The Pros from Dover

Global-Trends-2030-cover

Earlier this month, we blogged on looking to the future – it is a subject that interests all of us, whatever our walk of life. We looked at “life imitating art” in the sense of fiction writers – and especially science fiction writers – having a unique knack for looking into the future. Many of you who follow this website or my tweets have asked, “Does our government do this – look into the future?” The answer is a resounding yes!

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) has been in existence for over three decades and represents the primary way the U.S. intelligence community (IC) communicates in the unclassified realm.  Initially a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the NIC now works directly for the Director of National Intelligence and presents the collective research and analysis of the entire IC, an enterprise comprising 16 agencies with a combined budget of over $80 billion.  In a sentence: There is no more comprehensive analysis of future trends available anywhere, at any price. Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is the latest edition of its analysis. It’s not an overstatement to say this 160-page document represents the most definitive analytical look at the future security environment.

 

The comprehensive quadrennial report forecasting global trends that have a major impact on our world, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds is the definitive U.S. Government document that looks to the future.  In shorthand it is GT2030. Global Trends 2030 helps us have an informed and well-nuanced view of the future. This is not as easy as it sounds, for, as John Maynard Keynes famously said in 1937: “The idea of the future being different from the present is so repugnant to our conventional modes of thought and behavior that we, most of us, offer a great resistance to acting on it in practice.”

I’ve reported on Global Trends 2030 on the Defense Media Network website. Read the first article of the series here:

http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/global-trends-2030-what-it-is-and-why-it-matters/

The U.S. Navy’s Troubled Ship

130222-N-DR144-174

Late last year, one of the U.S. Navy’s newest and most-modern ships, the Freedom-Class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), USS Milwaukee, suffered a major engineering casualty. One of the most-controversial ships the Navy has ever built, the LCS has had bright – and not so bright – spots in its brief history.

Here is what the U.S. Naval Institute, the premier professional journal of the United States Sea Services, said about this incident:

The Navy’s newest Littoral Combat Ship – USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) – could be sidelined for weeks to repair an engine casualty that occurred last week during an Atlantic Ocean transit. Lockheed Martin and the service are currently working through the total scope of the repair package for the gearings that connect the ship’s main engines to its water jets.

More here from the U.S. Naval Institute website:

http://news.usni.org/2015/12/14/littoral-combat-ship-uss-milwaukee-repairs-could-last-weeks?utm_source=USNI+News&utm_campaign=03ac790d51-USNI_NEWS_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0dd4a1450b-03ac790d51-231544033&mc_cid=03ac790d51&mc_eid=93a1fd6ad6

When Dick Couch and I rebooted the best-selling Tom Clancy Op-Center series, our first geographical focus was the Mideast, and the second was Northeast Asia, with the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) featured prominently. We wrote that second book, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire in 2013 and had the LCS in our sights. Here is how we introduced USS Milwaukee in that book:

And there was the LCS itself, the Milwaukee. The critics of the U.S. Navy’s LCS program, both in congress and within the naval establishment, were right in their assessment of the ship’s shortcomings. The LCS was basically defenseless. She was a sitting duck for any ship or small craft with a surface-to-surface missile capability. Her single gun, the Mark 110, Mod 0 57mm BAE Systems cannon was capable of 200 rounds per minute with 240 rounds in ready-service availability. It could be deadly to small craft that came within five miles, but most of the world’s navies, including that of North Korea, had small craft with accurate surface-to-surface missiles that could be fired well outside that range. And they would be operating well within the arc of North Korean land-based air. Milwaukee’s RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile system was compact and effective against both flow-flying aircraft and surface-to-surface cruise missiles. But there was an interface flaw. The RIM-116 had no built-in acquisition capability; it had to be carefully aimed along the axis of the incoming threat. The system that aimed the missiles was the AN/SWY-2 Ship Defense Surface Missile System. When the two systems worked, they worked well. But they didn’t always work well. In Bigelow’s experience, they produced a missile launch and a missile kill only about half the time.

into-the-fireNow life imitates art. Read more about the Littoral Combat Ship, USS Milwaukee and about Commander Kate Bigelow’s efforts to save her ship and her crew in a snippet from Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Into the Fire here:

http://georgegaldorisi.com/into-the-fire

 

Fiction and Future Wars

afw-war-stories-from-the-future-book-cover

Late last year, the Atlantic Council published an anthology of short fiction and graphic art it curated during the first year of its Art of Future Warfare Project. Entitled War Stories from the Future, the collection makes good on the project’s ambition “to advance thinking [about] the future of warfare [by] cultivating a community of interest in works and ideas arising from the intersection of creativity and expectations about how emerging antagonists, disruptive technologies, and novel warfighting concepts may animate tomorrow’s conflicts.”

Writing in a forward to the anthology, Gen. (ret.) Martin Dempsey, recently retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commends the book’s ten stories for their “power to develop the professional imagination.”

On no topic do these war stories more powerfully engage the imagination than human-machine collaboration, which Deputy Secretary Bob Work calls “the big idea” now animating the Defense Department’s pursuit of a third offset strategy to mitigate deterioration in conventional deterrence. “We will go after human-machine collaboration,” Work said, “by allowing the machine to help humans make better decisions faster.” What Work described as the “building blocks” of this collaboration—learning machines, automated systems, machine-assisted human operations, human-machine combat teaming, and autonomous weapons—are the very wonders and worries of War Stories from the Future.

As one would expect, the book depicts an array of cool machines and futuristic capabilities. A renegade pilot wears haptic gloves to command a spaceplane from the ground station of her college dormitory. The Internet of Things goes awry in the violent crash of autonomous streetcars in Seoul and the fatal hacking of a certain president’s pacemaker in Moscow. Tattoos stream data, robotic EMTs rescue the wounded and 3-D printers fabricate an airborne arsenal literally on the fly.

And women play decisive roles. Commanding palm-sized drones from a cubicle 5,000 mi. away, Karin renders real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to two female lieutenants defending a desert city against insurgents. Claire coordinates police interventions on Britons who exhibit a genetic tendency toward radicalization. A small, dark-haired woman holding an ambiguous shopping bag stands defiantly (or threateningly or perhaps plaintively) before a monstrous armored vehicle in the middle of a sunbaked highway.

Still, the compilation’s deeper insights arise from its ruminations about the complex relationship between humans and the machines of future war. While robotics and autonomy spare human flesh in these stories, the remote operations they enable also turn soldiering into a profession of physical isolation and spiritual alienation. Big-data computations drive action by helping humans make good, speedy decisions faster, but the great drama in these stories still turns on the heroic, tragic, and comic consequences of human choices.

The novelist Frederick Pohl, author of The Space Merchants, once wrote, “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” So, too, in War Stories from the Future: It is the messy, odd coupling of “human-machine combat teaming,” not their elegant symbiosis, that will do the most to inspire professional imagination about the third offset strategy.

More here on the Atlantic Council’s War Stories from the Future:

http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/books/war-stories-from-the-future

What’s Ahead in 2016?

shutterstock_102569888

We all want to know what the future will hold. And we all are futurists. We teed up this question on this site in 2015 and it’s worth looking at again as we begin 2016.

As the late Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” In the event Yogi isn’t the person you turn to for philosophical insights, here is what Walter Frick had to say in the Harvard Business Review about the art and science of looking at the future. He talked about the new book by Phillip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction.

Forecasting is difficult. Still, accurate predictions are essential to good decision making in every realm of life. We are all forecasters. When we think about changing jobs, getting married, buying a home, making an investment, launching a product, or retiring, we decide based on how we expect the future to unfold.

And not to put too fine a point on it, but in The New York Times Book Review, Leonard Mlodinow reviewed both Richard Nisbett’s Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking and Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction and found the arguments made by Nisbett (who Malcom Gladwell called “the most influential thinker in my life) lacking, while those made by Tetlock and Gardner compelling.

Stay tuned to this website as we’ll continue to look to the future – especially from a national security perspective. We’ll look at a broad range of sources, but especially what the United States Intelligence Community (the “IC”) and Silicon Valley are telling us.

Constant Mideast Churn

middle-east-map

As we enter 2016, what many predicted for the Mideast has finally happened: Two 800-pound gorillas, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are squaring off. For those who follow national security and Mideast geo-politics, this was all but inevitable. But not many understand what is at the root of the enmity between these two Gulf powers.

On Sunday, January 3, Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran and gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom, marking a swift escalation in a strategic and sectarian rivalry that underpins conflicts across the Middle East.

The surprise move, announced in a news conference by Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, followed harsh criticism by Iranian leaders of the Saudis’ execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by protesters in response. More on The New York Times reporting on this crisis here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/04/world/middleeast/iran-saudi-arabia-execution-sheikh-nimr.html

It is impossible to understand the root cause of these two nations’ anger toward each other without understanding just a bit about the Sunni and Shite religious schism – which dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. In this short article in The New York Times, John Harney explains how these two branches of Islam collide:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/04/world/middleeast/q-and-a-how-do-sunni-and-shia-islam-differ.html

And for a well-nuanced view of this emerging crisis from U.S. Naval Institute, the premier professional journal of the United States’ Sea Services, read more here:

http://news.usni.org/2016/01/04/analysis-saudi-arabia-iran-and-middle-east-brinksmanship?utm_source=USNI+News&utm_campaign=7226a175ff-USNI_NEWS_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0dd4a1450b-7226a175ff-230420609&mc_cid=7226a175ff&mc_eid=157ead4942

Out of the AshesNot to put too fine a point on it, but when Dick Couch and I rebooted the best-selling Tom Clancy Op-Center series, our geographical for the first book was the Mideast. We wrote the first book Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes in 2012 and had Iran and Saudi Arabia in our sights. Now life imitates art. Read more about that book, Tom Clancy’s Op-Center: Out of the Ashes here:

http://www.georgegaldorisi.com/books/out-of-the-ashes

Life Imitates Life

shutterstock_218846467

Last year we blogged on looking to the future – something we all are interested in regardless of our walk of life.

There are many ways to focus on the future – but one of them that seems to be increasingly valuable is what we read in novels. We all know that in our gut – and I’ve read about it too.

In his New York Times article: “Novelists Predict Future With Eerie Accuracy,” John Schwartz puts a punctuation mark on just how well novelists have been doing this.

The prediction game has generally been the bailiwick of science fiction, and many authors have shown startling foresight. Jules Verne placed his launching site for shooting men to the moon in Florida — Tampa, not Cape Canaveral, but let’s forgive that as a rounding error. And William Gibson and Bruce Sterling have mined the near future for years, in novels like Mr. Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition” and Mr. Sterling’s “Holy Fire.”

James E. Gunn, the director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, said science fiction could even help encourage the future by preparing minds. Hugo Gernsback, the creator of a pioneering scientific magazine in 1926, predicted radar and night baseball, among other things; Arthur C. Clarke described satellite communications.

One writer who did this exceptionally well was Tom Clancy. The future he predicted is with us today across the globe.

More on John Schwartz’s article “Novelists Predict Future With Eerie Accuracy,” here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/sunday-review/novelists-predict-future-with-eerie-accuracy.html

Arrows in the Night

51wkQ7-DTWL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Ahmad Chalabi died late last year. Most people don’t recognize his name. Until three years ago, neither did I. That was before I wrote a review of the book Arrow’s in the Night for the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. If there is one book that helps explain why, in 2016, the United States in still mired in the Mideast, it has my vote. Here is part of what I wrote:

Only a handful of people, those in the top policymaking positions in the United States’ government in the years – and even decades – prior to OIF, understand why the United States ultimately went to war to depose Saddam Hussein. Until now.

Arrows of the Night takes the reader on a half-century journey beginning with Chalabi’s exile from Iraq in 1958, to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, to Chalabi’s work in post-Saddam Iraq. This journey is both complex and compelling as the primary subject, Ahmad Chalabi, has a larger-than-life resume of triumphs and scandal including a degree in mathematics from MIT, a doctorate from the University of Chicago, work as a university professor and a wildly-successful banker, a conviction for embezzling, and work as a CIA operative.

Throughout this journey, in all his occupations and avocations, Ahmad Chalabi maintained a singular focus – and as Bonin describes – an obsession, to overthrow Saddam’s Ba-athist regime and return to his Iraqi homeland in a blaze of glory. This was his strategy, and everything else was tactics. While the United States ultimately might have gone to war in Iraq again under the George W. Bush administration to finish what his father’s administration had not, without Ahmad Chalabi, the last half–century relationship between the United States and Iraq – and indeed the entire Middle East – would likely have been vastly different had this complex and complicated man never been exiled from Iraq, or had he merely lived quietly in exile.

This, in a nutshell, describes Ahmad Chalabi’s journey, which began in 1958 when his wealthy Shiite family was exiled from Iraq after a revolution that ultimately put Saddam Hussein in power. It describes how the young Chalabi devoted his life to restoring his family to prominence. His first coup attempt was in 1963 at age nineteen, while on a school break from MIT. His next was aided by Iranian intelligence. But as the years passed and Saddam stayed in power, Chalabi came to realize that he needed the United States to help him rid Iraq of Saddam. Only the world’s superpower could make this happen.

More on Ahmad Chalabi’s journey in this New York Times article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/middleeast/ahmad-chalabi-iraq-dead.html?_r=0

And in this New York Times Op-ed here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/opinion/why-america-invented-ahmad-chalabi.html

Peering into the Future

earth-from-space

What will the future hold? We all want to know. But as the late Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

What about the future? On the subject of looking at the future, I suspect you all know there is a cottage industry of people who call themselves “futurists” and we all likely have our own favorite people we follow – either in fact or in fiction – who seem to have a knack of being right about at least some of their predictions. As to the ones who aren’t right very often, they tend to drop off our lists. And speaking of “futurists,” I think that term is going a bit out of vogue as some of the conferences and media I follow now feature “thought leaders” as a primary draw.

In the event Yogi isn’t the person you turn to for philosophical insights, here is what Walter Frick had to say in this month’s Harvard Business Review about the art and science of looking at the future. He talked about the new book by Phillip Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction.

Forecasting is difficult. Still, accurate predictions are essential to good decision making in every realm of life. We are all forecasters. When we think about changing jobs, getting married, buying a home, making an investment, launching a product, or retiring, we decide based on how we expect the future to unfold.

And not to put too fine a point on it (and I hasten to add I’m not Tetlock and Gardner’s literary agent) in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Leonard Mlodinow reviewed both Richard Nisbett’s Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking and Superforcasting: The Art and Science of Prediction and found the arguments made by Nisbett (who Malcom Gladwell called “the most influential thinker in my life) lacking, while those made by Tetlock and Gardner compelling.

Stay tuned to this website as we’ll look to the future downstream.

Game Changing Innovation

27pentagon-master180

For most of the post-World War II era, the United States dominated potential adversaries with technology that was leaps and bounds ahead of any potential foe. This lead has shrunk or completely disappeared. Now the Pentagon is looking to the innovation center of our nation – Silicon Valley – for cutting-edge innovation.

Recently, the Pentagon issued a formal request for new ideas. Soon after, out of concern that the call for fresh thinking would not reach past the usual Washington contractors, Stephen Welby, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering, visited a dozen Silicon Valley start-ups that are pursuing new technologies that the Pentagon believes might have a national security role beyond the next dozen or so years.

Innovation for the military is nothing new to Silicon Valley. The region has a long history of military work. During the 1960s and ’70s, Silicon Valley was dominated by aerospace and military contractors such as Lockheed Missiles and Space Company and FMC Corporation. It was also the center of the nation’s electronic warfare industry.

Read more here

China – The “Other” Pacific Power

Peoples-Liberation-Army-Navy

Volumes have been written about the rise of China and we won’t even begin to attempt to replicate the scholarly work and analysis that has gone into enhancing our understanding of China’s rise. Suffice it to say that China’s stunning economic rise has happened much faster than most predicted. Further, China’s economic growth – now predicted to enable it to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy this year – has had beneficial spillover effects for the entire Asia-Pacific region. And to be sure, in spite of some speed bumps along the way, due to globalization and a host of other factors, China’s economy and that of the United States have become more intertwined over the years.

This should help explain some of the reasons for the nation’s – and the Navy’s – Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific or Pivot to the Pacific. China’s growing military capabilities that are, in turn, driving the kinds of platforms, systems, sensors and weapons the nation will need to bring to the fore as it pivots to the Pacific.  Make no mistake; the United States does not intend to shrink from its status as a Pacific power. As a former Secretary of Defense put it in a major speech in Singapore, “The United States is a Pacific power, with a capital ‘P.’”

Read more about China and the United States and power in the Pacific in my post on the Defense Media Network website