March 12, 2021

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National Security 

Cybersecurity

With 80% of U.S. critical infrastructure in private ownership –protecting the private sector goes in hand with ensuring our national and economic security. Of note, the Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization System (RADICS) program, led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is under development “to reduce cyber attacked electric grid down time to recovery to 7 days (or less) without requiring 3,200 utilities to deploy new or different technologies.” In late 2020, DARPA conducted its 7thexercise with DOE, DHS, and the National Guard. Results showed RADICS can catch cyber threats on the grid, function well in the controlled environment, and can be transitioned into electric grid commercialized platforms. Comment: Significant challenges remain, especially on how to prevent an electric grid cyberattack from happening in the first place. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), with the mission to lead the national effort to understand and manage cyber and physical risk to our critical infrastructure. CISA was recently cited, by the GAO, for numerous deficiencies. One of these included a failure to provide effective stakeholder access to actionable cybersecurity intelligence threats. (Sources: DOE, DARPA, CISA, GAO)

Quad Cooperation, “a Diamond of Democracies”

According to a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command briefing to the Senate Arms Services Committee, “The Quad cooperation (India, Japan, Australia, United States) could be much more than simply a defense or security arrangement. The Quad nations could address the global economy, critical technologies like telecommunications and 5G, and collaboration on the international order… for the sake of the globe.”

Ukraine

Secretary Blinken announced the public designation of oligarch and former Public Official Ihor Kolomoyskyy of significant corruption. The Administration’s action is committed to helping Ukraine achieve its future, is based on acts during Kolomoyskyy’s time as a Ukrainian official, but also draws attention to his continuing efforts to undermine democracy, while posing as a serious threat. In August 2020, the DOJ sought forfeiture of Kolomoyskyy and associates U.S. properties purchased with funds misappropriated from Ukraine’s Privat Bank. These properties have an assessed value of $70 million. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated last year, Ukraine needed to tackle corruption and reduce the influence of oligarchs over the economy. Comment: IMF and U.S. SecurityAssistance could be delayed unless Ukraine resolves the Kolomoyskyy and Privat Bank corruption issue. (Sources: Departments of State, Justice, Defense)

Iran

The State Department announced recognition of the day that former FBI agent and Iranian hostage Robert Levinson was abducted. In December, the U.S. sanctioned two high-level Ministry of Intelligence and Security officials involved in the abduction, detention, and likely death of Mr. Levinson. These sanctions were issued under the authority of the recently passed Robert Levinson Recovery and Hostage Taking Accountability Act. In a related development, the State Department designated two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps interrogators for involvement in gross violations of human rights, torture, and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments of political prisoners, and persons detained during protests. Comment: Recognition of Mr. Levinson has been an annual event spanning three Administrations. A key difference, from the past, is state and non-state actors can now be sanctioned for ordering, controlling, directing, or providing material or technological support for U.S. national hostage-taking.

Terrorism

The Department of State designated ISIS Mozambique and ISIS Democratic Republic of the Congo as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. 

Environment

Resiliency

Forest and rangeland ecosystems are generally resilient to climate variability. This resiliency ensures forest and rangeland ecosystems can endure short-term and minor climatic variation without substantial loss. A key unknown is whether current forest species and the associated ecosystem processes will be able to endure more severe (mega) droughts. Comment: Tipping points may have already been reached in some ecosystems, with large-scale mortality resulting from climate change induced droughts, especially in forests in the Southwestern United States. (Sources: USDA, USGS)

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