Issue Brief Series

Issue Briefs are intended to promote better policy by providing context and evidence to help assess current, past, and potential future approaches to issues of ongoing strategic and tactical significance.  Designed to be timely and relevant, Issue Briefs aim to help leading policymakers, academics, and observers better understand important debates, frame key questions, and challenge underpinning assumptions. Comments should be directed to cchs@gwu.edu.

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Evaluating Intelligence and Information Sharing Networks: Examples from a Study of the National Network of Fusion Centers

October 01, 2015

In the weeks and months following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Congress and the media asked why the intelligence and law enforcement communities had failed to intercept the Tsarnaev brothers, who were known to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) prior to the attack. The national conversation also focused on the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), the city’s fusion center. In general this coverage was fraught with common misconceptions, including that fusion centers are owned and operated by DHS. Even local Boston
news outlets questioned the return on investment in Boston and elsewhere. One report hastily labeled fusion centers a “flop.”

Risk-Based Security and the Aviation System: Operational Objectives and Policy Challenges

January 27, 2015

Risk-based security has been the primary strategic imperative for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the past three and a half years, as a focused effort to move beyond a one-size

Putin’s Russia: A Geopolitical Analysis

November 21, 2014

The speed and audacity of Russia's annexation of Crimea earlier this year shook Eastern Europe and surprised the West. Yet the conflict in Ukraine is just one symptom of a much broader challenge, and one which the West has yet to recognize fully and respond to accordingly. Russian President Putin is much more of a revolutionary than people give him credit for being. In fact, however, he wants to reshape the world and reshuffle the international economic deck.

This Issue Brief examines events in Ukraine and beyond from a strategic perspective; and then offers a series of action recommendations intended to respond effectively to these geostrategic developments.

Raising The Bar On Cybersecurity and Acquisition

October 15, 2014

This Issue Brief explores the nexus of acquisition, components, and cybersecurity — first from the standpoint of potential vulnerabilities, and then from the perspective of remedying of them. The discussion begins in a DOD context, and subsequently expands to include critical infrastructure, and the Internet of Things. The report concludes with a series of action recommendations, targeted to different stakeholders in the defense realm, to bring the acquisition of components into alignment with a robust cybersecurity posture.

Detainee Release and Global Public Safety: Terrorist Disengagement and Deradicalization Programs—The Way Ahead

June 05, 2014

In exchange for the release of U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl earlier this month, the Obama Administration agreed to the release of 5 "senior Taliban figures" being held at Guantanamo Bay. Reactions to this news have varied widely and as noted in a Washington Post article in the immediate aftermath, the exchange begs the question: "How many of the detainees transferred out of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have returned to the fight?" Speaking about the Bergdahl/Taliban exchange in particular, one Senator has suggested that, after the 5 Taliban figures are released into Qatari custody, they will be going into a program for "re-acclimating" them.

Economic Espionage and Trade Secret Theft: An Overview of the Legal Landscape and Policy Responses (PDF)

September 26, 2013

Concern about cyberespionage and intellectual property (IP) theft, particularly trade secrets, has intensified—and with good reason. While these threats are not new, rapid technological advances resulting in greater connectivity and data storage and more globalized supply chains have increased the opportunity—and potentially the payoff—to breach corporate networks and acquire sensitive corporate data.

Northern Mali: Armed Groups, State Failure, and Terrorism (PDF)

May 30, 2013

One year ago an uneasy alliance of armed groups, including jihadists with ties to al-Qaeda, seized control of northern Mali, a landlocked region slightly larger than the state of Texas.

Transportation and Supply Chain Security: Systemic Changes and Policy Opportunities (PDF)

May 24, 2013

In the past several decades these global networks of transportation and trade have become increasingly integrated and interdependent, decreasing the costs and accelerating the speed of the movement of people and goods. However, this integration and complex interdependency has led to new risks to the system, making it more vulnerable to disruption.

Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria: No Easy Fix (PDF)

April 03, 2013

In July 2009, Muhammad Yusuf, the founder of Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awaG wal Jihad, or “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” was killed while in police custody.

Pardon the Pivot, What About Africa? (PDF)

March 06, 2013

Africa presents a unique set of security challenges — it is the second largest continent on Earth, home to more than one billion people, and is defined by vast terrain, un- and under-governed spaces, interwoven adversaries, and a range of hybrid threats: including jihadi terrorists, drug traffickers, and insurgents.

Drones in Yemen: Is the U.S. on Target? (PDF)

June 21, 2012

At a time when the al Qaeda organization globally has met a low point al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has reached its zenith despite successful U.S. airstrikes on the American al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and senior AQAP figure Fahd al-Quso - indicted in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.

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