Dec. 21, 2017

Cyberspace in Peace and War

Martin Libicki has been a prolific writer in the field of information warfare since the mid-1990s. In this newer work, published by the Naval Institute Press, he aggregates his thinking during the past several decades into a single book. Cyberspace in Peace and War draws from work performed at RAND, both solely and with colleagues, and from lecture interactions with his students at various universities, to present a streamlined and consolidated overview of activities within and enabled by information technologies.

Dec. 21, 2017


Nearly a half century ago in October 1969, computer programmers at the University of California, Los Angeles used a primitive Department of Defense computer network called ARPANET to send the first messages to computers at Stanford Research Institute. This quiet event, considered by some to be the birth of the internet, ignited a technological movement within the computer and information industries that eventually transformed the world into a globally connected society utterly dependent on instant access to information, yet increasingly vulnerable to network intrusions by those who seek to steal sensitive data or disrupt cyber infrastructure.

Dec. 21, 2017

Cognitive-Emotional Conflict - Adversary Will and Social Resilience

Today’s information sharing tools let adversaries interfere more directly than ever with a targeted nation’s political processes and the minds of its citizens. Operating effectively in such “cognitive-emotional conflict” requires that information-based capabilities be employed and countered in agile, integrated ways across the military, government, and society. Coherent narratives tied to strategy and backed by actions are important. Technical cyberspace activities need to be well-coordinated with content-based approaches like military information operations, government-wide messaging, and intelligence gathering (including all forms of security). Even more important is to build a society’s resilience against persistent, disruptive, or disinformation campaigns that aim to undermine citizen confidence and core beliefs.

Dec. 1, 2017

Effective, Legitimate, Secure: Insights for Defense Institution Building

Effective, Legitimate, Secure: Insights for Defense Institution Building offers an introduction to the concept of Defense Institution Building and argues that establishing effective and legitimate defense institutions to undergird a partner’s defense establishment is the only way to ensure long-term security.

Nov. 20, 2017


Defense institution building (DIB) must be studied, understood, and refined as a discipline in order to generate the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively support partner nations in building professional defense institutions. Yet, while DIB has grown in importance in the past two decades, the development of DIB programs at the Department of Defense (DOD) has primarily been a bottom-up effort, leaving a vacuum in top-level thinking on the issue. Despite growing knowledge and experience gained regarding DIB in recent years, there remains a gap in dedicated literature on this relatively new discipline. Aware of this gap, Thomas (“Tommy”) Ross approached the National Defense University during the summer of 2015 with the idea of developing a book devoted entirely to DIB. As the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation, Tommy recognized both the importance and the underutilization of DIB as a key instrument in the security assistance and cooperation toolkit, as well as the extent of untapped knowledge and expertise in the nascent DIB community.

Nov. 20, 2017

Introduction: Defense Institution Building: A New Paradigm for the 21st Century

Today, the United States faces a security paradox. On the one hand, the U.S. military is unrivaled in size, strength, capacity, and budget; on the other hand, the global operating environment of the 21st century is diffuse and complex. Beyond the rise of geopolitical challenges from China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, threats to the United States are increasingly unpredictable and often asymmetrical. From terrorist groups that thrive in the absence of strong governance to transnational criminal networks unhindered by state borders, such challenges stipulate that no single nation, regardless of its traditional military might, can completely address its security objectives alone. The United States is no exception. Developing a network of competent partners that can share the burdens and responsibilities of global security, embracing a strategy of coalition and cooperation, is therefore vital to U.S. interests.

Nov. 20, 2017

1. DIB in the Broader Security Architecture

Give us the tools,” Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in his famous Lend Lease radio address, to “finish the job.”1 The United States has been “giving tools” to strategic allies for the better part of a century. Historically, this assistance was used to buttress the defense sectors of key allies like Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt against state threats.2 Although the programs varied across countries, U.S. security assistance throughout the Cold War involved long-term efforts to build infrastructure, such as runways, and the provision of major weapons systems, such as tanks or fighter jets, to countries seen as essential in the fight against communism. With few exceptions, little attention was paid to how these countries’ security sectors functioned internally or how their security institutions were managed and led.

Nov. 20, 2017

2. Defining the Discipline in Theory and Practice

January 2012 brought one of the more unexpected and profound international crises in recent years: the establishment of an al-Qaeda-controlled terrorist safe haven spanning a region the size of Texas, within a five-hour flight of western Europe. Groups of Tuareg rebels returning home after the collapse of Qaddafi’s Libya started an armed uprising in northern Mali that would soon be co-opted by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), sparking the utter collapse of state security in the region. The Malian Army should have been prepared for this challenge. For the previous 10 years, the United States had spent tens of millions of dollars training and equipping Malian forces to confront terrorist groups and to maintain control of their sovereign territory. In the three years leading up to the crisis, U.S. special operations forces had particularly focused efforts on training an elite counterterrorism unit, the Compagnie de Forces Speciales (CFS).

Nov. 20, 2017

3. Attributes of a Democratic and Competent Defense Partner

The ultimate goal of defense institution building (DIB) is to assist in the development of partner armed forces that are competently organized, trained, and equipped in accordance with democratic civil-military principles, and that plan and conduct military operations skillfully while under the full political direction of a democratic government. Historically, such partner nations have consistently served in coalitions with the United States against authoritarian regimes from the Soviet Union in the Cold War, through Serbia in the Balkans, to Saddam Hussein in the First Gulf War, and the Taliban in the Afghan War. It is these nations that share the United States’ vision of a prosperous, peaceful, secure, and free world and are willing to use their armed forces to achieve that vision.

Nov. 20, 2017

4. Paradoxes of Partnership

Defense institution building (DIB) requires a well-calibrated approach to establishing working partnerships with host-country counterparts. The past 15 years of assistance leave no doubt that host-country officials are the change agents responsible and vital for ushering in new institutional processes, and ensuring they are underpinned by the necessary competencies of individuals and systems. This insight highlights two critical elements necessary for DIB success: local buy-in and local ownership. While this lesson is reflected in the discourse and increasing attention on DIB, planning and implementation are plagued by significant confusion about how partners and partnerships fit into the endeavor. Indeed, approaches to host-country partners and partnerships differ greatly. An ad hoc approach to partnership, and confusion on how to build effective relationships with host governments and individual officials, can pose significant impediments to sustainable and successful DIB activities—particularly when there is a tendency in the Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. foreign policy community to influence the behavior of host-country counterparts and institutions to primarily achieve U.S. interests.