Fault Lines: Hot Topics in the Arctic

In This Episode: “You know nature abhors a vacuum, and, as the polar ice cap shrinks, people are going to move in and the degree of human activity is going to increase” says NSI Visiting Fellow and former senior intelligence official Jim Danoy.

What do Russia, China and Canada all have in common?  All disagree – in one manner or another – with American policy goals in the Arctic, where climate change is driving opportunities and challenges for US policy-makers.  In this episode, former senior intelligence official Jim Danoy discusses his paper, “The Arctic: Securing the High Ground,” with host Lester Munson.  They discuss the fascinating policy dilemmas posed by the unique geography of the North Pole and how the United States can exploit new opportunities to maximum benefit.

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Fault Lines: Gobsmackingly Apparent

In This Episode: “This to me is another example that this model is not stable and it doesn’t do better for its people” says former Senior Staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Dana Stroul

Our favorite foreign policy nerds – with the addition of NSI Visiting Fellow Andy Keiser – discuss the geopolitics of the Coronavirus that has massively impacted China and its economy.  Listen in as Jodi, Dana, Lester and Andy discuss what the Coronavirus pandemic may mean for China’s place in the world, China’s internal politics, and the ins-and-outs of the U.S. response.

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Fault Lines: War and Peace, or: How Do You Solve a Problem Named Putin

In This Episode: “I actually think we are losing when it comes to the international arena.  We look at what’s happening in the Middle East and the whip hand today goes to Russia and goes to Turkey” says NSI Founder and Executive Director Jamil N. Jaffer.

Jodi, Dana, Jamil and Lester discuss constitutional changes in Moscow, the future of Vladimir Putin, how the United States should handle Russian aggression and whether Republicans and Democrats have any common ground on the matter.

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Fault Lines Podcast: China




The National Security Institute is excited to announce NSI’s second episode in our Fault Lines podcast mini-series with Lawfare.  This episode focused on the U.S.-China relationship and featured Fault Lines regulars:

  • NSI Founder and Executive Director Jamil N. Jaffer;
  • NSI Senior Fellow and former Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Lester Munson;
  • Former Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jodi Herman
  • Former Senior Democratic Staffer for the Middle East on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Dana Stroul

Fault Lines brings together experts with years of experience working on national security issues that divide the political left and right.  This series aspires to highlight both the areas of stark contrast and unlikely agreement in foreign policy-making that exist in today’s polarized atmosphere.

Subscribe to the Lawfare Podcast to get this and future episodes of Fault Lines.

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Combating Digital Authoritarianism: U.S. Alternative Needed to Counter Data Localization and Government Control


This NSI Report:

  • Describes the global trend toward data localization—policies that require data to be stored within national borders and often impede cross-border flows.
  • Explains the digital divide between authoritarian regimes’ use of data localization as a key means of information and political control, and more nascent efforts at a democratic alternative.
  • Argues that a U.S. data privacy and security framework is needed to counter the rising authoritarian model that is fostering a global splinternet and debilitating democratic values across the globe.

Read the complete paper.

About the author:

Dr. Andrea Little Limbago is the Chief Social Scientist at Virtru.  She is an NSI Senior Fellow and also serves as NSI’s Associate Director of Emerging Technologies. 

NSI Law & Policy Paper – Untangling the Guantanamo Military Commissions


This NSI Law and Policy Paper:

  • Describes the history and purpose of the military commissions convened at Guantanamo Bay as well as the protracted delays plaguing several of the government’s highest-priority commissions trials;
  • Evaluates the rationale behind military commissions “apparent unlawful influence” jurisprudence, the contempt powers of the military commissions trial judiciary, and detainee monitoring at Guantanamo Bay – issues that have contributed significantly to the unreasonably long pre-trial litigation phase of the commissions;
  • Argues that modest reforms would enable the commissions to accelerate the pace of pretrial litigation without undermining the rights of the Accused;
  • Proposes actionable recommendations that can help resolve these procedural delays to justice and protect an important war power for the United States.

Click here to read the complete paper.

About the Author:

Adam Pearlman is a former Associate Deputy General Counsel of the United States Department of Defense.  While at DoD, he was agency counsel for complex civil and criminal national security matters in federal and military courts, and led the Supreme Court and appellate unit of the team dedicated to litigating classified counterterrorism cases.

Fault Lines Podcast


The National Security Institute is excited to announce NSI’s first episode in our Fault Lines podcast mini-series with Lawfare.  This episode focused on the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and American policy in the region and featured Fault Lines regulars:

  • NSI Founder and Executive Director Jamil N. Jaffer;
  • NSI Senior Fellow and former Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Lester Munson;
  • Former Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jodi Herman
  • Former Senior Democratic Staffer for the Middle East on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Dana Stroul

Fault Lines brings together experts with years of experience working on national security issues that divide the political left and right.  The series aspires to highlight both the areas of stark contrast and unlikely agreement in foreign policy-making that exist in today’s polarized atmosphere.

Subscribe to the Lawfare Podcast to get this and future episodes of Fault Lines.

Listen Now

NSI White Paper – Jordan: A Critical Ally in a Dangerous and Vital Region


This NSI White Paper:

  • Explains the continuing U.S. national security interest in the Middle East.
  • Describes the important role Jordan plays in helping the U.S. achieve its goals in the Middle East.
  • Offers steps that should be taken to strengthen the U.S.-Jordan relationship.

Read the complete paper here.

About the Author:

Matthew R. A. Heiman is an NSI Senior Fellow and former lawyer in the National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice.  Previously, Mr. Heiman was the Vice President, Corporate Secretary & Associate General Counsel at Johnson Controls.  Prior to its merger with Johnson Controls, Mr. Heiman held a number of positions with Tyco International.

The Future of Cyber Defense: CISA and the Private Sector

Founders Hall Auditorium
3351 Fairfax Drive
George Mason University
Arlington, Virginia
March 11, 2019 | 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM


The National Security Institute was excited to host a presentation and reception to celebrate the founding of the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency sponsored by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance.  Attendees heard from CISA Director Chris Krebs, Assistant Director Jeanette Manfra, General Counsel Dan Sutherland, and others about how America’s newest agency is poised to make an impact on the protection of the private sector.


Download the slide deck from the event here.


NSI Experts Weigh In: Hanoi Summit

Today, President Trump finished his second meeting with Kim Jong-Un.  NSI’s experts analyzed the impact the Hanoi Summit will have on the effort to denuclearize North Korea.

February 28, 2019

Dmitri AlperovitchDmitri Alperovitch – NSI Visiting Fellow; Co-Founder, CrowdStrike

“It was never likely that North Korea would ever voluntarily give up nuclear weapons, their ultimate guarantor of regime security. Having learned from the lessons of what can happen to dictators once they give up on nuclear weapons from the experiences of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, it would be suicidal for Kim Jong Un to ever give up his deterrent.

The unfortunate reality is that we now have to admit to ourselves that a nuclear-armed North Korea is here to stay and focus our efforts on deterring and containing them and, most importantly, preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons.”


Matthew R. A. HeimanMatthew R. A. Heiman – NSI Senior Fellow and Associate Director for Global Security; Chairman, Cyber & Privacy Working Group, Regulatory Transparency Project

“The summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un ended earlier than expected and without an agreement or tangible progress.  President Trump’s experience negotiating with the North Korean regime is consistent with the difficulty experienced by past administrations.  The North Koreans have two approaches to negotiations – make promises that aren’t kept and refuse to negotiate in good faith.  Today’s breakdown is one more link in that chain.  The prospects for this summit were not good given the pre-meeting chatter.  North Korea was offering to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility, a horse it has sold in previous negotiations.  The Trump team hinted that it would not demand a full accounting of North Korean nuclear facilities, which would prevent assurance of total denuclearization.  Under these circumstances, no deal was the best deal, and President Trump was right to walk.  It’s time to return to the maximum pressure campaign and make life as uncomfortable as possible for the Kim regime.”


Jamil N. Jaffer – NSI Founder and Executive Director; former Chief Counsel and Senior Advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush

“While the typical reaction to the outcome of the Hanoi summit has been to call it a failure, that is exactly the wrong analysis.  To the contrary, by walking away from a weak offer by the North Koreans, the President has maximized his leverage and has reasserted control over a set of negotiations that ended poorly for the United States after the last round.  In my book, the Hanoi summit was a win for U.S. national security.”


Andy KeiserAndy Keiser – NSI Fellow; Former Senior Advisor, House Intelligence Committee

“President Trump returns from Vietnam in the same position as when he arrived: still talking to the North Koreans about denuclearization and confidence-building measures but not agreeing on the details.

Though surely a disappointment but likely not a surprise to the U.S. side, it is important to remember that North Korea is currently not testing nuclear weapons or the missiles that could potentially deliver them and biting sanctions remain in place while talks continue.

Give the President credit for showing a willingness to walk away from a deal when he feels the United States is giving up too much. Where we go from here and if the North Koreans are actually committed to an agreement remains an open question.”


Rizwan LadhaRizwan Ladha – NSI Visiting Fellow; Strategy Lead, Defense, Space & Security, The Boeing Company

“The second summit between Trump and Kim should be cautiously welcomed. Whenever diplomatic progress is made between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, it should be celebrated and encouraged. The fact that no agreement was reached at this meeting is also par for the course — many administrations have expended significant time and political capital to negotiate a verifiable solution to the North Korean nuclear question, and it appears there was no illusion within the Trump administration that they could successfully negotiate an agreement in just a couple of meetings.

It appears the sticking point remains how to balance sanctions relief with denuclearization, which both parties appear to want in principle. But aside from figuring out the optimal sequencing of moves that would allow both sides to get what they want, the real challenge for Secretary of State Pompeo, his negotiating team, and President Trump will be to internalize what the term “denuclearization” means to North Korea, and how it is fundamentally at odds with how the United States has defined that term for decades. Until that circle is squared, real progress will be difficult to achieve.


The one weak point for the United States coming out of this summit is President Trump’s apparent eagerness to take authoritarian despots at their word: In the press conference following the summit, President Trump said, ‘One of the things importantly that chairman Kim promised me last night is … he’s not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear — not going to do testing. So, you know, I trust him, and I take him at his word.’ It is not prudent for the U.S. negotiating team to put blind trust in an autocrat’s verbal statements — Mr. Kim can renege on his assurance at any time, which can put the U.S. in a weaker negotiating position.


Overall, this summit moves the United States and North Korea in a positive direction, even if by a marginal amount. Moving the needle is better than no progress at all. But going forward, the U.S. negotiating team should be cautioned on two things: First, they need to clearly understand why North Korea will never fully denuclearize, and second, they need to get big promises in writing. Putting our blind trust in authoritarian rulers is not a recipe for long-term success.”

Lester MunsonLester Munson – NSI Senior Fellow; Former Staff Director, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“Expectations for this summit were fairly low, but evidently not low enough.  The good news is that the administration demonstrated that it is willing to walk away from the negotiating table when the deal doesn’t materialize. On the other hand, we must now weigh the costs of high-level engagement with a North Korean regime that appears to not be interested in real steps toward denuclearization.  It does real harm to America’s global position to continue to promote the character of Kim Jong-Un and his regime while he continues to process uranium and add to his missile forces. The president has a strong team working on these negotiations.  He should let them take over the discussions and save himself for when and if there is real progress.”

Bryan SmithBryan Smith – NSI Senior Fellow; former Budget Director, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

“Despite criticism from the national security community, the Singapore summit was generally successful.  It defused tensions that had arguably brought the two countries to the brink of war, and established a basic framework committing Kim to denuclearization in exchange for security guarantees, the end of sanctions, and economic development.  None of this was described in any concrete way, however. Nor did it hint at how to sequence North Korean denuclearization actions, its verification, and commensurate U.S. rewards.

The Vietnam Summit needed to make the basic framework concrete.  Specifically, three things were needed to make this summit a success.  First, the parties needed to agree on what exactly was meant by “denuclearization”.  Second, they then needed to lay out a pathway of future verifiable steps that would lead to that agreed commitment.  Third, the two countries needed to take initial immediate steps, such as a formal freeze in testing and production, met with some concrete and meaningful response from the U.S., well short of lifting core sanctions.

Instead of this business-like approach, Kim Jong-Un pulled a number straight from the North Korean negotiating playbook. Take a Ford Pinto, slap on bondo and a MAACO paint job, and offer to sell it to the U.S. at new model prices.  That in essence, was Kim’s offer to dismantle Yongbyon in exchange for full lifting of sanctions.  Thank God President Trump wasn’t buying it.  Not unlike Reagan at Rekjavik, the President wisely walked away from a bad deal.  In a way, it is hard to blame Kim for his gambit, since the decades long history with the U.S., coupled with the President’s highly-personal and transactional diplomatic style, likely convinced him that the U.S. might bite on such a bad deal.

Provided Kim now makes good on his reported intention to President Trump not to resume missile and weapons testing, negotiations can still be put back on a productive track. “

Todd Womack – NSI Visiting Fellow; former Staff Director, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“What was said during negotiations around the flawed Iran deal is still true: no deal is better than a bad deal. Despite the desire by the Administration to move the process forward, I am glad the President walked away rather than showing progress for progress sake. Sanctions should not be lifted and pressure must be ratcheted up even more as we work to ensure North Korea’s denuclearization.”



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Security Institute or any agency of the U.S. government. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the National Security Institute or any U.S. government entity.


NSI Experts Weigh In: National Emergency Declaration

Today, the President announced that he would be declaring a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border.  Our experts weighed in on the wisdom of that decision. 

February 15, 2019

Matthew R. A. HeimanMatthew R. A. Heiman – NSI Senior Fellow and Associate Director for Global Security; Chairman, Cyber & Privacy Working Group, Regulatory Transparency Project

The President’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to redirect funds to build a wall along the U.S. southern border is a mistake for legal, political, and institutional reasons.  Like eating junk food, the satisfaction could well be temporary. First, this decision will be the subject of court challenges, and the President may lose.  Questions such as whether this is an emergency and why is this an emergency now will feature prominently.  Second, the decision is a political mistake.  At some point, there will be a Democratic President and a Republican controlled Senate or House, and the Democratic President may decide that climate change or private ownership of firearms is a national emergency that needs to be addressed without congressional authorization.  Third, the lack of an obvious national emergency, such as a war or a natural disaster, feeds the notion that the President is exceeding his Article II and statutory authorities.  When a branch pushes its powers near or past institutional limits, the reaction of the other branches can leave that branch weaker than before it acted (e.g. the Presidency after Watergate).  If President Trump wants more money for border walls, he should use the bully pulpit afforded by his office.  This requires marshaling the facts, using compelling imagery and stories, and rallying Americans to pressure Congress for more funding or vote out those legislators that object.  That’s the best and most effective way to accomplish lasting change.

Jamil N. Jaffer – NSI Founder and Executive Director; former Chief Counsel and Senior Advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush

“While there is no question that we need to do a better job in addressing illegal immigration as a nation, the fact is that there isn’t a national security emergency on our southern border today.  And even if there were such an emergency, a huge new border wall is not the solution.  Better, smart enforcement of existing laws is the right approach, as is strengthening our laws and capabilities.  The bipartisan legislation passed by Congress is a good step in the right direction of these changes.  Going forward, we also need immigration laws that account for the critically important contribution that legal immigrants make to our nation and our economy, including significantly and smartly expanding the scope and nature of legal immigration as well as putting in place additional provisions to limit illegal immigration and enforce existing laws.”

Harold Moss – NSI Visiting Fellow; Senior Director Strategy & Business Development, Web Products, Akamai Technologies

The utilization of the national emergency power by the President would move us further away from the democratic values America is built upon, and further deepen the partisan divide facing our nation today.

By taken this unprecedented action, the President is effectively rejecting the notion of free government for what our founding fathers found abhorrent which is an absolute monarchy.  The powers offered to the executive branch to declare a National emergency, were intended to address the need for timely response to “events” or “emergencies” not to further political commitments. The Presidents own comments, clarify that this is in fact not an emergency but a desire to accelerate his political objectives.

What is  particularly concerning was the Presidents assertions about the security of the ports of entry, to which he promptly undermined his own claims by introducing his own request of the Chinese prime minister with respect to Fentanyl as well as referencing the 2017 New York attacker who did not enter the country through our southern border. All of these arguments and many more will certainly be introduced in inevitable legal challenges and further server to divide the nation.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Security Institute or any agency of the U.S. government. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the National Security Institute or any U.S. government entity.


NSI Experts Weigh In: 2018 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy

Yesterday, the Department of Defense (DoD) released a summary of its 2018 Artificial Intelligence Strategy.  Our experts weighed in about the strengths and weaknesses of this strategy. 

February 13, 2019

Bryson Bort – NSI Fellow; Founder & CEO, SCYTHE

“The DoD strategy cements the role of the Joint AI Center (JAIC) as the driver for AI development and adoption across all services.  Echoing the Administration’s AI directive, the strategy is framed in terms of the Chinese and Russian threats increasing through this technology.  In execution, there is a diametric tension between iterating slowly through ethical implications as evidenced by Google employees refusing to support Project Maven (a DoD AI project of imagery analysis) last year and the exhortation for ‘transformative AI technologies’ developed ‘from experiments at the edge.’  DoD has historically struggled with agile development that would support these ‘experiments’ from a contracting, cultural, and technical perspective.  The immediate wins look like the use of AI on the mountains of DoD data in various areas such as logistics and maintenance.”

Jamil N. Jaffer – NSI Founder and Executive Director; former Chief Counsel and Senior Advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush

“The new Artificial Intelligence Strategy released by the Department of Defense provides some unique insight into DoD’s well thought out plan on AI that it’s already been executing.  The specific outlining of the role of the Joint AI Center (JAIC) and the description of the key pilot projects that are ongoing, as well as the commitment to partnerships with leading private companies are key elements of a strategy that is likely to bear fruit in the short-term.  While much will be in the implementation, the early steps DoD has already taken are moving them in the right direction.

Harold Moss – NSI Visiting Fellow; Senior Director Strategy & Business Development, Web Products, Akamai Technologies

The Department of Defense’s recent strategy is a thoughtful approach to embracing an emerging technology.  By introducing Artificial Intelligence as an augmentation technology and building upon the proven techniques and skills used by the DoD, they can rapidly introduce the technology without introducing disruptions to our current national security strategy.  Furthermore, by leveraging a number of diverse sectors to usher in the new technology, they reduce the integration challenges found in emerging technologies while enabling the latest information to drive implementation.

I am especially encouraged by the strategies identification of focal areas that not only introduce meaningful impact, but rely on cultivating supporting internal/external resources and infrastructure. By implementing an approach which evolves with the pace of technology, the strategy will be far more sustainable, and at the same time introduce ongoing benefits to national security.

That said, while the strategy has expertly focused on how to introduce AI into the working models of the agency, they will need to establish relationships with foreign and domestic partners to establish the corpus of knowledge essential to AI.  As a result, the DoD will need to clearly articulate and enforce privacy and security protocols, which will establish confidence in partners and the program.”

Adam Pearlman – NSI Visiting Fellow; former Associate Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense 

“Beyond the substance of the DoD’s AI strategy, the timing of this document is not to be overlooked.  For all the ways in which the White House has been criticized for going off-the-cuff, the issuance of Executive Order 13859 and the release of this document all within a week of the State of the Union, shows not only the importance the President places on this issue, but that efforts are being properly coordinated throughout the government.  This shows a maturity in managing the bureaucracy, and vastly increases the likelihood of building an effective capability.

It is also notable that a relatively sizable portion of the strategy emphasizes private-sector partnerships, which will be critical to the success of building the government’s AI capabilities.  We are long past the era when DoD had both more money and more information than everyone else.  The five most valuable tech companies have a market capitalization of more than three times the defense budget and are sitting on close to $600 billion in cash.  They also have incredibly large and diverse data sets that will prove critical to a cutting-edge AI system.  Recruiting all the engineering talent in the world is meaningless without having useful data to train an AI system.

Developing this technology while protecting civil liberties is no easy task, but having articulated guiding principles will help the Department and the government navigate these issues in a responsible way.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Security Institute or any agency of the U.S. government. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the National Security Institute or any U.S. government entity.


NSI Experts Weigh In: “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence” Executive Order

Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order on “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence”.  Our experts weighed in about what this means about America’s future stance towards Artificial Intelligence. 

February 11, 2019

Dmitri AlperovitchDmitri Alperovitch – NSI Visiting Fellow; Co-Founder/CTO, CrowdStrike

Today, AI is at the center of most major technological advances in areas as varied as cybersecurity, self-driving cars or development of cancer treatments. In cybersecurity, for example, these technological advances include enabling the defenders to recognize and stop never-before-seen attacks and being faster in detecting and responding to attacks.

It is vital for prosperity and security that the US keeps its leadership position in development and implementation of AI technologies. Government leadership and funding on this topic is crucial.


Lauren BedulaLauren Bedula – NSI Visiting Fellow; Vice President, Beacon Global Strategies

The Executive Order signals that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a White House priority with the full backing of the President.  This has a galvanizing effect and elevates AI as a critical national priority.  The Department of Defense and Intelligence Community have recognized the significance of AI through initiatives such as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Augmenting Intelligence Using Machines program, and DoD’s Joint AI Center.  The White House’s push to accelerate national leadership on AI will further stimulate the federal government’s civilian agencies’ efforts, and enhance the U.S. government’s posture on coordinated research and development.  The timing of the EO also aligns well with the launch of the National Security Commission on AI, created by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2019.

Access to and management of data will continue to slow adoption of AI technologies, and migration to the cloud will be key to these efforts.  As the U.S. government organizes around the future of AI, the private sector should be consulted as an expert and partner in both technology and workforce development.

Bryson Bort – NSI Fellow; Founder & CEO, SCYTHE

The Administration actually does agree with their Intelligence Chiefs on something: Artificial Intelligence. In January, ODNI published the National Intelligence Strategy highlighting both the threat, promise, and need for investment in AI. The primary threat is China who through a combination of outright theft/espionage and state-directed investment to lure foreign scholars has positioned itself to strategically challenge US innovation dominance by 2025. The Administration builds upon these concerns by laying out a (high-level) plan of R&D investment and engagement that vaguely directs agencies to prioritize AI now and in 2020 funding. Contrast that lack of clear funding with just a few examples:


China – $5B fund to grow a $150B industry
France – €1.5B investment
Canada – the first government release a formal AI strategy with C$125M

Priorities mean resources. Or, are we waiting for the computers to tell us how much to invest?

Zach Graves

Zach Graves – NSI Visiting Fellow; Head of Policy, Lincoln Network

“The President’s Executive Order on ‘Accelerating America’s Leadership in AI’ is a monumental action that ties together both public and private sector efforts around artificial intelligence.  This includes calling for the development of several strategic plans around standard setting, research spending, and AI governance issues which will help improve coordination and strategic planning in the federal government.  Of potential concern is Sec. 8’s call for the creation of an action plan to ‘protect the US advantage in AI… against strategic competitors and adversarial nations.’  While there are legitimate national security concerns around AI, these must not be used as an excuse for premature heavy-handed regulation.  For example, the Commerce Department has already been exploring export controls on AI technology – a failed policy approach that was used in the 90s on encryption, and which could put the brakes on AI rather than accelerate its development. “

Kristen HajdukKristen Hajduk – NSI Visiting Fellow; Regional Director for the National Capital Region, MD5 – The National Security Technology Accelerator

“The Executive Order on ‘Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence’ takes one step forward in guiding our country towards a vibrant, innovative, and ethical support in the development of AI.  The EO rightly acknowledges that effective utilization of AI requires a community of innovators who are given the tools to support the future public and private sector needs of this growing industry.  In order for the USG to effectively foster and tap into private sector innovation, it will be necessary and important for all USG organizations to rethink and retool acquisitions processes that may be burdensome or prohibitive for burgeoning startup and venture hubs across the country.  The Defense innovation ecosystem has led to several important efforts to support the EO, including the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.  By working together, the USG and US private industry will continue to push the leading edge of technological advancement.”

E. Grant Haver – NSI Policy Program Coordinator

President Trump’s ‘Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence’ Executive Order is far from the ‘[w]e choose to go to the Moon’ approach which is necessary in this area.  He had the prime opportunity to roll out the American Artificial Intelligence Initiative during his State of the Union address, but he chose not to.  America needs a whole of government and potentially a whole of society approach to dealing with the ethical, legal, and military questions surrounding AI and the president does not seem to be going all in.

One area that this Executive Order addresses is the need for the government to attract and train personnel on the latest advances in AI.  However, it fails to address the issue of retention which is difficult in the best of times because skills in this area are so valuable in the private sector.  These issues are made worse when those who choose to take a pay cut to serve their country are not sure whether they will be getting their next paycheck.

Although this Executive Order is far from sufficient to actually maintain American leadership in Artificial Intelligence, it makes nods in the right direction especially around data transparency.  AI is powered by large sets of training data and the government is sitting on a wealth of it.  If the government can learn how to effectively partner with the private sector to give access to this data while protecting citizens privacy and civil liberties, then the government, industry, and ultimately the American people will benefit.

Jamil N. Jaffer – NSI Founder; former Chief Counsel and Senior Advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush

“The artificial intelligence Executive Order signed today by the President provides a strong starting point for expanding our government’s commitment to our nation investing and leading in AI.  The problem is that we are already behind in this race, with China having committed to creating a $1 trillion AI economy in the next decade.  We cannot afford more government examinations of its authorities and priorities; rather, we need specific, detailed plans for providing significant, sustained government funding for basic research and advanced national security applications, as well as the creation of incentives for further private sector investment and leverage.  So, while the new EO is certainly a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough.  The President and his team need to stop focusing on small ball issues that keep taking us to the brink of a government shutdown and instead partner with Congress to get something definitive done on AI in the near future.

Geof Kahn  – NSI Visiting Fellow; former Senior Advisor to the Chief Operating Officer at the Central Intelligence Agency

The Executive Order is an encouraging signal that the White House is using its budget, policy, and convening authority to implement a national AI strategy to empower American competitiveness and innovation.  That strategy smartly identifies much needed funding for R&D that will benefit mainstream American industries, while highlighting the jobs, ethics, and privacy implications that come with our rapidly increasing adoption of AI tools.  It will be important to see how this EO is reflected in the President’s FY20 Budget Request in March and how the Administration pursues these initiatives in partnership with the private sector.

Andy KeiserAndy Keiser – NSI Fellow; former Senior Advisor, House Intelligence Committee

In launching the American Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative, President Trump signals the right executive emphasis on the type of next-generation technologies that will propel the U.S. economy into the future like AI.

The Order also touches on the critical components of success in AI, including: focus of effort across government, industry and academia; development of standards; promoting technical and math and science education; protecting civil liberties and promoting AI in the right places internationally.

As with any policy, the devil will be in the details as the Order is implemented and federal dollars are appropriated in Fiscal Year 2020 and beyond.

Andrea LimbagoDr. Andrea Little Limbago – NSI Senior Fellow; Chief Social Scientist, Virtru

The U.S. has some catching up to do to simultaneously shape the ethical parameters of AI, including privacy and security implications, while promoting innovation. Today’s Executive Order on AI is a welcome first step at prioritizing AI  but is long overdue and lacks any reference to countering advances in adversarial AI. While policy generally does lag behind technology, over the past two years well over a dozen countries introduced national initiatives to promote AI. The U.S. has been noticeably absent from this global discussion. The Executive Order appropriately describes AI as a national security imperative that requires strong U.S. leadership to ensure AI benefits society without compromising American values or privacy. In contrast, authoritarian regimes are quickly progressing AI frameworks that build upon machine learning for offensive attacks such as compromising data, diffusing disinformation, or other interference operations. Given this contrast, the Executive Order should have more specifically addressed the ethical issues, biases, and attacks that can emerge through adversarial AI or abuse. While the Executive Order highlights the potential for benefits, any national strategy would be myopic and detrimental to national security if the the potential for AI misuse and abuse is omitted. Nevertheless, the Executive Order is an encouraging sign that the U.S. government will increasingly prioritize AI and take the steps to incentivize AI investments, grow the workforce to support U.S. dominance in AI, and assert U.S. leadership through international engagement. 

Harold Moss – NSI Visiting Fellow; Senior Director Strategy & Business Development, Web Products, Akamai Technologies

Artificial Intelligence has penetrated the lives of millions of Americans through connected home devices that influence as well as provide access to personal information. It is essential that America establishes the skills necessary to compete in this space as well as define the working parameters for which this technology is applied.

According to research by IoT News, as may as 90% of the US population have made purchases of a home connected device, and nearly 70% already have a voice controlled system such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home. As artificial intelligence becomes an embedded technology in our personal lives, it offers not only new methods of connecting but also new means of gather information or influencing our population. The recent Executive Order highlights the importance of American leadership in the space, and touches on the role of privacy, as well as the highlighting the need for addressing adoption barriers.

The Executive Order, while light on details is never the less laudable in that it addresses emerging technologies proactively. It will be essential that the security implications are the initial focus, as the path to failure will most certainly fall in the areas of confidence and privacy. It will be imperative that legislators with their private sectors counterparts  take up the mantle of defining meaningful guidelines quickly and comprehensively in Order to decrease threats to our population, business innovation, and our future democracy.

Bryan Smith – NSI Senior Fellow; former Budget Director, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

The President’s Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence is an impressive ‘plan for the plan’ (or to be precise, a plan for several related plans).  This is a thoughtful and well-constructed architecture for all the work the federal government needs to accomplish, in close collaboration with its many partners, domestically and world-wide.  The E.O. underscores the critical importance and wide-sweeping nature of artificial intelligence, which is already permeating every business vertical and horizontal, and even our every-day lives.  A.I. promises to be just as transformational for national security.

Even so, the seminal developments in A.I. will continue to come from gifted mathematicians and scientists in universities and technology companies in every corner of the globe, supported by investors with foresight, patience, and high tolerance for risk.  There is a parallel here with the recent transformation of oil and gas production through hydro-fracture and horizontal drilling.  American politicians routinely called for American energy independence, but this dream could only become reality through the genius of a modest number of technical innovators, backed by private investors willing to bet the house on them.

Glenn Sulmasy – NSI Visiting Fellow; Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Bryant University

President Trump’s Executive Order today – the American AI Initiative (AAII) – is welcome news to many within national security circles, as well as academics and administrators in higher education.  We need bold policy statements, such as this, to be the catalyst for Americans to recognize the importance AI will play in ALL of our lives within the next two-to-three years, and beyond.  This ‘call to action’ should be viewed as analogous to Kennedy’s charge for Americans to be the first to put a ‘man on the moon.’

Artificial intelligence is coming at us quicker than workplace revolutions of the past.  This so called 4th Industrial Revolution is one that will continue to evolve and will be incredibly disruptive to our workplace.  Beyond the call to research and development, there needs to be a consciousness of what AI will do the workplace within American society.  While essential for the AAII to emphasize R&D, the document goes further to prioritize fellowship and training programs to help American workers gain AI-relevant skills.   The beauty of the document is that it demonstrates the will of the government, and the American need, to place appropriate emphasis on AI, it goes further to recognize and prepare for the disruptive nature of the technology that will accompany the new armies of robots.

Within higher education, it is critical to get ahead of the coming robot revolution.  The AAII must continue to support, not just graduate programs, but undergraduate programs that are dedicated to Artificial Intelligence.  Universities must adapt quickly to the changing environment to ensure the students matriculating have at least some basic competencies within the AI domain.   This baseline knowledge will be required by all students graduating by 2022.  As such, my hope is the administration will partner with universities to ensure learning outcomes within all disciplines soon require some form of ‘data literacy.’  To do otherwise, at this juncture in history, would be for academicians to commit malpractice.

While we appropriately race to compete with the EU and China (who are clearly dedicated to making major advances in AI before the US to gain myriad advantages), it remains important to reflect upon the words of the internationally known late genius Stephen Hawking’s warning, ‘The genie is out of the bottle. We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans.’

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Security Institute or any agency of the U.S. government. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the National Security Institute or any U.S. government entity.

The World That Awaits: Foreign Policy Issues Confronting the 116th Congress



This NSI Law and Policy Paper:

  • Introduces the immediate challenges found in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East that are making headlines today and considers how these issues contribute to the larger picture of global affairs in 2019.
  • Addresses recent developments that are driving policy decisions confronting the 116thCongress.
  • Anticipates the key questions that Congress will need to consider for these regions in the coming year.

The authors highlight the top considerations for the 116th Congress:

  • Africa: How will Congress weigh-in on the administration’s efforts to balance between ongoing counterterrorism efforts, new development priorities, and the need to counter China’s growing economic advantage across the continent?
  • Americas: Will Congress approve NAFTA’s replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and how will it respond to the dramatic geopolitical shifts at play in Brazil and Venezuela?
  • Asia: Can Congress work with the administration to create a bipartisan grand strategy to address the rapidly expanding geopolitical rivalry with China, and will it support the administration’s negotiations with North Korea?
  • Europe: How should Congress respond to the administration’s NATO policy, the grinding gears of Brexit, and the continued threats posed by Russia?
  • The Middle East: How will Congress respond to the administration’s decision to reduce U.S. military presence in Syria and Afghanistan?  Will it reconsider the U.S.-Saudi relationship?  How far will the U.S. take its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, and how should it respond if Iran ends its adherence to the nuclear deal?

Please see NSI’s full policy paper HERE.

About the authors:

Loren Dealy Maher is a Visiting Fellow at NSI and is the President at Dealy Mahler Strategies.  She is a strategic leader with high-level government and private sector experience across national security, strategic communications and crisis management.

Matthew F. Ferraro is a Visiting Fellow at NSI and is a Senior Associate at WilmerHale.  He is a former intelligence officer who writes widely on national security and legal issues.  

NSI Experts Weigh In: State of the Union 2019

Yesterday, President Trump delivered his second State of the Union address.  Read our expert analysis of his remarks. 

February  6, 2019

Megan L. Brown – NSI Senior Fellow and Associate Director for Cybersecurity; Partner, Wiley Rein LLP

“The State of the Union recognized some of the most serious national security issues facing the county but was much heavier on domestic policy. In many areas the president really did speak in a bipartisan way, particularly on national security, which came across as one of the least controversial area of his agenda.

He spoke directly about nation state adversaries, who we all know are using cyber attacks to disrupt and do harm. Disappointingly, he only indirectly alluded to cyber, citing theft of intellectual property and worries about China.  He said we are ‘making it clear to China that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end.’  You’d have to look to the cyber strategy and intelligence strategy to understand how that’ll happen outside of the trade context.
Overall the SOTU was heavy on domestic policy but hit some key national security highlights. I wish it had more on cyber and his goals for our leadership in the digital future. “

Zach GravesZach Graves – NSI Visiting Fellow; Head of Policy, Lincoln Network

“President Trump calls on Congress to think of our past achievements as a nation — major scientific breakthroughs, defeating fascism, building highway infrastructure. While the theme of ‘choosing greatness’ may sound cheesy, he’s making an important point. Congress has lost its capacity to think big, and tackle the tough problems. But for Congress to function better it needs more than just to be inspired, it needs to build more institutional capacity and policy expertise.”



Matthew R. A. HeimanMatthew R. A. Heiman – NSI Senior Fellow and Associate Director for Global Security; Chairman, Cyber & Privacy Working Group, Regulatory Transparency Project

“National security and international trade made up approximately 20% of President Trump’s State of the Union address.  The small amount of content covered the expected laundry list of topics: the U.S. was being ripped off in trade deals; withdrawing from the INF Treaty was good; the U.S. was right to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear weapons agreement and enact tough sanctions; another meeting is scheduled with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un; the U.S. stands firm with Juan Guaido of Venezuela; and defending the movement of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.  It was disappointing that President Trump did not provide a more detailed rationale for his decisions to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan and was almost silent on the geopolitical competition with China and Russia for global influence.  Today, these are the most pressing issues on the national security agenda.  Regarding the drawdowns in Afghanistan and Syria, Trump said great nations do not fight ‘endless wars.’  Great nations should avoid fighting pointless wars.  In Syria, our troops are acting as an important brake against Russian and Iranian machinations.  In Afghanistan, while it remains far from a perfect democracy, our military presence has prevented Afghanistan-based terrorism from again wreaking havoc around the world while Afghani women and girls are able receive an education after the overthrow of the oppressive Taliban regime.  Regarding China and Russia, it would have been good to hear what the U.S. will do to support our allies and dissuade nations from throwing their lot in with two authoritarian, paranoid, anti-democratic, revisionist regimes.”

Jamil N. Jaffer – NSI Founder; former Chief Counsel and Senior Advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Associate Counsel to President George W. Bush

“In his 2019 State of the Union speech, the President rightly called for bipartisanship and unity in working towards the common good; he also appropriately recognized the historic importance of American leadership in the world, honoring the sacrifices made by our men and women in arms in support of that mission, including those currently serving, as well as those soldiers of the Greatest Generation who defended our nation in what began as an ‘endless war’ and culminated in the liberation of Nazi death camps in Europe.  Likewise, the President correctly castigated the Iranian regime for its support of terrorism, the North Korean regime for its pursuit of nuclear weapons capable of reaching our shores, Russia for its blatant violations of the INF Treaty, and China for its continuing efforts to pillage the American economy of the very innovation that is our lifeblood.  He also appropriately attacked the socialist regime in Venezuela for destroying its economy, harming its people, and ruling from a position of lawlessness and her also correctly noted our success in getting our allies to meet their existing commitments to share the burden of defending their nations.

And while the President’s actions have supported many of his statements—like his decision to pull out of the catastrophically bad Iran nuclear deal, his staunch position on the INF Treaty, his support of historic change in Venezuela, and his efforts to push back on unfair and illegal Chinese trade practices—on balance, the President’s national security policies have not yet matched his rhetoric about the history and importance of American leadership in the world.  Indeed, a number of the President’s actions in the national security arena, like short-sighted and abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, his approach to negotiating from a posture of weakness with the Taliban—the very group that housed and protected Osama bin Laden both before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—his squandering of a strong negotiating position with North Korea (to be fair, a negotiating position he was able to obtain), and his attacks on some of our strongest allies across the globe, all the while coddling the leadership of hostile states like Russia, all work to undermine his own words about the historic importance to our nation—and the world—of American leadership.

Nonetheless, the President now has a unique opportunity to make good on his words.   If the President is prepared to truly defend the role of America in the world, he will leverage his call for change in Venezuela to make it a reality, he will protect our allies in Europe from Russian predation by helping them achieve energy independence through the direct supply of American natural gas, and he will ensure that American troops see the conflicts in the Middle East—whether in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan—through to the complete defeat of the terrorist groups that seek to kill Americans and our allies.  Likewise, if the President truly believes we are strongest when we resolutely support our friends and oppose our enemies, he will back those who seek freedom from regimes—like Iran—that support terrorism and oppress their people, he will negotiate a significantly better agreement with North Korea than the one reached a year ago, he will reject Russian claims in Europe and will penalize Vladimir Putin and his cronies further for their anti-American and anti-Western covert and overt influence activities around the world, he will push for stronger cybersecurity efforts here at home and with our allies in Europe, the Middle East, and in Asia.

Perhaps most importantly, if the President is truly going to be successful in an effort to lead both domestically and abroad, he will seek to change the tone in Washington, and he will strongly and squarely reject anti-immigrant voices, and those who support racism and anti-Semitism at home and abroad.

If the President is able to execute on these efforts, he stands to achieve historic successes in global and domestic security.  And while his record on that front is admittedly checkered to date, we should all fervently wants him—and our nation—to succeed in this regard.“

Omario KanjiOmario Kanji – NSI Visiting Fellow; Assistant Academic Director, Temple University

“The SOTU comes momentously during Chinese New Year, when China’s President Xi is no doubt taking stock of both nations and their current relationship. President Trump was correct in saying that our leaders and representatives may be to blame for our current trade predicament. Since its founding, China has been, and will be for quite some time, a most pragmatic power. Such pragmatism lends itself to calculated moves on economic and political fronts. Well-intended gestures since and including China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) have not proven terribly fruitful.

It would seem that the United States and other countries are arriving at a point of reckoning with China on trade practices, cybersecurity, intellectual property, and hostile geographical moves in the South China Sea. President Trump has stood up to a rising power where other countries had failed to; the tide may very well turn from here onward. Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou more than proves this.

Despite all his promises, what the President may not win back from China is American jobs. It is certainly true that the American worker lost her job due to China’s entry and integration into the globalized economy. Wages in China are rising, on par with those of Mexico. However, multinationals still have a few choices for outsourcing, such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and others. The jobs might not come back. In addition, since the time that China absorbed those jobs, economic fundamentals and the job market itself have change drastically. The United States’ best hope is to, as the President said, outspend and out-innovate China, as well as the rest of the world.“

Andy KeiserAndy Keiser – NSI Fellow; Former Senior Advisor, House Intelligence Committee

“National security watchers found some pretty thin gruel when it came to the national security policy laid out in President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address.

While he touched on his tried and true policies of pushing back on Chinese aggression, rebuilding the military and pursuing burden sharing among NATO allies, he did announce a new date for a summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, and passingly referred to a plan to seek to wind down the war in Afghanistan, withdraw from the INF treaty with Russia and support new leadership in Venezuela.

In the four newer references to Trump Administration policy, I think the President hit three on the head. With North Korea, even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi credits the President with deescalating the conflict, the Russians had long been violating the INF treaty and Maduro in Venezuela years ago relinquished any modicum of legitimacy. However, on Afghanistan, the United States of America abandoned Afghanistan once before and it led to the Taliban taking power and granting Osama bin Laden the safe-haven he needed to carry out the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Maintaining an effective counter-terrorism capacity in Afghanistan is vital to U.S. national security interests.“

Harold Moss – NSI Visiting Fellow; Senior Director Strategy & Business Development, Web Products, Akamai Technologies

“Yesterday’s state of the union highlighted a naïve if not negligent perspective on national security. The president in his address categorized beyond border engagement as foolish wars, highlighting a fundamental lack of understanding with respect to buffering adversaries and pro-active engagement.  By implying our influence begins and ends at our borders, we lose the ability to pre-empt and diminish foreign threats.

In addition the  President further diminished the impact of foreign attempts to influence or interfere with our electoral process by diminishing the investigation of such actions to that of simple partisan politics. While highlighting the political impacts, the President missed an opportunity to leverage these actions to unify our divided political nation against a common enemy in service of protecting our systems of governance.“

Lester Munson– NSI Senior Fellow; former Staff Director, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“The State of the Union speech was a civilized version of President Trump’s vision to call America home from its role in the world and focus inward.  No matter how kindly delivered or tilted toward bipartisanship, the president’s vision remains an isolationist and narrow-minded view. It is not in America’s interest to retreat from a leadership role in the world. Rather, our prosperity depends explicitly on the United States playing a vigorous and unapologetic role in promoting democracy, stability and free markets around the world.

Instead of focusing most of his speech on the southern border – where there is not in fact a crisis – the president should have made a case for a bipartisan approach to China’s authoritarian expansionism in the Indo-Pacific. This is where the real long-term threat to our interests and values resides.

While the speech was very well delivered by this president’s standards, the actual content of the speech was wrong-headed and bad for America.“

Dr. David Priess – NSI Visiting Fellow; Chief Operating Officer, Lawfare

“During his State of the Union address, the president hit some pleasant chords about the history of US national security, broadly conceived. He praised America’s scientific advances during the past 100-plus years. He also paid homage to veterans of D-Day as we approach its 75 year anniversary. And he acknowledged the heroic national efforts that led to the first manned moon landing just over a half century ago.

The speech, however, failed to resonate as well when it turned from the past to assessments of current and future national security threats — as three disconnects reveal. First, the Director of National Intelligence’s annual threat testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence just last week highlighted top-priority concerns of election security, China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. The president’s address, however, skipped over election security and breezed through the others. Second, the president’s remarks focused more heavily on what he alternatively called the ‘crisis’ and the ‘lawless state’ of the ‘very dangerous’ southern border. Yet migration from Central America seemed to barely make it into the DNI’s threat presentation, and that lacked mention of a crisis along the border itself. Third, the president opined that without his election in 2016, the United States would currently be in a ‘major war with North Korea with potentially millions of people killed.’ He offered no evidence or logic to substantiate the claim.

Additionally, the president missed a bridge-building opportunity by asserting there will be no peace while investigators continue. Cooperating fully with ongoing examinations of foreign interference in the 2016 election, in fact, would do more to bolster national security than just about anything else he could do.”

Bryan SmithBryan Smith – NSI Senior Fellow; Vice President & Technical Advisor, Beacon Global Strategies

“It was heartening to hear a speech by President Trump framed in the history of American exceptionalism, and celebrating freedom, liberty, unity, and rights for all.  These themes appeal to an audience well beyond his base and explain the reported 75 percent approval rating for the speech.

The national security portions of the speech contained some strengths but featured a few off-key notes and troubling omissions.  The President is right that ‘great nations do not fight twenty-year wars’, and he is also right to re-focus our involvement in Afghanistan on our original purpose of counter-terrorism.  But why confuse this sound strategic rationale with rhetorical echoes of the Vietnam peace movement?  He hit wave tops of some current national security issues – North Korea, Iran, INF, ISIS, and Venezuela.  His strong support for the revolt against Maduro was no doubt heard loudly in Caracas.  The President was also well-justified for taking credit for removing ISIS as territory-holding power.  The Administration has gotten far too little credit for its major role in this accomplishment, which pundits seem now to think was pre-ordained.   Missing-in-action was explicit treatment of China and Russia as the resurgent great power competitors that now drive our national strategy.

The President did, however, issue a warning to all competitors, in response to Russia’s material violation of the INF Treaty, that ‘we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far’ – a warning that we all would hope the U.S. could deliver on.  The realities of our fiscal situation put this in doubt.  Saddled with a structural $1 billion deficit, driven by mindless entitlement expansions, and a resulting national debt over $20 billion, there are serious constraints to our ability to ‘outspend…all others by far’.  Granted, this gross fiscal imbalance can persist for some time to come, but it is ultimately unsustainable.  At some point, it will spark an economic crisis that could catastrophically undermine our security.

Why do virtually no politicians address this issue?  And why would Democratic challengers to the President on the left seek to make this fiscal situation worse, still?  It could be, that like the over-plump farm turkey in mid-November, our moment of greatest peril comes when we feel most secure.“

Megan Stifel – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Director for International Cyber Policy, National Security Council 

“Portions of the State of the Union speech related to foreign policy recognized heroes of past conflicts, reaffirmed Russia, Iran, and China as threats to national security, but should have gone further to identify policies that will challenge these nations’ malign activities.

Cyber has lead the Worldwide Threat Assessment for the past five or more years. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the President made only passing reference to the matter in last night’s State of the Union address. In referring to the theft of intellectual property by China, without specifically talking about cyber-enabled theft, the President did not send a strong enough signal – to China and other nations – that this type of behavior has been, is, and will remain not an acceptable use of information and communications technologies.
Furthermore, the speech also left out references to technological innovation, which can facilitate economic growth and national security, but will also require thoughtful policy development both in ensuring privacy and civil liberties protections, as well as in securing such technologies and the data upon which they rely.”

Dan Wagner – NSI Visiting Fellow; Legislative Liaison for Policy and Budget

“Trump needs to give his speech writer a raise after tonight.  A good portion of President Trump’s speeches are typically self-centered, and this one was no different, except that he did start and end on a promising note offering points of commonality between the parties.  This State of the Union seemed to have a significant focus on domestic issues with a smattering of national security and foreign policy.

He referred to World War II several times within his speech seemingly drawing a parallel between the greatest generation and greatest time in recent American history to his presidency.  His use of the WWII veterans was symbolic as a living example that no challenge is too great for America.  He went on to stressed that America is once again winning every day.

The President did seem to reach across the aisle and had a few unifying moments when it came to increasing jobs for women and minorities (particularly in Congress), as well as prison reform.  The big moment of the night was when he discussed lowing prescription drug costs and including pre-existing conditions.  These are what the president likely sees as offerings to the Democrats for some of the things that he is asking for in return – like the wall.

On foreign policy and national security specifically, the President briefly touched on most of the major issues, with the noticeable exceptions of Russia and cyber.  He even stated that if he had not been elected President, the US would ‘be in a major war with North Korea’.  It was also interesting when he mentioned China that he stated not to blame China but to blame our leadership.  This is a very slippery slope as if to say not to blame the dog for eating the hamburger that dropped on the ground.  We should most definitely hold China accountable for their actions as well as our leadership for not holding China accountable over the years.

On Syria, the President reinforced his decision stating that ‘Great nations do not fight endless wars.’  These remarks come after the Senate voted today not to allow Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria – a war that the Congress never exercised its Constitutional powers to begin.  There seems to be some confusion within Congress as to what to do about Iran while still in Iraq and Syria.  However, the President seems clear on stopping Iranian nuclear and terrorist efforts around the world.

As much as we would all like to only focus on domestic issues, we are one tragic terrorist or cyber event away from losing focus on all discussed in this speech if we don’t get national security and intelligence right.  The speech, though good, needed more emphasis on the legitimate national security threats that his intelligence professionals are telling him.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Security Institute or any agency of the U.S. government. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the National Security Institute or any U.S. government entity.