March 19, 2021

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National Security 

Cybersecurity

A senior administration official reported we have learned key lessons from the SolarWinds breach regarding visibility and market. For the first time, the Administration has allowed private-sector companies to participate in the Unified Coordination Group (UCG) because a public-private partnership is foundational in cybersecurity. The SolarWinds threat actor used privileged access through U.S. private companies to collect and exfiltrate sensitive data and created backdoors to enable their return. Comment: SolarWinds was a failure to perform a comprehensive whole of government and private industry remediation activities to quickly identify and evict the adversary. The SolarWinds compromise shows how on-premises systems can be compromised leading to an abuse of federated authentication and malicious cloud access. Including the private-sector in the UCG is long overdue, but rapid and timely sharing of sensitive cyber indications and warning intelligence will continue to be a point of contention for the Intelligence Community and private sector partners. (Sources: NSA, White House, CISA) 

Russia

President Biden stated this week, President Putin will “pay a price” for interfering in U.S. elections. In an 18 March press statement, the Administration is considering further sanctions for Russian entities involved with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. Comment: Sanctions against the senior government or intelligence officials engaged in Russian electioneering interference in the United States will likely have only a minimal impact on President Putin. (Source: State Department)

Counterterrorism

According to the State Department, ISIS-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and ISIS-Mozambique should be on notice that the United States and our partners will take the steps needed to advance African peace and security. For ISIS-Mozambique, the strategy the Administration is currently working under is a continuation of work that began under the previous administration. Comment:  Persistent and widespread ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks against local citizens, foreigners, and business interests (such as large-scale hydrocarbon and strategic mineral projects) continue unabated and are increasing. (Source: Department of State)

Environment

Colorado River

According to the Congressional Research Service, projected exponential population increases along with the Colorado front range and central Arizona represent the most significant risk to the Colorado River. Persistent and widespread drought conditions, occurring across the entire watershed, and emerging climate change-related impacts further contribute to significant and unreliable reduced streamflow. Comment:  Agriculture, the largest user of Colorado River water, will diminish across the entire basin as water-deficient cities and towns, on a large scale, seek to lease or purchase farming irrigation rights and transfer this water for current and projected municipal and industrial uses. (Sources: Bureau of Reclamation, Congressional Research Service)

National Climate Task Force

Yesterday, the Department of Agriculture announced it will invest more than $218 million to leverage the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to fund projects that will help drive rural economic recovery and conserve public lands. The White House also directed a relaunch of the EPA’s climate change website. Comment:  The primary source of revenue for the LWCF is from federal oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf. (Sources: White House, Departments of Agriculture and Interior)

Fresh Water Zebra Mussels

are designated as one of the most destructive invasive species in North America. Recently, an employee from PETCO notified the U.S. Geological Society that zebra mussels were found in an algae plant commonly used in home aquariums. Following a federal survey, pet retailers in at least 32 states have reported the presence of zebra mussels or their larvae in aquarium plants. Comment: Zebra mussels released into municipal water systems or directly into the environment will cause extensive damage. The mussels clog outtake and intake pipes, out compete native species, use available dissolved oxygen, turn the water acidic, and produce toxins, causing foul tasting drinking water. (Sources: USGS and US Fish and Wildlife Service)

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