The array of complex threats facing the United States requires the country to prioritize managing alliances and building coalitions, former Acting Director of the CIA John McLaughlin and retired General David Petraeus told members of Congress on Wednesday. The two testified before the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing ...

President Donald Trump has wrapped his initial actions in office in the name of keeping the United States safe, but several experts and former top U.S. officials say they worry his moves on refugees, immigration, and reorganizing the National Security Council could hurt the country’s national security. On Friday, Trump ...

Now that the dust has settled on President Obama’s unexpected decision to, his last week in office, commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, it’s worth revisiting what it might mean for U.S. national security.  The decision surprised everyone.  Left wing, right wing, everyone was left scratching their heads as to ...

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday temporarily banning all refugees and suspending entry for 90 days for citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the name of protecting the United States. But experts say his claim is not backed up by data, and the order will likely ...

From day one, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama had a clear connection. On issues of diplomatic, strategic, and economic cooperation, the two leaders appeared to share what Obama called a “common vision and talent.” While, on a personal level, the pair formed a famously close ...

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won its election in October 2015 promising to make Canada a world leader in the effort to address climate change. At one of his first international summits, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change held in Paris in December 2015, Trudeau pledged ...

The Canada-U.S. defence relationship is unique in the world of international politics. Its foundation is premised on the shared principle that the defence of North America is indivisible. From this premise, Canada and the U.S. further share the belief that threats to North America should be met overseas. As such, ...

Four top State Department officials were reported Thursday to have resigned, and the head of the U.S. Border Patrol left his job. The Washington Post reported that those heading out the door at State include Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary for ...

Top former national security leaders are questioning a draft executive order that calls for a policy review to potentially authorize the CIA to reopen overseas “black site” prisons to detain suspected terrorists. It would also look at reviving “enhanced interrogation techniques” — methods that even President Donald Trump refers to ...

This year, the Donald J. Trump administration will review the state of U.S. nuclear forces, the nation’s nuclear policy and posture, and how it fits the current and emerging strategic environment. With that review comes an opportunity to communicate to friends and adversaries alike that deterrence has returned to the ...

At 12:00PM on Friday, Jan. 20, the nuclear “football,” a briefcase containing the launch codes for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, was passed to a new Commander-in-Chief. Donald Trump enters the Oval Office at a time of dual necessity: U.S. nuclear forces, which include 6,800 nuclear weapons, are in need of ...

The pursuit of nuclear arms control agreements and other efforts to draw down nuclear forces to reduce nuclear dangers is a goal that is almost as old as the nuclear weapon itself. It has been a major national security and foreign policy objective for nearly all U.S. administrations, Democratic or ...

A dramatic, and sometimes controversial, campaign and transition period culminated Friday in Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States. In his speech, he said it was “the day the people became rulers of this nation again” and pledged that from now on, “it's only going to ...

Today, President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President Michael R. Pence will take the oath of office on the western steps of the Capitol building. Mr. Trump enters the White House as possibly the most controversial new President in history. His inauguration will be met by record-setting protests – 200,000 ...

Donald Trump today enters the most powerful office in the United States, and probably the world. Just how powerful, however, is an area of much dispute. Despite early promises to curtail executive authority in areas of national security, foreign policy, and warmaking, some argue that President Obama has actually expanded ...

After his inauguration today, Donald Trump will hold  the most powerful office in the country. Just how powerful, however, is much debated. Over the past 15 years, presidential authority to pursue unilateral action in areas of foreign policy, national security, and warmaking has increased precipitously, and some argue that President ...

President Barack Obama’s decision on Tuesday to commute the sentence of U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning’s sentence is being met with outrage in the military and intelligence communities. Manning, who was born Bradley Manning, leaked thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. The 29-year-old private was sentenced to 35 ...

President-elect Donald Trump Saturday named former Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) as his choice to be Director of National Intelligence. Coats recently retired from Congress, where he served as the third-ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I’m very confident that Senator Dan Coats is the right choice to serve as ...

President-elect Donald Trump was briefed Friday on the findings of the intelligence community that Russia was behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s staff during the election campaign. Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the election process. It comes ...

Top United States intelligence officials on Thursday defended the intelligence agencies’ findings on Russian hacking and interference in the election, pushing back at the public criticism leveled by President-elect Donald Trump against the Intelligence Community (IC) and noting the rhetoric has raised concerns among allies. At Thursday’s Senate Armed Services ...

With important global roles during times of peace and war, U.S. Navy ships and sailors must be ready to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice. However, the combination of sustained operations, inadequate ship numbers, and a tight budget have created challenges to the Navy’s long term readiness that ...

The separation of powers is one of the instrumental components of American democracy.  The President of the United States, as the saying goes, isn’t a king who can do whatever he wants regardless of the concerns of the other branches of the government.  The separation of powers under the U.S. ...

The crash of a MV-22B off of Okinawa on December 13, 2016 occurred during one of the most difficult tasks a Marine aviator can do in peacetime: night time midair refueling. While the Marine Corps will not release more details until an investigation is complete, this episode, and another involving ...

As the United States’ crisis response force, the Marine Corps prioritizes readiness above capability, capacity, or any other goal. Maintaining this level of readiness in the wake of the 2013 budget sequester has come at the expense of investing in training and future capabilities for the Corps. The Cipher Brief ...

Leaders of three top Senate national security committees are to meet Wednesday to discuss alleged Russian hacking of last month’s elections, and the Senate Foreign Relations committee has set a closed-door briefing on the Obama administration’s response for Thursday, a committee aide told The Cipher Brief late Tuesday. According to ...

As 2017 begins, it is worth reflecting on the current state  and future direction of Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition. Contract data from the Federal Procurement Data System provides a robust picture of where DoD acquisition has been, while the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) makes dramatic changes ...

The core missions of the U.S. Air Force demand that it always be prepared to defend the United States while also being prepared to carry out operations anywhere in the world. Perhaps more than any other service branch, this requires maintaining a technological edge over adversaries. In The Cipher Brief's ...

How can the military fund its current forces while preparing for the future? There’s no simple answer to such a question. 2016 was a mixed bag for America’s military planning and largest procurement programs. Readiness assessments for the branches of the armed forces show they are falling behind in key ...

Butch Cassidy graphically demonstrated that there ain’t no rules in a knife fight.  Well, so far, there ain’t no rules in cyberspace or precious few at least.  Establishing those rules and practices may take years, as it did for nuclear weapons or cold war spying.  The U.S. response to the ...

Mexico’s homicide rate is surging. Government and independent sources are reporting an up to 18 percent increase for 2016, compared to last year. This comes on the heels of a multi-year decline in criminal violence in many parts of the country. It has been more than six years since Mexico’s ...

Earlier this month, a police truck burned on the side of the road in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, with meter high flames melting the interior and the four bodies, three of them murdered federal police officers, that lay inside. Like so many gruesome crime scenes across Mexico, this one marked a fault ...

The increase in violence over the last year has spread evenly across Mexico (as shown in Figure 1 below) which compares state-level intentional homicide rates per 100,000 residents for the first ten months of 2015 (X axis) and 2016 (Y axis). There are a few states where homicide rates have ...

President-elect Donald Trump will tell Canada and Mexico – our NAFTA partners – that we intend to “immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement,” and if not, “we will submit notice that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the deal.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) can be strengthened ...

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has stitched the economies of Mexico, Canada, and the United States together since 1994. However, over those twenty-plus years, criticism and controversy have continuously dogged the free trade pact. To U.S. opponents of the deal, NAFTA represents the kind of rampant globalization that ...

President-elect Donald Trump consistently lambasted the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) as a "the worst deal, possibly in history," one which unfairly disadvantages American workers. He has promised to renegotiate the agreement, or possibly even get rid of it altogether. However, critics contend that the effect of degrading trade ...

President Barack Obama says the U.S. will respond to the Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. In an interview with NPR on Friday, Obama said, "I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections ... we need to take action. ...

Editor’s Note: The ongoing debate over the intelligence involving the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee is highlighting a lot of other underlying issues when it comes to our Intelligence Community, what we expect from them, and how policymakers use the information they gather and assess.  Congressman Adam Schiff, ...

Exxon Mobil Chief Rex Tillerson, like almost all post World War II Secretary of State nominees, if confirmed, will come to the job with extensive international experience and a global network of high level contacts. International business experience with its focus on underlying political and economic trends, as in Tillerson's ...

What impact will President-elect Donald Trump’s attack on the Intelligence Community have on the CIA as it steels itself to deal with its already contentious new first customer? The agency’s conclusion in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the election not just to undermine confidence in the electoral process ...

Weeks after declining an offer to serve in president-elect Donald Trump’s administration, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane on Tuesday testified before Congress that the United States is “ill-prepared” to meet the threats against the nation. Keane, former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army and member of The ...

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made several foreign policy statements which if, as President-elect, were to be put into practice, would undercut several traditional U.S. alliances. Britain and America have long enjoyed a “special relationship,” but dismay in the United Kingdom at how long it took British Prime Minister ...

Late Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would appoint retired Marine General James Mattis – nicknamed “Mad Dog” – as Secretary of Defense. "They say he's the closest thing to General George Patton that we have,” stated Trump, continuing, “and it's about time." Known for his extreme dedication to ...

As the security clearance process comes under the microscope during President-elect Donald Trump’s transition, some experts and former intelligence community members say the system for determining whether people are eligible for access to classified information needs a revamp. Given the challenges of over-classification, insider threats, and today’s security environment, the ...

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter firmly believes that in order for the U.S. armed forces to maintain their global preeminence, they must innovate at a level—and pace—beyond what has been required in the past. In a keynote address at a recent CSIS event, Carter outlined the vision and progress driving ...

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Third Offset Strategy has been a subject of considerable confusion since its rollout in late 2014, with Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, its key architect and primary champion, working hard to clarify the path forward that Third Offset charts for defense innovation. At its ...

Since Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work discussed the Third Offset at a talk given in January of 2015, the concept has been the focus of numerous discussions and interpretations. It has generally been defined in defense literature as a path to a new and enduring competitive edge over America’s adversaries based ...

While lethal U.S. drone strikes have successfully removed many key terrorists from the battlefield, the legal justifications for such actions remains a heavily debated topic in the United States and globally. “Current U.S. drone policy is devoid of public understanding of the processes through which targeting decisions are made and ...

In the years since 9/11, drone strikes have emerged as a pillar of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. The Cipher Brief spoke with Bobby Chesney, Professor of Law and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of Texas Law School about the legal basis for U.S. drone strikes abroad. ...

Over the last eight years, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism policy has in large part been defined by drone strikes against a number of terrorist targets around the world. Indeed, the U.S. drone program is a global enterprise, with bases in at least 10 countries, lethal operations in at least seven ...

The recent election of a new President and Vice President of the United States marks the beginning of another transition period at the White House. In the weeks leading up to January’s Presidential Inauguration, numerous preparations will be made to ensure a smooth changeover of administrations. One critical component of ...