Corri Zoli Co-Authors Safety Science Article on “Terrorist Critical Infrastructures”

INSCT Director of Research Corri Zoli has published “Terrorist Critical Infrastructures, Organizational Capacity, and Security Risk” in the engineering journal Safety Science. This interdisciplinary article is co-authored with Zoli’s Syracuse University colleagues Professor Laura J. Steinberg of the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Professor Margaret Hermann of the Maxwell School, along with Martha Grabowski, an engineering professor at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY.

This essay addresses gaps between studies of terrorism and infrastructure resilience to explore “terrorist critical infrastructures” (TCIs) as one critically missing framework to understand the rise of terrorist political violence globally. This approach to global terrorism maximizes core perspectives common in resilience and safety research and uses comparative analyses from terrorism studies, systems engineering, and infrastructure protection.

The authors develop a topology of terrorist infrastructures, introduce the concepts of “enabling” and “coopted” TCIs, and contrast characteristics of TCIs with those of conventional infrastructures. They argue that the organizational intelligence that comes from aligning strategic goals with infrastructural capacity is critical to explaining the prevalence, durability, and resilience of many terrorist organizations (as well as their increasing use of violence).

“We can understand these emerging organizational forms by their design and development, often flat, mobile, and flexible ‘networks of networks’ themselves,” the authors explain.

Article Highlights
  • Analysis used a systems-based interdisciplinary approach to terrorism.
  • Informal, illicit non-state groups, such as terrorist organizations, build and design critical infrastructures to effect terrorist aims and goals, including targeting soft targets.
  • The types of TCIs can be categorized according to terrorist organizations’ strategic targeting priorities; interface with existing context-specific civilian infrastructure systems; and their need to design, build, and engineer new infrastructure systems particular to illicit organizations.
  • Such TCIs involve formal and informal, legitimate and illegitimate, and physical and virtual systems.
  • TCIs often interface with criminal networks and low-governance.
  • Results show the need for more research and a targeted, infrastructure based approaches to combating terrorism.\
  • Practical implications for governments and security sectors are discussed.


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Statement by William C. Snyder on SCOTUS Carpenter vs. US Decision

Read the opinion

The Supreme Court’s Carpenter vs. US decision today will have far-reaching impacts, because it extends constitutional protections to cell site location information and not just to the actual content or words and sounds of a cellphone call or text message. The government now needs a warrant issued by a judge in order to obtain long-term, detailed records of the location of a cell phone.

The ruling also is significant because the Court reasons that constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures must change as technology advances, surely a sign that more change will come. Furthermore, the Court struck down Congress’s protections for cell site location information. That is, the FBI fully complied with the Stored Communications Act and obtained federal court orders requiring Sprint and another carrier to turn over the geolocation information. Those orders are less difficult for police to obtain than are search warrants. Now, more stringent search warrants are required.

Nevertheless, the Court affirmed that “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties … even if the information is revealed on the assumption that it will be used only for a limited purpose.”

The so-called “Third Party Records Doctrine” survives; the Court found that it does not apply to long-term “encyclopedic” geographic information generated by cell phones. Striking down this doctrine would have had enormous implications for government investigations, both for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

The Court not only did not go that far, but it reaffirmed the basic principle that the Constitution does not protect evidence a person voluntarily provides to someone else.

These matters are complex. The justices wrote 119 pages to explain their reasoning. Also, the decision was 5-4, decided by just one vote. Today’s decision is, in the words of the Court, “a narrow one.” It is a step toward extending Constitutional protections in the cyber age, but only a step. It points a direction, but the Court is proceeding one step at a time.

Professor William C. Snyder


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Corri Zoli Speaks to CNYCentral About Planning the North Korea Summit

WSTM News Channel 5 | May 24, 2018


HOST: Let’s bring in some new perspective on this international news. Corri Zoli is an assistant professor at the Maxwell school at Syracuse University and a familiar face here on CBS 5.

Thanks for coming in. This is sort of an unconventional from the start, the way this plan for the summit was announced. Maybe it won’t happen, maybe it will. We’re hopeful it’ll happen, and then finally today … what do you make of today’s announcement.

ZOLI: I think that this is a great example of how negotiations are a language of power, so we’re seeing stuff on the surface … somehow this president of all people is impacted by insults … so what we think we’re seeing on the surface is not reflective of what’s actually going on here in terms of the power dynamics …

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Travel Ban Has Slippery Slope to Giving President Too Much Power

By David Driesen

(Republished from The Hill | May 4, 2018) Lawyers frequently argue that accepting an argument in one context may lead to unacceptable consequences in another. Lawyers call this a slippery slope argument. The slippery slope dominated the oral argument on the legality of the administration’s travel ban before the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii. No justice suggested that a sound national security rationale undergirds this travel ban.

The court’s reluctance to review a proffered national security rationale at all puts our entire democracy on a dangerous slippery slope.

But Justice John Roberts worried that recognizing the principle that the president cannot restrict travel on the basis of religion or nationality might have bad consequences at other times. He asked, for example, if the president could ban travel from Syria if 20 Syrians were about to enter the United States with chemical and biological weapons.

Roberts also asked about a longer lasting danger with Congress unable to pass legislation. The court’s conservative wing seemed inclined to uphold an unnecessary ban motivated by religious animus, because a decision striking down the ban might someday stop a president from unilaterally addressing a real danger.

But upholding this travel ban also would create a slippery slope. If neither the statutory restriction on nationality-based restrictions nor the Constitution’s prohibition of religious discrimination restrain the president’s authority to ban classes of aliens, then Trump could add all Muslim-majority countries to his travel ban list, perhaps adding some other countries as window dressing.

The court can avoid sliding down a slippery slope by issuing an opinion tied tightly to the facts. The court could hold that Trump’s statements about religion make this ban discriminatory. Such a ruling might limit Trump’s options in responding to security threats, but would likely have no effect on future presidents. Or the court could overturn this travel ban based on the lack of an adequate national security rationale, since no immigrants from the banned countries have carried out terrorist attacks.

A narrower approach would combine these two options. The court could hold that once religious animus is shown, the president must proffer a reasonably robust national security rationale for his actions. The court could more narrowly hold that the president must make the entire record available so it can judge whether the national security rationale provides a mere pretext for violating constitutional rights. The administration’s failure to put the full interagency review it conducted in the record suggests that it does not support the travel ban that Trump chose.

The court’s reluctance to review a proffered national security rationale at all puts our entire democracy on a dangerous slippery slope. Given the persistence of global terrorism, almost any action limiting our liberties, no matter how unnecessary at the time, can be justified as the type of national security measure that could be needed in the future …

Read the full article.

David Driesen is a law professor at Syracuse University.

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Corri Zoli Offers Thoughts on Human Rights Training to US GAO

Corri Zoli, Director of Research for the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, discussed human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) training with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on April 19, 2018.

Zoli was invited to a teleconference session by recent graduate James I. McCully L’17, G’17, now an Analyst in International Affairs and Trade at GAO. A joint J.D./M.P.A. student, while at Syracuse McCully was a research assistant to professors Robert Ashford and David Driesen and Lead Articles Editor for the Journal of International Law and Commerce.

Explained McCully, the GAO is in the process of responding to a mandate in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to review human rights and IHL training provided by the departments of State and Defense to the security forces of foreign nations.

Specifically, McCully’s team asked Zoli, an expert in international law, about her observations and views on human rights and IHL training being provided to foreign security forces; her thoughts about the Leahy Laws, which prohibit the US from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights; and what assessments, monitoring, and evaluation are most effective when reviewing and auditing this type of training.

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The US-Led Military Strike in Syria: Germany Steps Aside, as Always

By Kamil Szubart

On April 14, 2018, the US, British, and French military launched a precision strike on the Assad Regime’s chemical weapons facilities nearby Damascus and Homs. The strike was an answer by Western allies to the alleged chlorine gas attack in Douma, about 10 miles east of the Syrian capital Damascus, carried out by the Assad regime’s forces on April 7, 2018. According to the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 40 civilians died in this attack, and almost 500 people sought medical treatment.

This missile strike was twice the size of the US attack in April 2017. Nevertheless, the British and French contribution to the operation was mostly symbolic. The British deployed only four Tornado GR4 jet fighters, armed with Storm Shadow missiles, from the Akrotiri RAF Base in Cyprus. However, the deployment showed the willingness of both Britain and France to respond to the severe violation of international law committed by the Assad Regime. It was also the first well-coordinated military operation against other state carried out by European NATO countries since the 2011 military intervention in Libya.

The German chancellor’s position on Syria is being criticized both from both right and left.

But, separating itself from Britain and France, Germany remained on the sidelines of this military action in Syria—why?

Rhetoric, But No Hardware

Germany and its newly-elected-but-very-familiar Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to back Germany’s allies with rhetoric but not with missiles. At the press conference after the meeting with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen in Berlin on April 12, 2018, the Chancellor ruled out Germany’s engagement in a possible military operation against the Assad regime.

Merkel condemned the Douma chemical attack, iterated that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, and said it is necessary to formulate a united position by the West in response to this barbaric attack against innocent people. She added that the West should send a strong signal to the regime in Damascus and that Germany supports its allies—but she stressed that Germany will not be militarily involved. And she avoided specifying how her country would help allies in military action in Syria.

In the aftermath of the US-led raid in Syria, spokesman for the German Federal Government Steffan Seibert continued the rhetoric, stating that Germany backed the air strikes by the US, France, and Britain as a “necessary and appropriate” action to warn Syria against further use of chemical weapons. Merkel added, “We support the fact that our American, British, and French allies have taken responsibility in this way as permanent members of the UN Security Council.”

Why the German Reluctance?

German foreign policy toward Syria refers to the UN Security Council and the actions taken by OPCW to provide clear evidence of chemical weapons use by the Assad Regime, and German leaders prefer to use diplomatic measures instead of military action. Insisting on the deep involvement of the UN is also related to Germany’s efforts to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2019-2020 (the final decision will be taken by the UN General Assembly on June 6, 2018).

Germany’s diplomatic position in this case is nothing new as it relates to its general approach toward military engagement abroad, especially in overseas missions known as “out-of-area” missions carried out by the German Armed Forces outside of NATO and EU territories.

Since Reunification in 1990, Germany has largely evaded engagement in combat operations conducted by other NATO countries. This trend was not changed by Germany’s involvement in the 1999 Allied Force operation against Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis. Later, both the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent “Global War on Terror” compelled Germany to act in solidarity with the US. Germany supported the invocation of NATO’s Article 5 (for the first time in the organization’s history) on September 12, 2001. Berlin then approved the deployment of its troops to Afghanistan but it opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion, which strained bilateral relations between Germany and the US.

The next crucial moment for Germany took place when European NATO countries, backed by the US, launched a military operation against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2011. At that time, Germany, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), abstained on Resolution 1973 to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. This decision subsequently marginalized Germany and undermined its role as a main solicitor of the rule of law and of human rights, placing the country with China and Russia, which also voted against the resolution.

Merkel Under Fire

The German chancellor’s position on Syria is being criticized both from both right and left. The Greens, the anti-immigrant and populist AfD, and post-communists from Die Linke have all attacked Merkel and her government and its rhetorical support for the strikes. They argue that the combat operation against the Assad Regime was carried out before releasing clear proof of Assad regime’s responsibility for the attack in Douma.

On the other hand, liberals from the Free Democratic Parties rubbish Chancellor Merkel for ruling out Germany’s military engagement in the operation, even though Germany could provide logistical support to the allies (as Germany is one of the biggest logistical hubs for the US in the world). The heavy fire has even come from a former defense minister in the previous Merkel government, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who called Merkel “a grandmaster of dialectics.”

Merkel’s Fear & Goals

Since the end of the World War II, German foreign policy has been driven by multilateral diplomacy and international law. On the one hand, Germany knows that the use of the chemical agent in Douma is the violation of international law and that Syria ratified the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013. On the other hand, it is aware that the use of military power against other countries without the UN Security Council authorization would violate international law and the UN charter. Thus, Germany prefers to emphasize the role of the UN in finding a solution to the Syrian conflict, which helps to explain Germany’s absence during the Syria strike and in carrying out special obligations to the US, Britain, and France as permanent members of the UNSC.

Alongside the UN, Germany would like to strengthen the role of the EU in resolving the conflict in Syria. Berlin is developing special relations with France and, ahead of Brexit and the potential absence of Britain, looks forward to launching an EU roadmap for Syria.

There is also a domestic factor to the reticence. Since the 2015 migration crisis, about 600,000 Syrians have sought political asylum in Germany. Most of the refugees are anti-Assad and consequently could show their disappointment in the federal government’s position. Moreover, Merkel is afraid of a possible military confrontation in Syria between the US and Russia, sparked by US-led attacks on Assad’s facilities. Such as result could drag Germany into a military confrontation between Russia and NATO, a potential world war.

Finally, Chancellor Merkel has struggled to steady her relations with President Donald Trump, trying to hide her contempt for his policies and rhetoric, especially Trump’s “Twitter diplomacy.” There are constant tensions between both leaders, even though German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen and US Defense Secretary James Mattis seem to understand each other quite well.

Dropping a few cruise missiles—Germany’s Taurus KEPD 350 missiles are comparable to the US JASSM missiles—could have helped Merkel gain Trump’s trust. When it comes to getting back into Trump’s good books, Merkel attempted to retrieve the situation during a trip to Washington on April 27, 2018. However, both politicians were occupied with questions about import duties on steel and aluminum and the Iran nuclear agreement.

INSCT Research and Practice Associate Kamil Szubart was a 2017 visiting fellow at INSCT, via the Kosciuszko Foundation. He works as an analyst for the Institute for Western Affairs in Poznan, Poland, where he is responsible for German foreign and security policy, transatlantic relations, Islamic threats in German-native-speaking countries and topics related to NATO, CSDP, OSCE, and the UN. Currently, he is working on a doctoral dissertation examining US-German relations in the field of international security since 9/11.


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Bad Cop: Corri Zoli Analyzes Trump’s John Bolton Appointment with Newsday

Experts: Trump appointments signal more hawkish foreign policy

(Newsday | April 1, 2018) President Donald Trump’s decision to replace National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with former UN Ambassador John Bolton and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo signals the commander-in-chief is moving toward a more hawkish approach on foreign policy matters, say national security and foreign affairs experts.

The president’s move to surround himself with two figureheads with a reputation for choosing military intervention over diplomacy comes as he prepares to meet with North Korea for denuclearization talks, and as he continues to voice his displeasure with the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran …

Corri Zoli, director of research at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, said in selecting Bolton, Trump is probably attempting to have a “bad cop” in place ahead of his discussions with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“I would say he’s chosen Bolton very much thinking about North Korea . . . so he can have a bad cop . . . so that Bolton can be the real hardliner in the discussions, so that Trump can negotiate on even terms, so the president can play the pure negotiator role,” Zoli said …

Read the full article here.



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Corri Zoli Discusses North Korea Talks with CNY Central

Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism Director of Research Corri Zoli spoke to Syracuse-area channels 3/5 on March 9, 2018, about the overtures between the United States and North Korea on the subject of nuclear weapons. Zoli called them “interesting developments” that we should approach with a “healthy dose of skepticism” given North Korea’s broken promises in the past …

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The Role of Offset Strategies in Restoring Conventional Deterrence

An interview with Robert O. Work, 31st US Deputy Secretary of Defense

By Octavian Manea (MAIR ’13)

(Re-published from Small Wars Journal | January 2018) Usually when we are talking about the Cold War, the first thing that we think in terms of a strategic framework is containment. But what has been the role the offset strategies played in the broader Cold War competition? In 1997, William Perry made an interesting observation that I think is worth reflecting on: “these strategies, containment, deterrence and offset strategy were the components of a broad holding strategy during the Cold War. I call it a holding strategy because it did not change the geopolitical conditions which led to the Cold War, but it did deter another World War and it did stem Soviet expansion in the world until the internal contradictions in the Soviet system finally caused the Soviet Union to collapse. The holding strategy worked.”

As Bill Perry suggests, technological offset strategies played an important role during the Cold War. The thinking about offset strategies can actually be traced to World War II. When the United States entered the war, planners concluded that the US would need over 200 infantry divisions and about 280 air combat groups to ultimately defeat the Axis powers. However, US leadership knew that if they built so many infantry divisions, the manpower they would need to work the arsenal of democracy wouldn’t be there. They therefore made a conscious decision to hold the number of infantry divisions to no more than 90 while keeping the 280 air combat groups. The thinking was that a “heavy fisted air arm” would help make up for the lack of infantry parity with the Axis powers.

The “90-division gamble” turned out to be a winner, but it was a close-run thing. In 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, the US Army literally ran out of infantry, forcing leaders to rush untrained troops to the front. Despite this, the idea that technology could help offset an enemy’s strength took hold in American strategic thinking. As a result, throughout the Cold War, the US never tried to match the Soviet Union tank for tank, plane for plane, or soldier for soldier. It instead sought ways to “offset” the potential adversary’s advantages through technological superiority and technologically-enabled organizational constructs and operational concepts.

President Eisenhower was well aware of the 90-division gamble. When he became president, he asked how many infantry divisions it would take to deter a Warsaw Pact invasion of Europe. Coincidentally, he was told about 90 divisions. Eisenhower knew that having a “peacetime” standing army of that size was neither politically nor fiscally sustainable. To counter Soviet conventional superiority, he therefore opted for what is now thought of as the First Offset Strategy (1OS), which armed a much smaller US ground force with battlefield atomic weapons, and an explicit threat to use them on invading Warsaw Pact forces.

The 1OS strategy worked. We know this because the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies adopted a new campaign design to forestall NATO’s use of nuclear weapons early in a campaign. They planned to conduct conventional attacks in powerful successive echelons to achieve a penetration of the NATO front lines. Once a breach was achieved, an Operational Maneuver Group (OMG) would drive deep into NATO’s rear.  The Soviets believed that once an OMG was operating behind NATO’s front lines, NATO leadership would be dissuaded or incapable of resorting to nuclear weapons. We’ll never know if NATO would have ever approved atomic attacks in response to a Warsaw Pact invasion.  But we do know the 1OS provided a credible deterrent and had a major impact on Soviet thinking.

Fast-forward twenty years. While we were in Vietnam, the Soviet Union spent a huge amount of money in conventional equipment and technology. By the mid-1970s, there was a pervasive sense that the Soviet Union had achieved conventional superiority. This occurred around the same time the Soviets achieved strategic nuclear parity. Under these circumstances, underwriting NATO conventional deterrence with the threat of battlefield nuclear weapons simply wasn’t credible anymore. In this new context, the US sought to reassert conventional dominance in order to improve strategic stability.

The plan to reassert conventional dominance had many parts, including a move to an All-Volunteer Force, an emphasis on the operational level of war, a thorough force-wide modernization—think of the Army’s “Big Five”—and a renaissance in realistic, force-on-force training. All of these initiatives were, in turn, backed by Bill Perry’s Second Offset Strategy, which sought to arm new operational level battle networks with guided munitions and sub-munitions.

Battle networks were nothing new. The first modern battle network was the British home air defense network assembled at the start of World War II.  Like all battle networks that followed, it had four interconnected grids. It had a sensor grid with radars, aircraft spotters and in the later stages of the campaign, electronic intelligence capabilities, all designed to sense the battlespace. It had an enormous command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) grid consisting of hardened underground command posts connected by radio and telephone that worked to make sense of what the enemy was doing, facilitate command decisions, and transmit orders to friendly forces. It had an effects grid consisting of Spitfire and Hurricane fighter squadrons, antiaircraft weapons, barrage balloons and electronic warfare capabilities designed to achieve the specific combat outcomes directed by the C3I grid. And it had a sustainment and regeneration grid that allowed the British to continue fighting and restore combat losses.

This battle network allowed the outnumbered British Air Forces to keep the larger German Luftwaffe from knocking Britain out of the war. Radar was the key sensor grid advance, which helped take surprise out of the Luftwaffe attacks. It informed the C3I grid when the bomber streams were coming and where they were headed. The C3I grid was able to exploit this information to mass the RAF’s relatively short-ranged fighters against German attacks, where they fought at line of sight ranges using unguided machine gun and cannon fire. The sustainment and regeneration grid kept producing fighters, and pilots who were shot down over their home territory had a much better chance of getting back into the fight. All this—along with heavy doses of bravery and skill—allowed the British to make up for their losses, continue the fight, and win the Battle of Britain.

The 2OS battle network had all the same characteristics of the British home air defense network, but it focused on the land battle. It relied on new airborne sensors that could see well beyond the NATO front lines to identify massing ground forces with the same ease air radar could identify massing air forces. By so doing, the sensor grid could discern the Warsaw Pact’s first, second and third echelon forces as they were forming up, and track them along their lines of approach. New C3I nodes and processes would quickly convert incoming sensor data to targeting information and transmit it directly to ground-based missile and air attack units armed with guided anti-armor munitions and submunitions. These guided weapons promised to be as accurate at their maximum effective ranges as they were at line-of-sight ranges. All this should allow the American battle network to “look deep and shoot deep,” and mount devastating attacks and advancing Soviet forces long before they reached NATO front lines. This new operational battle network would be demonstrated in an advanced concept technology demonstration called Assault Breaker, announced in 1976 when William Perry assigned DARPA to assemble its grids and test them using production prototype sensors and effectors.

Assault Breaker, and the 2OS it portended, really caught the Soviets’ attention. In 1979 the Soviets conducted a big war game in which they explored what might happen if NATO actually deployed the operational capability to hit successive attacking echelons with long-range guided munitions. The game suggested that if the battle network performed as the Americans expected, NATO would be able to break up a Warsaw Pact attack before a breakthrough could occur, and keep OMGs from getting into NATO’s rear without resorting to nuclear weapons.

When we successfully demonstrated the Assault Breaker concept in 1982-1983, the Soviets concluded the game results were accurate. Shortly thereafter, in 1984, Marshall Ogarkov, the head of the Soviet General Staff, declared that conventional guided munitions, precisely targeted through theater battle networks, could achieve battlefield effects roughly equal to those of tactical nuclear weapons. These new conventional “reconnaissance strike complexes” thus represented what Soviet military theorists called a “military-technical revolution.” Their appearance completely upended the Soviet’s campaign design, and convinced the General Staff that a conventional invasion would not likely succeed. In other words, the 2OS convinced the Soviets of NATO conventional superiority, and helped in no small way to end the Cold War without a shot being fired.

If you look back in time in 1984, it is interesting to note that the Soviets actually understood the implication of the 2OS long before most American strategists did. It wasn’t until Desert Storm that American strategists understood that the 2OS had caused a fundamental shift in conventional warfare.

So it was that the First and Second Offset Strategies contributed the broader US “holding strategy” during the Cold War. The 1OS and 2OS were both designed to reduce the chance we would fight a conventional conflict before the Soviet system collapsed.

One of the key points that James Lacey makes in a recent book, after surveying a set of strategic rivalries/great power competitions from the classical world to the Cold War, is that “power shifts (real or perceived) double the chance of war. In this regard, shifts toward parity are most likely to start wars.” To what extent is this structural variable identifiable in the operational environment that during the Cold War produced offset strategies twice? In other words what is the structural reality that triggers and makes the search for an offset strategy an imperative?

The United States adopted the 1OS when it enjoyed nuclear superiority.  It was a key part of the “New Look” and “New, New Look” Strategies adopted by the Eisenhower Administration, which relied upon the threat of massive retaliation at the strategic level and early use of tactical nuclear weapons during conventional confrontations.  Once the Soviet Union achieved strategic and tactical nuclear parity, however, the threat of tactical nuclear weapons was no longer credible.  US strategists believed this made the likelihood of conventional war in Europe greater, which spurred the 2OS.

Similar thinking animates the Third Offset Strategy.  Both Russia and China were alarmed by the ease in which the US defeated Iraq in the First Gulf War, and both made it their business to seek rough parity in battle network-guided munitions warfare. Both have now achieved that goal, if only in their “near abroads,” where they have assembled very powerful “anti-access, area-denial” (A2/AD) networks designed to deter, disrupt and defeat US power projection operations near their home territories. If they choose to do so, these same A2/AD networks provide an umbrella under which they can project power to coerce their neighbors or threaten US allies. As Lacey suggests, this shift towards conventional parity makes the likelihood of military confrontation between state powers higher.

With this in mind, the 3OS seeks to reestablish US conventional overmatch, thereby strengthening both conventional deterrence and strategic stability. With regard to the latter, as a status quo power, the 3OS fits within a framework of comprehensive strategic stability, which consists of three supporting legs: strategic deterrence, conventional deterrence, and the day-to-day competition below the threshold of armed conflict. All work together to provide comprehensive strategic stability. Our concept of strategic deterrence rests upon the assumption of strategic parity and “mutually assured destruction.” In contrast we do not consider conventional parity to be a good thing. We much prefer having clear conventional overmatch, which is generally thought to be the best way to deter would be aggressors from resorting to conventional warfare below the nuclear threshold. To James Lacey’s point, then, the 3OS is a response to a new condition of parity in battle network-guided munitions warfare, which undermines both conventional deterrence and comprehensive strategic stability. 

As for whether the 3OS is “a holding strategy,” the contemporary challenges posed by Russia and Chinas are two different kettles of fish than the challenge posed by the Soviet Union. Russia is a resurgent great power, possessing a large nuclear arsenal and formidable conventional forces. But it no longer seeks to forcibly expand either its dominion or communism, and it demographics and economy both look really bad over the long term. On the Chinese side, their economy could surpass that of the US, and they are intent on becoming a global military peer. So I guess I would say the 3OS might be thought of as a holding strategy for the Russians, and a hedging strategy for the Chinese.

I tend to look at both powers less as adversaries and more as competitors, as geopolitical rivals. They see themselves and act like great powers, and they want to be treated as such—more as equals with the US rather than as weaker minor powers. Consequently, I would say we are engaged in a very intense strategic rivalry with both, although because the Russians have used “active measures” against US democratic processes and are actively working to undermine and fracture NATO, they can certainly be viewed in more adversarial terms.

Let’s describe the broader strategic context in which the 3OS is developing. What is the operational problem 3OS is trying to address?

Offsets inevitably cause adversaries and competitors to react. The Soviets clearly reacted to the 1OS, seeking both strategic parity and conventional dominance. Once they achieved their goals, the US was forced to purse the 2OS, which in turn spurred a Chinese and Russian reaction to perceived US conventional dominance.

Russian and Chinese adopted 2OS thinking and technologies to erect A2/AD (anti-access/area-denial) networks to confront our own battle networks. They do so to deter, forestall and disrupt any US power projection operation near their own territory. But, as we discussed earlier, the networks also provide both with an umbrella under which they could coerce neighboring states or threaten US allies.

The appearance of conventional A2/AD battle networks capable of directing guided munitions salvos as deep and as dense as our own threatens our ability to project power. This is a serious operational problem, and a direct challenge to a global superpower that relies on its ability to project power into distant theaters to underwrite both its alliances and conventional deterrence. If Lacey is correct that conventional parity often incentivizes aggressive and coercive behavior on the part of rising powers, this condition raises the likelihood of military confrontation. The whole idea of the 3OS is to restore our conventional overmatch, so deterrence is strengthened, and the chance of confrontation lowered …

Read the whole article here.

Octavian Manea was a Fulbright Junior Scholar at Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (Syracuse University) where he received an MA in International Relations (2013) and a Certificate of Advanced  Studies in Security Studies from INSCT.

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The Supply Chain Problem and Cybersecurity

By Ryan White

(Re-published from Crossroads: Cybersecurity Law & Policy | Feb. 28, 2018)  A few weeks ago, an article from Nextgov, a website dedicated to “how technology and innovation are transforming the way government agencies serve citizens and perform vital functions,” described recent efforts by DHS to address cyber security risks as they relate to supply chains.  The article quotes Jeanette Manfra, the head of DHS’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, who explained that “[t]he program’s major goals are to identify the greatest supply chain cyber threats, figure out if there are technical ways to mitigate those threats and, if not, figure out other solutions.” But other than barring companies with weak supply chain security from government contracts, no other solutions were mentioned. Below I look at what a cyber security supply chain policy might encompass.

One of the more prominent supply chain incidents in recent memory involved Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who, in an effort to expand its business, offered a Russian defense agency an inside look at a program called ArcSight.

One of the more prominent supply chain incidents in recent memory involved Hewlett Packard Enterprise, who, in an effort to expand its business, offered a Russian defense agency an inside look at a program called ArcSight.[i] The problem, however, was that ArcSight is a program that is heavily relied on by the Pentagon.[ii] The program is a “cybersecurity nerve center” that sends alerts when it detects a potential attack on a network.[iii] The program is also used frequently by private sector companies.[iv] By providing the program code to Russia, HP not only created a vulnerability for the United States but exposed that vulnerability to the most notorious cyber threat to the U.S. in recent years.

Another example of the cyber supply chain problem occurred several years ago with the United States Air Force. The Air Force had contracted with a vendor in an Asian country to produce hardware for one of the Air Force’s systems.[v] When the hardware arrived in the U.S. and was reviewed by the Air Force, however, they found that the chips contained an extra transistor. While the chip performed its intended function, the Air Force could not decipher what else the piece would do with the extra transistor. As a result, that batch of hardware was disposed of and never installed.

These two examples highlight the breadth and depth of the challenges regarding supply chains and cyber security. Supply chain security implicates hardware and software, public sector and private, and in these two instances, Asia and Russia. The Air Force was fortunate enough to find the altered specifications in its hardware, and reports so far suggest no harm has come from Russia’s ArcSight review.

Every point in every supply chain presents a weakness for that product’s cybersecurity. Every individual human that comes into contact with every component piece of hardware or software is a potential threat.  The threats to the supply chain include:[vi]

  • Installation of hardware or software containing malicious logic
  • Installation of counterfeit hardware or software
  • Failure or disruption in the production or distribution of critical products
  • Reliance on a malicious or unqualified service provider for the performance of technical services
  • Installation of hardware or software that contains unintentional vulnerabilities

All of these create potential weaknesses that can be exploited at a later point in time. Vulnerabilities could be exploited to steal sensitive information. Anything that program does could send a copy of that data to a third party. A vulnerability created by a nefarious actor somewhere in the supply chain could be a switch that lies dormant until activated when it would disable the system. Depending on what system that might be, there could be devastating consequences.

Two major concepts underlie the cyber supply chain security issues in the United States: (1) the United States technology sector is dependent on hardware components manufactured all over the world; and (2) the United States government is heavily dependent on commercial off-the-shelf cyber programs.

The United States, both its government and its private citizens, has become increasingly dependent on an intricate global economy. This is particularly true when it comes to technology, as the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. has led to increases in outsourcing. For example, the production of one iPhone involves component parts made in the U.S., South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Germany that are all ultimately assembled in China.[vii] The diagram below shows a similar analysis for a standard laptop, whose component parts may come from as many as twenty different countries …

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[i]               “Special Report: HP Enterprise let Russia scrutinize cyberdefense system used by Pentagon,” Reuters (Oct. 2, 2017),

[ii]               Id.

[iii]              Id.

[iv]              Id.

[v]               The facts of the Air Force narrative are from a series of conversations with Professor William C. Snyder, who had substantial knowledge of that situation’s details.

[vi]              Id.

[vii]             Cyber Supply Chain Security: A Crucial Step Toward U.S. Security, Prosperity, and Freedom in Cyberspace, Heritage Report, (Mar. 6, 2014)

Ryan White is a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

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