NSI Podcast: Cyber Deterrence

The National Security Institute published its first podcast which analyzed cyber deterrence.  This podcast featured NSI Fellow Bryson Bort, NSI Senior Fellow and Assistant Director of Cybersecurity Megan Brown, Jason Healey of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, and NSI Senior Fellow and Assistant Director of Emerging Technologies Dr. Andrea Little Limbago.  Moderated by NSI Senior Fellow Lester Munson, the wide-ranging conversation addressed topics such as the National Cyber Strategy, the role of the private sector in cyber deterrence, and the evolution of norms in cyberspace.

To hear more conversations like this, follow us on SoundCloud and to stay up to date with the latest news and insights from NSI follow us on Twitter.

NSI Policy Paper – Cyber Imperative: Preserve and Strengthen Public-Private Partnerships

This White Paper:

  • Examines the importance of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to United States cybersecurity policy and law
  • Explains the benefits of collaboration and partnership – domestically and abroad – over regulation and mandates
  • Describes challenges to cooperation, such as limitations in current law, the overlap in government cyber activities, and fear of post-hoc recrimination
  • Urges policymakers to strengthen partnership and collaboration through creative solutions that change the culture around private cyber risk and incidents

Click here to read the complete paper.

About the author:

Megan Brown is an NSI Senior Fellow and Associate Director for Cybersecurity Programs.  She is also a Partner at Wiley Rein LLP.  Prior to joining Wiley, Ms. Brown served in the Department of Justice as Counsel to two U.S. Attorneys General. 

National Cyber Strategy

This afternoon, President Trump released the National Cyber Strategy. Below, NSI experts offer their commentary.

September 20, 2018

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

“I am very pleased to see the new National Cyber Strategy formally establish the precedent to make routine the ‘work with like-minded partners to attribute and deter malicious cyber activities’. This is a key and necessary step that has been lacking in US cyber policy for many years.”

Bryson Bort – NSI Fellow; Founder & CEO SCYTHE

“This is the most comprehensive cybersecurity strategy document ever published—firmly stating a vision of the United States as ensuring a secure Internet by cooperation or force…The message appears to be: you will see an American Flag planted on your scorched computer(s).

This is the most comprehensive cybersecurity strategy document ever published—firmly stating a vision of the United States as ensuring a secure Internet by cooperation or force. It reads like a response to former NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers’ February Congressional testimony where he acknowledged current constraints in responding to the active threat landscape the US faces.

The ambitious scope is easily reflected in a just few stand out items: replacing social security numbers for identify management; addressing IOT security through the full lifecycle, although not post-deployment; a global “Cyber Deterrence Initiative” to strength partner law enforcement and information sharing capabilities; and the promise of “swift and transparent consequences” to deter attacks.

The message appears to be: you will see an American Flag planted on your scorched computer(s).”

Megan Brown – NSI Senior Fellow; Partner, Wiley Rein LLP

It is heartening to have a new cyber strategy committed to paper, for the private sector and the government.  There is a lot to like in here, and a lot of unanswered questions.  Big picture, this document lays out a muscular role for government as it relates to the private sector.

This strategy doubles down on the contracting community, with hints of some intrusive new requirements on the way.  This is notable because contractors have already been the “tip of the spear” on cyber regulatory obligations.

Not surprisingly, it tackles IT and telecom supply chain issues—hopefully the Administration can bring some clarity to the many overlapping federal efforts on this.

It puts DHS’ role on steroids and confirms the government’s commitment to nudging the private sector along, whether or not the industry wants help.  From trying to shape the market for “secure” products to encouraging manufacturers to test security and differentiate products based on security features, the government sends a message that it will take an active role.  Its emphasis on transparency and the roll out of secure next-generation telecom and IT infrastructure will affect technology companies and the broader economy.

The bottom line: industry needs to prepare for additional expectations and obligations, and get ready to interact with the government in a variety of settings.

Cameron Burks – NSI Visiting Fellow; Deputy Chief Security Officer, Chevron Corporation

“The Administration’s focus on protecting critical infrastructure against cyber attacks and providing risk-reduction activities across key sectors and the maritime space is a critical element of the new strategy. It reflects a clear understanding that enhanced government-to-private sector engagement is a vital imperative to the country’s national security.”


Jamil N. Jaffer – Founder, National Security Institute

“While the current administration’s national security apparatus may face significant challenges from within, the fact is, the President and his team got this one right: ignoring the costs of malicious cyber activity, including destructive attacks and efforts to undermine our core economic base through IP theft and extortion, is a recipe for disaster.

We must make clear to our enemies in cyberspace, including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, that they will no longer be free to conduct destructive or disabling attacks on U.S. soil or against American companies, our government, or our allies, whether in Central Europe, Asia, or the Middle East.  Nor must they think it is acceptable to pillage our American industry of the very technology that is at the core of our economic vitality, undermine our democratic institutions, or pre-position assets to use against us in a future conflict.

The administration’s new strategy–with its discussion of deterrence and consequences—is thus a step in the right direction.

But more must be done immediately.  The time for mere words has passed. We must respond swiftly and surely to cyber activities that threaten our national security.  To that end, the new strategy’s promise of ‘swift and transparent consequences,’ is exactly spot on, and we must now deliver on this promise when challenged in cyberspace.”

Andy Keiser – NSI Fellow; Former Senior Advisor, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

“The National Cyber Strategy announced by President Trump today is an important step in not only identifying the threats to the United States in cyberspace, but the opportunities and solutions. The strategy touches on typical areas of hardening federal systems, while introducing newer concepts such as an international deterrence model in cyber.

After 15 years of multiple Administrations admiring the problem, the Trump Administration should be given credit for conducting a full interagency review grown out of the National Security Strategy process to get this critical policy in place which has a direct impact on our economy and security. Though it is surely not the end all be all for what needs to happen in cyber, the new NCS will help guide a whole-of-government response to the threats against and openings for the U.S. in cyber.”


Dr. Andrea Little Limbago – NSI Senior Fellow; Chief Social Scientist, Endgame

“In many ways, this strategy is the first articulation of a whole-of-nation approach to the range of digital state and non-state threats. The NCS prioritizes the integration of cyber with other elements of national power, focusing on fostering diplomatic norms, countering disinformation, deterring and disrupting malicious activity, and enabling economic prosperity. The private sector also plays a prominent role in this strategy, with everything from incentivizing robust risk management and incident response to augmenting mechanisms for greater information sharing.

The promotion of a free and open internet is at the core of the NCS, and reaffirms American leadership in shaping a democratic, multi-stakeholder model of internet governance. In contrast to the authoritarian model of censorship, data localization, and digital protectionism, the NCS reasserts American commitment to an open internet as a core feature of protecting democracy. While several other recent strategies and policies have emphasized offensive cyber capabilities, that same verbiage of continuous engagement and defending forward is surprisingly minimal. In fact, the NCS emphasizes that efforts to counter malign activities will continue to respect and preserve democratic values.”

Harold Moss – NSI Visiting Fellow; Senior Director Strategy, Akamai Technologies

“The rapid pace at which technology and cyber threats are evolving, warrants the need for a combined public and private response as highlighted in the newly released cybersecurity strategy update.

The first step to a sustainable cyber strategy is enabling future cyber talent and leveraging existing public sector talent to buttress existing cybersecurity deficiencies. The acknowledgement that we must expand our cyber talent pool, is significant and meaningful.  In absence of concrete and detailed steps, one has to remain cautiously optimistic.  I for one look forward to additional context related to building the necessary foundation for such an endeavor. “

Megan Stifel – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Director for International Cyber Policy, National Security Council
“The White House strategy released importantly recognizes the opportunities of interconnected technologies as well as the risks and vulnerabilities created. The announcement today builds upon ongoing efforts to protect and defend United States information infrastructure in the new era. By bringing these ongoing efforts together into a cohesive document, today’s Strategy sends a strong signal not only that cybersecurity remains a priority to the United States, but also that it is a whole of nation effort—that the government plays an important but not independent role in sustaining the Internet ecosystem for the future.Among the key priorities identified by the Strategy are that the government must lead by example, including through workforce training and development and supply chain risk management. Expanding from the government as an enterprise risk management organization, the Strategy prioritizes building and supporting technical and policy relationships to sustain United States economic and security interests for the future. The Strategy highlights the critical role U.S., partner, and ally information and communications technologies and networks play in maintaining secure and resilient economies and the need to continue efforts to support the development of norms, multistakeholder internet governance, and internet freedom, in particular by continuing capacity building efforts to achieve these objectives.”

Dave Weinstein – NSI Visiting Fellow; Vice President of Threat Research, Claroty, Inc.

“Until now the United States has not formally adopted an international approach to cyber deterrence.  The Cyber Deterrence Initiative, which would formally strengthen collaboration with other countries on incident response and attribution, is a promising concept. Successful implementation will depend on what countries participate and their level of commitment.  In this respect, geographical diversity is key to establishing and maintaining the credibility of such a body.  The east versus west I would expect the “Five Eyes” and other NATO member-states to be among the first recruits for the coalition, but it would be worth exploring the private sector’s role in such a construct.
It’s encouraging to critical infrastructure risk management featured so prominently in the Strategy, but the substance is a bit lackluster.  More creativity is needed for government to maximize its contributions to what is largely a private sector problem.  Some of the best ways for government to “secure critical infrastructure” is to incentive investment in technology, people, and training; share actionable threat intelligence; and deter activities that hold infrastructure assets (and the citizens they serve) at risk.”

Call for Presentations: Hack the Capitol

Hack the Capitol is an two day event in Washington, DC on September 26th and 27th to provide hands-on education and awareness to Congressional Staffers, Think Tanks, and Press. Talks, workshops, hands-on exhibits, and demos should be tailored toward a non-technical audience. Please consider this with your submission. This kind of event has never been done before and will have significant value in raising awareness of our Nation’s challenges with critical infrastructure and constructively providing kinesthetic learning at multiple levels.

To submit a presentation, click here.

Helsinki Summit: Experts Weigh In

Early this morning, President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in three back-to-back meeting sessions.  Below, NSI experts weigh in on the outcome of the meetings and what they mean for future U.S. – Russia relations. 

July 16, 2018

Andrew Borene – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Associate Deputy General Counsel, U.S. Department of Defense

“We definitely need to wait and see what gets said on the record and what specific action items come out of the meeting, before we can make reliable assessments about it.

It is not clear what, if any, defined outcomes are being sought by The White House in Helsinki with Putin. President Trump himself says he has “low expectations.” This meeting also comes right on the heels of conflicting White House messages about the US commitment to the NATO alliance, which is the Russian Federation’s most significant geopolitical counterweight. 
In the background of President Trump’s Russia summit will be a continuing tension between the President and the US Justice Department’s work on Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Friday the 13th surprise indictment of Russian intelligence operatives for hacking during the 2016 election was probably not on President Trump’s initially planned agenda.”

Jamie Fly – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator Marco Rubio

“President Trump’s performance at a press conference earlier today with Russian President Vladimir Putin was nothing short of disgraceful.  He turned an opportunity to send a strong deterrent message against future Russian interference in American democracy into an attack on American institutions that only empowers our enemies.Instead of pushing back against the long trail of death and destruction that Vladimir Putin has left around the globe, President Trump lowered America to Putin’s level.  It was “Russia First” at its worst.Luckily, beyond the press conference, it appears as of now, that the damage was limited.  There were few signs of progress on arms control, Syria, or other issues.  American and Russian interests are fundamentally opposed on many of these key challenges and hopefully Trump administration officials realize that as they follow up with their Russian counterparts after this meeting, even if the President they work for clearly does not.”

Matthew R. A. Heiman – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Lawyer, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice and the Coalition Provisional Authority, Baghdad, Iraq

“Absent Putin reversing himself on his foreign policy agenda, the best result for President Trump is a summit that yields no significant deals.  That’s because there are very few opportunities for agreement between the U.S. and Russia.  Rather, President Trump should articulate U.S positions in the same blunt style of speaking we saw from him during his meetings with NATO members and Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom. Trump should make clear that the U.S. opposes and will continue to take strong action against interference in U.S. elections.  Trump should say that the U.S. will remain in Syria, we will not tolerate an Iranian beachhead there, and we will support Israel’s campaign of attacking the Iranian backed militias in Syria.  Trump should make clear that the U.S. stands with a Ukraine that is democratic and peaceful and enjoys territorial integrity.  The chill in U.S.-Russia relations is because Putin is a bad actor on the world stage, and it took the U.S. far too long to realize it.  Hopefully, President Trump recognizes that the best deal to be had is no deal.

Andrew Keiser – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Senior Advisor, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

“Similar to the past three occupants of the Oval Office, President Trump has long maintained a desire to improve U.S. relations with Russia. Though I believe it demonstrates a naivety of Russia’s decades-long work against the United States at every turn, there is nothing wrong with this desire in and of itself.

However, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary from his own intelligence services, President Trump seems to dismiss Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections and their consistent, aggressive undermining of U.S. interests around the world. Russia, the GRU and President Vladimir Putin do not respond to nuance and mixed messages, they only respond to direct, unified voices typically coupled with the credible threat of military force.

Though I was heartened to see President Trump raise the issue of Russia’s unacceptable American election interference, he went on to undermine his own government’s position with our top geopolitical foe standing by his side.

With moral equivalency offered between U.S. and Russian actions around the world, it seems Russia has been given a green light to nakedly pursue its’ own interests in Ukraine and Syria, by silencing dissent by any means necessary and by creating trouble all over the globe from Venezuela and Cuba to Moldova and Georgia to North Korea and the Arctic.

How the Russians balance the friendly rhetoric from the President of the United States, with the tough policies his Administration has put forward on sanctions, lethal arms to Ukraine, an aggressive posture in Syria and kicking out Russian intelligence officers from the U.S. remains an open question.” 

Dr. Andrea LimbagoNSI Visiting Fellow; Chief Social Scientist, Endgame

“The summit takes place at a time of increased tensions between Russia and the United States. Friday’s indictment details yet again that Russian election interference extends well beyond the DNC breach. It also includes a compromise into state board of elections websites, the data theft of half a million voters, and county-level reconnaissance of election websites, not to mention the bots and trolls leveraged throughout social media to amplify their messaging. Importantly, election interference is only one part of the playbook for Russian interference operations. Russian interference extends well beyond the 2016 election to undermine U.S. national and economic security and should have been the core topic discussed at today’s summit.

Russian interference operations extend well beyond elections, and include compromise and/or reconnaissance of U.S. critical infrastructure, underwater cables that are core to trillions of dollars of transactions and communications, a global campaign targeting routers, not to mention the NotPetya attack which caused over a billion dollars in damage globally or the onslaught of similar attacks on NATO and our European allies. This is the behavior by Russia that is deteriorating the relationship. Attending this Summit without prioritizing Russian interference operations is not only dangerous to our national, physical, and economic security, but it also provides the green light to the growing range of global actors who are increasingly adopting Russia’s interference tactics, knowing they can do so with impunity.”

Lester Munson – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Staff Director, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

““It would appear that this meeting was a missed opportunity at best. President Trump needs real achievements on Syria, North Korea, Russian cyber attacks on our elections and Russia pulling out of Ukraine. Thankfully, the president must defer to Congress on many of the matters discussed today.  He has little flexibility on lifting sanctions on Russia absent real progress on these issues. Congress, particularly the Senate, should step up its direct involvement in policy-making for the betterment of our national security.”

NATO Summit: NSI Experts Weigh In

Early this morning, President Donald Trump met with European leaders at NATO’s annual summit in Brussels.  Below, NSI experts weigh in on the outcome of the summit and what it means for stability in Europe and U.S.-European relations. 

July 11, 2018

Jamie Fly – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Foreign Policy Advisor to Senator Marco Rubio

“NATO is the world’s most successful security alliance.  Yet NATO allies cannot rest on their laurels.  President Trump’s admonitions regarding burden sharing have produced significant results yet more needs to be done.  After almost seventeen years of war, Americans across the political spectrum expect U.S. allies to pull their own weight.  The summit declaration approved today by NATO leaders appears to do just that as the alliance works together to tackle traditional and emerging challenges to allied security.  Transatlantic security would be best served by more focus on the reality of what NATO is doing on a daily basis to protect its members’ citizens instead of theatrics and personal attacks on allies.” 

Matthew R. A. Heiman – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Lawyer, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice and the Coalition Provisional Authority, Baghdad, Iraq

“President Trump believes Europe takes advantage of the U.S. by enjoying NATO’s security guarantees without paying enough for the benefit.  His belief is not unreasonable.  In 2014, NATO members pledged to spend 2 percent of their GDP on their militaries.  While only the U.S., the U.K., Estonia, and Greece meet that target today, pressure from the U.S. has contributed to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania being on target to reach the threshold this year and others reaching this goal in the coming years.  It’s important that friends hold each other to account, and blunt talk amongst allies should not threaten the future of NATO.  Rather, NATO’s future depends on both financial contributions to military spending by each member and clear plans that ensure NATO resources match the strategic threats posed by Russian hybrid-wars, cyber attacks, and expansionism; instability in the Middle East and North Africa; and the continued risk of radical Islamic terrorism.  Hopefully, attendees at the NATO summit this week recognize that the future of the alliance depends on words being matched with deeds.” 

Andrew Keiser – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Senior Advisor, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

“Since 1949, NATO has been the foundation for transatlantic security.  The strength of NATO helped lead to unprecedented stability and prosperity for the West.  That said, it  has been a long-standing concern of the United States that NATO allies were not doing their fair share to maintain a deterrent against aggressors of the alliance.  

Though difficult conversations among friends are probably best held behind closed doors, those quiet conversations rarely led to meaningful reforms in decades past.  Perhaps a different approach will lead to a different result that ultimately could be a stronger NATO and a more effective check on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist intentions” 

Dr. Andrea LimbagoNSI Visiting Fellow; Chief Social Scientist, Endgame

“The NATO Summit is traditionally a time to celebrate one of the most successful alliances in history. Instead, this year’s Summit is preoccupied with defense spending and achieving the 2% of GDP target by 2024. Clearly, member-state contributions are essential, but for the most part member-state spending has been increasing over the past four years. This tunnel vision on defense spending is an unhelpful distraction away from the constructive dialogue required to address the core national security threats to the U.S. and its NATO allies.

The member-states are simultaneously defending threats at home and abroad. The collective security alliance must continue to evolve and strengthen to counter the twenty-first century threat landscape. This includes domestic and international terrorist groups, countering disinformation, clarifying the cyber component of Article V, and of course the range of authoritarian regimes who are undermining stability across the globe.

NATO remains extremely relevant to safeguard democratic principles internationally and support U.S. national security. In fact, yesterday the U.S. Senate reaffirmed NATO’s relevance in a 97-2 vote in favor of supporting the U.S. commitment to NATO. Unfortunately, the current unnecessary and self-inflicted internal tensions and divisions within NATO play right into the hands of state and non-state adversaries.” 

Lester Munson – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Staff Director, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

“It is a good thing, not a bad thing, to urge our European allies to contribute more substantially to NATO’s defense. Similarly, it is good to urge Germany to untie itself from Russia’s energy predations.  The manner of delivery may be awkward and off-putting, but the substance of the president’s message today is sound.”  

NSI Advisory Board Member Ellen McCarthy Nominated to Serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research

April 30, 2018
Contact: Garrett Ventry
716-628-4593 (cell)

National Security Institute Advisory Board Member Ellen McCarthy Nominated to Serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research

Arlington, VA – On June 12, 2018, the White House announced the nomination of NSI Advisory Board member Ellen McCarthy to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR).  Ms. McCarthy has served as President of Noblis NSP since 2016 and also previously served as Chief Operating Officer of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), where she oversaw NGA’s daily business activities and advised the Director of NGA on a range of issues, including strategic planning and corporate governance.  Before joining NGA, Ms. McCarthy served as President of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA), where she currently serves on the Board of Directors.  Ms. McCarthy also previously served as Director of the Human Capital Management Office and the Acting Director of Security within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, where she developed and deployed the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System (DCIPS), as well as in multiple intelligence roles in the United States Navy (USN) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), including as Director of Intelligence Operations, Strategy and Policy for the USCG.

“Ellen McCarthy has long been a leader and innovator in the intelligence community, serving our nation with distinction and honor both in government and the private sector, and she is an inspired pick for this critically important position,” said Jamil N. Jaffer, NSI Founder.  “Indeed, Ellen brings a unique skillset to this nomination, having served on the leadership team that reshaped NGA from the inside and having led an effort to transform Noblis NSP into a truly unified operation.”

INR is a bureau of the Department of State and a member of the Intelligence Community, whose primary mission is to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy.  INR is a direct descendant of the Office of Strategic Services Research Department and is the oldest civilian intelligence element in the U.S. Government.  INR provides independent analysis of events to State Department policymakers and ensures that intelligence activities support foreign policy and national security purposes.

Ms. McCarthy’s bio can be found here.  More information on INR can be found here.

About the National Security Institute
The National Security Institute serves as a platform for research, teaching, scholarship, and policy development that incorporates a realistic assessment of the threats facing the United States and its allies, as well as an appreciation of the legal and practical challenges facing U.S. intelligence, defense, law enforcement, homeland security, and cybersecurity communities.  NSI draws on the experience of its visiting fellows, as well as its highly distinguished advisory board and faculty, to produce timely research and policy materials that deliver insightful analysis and actionable recommendations to senior policymakers in the White House and key departments and agencies, as well as those on Capitol Hill.

About George Mason
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 33,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states.  Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.

About the Scalia Law School
The Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University is defined by three words: Learn. Challenge. Lead. Students receive an outstanding legal education (Learn), are taught to critically evaluate prevailing orthodoxy and pursue new ideas (Challenge), and, ultimately, are well prepared to distinguish themselves in their chosen fields (Lead).  It has been one of America’s top-ranked law schools for the last fifteen years.

The State of the Union Address: NSI Experts Weigh In

President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address earlier tonight. He outlined his Administration’s accomplishments to date and spoke on five major policy areas: the economy, infrastructure, immigration, trade, and national security. Below are analyses of the President’s State of the Union remarks on national security from NSI experts:

January 30, 2018

Bryson Bort – NSI Visiting Fellow; Founder & CEO, SCYTHE

“Trump’s State of the Union veered between a victory lap and an appeal to unity hampered by the red meat thrown to his base.  Like negotiating in business, the best approach is a show of strength whether it’s there or not.  This speech was clearly setting up the 2018 mid-terms: ‘together we can achieve absolutely anything,’ but this message may have been lost in the strong emphasis on traditional Republican interests: constitutionalism, second amendment, defense, and smaller government.  A significant amount of the speech was devoted to the tax cut legislation, the only significant legislative achievement of 2017, but was short on a detailed vision for the future.  Only immigration was mentioned in any detail for action.”

Matthew R. A. Heiman – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Lawyer, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice and the Coalition Provisional Authority, Baghdad, Iraq

“In his State of the Union address, President Trump in stark and strong language called for strengthening our military and nuclear arsenal in order to defend against our adversaries, with a particular focus on the barbaric regime ruling North Korea.  President Trump’s blunt assessment of America’s place in the world and its national security needs is a welcome and necessary change from the retrenchment and passivity of the Obama administration.”

Jamil Jaffer – Founder, National Security Institute; Former Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“Today’s State of the Union had a strong finish, with the President publicly making the case for a newly assertive America, unafraid of her enemies and unashamed of her allies.  The President correctly called for an end to the defense sequester which has hampered our military effectiveness for far too long and instructed the Secretary of Defense to ensure that we have a viable capture option for terrorists that can’t be prosecuted.  Perhaps most importantly, the President called out North Korea, Iran, China and Russia for the very real threat they each pose to our national security.  On the critically important issue of our nation’s security, this speech was a strong, confident, and unmistakable message to our friends and enemies alike.”

Andrew Keiser – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Senior Advisor, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

“President Trump tonight shined a bright spotlight on America’s growing economic strength.  History tells us that military strength abroad can only be derived from economic strength at home.  America’s adversaries and allies alike are taking notice and the President’s State of the Union sought to ensure they didn’t miss the memo.”

Lester Munson – NSI Visiting Fellow; Former Staff Director, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

“The president’s speech highlighted many compelling issues and was even inspirational at points.  His constricted view of foreign assistance, however, is of concern and risks, in some measure, American leadership around the globe.”


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

“Building ‘peace through strength’ requires the Congress to do what only it can under our Constitution — pass appropriations. Yet it has failed to so for four months of this fiscal year.  Granted, tax reform, immigration political polarization — all make passage of an annual spending bill dauntingly complex.  But so is life. There is no excuse for fiscal abdication.  A full year Continuing Resolution would prevent the President from executing his national security strategy, but more to the point, would betray our men and women in arms.”

Policy Corner with General Michael Hayden (ret)

Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University
Monday, January 29, 2018 | 7:00pm-8:30pm | Founders Hall

Iran continues to be the single most destabilizing influence in the Middle East, Near East, and South Asia, through its nuclear and missile development programs, malign influence through the use of proxy forces in the region, and its direct military action in Iraq and Syria. Iran’s ability or willingness to abide by terms of the Obama era nuclear deal dominates policy deliberations in Washington and allied capitals. Norman Roule, who retired in October as the National Intelligence Manager-Iran, served for nearly a decade as the US Intelligence Community’s top expert on these subjects and participated in national-level policy deliberations in the Trump, Obama, and Bush Administrations.

Please join General Hayden on Monday, January 29th, at 7 pm, as he probes these issues with Mr. Roule. This unique event affords an opportunity to learn firsthand how intelligence informed policy deliberations, yielding distinct approaches to Iran, and to what extent intelligence measured policy effectiveness. Mr. Roule also will provide insights into the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump’s recent decision to decertify the arrangement, and its implications for the region.

Mr. Roule’s more than three-decade career at the Central Intelligence Agency, primarily focused in the broader Middle East, also exposed him to an array of counterintelligence, counterproliferation, counterterrorism, cyber, and sanctions issues related to the region. He will be able to address recent developments in Saudi Arabia, its rivalry with Iran for influence in the area, the conflict with and within Yemen, and disagreements among nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Following their conversation, Mr. Roule will be available for audience questions. A reception will follow.

Please register here.

The Role of National Security Law Advisor: An Insider’s Perspective


Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University
Thursday, January 25, 2018 | 12:00pm | Hazel Hall

In partnership with Our Soldiers Speak, the Scalia Law School Federalist Society, the Scalia Law School Jewish Law Students Association, and the National Security Law Journal,  the National Security Institute hosted Marlene Mazel, director of the Counter-Terrorism Litigation Division of the Israeli Ministry of Justice. Ms. Mazel discussed her diverse experiences in international law, the growing importance of “lawfare,” and the career path that led her to the Ministry of Justice. The event was moderated by NSI founder Jamil Jaffer. Thank you to Ms. Mazel for engaging in this conversation with us!

National Defense Strategy: NSI Experts Weigh In


The Department of Defense unveiled its new National Defense Strategy earlier today. The National Defense Strategy plays an integral role in identifying the capabilities required to support President Trump’s National Security Strategy, describing the Department’s overarching goals and strategy, and informing the National Military Strategy, which is scheduled to be released in February 2018. Below, our NSI Visiting Fellows offer their commentary.

January 19, 2018

Dmitri Alperovitch – NSI Visiting Fellow

The National Defense Strategy (NDS) marks a new era in U.S. security strategy as it downplays terrorism, following a 16 year all-consuming focus, and highlights “inter-state strategic competition” from revisionist powers like China and Russia as the primary concern to national security. According to the strategy, some of the main components of countering these threats will be operational unpredictability, increased lethality, and focused efforts on countering coercion and subversion through inter-agency cooperation and partnerships with allies.

This NDS is clearly a refocus of America’s strategic interests back towards deterrence of state-on-state conflict and development of new innovating strategies for dominating and winning such conflicts should they occur. It rightly recognizes the importance of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence in the future warfare and prioritizes such investment, along with emphasis on global and rapid maneuver capabilities of smaller and more dispersed units. Future wars will unlikely see months-long mobilization of heavy armor divisions to face opposing armies in all out conflict but instead will consist of numerous regional or even global kinetic engagements of smaller forces across undefinable front lines. The U.S. military needs to increase its agility, speed, and resiliency of force structure and deployment capabilities in order to stand ready to fight and win the next conflict. This strategy is a big step forward in recognition of this reality.

Bryson Bort – Founder & CEO, SCYTHE

The strategy steps back from hard power tunnel vision and recognizes the interagency cooperation and benefits of a soft power approach. Our adversaries have increasingly resorted to “soft” offensive tactics, information operations being a primary example. “Inter-state strategic competition” is prioritized over terrorism: China and Russia are identified extensively and explicitly as adversaries. The call out of China reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and hopefully will allay fears of the U.S. just ceding strategic primacy. However, the document recognizes non-state actor influences and notes “increasingly sophisticated” nature their cyber capabilities. Cyberspace is clearly listed as a domain that needs to be integrated into the full spectrum of military operations: U.S. Cyber Command is going to be the key agency to watch this develop.

Megan Brown – Cybersecurity Practice Lead, Wiley Rein, LLP; Former Counsel to the Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

The Strategy addresses cyber in a few places, but it should have emphasized the threat and the need for a serious reckoning about international norms and confusion about the role of the private sector.

The strategy includes a cryptic reference to the private sector. It says there is “a positive side” to the increased role of non-state actors: “non-governmental organizations, corporations, and strategic influencers provide opportunities for collaboration and partnership.”  The private sector can help.  But regulatory uncertainty and liability risks are real.  Companies can face blowback from working with the government.  If it really wants partnership, the Administration should do some creative thinking to create “safe spaces” for the private sector to work with the government; options include limiting liability, protecting private information, and recognizing that private sector actors are victims of cybercrime.

Jason C. Chipman – Partner, Defense and National Security Practice, WilmerHale LLP; Former Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

The newly released National Defense Strategy reveals a growing unease at the Pentagon with advanced technologies being acquired by foreign actors.  The strategy calls for DoD to “harness and protect” the “national security innovation base” so our country can maintain military superiority in an environment where advanced technology important for the war fighter is increasingly developed in commercial sectors far from the military.  This is certainly a reasonable strategic goal, but protecting innovation is a delicate task.  It requires balancing our open economy built to foster technological breakthroughs with regulations that limit the transfer of U.S. technology and business abroad.  In the near term, as DoD becomes more assertive in its effort to protect American innovation, it will be increasingly important for American companies to understand how they are perceived by the defense establishment in Washington and to understand whether their ability to transfer products and technologies abroad may be curtailed in the future.

Matthew Heiman – Former Attorney, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice and the Coalition Provisional Authority, Baghdad, Iraq

The National Defense Strategy Summary argues correctly that the chief strategic threats to the security of the U.S. are China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.  The more interesting aspect of the Summary is the emphasis on ensuring that the Department of Defense has the means to address these threats.  Along with expected arguments in favor of modernizing the defense architecture and ensuring cooperation and interoperability with allies, both of which are critical, the Summary states that the Department must become less adverse to risk.  It must focus on the development of its people, and the Department must drive for greater efficiency and accountability to allow for the proper allocation of resources.  These items sound mundane, but change and improvement in these areas are critical to strengthening national security.  I am pleased that the Summary highlighted these points, and I hope they are followed by demonstrable improvements to the Department’s operations and culture.

Jamil Jaffer – Founder, National Security Institute; Former Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Today’s new National Defense Strategy reflects – and seeks to implement – the bold vision set out in last month’s National Security Strategy of a resurgent America, standing strong against key strategic competitors including China and Russia, and with a military capable of meeting a wide range of challenges across the various classic domains of warfare, along with the newer expanding domains in space and cyber.  It further reflects an America well aware of its place in the world as a military superpower, and the need to maintain that decisive advantage going forward, so that the nation is prepared to enforce and protect its interests – and those of our allies, with whom we will stand strong – in a world of growing strategic competition for influence, resources, and capabilities.

These challenges are only heightened by the more aggressive use of asymmetric capabilities, including in cyberspace, as well as the employment of proxy forces by regional actors, like Iran and North Korea, that seek a bigger role in the world.  And the NDS correctly recognizes that allowing our nation to continue on the same path, without significant change, would likely result in continued strategic atrophy, decreasing influence around the world, the flight of key allies, and more limited economic opportunities.  As such, this NDS is a dramatic improvement on the “lead from behind” approach which has created a more dangerous world, one in which America’s influence is reduced and its capabilities diminished.

Today’s NDS therefore calls for a more lethal and innovative joint force that can win in this new, difficult environment and properly recognizes that identifying and utilizing the best in American innovation, particularly technological innovation, is critical to creating and sustaining such a force.  In particular, this means that, as the NDS accurately predicts, significant changes will be needed in the Department of Defense’s culture and policies.  While these changes will undoubtedly be hard, successful implementation of such change will allow our nation to build a more agile, flexible, and responsive force that can truly respond with speed and lethality against those that would threaten our national security.

Andrew Keiser – Former Senior Advisor, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

The new National Defense Strategy removes America’s rose-colored glasses internationally and provides a clear-eyed assessment of the geopolitical landscape and a sober plan to advance U.S. national security interests within that framework. Two important themes that, in my view, represent a correct shift in the Department’s thinking and planning are that “inter-state strategic completion is now the primary concern in U.S. national security” and that the U.S. military has “no preordained right to victory on the battlefield.” These statements will not be without controversy but given the rapidly changing international dynamics in recent years are an accurate state of play for those taking a realistic view of the global security environment and our response to it.

Dr. Andrea Limbago – Chief Social Scientist, Endgame; Former Senior Technical Lead, Joint Warfare Analysis Center

Policy generally lags behind technological change. The new National Defense Strategy breaks from that paradigm, and focuses on the intersection of technological advances and the shifting geopolitical environment as the core foundation. Importantly, the strategy reinforces America’s role in protecting a free and open global commons in cooperation with our historic allies, while noting the significant limitations of fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s capabilities. Instead, the NDS emphasizes technological advances such as those in autonomy, artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, and a workforce that excels in these areas. While the strategy succeeds at avoiding preparations for yesterday’s wars, it missed an opportunity to truly overcome the “strategic atrophy” that it rightfully notes has hindered strategic advancement on pace with technological advances. A return to a framework based on major power competition is simply inadequate to address the entirety of the geopolitical and technological shifts underway. To fully innovate our national defense to handle these shifts, the U.S. not only must focus on technological innovation, but also on how these technologies impact and are embraced by societies and foreign governments. Technological advances are fundamentally shifting power symmetries across state and non-state actors. A failure to reimagine the intersection of power, technology, and society limits our understanding of adversarial capabilities and intent, and will continue to leave America flat footed in light of the unprecedented socio-technological shifts that are underway.

Lester Munson – Vice President, International, BGR Group; Former Staff Director, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

The National Defense Strategy released today suffers no illusions and offers a sober, realistic approach to America’s challenges around the world.  There are no political buzzwords or chic policy initiatives in this strategy, just a hard-headed and accurate assessment of the way forward.  President Trump, Secretary Mattis, and the rest of the administration’s national security team should be commended for seeing the world as it is and speaking the truth.

Megan Reiss – Former Senior National Security Fellow, Office of Senator Ben Sasse

The National Defense Strategy builds on the 2017 National Security Strategy’s realist narrative, correctly identifying the burden the United States faces in a world where revisionist powers are bent on spreading authoritarianism. Most significantly, it sets out a vision for the United States to not only deter aggression and compete in the field of hostile actors, but to win by developing a more lethal military, stronger alliances, greater technological advancement, and improved cultural will.

Importantly, the NDS indicates that the Department of Defense is prepared to engage with the development of new technology – cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, biotechnology – and to wrestle with how to integrate into its strategic planning emerging technologies that lower the barrier of entry to the battlefield. The need to maintain (and, I would argue, to strengthen) our competitive advantage in emerging technology should serve as a call-to-arms for the Department to work with the private sector to address the challenges inherent to the changing nature of war.

Bryan Smith – Vice President & Technical Advisor, Beacon Global Strategies

The NDS takes a clear-eyed view of the strategic environment, appropriately prioritizes the threats, and lays out a reasonable strategic response for the Nation.  There is a big missing piece, however – the resources strategy for building a more ready, lethal, and sustainable threat focused on Russia and China, amidst an increasingly unfavorable government-wide fiscal situation.  From all accounts, the Department made no effort to tackle what is aways the last frontier in national security strategy – money.   Pentagon budgeteers conduct incessant near-term drills around tactical inflection points in the multi-year programming and budget cycle.  Policy wonks give birth to elaborate year-long, quadrennial, grand strategy exercises, such as the NDS, without a serious thought to resource constraints. And never the twain meet.  Can anyone imagine a corporate board of a major publicly-held corporation conducting business this way?

NSI in the Media

Recent Media Hits from NSI Founder Jamil Jaffer:

September 5, 2017 Axios – Quote: Nikki Haley sounds ominous notes on Iran deal

September 3, 2017 VOA International Edition: North Korea says it tested a hydrogen bomb. What China can do about it. Kenyan election woes. Health hazards from Hurricane Harvey. Remembering a master of song.
Clip begins @ 1:05 – 5:40

August 28, 2017 – Bloomberg Technology: North Korea Appears to have Fired Missile Toward Japan: NHK
Clip begins @ 37:40

Recent Media Hits from NSI Faculty:

September 1, 2017 Wall Street Journal: ‘Killer Robots’ Can Make War Less Awful

Jeremy Rabkin, Faculty (GMU & NSI)

Scalia Law’s Jamil Jaffer returns to the classroom after clerking for Justice Gorsuch

Jamil Jaffer (far left), former clerk for Justice Scalia, gives a tour to students at the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Although he said he will miss working at the Supreme Court, Jamil Jaffer is just as happy to be back in the classroom as a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.

In July, Jaffer completed a three-month stint as a law clerk for newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. He returns to George Mason’s classrooms, he said, with the kinds of insights only firsthand experience can impart.

“Working on the lead-up to Justice Gorsuch’s nomination and subsequent confirmation, as well as a law clerk to the justice at the Supreme Court during his first three months on the bench, will help me provide students with some insight on the process of how a justice is nominated and confirmed, how the court works on a day-to-day basis, and the range of opportunities Mason students might have to work with the courts, whether it’s at the Supreme Court or other courts at the local, state, and federal levels,” he said.

Jaffer, who is also the founder of the law school’s new National Security Institute, was selected for the prestigious clerking position—justices typically employ only four clerks; the chief justice may hire five—because he had clerked for Gorsuch before, when Gorsuch was a new judge at the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, Colo. The other clerks and staff that helped Gorsuch get started were very close to him as well, Jaffer said.

“Justice Gorsuch was confirmed on a Friday, started working on Monday, and by the next Monday had to be prepared to handle 13 cases for the April sitting of the court,” he said. “So he got a small group of his experienced former law clerks and staff together to help him with that process.”

Jaffer said although he will miss working at the Supreme Court, he looks forward to the relatively more predictable hours of working at a cybersecurity startup, teaching his National Security Law course and helping quarterback the institute, as well as continuing his academic work at Scalia Law and his visiting fellowship with the Hoover Institution.

“At the court the in-person hours can get pretty long,” he said. “And in certain instances, the work can keep you at One First Street into the wee hours of the morning. … Now I’ll probably see my family on evenings and weekends more, although I’m not sure I’ll be doing all that much less work.”


This article was originally published by Buzz McClain for the News at Mason website here.