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Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Spillover from the Conflict in Syria: An Assessment of the Factors that Aid and Impede the Spread of Violence
Source: RAND Corporation

All roads lead to Damascus and then back out again, but in different directions. The financial and military aid flowing into Syria from patrons and neighbors is intended to determine the outcome of the conflict between a loose confederation of rebel factions and the regime in Damascus. Instead, this outside support has the potential to perpetuate the existing civil war and to ignite larger regional hostilities between Sunni and Shia areas that could reshape the political geography of the Middle East. This report examines the main factors that are likely to contribute to or impede the spread of violence from civil war and insurgency in Syria, and then examines how they apply to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan.

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Transgender Service: The Next Social Domino for the Army

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Transgender Service: The Next Social Domino for the Army (PDF)
Source: Military Law Review

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed on September 20, 2011. As a result, lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers can now serve openly and are no longer subject to administrative separation based on homosexual acts, homosexual statements, marriage, or attempts to marry a person of the same biological sex. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community championed this historic change. However, a growing, well-funded, organized minority argues that the repeal of DADT was not enough.

The repeal of DADT did not change the prohibition of service for transgender personnel; their service is currently prevented by regulation. In the Army, Army Regulation (AR) 40-501, Standards of Medical Fitness , prohibits servicemembers from serving in the military if they have “a history of, or current manifestations . . . of transsexualism, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex . . . .” The medical diagnoses that prevent transgender servicemembers from serving in the military have a close re lationship to the diagnosis criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The most recent edition, the DSM-5, contains revisions to the diagnoses of those who are not conten t with their assigned gender or who identify with the opposite gender. These changes more accurately define the diagnosis, reduce the stigma associated with transgender terminology, and remove the diagnosis from being grouped with sexual dysfunctions. In part, based on these changes, the military’s perception of transgender individuals is also changing.

DoD — Small Business and Strategic Sourcing: Lessons from Past Research and Current Data

August 28, 2014 Comments off

Small Business and Strategic Sourcing: Lessons from Past Research and Current Data
Source: RAND Corporation

The Department of Defense (DoD) may face challenges as it attempts to maintain its goal of spending about 23 percent of its prime-contract dollars for goods and services with small businesses and at the same time apply strategic-sourcing practices to reduce total costs and improve performance in ways that will not conflict with small-business goals while making DoD purchasing more effective and efficient. Strategic sourcing practices, for example, recommend consolidation of the supply base to reduce total costs, which can lead to fewer, larger, longer-term contracts with fewer and, often, larger suppliers.

Precipitating Circumstances of Suicide among Active Duty U.S. Army Personnel Versus U.S. Civilians, 2005–2010

August 27, 2014 Comments off

Precipitating Circumstances of Suicide among Active Duty U.S. Army Personnel Versus U.S. Civilians, 2005–2010
Source: Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior

To help understand suicide among soldiers, we compared suicide events between active duty U.S. Army versus civilian decedents to identify differences and inform military prevention efforts. We linked 141 Army suicide records from 2005 to 2010 to National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) data. We described the decedents’ military background and compared their precipitators of death captured in NVDRS to those of demographically matched civilian suicide decedents. Both groups commonly had mental health and intimate partner precipitating circumstances, but soldier decedents less commonly disclosed suicide intent.

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Consult, Command, Control, Contract: Adding a Fourth “C” to NATO’s Cyber Security
Source: Centre for International Governance Innovation

The lines between civilian and military are increasingly blurred, creating ambiguity under international law when private contractors engage in offensive cyber-security operations on behalf of states. These private security companies (PSCs) are being contracted for cyber security to engage in offensive cyber operations, but states should not contract PSCs for offensive cyber operations. The next instalment of the 2014 Jr. Fellows Policy Briefs recognizes the benefits of cyber-security contracting and maintains that a transparent distinction should be established between PSCs and state militaries, whereby private actors would only be involved in defensive and supportive operations. The authors address the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to implement a contracting protocol that delineates appropriate classifications for the tasks and personnel required for private cyber-security contracts. They conclude that establishing an oversight organization and submitting a proposal to the International Law Commission to consider the roles of private security actors would create greater transparency and accountability for contracting.

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories

August 26, 2014 Comments off

Audit Report — Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General

Background
In response to the increase in infectious diseases and the threat of bioterrorism, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories perform research with biological agents. To conduct this biological research, the Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) operate multiple laboratory facilities in accordance with various biosafety levels (BSL) established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The BSLs classify the containment level and risk associated with biological agents depending on the threat the agents pose to personnel and the environment. For example, BSL-1 is for low-risk agents; BSL-2 is for medium-risk agents; and BSL-3 is for those agents that cause serious and potentially lethal infections. Department and NNSA sites primarily perform BSL-1 and BSL-2 research; however, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) operates a facility with three BSL-3 laboratories while Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is considering opening a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories. Extensive biological research is performed at LLNL and LANL for other Government agencies through the Department’s Work for Others (WFO) program.

In our report on Coordination of Biological Select Agent Activities at Department of Energy Facilities (DOE/IG-0695, July 2005), we reported that the Department had not developed a plan for construction and operation of its BSL-3 laboratories. Thus, it lacked assurance that capabilities were not being duplicated unnecessarily. As a result of our prior work and Presidential actions to streamline Government and reduce costs, we initiated this audit to determine whether NNSA managed its biosafety laboratories effectively. We limited our review to biosafety laboratories located at LLNL and LANL.

Results of Audit
We found that NNSA was considering a $9.5 million expansion of its BSL-3 and BSL-2 laboratory capabilities at LANL that may not be the most effective use of resources. Specifically, NNSA identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity. Despite the lack of information on the need for additional capacity and current laboratory utilization rates, LANL was also considering building a new BSL-2 facility.

In particular, NNSA proposed development of a facility with two BSL-3 laboratories at LANL. Additionally, LANL is in the early planning stage for constructing a new BSL-2 facility. The estimated cost to open LANL’s new BSL-3 and to construct/open BSL-2 capabilities was about $1.5 million and $8 million, respectively. Given current budget realities, plans to develop additional capabilities without fully demonstrating a need may not be prudent.

The “Militarization” of Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense’s “1033 Program”, CRS Insights (August 20, 2014)

August 26, 2014 Comments off

The “Militarization” of Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense’s “1033 Program”, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Recent clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, MO, have raised questions about the “militarization” of law enforcement. Such concerns have focused almost exclusively on the expanding role of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. Congress has also turned its attention to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) “1033 Program” and what role it might play in the militarization of law enforcement.

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