Dr. Colin S. Gray is Professor of International Politics and Strategic Studies at the University of Reading, England. He worked at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London) and at the Hudson Institute (Croton-on-Hudson, NY) before founding the National Institute for Public Policy, a defense-oriented think tank in the Washington, DC, area. Dr. Gray served for 5 years in the Ronald Reagan administration on the President’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. He has served as an adviser to both the U.S. and British governments (he has dual citizenship). His government work has included studies of nuclear strategy, arms control, maritime strategy, space strategy, and the use of special forces. Dr. Gray has written 25 books, including: The Sheriff: America’s Defense of the New World Order (University Press of Kentucky, 2004); Another Bloody Century: Future Warfare (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005); Strategy and History: Essays on Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2006); Fighting Talk: Forty Maxims on War, Peace and Strategy (Potomac Books, 2009); National Security Dilemmas: Challenges and Opportunities (Potomac Books, 2009); The Strategy Bridge: Theory for Practice (Oxford University Press, 2010); War, Peace and International Relations: An Introduction to Strategic History, 2nd Ed. (Routledge, 2011); Airpower for Strategic Effect (Air University Press, 2012); and Perspectives on Strategy (Oxford University Press, 2013), which is the follow-up to Strategy Bridge. Dr. Gray is a graduate of the Universities of Manchester and Oxford.
The below Reuters report describes one of the emerging regional complexities being unleashed by the Syrian civil war. At issue is Syria’s Kurdish Question — yet another legacy of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire that continues to haunt the Middle East and the world after almost 100 years. President Wilson’s reckless promises of nationhood to all minorities in his 14 Points were not fulfilled by the machinations and back room deals of the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. Today the Kurds, with a population of about 25 million, are the world’s largest ethnic group without a state. But this population sits astride the modern borders Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, as the map below shows. And so, the Kurdish Question is grounded in the tectonic fault lines of (1) Turkish-Arab-Persian-Kurdish cultures, (2) the shared Fertile Crescent water resources of the Tigris/Euphrates watershed, (3) the larger Sunni-Shia religious schism (most Kurds are Sunni, but some Kurds in Iran are Shia), (4) the wealth and poverty of the northern tier of the Persian Gulf oil basin, and (5) the toxic legacy of Western colonialism (including the Israeli poison pill inserted into the region by an opportunistic then guilt ridden West). In recent years, most of the world’s attention has been focused on the Kurdish subquestions in Turkey and Iraq, and to a lesser extent in Iran (don’t forget the US sellout of the Iraqi Kurds with the help of the Shah of Iran, who had his own Kurdish problem), while Syria’s Kurds have been the most forgotten of these minority questions — but as the attached report shows, the Syrian civil war has unleashed a new dimension to active Kurdish separatism that greatly complicates an already complicated regional situation.
(Reuters) – With a string of military gains across northeastern Syria, a Kurdish militia is solidifying a geographic and political presence in the war-torn country, posing a dilemma for regional powers.
Long oppressed under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him, Kurds view the civil war as an opportunity to gain the kind of autonomy enjoyed by their ethnic kin in neighboring Iraq.
But their offensive has stirred mixed feelings, globally, regionally and locally, even among some fellow Kurds, who say the Kurdish fighters have drifted into a regional axis supporting Assad, something they deny.
I wrote this with John Kerry and Michele Flourney in mind, but regardless of who is eventually made Secretary of Defense, the core concept remains: the center of gravity for massive change in the US Government and in the nature of how the US Government ineracts with the rest of the world, lies within the Department of Defense, not the Department of State.
John Kerry, Global Engagement, and National Integrity
It troubles me that John Kerry is resisting going to Defense when he can do a thousand times more good there instead of sitting at State being, as Madeline Albright so famously put it, a “gerbil on a wheel.” Defense is the center of gravity for the second Obama Administration, and the one place where John Kerry can truly make a difference. Appoint Michele Flournoy as Deputy and his obvious replacement down the road, and you have an almost instant substantive make-over of Defense. Regardless of who ends up being confirmed, what follows is a gameplan for moving DoD away from decades of doing the wrong things righter, and toward a future of doing the right things affordably, scalably, and admirably.
ROBERT STEELE: The IC, DoD, and oversight agencies such as OMB and GAO have not sought to audit government spending on OSINT and probably could not do so effectively with the combination of ignorance on the part of the auditors and recalcitrance on the part of those who should be audited. The closest anyone came to setting the stage for this was in 2000 when Sean O’Keefe, DD/OMB, established code M320 to tag all spending by the US Government on contractor provision of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). When O’Keffe moved to NASA, the impetus for getting OSINT right died. More recently, Joe Markowitz and Robert Steele met with senior civil servants at OMB and got a second approval for the Open Source Agency (OSA) contingent on a Cabinet secretary asking for it. There was universal agreement the OSA should not be under secret community management but rather under diplomatic and/or commercial agency auspices. Joe Markowitz and Robert Steele continue to favor Markowitz’s original idea, that the OSA be a sister-agency to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). It would of course provide near-real-time feed of all OSINT to the high side, the secret side, but all OSINT would remain outside the wire for liberal sharing with any other actor US or foreign.
What is known is that DoD treats OSINT as a technical processing challenge (this is ineffective since 80% or more of OSINT is not published, not digital, and not online); that ABLE DANGER was a very expensive program that included both digital OSINT and the digitization of visa application; that Document Exploitation (DOCEX) has received a great deal of investment within DIA, to the point that seriously silly claims have been made to justify new SES/DISL positions, e.g. that DOCEX is its “own” discipline. The two largest contracts in OSINT, both hosed by the client with the contractors going along, are the L-3 provision of OSINT technical and subject matter support to the CIA’s Open Source Center (the latter is NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, a national capability, just an over-hyped internal capability whose budget has been cut in half since the conversation from being the Foreign Broadcast Information Service) and the SOS International contract with USSTRATCOM to provide butts in seats that pretend to do IO/online OSINT monitoring (more idiocy).
Over-all, including classified projects, including DARPA and IARPA and hidden relationships with Google, Facebook, and Twitter, among others, and including non-secret non-national security element spending on open sources and what pass for methods, is no less than one billion a year, probably around three billion a year, and when counting all the buried pieces (e.g. contractors doing Mission X and creating their own OSINT support that is still not available for the CIA OSC), perhaps as much as five billion a year. All out of control, lacking any combination of intelligence and integrity, as much if not more of a waste than the $80 billion plus spent on technical collection that is not processed, with little regard for human intelligence and advanced analytics, all to provide “at best” 4% of what the President or a major commander requires to make good decisions.
The US State Department has become the world’s leading user of ediplomacy. Ediplomacy now employs over 150 full-time personnel working in 25 different ediplomacy nodes at Headquarters. More than 900 people use it at US missions abroad.
Ediplomacy is now used across eight different program areas at State: Knowledge Management, Public Diplomacy and Internet Freedom dominate in terms of staffing and resources. However, it is also being used for Information Management, Consular, Disaster Response, harnessing External Resources and Policy Planning.
In some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. In Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms. In other areas, like Knowledge Management, ediplomacy is finding solutions to problems that have plagued foreign ministries for centuries.
The slow pace of adaptation to ediplomacy by many foreign ministries suggests there is a degree of uncertainty over what ediplomacy is all about, what it can do and how pervasive its influence is going to be. This report – the result of a four-month research project in Washington DC – should help provide those answers.
ROBERT STEELE: Fergus Hanson of Australia has done a truly superb job of describing the considerable efforts within the Department of State to achieve some semblance of electronic coherence and capacity. What he misses–and this does not reduce the value of his effort in the slightest–is the complete absence of strategy or substance within State, or legitimacy in the eyes of those being addressed. If the Department of State were to demand the pre-approved Open Source Agency for the South-Central Campus, and get serious about being the lead agency for public intelligence in the public interest, ediplomacy could become something more than lipstick on the pig. The money is available. What is lacking right now is intelligence with integrity in support of global Whole of Government strategy, operations, tactics, and technical advancement (i.e. Open Source Everything).
Here, from a Federal web site open to the public, is an unclassified summary of what the US Government considers to be the risks from certain natural and manmade threats. Recognize it for what it is: an unclassified summary.
Phi Beta Iota: An interesting effort with potential. It’s greatest failure is to avoid any consideration of national riots and armed insurrection in the face of complex inter-acting disasters that turn into catastrophes for lack of intelligence and integrity at all levels of all eight tribes, the government, military, law enforcement, and commerce especially. It’s second greatest failure is to ignore the fact that most of our problems are of our own making, and that the single fastest way to secure the USA would be to eradicate corruption and high crimes and misdemeanors now routine at the highest levels of Congress, the Executive, and as with CITIZENS UNITED, the Supreme Court. As marginally clever as this summary is, it is completely lacking in a strategic analytic model, a matrix for identifying and remediating all the preconditions of revolution, and any semblance of a “net assessment” that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) might use to be effective –but in fairness to OMB, the White House clearly does not want OMB to be effective, just to fake the numbers and keep the theater up until after November 2012.
Okay. You got me. I can’t really tell you everything you need to know about big data. The one thing I discovered last week – as I joined more than 2,500 data junkies from around the world for the O’Reilly Strata conference in rainy Santa Clara California—is that nobody can, not Google, not Intel, not even IBM. All I can guarantee you is that you’ll be hearing a lot more about it.
What is big data? Roughly defined, it refers to massive data sets that can be used to predict or model future events. That can include everything from the online purchase history of millions of Americans (to predict what they’re about to buy) to where people in San Francisco are most likely to jog (according to GPS) to Facebook posts and Twitter trends and 100 year storm records.
Phi Beta Iota: Big data is most important for what it can tell you about true cost and whole system cause and effect, inclusive of political corruption and organizational fraud. These are past and present issues, not future issues. We design the future based on the integrity present today. This is why “open everything” matters.
With that in mind, here’s the three most important things you need to know about big data right now: