ISP Brief September 2020


Moscow's Mercenary Wars: The Expansion of Russian Private Military Companies

As the United States with draws its military forces from parts of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, Russia is expanding its influence in these and other areas. But instead of deploying conventional Russian soldiers, Moscow has turned to special operations forces, intelligence units, and private military companies (PMCs) like the Wagner Group to do its bidding. In a new CSIS interactive report, Brian Katz, Dr. Seth G. Jones, Catrina Doxsee, and Nicholas Harrington explore how Russian PMCs are being mobilized to undermine U.S. power and increase Moscow's influence.

Four Scenarios for Geopolitical Order in 2025-2030: What Will Great Power Competition Look Like?

The Risk and Foresight Group created four plausible, differentiated scenarios to explore the changing geopolitical landscape of 2025-2030, including the potential lasting first- and second-order effects of Covid-19. The scenarios center on the relative power and influence of the United States and China and the interaction between them, along with detailed consideration of other major U.S. allies and adversaries within each of four worlds.

Thank You For Your Service: Inside the Outpost

On an early October morning in 2009, an overwhelming force of Taliban fighters attacked a small unit of U.S. soldiers located at Combat Outpost Keating in a remote valley in Afghanistan's Nuristan province. Drawing on source material from Jake Tapper's book, The Outpost, director Rod Lurie has brought the story of the Battle of Kamdesh -- one of the bloodiest and most heroic American engagements of the 19-year war in Afghanistan -- to the screen in a film of the same name.

In this special episode, Thank You For Your Service hosts Dr. Alice Hunt Friend and Dr. Jim Golby speak with Tapper and Lurie and a panel of guests about the battle, the movie, and mental health. Listen on Apple and Spotify. You can also watch the full conversation on YouTube.

Toward a More Proliferated World?

The United States has been remarkably successful at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, but there are new reasons to question whether this track record will last into the future. A new joint report between the Project on Nuclear Issues and the Center for a New American Security explores how U.S. policy must adapt unless it wants to be faced with a more nuclear-capable landscape in the future.

Measuring Service Contract Performance

Researching and manufacturing fighters, ships, and tanks are only part of the picture for defense contracts. Contracting for services accounts for more than 41 percent of DoD contract obligations in 2018. The Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group looked at a million contracts to evaluate how three factors influence performance: service complexity; contract-management capacity; and vendor's history working with a DoD contracting office.

ISP Spotlight

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Janne Nolan Prize

As part of the 2020 Future Strategy Forum , the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, in cooperation with CSIS and the Texas National Security Review, will offer prizes to the best new scholarship from early career scholars in national and international security. Up to three articles - a first prize ($5,000) and two honorable mentions ($2,500) - will be selected.

Manuscripts will be reviewed on a rolling basis starting October 1, 2020. Winners will be announced in December. More information on the prize and submissions process is available here.


The Diversity of Russia's Military Power by Mark Cancian and Cyrus Newlin

Covid-19 Response Update: September 18-September 25 by Mark Cancian, Adam Saxton, and Nidal Morrison

U.S. Federal Budget Interactive by Seamus Daniels

Re-Engaging the Middle East: A New Vision for U.S. Policy by Dr. Dafna H. Rnad and Andrew P. Miller, featuring Melissa Dalton

Covid-19 Response Update: September 11-18 by Mark Cancian, Adam Saxton, and Nidal Morrison

The Unbalanced Spear by Shannon Culbertson and Dr. Alice Hunt Friend

'Heat Ray' And 'The Voice Of God': My Experience With The Nonlethal Weapons Eyed for Use in D.C. Protests by Mark Cancian

COVID-19 and World Order: The Future of Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation by Dr. Hal Brands and Dr. Francis J. Gavin, featuring Dr. Kathleen Hicks

Playing Politics: International Security Sector Assistance and the Lebanese Military's Changing Role by Melissa Dalton and Hijab Shah

Covid-19 Response Update: September 4-September 11 by Mark Cancian, Adam Saxton, and Nidal Morrison

Covid-19 Response Update: August 28-September 4 by Mark Cancian, Adam Saxton, and Nidal Morrison

Key Governance Issues in Space by Kaitlyn Johnson


Beverly Kirk
joined a panel in celebration of International Podcast Day. They discussed the role of podcasts in think tanks around the world. Watch now.

Suzanne Spaulding joined ideastream to discuss misinformation and disinformation issues ahead of the 2020 election. Listen now.

Dr. Morgan Dwyer joined Roll Call to discuss business reform at the Department of Defense and the chief management officer's position, restrictions, and what could be next. Watch here.

Todd Harrison testified in front of the UK Parliament's Defence Committee on threats, capabilities, and concepts. Watch here.

Brian Katz and Lindsey Sheppard spoke with Mark Beall, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center's (JAIC) Chief of Strategy and Policy about the JAIC's progress on international partnerships and workforce development in support of its mission. Listen now.

Brian Katz explains the new report detailing Moscow's mercenary wars around the globe. Watch now.

Dr. Seth G. Jones joined Andrew Schwartz on The Truth of the Matter to discuss the increase in violence that's occurred across America in recent weeks. Listen now.

ISP Podcast

Smart Women, Smart Power
Hosted by Beverly Kirk

Vote Girl Vote
Featuring: Kate Howard
Listen on Apple and Spotify.

Combating the Opioid Crisis in West Virginia
Featuring: Cathy Justice, Elaine Wynn, Michele Blatt, and Nina Easton
Listen on Apple and Spotify.

PONI Pathbreakers: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime
Featuring: Susan Burk and Dr. Rebecca Davis Gibbons
Listen on Apple and Spotify.

Defense 2020
Hosted by Dr. Kathleen Hicks

National Security Issues in the Party Conventions and Platforms

Featuring: Dr. Tom Karako and Loren DeJonge Schulman
Listen on Apple and Spotify.

Thank You For Your Service
Hosted by Dr. Alice Hunt Friend and Dr. Jim Golby

The American History of Vietghanistan, Part I
Featuring: Dr. Greg Daddis, Erin Simpson, and retired General Barry McCaffrey
Listen on Apple and Spotify.

Online Events: October 2020

Online Event: Department of Defense's Service Industrial Base
Featuring: David J. Berteau, Eric Chewning, and Tara Murphy Dougherty
Hosted by: Gregory Sanders and Andrew Philip Hunter

Thurs., Oct. 1, 2020 
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET

Online Event: Maritime Security Dialogue: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the U.S. Navy
Featuring: VADM John B. Nowell, Jr., USN and VADM Peter H. Daley, USN (Ret.)
Hosted by: Dr. Alice Hunt Friend

Thurs., Oct. 1, 2020
2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET

PONI Virtual Fall Conference
Keynote featuring: Brigadier General John R. Edwards, Director, Nuclear Enterprise Directorate, Defense Threat Reduction Agency
Hosted by: Rebecca Hersman

Mon., Oct. 5-
Weds. Oct. 7, 2020

Online Events: September 2020

Online Event: Domestic Terrorism and the U.S. Presidential Election
Featuring: Brian Michael Jenkins
Hosted by: Dr. Seth G. Jones and Suzanne Spaulding
Tuesday, September 30, 2020

Online Event: Information Warfare: U.S. Competition with China with Rep. Joaquin Castro
Hosted by: Dr. Seth G. Jones
Thursday, September 17, 2020

Online Event: The Eisenhower Legacy in Space
Featuring: Jim Bridenstine and Susan Eisenhower
Hosted by: Todd Harrison
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Online Event: Combating the Opioid Crisis in West Virginia
Featuring: Cathy Justice, Elaine Wynn, and Michele Blatt
Hosted by: Nina Easton
Thursday, September 10, 2020

Online Event: Book Talk: The Nature of Nature
Featuring: Dr. Enric Sala
Hosted by: Sam Brannen
Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Online Event: Technology's Role Strengthening Biodefense and Accelerating Economic Recovery After Covid-19
Featuring: Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA)
Hosted by: Dr. Morgan Dwyer
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Online Event: CNAS-CSIS Report Release: "Toward a More Proliferated World?"
Featuring: Eric Brewer, Dr. Rebecca Friedman Lissner, and Dr. Vipin Narang
Hosted by: Ilan Goldenberg (CNAS)
Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Media Highlights

"For a lot of families, it's not as though every person in the family has their own laptop. You're swapping the laptops around,” said Suzanne Spaulding in Financial Times on September 27, 2020. “There's a lot of mingling—all of it is only as secure as the person with the weakest cyber hygiene.”

“All sides are defining the election in apocalyptic terms: the election will decide the success or failure of the United States. For some far-left extremists, a victory for Trump would expedite the rise of fascism in the United States, however exaggerated that might be,” Dr. Seth G. Jones told The New York Times on September 16, 2020. "For some far right extremists, a victory for Biden and Harris (an African American, which is a lightning rod for white supremacists) would accelerate the rise of Communism, Marxism-Minimalism, and outright anarchy in the United States, however exaggerated that might be.”

“Now... the Air Force has no chance of 386 squadrons. That's gone. Now, it's really looking at: how can we make the best of what we have?” explained Todd Harrison in Defense News on September 11, 2020. “It's not about growth. It's about trade-offs."