The Cable

Situation Report: New tech strategy; China’s new Mao; Hack attacks; Joe Biden outlines Iraq strategy…

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat HE’S BACK. He was once the Obama administration’s point man on Iraq, a position that seemed to kind of quietly fade away along with the administration’s public focus on the country after US troops withdrew in 2011. But he’s back, and today at 12:30 pm vice president Joe Biden ...

By Paul McLeary and Sabine Muscat

HE’S BACK. He was once the Obama administration’s point man on Iraq, a position that seemed to kind of quietly fade away along with the administration’s public focus on the country after US troops withdrew in 2011. But he’s back, and today at 12:30 pm vice president Joe Biden will deliver a speech on the political and military situation in Iraq at the National Defense University in Washington — the same place president Obama outlined his anti-terrorism strategy in 2013.

The speech comes just days before Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi comes to town to meet with Obama, and with 3,000 U.S. troops deployed to Iraq to train his army after its epic collapse in the face of the Islamic State’s advance last summer, Washington again has some real skin in the game. There are also, let’s not forget, an unnamed number of Iranian advisors embedded with Iranian-leaning Shiite militias who are playing a critical role in the fight. It’ll be interesting to see how that angle plays out over the next week, with the nuclear talks between Washington and Tehran still very much in play. Oh yeah, the American-led bombing campaign has wiped out over 5,500 targets since August, killing thousands of Islamic State fighters.

LOOKING FOR NEW FRIENDS Months ago, small working groups known as “tiger teams” spread out from the Pentagon into the far reaches of Silicon Valley and beyond to begin working with commercial firms to explore the art of the possible. Alarmed by the rapid tech advances being made by Chinese and Russian forces — and the drones, precision rockets, and cyber attacks increasingly being used by terrorist groups — the military’s leadership saw a need to up its game in laying out a plan for the future. The groups will wrap up that work on April 13, Foreign Policy has learned, and will start writing a classified report for Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to digest some time over the summer.

OH YEAH, CYBER TOO Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall will roll out a larger tech development strategy at the Pentagon at 3 pm this afternoon, in a massive effort to trim years off the notoriously slow, painful, and monstrously expensive process of selling gear to the government.

The “Better Buying Power 3.0” strategy was unofficially rolled out last fall, but in outlining the needs that the military has in the realm of drones, long-range bombers, electronic warfare, undersea warfare, and satellite technology, they forgot to include anything about cyber (which is an admittedly squishy term). “We worry about the weapons systems themselves and all of the connectivity they might have,” Kendall said recently, a fear which has led to the cyber component being added to today’s plan.

WHAT TO WATCH It will be interesting to see how Work and Kendall respond to the fact that many of the tech and commercial firms they have reached out to have expressed little interest in working with the government, seeing the limited profit margins and draconian acquisition rules as something they don’t want any part of.

CHINESE DOCTRINE Just yesterday, Bob Work introduced what seems to be a relatively new term into the lexicon at a speech at the Army War College. He referenced “what Chinese military theorists call ‘informationized warfare’” to draw linkages between the different levels of war from state-on-state clashes to counterinsurgency.

Work said that modern war — with modern technologies — relies on “achieving information dominance using cyber and [electronic warfare] weapons. These are high-end weapons used by state-backed proxy forces, and we must prepare to fight this type of adversary.” Hence, the modernization plan he’ll outline later today. It’s all coming together, ain’t it?

Morning all. Welcome to the Situation Report. Have anything to say? News to break? An event to tip us off to? Drop a note at paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com, or on Twitter at @paulmcleary.

What else is happening

The U.S. Navy is gearing up to release a new cyber strategy as well, which will allow it to execute hack attacks to support maritime missions, and the Army has launched a new program allows companies to submit robotic solutions online.

Long Read: The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos has a masterful portrait of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has became China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao.

Who’s Where When

10:00 a.m. The Brookings Institution hosts a discussion on Syria. 10:30 a.m. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) hosts a panel on “Naval Nuclear Dynamics in the Indian Ocean.” 12:30 p.m. Vice President Joe Biden delivers an address on U.S. policy in Iraq at the National Defense University.

Carter in Japan

Reuters’s David Brunnstrom and Kiyoshi Takenaka: “U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter kicked off his first Asian tour on Wednesday with a stern warning against the militarization of territorial rows in a region where China is at odds with several nations in the East and South China Seas.”

Nikkei: “The U.S. defense chief expressed hope Wednesday that Japan would assist American surveillance missions in the South China Sea, a proposition that poses various logistical challenges for Japanese armed forces.”

The Japan Times’ Masaaki Kameda: “Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that updated bilateral defense cooperation guidelines will ‘transform the U.S.-Japan alliance’ and enable the two countries’ forces to ‘cooperate seamlessly’ to respond to challenges around the world.”

Asia

The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda on the man who is believed to be the new number 2 in North Korea after Kim Jong-un got rid of his uncle.

Yemen

USA Today’s Jim Michaels: “The U.S. military has begun air-refueling operations for the Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes in Yemen, the Pentagon said Wednesday, signaling a deepening of American support for the Arab air campaign.”

Al Jazeera’s Omar Waraich on the political crisis the Saudi request for military help in Yemen sparked in Pakistan: “Since Monday, Pakistan’s parliament has been raucously debating the Saudi request, with a usually fractious opposition uniting against a Pakistani intervention.”

The New York Times’ Jane Perlez on China slapping its own back on its successful evacuation of foreign nationals out of Yemen. “‘It is the new responsibility of a great power,’ Zhu Feng, executive director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, said on Wednesday.”

Russia

Fox News: “A top U.S. military commander warned that Russia’s modern military is now ‘far more capable’ than that of the Soviet Union, saying Moscow is ‘messaging’ the United States that ‘they’re a global power.’ The warning over Russia’s military might from Adm. William Gortney, head of U.S. Northern Command, is the second in as many months.”

 

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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