Policy Briefs

July 1, 2004

Global Networks: Emerging Constraints on Strategy

If current trends in communications technologies and services persist, the United States will be hard pressed to keep a strategic advantage in network capability. The international telecommunications system is rebalancing into four major centers of influence and innovation. Within ten years, Europe, India, and China will have the same technological and innovative capabilities in telecommunications as the United States. This shift is problematic for U.S. national security, because the global telecommunications infrastructure is becoming an important strategic battlespace—the physical battlefield of information warfare. Understanding the dynamic of regional balancing is critical to shaping U.S. responses.

July 1, 2004

NATO Technology: from Gap to Divergence?

A widening technology gap between the United States and other NATO members will challenge the ability of NATO to function as a cohesive, multinational force. Over several decades, great disparities in the funding of defense research and technology by NATO members has produced a widening technological gap that threatens to become a divergence - a condition from which the Alliance may not be able to recover. The technology gap, in turn, is creating a capabilities gap that undercuts the operational effectiveness of NATO forces, including the new NATO Response Force.

July 1, 2004

Alternative Approaches to Army Transformation

Army transformation is an attempt to provide future forces with enhanced capabilities in lethality, survivability, and mobility, both strategic and tactical. Alternatives to achieving these goals differ in emphasis on weight and reliance on technology. That is, transformation plans differ if the objective is weight reduction as opposed to weight redistribution. In one approach, platform weight is reduced to meet mobility goals. However, shedding weight has implications for platform survivability and lethality; previous attempts to design a single platform that is simultaneously lethal, mobile, and survivable have not done so satisfactorily. Thus, advances in materials are required to insure the survivability of a lightweight platform. Advances in network technology are also required to make the platform more aware of its environment. The immaturity of these technologies increases the risks inherent in transformation based strictly on platform characteristics.

April 1, 2004

Responsive Space and Strategic Information

American strategists face a daunting challenge; they must assure and defend American and allied interests, induce and encourage international security cooperation, and deter, dissuade, and defeat a diverse range of potential adversaries. This challenge has been addressed by senior political leadership in recent policy statements, such as the Nuclear Posture Review of 2002, and in the formation of an expanded U.S. Strategic Command, but this vision has not yet taken root in the Department of Defense components responsible for providing operational capability.

April 1, 2004

The Science and Engineering Workforce and National Security

Trends in the American science and engineering (S&E) workforce and national research and development (R&D) funding patterns and priorities have troubling implications for the economic and national security of our nation.

Jan. 1, 2004

Dirty Bombs: The Threat Revisited

Nuclear radiation, invisible and detectable only with special instruments, has the power to terrify—in part because of its association with nuclear weapons—and to become an instrument of terrorists. Radioactive isotopes can be spread widely with or without high explosives by a radiological dispersion device (RDD) or so-called dirty bomb. This paper provides a general overview of the nature of RDDs and sources of material for them and estimates the effects of an assault, including casualties and economic consequences. Many experts believe that an RDD is an economic weapon capable of inflicting devastating damage on the United States. This paper is in full agreement with that assessment and makes some quantitative estimates of the magnitude of economic disruption that can be produced by various levels of attack. It is also generally believed that even a very large RDD is unlikely to cause many human casualties, either immediately or over the long term. A careful examination of the consequences of the tragic accident in Goiânia, Brazil, however, shows that some forms of radiological attack could kill tens or hundreds of people and sicken hundreds or thousands. Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, RDDs are not weapons of mass destruction.

Jan. 1, 2004

XVIII Airborne Corps: Spearhead of Military Transformation

War transforms armies. Combat accelerates transformation by moving it out of the realm of academic debate and endless speculation about the future to a pragmatic approach focused on fielding new capabilities within new combat formations as soon as possible. In war, transformation means conserving equipment and operational methods that are still relevant while incorporating new technologies, tactics, and organizations that enable victory. It is nearly impossible to replicate in peacetime training the true conditions of land warfare—ambiguity, uncertainty, and above all terror, killing, and exhaustion. For the Army, the best opportunity to transform involves parallel evolution, a method that moves new technologies into combat formations today and explores what the troops will actually do with them in action. With a conflict in progress, this approach is better than trying to predict future uses in an inflexible operational requirements document developed in isolation from the field environment.

Nov. 1, 2003

Hydrogen as a Fuel for DOD

Energy issues have been at the center of the national security debate for some time, and the current situation in the Persian Gulf underscores the strategic importance of sound energy policy. Activities or developments—geopolitical, environmental, technological, or regulatory—that materially change the energy security equation are, naturally, of great interest to the Department of Defense (DOD). The announcement by President George Bush in his State of the Union address that he intends to accelerate research and development (R&D) for hydrogen-powered vehicles toward the objective of total U.S. energy independence has great potential impact on DOD. This paper examines a number of technical issues connected with energy independence through hydrogen and how they might affect DOD. We conclude that the move to a hydrogen economy will be a massive undertaking, requiring large investments and decades to accomplish. We will show that, with few exceptions, pure hydrogen is not a viable fuel for DOD missions, primarily because of the DOD requirement for compact, high-volumetric energy density power sources. As a result, to meet its unique needs, DOD likely will have to increase its dependence on nuclear power and support R&D that investigates ways to use hydrogen to synthesize hydrocarbon fuels in an environmentally compliant fashion. Several suggestions and recommendations will be made in this regard.

Nov. 1, 2003

Alternative Governance: A Tool forMilitary Laboratory Reform

Throughout the Cold War, the United States maintained an edge over adversaries by fielding technologically superior warfighting systems. This strategy depended on a strong research and development (R&D) effort in both the public and private sectors, and the community of military laboratories in the Department of Defense played an essential role in the overall effort. Because of the importance of these labs during the Cold War, defense planners continually focused on ways to improve and strengthen them.

Oct. 1, 2003

Dual-Track Transformation for NATO

Recent strains between the United States and some European allies have raised concerns that NATO is becoming irrelevant or even headed toward extinction. A breakup of NATO would severely damage the United States and Europe as well as prospects for global peace. As an urgent priority, NATO must restore its unity and strengthen its capacity for common action in the Greater Middle East. But how can this goal be achieved in today’s climate?