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Monday, February 18, 2019

What's going on in the World Today 190218



U.S.: Trump Refuses to Deliver Report to Senate on Khashoggi Killing

What Happened: U.S. President Donald Trump will not respond to a U.S. Senate request under the Global Magnitsky Act on the involvement of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, CNN reported Feb. 8.

Why It Matters: The U.S. Congress has been pressuring the White House to take a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia and its leadership after Khashoggi's killing and mounting evidence by the CIA and the United Nations pointing toward Mohammed bin Salman's direct involvement.

Background: A recent vote in the U.S. Senate fell four votes short of a supermajority that would have enabled the legislative body to override a potential presidential veto on confronting Riyadh. The prospect of sanctions against Saudi Arabia could significantly undermine investor confidence in the country just as foreign investors and companies are showing an increased interest in resuming business with the kingdom...

Marines Providing Counter-UAS Options To Leadership

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

STAFFORD, Virginia—The U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) will provide a range of options to the commandant for counter-unmanned aircraft system (UAS) air domain surveillance.

Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, MCWL commander, told reporters here Nov. 27 that the initiative is part of Sea Dragon 2025, which is the largest live-force experiment activity the service has undertaken in recent history. Sea Dragon 2025 is aligned with National Defense Strategy and defense planning guidance to explore changes in the Marine Air-Ground Task Force that are necessary to increase lethality in contested sea, air, land, space and cyberspace.

“We’re working on a very expansive portfolio of counter-UAS capabilities,” Wortman said. This includes developing solutions to counter every component of the kill chain—to find, fix, track, target and engage....

Middle East: No Progress for U.S. on Iran at Warsaw Summit

The Big Picture

One of the main goals of the United States in the Middle East is working to restrict Iran's expansion as a political and military power in the region. In its concerted focus on Iran as the source of instability in the Middle East, the United States has some strong allies, like Israel and most of the Gulf Arab states. But Washington's important EU allies do not agree that Tehran is the source of all regional instability — something that was on full display this week at a long-anticipated summit in Warsaw, Poland...


Africa: Foreign Direct Investment Increased in 2018 After Years of Decline

What Happened: Africa experienced increased foreign direct investment in 2018 following more than two years of decline, Bloomberg reported Feb. 11.

Why It Matters: The sources of foreign direct investment into African nations are increasingly diversifying and include growing interest from Japan, India and Middle Eastern states. Large Western private equity companies, by contrast, continue to withdraw their investments from the continent.

Background: Many African nations continue to face significant economic hurdles, such as corruption and unstable policy environments, to greater foreign direct investment. Still, various measures like the African Continental Free Trade Agreement could increase investor interest in the continent even further.


Pakistan Has No More Excuses for Supporting Terrorism

A murderous attack in Kashmir rocks relationships throughout Asia.

Vehicles burn along a road during a protest in Jammu on Feb. 15, the day after an attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir. (Rakesh Bakshi/AFP/Getty Images)
Vehicles burn along a road during a protest in Jammu on Feb. 15, the day after an attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir. (Rakesh Bakshi/AFP/Getty Images)
On the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 14, a massive explosion rocked a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. At least 40 personnel belonging to the CRPF—a 300,000-strong paramilitary force under the Ministry of Home Affairs involved in law-and-order and counterterrorism duties—were killed as a suicide bomber drove an SUV reportedly loaded with about 600 pounds of explosives into their bus. Jaish-e-Mohammed, a terrorist organization based in Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the group’s role has been confirmed by Indian officials. The assault comes weeks before India’s general elections, which are expected to be held in March and April.

The next morning, India’s Cabinet Committee on Security—consisting of the prime minister and four senior ministers—held an emergency meeting and, as a first step, announced the revocation of “most favored nation” trading status for Pakistan. India had granted this status to Pakistan in 1996, although Pakistan had never reciprocated. But this is just one of the retaliatory measures likely to be taken after the worst act of Islamist terrorism in India since the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

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Culpability for the attacks is unambiguous. For decades, Islamist terrorists belonging to groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba have benefited from recruitment, financing, training, and other forms of support provided by Pakistan’s security establishment. Groups targeting India and Afghanistan continue to operate with relative impunity inside Pakistan, which has only cracked down on militancy against the Pakistani state. In Jammu and Kashmir, cross-border infiltration has been facilitated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate—its primary external intelligence agency, run by the military—and the Pakistan Army, which provides cover in the form of artillery and gun fire across the Line of Control separating Indian- and Pakistani-held territory.

Despite the highs and lows in India-Pakistan relations over the past two decades, there is no evidence that Pakistan has made serious attempts at dismantling this terrorist infrastructure. Although the frequency ebbs and flows, cross-border infiltrations continue on a regular basis: Most of these terrorists are quickly stopped or neutralized by Indian security forces, and those attacks that have been successful—including the one at Uri in 2016—have generally benefited from negligence or a good deal of luck. Given that Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for Pulwama, and the group operates openly on its soil, Pakistan cannot rely, as it has in the past, on ambiguity and plausible deniability to deflect responsibility for this attack...




ndustry Begins Work On Franco-German Fighter Project

France and Germany may have signed off on the latest milestones to develop a future combat aircraft, but tensions are simmering due to Berlin’s continued reluctance over defense exports.

The two countries agreed to a pact to further defense cooperation on Jan. 22, including finding a “common approach” to exports of defense equipment produced in partnership. But Germany now appears to be holding up sales of the MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile to Saudi Arabia, citing concerns about Riyadh’s ongoing conflict in Yemen, French newspaper La Tribune reported on Feb. 5.

MTU and Safran will work together on the engine for the NGF

And while exports of a Future Combat Air System (FCAS) are at least two decades away, there are concerns that a failure to find consensus on defense exports, even after such high-level agreements, could yet throw a spanner into the work of the Franco-German industry at a fragile early stage.

“It is a path . . . . We will find a solution,” French Air Force chief Gen. Philippe Lavigne said in Washington on Feb. 7 when asked about Germany’s reticence toward defense exports, particularly to some Middle Eastern countries. “There is a real determination for this program, for our security but also for our industry. We have to develop this.”

On Feb. 6, Berlin and Paris began doing just that, issuing the first industry contracts for a two-year concept study for the FCAS, which is being developed to replace France’s Dassault Rafales and Germany’s Eurofighters.

The €65 million ($74 million) project will outline the concepts and provide some options for different architectures, says Lavigne. It will also prepare and initiate demonstrator programs that could be formally launched at this year’s Paris Air Show and fly about 2025. The work follows national studies carried out during 2018 that outlined the characteristics and missions the FCAS would perform.

This artist’s impressions of the NGF issued by the French defense ministry depicts a large twin-engine, tailless fighter with some low-observable characteristics. Credit: French Defense Ministry

On the same day, a long-awaited partnership between Germany’s MTU Aero Engines and France’s Safran to work on the FCAS’ Next Generation Fighter’s (NGF) engine was also launched.

Together MTU and Safran will lead the development, production and after-sales support activity of the new engine that will power the fighter when it enters service in the late 2030s/early 2040s. MTU has previously described the engine, known internally as the Next European Fighter Engine as a variable-cycle engine likely capable of producing around 30,000 lb. of thrust.

MTU will take the lead in developing the low- and high-pressure compressors and low-pressure turbine, while Safran will lead on the combustor, high-pressure turbine and afterburner. A joint venture, Aerospace Embedded Solutions, will be in charge of the engine control hardware and software, although those activities will be Safran’s responsibility as the engine integrator.

In preparation, Safran has opened a new turbine blade research facility at its Gennevilliers, France, site, where it will research materials that could allow increases in the temperature of the high-pressure turbine to almost 2,000C (3,600F), paving the way for the higher-power engines required for the NGF.

MTU has been actively lobbying the German government to begin providing funding for the start of engine technology work this year, before engine development work begins in the early 2020s.

The company sees prototype engines being ready in 2031 ready for the aircraft’s service entry in 2040...




China will build 4 nuclear aircraft carriers in drive to catch US Navy, experts say

- Beijing expected to have at least six aircraft carrier battle groups by 2035 after it prioritised modernising its navy

- Nuclear-powered carriers thought to be equipped with electromagnetic launch catapults similar to those of the US

Four of at least six aircraft battle groups China plans to have in the water by 2035 will be nuclear-powered, as the Asian giant tries to equal the US in naval strength, according to Chinese military experts.
The specialists said that after decades of trying to close the gap, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s hardware might by then be closer to matching the world’s leading superpower in aircraft carrier technology – but it would still lag in real combat experience.
All of China’s new carriers were expected to be equipped with electromagnetic catapults similar to those used by the United States, the experts said. The US’ electromagnetic aircraft launch system, known as EMALS, can launch more aircraft more rapidly than the older diesel systems.

“China’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with [EMALS-like systems] are expected to join the navy by 2035, bringing the total number of carriers to at least six – although only four will work at the front line,” Wang Yunfei, a naval expert and retired PLA destroyer naval officer, said.

“The country needs to keep developing until it is at the same level as the United States.”

Beijing is keen to expand its aircraft carrier battle groups to fulfil its global naval ambitions and defend its growing overseas interests. Construction of its next conventional diesel-powered aircraft carrier, the Type 002 – the first equipped with the electromagnetic launchers – began last year.

Wang said the budget for the carrier projects would not be cut despite an economic slowdown and a trade war with the US.
After a fourth sea trial, China’s Type 001A aircraft carrier may go into service within months...

China Is Building a $9 Billion Rival to the American-Run GPS

(Bloomberg) -- China is taking its rivalry with the U.S. to the heavens, spending at least $9 billion to build a celestial navigation system and cut its dependence on the American-owned GPS amid heightening tensions between the two countries.

Location data beamed from GPS satellites are used by smartphones, car navigation systems, the microchip in your dog’s neck and guided missiles -- and all those satellites are controlled by the U.S. Air Force. That makes the Chinese government uncomfortable, so it’s developing an alternative that a U.S. security analyst calls one of the largest space programs the country has undertaken.

“They don’t want to depend on the U.S.’s GPS,’’ said Marshall Kaplan, a professor in the aerospace engineering department at the University of Maryland. “The Chinese don’t want to be subject to something that we can shut off.’’

The Beidou Navigation System, currently serving China and neighbors, will be accessible worldwide by 2020 as part of President Xi Jinping’s strategy to make his country a global leader in next-generation technologies. Its implementation reverberates through the corporate world as makers of semiconductors, electric vehicles and airplanes modify products to also connect with Beidou in order to keep doing business in the second-biggest economy.

Assembly of the new constellation is approaching critical mass after the launch of at least 18 satellites this year, including three this month. On Nov. 19, China launched two more Beidou machines, increasing the number in operation to more than 40. China plans to add 11 more by 2020...

The End of Strategic Luxury for China

As its economy matures, China has attempted to move up the value chain in manufacturing, beyond industries such as textiles and into high-tech development.(STR/AFP/Getty Images)


- Signs of China's economic maturation, such as decreased reliance on exports and reduced returns on government-led investments, have promised an era of slowed Chinese economic growth since the years after the global financial crisis.

- China needs more time and space to facilitate its domestic socio-economic transformation and upgrade its value chain, but it is losing the "strategic luxury" of a relatively stable external environment.

- Beijing will reverse infrastructure spending and credit expansion and try to use financial incentives to stimulate domestic consumption where it can, but it is likely to face greater economic pain, at least in the short term...


How Iran Keeps Its Aging F-5 Fleet Alive

On Nov. 3, 2018, a so-called mass-production line for Iran’s domestically made Kowsar-1 combat training aircraft was presented during a public ceremony to emphasize the nation’s self-sufficiency. The event took place just one day before U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed severe economic and industrial sanctions on Iran.

Project “Kowsar-I,” formally unveiled just a few months prior by the Iranian defense ministry, is not focused on producing clones of U.S.-made Northrop F-5E/F Tiger IIs, but rather is about giving new life to the existing fleet of 58 Tiger IIs now in service with the Iranian Air Force, according to officials from the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Co. And depending on the political situation in Iran, they may wind up in service into the 2040s.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) has 325 fighter jets; the easiest to operate and maintain among them is a fleet of 44 F-5Es and 14 F-5Fs. Those 58 F-5E/Fs are what remains from a purchase by Iran’s imperial government under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program in the 1970s. They were intended as a stop gap until the first batch of 140 Lockheed Martin F-16 A/Bs were delivered and were meant to be phased out after 1984.

But the fall of Iran’s secular, imperial government and rise of its Islamic Republic ended all previous military programs. As a result, the F-5E/Fs have remained in service for four decades and now comprise the core of the IRIAF’s fighter fleet.

What ensued in the intervening years is a study in how Iran, largely cut off from U.S. suppliers, kept the aircraft in flight—from reverse-engineering efforts to modernization programs.

The first, Project Saeghe-80, was an airframe upgrade that drew from former Northrop engineers and designers. Another team contracted with China’s National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (Catic) to pursue avionics and weapons upgrades under the name Silk Road II (SR.II)...

Iran’s Economy Is Crumbling, but Collapse Is a Long Way Off

hings will only get worse under Trump’s sanctions, but China, India, and other countries are still defiantly buying oil.

Since last year, the United States has been ramping up economic pressure on Iran and has plans to redouble the pain later this spring with even tighter sanctions. Will that financial chokehold be enough to strangle the Iranian economy and bring America’s bĂȘte noire to heel?

The balance of expert opinion is that there is still a lot of resistance left in Iran’s oft-proclaimed “resistance economy.” While it is hurting badly and is more vulnerable today than during the last period of prolonged U.S. sanctions, from 2012 to 2015, Iran’s economy is not nearly as dysfunctional as that of Venezuela, another target of U.S. sanctions meant to weaken the longtime ruling regime. U.S. sanctions there threaten to absolutely cripple Venezuela’s ability to pump and export oil, essentially cutting off all government income...

Iran: U.S. Renews Efforts to Sabotage Iranian Space, Ballistic Missile Programs

What Happened: The United States has renewed and accelerated its efforts to sabotage Iran's space and ballistic missile programs, according to a Feb. 13 report by The New York Times.

Why It Matters: U.S. efforts to slow down Iran's ballistic missile and space programs could include measures to disrupt supply chains, impair data and information, as well as conduct cyberattacks.

Background: Although Iran's space launches have been relatively unsuccessful, its ballistic missile program is showing signs of improvement and has not suffered the same number of failures as the space program.




Army simulates attack on gas rigs in most complex naval drill in decades
Gunships fire missiles at cargo freighter acting as enemy vessel in massive exercise meant to prepare for attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah

The Israel Navy this week simulated an attack on the country’s natural gas platforms, including a live-fire test of sea-to-sea missiles to destroy an “enemy ship,” the military said Thursday.

Four Sa’ar-4.5 model corvettes participated in the week-long naval exercise, dubbed “Raging Sea,” which ended on Thursday.

The military said it was the most complex naval drill in decades.

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The exercise included missiles fired from four ships simultaneously at an old cargo freighter acting as an enemy vessel.

“We simulated an enemy ship coming to harm our strategic facilities and, with coordination at sea and in the air, we destroyed it,” said Col. Guy Goldfarb, commander of the navy’s gunships.

Terror groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip have both threatened to attack Israel’s natural gas platforms.

Israel has in recent years transformed into a major gas exporter after major reserves of the resource were discovered in its waters in the Mediterranean...

...Due to Israel’s tense relationship with its land neighbors, the Jewish state relies extensively on the Mediterranean for its trade. Recently discovered natural gas reserves off the coast of Israel are also of significant importance to the Jewish state, turning it for the first time into an energy exporter...

...During the 2014 Gaza war, the Hamas terror group launched rockets at Israel’s natural gas platforms — located some 40 kilometers (25 miles) — but failed to hit them.

Israel, for now, does not believe the Gaza-based terror group is able to hit the platforms, though it does have access to two varieties of shore-to-sea missiles: the Chinese C-802 and C-704.

However, the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah terror group, which has also threatened to attack the natural gas reserves, is believed to be capable of striking the platforms using Russian-made Yakhont shore-to-sea guided missiles and other weapons.

Both terror groups are also believed to be developing other naval capabilities, including autonomous submersibles, suicide drones and scuba-diving commando units, Israeli naval officials have said.

Some of those weapons have already been deployed against Israel in combat, by Hezbollah in the 2006 Second Lebanon War and by Hamas in the 2014 Gaza war...

North Korea may have made more nuclear bombs, but threat reduced: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - North Korea has continued to produce bomb fuel while in denuclearization talks with the United States and may have produced enough in the past year to add as many as seven nuclear weapons to its arsenal, according to a study released just weeks before a planned second summit between the North Korean leader and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the U.S. Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico who is now at Stanford and was one of the report’s authors, told Reuters analysis of satellite imagery showed North Korea’s production of bomb fuel continued in 2018.

He said spent fuel generated from operation of the 5 megawatt reactor at its main nuclear plant at Yongbyon from 2016-18 appeared to have been reprocessed starting in May and would have produced an estimated 5-8 kg of weapons-grade plutonium.

This combined with production of perhaps 150 kg of highly enriched uranium may have allowed North Korea to increase the number of weapons in its arsenal by between five and seven, the Stanford report said.

Hecker’s team had estimated the size of North Korea’s arsenal in 2017 at 30, bringing a possible current total of 37 weapons. U.S. intelligence is not certain how many nuclear warheads North Korea has. Last year, the Defense Intelligence Agency was at the high end with an estimate of about 50 nuclear warheads, while analysts have given a range of 20-60...

A How-To Guide for Disabling and Dismantling Yongbyon

A worker handles a drum filled with contaminated waste during the clean-up of the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in 2005. (Photo: Mark Leffingwell/Boulder DailyCamera.)
With another summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for February 27-28 in Vietnam, the potential dismantlement of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center looms as a first step towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In his September 2018 Pyongyang summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Kim expressed his willingness to dismantle Yongbyon if the United States took corresponding measures. The dismantlement would still leave North Korea with a nuclear weapons stockpile and the ability to produce additional weapons based on the production of highly enriched uranium (HEU) elsewhere. But it would represent an important step towards denuclearization since it would end the North’s production of plutonium and hinder the overall production of HEU.

If an agreement to dismantle Yongbyon is reached, implementation will pose enormous political, technical and financial challenges. It would require US-DPRK agreement on a game plan including the possible involvement of other actors such as South Korea, China, Russia, the IAEA and perhaps the European Union. The objective will be to quickly disable, dismantle and decontaminate the plutonium reprocessing facility, the uranium enrichment plant, and the 5 MWe reactor as well as to safely dispose of spent and enriched fuel and nuclear waste products. It will also be necessary to make sure that North Korean personnel involved in the operation of those facilities are not reemployed in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Disablement/Dismantlement of Plutonium Recovery and Uranium Enrichment Facilities

Based on previous experience, all options for disablement and dismantlement of the plutonium recovery facilities, uranium enrichment cascades and IRT research reactor will require years of work and millions if not billions of dollars. For example:

Yucca Flats: Remediation of the US plutonium recovery plant at Rocky Flats was completed over 14 years at a cost of $7-$10 billion. Rocky Flats, however, involved the demolition of 802 structures and remediation of hundreds of acres of contaminated soil. Over 500,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste was characterized, packaged and transported to radioactive waste repositories off-site. The cost and scope of cleanup at Yongbyon will be far less because it has thousands of fewer acres to remediate and many fewer structures to dismantle. For example, the estimated amount of time required to disable and dismantle Yongbyon’s reprocessing plant is 8-12 years at a cost of $525 million-$1.5 billion, significantly less than Rocky Flats’ 14 years of work totaling roughly $7.7 billion.

Belgium: Developing effective and thorough decommissioning techniques for Eurochemic took precedence over urgency. The process took 25 years to complete at a cost of $333.75 million. During that time, nuclear waste and sludge were treated, buildings were demolished, and a research reactor decommissioned. There are far fewer process cells, however, to decommission at Yongbyon and far less area that requires decontamination. Eurochemic’s decommissioning cost is at the lower end of the estimated cost for Yongbyon, but it already had waste storage processes and facilities. These would need to be built and tested at Yongbyon, adding to the cost and processing time. Nonetheless, the experience at Eurochemic can help illustrate effective methods and processes.
Three key variables will determine the length of time and cost of disabling and dismantling the Yongbyon facility...


Russia: Duma Vote Paves Way for Russian Internet

What Happened: The Russian Duma has passed its first reading of a bill to support the development of a Russian internet that can withstand potential isolation from the global internet, Euronews reported Feb. 12. The bill will require two additional votes in the Duma before heading to the upper house of Russia's parliament.

Why It Matters: The Russian government has been attempting to increase its influence over physical internet infrastructure within its borders to exert greater control over the flow of digital information. The new measures aim to give the Kremlin the ability to sever global internet access in the event of a cyberattack or a military confrontation with the West. However, Moscow could also use the measures to block certain social media platforms and control flows of information during domestic crises and elections.

Background: According to earlier reports, the Russian government will conduct a test to cut off access to the global internet sometime before April 1. It is likely that such a test will not only be disruptive in Russia, but also have global ramifications due to the interconnected nature of internet activity.


Withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria likely to start in 'weeks': U.S. general

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Reuters) - The United States is likely just weeks away from starting the withdrawal of ground troops from Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, the top U.S. commander overseeing American forces in the Middle East said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018. Courtesy Zoe Garbarino/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS /File Photo
U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, cautioned that the exact timing would depend on the situation in Syria, where U.S.-backed fighters have launched a final assault against Islamic State enclaves near the Iraqi border.

The U.S. military has already started withdrawing equipment from Syria. Asked whether the withdrawal of America’s more than 2,000 troops would begin in days or weeks, Votel said: “Probably weeks. But again, it will all be driven by the situation on the ground.”

“In terms of the withdrawal ... I think we’re right on track with where we wanted to be,” Votel told reporters traveling with him during a trip to the Middle East...


U.S. delivers missiles to Lebanese army

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United States delivered laser-guided rockets valued at more than $16 million to the Lebanese military on Wednesday, demonstrating what it said was Washington’s “firm and steady commitment” to Lebanon’s army.

The United States has supplied the Lebanese military with more than $2.3 billion in assistance since 2005, aiming to support it as “the sole, legitimate defender” of a country where the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah holds major sway.


Trump To Feds: Prioritize Artificial Intelligence Work

A sweeping executive order to be signed Monday will push agencies to boost funding, improve training, and propose regulations for AI-related efforts.

Federal agencies will be instructed to “prioritize AI investments” under an executive order to be signed by President Trump on Monday, a senior administration official told reporters Sunday. The order will launch the “American Artificial Intelligence Initiative,” which will push government agencies to spend more on AI research and development; direct the creation of related guidelines, standards, and potential regulations; and fund training in what the White House is describing as “AI-relevant” work areas.

The goal is to “prioritize federal AI spending cutting-edge ideas that can directly benefit the American people,” the official said.

The official said the initiative directs federal agencies to: Make more data, models, and computation available to AI researchers “while protecting privacy and civil liberties;” prioritize AI research and development as they allocate supercomputer time and cloud- computing resources; and prioritize training programs and fellowships that have an AI angle and that promote the development of “AI-relevant skills” such as data science and statistics.

It also directs the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to lead other regulatory agencies in proposing needed regulations for private and government AI efforts. It taps the National Institute of Science and Technology to establish “appropriate technical standards for reliable, robust, trustworthy, secure, and droppable AI systems,” the official said...

...Meanwhile, venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who served on Trump’s transition team, has remained much closer to the president. Michael Kratsios, a former aide to Thiel, currently serves as the deputy chief U.S. technology officer and the deputy assistant to the President at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which is taking the lead on executing the order.

No, the Pentagon Is Not Working on Killer Robots—Yet

A strategy plan for using AI is more focused instead on firefighting and preventative maintenance.

The U.S. Department of Defense on Feb. 12 released its roadmap for artificial intelligence, and the most interesting thing about it might be what’s missing from the report: The military is nowhere close to building a lethal weapon capable of thinking and acting on its own.

As it turns out, the military applications of artificial intelligence today and in the foreseeable future are much more mundane. The Defense Department has several pilot projects in the works that focus on using AI to solve everyday problems such as floods, fires, and maintenance, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, who heads up the Pentagon’s new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

“We are nowhere close to the full autonomy question that most people seem to leap to a conclusion on when they think about DoD and AI,” Shanahan said during a briefing Tuesday.

It’s not that Department of Defense hasn’t given the idea of fully autonomous weapons much thought. In 2012, the Pentagon published an autonomy directive that sought to define what constitutes an autonomous weapon system and how it should be deployed. These guidelines state clearly that there should always be a human in the loop but leave open to interpretation the question of how much control the human will have over the weapon system.

In fact, many precision-guided missiles already operate with some degree of autonomy. These weapons, called “fire and forget,” need no human intervention after firing. A human operator programs targeting information prior to launch. As the missile gets closer, its onboard radar activates and guides it toward the target. Some advanced missiles are even re-targetable after launch.

But the kind of fully autonomous weapon seen in movies like Terminator and I, Robot—ones capable of human thoughts and decisions—is a long way off, experts say.

“Compare say a remotely piloted Reaper [drone] to an autonomous Reaper—it would be really hard to have an autonomous Reaper making a decision on whether to fire not,” said Michael Horowitz, a professor of political science and the associate director of Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania. “Some people that think an AI [weapon] might never be able to make that choice...”




EU: Brussels Incites Washington's Ire With Strict Anti-Terrorism Financing Standards

The Big Picture

Since 9/11, money laundering and the financing of terrorism have taken on great significance, and become something the United States, the European Union and their allies want to put a stop to. Washington and Brussels play a critical role in global financial markets, meaning that countries on their blacklists can suffer under countermeasures that financial institutions have enacted to limit legal complications. The United States and the European Union, however, don't always adhere to the same standards — as evidenced by Brussels' decision to adopt more stringent measures than most of the international community.



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