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Cyberspace

Vol. 6 No. 1 | Summer 2019
 

A Healthier Way for the Security Community to Partner with Tech Companies

Dr. Douglas Yeung

Digital data captured from social media, cell phones, and other online activity has become an invaluable asset for security purposes. Online mapping or cell-phone location information can be used to collect intelligence on population movement, or to provide situational awareness in disasters or violent incidents. Social-media postings may be used to vet potential immigrants and job applicants, or to identify potential recruits who may be likely to join the military.

However, breakdowns in relationships between the tech industry and would-be consumers of technology’s handiwork could imperil the ability of security stakeholders to use this data. Ongoing issues have already begun to shape some technologists’ views on the ethical use of artificial intelligence and other technologies in war and conflict and their impact on human rights and civil liberties. It isn’t difficult to imagine a series of future incidents further souring collaboration between technologists and security stakeholders.

In contrast to its reluctance over security matters, the tech industry has been a willing partner for government agencies and communities that promote health and wellbeing—topics that present less of an ethical challenge. Although it may not be immediately apparent, wellbeing and security have much in common. Could the security community take a page from wellbeing efforts to improve their collaboration with the tech industry?...

 

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Dr. Douglas Yeung

Dr. Douglas Yeung is a behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation and a member of the Pardee RAND Graduate School faculty. His research examines the societal impact of technology in national security, workforce, and wellbeing policy. His recent work has explored how policymakers can use insight from emerging technologies (e.g., social media, mobile devices) for wellbeing and civic policy-making. Yeung's other research involves online professional communities, and explores workforce attitudes and organizational knowledge-sharing, such as how military recruits discuss and seek career information. He has also conducted workforce diversity research, such as how minorities and women perceive career options. He has published most recently on public trust in the tech industry, and intentional bias in algorithms.

 

Before coming to RAND, Yeung was a product analyst at Oracle, and also helped to create a mobile application that was a grand prize winner in Google's first Android Developer Challenge. He received a Ph.D. from Rutgers University - Newark, and a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Obstacles to IT Modernization

The New National Security Imperative

Richard Beutel & Andrew Caron

INTRODUCTION

        As the December 2018-January 2019 government shutdown pressed forward into unexplored territory, no one asked what impact the continuing funding delays might have upon information technology (IT) modernization. This should be a significant concern, as IT modernization is now widely recognized as a national security imperative. The cumbersome and lengthy acquisition process stifles innovation and allows U.S. adversaries such as China to develop and deploy cutting-edge technologies far faster than the United States is able. The loser is the U.S. military, which is often saddled with obsolete capabilities. The recently released Third Volume of the Section 809 Panel report states this explicitly—we are on a “war footing”—and the government’s cumbersome acquisition policies are a primary culprit. The shutdown certainly did not help any of this. The authors can offer no solution regarding how to solve the threat of another shutdown. The issues are no longer substantive—both parties see “the wall” as emblematic to their political base. But we can talk about recent green shoots in addressing the IT acquisition.

 

Without mincing words or exaggeration, the government has a dismal record of successful IT modernization.[1] The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), a respected government watchdog, has exhaustively documented the government’s dependence on outdated legacy IT and the billions of U.S. dollars wasted by agencies in failed modernization attempts.[2] The causes are numerous: a compliance-oriented acquisition workforce, perverse incentives that reward “box checking” rather than end-user outcomes, and an entrenched cultural fear of “doing things differently” caused by an overblown concern about potential bid protests and increased congressional oversight.[3]

 

Recently, however, a new awareness has arisen across the government that the old ways of IT procurements no longer serve the country. Current acquisition techniques are relics of an age before commercialized internet services even existed; they were not designed to keep pace with the rapid evolution of IT technologies.

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[1] See Information Technology: Implementation of Recommendations is Needed to Strengthen Acquisitions, Operations, and Cybersecurity, Government Accountability Office report GAO-19-275T, December 12, 2018; Information Technology: IRS Needs to Take Additional Actions to Address Significant Risks in Tax Processing, Government Accountability Office report GOA-18-298, June 28, 2018; and Information Technology: Agencies Need Better Information on the Use of Noncompetitive and Bridge Contracts, U.S. Government Accountability Office report GOA-19-63, December 11, 2018.

[2] Ibid.
[3] See Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, Procurement Innovation Lab: Annual Report Fiscal Year 2017 (Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security, 2018), 4.

Richard Beutel

 

Richard Beutel leads Cyrrus Analytics. Beutel is the former lead acquisition and procurement policy counsel for former Chairman Darrell Issa of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. In that capacity, Beutel wrote and managed the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, or FITARA, which was signed into law as part of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

Beutel has bicameral Congressional experience, previously serving as lead oversight and acquisition policy counsel for Senator Susan Collins, the formerly ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Andrew Caron

 

Andrew Caron is a 3L at George Washington University Law School. He received his B.S. and B.A. degrees in International Business and Political Science from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. He contributed to the Section 809 Panel’s second and third volume reports and serves as Article Editor for GW’s Public Contract Law Journal.

 

Nuclear Weapons with 21st Century Technology

A Conversation with John Borrie

Interviewed by FSR Staff

Fletcher Security Review: To begin, could you describe your current role at the UN?

John Borrie: Sure. Well, I'm the chief of research at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research or UNIDIR. We're a voluntarily funded autonomous research institute within the UN family. We carry out independent research on all aspects of disarmament and arms control. My job here is to advise the director, oversee the development of the research program, carry out quality assurance on our research as well as to do my own research.

FSR: What is your research currently focusing on?

JB: Well, I focus on different things at different times. My major interests at the moment include issues around nuclear disarmament and deterrence policies, and technology such as a hypersonic missiles, which could have an impact on nuclear stability. I've been doing some work in the context of oversight and accountability mechanisms for the use of armed uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs)—drones—including their implications for stability. I’ve also been involved in a project here on gender and disarmament. Lastly, I also have an interest in research that is aimed at informing efforts to try to enhance civilian protection from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. I do all sorts of stuff, but nuclear is sort of my “bread and butter.” ...

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John Borrie

John Borrie is the research coordinate and program lead at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. He’s currently working on continuing and expanding dialogues about disarmament and the impact of nuclear weapons on humanitarian affairs. He previously worked on weapons control for both the International Committee of the Red Cross and as a New Zealand diplomat. Borrie holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Bradford.

 

Resilient Power

A New Model for Grid Security

Lewis Milford & Samantha Donalds

        In the last few years, Washington has been preoccupied with a debate about the security of the nation’s electric grid. The debate is as old as the grid itself: as electrification has come to drive all commerce and government, making it a key element of the country’s national security, what is the best way to protect the grid from terrorist, weather, or cyber-related threats or attacks?

As with most things of a political nature, where you stand depends on where you sit.

Proponents of coal, oil, and nuclear make the argument that traditional large-scale power plants are not only vital to grid stability, but also that this centralized generation model is the only economically or techno- logically feasible option.[1] It’s an old argument wrapped in new national security rhetoric, and it’s increasingly straining against the facts. More and more analysis and real-life examples show that distributed renewable energy, combined with energy storage technologies, can provide reliable power more affordably and reliably than the centralized generation alternatives...

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[1] “The resiliency of the nation's electric grid is threatened by the premature retirements of power plants that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural or man-made disasters and, in those critical times, continue to provide electric energy, capacity, and essential grid reliability services. These fuel-secure resources are indispensable for the reliability and resiliency of our electric grid - and therefore indispensable for our economic and national security. It is time for the Commission to issue rules to protect the American people from energy outages expected to result from the loss of this fuel-secure generation capacity.” From “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule,” Microgrid Knowledge, September 2017, pages 2-3.

Lewis Milford

 

Lewis Milford is president and founder of Clean Energy Group (CEG) and Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), two national nonprofit organizations that work with state, federal, and international organizations to promote clean energy technology, policy, finance, and innovation. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He works with many public agencies and private investors in the United States and Europe that finance clean energy. He is frequently asked to appear as an expert panelist at energy conferences throughout the United States and Europe. His articles on clean energy have appeared in many print and online publications including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The National Journal, The Huffington Post, and Renewable Energy World. Before founding these two organizations, he was Vice President of Conservation Law Foundation, New England’s leading environmental organization. Prior to that, he was a government prosecutor on the Love Canal hazardous waste case in New York and previously directed the Public Interest Law Clinic at American University Law School where he represented veterans on a range of legal issues, including gaining compensation for their harmful exposure to Agent Orange and nuclear radiation. He has a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

Samantha Donalds

 

Samantha Donalds serves as Communications Coordinator for Clean Energy Group and Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). Her responsibilities include coordinating the production of webinars and e-newsletters for both organizations; managing content for CEG and CESA’s social media accounts; developing press releases and other media outreach materials; and assisting with publications and events. Samantha produces two of CESA’s monthly newsletters, The CESA Brief and the CESA Members Newsletter. She also serves as webmaster for CEG and CESA websites. Samantha previously worked as an administrator at Fairewinds Energy Education, a nuclear safety advocacy non-profit in Burlington, Vermont. She has also worked as a research assistant in the environmental studies department at Brown University, where she researched fisheries projects in West Africa and compiled historic climate and fisheries data from southern New England. Samantha graduated cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in French. Samantha is currently pursuing a Masters in Energy Regulation and Law at Vermont Law School.

 

Insufficient Energy Technology in Pakistan

A Conversation with Michael Kugelman

Interviewed by FSR Staff

Fletcher Security Review: Pakistan’s energy infrastructure is notoriously problematic. In your 2015 essay “Easing an Energy Crisis That Won’t End,” you wrote that China’s recent investment of USD 35 billion in energy projects in Pakistan will not be enough to solve the country’s chronic issues such as recurring power outages, inefficient infrastructure-induced debt, and wasteful transmission and distribution mechanisms that waste up to 20 percent of the energy produced in the country. You pointed out that the root cause of this is not only insufficient energy supply, but bad governance. Non-state armed groups, such as the Pakistani Taliban in April 2013 and Balochi insurgents in January 2015, have targeted Pakistan’s energy installations to further deteriorate the government’s ability to provide basic goods to its population.

Since the essay was published, what has been the Pakistani government’s energy policy and how do you evaluate it? What are the effects of Pakistan’s energy crisis on the country’s stability and security environment?

Michael Kugelman: The Pakistani government, which has been on the defensive for several years due to anti-government protests and corruption allegations, deserves some credit here. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Party-Nawaz (PML-N) was swept into power in 2013 with a mandate to fix an energy crisis that had become so acute that you had power outages of up to 15 hours a day in some areas in the summer months. The crisis had major negative impacts — such as electricity-less factories having to shut down and lay off their employees — on the economy. Today, the energy crisis is still there, but it has eased at least modestly. The daily outages are not as long, and perhaps most importantly the debt within the energy sector — which had ballooned to several billion dollars at one point several years ago — has been reduced after the government acquired money from commercial banks to finance the debt...

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Houssem Ben Lazreg  

 

Houssem Ben Lazreg is a PhD candidate and a Teaching Assistant of Arabic and French at the University of Alberta. He also works as a freelance interpreter/translator with several agencies. He has recently won the Graduate Student Teaching Award in the Department of Modern Language and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta. His research interests include politics and translation, Middle Eastern graphic novels, and Islamist militant movements.

 

Digitization and the Future of Trade

A Conversation with Martin Labbé

Interviewed by FSR Staff

Fletcher Security Review: Digitization has been making big waves in the global economy and technology is more relevant than ever. Cross border e-commerce has become a key element of global economic activity and new business models are dependent on movement of data across borders. In other words, “Digital Trade” is shaping the fourth industrial revolution. The International Trade Centre (ITC) has been playing an important role in ensuring that the developing world reaps all the benefits of this growing trend. Could you talk a little bit about the ITC’s work in this area and give us a background of trends in digital trade from the organization’s lens?

Martin Labbé: The International Trade Centre (ITC) is an agency set up jointly by the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its key objective is to provide countries with trade-related technical assistance. We work with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), national chambers of commerce, export promotion agencies, and ministries of trade in developing countries. We primarily work in Africa but also to some extent in South Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean. Historically, we have been engaged in sup- porting the development of exports in such sectors as agriculture, handicrafts, and tourism.

In 2005, we started getting engaged in several projects on information and communication technologies (ICT) for development. These were the days when we saw the first wave of tech infrastructure being rolled out in Africa. Mobile penetration in Africa was growing, albeit at a small level. We saw a lot of potential in using mobile technologies to enable farmers, SMEs, and women-led businesses to transact. A lot of these projects never went beyond the pilot phase because of a lack of financial capacities or of people on the ground to turn them into successful, sustainable initiatives...

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Martin Labbé

 

Martin Labbé is the Tech-Sector Development Coordinator at the International Trade Centre and the Program Manager for Netherlands Trust Fund IV (NTF IV), a USD 10 million Export Sector Competitiveness Program. He manages NTF IV Uganda and NT IV Senegal tech-sector development projects, working closely with IT sector associations & tech hubs, SMEs and tech startups to support the internationalization of the local digital economy. He has been actively involved in designing and managing several online and offline B2B business-development and marketing activities in developing countries and transition economies as well as training small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) on technology and trade, with a focus on e-commerce.