Strategic Intelligence Summary for 12 April 2018

Strategic Intelligence contains intelligence reporting on the state of global security and instability, geostrategic issues affecting the United States, pre-war indicators, and assessments on the current risk of war. This report is available each week for Strategic Intelligence subscribers.

In this Strategic Intelligence Summary: (5,192 words)

  • Macedonia decides to joint NATO
  • Ukraine will impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs 
  • U.S. Army will cancel programs to fund its Big Six requirements 
  • U.S. Army to begin testing autonomous convoy capability 
  • U.S. special operators conduct winter training in Sweden 
  • U.S. Navy tests two sub-launched Trident ballistic missiles 
  • Russia, China continue testing ASAT missiles that endanger U.S. satellites 
  • Chinese oil workers make major gas discovery in Russian Arctic waters 
  • Taiwan under siege from Chinese cyberattacks 
  • China developing UAVs for aircraft carriers 
  • Japan boosts radar at outlying island as China increases naval activities
  • And more…

In Focus: In a recent Strategic Intelligence Summary, I wrote that the present greatly resembles the 1930s, and several things happened this week to convince me of that even more. The U.S. and Russia continue to be at loggerheads and moved closer to conflict this week in the Middle East. President Trump threatened early in the week that he would order the U.S. military to retaliate against the Syrian government — a client of Moscow’s — for its alleged involvement in gassing Syrian men, women, and children for the second time in a year. The Russian government, according to Tass, blamed the attack on the White Helmets, officially known as Syria Civil Defense. While some British journalists in Syria also suspect the organization’s involvement, others say U.S.-backed rebels are “staging” bodies of dead children killed in the chemical attack, making it seem more like a false flag attack than a Syrian government operation. And one U.S. congressman, a supporter of President Trump, has said it makes no sense for Syrian President Assad to use chemical weapons and draw a U.S. response when Trump has hinted he wants to leave Syria soon. 

Nevertheless, at this hour U.S. ships are headed to the region, the Russian fleet at the Tartus naval base have sortied in preparation for “live-fire” drills, and Syrian government forces have vacated their bases, redeploying with Russians for protection. The whole thing seems like a slow-burning fuse that could accelerate at any moment.

Meanwhile, the Chinese and Russians are moving closer, and while there is no formal military alliance yet, Chinese diplomats have said a recent meeting with Russian counterparts was specifically aimed at sending a message to the United States — a meeting that comes amid a looming trade war between Washington and Beijing. As this ‘alliance’ buds, the U.S. and India are working on forging new, deeper ties. A private diplomatic conclave last week emphasized that the closer cooperation is a bulwark against a rising China, mostly. In particular, the Indians want closer military ties with the U.S., as well as capitalist-driven development and foreign investment.

Both sides formed alliances formed in the years leading up to World War II, and the principle Axis powers moved on weaker, regional rivals while accomplishing key strategic objectives. In light of Ukraine, Crimea, and the South China Sea, what’s happening in the world today feels eerily similar.

Welcome to this week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary and thank you for subscribing We welcome your feedback. — JD

Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries?

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)

PIR4: What is the current security situation along the U.S.-Mexico border and south of the border?

PIR1: What are the new indicators of disruptive events that could cause global or regional instability?

Macedonia decides to joint NATO

Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has said his country has decided to become the 30th NATO member as tensions ramp up between the alliance and Russia. “Good neighborly relations and regional cooperation remain our strategic goals along with the aspiration for NATO and European Union (EU) membership. We are building a new spirit of inclusive policies that lead to solutions, not to problems,” Zaev said, adding that his country has been a “close” partner with NATO for 22 years. Zaev said his country would boost its defense spending by 0.2 percent of GDP and increase participation in the NATO Afghanistan mission by 20 percent. [source] SC: The country of Macedonia has roughly the same population as Houston, Texas — around two million — but has nearly half a million males eligible for military service. For Macedonia, the move is about protection as NATO and Russia compete to scoop up the remaining countries in the region into their respective spheres of influence. NATO membership carries with it some benefits like participation in NATO exercises, improving their militaries, and cooperation that might results in economic activity; however, these nations want to join NATO because they’re concerned about Russian influence and NATO is all too happy to oblige. For instance, Montenegro, which has the population of Las Vegas and fewer than 2,000 active military personnel, joined NATO last year for the same reason. What could tiny Montenegro actually contribute to NATO? It’s little more than a move towards Article V protection in the event that war breaks out.

Chinese oil workers make major gas discovery in Russian Arctic waters

A Chinese oil rig has found what is now one of Russia’s largest reserves of liquified natural gas (LNG). The rig is owned by China Oilfield Services Limited (COSL); drilling was made at a depth of about 525 feet. “The drilling revealed that the Leningradskoye field off the Yamal Peninsula holds as much as 1,9 trillion cubic meters of gas. That is 850 million cubic meters more than previous estimates,” Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy reportedly wrote in a Facebook post. The area is covered by the so-called Leningradskoye license, owned by Russian energy behemoth Gazprom. The region covers an area located west of the Yamal Peninsula in the Kara Sea. [source]

Taiwan under siege from Chinese cyberattacks

The Taiwanese government says it is being inundated with cyberattacks by the Chinese, with its computer systems subjected to as many as 40 million incidents every month. Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security said this week that there were 288 successful attacks originating from China’s state-sponsored cyber apparatus and affiliated groups last year. Those incidents were mostly labeled Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs. The head of the Taiwanese agency said that there are between 20 million and 40 million attacks monthly, but they are among billions of probing actions that are made by hackers looking for system vulnerabilities. Most attacks are of the least-serious classification, resulting in, for example, the unauthorized alteration of government web pages. Still, Taiwanese officials say the attacks are becoming more precise and represent a grave threat to the country. Many of the Chinese attacks are routed through servers in Europe and the United States. Taiwanese cybersecurity specialists are able to identify specific attack traits and styles of coding that are inherent in China-based hacking. [source]

PIR2: What are the latest military and security developments exhibited by the U.S. and their peer and near-peer adversaries? 

U.S. Army will cancel programs to fund its Big Six requirements

Fearful that in 2020 the military could once again face sequestration cuts or more of the same damaging continuing budget resolutions after the current omnibus spending law expires, the U.S. Army is wasting no time in identifying its budget priorities and working to ensure they remain funded. To that end, the Army has devised its “Big Six” requirements, and in this order: artillery, armor, aviation, air & missile defense, networks, and soldiers. Newly confirmed and installed Army Secretary Mark Esper said the service is poring over 800 acquisition programs for things to cancel in order to free up funds and thus making sure that whatever money the Army receives, its priorities will remain fully funded. It promises to be a long process, Espy says, but that’s why the service is getting started now. “We have to do our due diligence,” he said. “And it’s going to mean cutting programs, freeing money from current programs by either slowing them or killing them, whatever the case may be, to free up money for those higher priorities.” Espy knows that every program is important to someone, so he expects flak, but he said the Army “can’t just continue to ramble along funding 800 programs.” [source] Analyst comment: This may be the result of having a billionaire real estate mogul in the White House who looks at government like a business operation, cutting and reshaping and cutting and reshaping until its the most efficient operation it can be. That’s good; the Army — and all the services — have a lot of catch-up to play after 15 years of focusing on low-intensity conflict while dealing with a massive op-tempo and falling budgets.

U.S. Army to begin testing autonomous convoy capability

The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is currently overseeing a number of programs that seek to coordinate a manned leader vehicle with seven unmanned ‘follower’ trucks aimed at streamlining convoy OPS and make transport less risky for logistics troops. According to program documents, the tactical wheeled vehicle leader-follower column will provide a limited autonomous capability. This program is being developed in conjunction with other, similar, autonomous resupply concepts and the Army hopes to have a year-long demonstration by 2021. If it is successful, the U.S. will offer it to allies. The United Kingdom is particularly interested in the “autonomous last mile” effort, which is “about how do you get supplies and resupplying, ammunition, spares, critical medical items right to the very frontline,” said Pete Stockel, the innovation autonomy challenge lead at Dstl, the British Defense Ministry’s civilian-led “in-house science and technology organization.” [source] SC: Pentagon officials have long warned that the future of warfare will be more lethal as drones and other distributed weapons platforms join the battlefield. The effort to automate logistics is aimed as saving lives, and the military is looking at similar platforms, like unmanned drones capable of delivering payloads of supplies without the risk to human life. The future battlefield is actually quite worrisome. Due to the low cost prevalence of drones capable of spotting enemy soldiers in the field, reporting their real-time locations, and calling for fire, the Pentagon is focusing on ways to mitigate the risk of losing soldiers in traditionally soft targets like convoys.

U.S. special operators conduct winter training in Sweden

Airmen assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing along with U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group held extreme winter training in Sweden, above the Arctic Circle in temps that can cause frostbite in minutes. The training took place from February through March, and consisted of six weeks of realistic scenarios and classroom instruction. “The course included classes and practical exercises on survival in a cold weather environment,” a participating airman said. “We also trained [on] movement on skis and snowshoes, advanced snowmobile movements and live-fire ranges. We need to have the ability to employ and project global access, precision strike and personnel recovery across the globe, regardless of environment.” Training occurred between U.S. and EU partners. Said one participating airman of the harsh environment: “The enemy is simulated, but the cold is real.” [source] SC: While the U.S. military has long conducted Arctic and cold weather training, the focus now is on a very real potential of having to actually fight in the Arctic. As Russia continues to weaponize its Arctic bases, and China has eyes on its own operations there, the U.S. and NATO will be confronted with a ‘third front’ in this potential war.

U.S. Navy tests two sub-launched Trident ballistic missiles

An Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine has conducted test-firings of a pair of Trident II D5 missiles from a submerged position in the Pacific Missile Range off the coast of California in late March. The tests were conducted in conjunction with a so-called Demonstration and Shakedown Operation, or DASO, the “primary objective” of which “is to evaluate and demonstrate the readiness of the SSBN’s strategic weapon system and crew before operational deployment following midlife refueling overhaul,” the Navy said in a statement. These marked the 166th and 167th successful tests of the Trident II D5 since its introduction into the fleet in 1989. The missiles use solid propellant, have a range of about 4,000 nautical miles, and are fitted with multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles each carrying a nuclear payload. The Ohios are the sea-based branch of the U.S. nuclear triad, ensuring a second-strike capability. [source]

Russia, China continue testing ASAT missiles that endanger U.S. satellites

In recent months Russia and China have both conducted tests of power, advanced missile systems that can blast targets in outer space, including U.S. satellites used for just about every modern military application. Last week the Russian Ministry of Defense announced a successful test of its A-135 anti-ballistic missile system, a sophisticated design aimed at protecting Moscow from air and space attacks. In February, China tested its Dong Neng-3, or DN-3, long-range interceptor missile by successfully shooting down another missile in near-space. Beijing reportedly conducted its first successful test of this system in 2010. These developments come as Russia and China appear to be inching closer to an outright military alliance they will use to challenge the U.S.-led global order. [source]



China developing UAVs for aircraft carriers

The Chinese military has launched a program to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle platform for its aircraft carriers. The program development is being led by the China Aerospace and Technology Corp. Officials with the contractor have confirmed the UAV development. A widely quoted Chinese naval expert, Li Jie, noted that “research into carrier-based UAVs started a long time ago.” Commercial satellite imagery from November 2016 shows a UAV at a catapult test site belonging to the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force base at Huangdicun. There are two catapult test tracks installed side-by-side at the site, one of which is likely steam-powered and the other electromagnetic. [source]

U.S. Army develops precision 155 artillery round that doesn’t use GPS

The U.S. Army is developing a precision round for its 155mm artillery platforms that can be delivered on-target without the use of GPS. The Precision Guidance Kit Modernization (PGK-M) is slated to replace standard PGK rounds which are unguided but come with a GPS-fuze built in. A decade ago when original PGK round was fielded, the objective was to bring greater precision to historically unguided artillery fire. The new objective is for Army and Marine Corps artillery units to deliver accurate fires on-target in an environment where GPS is being denied/jammed, or in the event that GPS satellites are destroyed. The round will be available for standard 155mm platforms including the U.S. Army M777 lightweight towed howitzer and the M109. [source]

Japan boosts radar at outlying island as China increases naval activities

As the Chinese navy continues to expand its carrier and fleet operations in and around Japan, the defense ministry is bolstering air defenses across an area that includes the Izu and Ogasawara islands. The military is adding new fixed warning and control radar equipment in response to an increase in Chinese naval traffic in the Western Pacific near Iwo Island. In addition, the ministry plans to boost training and other functions tied to the additional radar placement, which is scheduled to begin operations by 2020. The upgrade will include satellite communications and tools for wireless communications with Japan’s Air Self Defense Force fighters. [source]

U.S. preparing for cyber attacks against foreign infrastructure

The three-star Army general set to lead CYBERCOM and the NSA, Paul Nakasone, said cyber operations teams are preparing to shut down critical infrastructure in China and Russia during any future conflict by conducting cyber-intrusions into their current networks. Hackers from both countries have been discovered probing U.S. networks and infrastructures increasingly in recent years including critical systems controlling electrical power grids, water treatment plants, dams, power plants and other infrastructure in the financial and transportation sectors. Nakasone revealed CYBERCOM’s planning in advanced written testimony provided to the Senate ahead of hearings last month. He said the U.S. military will take steps to prepare for cyber attacks against foreign infrastructure as part of the Pentagon’s offensive military strategy. When asked if he believed the U.S. should inform Russia and China that the Pentagon will target their critical infrastructure, Nakasone responded, “Yes. The ability to respond appropriately and effectively is an essential element of any deterrent strategy.” [source]

PIR3: What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints? (North Korea, China, Russia, Iran/Israel/Middle East)


Russian chief of the General Staff Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov recently discussed how he sees a future conflict involving great-power war, mostly involving the U.S. and NATO. He said that Russia’s objectives should be to focus on “the enemy’s economy and command-and-control system (C2),” which ought to be “priority targets [for potential Russian attacks].” In addition to traditional warfighting domains, he said Russian forces increasingly would focus on space and the information domain. He also outlined five practical steps that Russia must undertake in order to be ready to fight in the future:

— Develop an inter-service automated reconnaissance system to reduce the time cycle for completing fire missions by 2-2.5 times, while increasing accuracy of those fires by 1.5-2 times

— Improve the C2 structures through the creation of special informational support sub-units and reliance on advanced computer systems

— Broader use of unmanned autonomous systems (UAS) based on “new physical principles” including beam, geophysical, genetic, psychophysical and other technologies

— Continue to develop enhanced electronic warfare capabilities (EW), as well as anti-EW mechanisms

— Make precision weapons a priority (and most notably, hypersonic weapons) 

Gerasimov’s priorities come on the heels of an earlier claim by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in which he said that “very soon, the Russian military Industrial Complex could launch production of military robots on a large scale.”

Russia has been busy testing new missiles. In recent days Moscow has conducted a successful test of its new nuclear-capable “Satan 2” ICBM, as well as what it calls an “anti-nuclear missile” weapon meant to protect Moscow from a limited nuclear strike. The test launch occurred in Kazakhstan. In addition, Russia’s Baltic Fleet, which is based in the Kaliningrad enclave, conducted missile tests using live munitions, forcing airspace in the region to be shut down and some sea traffic lanes re-routed. Latvia, which is a NATO country, was alarmed by the proximity of the tests, with Latvian officials claiming such exercises have never occurred so close to its territory. “Drills lasting for three days in the region where there is very intensive aviation traffic, and given everything else that is happening in relations between the West and Russia, I think that it is a rather provocative action,” Latvia’s ambassador to Russia, Maris Riekstins, told Latvian Television. I would agree, and probably intentionally so.

As the Russian military modernizes, it also faces demographic changes that are sure to affect mandatory military requirements for young Russian males, which will affect military readiness. Already there are signs of population decline, with just 1.69 million births in 2017 — the lowest level in a decade, according to government figures. This comes after the country has made a substantial effort to reverse its demographic decline. Moscow plans to continue spending money — nearly $9 billion over the next three years — to boost the country’s birth rate including offering mortgage subsidies to couples and payments to new and growing families. Russia’s population declined in 2017 by 134,400 people.


Middle East: 

Frankly, Russia could go to war against NATO in the Middle East perhaps more easily than in Europe, or it certainly seems so this week after presidents and diplomats exchanged heated rhetoric and threats over Syria. Both sides have vested interests they have to defend. The U.S. cannot quit the Middle East because there are additional threats there (Iran) and it must help defend its Israeli and Arab allies; Russia relies on Syria for access to the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea, so it’s a matter of defending a necessary military asset. Neither side can really back down. Plus, there is the fact that U.S.-led forces inflicted heavy losses on Russian “mercenaries” who work for the Kremlin. Putin no doubt wants a little payback.

Things are getting messier in what continues to be the most volatile of all our PIR 3 watch zones. The week began with another suspected chemical weapon attack by the Assad regime against a rebel-held enclave near the Syrian capital of Damascus; at last count, more than 60 have died, including children. The attack drew all of the same responses from the same players: Threats of retaliation, denials, punitive airstrikes. But what’s different this time around is that there is some uncertainty as to whether Trump will keep U.S. forces in Syria (and the region in general) for the longer-term, if for no other reason than to shield allied Kurds from Syria, Turkey, and Iran. The president initially signaled that he wants American troops out of Syria within six months; but the Pentagon pushed back against that idea.The premature withdrawal of American forces from Iraq by the Obama administration left a power vacuum that was filled by the Islamic State. 

Meanwhile, Iran — whose forces were among those reportedly killed in an Israeli airstrike against the T4 airbase in Syria following the chemical attack — has threatened to restart its uranium enrichment program within days if President Trump makes good on his long-standing threat to pull out of the “nuclear deal” struck by the previous administration and European nations. Currently, we are working with our European allies to address several flaws in the agreement ahead of a May deadline. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said this week his country has maintained the ability to restart full-scale uranium enrichment, a key component in nuclear weapons production that was supposed to have been removed as part of the deal, within four days. That revelation alone may be enough to kill the deal, as the White House and other experts have long warned that Tehran never fully revealed the extent and nature of its nuclear weapons progress.

As all of this takes place Israel is dealing with tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters, some of whom have been shot and killed during clashes with Israeli troops along the country’s Gaza border. The “March of Return” protests are supposed to last for six weeks, but it’s not clear they will. In fact, the demonstrations are being sponsored in part by Iranian proxy Hamas, which is angling for a war with Israel as a way to rally much of the Arab world around that cause. Good luck with that, considering the sea changes occurring throughout the region. As Iran rises with Russia’s backing, the other regional power, Saudi Arabia, is moving closer to Israel, by far the most powerful of the region’s nations, an alliance of sorts that will push back against Iranian expansionism throughout the region. The Israel-Saudi alliance will, of course, be backed by the United States and other regional allies including Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and, perhaps, even Iraq. Hamas will likely continue to be a client of Iran, but the Palestinian “cause” — a homeland predicated on the destruction of Israel — isn’t likely to succeed anytime soon as regional allegiances shift in anticipation of what promises to be a far more deadlier, and wider, future conflict. In fact, judging by reporting on the protests, it appears as though Hamas has a bigger problem with the Palestinian Authority than it does with Israel at the moment. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, 83, wants Hamas to give up its weapons; he does not want an armed extremist militia group to be his legacy, but it probably will be.

Russian electronic warfare in Syria is having an effect on U.S. drones operating there. U.S. officials have said the Russians are able to successfully jam American drones, which have had a serious effect on U.S. military operations in the region. The jamming began several weeks ago following a suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta. Concerned the U.S. military would retaliate, the Russians began jamming the GPS systems of American drones. Experts say the jamming could lead the drones to malfunction and even crash. The jamming has also had an impact on UN drones operating in the region to monitor human rights abuses. Reports note that larger American UAVs like the MQ-1B Predator and Reapers are not being affected by the jamming; only smaller, surveillance drones. 

North Korea:

Officials from North and South Korea are planning to establish a new top-level hotline,  and at some point before the two sides actually sit down to meet on April 27 will use it to hammer out parameters for the historic summit, most likely. Mid-level officials from both sides have met behind closed doors to discuss how the line of communication will be established. Some involved in the talks were likely communications specialists who discussed how to prevent electronic eavesdropping and other spying techniques. More meetings are planned in the coming days. The hotline will be set up in the South Korean president’s residence, the Blue House, (equivalent to the White House in the U.S.) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s office.

That said, the upcoming summits with the U.S. and South Korea continue to be the focus of developments in this part of the world, as all sides prepare for what will be negotiations of historic proportions — no matter what results they produce, if any. As to whether or not North Korea will actually denuclearize, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.), former head of the CIA and NSA, made these observations last week at a threat conference in Georgia: “The North Korean definition of denuclearization is very different than the United States’ definition. They believe that denuclearization means a peace treaty with the United States, the withdrawal of all of American forces, and the removal of American security guarantees to the Republic of Korea – denuclearizing the strategic circumstances.” 

South Korean experts are also cautioning against major breakthroughs. They see Kim’s recent charm offensive more as a public relations stunt than anything else, and given his and the North’s history, there is good reason for skepticism. We have to remember that Kim has built his regime and society around achieving a nuclear status; he has spent no small amount of time and scarce resources to advance his program. Plus, defectors have said he sees a nuclear capability as a means of securing his leadership and keeping him in power. As to Kim’s recent meet-and-greet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, that is being seen as Beijing essentially laying down the law to Pyongyang, asserting that China will have a say in what eventually is agreed upon, given the possibility someday of having a U.S. ally on its border.

South China Sea:

At the close of last week, something happened in the South China Sea that has never occurred before: U.S. and Chinese aircraft carrier groups were in proximity of each other. Along with some 40 other ships and submarines, China deployed it’s Liaoning training carrier near Hainan Island as the USS Theodore Roosevelt battle group, designated Carrier Strict Group 9, steamed into the SCS. These were not tit-for-tat deployments, but rather happenstance; the Chinese navy was conducting annual exercises, while the Roosevelt group was conducting routine maritime operations. But the Roosevelt group was sailing within China’s self-designated “nine-dash line” which extends some 1,200 miles from the Chinese mainland into the SCS. It should be noted that the Chinese are only now beginning to experiment with carriers and carrier battle groups; the Liaoning is a training carrier and is reportedly far from problem-free. The PLAN has a lot of kinks to work out with the ship, even as its first domestically-built Type 001 carrier is set to begin sea trials soon. It will take China years to catch up to the U.S. in terms of carrier operations, but there will be more U.S.-China carrier encounters in the years ahead, of that you can be certain, especially as Beijing’s naval commanders learn the ropes.

China has placed radar jamming equipment on Mischief Reef, located in the Spratly Island chain in the SCS. The deployments were discovered out in the open via DigitalGlobe, a commercial space satellite imaging company commissioned by the U.S. military. They represent a further militarization of the SCS and strengthens Beijing’s ability to continue exerting outsized territorial claims to the vast body of water vital to commercial international trade. One Defense Department official, remarking on the equipment, said, “China has deployed military jamming equipment to its Spratly Island outposts.” The photos were taken in March; one shows a suspected jammer with its antenna extended. Keep in mind that three Chinese outposts in the Spratlys — Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef — features 10,000-foot runways, hangers for fighter planes, ammunition bunkers, barracks, and deep-water piers for warships and supply vessels. Missing thus far: Ground units, fighter planes (permanent presence), air defense and anti-shipping missiles, but there are areas on the outposts already prepared for such weapons to be deployed. “China has built a massive infrastructure specifically—and solely—to support advanced military capabilities that can deploy to the bases on short notice,” Adm. Harry Harris, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month.

In other developments, the Chinese are continuing to advance their economic and military objectives throughout the SCS region and into the Indian Ocean. For instance, the country of Sri Lanka, which is about the size of West Virginia, just ceded a major port to China, Hambantota. While Sri Lankan military officials have assured the U.S. that the Chinese military won’t be using the port, that’s kind of hollow given China’s overall regional and global objectives, which include expansion of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road initiative, which seeks to reshape global trade.

PIR4: What activities are foreign intelligence services directing against the United States our allies?

Data breach in Germany at military resort leaves troops open to identity theft

Military officials are investigating a data breach at the Armed Forces Recreation Center Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. At least 18 guests — mostly soldiers and retirees — between November and February reported that their credit cards were misused following their stay. While the data breach appears to be limited to stealing credit card information, it could also be used for identity theft. [source] SC: Although this breach appears to have been criminal in nature, as opposed to the result of state-sponsored intelligence activity, soldiers should remain aware that they are or could be potential targets for foreign intelligence services. This begins with identification of the soldier, who can then become a target for exploitation by adversarial counterintelligence officers.

National Guard preparing to protect midterm elections using cyber teams

Some National Guard units will be called up ahead of the November midterm elections to provide cybersecurity support against suspected Russian attempts to interfere. On his way out the door in January 2017, President Obama designated federal elections as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. That meant there would be new federal resources dedicated to protecting the integrity of elections. Some of that money has gone to the National Guard, which has been steadily improving its cyberwar and cybersecurity capabilities. In fact, some state Guard units have more capability that other state agencies in that space. State election officials are the ‘tip of the spear’ when it comes to protecting election integrity; the Guard will be playing a bigger role in that this year and in future elections. [source] Analyst comment: Federal law prohibits the regular military from performing a law enforcement function, but Guard troops are state employees unless or until they’re called into federal service. I can see state National Guard troops take up more responsibility in the cyberspace just for this reason alone.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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