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Category: Policy Briefs

Feb. 1, 2011

European Energy Security: Reducing Volatility of Ukraine-Russia Natural Gas Pricing Disputes

On January 7, 2009, the existing energy relationship among Europe, Russia, and Ukraine broke down over a natural gas dispute, just as it had done 3 years earlier. Amid subzero temperatures in many parts of Europe, Russia turned off its gas supply to Ukraine, causing shortages in more than 20 European countries. Thousands across the continent were left in the dark, and government services were closed.1 While the flow of gas was eventually restored, Russian gas disputes with Ukraine continue, and the prospect of another Gazprom shutoff has become an annual event for European consumers. Despite earlier indications that another breakdown in negotiations would lead to blackouts in Europe early in 2010, the potential crisis was averted via a Russia-Ukraine deal that restructured earlier payment and pricing arrangements.2 However, it is doubtful that Ukraine can continue timely payments for its domestic gas consumption and maintain its own pipeline infrastructure. Fundamental changes to Russia-Ukraine energy transport agreements are coming.

Feb. 1, 2011

Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Strategic Asset or Unusable Liability?

The Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) concept calls for a U.S. capability to deliver conventional strikes anywhere in the world in approximately an hour. The logic of the CPGS concept is straightforward. The United States has global security commitments to deter and respond to a diverse spectrum of threats, ranging from terrorist organizations to near-peer competitors. The United States might need to strike a time-sensitive target protected by formidable air defenses or located deep inside enemy territory. Small, high-value targets might pop up without warning in remote or sensitive areas, potentially precluding the United States from responding to the situation by employing other conventional weapons systems, deploying Special Operations Forces (SOF), or relying on the host country.

Feb. 1, 2011

Small Nuclear Reactors for Military Installations: Capabilities, Costs, and Technological Implications

In recent years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has become increasingly interested in the potential of small (less than 300 megawatts electric [MWe]) nuclear reactors for military use.1 DOD’s attention to small reactors stems mainly from two critical vulnerabilities it has identified in its infrastructure and operations: the dependence of U.S. military bases on the fragile civilian electrical grid, and the challenge of safely and reliably supplying energy to troops in forward operating locations. DOD has responded to these challenges with an array of initiatives on energy efficiency and renewable and alternative fuels. Unfortunately, even with massive investment and ingenuity, these initiatives will be insufficient to solve DOD’s reliance on the civilian grid or its need for convoys in forward areas. The purpose of this paper is to explore the prospects for addressing these critical vulnerabilities through small-scale nuclear plants.

Jan. 1, 2011

Maximizing the Returns of Government Venture Capital Programs

The stories of Google and Segway certainly end differently. With a market capitalization of over $180 billion, Google is arguably the biggest success in the information technology (IT) industry in the last decade. The phrase google it has worked its way into everyday language and dictionaries. On the other hand, Segway remains a privately held company whose products are largely relegated to use by tourists in major cities and security personnel at airports. We certainly do not hear people say that they “segwayed” to work this morning.

Jan. 1, 2011

Getting Beyond Taiwan? Chinese Foreign Policy and PLA Modernization

Since the mid-1990s, China’s military modernization has focused on deterring Taiwan independence and preparing for a military response if deterrence fails. Given China’s assumption of U.S. intervention in a Taiwan conflict, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been developing military capabilities to deter, delay, and disrupt U.S. military support operations. The 2008 election of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, however, has contributed to improved cross-strait economic and political cooperation and dramatically reduced the threat of Taiwan independence and war across the Taiwan Strait. Cooperation has included full restoration of direct shipping, flights, and mail across the strait, Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Assembly, regularized cross-strait negotiation mechanisms that have already reached several agreements, and the recent signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.

Oct. 1, 2010

Private Contractors in Conflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of contractors reached a level unprecedented in U.S. military operations. As of March 31, 2010, the United States deployed 175,000 troops and 207,000 contractors in the war zones. Contractors represented 50 percent of the Department of Defense (DOD) workforce in Iraq and 59 percent in Afghanistan. These numbers include both armed and unarmed contractors. Thus, for the purposes of this paper, the term contractor includes both armed and unarmed personnel unless otherwise specified. The presence of contractors on the battlefield is obviously not a new phenomenon but has dramatically increased from the ratio of 1 contractor to 55 military personnel in Vietnam to 1:1 in the Iraq and 1.43:1 in Afghanistan.

Dec. 1, 2009

STAR–TIDES and Starfish Networks: Supporting Stressed Populations with Distributed Talent

The Department of Defense increasingly is involved in postwar stabilization and reconstruction, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, capacity-building of partner nations at home and abroad, and other such complex operations. To provide sustainable support to stressed populations in these environments, an international, networked, knowledge-sharing research project called Sustainable Technologies, Accelerated Research–Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support (STAR–TIDES) encourages innovative approaches to public-private collaboration, whole-of-government solutions, and transnational engagement. It leverages a distributed network of people and organizations to conduct research, support real world contingencies, and bridge gaps among disparate communities.

Nov. 1, 2009

To Build Resilience: Leader Influence on Mental Hardiness

The military profession is inherently stressful and is getting more so for U.S. troops, who are deploying more often and for longer periods of time on missions that are multifaceted, changeable, and ambiguous. Such stressful conditions can lead to a range of health problems and performance decrements even among leaders. But not everyone reacts in negative ways to environmental stress. Most people remain healthy and continue to perform well even in the face of high stress levels. While much attention in recent years has focused on identifying and treating stress-related breakdowns such as post-traumatic stress disorder, scant investment has gone toward the study of healthy, resilient response patterns in people.

Sept. 1, 2009

Cyberspace and the “First Battle” in 21st-century War

Wars often start well before main forces engage. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, combat often began when light cavalry units crossed the border. For most of the 20th century, the “first battle” typically involved dawn surprise attacks, usually delivered by air forces. While a few of these attacks were so shattering that they essentially decided the outcome of the struggle or at least dramatically shaped its course—the Israeli air force’s attack at the opening of the June 1967 Six-Day War comes to mind—in most cases the defender had sufficient strategic space—geographic and/or temporal—to recover and eventually redress the strategic balance to emerge victorious. The opening moments of World War II for Russia and the United States provide two examples.

May 1, 2009

Breaking the Yardstick: The Dangers of Market-based Governance

In the middle of the last century, America became a superpower. It happened, in part, because of a well-balanced technological partnership between the Federal Government and commercial sector. After winning a world war against fascism, this public-private alliance went on to cure infectious diseases, create instant global communications, land humans on the Moon, and prevail in a long Cold War against communism. This, and more, was accomplished without bankrupting the Nation’s economy. The partnership’s record of service to the American people and the world has been remarkable.