Archive for the 'Soft Power' Category

To: Admiral X, CINCSTUFF

From: LTJG Kat Dransfield

BCC: North Korea, Iran, Google, Russia, Boris in Belarus

Fw: Fw: Fw: Fw: Subj: Decisions, Secrecy and Sclerosis: Why Email Is the Single Greatest Threat to National Security

Today, information is all around us. The proliferation of digital technologies and resultant data explosion does not simply affirm the efficacy of digital systems over their analog predecessors like letters, the telegraph, and carrier pigeons. Rather, the data revolution mandates a shift towards a world permeated and enabled by data in a whole new way. This requires a mindset shift that will have significant consequences, many of which are not readily apparent even to experts. From the emergence of digital currencies such as bitcoins, to personal technologies like Fit Bit, the intimate fusion of the digital with our physical and social experiences is an increasingly salient aspect of culture. We have a level of connection to data the like of which historically has been reserved for spouses and significant others.

Data and the digital world are nearly ubiquitous in the military and broader society. With so much data now readily available, data and the digital world have fundamentally altered and enhanced how humans arrive at evidence-based decisions. To adapt to this, conventional military decision-making models and technological practices should have been re-examined to leverage the untapped military potential hidden within our data stores. Although the growth in complexity and quantity of data analytic packages and modeling platforms HAS altered decision models in realms as disparate as weight management and finance, the Navy faces a glaring deficiency in this arena.

As large amounts of digital data have increasingly become the basis of decisions today (including those of potential military adversaries), many of our naval decision-making processes and framework have remained in the 19th century. For the most part, advanced Navy systems for managing, synthesizing, and sharing data have failed to materialize. This problem does not simply manifest itself in the realm of supercomputers and high-end weapons and analysis development. It is all-encompassing, the most corrosive example of which is the foundation of our military communication: email.

To: Admiral X, CINCSTUFF

From: LTJG Kat Dransfield

CC: North Korea, Iran, Google, Russia

Fw: Fw: Fw: Subj: Just Because it’s Digital Doesn’t Make It Better

paperstackedEmail simply took an ancient model of communication — the sending and receiving of written word–and digitized it. While the physical act of transmission is far more efficient, the human, cognitive limitations on reading and processing speed remain. We have failed to develop the technologies needed to augment the human brain and actually use email traffic in its totality. There is an easy analogy: imagine if you received 200 letters in your mailbox every day. In its current form, that is all email is. We have created an environment where millions of “letters” are generated without parallel capacity to make use of the information they contain. This doesn’t even begin to deal with the problems created by forwarding – imagine if those letters had stapled to the bottom a copy of every preceding letter, which you would need to read through in order to understand what the original letter was about!

Everyone with a .mil address knows the trials and tribulations of operating within the email construct, especially when utilizing an IT infrastructure that is inadequate, outdated, and scandalously overpriced due to the inherent deficiencies of our acquisition strategy. Many of us receive hundreds of emails a day, most of which we will frankly delete at the expense of some critical information they may contain. For the emails we do choose to read, the legibility of email traffic is compromised by the ratio of actionable information to extraneous routing data. We spend more time reading “looping in Tim’s” than tending to the “meat” of our emails.

As processors, human brains are poorly designed to collate and apply analytic rigor to the amount and format of information in our inboxes–this is why we can never quite seem to get caught up on email. The way the human psyche evolved renders humans attentive to environmental anomalies but very bad at focusing on environments that don’t stimulate the “threat detection” portions of our brains (ex. parsing emails that all look largely the same). In other words, we get distracted easily, like when we put this youtube video right in the middle of this article.

Fortunately, there are some examples of best practices we can turn to remedy our information dilemna. Financial statements used to be nearly meaningless to a broad set of the population. However, when free easy to use budgeting tools like Mint were developed, the ability to visually understand through graphs and trend summaries transformed the way many people think about saving and spending money. If Mint is an example of making large datasets meaningful and the catalyst for behavior change, then Microsoft Outlook is the opposite–equivalent to reading all of our financial statements and purchase transcripts without any frame of reference to understand what it all means.

The continued reliance on email as the cornerstone of our not only our business processes but many of our actual warfighting processes therefore renders the Navy organization hopelessly inefficient, vulnerable to security compromises, and frustrating to operate in. The time expenses, shortcomings in data presentation, and lack of analytic capacity in the email construct ensure blind, non-data-driven decision-making. The lack of enterprise-wide, algorithm-driven governance of data sharing and retrieval means protocol implementation is informed by culture rather than system design. As a result, information sharing etiquette is poorly enforced by end users who are expected to navigate the abject complexity of web traffic–locating, identifying, sharing, and safeguarding information without the assistance of modern tools. And ironically, when email fails to produce needed critical information, we naturally seek to correct the information deficit by sending more emails–adding noise to the already impossibly complex and overburdened data management construct. The over-cultivation of information makes information worthless.

To: Admiral X, CINCSTUFF

From: LTJG Kat Dransfield

CC: North Korea, Iran, Google

Fw: Fw: Subj: Some thoughts about thinking differently

While we tend to think of email as a business instrument and not a warfighting tool, every warfighting outcome refers back to this communication medium in various degrees. One alternative to the current email construct would be for the Navy to eliminate email entirely and introduce a cloud-based information retrieval system. Imagine a Navy where instead of having to ask Bob to ask Sally to ask Fred for a particular piece of information (who may ultimately opt not to share it), the data object of interest could simply be queried via a Navy-wide search engine, then integrated into a more meaningful picture. For example, current year equipment casualties could be instantaneously generated alongside relevant trend data. The time savings and decision enhancement acquired by installing such a system would be astronomical.

To: Admiral X, CINCSTUFF

From: LTJG Kat Dransfield

CC: North Korea, Iran

Fw: Subj: Secrecy and Sclerosis: Maybe we like it this way

However, even if the shortcomings of the acquisition system could be overcome to make such a cloud solution a reality, it is unlikely to be implemented. To start, the fact that naval personnel have continued to tolerate the email construct this long belies reason. Imagine if you didn’t empty your physical mailbox in over a year. After a series of notices from your post office and a few angry neighbors, legal action might be warranted owing to the growing piles of (sensitive) information. Yet it is also exposed to the elements, degrading and disappearing. Juxtapose this example with the email environment, where the descriptive and injunctive norms of our Navy validate this behavior. We must ask ourselves why.

The fact that we as an institution continue the use an email system that is openly acknowledged to be terribly designed and marginally effective is underpinned by a more deeply rooted problem that email has continued to facilitate; secrets remain the organization’s authoritative currency. From our budgeting process to our conversations with detailers, power in the Navy organization is extracted from our capacity to control the dissemination and transparency of information. Enacting a cloud-based system that allowed users to query for any piece of information would threaten this culture of secrecy calcified by our continued use of 19th and 20th century information exchange models. For example, making information related to a program-of-record readily available would completely dismantle the Navy’s current methods of defending its budget. . The current method is stating in a unified manner across the leadership that that every program is equally vital and equally successful becomes impossible if information on those programs is readily available. Similarly, the military’s rank structure is reinforced by a practice of knowledge hoarding (“I out-rank you, therefore I get to be the exclusive owner of this information and you have to beg for it”) that breaks down if access in a cloud-based system is relatively free and open. These are just two of many ways in which the precession of secrecy would be fundamentally disrupted by efficient communication mechanisms.

To: Admiral X, CINCSTUFF

From: LTJG Kat Dransfield

CC: North Korea

Subj: Secrecy and Sclerosis: Why Email is the Single Greatest Threat to National Security

Therefore, ensuring our information management practices allow the Navy to remain a relevant instrument of national power depends on more than the adoption of new hard and software–it requires coming to terms with the very real socio-cultural barriers that prevent us from using information appropriately and effectively. Email as a communication medium is no longer relevant given the growth and availability of powerful analytic and collaboration tools. And if we do not find ways of making our culture and business models more receptive to the use of these tools, we will quickly find ourselves outmatched by our most agile and innovative adversaries. These adversaries will outpace us in decision-making and have better situational awareness. They will also have the tools and analytic capacity to exploit the currently untapped data flowing over our own relatively insecure networks (the more data we produce in the form of useless emails, the more opportunities there are for exploitation). If the US Navy is to remain the preeminent naval force in the future, it must restructure its processes and identity around something other than secrecy. Until we can effectively exploit our own data, we will lag our adversaries in the information space.

V/R,

Kat Dransfield

LTJG USN



Please join us at 5pm EDT on 19 April 2015 as we return live, after a two week hiatus, for Midrats Episode 276: “21st Century Ellis”

The next book from USNI’s 21st Century Foundations series is 21st Century Ellis: Operational Art and Strategic Prophecy for the Modern Era, edited by Capt. B.A. Friedman, USMC.

This book covers the work of Lt. Col. “Pete” Ellis, USMC who in 1921 predicted the coming war with Japan.

Included in this collection are some of his articles on counterinsurgency and conventional war based on his experiences in WWI and the Philippines.

Capt. Friedman will be with us for the full hour to discuss this and more.

Capt. B.A. Friedman is a field artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps currently stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. He is pursuing a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies through the Naval War College.

You can join us at the date and time above, or pick the show up later by clicking here. If getting the show later on iTunes appeals to you, our iTunes page is here.



Strategy is not for amateurs*

Please join us at 5pm (EST)on 1 March 2015 for our Episode 269: National Strategy and the Navy’s Proper Role in it:

The role of the Navy and Marine Corps should be to provide ready and capable forces to the joint commanders. Outside of that, what is the proper role of the sea services in designing a more national strategy?

What is the state of a national and a maritime strategy, who are the different players in the discussion, and what is the proper way forward?

Our guest to discuss this and more for the full hour will be Captain Robert C. “Barney” Rubel USN, (Ret.), Professor Emeritus, US Naval War College.

Captain Rubel, now retired, was previously the Dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College from 2006 to 2014. Prior to arriving at NWC, he was a thirty-year Navy veteran, with experience as e a light attack naval aviator, flying the A-7 Corsair II and later the F/A-18 Hornet, commanded VFA-131, and also served as the Inspector General at U.S. Southern Command.

He is a graduate of the Spanish Naval War College in Madrid and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI., and has an undergraduate degree in liberal arts from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the US Naval War College.

Captain Rubel continues to serve as a member of the CNO Advisory Board and is active in local American Legion activities.

Please join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here or from our iTunes page here.

*Upper photo is of Dr. James H. Boren discussing bureaucracy in three dimensions



Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) based out of Djibouti is playing the long game with the nations of east Africa, our allies, governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other concerned parties to not only help build a better future for the nations in that corner of the continent, but to ensure the security of the American homeland.

Our guest to discuss their role and more will be Major General Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., United States Army – Commander CJTF-HOA.

Due to scheduling issues, the interview with MG Grigsby was recorded earlier.

Listen “live’ or download the show later by clicking here. Or pick the show up from our iTunes page here.



For those who have seen the Great Carrier Debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath, one thing was clear – both gentlemen had only scratched the surface of their thoughts on the topic.

At about the same time, the concept of “distributed lethality” had seeped its way in to the conversation. To examine both topics and to review the national security issues you should expect to see in 2015 will be returning guest, Bryan McGrath.

Bryan McGrath is the founding Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC (FBG), a niche consultancy specializing in naval and national security issues, including national and military strategy, strategic planning, executive communications, strategic communications and emerging technologies.

Prior to starting FBG, Bryan founded a national security consulting line of business for Delex Systems, where he directly supported a number of senior clients in the Navy and the Army. Additionally, he provided critical insight on Navy policy and acquisition preferences to commercial clients, including major defense contractors and small technology firms negotiating the “post-earmarks” era.

A retired Naval Officer, Bryan spent 21 years on active duty including a tour in command of USS BULKELEY (DDG 84), a guided-missile destroyer homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.

In his spare time, Bryan is a well-published commentator in the fields of national and maritime strategy, with policy papers published at major think tanks, and articles placed in nationally marketed periodicals. He is a frequent panelist at symposia that deal with naval issues and is frequently quoted by major press organizations.

Bryan earned a BA in History from the University of Virginia in 1987, and an MA in Political Science (Congressional Studies) from The Catholic University of America. He is a graduate of the Naval War College.

You can watch the carrier debate here. But you can only listen to Midrats by clicking here for the live show or the archive. You can also pick the show up later from our iTunes page here.



Please join us at 5pm EST, U.S., on Sunday, 11 January 2015, for Midrats Episode 262: The fight against malaria with RADM Tim Ziemer, USN (Ret.)

Recently, when one hears of disease and Africa, if you only listened to the media, then what would come to mind would be Ebola.

That is not the real challenge in Africa. There is a disease that not only kills, it impedes economic growth, interferes with good governance, and as a result is just another catalyst to conflict there and in South Asia.

To give a better understanding of the ongoing impact of malaria and the fight against it, our guest will be Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, USN (Ret.)

Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer was appointed in June 2006 to lead the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). The PMI strategy is targeted to achieve Africa-wide impact by halving the burden of malaria in 70 percent of at-risk populations in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 450 million people, thereby removing malaria as a major public health problem and promoting economic growth and development throughout the region.

PMI is a collaborative U.S. Government effort, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the Department of State, the White House, and others. As coordinator, Rear Admiral Ziemer reports to the USAID administrator and has direct authority over both PMI and USAID malaria programs.

Join us live at 5pm on the 11th (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. You can also get the show later from our iTunes page here. The iTunes page may require you to open the show inventory in iTunes itself.



This Sunday join us for our 5th Anniversary Show. No guests, no agendas – just us talking about what 2014 had to teach us, and looking towards what 2015 may have in store for everyone in the national security arena. This is a great time if you ever wanted to call in to ask either one of us a question on a topic you wish we would address … or just to say “hi.” Just be warned, we might ask you a question back. It’s what we do.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here or find us later on iTunes.

5pm EST. 4 Jan 14.



Okay, kids, here’s America’s newest fun game: “Name that 2015 Hotspot!”

The challenge is to pick 15 places which have the potential to become hell holes for their residents and which will involve the presence of U.S. military forces before the dust clears. Name a place and give a quick reason. The fact that a place is already a disaster does not exclude putting it on this list, but you do have to state why you think it will continue to be a troubled area. You can add places in the comments or send me an email and I’ll tack them on the list. It is perfectly okay to challenge things on the list. In fact, it is encouraged. Got more than 15? That’s okay, I had to use 15 to make it work with the year.

Contest ends whenever I say it does but no later than 6 January 2015. No prizes are to be awarded. Credit will be given to the most brilliant suggestions unless I steal them.

Here are 5 I came up with to get you started:

1) Nigeria: Potentially one of the richer countries in the world due to its mineral wealth, it suffers from incredible corruption and a nearly complete inability to get its house in order. Criminal gangs, tribal rifts, Boko Haram, pollution, grinding poverty, kidnap for ransom schemes are some of the issues. Just might turn into an even more failed state if it can’t get its eastern area under control.

2) Cuba: As the former Soviet empire proved, there ain’t no such thing as a “little freedom” for the oppressed masses. The Castro brothers have to die sometime, why not in 2015? With the right support from expatriate Cubans the place appears ready to – um- explode? Cuba seems to have lost all its old Commie sponsors. What will the U.S. do if China decides to help out 90 miles off the Florida coast?

3) Venezuela: Can you say failing state? A dysfunctional economy and an oppressive regime riddled with factionalism even in the army. There are opposition groups. Could get really messy, especially if oil prices stay down.

4) Russia: Putin needs a war to keep his power. Oil prices and the embargo (weak as it is) are killing the Russian economy. Somewhere in the Rodina there must be a crowd of reformers who really want to toss off the corrupt oligarchs and their man in Moscow. I guess the questions are whether Putin’s internal police are good enough to stifle freedom and whether the Russians who want to fix things can get any support among Russia’s youth.

5) South China Sea: The nasty Dragon covets all that water and the power it would bring. Bullying, lawfare and playing good China/Bad China games are in the Dragon’s bag of tools. The little Hobbit lands surrounding the South China Sea look to their east for support. Will/Can the U.S. and its allies help the Hobbits or do more dancing to push this problem off on the administration elected in 2016?

I am also going to put this up at my home blog EagleSpeak



Please join us on 21 Dec 14 at 5pm (EST) for Midrats Episode 259: The Islamic State – rise and world view, with Craig Whiteside

The Islamic State, ISIL/ISIS/Daesh – whatever people may call them – are not a flash in the pan. Not quite insurgency, not quiet terrorist organization, not quite nation state – what they are is a presence that has resilience, trans-national support, and has a long range plan.

What is their background, how have they evolved, and how do they view the world?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Craig Whiteside, LTC USA (Ret.), Associate Professor of Theater Security Decision Making for the Naval War College Monterey at the Naval Postgraduate School. Craig came to the War College from Washington State University, where he was a PhD student in Political Science and taught American Government and National Security Affairs. Prior to returning to school, Professor Whiteside was a career infantry officer in the U.S. Army with service in the airborne infantry. He is an Iraq war veteran and served with the Geronimos of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry in Iskandariyah as the battalion executive officer during 2006-7. He finished his military service as the Professor of Military Science at Washington State. Professor Whiteside is currently working on his dissertation investigating the political worldview of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or find this episode, along with its predecessors at our iTunes page here.



UPDATE: Well, someone unwrapped the gift early so here’s a modified plan:

As we near Christmas,it is a season of surprises – and Midrats presents Episode 258: COIN, Cyber, and Lawfare: the continuity of war in to 2015 on 14 Dec 14 at 5pm:

With the coming of the new year, some things have not changes and the old challenges are still with us; most waxing – only a few waning.

This Sunday we have returning guest Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., Major General, USAF (Ret.), Professor of the Practice of
Law, and Executive Director, Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.

We will cover the board spectrum of the evolution of Counter Insurgency, warfare in the cyber domain, and the ever-present impact of law on the conduct of war.

General Dunlap’s teaching and scholarly writing focus on national security, international law, civil-military relations, cyberwar, airpower, counter-insurgency, military justice, and ethical issues related to the practice of national security law.

Tune in at 5pm (EST) and find out. You can find the show here (live or unwrap it later). Or pick up the show later from our iTunes page here



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2014 Information Domination Essay Contest