Uploaded by Meagan Bridgeman

MLA Paper

Meagan Bridgeman
NW3285 Spring 2020
May 7, 2020
National Security Strategy Themes for a New America
The United States has undergone a transformation, and the National Security Strategy
(NSS) needs to evolve to address this metamorphosis. Adaptability to these changing times is
crucial to a renewed nation that will continue to grow and prosper. The three themes to be
discussed are to protect America in the cyber era, build stronger alliances, and to invest in
tomorrow. These three themes encompass a way for America to compete in this new age of great
power competition and to grow even more robust than in decades past.
No single change has been more transformative than the rapid interdependence on
computers and other electronic devices. The advent of the Internet in 1983 changed the world
irreversibly with the ability to share information over long distances quickly. While this new
medium greatly facilitated the ability to globalize industries, it also created a new attack surface
that has put American citizens, companies, and the American government at risk of harm from
adversaries. With this risk in mind, the United States needs to focus on protecting American
networks and information from being attacked or stolen. The United States has been subject to
attacks on our networks with the intent to steal massive amounts of American citizen data such
as the multiple Office of Personnel Management breaches in 2014 and 2015. This incident led to
21.5 million American citizens’ personal information being allegedly stolen by China's People's
Liberation Army. While this data can never be recovered, this incident highlights the importance
of hardening U.S. networks against attacks by adversaries.
In this new cyber era, we are in a constant state of engagement both in our networks and
in external international networks. There has been considerable effort placed in "defending
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forward" and contesting adversary control in areas outside our networks. However, less emphasis
is being placed on what can be done domestically to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to
additional breaches. While the intention of defending forward is to deter the aggressor from
attacking the United States, little has been shown to suggest that this policy has been effective.
Some have suggested that the current method of degrading or destroying foreign adversaries'
capabilities to attack the United States can have unintended consequences of the foreign
adversary rebuilding and becoming more aggressive with fewer restrictions from their
government as they believe they were provoked by the United States. This idea of unintended
consequences is explained in the Journal of Cybersecurity by Herb Lin and Max Smeets of
Stanford University.
A more engaged forward defense might result not in "negative" feedback – reducing
conflict by bringing it back to the historical norm – but instead "positive" feedback,
exacerbating the conflict and adversaries may see the new US vision as a challenge to
rise to, rather than one from which to back away. (Healey 7)
The approach to focus inwards deters aggressors by increasing the cost of an attack by making
our networks more difficult to penetrate, and this would accomplish the goal of deterrence
without the risk of escalation.
Another area of the United States’ networks to focus on defending is our critical
infrastructure. Many of the systems that our infrastructure is reliant upon are notoriously insecure
and outdated. The catastrophic consequences of losing control of one's industrial control systems
can be seen when looking at attacks such as STUXNET, which was a piece of malware that
altered the rotation of nuclear centrifuges in Iran and effectively destroyed their nuclear program
indefinitely. Additionally, there must be greater protections on critical infrastructure to prevent
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the possibility of foreign governments or non-state actors from controlling these systems to gain
strategic advantage. The Journal of Cybersecurity notes this when comparing the possibility of
Russia controlling the United States' response to the annexation of Crimea by "holding the U.S.
electrical grid at risk" (Healey 6). There needs to be a nationwide effort to modernize existing
systems with more advanced ones that have been designed with security in mind to protect the
United States’ homeland in cyberspace.
While not newly transformative, one theme that is consistent across multiple National
Security Strategy documents is the desire to continue to build or maintain strong alliances with
other partner nations. Building partnerships is a theme that is a constant that spans across
multiple NSS, especially when concerning national interest, as described by Adam Quinn in his
paper "Obama's National Security Strategy Predicting U.S. Policy in the Context of Changing
Worldviews.” While the exact language differs between administrations, there is a push with the
Trump administration to make partnerships more reciprocal (“The National Security Strategy”
2017, 19). This policy should be the norm going forward, specifically regarding the stabilization
of areas around the world that are under the threat of terrorism. The United States has
overextended into areas at great expense and has received disproportionate assistance from allied
nations in areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. Regional stabilization should receive
proportional assistance from neighboring NATO partners to lessen the burden placed upon the
United States both fiscally and in American lives. However, these relationships are of vital
importance to maintain and strengthen to prevent other nations from gaining global influence. In
his essay “The Importance of Alliances for U.S. Security,” Martin Murphy, a political and
strategic analyst, asserts: “If these alliances did not exist or were abandoned, states would almost
inevitably be drawn closer to China, Russia, and Iran and possibly into alliances in active
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opposition to the United States.” With China’s recent interest in its Belt and Road Initiative in
Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Djibouti, it is expanding its influence abroad. America
should actively pursue to strengthen relationships with other countries that are under threat of
aligning with countries that oppose American values and freedoms. Should a conflict arise, our
allies and partners are crucial in the overall success. To ensure our allies are there when we need
them, we need to continue to cultivate a cooperative relationship and actively seek out new
partnerships with like-minded countries.
The last piece needed to complete America's transformation is to invest in tomorrow
properly. With the total dominance that China has obtained on the world's manufacturing and
supply chain, the United States needs to adapt to utilize our biggest potential export of leading in
innovation. However, leading in innovation does not come without proper education and
retainment of talent within the United States. Currently, the U.S. is one of if not the leading
center for technological advances and post-primary education. To appropriately capitalize on this
resource, many improvements will need to be made as outlined above to protect American-made
information and proprietary information. Arguably one of the main reasons China has done so
well economically has been due to its domination in the supply chain and its aggressive
economic espionage against American companies. In the 2017 NSS, there is the notice given to
retaining talent by having the U.S. Government to work with industry and academia to hire
individuals from a STEM background rapidly. This investment into the American people is more
laborious for adversaries to disrupt than other areas of influence, such as militarily or financially.
Another area to invest in tomorrow is that the U.S. could further global influence is
recognizing and acting upon strategic opportunities abroad. Former Secretary of State Hilary
Clinton recognized this deficiency, and the current administration is reluctant to invest abroad,
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which could be reducing privileged access to critical resources. Clinton stated, "The simple truth
is if we don't seize the opportunities available today, other countries will" (Zarate 388), further
comparing the U.S.'s reluctance to combine political and economic interests through foreign
investments and poor trade deals. Particularly in regions of Africa, there is an underdeveloped
market that could yield economic advantage and slow the spread of Chinese influence. Our trade
agreement with Africa has been non-reciprocal and is underutilized from within many African
countries. The new approach should be a more assertive free trade agreement further to develop a
strong partnership with the United States. In the Brookings article "Competing in Africa: China,
the European Union, and the United States," Schneidman and Wiegert express promise for the
BUILD Act passed in 2018 that it would “make the U.S. more competitive with Chinese statebacked funds” (Schneidman and Wiegert Competing in Africa). Little has been published about
the BUILD Act after it was passed, suggesting that it has not been fully implemented. Africa is
the perfect example of a growing opportunity for increased investment that would be a strategic
asset both economically and further increase American influence in the region.
The process of transformation can call for significant changes to how things are typically
done. However, in this instance, a shift in focusing on hardening American cyber defenses,
building stronger alliances, and adequately investing in developments for the future are the keys
to a successful adaptation to this new time of great power competition. They are ensuring lasting
American influence and values to provide a freer, safer world and a stronger nation.
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Works Cited
“16 ‘The Coming Financial Wars.’” Treasury's War: the Unleashing of a New Era of Financial
Warfare, by Juan Carlos. Zarate, Public Affairs, 2015, pp. 383–419.
Healey, Jason. “The Implications of Persistent (and Permanent) Engagement in Cyberspace.”
Journal of Cybersecurity, vol. 5, no. 1, 2019, doi:10.1093/cybsec/tyz008.
Murphy, Martin. "The Importance of Alliances for U.S. Security." The Heritage Foundation,
October 7 2016, www.heritage.org/military-strength-topical-essays/2017-essays/theimportance-alliances-us-security.
Quinn, Adam. "Obama's National Security Strategy Predicting U.S. Policy in the Context of
Changing Worldviews." U.S. Project, Jan. 2015. Chatham House.
Schneidman, Witney, and Joel Wiegert. "Competing in Africa: China, the European Union, and
the United States." Brookings, Brookings, April 18. 2018, www.brookings.edu/blog/africain-focus/2018/04/16/competing-in-africa-china-the-european-union-and-the-united-states/.
The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Washington: President of the
U.S., 2017. Print.