Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 8 – Cyber

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute.


We just completed the eighth week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape the character and employment of all instruments of national power.

In class 1, we learned that national power is the sum of all the resources available to a state to pursue its national objectives and interests. This power is wielded through a combination of a country’s diplomacy, information, its military capabilities, economic strength, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement. These instruments of national power employed in a “whole of government approach” to advance a state’s interests are known by the acronym DIME-FIL.

Class 2 focused on China, the U.S.’s primary great power competitor. China is using all elements of its national power, e.g. information/ intelligence, its military might and economic strength as well as exploiting Western finance and technology. China’s goal is to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order and replace it with its own neo-totalitarian model where China emerges as the dominant regional and global power.

The third class focused on Russia, which since 2014 has asserted itself as a competing great power. We learned how Russia pursues security and economic interests in parallel with its ideological aims.

The fourth class shifted our focus to the impact commercial technologies have on the instruments of national power (DIME-FIL). The first technology we examined was semiconductors, and the U.S. dependence on TSMC in Taiwan, for its most advanced logic chips. This is problematic as China claims Taiwan is a province of China.

In the fifth class we examined the impact that AI and Machine Learning will continue to have on the capabilities and employment of DIME-FIL. We heard from the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), the focal point of the DOD AI strategy; and from the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) – a DoD organization that contracts with commercial companies to solve national security problems.

In class six we discussed unmanned systems and autonomy and how the advent of these weapons will change operational concepts and the face of war.

Class seven looked at the Second Space Age, how our military and civilian economy rely on assets in space, and how space is now a contested environment, with China and Russia capable of disabling/destroying our satellites

Today’s class: Cyber

Catch up with the class by reading our intro to the class, and summaries of Classes 123, 4, 5 6 and 7


 

Required readings

Case Study for Class

Competition in Cyber Space

Cyber Attacks / Cyber Warfare

IP & Protected Personal Information Theft

Political Interference

Reading Assignment Questions

Pick one of the below questions and answer in approximately 100 words, based on the required readings. Please note that this assignment will be graded and count towards course participation. 

  1. What is the U.S. Cyber Command’s doctrinal approach to competing in the cyber domain? Do you agree with the current doctrine? Why or why not? Would you do anything differently?
  2. Of the different types of cyber threats presented in this week’s readings (cyberattacks, PPI and IP theft, and political interference), which do you think presents the greatest threat to U.S. interests and why? What should the U.S do to address that threat? Be specific if your recommendations are for the government or private sector.

Class 8 – Guest Speaker

Dr. Michael Sulmeyer is a Senior Adviser, USCYBERCOM (Cyber Command). He was the former Senior Director for Cyber at the National Security Council. The former Cyber Project Director at the Harvard Kennedy School-Belfer Center. He was a past Director, Plans and Operations, for Cyber Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Previously, he worked on arms control and the maintenance of strategic stability between the United States, Russia, and China.

Cyber Command formed in 2010 and is one of the eleven unified combatant commands of the United States Department of Defense. It’s commanded by a four-star general, General Paul Nakasone who is also the director of the National Security Agency and chief of the Central Security Service. It has three main missions: (1) defending the DoD information systems, (2) supporting joint force commanders with cyberspace operations, and (3) defending the nation from significant cyberattacks.

Dr. Sulmeyer has written, “A focus on cyber-deterrence is understandable but misplaced. Deterrence aims to change the calculations of adversaries by persuading them that the risks of an attack outweigh the rewards or that they will be denied the benefits they seek. But in seeking merely to deter enemies, the United States finds itself constantly on the back foot. Instead, the United States should be pursuing a more active cyberpolicy, one aimed not at deterring enemies but at disrupting their capabilities. In cyberwarfare, Washington should recognize that the best defense is a good offense.

In countries where technology companies are willing to cooperate with the U.S. government (or with requests from their own government), a phone call to the right cloud provider or Internet service provider (ISP) could result in getting bad actors kicked off the Internet.

U.S. hackers could pursue a campaign of erasing computers at scale, disabling accounts and credentials used by hackers to attack, and cutting off access to services so it is harder to compromise innocent systems to conduct their attacks.”

Our national defense cyber policy has now moved to “persistent engagement.” Defending forward as close as possible to the origin of adversary activity extends our reach to expose adversaries’ weaknesses, learn their intentions and capabilities, and counter attacks close to their origins. Continuous engagement imposes tactical friction and strategic costs on our adversaries, compelling them to shift resources to defense and reduce attacks. We will pursue attackers across networks and systems to render most malicious cyber and cyber-enabled activity inconsequential while achieving greater freedom of maneuver to counter and contest dangerous adversary activity before it impairs our national power.

Lecture 8

If you can’t see the lecture 8 slides click here.

Lessons Learned

  • Cyber Command’s role is to:
    • defend the DoD information systems
    • support joint force commanders with cyberspace operations, and
    • defend the nation from significant cyberattacks
  • Cyber Command has evolved from a reactive, defensive posture to a proactive posture called “persistent engagement”

Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 7 – Space

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute.


We just completed the seventh week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape the character and employment of all instruments of national power.

In class 1, we learned that national power is the sum of all the resources available to a state to pursue its national objectives and interests. This power is wielded through a combination of a country’s diplomacy, information, its military capabilities, economic strength, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement. These instruments of national power employed in a “whole of government approach” to advance a state’s interests are known by the acronym DIME-FIL.

Class 2 focused on China, the U.S.’s primary great power competitor. China is using all elements of its national power, e.g. information/ intelligence, its military might and economic strength as well as exploiting Western finance and technology. China’s goal is to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order and replace it with its own neo-totalitarian model where China emerges as the dominant regional and global power.

The third class focused on Russia, which since 2014 has asserted itself as a competing great power. We learned how Russia pursues security and economic interests in parallel with its ideological aims.

The fourth class shifted our focus to the impact commercial technologies have on the instruments of national power (DIME-FIL). The first technology we examined was semiconductors, and the U.S. dependence on TSMC in Taiwan, for its most advanced logic chips.

In the fifth class we examined the impact that AI and Machine Learning will continue to have on the capabilities and employment of DIME-FIL.

In class six we discussed unmanned systems and autonomy and how the advent of these weapons will change operational concepts and the face of war.

Today’s class: The Second Space Age: Great Power Competition in Space.

Catch up with the class by reading our intro to the class, and summaries of Classes 123, 4, 5 and 6 


Required readings

The Cold War: Space Race 1.0

Space as a Domain

Age of Great Power Competition: Space Race 2.0

America’s Space Forces

Space Threats & Non-State Actors

Reading Assignment Questions

Pick one of the below questions and answer in approximately 100 words, based on the required readings. 

  1. Describe America’s space assets and the role of the U.S. Space Force in protecting and employing those assets. As the U.S. Space Force continues to develop, what changes in strategy and/or addition to its portfolio of responsibilities would you recommend?
  2. What is the greatest current threat to U.S. interests in space? What recommendations would you have for the U.S. and its partners to mitigate that threat?

Class 7 – Guest Speaker

Our guest speaker was General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations. He is the first Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force. Space Force has three major commands — Space Operations CommandSpace Systems Command, and Space Training and Readiness Command.

The Space Force was born as a separate service in December 2019. Previously General Raymond led re-establishment of U.S. Space Command as 11th U.S. combatant command, and was for a year the head of both a service (Space Force) and a combatant command (Space Command).

Raymond said a focus for the Space Force is being lean and fast, innovative and unified.

Space was once considered “benign,” largely uninhabited except by the United States and Russia and the Soviet Union. Today it is far more crowded and dangerous. Raymond pointed out that the ability to operate in space is critical not only to protect U.S. security, but also to power the U.S. and global economy, communications, transportation and other essential functions of everyday life.

“Space is clearly a warfighting domain and we’re convinced that if deterrence were to fail, we’re going to have to fight and win the battle for space superiority,” he said.

Lecture 7

If you can’t see the lecture 7 slides click here.

Next Week: Cyber

Lessons Learned

  • Our military depends on our assets in space (satellites) for communication, navigation, situational awareness (via photo, radar and electronic intelligence satellites) warning and targeting
  • Our civilian economy also depends on space assets for GPS and communication
  • Space is now a contested environment with China and Russia capable of disabling/destroying our satellites
    • Using directed energy (lasers), cyber, electronic warfare, ground or space-based kinetic weapons

Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 6 – Unmanned Systems and Autonomy

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute.


We just completed the sixth week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape the character and employment of all instruments of national power.

In class 1, we learned that national power is the sum of all the resources available to a state to pursue its national objectives and interests. This power is wielded through a combination of a country’s diplomacy, information, its military capabilities, economic strength, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement. These instruments of national power employed in a “whole of government approach” to advance a state’s interests are known by the acronym DIME-FIL.

Class 2 focused on China, the U.S.’s primary great power competitor. China is using all elements of its national power, e.g. information/ intelligence, its military might and economic strength as well as exploiting Western finance and technology. China’s goal is to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order and replace it with its own neo-totalitarian model where China emerges as the dominant regional and global power.

The third class focused on Russia, which since 2014 has asserted itself as a competing great power. We learned how Russia pursues security and economic interests in parallel with its ideological aims.

The fourth class shifted our focus to the impact commercial technologies have on the instruments of national power (DIME-FIL). The first technology we examined were semiconductors, and the U.S. dependence on TSMC in Taiwan, for its most advanced logic chips. This is problematic as China claims Taiwan is a province of China.

In the fifth class we examined the impact that AI and Machine Learning will continue to have on the capabilities and employment of DIME-FIL. We heard from the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), the focal point of the DOD AI strategy; and from the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) – a DoD organization that contracts with commercial companies to solve national security problems.

Today’s class: Unmanned Platforms and Autonomy

Catch up with the class by reading our intro to the class, and summaries of Classes 123, 4 and 5


Required Readings

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) & Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) / Unmanned Undersea Vessel (UUV)

U.S. Unmanned Warfare Concepts

China Unmanned Warfare Concepts

Use of Drones in Nagorno-Karabakh

Reading Assignment Questions

Pick one of the below questions and answer in approximately 100 words, based on the required readings.

  1. Describe how the advent of autonomous weapon systems (i.e. drones) has changed the American way of war to date. What changes would you recommend America adopt as autonomous systems continue to develop?
  2. Pick one domain of war (e.g. air, land, sea, subsea, space, etc.). How does the proliferation of autonomous weapon systems to great powers, lesser powers, or non-state actors (pick one of the three) threaten America’s traditional military advantages in that domain?

Class 6 – Guest Speakers and Autonomy Panel

This class had seven guest speakers on unmanned systems and autonomy.

Our first guest speaker was Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, Chief of Naval Research, United States Navy. Admiral Selby is responsible for the Naval Research Enterprise. It is the “venture capital” of the Navy and Marine Corps. It’s made up of ONR – the Office of Naval ResearchONR Global, the Naval Research Laboratory, and Special Projects (PMR 51.)

(Founded in August 1946, ONR provided support of research at universities when WWII government funding to universities had dried up. Fred Terman, Stanford’s dean of engineering, received ONR’s first research grants for electronics and microwaves. These grants funded the Stanford Electronics Research Laboratory and kick-started innovation in what would become Silicon Valley.) Fast forward to this decade and ONR funded our first Stanford Hacking for Defense classes and is the first funder of the Stanford Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation.

RADM Selby described the role of the  Chief of Naval Research, the types of innovation, the role of ONR in capturing new/relevant ideas and pulling them in fast enough to compete with adversaries, but not disrupt the functionality of the Navy.

Our next guest was Maynard Holliday the DoD Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Modernization (5G; Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning; Autonomy; Biotechnology; Cyber; Directed Energy; Fully Networked Command, Control, and Communications; Hypersonics; Microelectronics; Quantum Science; and Space). He described the role of his office as similar to DARPA. His 11 principal directors lay out the technical roadmaps for the DoD and help transition the technologies into operational use.

The principal DoD Modernization director for autonomy, Dr. Jaret C. Riddick, then joined us. He helped the class understand the DoD definition of Autonomy, the Lines of Effort the DoD is actively pursuing, and why it was important.

Lecture 6

If you can’t see the lecture 6 slides click here.

In the Department of Defense unmanned systems and autonomy are moving ahead rapidly. We gave the students a feel for the scope of the activities in two panel sessions.

Panel 1 – Autonomy/Unmanned Systems Research and Engineering

RADM Selby, Mr. Holliday, and Mr. Riddick joined a panel discussion on how their organizations set their research priorities and investment strategies. They discussed:

  1. What time horizon their organizations consider when determining which technologies to invest in
  2. How these investment strategies and time horizons compare and contrast with the same considerations made by China and Russia
  3. What the future of autonomous systems looks like. What the largest gains their organizations hope to make with investments in autonomy
  4. What ethical considerations they take into account when making technology investments Whether China and/or Russia have similar or different ethical considerations. How these ethical frameworks affect America’s ability to compete

Panel 2 – An Application of Autonomy – the Navy Unmanned Task Force

Four other experts on Autonomy in defense joined us for a discussion of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations Unmanned Task Force: Michael Stewart, Director of the US Navy Unmanned Task Force and Deputy Director Integrated Warfare; Bradley Garber, Deputy Director/Principal Civilian Advisor to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations; Dr. Jason Stack,  the Office of Naval Research Portfolio Manager for Autonomy; and Dr. Shane Arnott, Chief Engineer, Anduril Industries. They discussed:

  1. The impetus for the creation of their task forces
  2. The biggest challenges and opportunities for integrating autonomy from the private sector to support the DoD
  3. What the future of autonomous systems looks like. The largest gains that their organizations hope to make with investments in autonomy
  4. Where China and/or Russia are making the largest gains with autonomous systems. What threat this presents to U.S. interests

Next Week: The Second Space Age: Great Power Competition in Space

Lessons Learned

  • Autonomy and Unmanned Systems are critical technologies that will impact all aspects of the instruments of DIME-FIL national power
    • While advanced work in autonomy is happening in the DoD ecosystem, commercial companies and universities still lead
    • China and Russia have made autonomy and unmanned systems national priorities
    • Other countries, e.g. Turkey and Israel, have proliferated systems that have been used to win a war
  • The Navy is actively looking to build and integrate unmanned/autonomous systems as part of the fleet

Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 5 – AI and Machine Learning

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute.


We just completed the fifth week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape all the elements of national power (America’s influence and footprint on the world stage).

In class 1, we learned that national power is the combination of a country’s diplomacy, information/intelligence, its military capabilities, economic strength, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement. This “whole of government approach” is known by the acronym DIME-FIL.

Class 2 focused on China, the U.S.’s primary  great power competitor. China is using all elements of national power: diplomacy (soft power, alliances, coercion), information/ intelligence, its military might and economic strength (Belt and Road Initiative) as well as exploiting Western finance and technology. China’s goal is to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order and replace it with a neo-totalitarian model.

The third class focused on Russia, which since 2014 has asserted itself as a competing great power. We learned how Russia pursues security and economic interests in parallel with its ideological aims. At times, these objectives complement each other. At other times they clash, as Russian policy is run by Vladimir Putin and his political institutions.

The fourth class shifted our focus to the impact commercial technologies have on DIME-FIL. The first technology we examined were semiconductors, the oil of the 21st century. The U.S. is dependent on TSMC, located in Taiwan, for its most advanced logic chips. This is problematic as China claims Taiwan is a province of China.

Today’s class: Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning

Catch up with the class by reading our intro to the class, and summaries of Classes 1, 2, 3 and 4


 

Required Readings

Introduction to AI

The AI Arms Race: Fact or Fiction?

China’s AI Strategy

Russian AI Strategy

US AI Strategy

Obama Administration

Trump Administration

Biden Administration

Other AI and National Security Resources

Reading Assignment Questions:

Pick one of the below questions and answer in approximately 100 words, based on the required readings. Please note that this assignment will be graded and count towards course participation.

  1. How would you characterize the geopolitical AI Arms Race? Is an “arms race” the right lens through which to understand this phenomenon, or is there another way to better understand great power competition in the AI domain?
  2. Can the U.S. learn any lessons from China’s AI strategy?

Class 5 – Guest Speakers

Our speakers for our fifth class were Mike Brown, Nand Mulchandani and Jacqueline Tame.

Mike Brown is the director of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) – a Department of Defense organization that contracts with commercial companies to solve national security problems. Previously Mike was the CEO of Symantec and Quantum.

Nand Mulchandani is the Chief Technology Officer of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). The JAIC is the focal point of the Department of Defense AI strategy.

Jacqueline Tame was the former Acting Deputy Director of the JAIC and the architect of the JAIC “Gamechanger,” an AI-driven Policy Analysis Tool.

Mike Brown led off the session with an overview of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).

If you can’t see Mike Brown’s Defense Innovation Unit presentation click here.

Key takeaways from Mike’s talk were that 1) 50 years ago defense-related R&D made up 36% of global R&D. Today, defense-related R&D is 4%. Key technologies needed by defense today are made by commercial companies (5G, AI, biotech, quantum, access to space, batteries, etc.) 2) The top tech companies (Facebook, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple) outspend U.S. prime contractors 11 to 1 in R&D ($70.5B versus $6.2B.)

DIU’s role is to find and then funnel commercial technology into the DoD by prototyping, transitioning, and scaling solutions. They have (by DoD standards) an extremely fast pipeline from problem curation, to evaluating and selecting companies, then prototyping projects and inserting them into DoD programs. AI/MLis one of the six core areas DIU focuses on (along with space, autonomy, advanced energy and materials, cyber and human systems.) DIU AI/ML has three lines of effort: machine Learning predictions, big data analysis, enhanced decision making.

Nand Mulchandani described the role and the initiatives of the JAIC. One in particular, Gamechanger, was conceived and run by Jacqueline Tame.

Gamechanger uses AI to tackle a problem only a government could create. The DoD and federal regulations have 10’s of thousands of policies, laws, regulations that tell decision-makers what they can or cannot do. These exist in different places on different networks and change almost daily. Now you could simply type a natural language query that asks, “Do I have the authority do x?” Or, “How can purchase this item quickly?” etc.

Lecture 5

If you can’t see the slides, click here

Our first discussion in class (Slide 7) was whether Nicholas Chaillan’s (the first Air Force Chief Software Officer) claim that we have already lost the AI battle to China was correct.

Slides 9-14 kicked off the discussion of the geopolitical implications of AI. Given both China and Russia have made a AI a national effort, how will AI impact all aspects of DIME (Diplomatic, Intelligence, Military, and Economic) and national power? What are the impacts of AI created deep fakes? AI automating image recognition of satellite data? AI creating optimal concepts of operations? AI-tuned cyber-attacks? AI cyber security? AI smart/predicative maintenance? etc.  Where will we first see its impacts? What will our response be?

Class Discussion Questions: (Slide 15)

  • How would you characterize the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S.’s AI Strategy?
  • How would you advise the Biden Administration to pursue an AI Strategy?

Next week: Autonomy and Unmanned Systems

Lessons Learned

  • AI and machine learning is a critical technology that will impact all aspects of DIME (Diplomatic, Intelligence, Military, and Economic) and national power
  • Most of the advanced work in AI/ML is happening in commercial companies and universities not the DoD
    • China and Russia have made AI and machine learning national priorities
  • The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) exists to find and then funnel commercial technology like AI/ML into the DoD
  • The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) is the focal point of the Department of Defense AI strategy

Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 4- Semiconductors

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute.  


We just completed the fourth week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape all the elements of national power (America’s influence and footprint on the world stage).

In class 1, we learned that national power is the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances), information/intelligence, military power, economic strength, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement. This “whole of government approach” is known by the acronym DIME-FIL.  And after two decades focused on counter terrorism, the U.S. is now engaged in great power competition with both China and Russia.

In class 2 the class focused on China, the U.S.’s primary great power competitor. China is using all elements of national power: diplomacy (soft power, alliances, coercion), information/ intelligence (using its economic leverage over Hollywood, controlling the Covid narrative), its military might and economic strength (Belt and Road Initiative) as well as exploiting Western finance and technology. China’s goal is to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order and replace it with a neo-totalitarian model.

The third class focused on Russia, which is asserting itself as a great power challenger. We learned how Russia pursues security and economic interests in parallel with its ideological aims. At times, these objectives complement each other. At other times they clash, Putin’s desire to restore Russia into a great power once again leads to a foreign policy that is opposite the interests of the Russia people. As Putin himself has said, “The collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century,” and that quote offers a window to his worldview as he tries to remake Russia into a great power once again.”

Having covered the elements of national power (DIME-FIL) and China and Russia, the class now shifts to the impact commercial technologies have on DIME-FIL. Today’s topic – Semiconductors.

Catch up with the class by reading our intro to the class, and summaries of Classes 1, 2 and 3.


Class 4 Required Readings:

Silicon Valley, the Military, and the Journey to the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Moore’s Law & the Global Semiconductor Industry

Semiconductor Case Study

Reading Assignment Questions:

Pick one of the below questions and answer in approximately 100 words, based on the required readings. Please note that this assignment will be graded and count towards course participation.

  1. Describe the roles of Fred Terman, William Shockley, and Fairchild Semiconductor in the genesis of Silicon Valley. Who had a greater role in creating Silicon Valley, Fred Terman or the Traitorous Eight?
  2. How would you characterize China’s attempt to catch-up in the semiconductor industry? Do you think China can credibly catch TSMC (without an invasion of Taiwan)? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of Mark Liu, chairman of TSMC: Do you view China as more of a competitor or customer – and why?
  2. Now imagine you are the NSC Senior Director with responsibility for technology strategy. What’s the first thing the U.S. Gov’t should do regarding semiconductors?

Class 4: Guest Speaker
Our guest speaker for our fourth class was John Hurley, former Member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, an expert on semiconductors and supply chains, and former Captain, U.S. Army.

Lecture 4

If you can’t see the slides, click here

Slide 4. The critical role of semiconductors in great power competition. Both our commercial and military systems are dependent on semiconductors. China spends more on semiconductor imports than it does on oil. We framed the advances in technology as part of the 4th industrial revolution. Slides 5-7. We reminded the students of the role the DoD and IC played at Stanford turning it into an outward-facing university, which kick-started technology entrepreneurship here in Silicon Valley.

Slides 9-11 Dual-use technology. For the first time in 75 years, federal labs and our prime contractors are no longer leading innovation in many critical technologies including AI, machine learning, autonomy, biotech, commercial access to space, etc. Rapid advances in these areas are now happening via commercial firms – many in China. This is a radical change in where advanced technology comes from. In the U.S., the government is painfully learning how to reorient its requirements and acquisition process to buy these commercial, off-the-shelf technologies. (Products that are sold commercially and to the DoD are called “dual-use.”)

Slide 15. Semiconductor industry. We began a deep dive into semiconductors by drawing the map of the semiconductor industry (Slides 3-15 from this required reading.) Five companies provide the majority of the wafer fab equipment needed to make chips. TSMC is the leading fab for manufacturing logic chips. (Slides 32-33 from this required reading.) Of the 29 new fabs starting construction in 2021-22, over half are in China and Taiwan.

Slide 16. TSMC Case. We took the class through the TSMC case study and mapped out the roles and interests of TSMC, China, Intel, and the U.S. Slides 17-18. We discussed China’s drive for semiconductor independence, U.S. export controls on Huawei (why and its consequences,) the various constituencies of a U.S. semiconductor policy (Commerce Department, DoD, U.S. chip makers, U.S. semi equipment suppliers, etc.), whether TSMC’s success makes Taiwan more or less secure, given China’s goals of reunification with Taiwan.

Slide 19-20. Policy.  How do decision makers formulate policy? Does it start by asking “What problem do we want to solve?” Using semiconductors as an example, is it China’s access to U.S. technology?  Or is it China embedding this advanced U.S.-designed technology into their military systems? Or what happens to TSMC and Western access to advanced technology if China quarantines or invades Taiwan?

How do policy makers select and narrow a problem? Is it based on the value the policy adds for identified stakeholders? Is it a personal passion/interest? Specifically for China and semiconductors, what are potential solution ideas? Export controls? Stronger CFIUS regulations? How do you take into account stakeholder feedback (DoD, Commerce Department, commercial firms)? And once you create a policy, how do you effectively implement it?

Slide 21 -23. Class midterm assignment: Assume you’re a policy maker. Write a 2,000-word policy memo that describes how a U.S. competitor is using a specific technology  (semiconductors, AI, autonomy, cyber, etc.) to counter U.S. interests. Propose how the U.S. should respond.

Slides 25- 32 Group Projects. We had several teams talk about their learnings from their out-of-the building interviews. Team ShortCircuit (Slide 29) is working on how the U.S. should improve its ability to design and produce semiconductors, and develop and retain relevant talent. They heard from a professor that the ratio of Stanford students taking software versus hardware courses was 10-to-1 software, a complete reversal from decades ago. We discussed whether  1) that was true or just anecdotal 2) if true, was it the same in other research universities, 3) why it happened (software startups are getting funded at obscene valuations)? 4) and what kind of incentives and policies would be needed to change that, and 5) where in the value chain those might be most effective (students, venture capitalists, government, etc.)

Next week: Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning

Lessons Learned

  • Semiconductors are the oil of the 21st All economies run on them.
  • Semiconductors are China’s biggest imports
  • China’s roadmap for building an indigenous semiconductor industry and accelerating chip manufacturing is the National Integrated Circuit Plan
    • The goal is to meet its local chip demand by 2030
  • The U.S. is dependent on TSMC, located in Taiwan, for its most advanced logic chips
    • China claims Taiwan is a province of China
    • TSMC will build a fab in Arizona, but it will represent only 2% of its capacity
  • What are U.S. policy makers’ options?


11/02/2021 Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 4 – Semiconductors

Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 3 – Russia

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute. 


We just had our third week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape all the elements of national power (our influence and footprint on the world stage).

In class 1, we learned that national power is the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances), information/intelligence, its military, economic strength, finance, intelligence, and law enforcement. This “whole of government approach” is known by the acronym DIME-FIL. And after two decades focused on counter terrorism the U.S. is engaged in great power competition with both China and Russia.

In class 2, we learned how China is using all elements of national power: diplomacy (soft power, alliances, coercion), information/intelligence (using its economic leverage over Hollywood, controlling the Covid narrative), its military might and economic strength (Belt and Road Initiative,) to exploit Western finance and technology.  This has resulted in Western democracies prioritizing economic cooperation and trade with China above all else.  China’s goal is to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order and replace it with a neo-totalitarian model.

Going forward, coexistence with China will involve competition but also cooperation. But it’s going to take the demonstrated resolve of the U.S. and its allies to continue to uphold a rules-based order where nations share a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific where the sovereignty of all countries are respected.

Catch up with the class by reading our intro to the class, and summaries of Class 1 and Class 2.

All which leads to today’s topic, the other great power – Russia.


 

Class 3 Required Readings

Fall of the USSR

Russian Geopolitics & Foreign Policy

Putin & Putinism

Russia’s Pivot to Asia & the Chinese-Russian Relationship

Russian Technology Strategy

Reading Assignment Questions:

Pick one of the below questions and answer in approximately 100 words, based on the required readings. Please note that this assignment will be graded and count towards course participation.

  1. Compare and contrast the viewpoints of John Mearsheimer and Michael McFaul on drivers of Russian foreign policy. Where do they agree? Disagree? Which perspective do you agree with more and why?
  2. Evaluate the perspectives of Artyom Lukin and Chris Miller on Russia’s so-called pivot to Asia. Do you agree with one more than the other? Do you believe that the pivot is more a rhetorical or substantive strategic move on the part of Moscow?

Class Discussion Questions:

  1. What are Russia’s geopolitical interests, goals, and/or objectives? From Moscow’s perspective, what are the main obstacles standing in the way of achieving its national goals?
  2. To what degree is Vladimir Putin a unitary actor? How much is he the system of government versus the product of a system?
  3. How does Moscow view the existing, American-led rules-based international order?
  4. What role, if any, does ideology play in Moscow’s strategy?
  5. In what ways are Moscow’s goals compatible and/or incompatible with U.S. national interests?
  6. In what domains does the competition between the United States and the Russian Federation play out? How do these domains interact with one another? Is cooperation between the two possible and beneficial?
  7. How would you characterize the Sino-Russian relationship? In what dimensions is the relationship the strongest? Where are its fault lines? Is the relationship enduring or transient?

Class 3: Guest Speaker

Our guest speaker for our third class was Mike McFaul, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation and former National Security Council Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs. Mike wrote about his experience as ambassador in From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. At Stanford, Mike is the Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies,Stanford’s research institute for international affairs, and the home for this class and the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation.

Lecture 3

If you can’t see the slides, click here

Ambassador McFaul pointed out that at times Russia pursues security and economic interests in parallel to ideological aims. At times, these objectives complement each other. At other times, they clash. He posited it’s because Russian policy is run by Putin and his political institutions. Slide 7

We then reviewed highlights from the assigned readings. John Mearsheimer’s article took the contrarian position that the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis in Crimea. Slide 8.

Slides 10-12 led the conversation about the end of the Cold War & Collapse of the USSR. George Kennan was the author of the 1946 Long Telegram which set in motion the policy of “containment” of the Soviet Union. He lived to see its collapse a half-century later, and wrote, “I find it hard to think of any event more strange and startling, and at first glance more inexplicable, than the sudden and total disintegration and disappearance…of the great power known successively as the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union.”  Stephen Kotkin maintains that if the Soviet elite had so chosen, they could have sustained the Soviet Union decades longer. Perhaps the most enduring quote is from Vladimir Putin himself, “the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century,” as he tries to remake Russia into a great power once again.

Slide 13, Dmitri Trenin from the Carnegie Center points out that the 2014 Ukrainian crisis was the Rubicon. Russia broke a quarter century of cooperative relations among great powers pivoting away from the west, starting a new era of intense competition. Slide 14, Mike McFaul has a more nuanced view. “For a complete understanding of Russian foreign policy.., individuals, ideas, and institutions—President Vladimir Putin, Putinism, and autocracy—must be added to the analysis. (The).. three cases of recent Russian intervention (in Ukraine in 2014, Syria in 2015, and the United States election in 2016) illuminate the causal influence of these domestic determinants in the making of Russian foreign policy.

Slide 15, Russia’s pivot to China.

China-Russian relations are now at their highest point since the mid-1950s, being drawn to each other by the most elementary law of international politics: that of the balance of power. Slide 16 Russia has long struggled to overcome the constraints imposed by the country’s chronic inability to retain talent in support of homegrown innovation and R&D.

North Korea/Iran/Non-Nation States
We also covered the two regional threats to international security – North Korea and Iran – as well as the continued threats of terrorism from non-nation states (Al-Qaeda’s, ISIS).

Slides 20-22. North Korea has robust and expanding nuclear weapons program with 10-40 nuclear weapons. Their ballistic missile program not only threatens their neighbors, but their development of long-range ICBMs puts the entire continental United States in range of their nuclear weapons.

Slides 23-25 the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has actively pursued nuclear weapons and long range ballistic missiles. Under the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCOPA) they had agreed to limit their uranium to 3.67% enrichment. They broke out of the deal in 2019. Today, their uranium enrichment has reached 60% enrichment (90% is weapons grade). Iran has been a major source of regional destabilization, hostage-taking, and sponsorship of terrorism: Ansar Allah (Houthis) in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas/PIJ in Palestine, numerous Shia militias in Iraq (Kataib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al Haq, Badr Organization). Iran’s long-running conflict with Israel is a perennial potential flashpoint for a broader conflict in the region. Iran has been actively using cyber attacks and has attacked and harassed commercial shipping and Freedom of Navigation Operations in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Slides 26-27 Non-nation states haven’t gone away. They are a persistent, survivable threat unconstrained by traditional geopolitical checks (irrational actor). They are capable of regional and international terror attacks. Some are actively pursuing acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological). Addressing the problem through counterinsurgency/ counter terrorism operations, runs the risk of long-term engagements that damage other national objectives and, sometimes, the national interest. Yet, if left unaddressed, these insurgencies can spread globally and create second- and third-order challenges (al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Abu Sayyaf).

Slides 28-31 covered the Group Project. The class has formed into 7 teams – slides 32-38. We suggested they get out of the building to first deeply understand the problem they’ve selected.

We offered a series of questions they may want to ask:

Slide 33. Who has this problem? Why does the problem exist? Consequence of the problem? When do they need a solution? How does this get deployed/delivered? How are they solving it today? How do you know you solved the problem?

Slide 34. Next, after they validate the problem: What would a minimum viable product look like? Who would build and deliver the final product/service? How to you create an “Innovation Insurgency” around the idea? Who would have to get excited about the MVP to fund it? Who are the saboteurs?

Next week we start talking about the impact of commercial technology on Great Power Competition. First up – semiconductors.

Lessons Learned

  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and the Russia Federation had a two-decade long cooperative relationship
  • In 2014 with the Russian-Ukrainian war and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and in 2015 with Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war, Russia’s interests and the West’s have radically diverged
    • Mike McFaul makes the case that Putin, Putinism, and the Russian autocracy are key determinants of their foreign policy
  • This week, student teams will start getting out of the building to build reflexes and skills to deeply understand a problem
    • By gathering first-hand information to validate that the problem they are solving is the real problem, not a symptom of something else
    • Then, students will begin rapidly building minimal viable solutions as a way to test and validate their understanding of both the problem and what it would take to solve it


Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 2 – China

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute.


We just had our second week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape all the elements of national power (our influence and footprint on the world stage).

Catch up with the class by reading our intro to the class and a summary of Class 1.

A key focus of the class is the return of Great Power competition. This isn’t an issue of which nation comes in first, it’s about what the world-order will look like for the rest of the century and beyond. Will it be a rules-based order where states cooperate to pursue a shared vision for a free and open region and where the sovereignty of all countries large and small is protected under international law? Or will an alternative vision for an autocratic and dystopian future be coerced and imposed by revisionist powers set on disrupting the U.S. led international order- an order that has brought the world unprecedented peace and prosperity since the end of the Second World War?

All of which leads to today’s topic – China.


Class 2 Required Readings

Class 2- Reading Assignment Questions

Pick one of the below questions and answer in approximately 100 words, based on the required readings.

  • To what degree does the People’s Republic of China have an overarching grand strategy, according to the readings? Do you agree or disagree with the arguments of the readings and why? Even if China does have a grand strategy, is it possible for China to maintain coherent, consistent execution of its strategy? Why or why not?
  • What are the CCP’s objectives regarding the international system? What instruments of national power does the CCP employ to achieve which specific impacts in order to achieve its objectives?

Class 2-  Discussion Questions

  • What is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) trying to achieve? What are its goals and objectives? What is Xi Jinping trying to achieve? To what extent are Xi’s goals congruent with the broader CCP’s goals?
  • How does the CCP and/or Xi view the existing international system?
  • From the CCP’s perspective, what are the main obstacles standing in the way of achieving the goal of “National Rejuvenation”?
  • What role does ideology play in the CCP’s strategy?
  • In what ways are the CCP’s goals compatible and/or incompatible with U.S. national interests?
  • In what domains does the competition between the United States and the People’s Republic of China play out? How do these domains interact with one another?

Class 2- Guest Speakers

Our speakers for our second class were Matt Pottinger and Matt Turpin.

Matt Pottinger, was a former Deputy National Security Advisor and former National Security Council Senior Director for Asia. As a former Marine, Matt had 3 combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to joining the Marine Corps, Matt was a reporter in China, first at Reuters, then at the Wall Street Journal.

Matt Turpin, was a former National Security Council Director for China and the Senior Advisor on China to U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Before entering the White House, Turpin served over 22 years in the U.S. Army. Among other Indo-Pacific focused roles, he served as a China advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and assisted the Deputy Secretary of Defense with the Defense Innovation Initiative, examining the role of innovation in U.S. defense policy.

Lecture 2

If you can’t see the slides click here.

Slides 7-10 are selected quotes from our assigned reading. Our lecture and discussion (slides 11-16) took us through the evolution of the hopes the U.S. had for its four-decade-long strategy of diplomatic and economic engagement with China. The hope was that helping China grow its economy would lead to liberalization of its government and greater freedoms for its people. Deng Xiaoping said China needed to “hide our capabilities, bide our time.” Over time, Xi has moved China to a more overt and aggressive phase, no longer hiding its intention to challenge the West. As we discovered, China’s agenda always had been radically different than ours. The growing realization over the last five years is that our hopes for China to democratize as it developed economically were terribly naïve. What we’ve come to realize is that China has been playing a decades-long game to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal international order and replace it with a neo-totalitarian model.

Realizing this, four years ago the U.S. reoriented from a focus on counter terrorism to a new emphasis on great power competition with Russia and China. This new effort can be seen in the Interim U.S. National Security Strategy (which outlines the major U.S. national security concerns and how we plan to deal with them) and 2018 National Defense Strategy  (which identifies the priorities and capabilities required by the warfighters to implement the National Security Strategy).

Relevant to this course, China is using all elements of national power: diplomacy (soft power, alliances, coercion), information/intelligence (using its economic leverage over Hollywood, controlling the Covid narrative), its military might and economic strength (Belt and Road Initiative.) China has exploited western finance and technology, and has successfully convinced Western democracies to prioritize economic cooperation and trade with China above all else.

At home, China’s use of digital authoritarianism (facial recognition, biometrics, and social credit) has turned its own country into a surveillance dystopia to ensure that there are no internal challenges to the supremacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP’s oppression of the Uyghurs – a Muslim minority in the western province of Xinjiang – is considered a genocide by many as well as a harbinger of what a Chinese world order will look like.

Going forward, coexistence with China will involve competition but also cooperation. But it’s going to take the demonstrated resolve of the U.S. and its allies to continue to uphold a rules-based order where nations share a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific where the sovereignty of all countries are respected.

Slides 18-20 dug a bit deeper about why and how of the group project. Students formed teams to work on one of the Great Power Competition issues at the intersection of commercial technologies (AI, machine learning, autonomy, biotech, cyber, commercial access to space, et al.) and DIME-FIL (Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic, Finance, Intelligence and Law Enforcement.)

Given who our students are, we assume they can all go online and to the library and write a great research paper. As we pointed out to them, while you can be the smartest person in the building, it’s unlikely that 1) that all the facts are in the building, 2) you’re smarter than the collective intelligence sitting outside the building.

Our teaching assistants (who previously took our Hacking for Defense class) shared with the students their own journey of what happens to early assumptions and how solutions evolve when you get out of the building.

If you can’t see the Project Agrippa slides click here.

We want our students to build the reflexes and skills to deeply understand a problem by gathering first-hand information and validate that the problem they are solving is the real problem, not a symptom of something else. Then, students will begin rapidly building minimal viable solutions (policy, software, hardware …) as a way to test and validate their understanding of both the problem and what it would take to solve it.

And they thought we were just going to have great lectures.

Next week – Russia

Lessons Learned

  • The U.S. hoped that helping China grow its economy would lead to liberalization of its government and greater freedoms for its people
    • We were terribly naïve
  • China has been playing a decades-long game to challenge and overturn the U.S.-led liberal order and replace it with a neo-totalitarian model
  • Students will collaborate on teams to first understand and then work to solve national security challenges at the intersection of DIME-FIL and dual-use technology


Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition – Class 1

This article first appeared in West Point’s Modern War Institute.


We just had our first week of our new national security class at Stanford – Technology, Innovation and Great Power CompetitionJoe FelterRaj Shah and I designed the class to cover how technology will shape all the elements of national power (our influence and footprint on the world stage).

National power is the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances), information/intelligence and its military and economic strength. The instruments of national power brought to bear in this “whole of government approach” were long known by the acronym DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic) and in recent years have expanded to include “FIL”- finance, intelligence and law enforcement-or DIME-FIL.

Last year, the class focused exclusively on the impact of new technology on the military. Given the broadened scope this year, we’ve tweaked the course content and title to Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition to better reflect the “whole of government” approach necessary for long-term strategic competition.


The course is cross listed with Stanford’s Masters in International Policy program and the Management Science and Engineering department. The students joining this fight come from a diverse range of disciplines at Stanford including computer science, political science, business, law, public policy, economics, and engineering. If the past is a prologue, they’ll go off to senior roles in defense, foreign policy and to the companies building new disruptive technologies. Our goals are to help them understand the complexity and urgency of the issues, offer them a model to understand the obstacles and path forward, and to inspire them to help lead how the U.S. leverages all instruments of national power to meet 21st century challenges.

In this year’s class, we want to:

  1. Help our students understand how each component of our national security and instruments of national power are now inexorably intertwined with commercial technology. We will explore the complexity and urgency of the impact of the 21st century onslaught of commercial technologies (AI, machine learning, autonomy, biotech, cyber, commercial access to space, et al.) in all parts of the government — from State to the Department of Defense to Treasury and many more.
  2. Give them hands-on experience on how to deeply understand a problem at the intersection of DIME-FIL and dual-use technology. First by developing hypotheses about the problem; next by getting out of the classroom and talking to relevant stakeholders across government, industry, and academia to validate their assumptions; and finally taking what they learned to propose and prototype solutions to these problems.

Class 1 – Required Readings

Overview of Great Power Competition

U.S. National Security Strategy

Class 1 Discussion Questions

  1. Is great power competition an accurate way to describe the U.S. relationship with China? With Russia? Is doing so productive for U.S. interests? Why or why not?
  2. What are the risks of casting the US relationship with China and/or Russia as a whole-of-government competition? What are the risks of not viewing these relations as competitive?

Class 1 – Guest Speaker

Our speaker for our first class was former Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis who gave an inspiring talk about strategy, the Department of Defense’s pivot to great power competition that he led during his tenure as Secretary, and the importance and rewards of service to the nation. General Mattis joined the Marine Corps in 1969, and he has led Marines and then later joint forces at every level from platoon commander as a Lieutenant all the way up to combatant commander of US Central Command as a four-star general. He recently led our entire US Defense Department as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense. We’re fortunate to now have him back here at Stanford at the Hoover Institution.

Lecture 1

If you can’t see the slides click here.

After introducing the teaching team and class logistics (slides 1-13) we briefly overviewed the quarter (slide 17)

We set up the class with a discussion of the return of great power competition. This isn’t an issue of which nation comes in first, it’s about what the world-order will look like for the rest of the century and beyond. Will it be a rules-based order where states cooperate to pursue a shared vision for a free and open region and where the sovereignty of all countries large and small is protected under international law? Or will an alternative vision for an autocratic and dystopian future be coerced and imposed by revisionist powers set on disrupting the U.S. led international order – an order that has brought the world unprecedented peace and prosperity since the end of the Second World War? Slide 19.

And then we discussed the pivot in the U.S. National Security Strategy (which outlines the major national security concerns of the United States and how the U.S. plans to deal with them) and 2018 National Defense Strategy (which identifies the priorities and capabilities required by the warfighters to implement the National Security Strategy.)

These documents reoriented the U.S. from its focus on counter terrorism to great power competition with Russia and China (Slides 23-27). Slides 34-38 expanded on the three lines of effort in the National Defense Strategy: 1) Build a Lethal Force, 2) Strengthen Alliances and Build New Partnerships, 3) Reform the Defense Department. Slides 41-42 summarized the competing visions of the U.S. and China. The Biden Administration’s Interim National Security Guidance was introduced which emphasizes continuity in its assessment of the challenges posed by China and Russia and the anticipated enduring era of great power competition. (the White House is now referring to the approach toward China as “strategic competition” rather than Great Power Competition. (The White House is now referring to the approach toward China as “strategic competition” rather than Great Power Competition.)

Slides 45-55 introduced seven instruments of national power and the concept of DIME-FIL. We discussed that the national power of a country (its influence and footprint on the world stage) is more than just its military strength. It’s the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances,) information, and its military, economic, financial, intelligence and law enforcement strength. (This concept is known by its acronym, DIME-FIL.) We pointed out that in many of these areas we’re no longer the leader (the DoD has a polite euphemism for this – “we’re overmatched” – meaning second place.)

Slides 57 and 58 reminded the students that this class is not just about the reading and lectures. 50% of their grade is a group project at the intersection of DIME-FIL and dual-use technologies (AI/ML, quantum, semiconductors, access to space, cyber, biotech, et al.)

Next week – China, China, China

Lessons Learned

  • The U.S. is engaged in a Great Power Competition – and in many areas we’re not winning
  • Multiple components, not just military strength make up a nation’s power
    • Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economic, Financial, Intelligence, Law
    • Acronym is DIME-FIL
  • Dual-use technology, that is technology that has both commercial and military use, has changed the calculus for national power
    • AI/ML, autonomy, quantum, semiconductors, access to space, cyber, biotech, et al
    • Advances in these technologies are no longer driven by government directives but by consumer demand.
  • Students will work on team national security projects, challenges at the intersection of DIME-FIL and dual-use technology
  • We’re educating the next generation of leaders who will not just discuss policy but will create solutions

Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition

For 25 years as the sole Superpower, the U.S. neglected strategic threats from China and a rearmed Russia. The country, our elected officials, and our military committed to a decades-long battle to ensure that terrorists like those that executed the 9/11 attacks are not able to attack us on that scale again.  Meanwhile, our country’s legacy weapons systems have too many entrenched and interlocking interests (Congress, lobbyists, DOD/contractor revolving door, service promotion of executors versus innovators) that inhibit radical change. Our economic and foreign policy officials didn’t notice the four-alarm fire as we first gutted our manufacturing infrastructure and sent it to China (profits are better when you outsource); then passively stood by as our intellectual property was being siphoned off; and had no answer to China’s web of trade deals (China’s Belt and Road). The 2018 National Defense Strategy became a wakeup call for our nation.

National power is ephemeral. Nations decline when they lose allies, decline in economic power (the UK in the 20th Century); they lose interest in global affairs (China in the 15th Century); internal/civil conflicts (Russia in the 20th Century); a nations military can miss disruptive technology transitions and new operational concepts. One can make the case that all of these have/or are happening to the United States.


Joe Felter, Raj Shah and I are about to start our second year of teaching what was our Technology, Innovation and Modern War class. (See all the class sessions here.) The goal of last year’s class was to explain how new emerging technologies have radically changed how countries fight and deter threats across air, land, sea, space, and cyber. And to point out that winning future conflicts requires more than just adopting new technology; it requires a revolution in thinking about how this technology can be acquired and integrated into new weapons systems to drive new operational and organizational concepts that change the way we fight.

This year we’ve expanded the scope of the class to look beyond just the effect of new technology on weapons and operational concepts. We’re now covering how technology will shape all the elements of national power (our influence and footprint on the world stage). National power is the combination of a country’s diplomacy (soft power and alliances), information/ intelligence and its military and economic strength. The instruments of national power brought to bear in this  “whole of government approach” were long  known by the acronym, DIME (Diplomatic, Information, Military and Economic) and in recent years have expanded to include “FIL”- finance, intelligence and law enforcement-or DIME-FIL. Given the broadened scope of the class, we’ve tweaked the course title to Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition.

Our goals in this year’s class are to:

  1. Help our students understand how each component of our national security and instruments of national power are now inexorably intertwined with commercial technology. We will explore the complexity and urgency of the impact of the 21st century onslaught of commercial technologies (AI, machine learning, autonomy, biotech, cyber, commercial access to space, et al.) in all parts of the government — State, climate change, Department of Defense, economic policy, et al.
  2. Give them hands-on experience to propose and prototype solutions to these problems.

Much like last year’s class, this one has three parts – teaching team lectures, guest speakers, and most importantly team projects. We’ll be using the concept of commercial technologies’ impact on DIME as the connective element between each week’s class.

In addition to the teaching team lectures and assigned readings, last year we had 20+ guest speakers including two Secretaries of Defense, a Secretary of State, members of Congress, Generals, Admirals and policy makers. We hope to enrich the student experience with similar expertise and experience this year.

Last year, team projects started with a mid-term paper and finished with what was supposed be a final paper project. However, one team took their project, got out of the building, and interviewed and presented a radically new operational concept for the South China Sea. It’s an idea that has caught fire. So this year we’re going to build on that success. Teams will form on week 1, pick an area of interest across DIME and spend the quarter interviewing key stakeholders, beneficiaries, policy makers, etc. while testing proposed solutions.

If the past is a prologue, our students, a mix between international policy and engineering, will be the ones in this fight. They’ll go off to senior roles in State, Defense, policy and to the companies building new disruptive technologies.

This is the first in a series of classes from the new Stanford Gordian Knot Center for National Security. (More on this in later post.)

Lessons Learned

  • Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition will focus on how our national security and national power is intertwined with commercial technology. We will explore:
    • AI, machine learning, autonomy, biotech, cyber, commercial access to space, et al.
    • In all parts of the government; State, climate change, Department of Defense, economic policy, et al.
  • Give our students hands-on experience to propose and prototype solutions to these problems

Lessons for the New Administration – Technology, Innovation, and Modern War

Our recent national security class at Stanford, Technology, Innovation, and Modern War was designed to give students insights on how the onslaught of new technologies like AI, machine learning, autonomy, cyber, access to space, biotech, hypersonics, and others have the potential to radically change how countries fight and deter threats.

With 20+ guest speakers, including two Secretaries of Defense, Generals, Admirals and Policy makers, the class emphasized that winning future conflicts requires more than just adopting new technology and developing new weapon systems. It calls for a revolution in thinking about how these technologies can be adopted and integrated into weapons and other defense platforms, and more importantly, how they can create new operational and organizational concepts that will change the way we fight.

By the end of the class there were five surprises.

  1. One was a continuous refrain from senior DoD leadership that new tech, weapons, and operational concepts are insufficient to guarantee the U.S. will prevail in a great power conflict. In fact, these new technologies/weapons change the odds against us.
  2. Secondly, our senior military leadership recognizes that now more than ever we can’t go it alone. We need allies – existing and new ones. And that depends on a reinvigorated State Department and renewed emphasis on diplomacy in general.

Unstated by any of our speakers but painfully clear by class end were three other surprises:

  1. Our national security is now inexorably intertwined with commercial technology and is hindered by our lack of an integrated strategy at the highest level.
  2. Our adversaries have exploited the boundaries and borders between our defense, commercial and economic interests.
  3. Our current approaches – both in the past and current administration – to innovation across the government are piecemeal, incremental, increasingly less relevant and insufficient.

Lessons Learned
A few takeaways from our speakers. If you’re in the DoD and conversant with the National Defense and Military strategies and have read Chris Brose’s book The Kill Chain, none of this will come as a surprise. But for the rest of you, here they are:

  • The 2018 National Defense Strategy focused the DoD on Great Power competition. It called out China as a peer competitor to America, pursuing its goal of global dominance. At the same time, Russia has reemerged as a regional power.
  • For the last two decades, while we were focused on combating terrorism, China has explicitly developed weapons and operational concepts to target every one of our advantages- in weapon systems and operational concepts, but also in alliances, economic and diplomatic power.
  • Unfortunately, China has succeeded – many of our most exquisite systems on sea, in space or in other places are at risk. A majority of these weapons have now become legacy systems eating up future budget and resources.
  • Rapid innovation in new technologies – cyber, AI, autonomy, access to space, drones, 5G, biotech, quantum, microelectronics, etc. – are no longer being led by military/government labs, but instead come from commercial vendors – many of them Chinese. The result is that unlike the last 75 years, the DOD can no longer predict or control future technologies and threats.
  • A surprise for many of us was the tacit acknowledgment from our military and defense leaders that we cannot win a war alone, without allies. These senior leaders emphasized the importance of a more collaborative embrace of existing allies and creation of new ones. They put a premium on diplomacy, and the need for a better funded and robust State Department.
  • The result is that for the first time in almost a century, the U.S. is no longer guaranteed to win the next war.

The good news is every one of our military and civilian speakers conceptually understands all of this. And even better, all want to change the status quo. However …

Most are coming to the conclusion that the DoD is at a crossroads: Substantive and sustained changes in the DoD size, structure, policies, processes, practices, technologies, and culture are needed.

  • For example, our requirements and acquisition systems are driven by a 70-year-old model predicated on predicting the future (both threats and technology) and delivering solutions decades out; and optimized for lifecycle costs, not rapid innovation or disposable systems.
  • In the last four years we modernized the acquisition process, but it remains hindered by the requirements processes from the services, which still result in 88 Major Defense Acquisition Programs – where we spend our acquisition dollars – to buy legacy systems mostly built for past threats.
  • Some hints of the future force came from multiple speakers. Admiral Lorin Selby, the Chief of Naval Research, for example, had a compelling vision of the future fleet and an expanded industrial base.
  • The DoD has over 75 incubators and accelerators. We lead the world in demos of new technology but not in deployed systems. Few of these innovation activities have resulted in a major program of record. The DoD is making the right baby steps but needs to quickly focus on scaling innovation. This, of course, will require the difficult conversation of what legacy systems will be retired.
  • DoD’s relationship with startups and commercial companies driving these new technologies is hindered by a lack of understanding of their own and their investors’ interests. Venture capital and startups have institutionalized disruptive innovation. In the U.S. they spend $150 billion a year to fund new ventures that can move with the speed and urgency that the DoD now requires. While we’ve made progress, a radical reinvention of our civil/military innovation relationship is necessary if we want to keep abreast of our adversaries. This should include:
    • A Civil-Military Alliance driven by incentives not coercion. By public-private partnerships not government control. Private industry – from Primes to startups – incentivized at scale will ensure our leadership in science, in industry and in new technologies.
    • Reduce the dependence on bespoke and exquisite systems. Rapidly bring commercial technology into the DoD while adding proprietary defense components
    • Create new technology ecosystems around DoD technology needs by encouraging commercial interoperability around DoD standards. Awards and contracts to each new ecosystem.
    • Encourage and incentivize dual-use startups, scale-ups, and companies
    • Overhaul Federal Labs and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) to promote collaboration at scale with startups and venture investors
    • Each service should pick 1-2 startup/scale-up winners and buy heavily
  • Pentagon leadership will need to be selected on the ability to innovate – empower the innovation insurgents and elevate risk takers that understand technology.
  • We’ve failed to engage the rest of the populace in our mission. Americans – including extraordinarily talented students from our top universities — are ready and willing to serve in some capacity. We’ve shown little interest in providing the incentives and expanding the opportunities required to make that happen.

However, these observations about changes needed in the DoD surfaced a much bigger problem, one that civilian leadership has not yet acknowledged: National security is now inexorably intertwined with commercial technology and is hindered by our lack of a national industrial and economic policy. There is an urgent need for an integrated strategy and policies.

These are not problems of technology. They’re problems of organizational design, incentives, out of the box thinking and national will.

The American people will need to demand more of their government and elected officials. The status quo will need to be broken. Substantive change will require new ideas, not better versions of the ones we have. For example:

  • The new Biden senior White House organizational structure still treats technology as a standalone issue. That’s a status quo position and a losing hand. We need to recognize that the boundaries between our defense, commercial and economic interests are interrelated.
  • We need to build the innovation capacity across the interagency- coordinated and synchronized by senior executive branch leadership. One way of implementing this would be creating a political appointee in key government agencies that acts as the interagency single point of innovation leadership cutting across organizations including but not limited to the DoD, National Security Council, Council of Economic Advisors, OMB, FCC, and OSTP.
  • Create a new Deputy National Security Advisor to coordinate and synchronize innovation and industrial policies across these multiple agencies
    • With real influence and responsibility on budget, trade policy, and alliance strategy
    • Specifically coordinate national policies of 5G, AI, machine learning, autonomy, cyber, access to space, biotech, hypersonics, microelectronics, etc.
    • Owns Civil/Military alliance for engaging and incentivizing new entrants and incumbents and protecting civil assets
    • Sits on the National Security Council and National Economic Council

These changes will require Congress, defense contractors and the executive branch to pull in the same direction to change that equation.

The good news is that we have all the tools needed to succeed, we just need the willpower.  And we must not forget what’s at stake. Democracies, while messy, are a force for good.  Self-determination with codified freedoms is the most moral system of organization mankind has developed.  Getting the reforms we examined in this class is essential to the preservation of democracy and maximization of peace.  It is most certainly a noble endeavor.

In future articles we’re going to offer specific solutions to transform the DoD to face the challenges ahead, not behind.

Steve, Joe, and Raj

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