently poses new challenges and threats,” the release reads. “The department’s role is indeed unique and vital in the US national security apparatus; diplomacy based in continued and robust support for US interests and values is critical to favorable long-term outcomes, including a more secure and stable global environment.”

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In an Aug. 23, 2017, report from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action entitled “Managing Global Disorder: Prospects for U.S.-Russian Cooperation,” participants from a June 2017 workshop on the same topic identify “threats to world order and perspectives on global norms” and areas where Russia and the US might be able to work together. They also offer a set of recommendations for improving relations between the two nations that touch on NATO, cybersecurity and more. “The workshop was held at the Tufts University European Center in Talloires, France, and was made possible by the support of Carnegie Corporation of New York,” they write.

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In an August 2017 report from Stanford University’s Hoover Institution published as part of its Aegis Series, author Ben Buchanan, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Cybersecurity Project, argues that the US government’s “Nobody But Us” (or NOBUS) approach to signals intelligence — in which communications are designed to be indecipherable by any method that isn’t exclusive to US parties —  is losing effectiveness due to “increasingly sophisticated” enemies. According to Buchanan, the report “outlines the ways in which the United States can and does exploit structural or asymmetric advantages in capability or access to enable NOBUS methods,”  “examines how current trends make NOBUS solutions harder to find and use,” and “articulates some ideas for a potential path forward, though it acknowledges there is no easy answer.”

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In her August 2017 report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Kate Blakeley, CSBA research fellow, paints a picture of today’s rapidly innovating international defense ecosystem and argues that “the U.S. military’s slow-paced acquisition tempo” is a risk to its “technological” competitiveness, citing congressional testimony by US Defense Secretary James Mattis to drive the point home.  “Research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funding is the pathway by which the U.S. military explores new technologies and capabilities and develops them into weapons systems and platforms,” Blakeley writes. “Maintaining the U.S. military’s current technological advantages and adapting to future challenges requires RDT&E efforts that are robust, targeted at the correct operational problems, and nimble enough to be responsive to shifts in the technological and security landscapes.”

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In a July 2017 report from the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Aaron Stein, PhD, a resident senior fellow at the center, presents a case study of “two efforts to achieve US objectives” in Syria — a failed one that utilized the Train and Equip program, and another that worked “through the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the dominant local force in northeastern Syria” which Stein classifies as “a tactical success.”  “The different outcomes make these two programs worth studying in depth,” he writes. “This report is based on a series of interviews with US officials and provides lessons learned for US policy makers.”

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In a July 2017 issue brief published by the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, author Col. Herbert Kemp, USAF Ret., president and CEO of OneALPHA Corporation, proposes “a broad, non-NATO approach to the growing challenge of ballistic missiles for the United States and its allies and considers new technologies and methods to meet the threat,” especially in the face of a missile-equipped Russia. “While the approach is global, many of the considerations and recommendations in this issue brief are of relevance to the Alliance and its members as NATO pursues options on how to provide credible collective defense and deterrence in a newly insecure Europe,” Kemp writes.

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In an August 2017 report published by the New America Foundation’s Cybersecurity Initiative entitled “The Malware Markets: A Graphic Exploration” by Brian de Luna, a data scientist at AirBnB, Luke Heine, director at the Harvard Institute of Quantitative Science’s Lab for Entrepreneurship and Development, and Trey Herr, PhD, a fellow with the Cyber Security Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, analyze the markets behind malware — from their  origins and power players to their impact and future prospects. “The malware markets are home to both defensive groups, like software vendors, and offensive groups, like criminal networks and other attackers,” they write. “Companies are involved with building and selling malicious code, from single exploits all the way up to integrated surveillance packages. Underneath all of this is a global network of companies, criminal groups, individuals, and even governments that build, buy, and sell code.” 

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In a new report from the Center for a New American Security entitled “Getting It Righter, Faster: The Role of Prediction in Agile Government Decisionmaking,”co-authors Kathryn McNabb Cochran, 2016 CNAS Next Generation National Security Fellow and director of foreign policy research at Good Judgment Inc., and Cmdr. Gregory Tozzi, USCG, CNAS 2016-2017 senior military fellow, 2016-2017,  “outline how the complexity of today’s world underlines the need for agility in government decisionmaking and argue that predictive systems can support agility at multiple decision points in the policymaking process.” “The authors then provide an overview of forecasting methodologies that meet these requirements,” the paper continues.

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In a new study from the Center for Strategy and Budgetary Assessments entitled “Doing What You Know: The United States and 250 Years of Irregular War,” Dave Johnson, PhD, CSBA senior fellow, analyzes why the United States has been as of yet unable to win the post 9-11 “Global War on Terrorism”  despite its consistent use of  “irregular combat.” “Its military forces, particularly the Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Forces, have made significant adaptations after the onset of the insurgency in Iraq following the initial success of conventional operations there in 2003,” he writes. “Yet, victory—achieving the desired political objectives—in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to elude the United States more than fifteen years into the Global War on Terrorism despite significant investments in blood and treasure.” Learn more about the report here.

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