IN-THE-NEWS: Douglas Lute Joins ABC This Week with George Stephanopolous to talk Afghanistan

CGA Principal and former NATO Ambassador Douglas Lute told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on "This Week" Sunday that the United States is stuck in a political and military stalemate in Afghanistan, and it is unclear whether President Donald Trump's new strategy in the country will resolve it.  Read more here

IN-THE-NEWS: CNN Segment on DEFCON Voting Machine Hacking Village

At the DEFCON hacking conference, hackers were invited to try their hand at infiltrating the technology we rely on every election, including voting machines and a mock elections office.  Cambridge Global CEO, Jake Braun -- the "brain-child" of the demonstration -- describes how this could be the biggest threat to our American democracy in modern history.  CNNTech's Laurie Segall reports.

Watch the VIDEO SEGMENT here

WHITE PAPER: Govnet: An Architecture for a More Secure Federal Civilian Network

In a new white paper sponsored by Northrup Grumman, CGA makes the case for "GOVNET."

Summary:  For almost two decades, Federal cybersecurity leaders have debated the merits of consolidating 100+ Federal civilian agency networks into a single, federated enterprise network. This concept was dubbed “Govnet” in the Bush Administration. While at that time the technology to implement the proposal was in its infancy, today advances in networking provide a practical approach.  This paper reviews the feasibility and benefits of creating Govnet today to provide a sound basis for discussion as the Trump Administration and Congress consider next steps to secure Federal information systems.  Download the full white paper.

PRESS RELEASE: First-Ever DEFCON "Voting Machine Hacker Village" Highlights Vulnerabilities in U.S. Voting Systems

Cambridge Global participates in event to bring together critical stakeholders to elevate cyber threats, identify solutions to safeguard our elections

Las Vegas, NV – In light of recent headlines concerning Russian attempts to “hack” and interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, DEFCON – one of the world's largest and best-known hacker conventions – debuted an interactive "Voting Machine Hacker Village" today a its annual gathering in Las Vegas. The first of its kind in the conference's 25 year history, the Voting Village provided a national stage for hackers, voting experts, government officials and others to raise the alarm on cyber vulnerabilities and threats related to U.S. voting machines, networks, and voter file databases currently in use around the nation.

Cambridge Global Advisors (CGA) – a strategic advisory services firm with deep expertise in cyber and homeland security policy at the global, national, state and local level – provided support to the Voting Village by way of concept development, media outreach, and stakeholder engagement. CGA also contributed to the day-long speaking program, with Jake Braun, CEO of CGA emceeing speeches and panels featuring subject matter experts from a variety of public and private sector organizations such as Verified Voting, the Center for Internet Security, National Governors Association, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  

“Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we've uncovered even more about exactly how,” said Jake Braun, who originally proposed the idea of the Voting Village to conference founder Jeff Moss earlier this year. “The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries – including Russia, North Korea, Iran – possess the capabilities to hack them too, in the process undermining principles of democracy and threatening our national security.”

Douglas Lute, CGA principal and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, also spoke at the conference on Friday, noting the importance of bringing the national security community to the table. “Elections have always been the concern and constitutional responsibility of state and local officials. But when Russia decided to interlope in 2016, it upped the ante. This is now a grave national security concern that isn't going away,” said Lute via Skype. “In the words of former FBI Director James Comey, ‘They're coming after America...they will be back.’”

The Voting Village featured more than 30 pieces of equipment for hackers to try their hand at, along with a cyber training range that simulated an board of elections office network and voter registration database.  Within the first 90 minutes, hackers successfully hacked several pieces of equipment, including a machine and pollbook.  The village is expected to be a fixture for DEFCON for at least the next three years, with more equipment, software and other hacking demonstrations to be added in the future.

Voting Village organizers also said that DEFCON provided an initial forum to convene various stakeholders that will be critical to forwarding solutions as a next step. Post-DEFCON, Cambridge Global and others will work to align allies for a national advocacy campaign to implement election security measures in all fifty states. Details and a campaign launch date are expected in the coming weeks.

“The Voting Hacking Village was just the start. This is one conversation that needs to leave Vegas,” said Braun. “There are ways to secure our democracy, but we need an organized advocacy campaign. We need to take these lessons back to DC, to state capitals, and to local election boards around the country to invoke change.”

About CGA

Cambridge Global Advisors (CGA) is a strategic advisory services firm with deep expertise and experience at the global, national, state and local level.  Our mission is to assist our clients in the management, development, and implementation of their national security programs, practices, and policies, with a special interest in homeland and cyber security.

CGA’s senior leadership has been working on cybersecurity policy for some of the largest end users for governments, NGOs, and corporations for a combined 100+ years of experience.  Through client work and numerous positions on advisory boards, the team has served as cyber consults for a host of entities from the President of the United States to local governments such as Cook County, Illinois. Learn more at:


IN-THE-NEWS: Top former US officials call for talks with Taliban

WASHINGTON: As the Trump administration is gearing up to announce its Afghan policy review, four top US officials formerly linked in some capacity with Afghan war have urged the Trump administration to move for a political settlement in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan and other regional partners.

Speaking at a US think tank, the influential officials also snubbed some Afghan participants who called for reconsidering Durand Line and US aid to Pakistan saying that even complete halt in US aid won’t change Pakistan’s position as the country is no more dependent on American assistance.

The speakers included former US ambassador to NATO and former deputy national security adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan, Douglas Lute, former acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2016-2017), Laurel Miller, former senior adviser to the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2009-2013), Barnett Rubin and former senior adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the under secretary of defense for policy, Christopher Kolenda.

They said sending a few thousand more troops to Afghanistan will not change the situation drastically and negotiated political solution is the only way forward for the United States. They added that with the exception of India, all regional powers like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan want a non-military political solution to the Afghan conflict as no one wants permanent US military bases in their backyard.

During the debate two Afghan participants tried to blame Pakistan for Afghan trouble and credited US aid for Pakistan’s recent economic turn-around. However experts completely disagree with them.

“US aid did not give rise to Pakistan’s economy,” said Barnett Rubin adding that there are misconception about the magnitude of US aid. He explained that US aid was not given to Pakistan in return for Pakistan’s fight against Taliban in Afghanistan. “US assistance to Pakistan was given under an agreement between General Musharraf and President Bush which allowed use of Pakistan’s territory to put our military in Afghanistan. Without Pakistan’s permission, we could not have entered our forces in Afghanistan, a landlocked country.”

He said if US breaks the agreement, Pakistan can also follow suit and stop movement of Nato and US containers on its soil. Laurel Miller who served as Af-Pak representative said US can cut off 100 percent aid to Pakistan but it would still not change Pakistan’s perception about its security concerns.

She said US wants to use aid to press Pakistan from its position of supporting Taliban but the administration has to understand that Pakistan is no more dependent on the US assistance. On a question about Durand Line, she said US can’t resolve the problem as Pakistan would never accept that. “It is not a realistic thing to assume US will help Afghanistan in its claim on Durand Line”.

She said US should facilitate international mediator between Taliban and Afghan government so that regional partners especially Pakistan could understand that US is sincere in peace process.

“These countries would be in the region forever. They have stakes and if they see that a political outcome can protect their stakes they are more likely to support that solution,” she added. Douglas Lute, Former US ambassador to Nato said US troop surge of a few thousand will not break the stalemate in Afghanistan. He called for effective political dialogue to resolve the conflict.

Christopher Kolenda said US is spending about $25 billion every year on Afghan war. He said the only possible solution for US is a negotiated settlement. “Since Second World War studies show that insurgency that has external sanctuary and internal support has been successful every single time,” he said.

He said Pakistan believes a stable Afghanistan will team up with India to harm Pakistan and India understands this fear and it is using its relations with Afghanistan to forward its own interests in the region.

This article originally appeared in The News, July 15, 2017. 

IN-THE-NEWS: Announcing IBM's Newest Research Report Topics

CGA Principals Douglas Lute & Francis Taylor were announced in IBM's Center for the Business of Government latest round of awards for new reports on key public sector challenges.  These awards and projects respond to priorities identified in the Center's research agenda and the content is intended to stimulate and accelerate the production of practical research that benefits public sector leaders and managers.

Lute and Taylor's report is expected in early 2018. A short summary is below:

"Integrating and Analyzing Data Within and Across Government: Key to 21st Century Security"

This report will focus on data gathering, analysis and dissemination challenges across the homeland security enterprise. It will address how these challenges will help DHS and stakeholders in the US and Europe increase the understanding of how best to leverage technology in meeting strategic, mission and operational needs. The report will highlight opportunities for governments to leverage data integration and analytics to support better decision making around cyber and homeland security. 

Click here to view a full list of other award winners.

IN-THE-NEWS: Can more U.S. troops in Afghanistan help end the war?

As part of the Trump administration's review of America's 16-year war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the president has given him the authority to decide appropriate troop levels. The U.S. commander in that country has recommended boosting the number by thousands more. PBS Newshour's William Brangham speaks with CGA Principal and retired Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

COMMENTARY: A Political Surge is What's Needed in Afghanistan

By: Doug Lute

As the Trump Administration considers options to break the stalemate in the 15-year war in Afghanistan, it is important to look beyond military approaches. 

The roots of Afghanistan's problems require a political surge in support of President Ashraf Ghani’s government.

For too long American policy has fixated on the security situation and the military means required to address it. The military effort has been a shiny object that has captured our attention while the political roots of the war and potential political approaches to resolving it have been discounted, under-resourced, or even ignored.  Military tools alone can sustain the current stalemate, but not reverse it.  Adding a few thousand or even many more troops will not substantially change the situation. Ending the war primarily through military means is a mirage.The security stalemate is a symptom of three inter-related political stalemates: in Kabul within the Afghan government, regionally with Afghanistan's neighbors, and ultimately between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban. First, weak Afghan governance, zero-sum politics and endemic corruption fuel the Taliban insurgency. The compromise that formed the National Unity Government in the wake of the disputed 2014 presidential election resolved the immediate political crisis, but the parties have been unable to move beyond narrow partisan interests.

Now key political milestones are on the horizon: parliamentary elections in 2018; presidential elections in 2019; and in 2020 the next installment of international funding for Afghan security forces, the civilian government and development support. Success at these milestones depends mainly on the Afghan government’s moving beyond stalemate, not on how many U.S. troops are on the ground.

Second, Afghanistan's relations with key neighbors are also stalemated, especially with Pakistan where Taliban leaders enjoy a safe haven, but also with Russia and Iran. For its part, U.S. attempts at regional approaches to stabilizing Afghanistan have not been effective due to competing, higher priority interests. In Pakistan, U.S. core interests include suppressing terrorist groups with trans-national reach including the remnants of core al Qaeda, internal stability in a country with the world's fastest growing nuclear arsenal, and the stability of the often tense Pakistan-India relations. 

U.S. interests with Russia focus on Ukraine, challenges to NATO, the crisis in Syria, and interference in democratic processes in the U.S. and other democracies. Our priority interests with Iran are her destabilizing activities across the Middle East including support for the Assad government in Syria, the implementation of the nuclear agreement, and the potential for military miscalculation in the Gulf. With China, too, though our interests in Afghanistan largely converge, we have interests more important than stabilizing Afghanistan. The net effect is that we have tended to discount regional approaches and focused on stabilizing Afghanistan from within, which cannot possibly work.

Finally, despite years of trying we have yet to gain traction on an Afghan-led political approach to the Taliban. The Taliban are not going away and will not be defeated by military means alone. The war in Afghanistan will end with a political settlement, not a military victory.  Some argue that recent Taliban battlefield gains diminish their interest in pursuing talks with the Afghan government and before talks we must dominate militarily. The security situation is actually stalemated with both sides suffering heavy attrition. We should consider anew with our Afghan partner what it would take to move towards a political settlement, using both military means and political compromise to improve chances of success.

In Afghanistan, the Trump Administration — like its two predecessors — encounters a case where political approaches will prove decisive in the long run. As in all conflicts, military tools are only a means to a political end. We should focus on what matters most: breaking the three political stalemates. What we need is a political surge. 

Douglas Lute is a former NSC official in the Bush and Obama Administrations responsible for coordinating US policy in Afghanistan and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO (2013-17). He is also a Senior Fellow with Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.