Ten reasons to live without a smartphone

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on September 26, 2017. It can also be found online here.

The X is here. iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) arrived last week to the fanfare we now expect from Apple. It represents the next smartphone generation; pocket-sized do-everything machines that have become part of daily life.

Despite smartphone companies’ positive spin, we should recognize the real downsides that come with their overuse. Continue reading “Ten reasons to live without a smartphone”

Entire state should work to bring Amazon to Colorado Springs area

*Note: This essay was published in the Colorado Springs Gazette print edition on September14, 2017. It can also be found online here.

Amazon just announced it wants to add a second headquarters to its current Seattle home. The company is looking for a city with a population over one million, with a high quality of life, strong university system, and solid mass transportation options. Over the next two decades, the chosen city will receive roughly $5 billion in investment, 50,000 skilled tech workers, and a deep-pocketed business ally.

Here’s how Colorado Springs can get in on and win this sweepstakes.

(I know what you’re thinking. You’re right, there aren’t a million people in the Springs. We’ll come back to that in a moment.) Continue reading “Entire state should work to bring Amazon to Colorado Springs area”

Wear Pink Underwear Like Churchill, and Nine Other Principles of Defense Entrepreneurship

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

Yes, you read that right. The West’s roaring lion, the British Bulldog, he of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat”—Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill—“customarily wore underwear made of pale pink silk.” We’ll come back to that later.

I was recently asked to speak at a Defense Entrepreneurs Forum panel at the US Air Force Academy, which got me to thinking about what that actually means. Some hold the term, “defense entrepreneur,” in contempt: Why isn’t this just innovation? Why do we have to go and create a new word for the same thing?

Those folks would be wrong. Just as there’s an important distinction between a “driver” and “driving,” there is a useful difference between an entrepreneur and innovation. One is a dynamic process; the other, a human catalyst that propels, advances, and often guides this dynamic process. Related, but not the same. The military spends a lot of time and ink on innovation, but not nearly as much on the individual innovator—the defense entrepreneur. Continue reading “Wear Pink Underwear Like Churchill, and Nine Other Principles of Defense Entrepreneurship”

Containing the Pocket-Sized Threat to America’s Military

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

The scary/cool juxtaposition of the recent global ransomware attack with Google’s annual developer’s conference should, if nothing else, prompt us to reevaluate our relationship with the digital world. Google’s event (and the settled consensus) tells us the information age enables better, more productive lives. But this latest attack and mounting evidence suggest that the accompanying costs are serious, even rising to national security concern levels as an ongoing threat to American lives and liberty in the pursuit of false happiness.

As a military officer and strategist, I’m bound by an oath charging defense “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” For several years I’ve noticed the growing impact of the persistent, dependent link between the majority of our soldiers and the internet, often enabled by and embodied in the smartphone. Officers responsible for teaching compass-driven land navigation, a critical ground combat skill, worry they’re fighting an unwinnable battle with recruits unable to see the forest from their screen. Cadets, as with their non-military, college-age contemporaries, can’t concentrate in class when they’re so wired to the web. Social media divides units over inappropriate online sexual behavior in garrison, and while on deployment, as one officer reports, the “band of brothers” is coming apart due to “too much connectivity.” Continue reading “Containing the Pocket-Sized Threat to America’s Military”

A Straitjacket Strategy to Contain North Korea

*Note: This essay was originally published at The National Interest on February 8, 2017.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis spent the tail end of last week in Seoul and Tokyo conferring with allies about the extreme challenge posed by a belligerently nuclear North Korea. When he gets back, Secretary Mattis should provide President Donald Trump with an option to straitjacket the rogue regime with consistently stiff military restraints to enable diplomacy. Pin down their arms and North Korea’s only option will be to talk.

North Korea is a uniquely vexing challenge with a rapidly closing solution window. Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, calls them his “most volatile and dangerous threat” because their violent mood swings endanger a key ally in South Korea, 25 million people in Seoul, and periodically hold hostage the critical economies of Northeast Asia. The so-called Doomsday Clock recently edged closer to midnight than any time since the unstable dawn of the nuclear age, an acknowledgement of today’s near-term nuclear risk, thanks in part to North Korea’s reckless behavior. And a recent high-level defector says subversive information is “crumbling” North Korea and the regime’s days are “numbered”; oppositely, widely-reported intelligence tells us North Korea will be capable of striking the U.S. homeland with a long-range nuclear missile by 2020. Continue reading “A Straitjacket Strategy to Contain North Korea”

After Action Review: Operation UNDERBELLY

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

There are lessons from wars of the past. There are lessons from wars of the present. And there are lessons from wars of the future.

MWI Fellow August Cole proves this third point in his exceptional work of short fiction, “UNDERBELLY,” which “explores what war in Europe against an increasingly aggressive Russia might look like with a dramatically reduced US commitment to NATO.” The tale envisions a new role for the American Sheriff in which it only provides “logistic, intelligence, and technical support” to NATO in a crisis. Operation UNDERBELLY then, is a British-led, multi-national European military effort to drive back the Russians in the Baltics. And strategists, planners, and tacticians can apply today’s tools to learn from this fictitious future-look. Continue reading “After Action Review: Operation UNDERBELLY”

The Watch and The Pen: The Strategist’s Two Tools

*Note: This essay was originally published on the Modern War Institute’s Commentary & Analysis site.

It was surreal to watch. Here I was, sitting near someone at a conference I’d admired from afar as a strategist, a titan in the academic and policy worlds—and there he was, plugged into every conceivable Apple product on the market: first, the laptop for emails; next, the iPad for news; third, the iPhone for immediate engagement with social media’s ceaseless drumbeat of dings. Continue reading “The Watch and The Pen: The Strategist’s Two Tools”