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A)The exotic new weapons the Pentagon wants to deter Russia and China

President Obama nominates Marine General as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and US Air Force General to be vice chairman,

President Obama nominates Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. (C) as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and US Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva (R) to be vice chairman, during an event in the White House Rose Garden on May 5. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
By David Ignatius Opinion writer February 23 at 8:03 PM

Little noticed amid the daily news bulletins about the Islamic State and Syria, the Pentagon has begun a push for exotic new weapons that can deter Russia and China.

Pentagon officials have started talking openly about using the latest tools of artificial intelligence and machine learning to create robot weapons, “human-machine teams” and enhanced, super-powered soldiers. It may sound like science fiction, but Pentagon officials say they have concluded that such high-tech systems are the best way to combat rapid improvements by the Russian and Chinese militaries.
David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.

These potentially revolutionary U.S. weapons systems were explained in an interview last week by Robert Work, the deputy secretary of defense, and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their comments were the latest in a series of unusual recent disclosures about what, until a few months ago, was some of the military’s most secret research.

“This is how we will make our battle networks more powerful, hopefully, and inject enough uncertainty in the minds of the Russians and the Chinese that, you know, if they ever did come to blows with us, would be able to prevail in a conventional [non-nuclear] way. That, for me, is the definition of conventional deterrence,” Work explained.

Within the Pentagon, this high-tech approach is known by the dull phrase “third offset strategy,” emulating two earlier “offsets” that checked Russian military advances during the Cold War. The first offset was tactical nuclear weapons; the second was precision-guided conventional weapons. The latest version assumes that smart, robot weapons can help restore deterrence that has been eroded by Russian and Chinese progress.
Watch unmanned Navy vessels overwhelm a target

The Office of Naval Research used thε autonomous Swarm demonstration to showcase technology that allows unmanned Navy vessels to overwhelm an adversary. The demonstration took place on the James River in Virginia in August, 2014. (U.S. Navy Research)

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, voiced an early warning during his confirmation hearing in July when he said that Russia posed the greatest “existential” threat to the United States. Work said in a recent speech that because the United States has focused on the Middle East since 2001, “our program has been slow to adapt as these high-end threats have started to re-emerge.”

The Pentagon’s 2017 budget includes some money to prime the high-tech pump: $3 billion for advanced weapons to counter, say, a Chinese long-range attack on U.S. naval forces; $3 billion to upgrade undersea systems; $3 billion for human-machine teaming and “swarming” operations by unmanned drones; $1.7 billion for cyber and electronic systems that use artificial intelligence; and $500 million for war-gaming and other testing of the new concepts.

The Obama administration, sometimes chided for being slow to respond to Russian and Chinese threats, seems to have concluded that America’s best strategy is to leverage its biggest advantage, which is technology. The concepts are reminiscent of President Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative, but 30 years on.
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The high-tech resurgence got a boost last year from the blue-ribbon Defense Science Board, which conducted a “summer study” of autonomous, robot weapons. “Imagine if we are unprepared to counter such capabilities in the hands of our adversaries,” the board warned.

The game partly is about messaging the Russians and Chinese. Work has described Russia as “a resurgent great power” and China as “a rising power with impressive latent technological capabilities [that] probably embodies a more enduring strategic challenge.” In a Feb. 2 budget announcement, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spoke of Russian “aggression” in Europe and said: “We haven’t had to worry about this for 25 years, and while I wish it were otherwise, now we do.”

Carter raised some eyebrows in that budget message when he described the Pentagon’s “Strategic Capabilities Office,” a highly classified initiative that he began in 2012 when he was undersecretary. He noted that the office was working on advanced navigation for smart weapons using micro-cameras and sensors; missile-defense systems using hypervelocity projectiles; and swarming drones that are “really fast, really resistant.”

Work illustrated the new willingness to discuss exotic weaponry. During the interview, he showed off a small “Perdix” micro-drone, less than a foot long, which flew with 25 of its mates in a tight grid last summer after being launched from a large plane. These organized drones are part of the Pentagon’s vision of future combat.

The Ukraine and Syria battlefields have offered sobering demonstrations of Russian capabilities. In the interview and other public comments, Work catalogued Russian military advances that include automated battle networks, advanced sensors, drones, anti-personnel weapons and jamming devices.

“Our adversaries, quite frankly, are pursuing enhanced human operations,” Work warned a gathering at the Center for a New American Security in December. “And it scares the crap out of us, really.”

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Β)In Munich, a frightening preview of the rise of killer robots

A robot distributes promotional literature calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, in London in 2013.

A robot distributes promotional literature calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, in London in 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
By David Ignatius Opinion writer February 16


The Munich Security Conference is an annual catalogue of horrors. But the most ominous discussion this past weekend wasn’t about Islamic State terrorism but a new generation of weapons — such as killer robots and malignly programmed “smart” appliances that could be deployed in future conflicts.
David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. View Archive

Behind the main events at the annual discussion of foreign and defense policy here was a topic described in one late-night session as “The Future of Warfare: Race with the Machines.” The premise was that we are at the dawn of an era of conflict in which all wars will be, to some extent, cyberwars, and new weapons will combine radical advances in hardware, software and even biology.

Espen Barth Eide, the former foreign minister of Norway, imagined a future weapon that fused GPS guidance, facial-recognition technology and artificial intelligence, enabling it to be programmed like an electronic hit man. Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, noted the advantages of such “killer robots” for military planners: They don’t get tired, they wouldn’t get scared, and they would exercise consistent, if merciless, judgment.

“The genie will come out of the bottle,” predicted retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, a former NATO commander who now runs the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He noted that “warfare has always been a process of invention and adjustment.” A century ago, many people thought submarines were terrifying and unethical. Compared with, say, land mines or nuclear bombs, the effects of the new high-tech weapons may be less toxic and more precise.

Guests at a “Cyber Dinner” hosted here by the Atlantic Council considered the dawning world of killer appliances. In the coming Internet of Things (IoT), speakers noted, there will soon be more than 30 billion smart chips embedded in cars, elevators, refrigerators, thermostats and medical devices. These pervasive, connected systems may well have poor security and be easily hackable.

The big worry in the future, argued several tech experts at the dinner, may not be data privacy — forget about that — but data security. “You can know my blood type, but don’t change it,” one speaker explained. Hackers may be able to alter data in financial markets, hospitals and electrical grids — paralyzing normal economic and social activity.

The rapidly evolving interface of technology and security was one theme of an unusual panel discussion here that brought together intelligence chiefs from the United States, Britain, the Netherlands and the European Union. Spy chiefs don’t usually attend such foreign policy gatherings, least of all in Germany, a country with a deep mistrust of intelligence agencies. But led by James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, this group made a collective pitch for greater transparency on intelligence issues as technology empowers individuals and adversaries.

Clapper opened the door on the brave new world of weaponry with his annual threat-assessment testimony last week before Congress. He made headlines with comments about the explosive growth of the Islamic State and Russia’s onslaught against Syrian rebels. But the most surprising part of Clapper’s testimony involved technology — especially the mischievous uses of the many smart devices in the IoT .

“In the future, intelligence services might use the IoT for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper told Congress. And he warned in his testimony that as artificial intelligence is built into weapons, they will be “susceptible to a range of disruptive and deceptive tactics that might be difficult to anticipate or quickly understand.”

Iran’s Press TV predictably read Clapper’s testimony as a threat that the United States is about to enlist the world’s refrigerators as agents of the Great Satan: “The head of the U.S. intelligence community has acknowledged for the first time that American spy agencies might use a new generation of smart household devices to increase their surveillance capabilities,” the Iranian news agency warned.

American, Russian and Chinese ability to use these next-generation weapons is indeed worrisome. But more frightening is the ability of terrorist groups, whose signature may not always be discernible, to use cyber and other high-tech skills. The Islamic State has already used chemical weapons in battle, according to Clapper, and the group is known to be working with drones. The next step, experts here said, may be bioweapons.

“We may look back on the good old days when all we had to worry about was nuclear weapons,” said Eide. That sounds like a joke, until you think about what’s ahead.




Γ)Five myths about Obama’s drone war

U.S. Drone


By Mark R. Jacobson

Mark R. Jacobson is a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. From 2009 to 2011, he served with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

At least since Pope Innocent II banned the use of crossbows against Christians in 1139, new military technologies have always created strategic and ethical dilemmas. And armed drones — the weapons of choice for today’s battlefield without boundaries — are no exception. Do drone strikes provide a compelling option when battling terrorist networks, or do the controversy they generate outweigh the benefit? Debates about technology, targeting and transparency have muddled an already complicated matter, so let’s take aim at some of the most common misperceptions.

1. Drones are immoral.

Drones are neither autonomous killer robots nor sentient beings making life-or-death decisions. Yet, with the “Terminator”-like connotations of the term, it is easy to forget that these vehicles are flown via remote control by some 1,300 Air Force pilots. Drones are an evolution in military technology, not a revolution in warfare.

From a moral and ethical standpoint, drones are little different from rifles, bombers or tanks. Decisions about how and when to use them are made by people. No doubt, the distance between the human warfighter and the battlefield has never been longer, but the psychological proximity can be closer for drone pilots than for other military personnel. Intense surveillance makes these pilots so familiar with their targets — when they sleep, eat and see their families — that some have reported difficulty reconciling that intimacy after they’ve pulled the trigger.

The toughest moral question is not about technology but about targeting and transparency: When militants plotting against America operate globally, don’t wear uniforms and may even be U.S. citizens, who can be targeted and where? The White House recently released to members of Congress a Justice Department memo providing details of the targeting process — this may alleviate, but not eliminate, those concerns.

2.Drone strikes cause inordinate civilian casualties.

Armed drones are some of the most precise weapons used in conflict; we hit what we aim for. But any lethal force results in some civilian casualties, and the use of drones beyond “hot battlefields” means that the civilian-combatant distinction is harder to make.

The New York Times has reported that the Obama administration counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants — an approach that would underreport civilian casualties. But the New America Foundation’s Peter Bergen argues that, since 2008, the civilian casualty rate from drones has declined dramatically and as of last summer was “at or close to zero.”

While many dispute this figure, civilian casualties in drone strikes are clearly fewer than if massive bombs were used instead.

Armed drones can strike fear in the hearts of America’s adversaries and provide a military edge. But Washington may have to deal with blowback. John Bellinger, a former State Department legal adviser in the George W. Bush administration, worries that drones might “become as internationally maligned as Guantanamo.” Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal has said that U.S. drone strikes are “hated on a visceral level.”

If drones are perceived as unjust, or if the deaths of innocents are attributed to them, correctly or not, America’s larger strategic objective — defeating al-Qaeda and the ideology that feeds it — could be at risk.

3.Drones allow us to fight wars without danger.

The allure is simple: A drone swoops in while its operator is safe, thousands of miles away, and the precision-guided ordnance hits a target, with little risk to our troops.

But drones should not give us a false sense of security. After all, the intelligence required for targeting may require U.S. boots on the ground. And drone attacks will not improve governance in a nation that offers a haven to terrorists.

Yes, drones can attack a target accurately, quickly and stealthily while reducing the danger to the pilot. But they cannot train foreign troops, engage with tribal leaders or strengthen local governments — the centers of gravity in most U.S. conflicts today. The exaggerated promise of drones risks substituting targeting for strategy.

4. Drones are technologically complex weapons that only rich nations can afford.

Armed drones are neither as simple as model airplanes nor as complex as high-performance fighter jets. Of course, a remote-controlled helicopter that you can build in your garage is certainly not as capable as the $26.8 million MQ-9 Reaper, the primary U.S. hunter-killer drone. But drones are much less expensive than fighter aircraft, and in an age of increasing austerity, it is tempting for nations to consider replacing jet fleets with armed drones.

More than 50 countries operate surveillance drones, and armed drones will quickly become standard in military arsenals. The challenge is to consider what international rules, if any, should govern the use of armed drones. The United States is setting the precedent; our approach may define the global rules of engagement. Of course, we cannot expect other nations to adopt the oversight and restrictions we have. What doors are we opening for other nations’ use of drones? What happens when terrorist groups acquire them? The United States must prepare for being the prey, not just the predator.

5. Obama will be remembered as the drone president.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq compelled the United States to boost the speed and accuracy with which it targets terrorists. But it was not until the Obama administration that U.S. technology and intelligence caught up with the need to take down terrorist networks rather than just individual leaders. As a result, there have been three to six times more drone strikes under Obama than under Bush.

While the use of drone warfare has come of age under Obama, whether he comes to be defined by this weapon is very much a political question. The tool kit of the war on terror includes far more than armed drones, but for a modern president, perception is reality. Drone strikes generate enormous controversy. For some, even the nomination of John Brennan — the public face of the administration’s drone program — to run the CIA indicates the centrality of drones to an “Obama Doctrine.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, Brennan emphasized his commitment to Congress’s oversight of overt and covert programs. It will remain critical for him and the White House to continue to articulate their overall approach to combating terrorism, making the case that drones are part of the strategy, not a substitute for it.


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