All posts by Jason Chuma

The Hacking of Rome

This is the second article of our “Sacking of Rome” week: red-teaming the global order and learning from history.

This is not a prediction for the future, simply a thought experiment to tell a story of what might be. Thinking about how American power and influence might decline is not a slight to the United States. It is a strength. We are not a people blinded by American hubris, but instead are willing to honestly analyze the negative what-ifs while working toward the positive ones.

When discussing the fall of the United States, the initial reaction is to think of a dramatic collapse. Things such as losing World War III in an enormous battle or an economic collapse making the Great Depression look like a little setback could make for an engaging movie, but reality does not have to entertain – it simply has to be.

This is fiction, not a prediction, but hopefully it makes us think.

And Now for our Story…

The United States is powerless. Though our economy is still intact for the moment, our ability to influence events on the world stage and protect our national interests is gone. We try to turn to our allies for help, but even our oldest friends recognize that the balance of power has shifted and begin to reshape their alliances to look out for their best interests. We are alone, afraid, and powerless in a very complicated world. How did we get here?

The Age of Austerity

As the War on Terror wound down, the Department of Defense entered what has now become known as “the age of austerity.” We began to heed the warnings of Admiral Mike Mullen that our national debt is the biggest threat to our national security. It started with sequestration in 2013. The writing was on the wall that we were no longer the post-Cold War hegemon of the 1990s and once again simply a strong player within a multipolar world.

Before we knew it, China was no longer just a developing power. Profits from energy exports enabled Russia to regain its seat as a major player on the global stage. If there was a time for more guns and less butter it was then. But America was tired and mostly broke from over a decade of war, so the Department of Defense was forced to confront more diverse global challenges with fewer resources.

The future emerged amongst a sea of buzzwords and lightning bolts connecting nodes on countless PowerPoint slides within the Pentagon. It was impossible to attend a Department of Defense brief without network-centric warfare, cross-domain synergy, asymmetric advantages, and autonomous unmanned systems being heralded as the solution to all problems.

In an effort to preserve America’s military advantage while reducing long-term spending, we invested in unmanned technologies and the ability to network unmanned and highly advanced manned systems together. The network enabled coordinated operations across all domains almost simultaneously. This would provide the quick and overwhelming response necessary to defeat any adversary, and the best part was it required minimal personnel. Unmanned systems might have a high upfront cost, but they do not require a salary, medical care for dependents, or a retirement plan. The extra savings from eliminating as many people as possible enabled the establishment of a network of unmanned undersea, surface, air, and even space systems providing continuous intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance on a global scale and immediate coordinated response in the event of hostilities. The global influence of the United States was secured at a fraction of the long-term costs.

The Unmanned Network Watches All
The Unmanned Network Watches All

The Bubble Bursts

The American drone network continuously patrols the Air Defense Identification Zones (ADIZs) which China has established encompassing the East and South China Seas. China has made repeated complaints to the United States and the United Nations, and there have been many close calls between American assets and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and PLA Air Force resulting in the loss of some drones, but without loss of life. Relations are tense, but the global status quo is maintained. The strategic goal of the United States is to keep economic relations with China how they currently are.

Suddenly the handful of operators within the Joint Force Drone Operations Center necessary to monitor and operate the global unmanned network find themselves staring at blank screens. What happened? An unannounced drill? A power outage? A loss this extensive has never happened before. They wonder and begin to troubleshoot.

While the casualty to the network is being reported up the chain of command, drones begin disappearing from radar screens at monitoring stations around the world. A flight of drones scheduled to land at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa for routine maintenance and refueling never arrives. Reports even begin to arrive of flights taking off and immediately crash landing. U.S. Cyber Command is alerted and begins to investigate. Once they know what to look for, it does not take long to find the malicious code responsible and it is glaringly obvious where it originated. The PLA. Not only did they not try to cover their tracks, but it looks like they wanted us to know who was responsible.

The Overwhelming Opening Salvo of the Cyber War
The Overwhelming Opening Salvo of the Cyber War

The few remaining manned platforms – a mere shadow of the previous numbers during the Cold War – are ordered to sortie toward the western Pacific in a show of force. Everyone quickly makes a devastating discovery. They are receiving no signal from the Global Positioning System. Once they are out of sight from land, ships and aircraft have no idea where they are. The Fleet attempts to adapt. They pull out the old paper charts – which they luckily retained onboard. Utilizing their mechanical compass and dead-reckoning for navigation, they set sail and attempt to find the Chinese coast.

They might not be at 100% capability, but they can at least make a show of American power with presence. Luckily, satellite communications are still functioning so they can coordinate between each other and with their operational commander. As they cross the Pacific, one by one they drop out of communications. The failures are first noticed in the radio room, but they quickly spread to ship control, combat systems, and to engineering. Every U.S. platform is now blind, impotent, and dead in the water. Within a few short days the once-feared military power of the United States is defeated without any bloodshed. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Law from Power

A law is the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties. The key word being enforce. If someone asks, “Why shouldn’t you exceed the speed limit?” will the most likely answer be “because it is against the law,” or will it be “because if you get caught you will have to pay a speeding ticket”?

We can romanticize laws and say they come from a unified moral feeling of right and wrong, but they do not. The truth is, laws come from power. It is not enough that a governing body makes a rule and tells everyone to follow it. All laws ultimately come down to the issue of enforcement. Any authority can say something is a law, but if they cannot enforce it, it becomes meaningless. The legalization of marijuana within the states of Colorado and Washington is a good example. Marijuana is illegal within the United States under the Controlled Substance Acts of 1970, but in 2012 the states of Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana. How can individual states within the U.S. passing state-level legislation countermand federal law? The answer is simply, they cannot. Marijuana is still illegal by federal law within Colorado and Washington, but the federal government of the U.S. either does not have the means or the will to enforce it, so it effectively becomes legal.

She's going to need that sword.
She’s going to need that sword.

The United Nations was created in 1945 to maintain peace and international security. Since its creation, it has been viewed by most of the world as the creator, maintainer, and enforcer of international law. The 2003 invasion of Iraq and 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia are two events in recent history in which many have very different opinions. Multiple positions have thrown around the terms “in violation of international law” and “in accordance with international law” repeatedly.

Those who oppose the war have repeatedly made the argument that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was in violation of Article 2 sect. 4 of the UN charter, “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” There is also a valid argument that UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which passed the Security Council unanimously as Iraq’s “final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations,” was enough to authorize a UN member to take military action. Along similar lines, some argue that Russia violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine, while others claim that actions in Crimea are a domestic issues under Article 2 sect. 7 of the UN Charter where “nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” The Crimean people voted to secede from Ukraine and then requested to join Russia.

The legal definitions will be debated for both cases for years to come, but this is not important. What is more relevant to ask is, does it matter? Anyone can say the actions taken in Iraq or Ukraine were against international law, but if no one has the means and will to enforce it, then it is meaningless. Condemn all you want, show deep concern, and say there will be consequences, but talk is cheap. Power and action are expensive.  

Maintaining international peace and security
Maintaining international peace and security

When the UN was formed, it consisted of 51 members. There were approximately 76 internationally recognized independent nations at this time. If the other approximately 25 nations created a different organization counter to the UN and passed their own conflicting laws to what was laid out by the UN charter, would those laws have been any less real? Absolutely! At the point of its creation the UN contained the most powerful nations in the world, so when it said in Article 2 sect. 6 that “the Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles,” it meant business because the UN had the power to back it up.

Laws ultimately come down to the issue of enforcement, and the ability to enforce comes from having adequate power. Arguing what is contrary to and in accordance with international law means absolutely nothing if there are not meaningful consequences for nation’s actions. Claims without the ability to enforce are rhetoric, nothing more.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Send the Crowd to War

Military planners have historically used wargames to influence future operations. The extensive wargaming conducted at the U.S. Naval War College during the interwar years is widely credited with preparing the Fleet to fight one of the greatest seaborne wars in history against Japan during World War II.

As Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz put it: “War with Japan had been reenacted in the game rooms at the Naval War College by so many people and in so many different ways, that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise…absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war; we had not visualized these.”

Wargaming at the U.S. Naval War College in Pringle Hall, circa 1947
Wargaming at the U.S. Naval War College in Pringle Hall, circa 1947

The iconic images of War College students maneuvering model fleets across the wargaming floor of Pringle Hall as the players experimented with scenario after scenario are staples for any student of naval history. Since then, technology and computers have greatly improved the process, and the War College is arguably still the world’s premier wargaming organization, providing key insights to fuel operational planning and acquisition. Unfortunately, as extensive and sophisticated as its program is, it can only perform about 50 events each year. Facility space, equipment availability, and personnel to actually play the games will always constrain the robustness of on-site wargaming programs…at least for now.

What if all resource constraints were removed from our wargaming activities? What if an infinite amount of space was available – only limited by the surface of the Earth? What if the potential participants were only limited by a population willing and able to participate? What if they were equipped with the resources necessary to execute a war game? These questions might seem absurd at first, but a new and powerful concept known as crowdsourcing could be the answer to solve these resource issues.

No longer a notional concept, crowdsourcing is becoming more widespread. The basic idea is to leverage the collective intelligence and creativity of the “crowd” – a large, virtually limitless population. Advances in collaborative technologies have helped commercial entities leverage this concept and vastly increase productivity. One of the more well-known is the Amazon Mechanical Turk which, at last count, had more than 500,000 participants in more than 190 countries all simultaneously completing simple tasks. Another is CrowdFollower, which claims to be able to access more than 2 million participants across the globe. Even complex strategic analysis from a crowdsourcing consultancy like Wikistrat is being done today.

The basic idea is to leverage the collective intelligence and creativity of the “crowd”
The basic idea is to leverage the collective intelligence and creativity of the “crowd”

How can this be applied to wargaming though? Given current processing power and infrastructure, it is not feasible for the crowd to submit traditional wargaming moves to a central hub (such as the War College) for adjudication.  Instead, this broadening of the talent pool enables more ideas to effectively put the crowd to work. A starting point has been established by the U.S. Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC), where they have conducted Massive Multiplayer Online War Game Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLI) sessions that seek creative ideas to mission requirements across the active, reserve and civilian forces.  

Crowdsourcing traditional wargames (such as those at NWC) in this way, would seek solutions to strategic, operational, and tactical problems while coupling realistic analysis with user-friendly interface necessary to enable an end-to-end scenario played by participants. The balance between the level of fidelity required to provide meaningful data, with the level of abstraction necessary to enable experimentation would be a key attribute. After processing of the information, these game results could reveal meaningful insights for tactical development.

As demonstrated in the interwar period, iteration after iteration of experimentation in wargaming can help predict possibilities in war and then provide at least a starting point to begin to prepare. Today, technology is advancing at rates never dreamed of prior to WWII, while geopolitical shifts are much more rapid and pronounced. The necessity for speed of iteration and experimentation has never been greater, and the crowd has the potential to help address this. Instead of roughly 50 war games each year, imagine hundreds – even thousands – played daily. The crowd can win and lose wargame scenarios over and over, rapidly resetting and fighting again. Combined with near-instant social media exchange of ideas, innovative solutions can emerge through pure trial and error from a group almost unimaginably large.

The world will always lean on experts. The crowd will most likely never replace the great wargaming work conducted at war colleges and throughout the military, but it has the potential to be a powerful source of rich data. The crowd is moving into formation, preparing to sail into war. Will we use the crowd or waste this virtually untapped resource? The time is coming to send the crowd to war.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Fast Response Not Necessarily the Best in Crimea

As matters continue to escalate between Ukraine and Russia in Crimea, many are quickly calling for action in response by the United States. They say it is our duty as a leader on the world stage, and claim that if the U.S. does not take action then it conveys to the world that we are inept and will not take action in response to aggression around the world. Of course, when people call for action they really mean military action. This is probably because utilizing the military is the most overt, visible, and rapid response. We are living in a very fast time. We used to think the 24-hour-news reporting cycle was fast, but then we discovered live-tweeting of world events. We find out about things quickly and along the same vein we want to see responses quickly. There can be no doubt in the media and public perception that if missiles start firing and troops begin landing then we are taking action. Though always defaulting to the military might convey action, it might not be the best course of action.

We too often confuse military strategy with grand national strategy and military power with national power. We oversimplify and forget the diplomatic, information, and economic aspects. When these are coupled with the military aspect we get the nice acronym DIME (diplomatic, information, military, and economic) that many of us are familiar with from doctrine. A military response would most certainly be the most rapid and overt, but those features alone do not make it the most appropriate. Military power is so much more than utilization of force. Possessing credible military capability can add validity to efforts of diplomacy, economics, and gathering of information. The military is an essential element of national power, but as the saying goes, if all I have is a hammer (or all I think about is a hammer), then all of my problems look like nails.

Unfortunately we tend to think of events in terms of a duel. Each side takes their predetermined shot and in the end whoever is left standing wins. In reality, international relations are more like a game of chess. You have many different moves at your disposal and every more you make (or do not make) will have implications for every following move. The question of what we lose or gain from action – as compared to inaction – must be asked. Inaction by a party does not imply maintaining a status quo. International relations are dynamic and continuously evolve regardless of whether the U.S. takes proactive military action or not.

If military action is not taken by the U.S. or NATO in Ukraine, what is to gain and what is to lose? If Russia expands its sphere of influence to encompass Crimea, it will secure control of Sevastopol and its coveted warm-water port for the Black Sea Fleet. This has been a strategic goal for Russia since the 17th century, but is it worth the cost? In the end it might be that Russia is winning the battle but losing the war. An invasion of Crimea could have long-lasting political ramifications that overshadow gaining lasting control of a warm-water port. Gaining Crimea could mean Russia losing its influence in Ukraine and Georgia. Seeing Russia’s aggressiveness and willingness to take military action to achieve its goals could be just the motivation Ukraine and Georgia need to grow closer to NATO and the European Union.

This port is so nice and warm
This port is so nice and warm

Though it appears Russia will expand its influence to encompass Crimea, it may not be a lasting influence. The major ethnicities in Crimea are 58% Russian, 25% Ukrainian, and 12% Crimean Tatars. Even before the invasion, the Ukrainians were not very fond of the Russians, so the sentiment from Crimea’s 2nd largest ethnic group will only worsen. Along the same lines, the Crimean Tatars have been very anti-Russian since the mid-20th century. Russia may gain its coveted warm water port, but it may come with a hornet’s nest throughout Crimea that it will have to deal with for years to come.

It looks like about 58% of the people like us here
It looks like about 58% of the people like us here

Even before committing forces in Ukraine, Russia had a lease for use of the naval base at Sevastopol, so Russia gaining control of Crimea is not a significant change in that respect. What is much more significant is it coming with the opportunity to expand the influence of NATO to former Soviet bloc nations and potentially having unrest in Crimea that Russia will have to dedicate resources to address for years to come. Military inaction in favor of expanded diplomatic, information, and economic actions in the region could be the best option.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.