National Security Report
Senior leaders in the US Department of Defense, as well as nuclear strategists and academics, have argued that the advent of nuclear weapons is associated with a dramatic decrease in wartime fatalities. This assessment is often supported by an evolving series of figures that show a marked drop in wartime fatalities as a percentage of world population after 1945 to levels well below those of the prior centuries. The goal of this report is not to ascertain whether nuclear weapons are associated with or have led to a decrease in wartime fatalities, but rather to critique the supporting statistical evidence. We assess these wartime fatality figures and find that they are both irreproducible and misleading. We perform a more rigorous and traceable analysis and discover that post-1945 wartime fatalities as a percentage of world population are consistent with those of many other historical periods.
First published in Statistics and Public Policy, Volume 9, Issue 1
National Security Report
The United States has been a party to numerous treaties on nuclear weapons, dating back to the 1960s. These treaties fall into two general categories: treaties that constrain activities (e.g., nuclear testing, placing nuclear weapons in outer space, and nuclear proliferation) and treaties that constrain the number and nature of weapons that the parties can possess. All nine treaties limiting the size and nature of nuclear arsenals (including one treaty that limited missile defense) have been bilateral agreements between the United States and Russia (or the Soviet Union before 1992). During negotiations for strategic arms-control agreements, the key US objectives have been to sustain stable strategic nuclear deterrence and to reduce unnecessary and costly arms races. This report describes all nine of these treaties, with particular focus on the New Strategic Arms Control Treaty (New START)—the only such treaty that is still in effect. Further, this study analyzes how well these treaties kept up with emerging technology and the security environment of their times, and how well they met the goals just listed. This report then draws lessons from earlier treaties and developments of the last decade to provide considerations for the United States to account for when negotiating whatever treaty follows New START. Finally, many earlier arms-control treaties between the United States and Russia took from two and a half to seven years to negotiate, exclusive of preparatory work to initiate negotiations. The expiration date for New START is February 2026, so the time to begin thinking about arms control beyond New START is now.
National Security Report
Testing will remain a key tool for those managing health care and making health policy for the current coronavirus pandemic, and testing will probably be an important tool in future pandemics. Because of test errors, the observed fraction of positive tests, the surface positivity, is generally different from the underlying incidence rate of the disease. We model, using both analytical and simulation tools, the process of testing to address (1) how to go from positivity to a point estimate incidence rate; (2) how to compute a reasonable range of possible incidence rates, given the models and data; (3) how to compare different levels of positivity in light of test errors, particularly false negatives; and (4) how to compute the risk (defined as including one infected individual) of groups of different sizes, given the estimate of incidence rate. Our approach is based on modeling the process generating test data in which the true state of the world (incidence rate, probability of a false negative test, and probability of a false positive test) is known. This allows us to compare analytical predictions with a known situation, thus providing confidence when the tools are used when the true state of the world is not known.
National Security Perspective
The US government and its social media partners are bolstering their defenses against foreign election interference and campaigns to corrode democratic governance. Those efforts are vital but inadequate for the emerging security environment. The United States should also account for the risk that in intense regional crises, adversaries will use information operations (IOs) to coerce US and allied behavior. In particular, opponents will seek to convince US and allied policymakers that unless they back down, their nations will suffer punishment that dwarfs any gains they hope to achieve. If adversaries cannot prevail through IOs alone, they may fulfill their threats and launch increasingly destructive cyberattacks, paired with warnings that further punishment will follow until the US and its allies capitulate.
The US military is rapidly improving its ability to conduct coercive operations against US opponents. Yet, the federal government has barely begun to develop strategies and capabilities to defeat equivalent campaigns against us. This study examines the vulnerabilities of the US public and policymaking process to coercive IOs and analyzes Chinese and Russian technologies to exploit these vulnerabilities with unprecedented effectiveness. The study also proposes options to defeat (and, ideally, help deter) future coercive campaigns, in ways that uphold the Constitution and leverage progress already underway against electoral interference and the corrosion of democratic governance.
National Security Report
Situational awareness during disaster response is critical as it enables the response community to rapidly and efficiently assist those in urgent need during the time-sensitive, acute phase of a disaster. New technologies can drastically improve the effectiveness of response operations: satellite imagery to quickly map the destructive path of a hurricane, social media tracking to identify communities of increased need, and computer modeling to predict the route of a wildfire to inform evacuations. The US government has prioritized implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) systems throughout the federal agencies, including those technologies that may assist in disaster response. In this report, we contribute a technological road map for delivering to the response community near- and more distant-future AI-enabled technologies that could aid in SA during disasters. By exploring current and historical technology trends, successes, and difficulties, we envision the benefits and vulnerabilities that such new technologies could bring to disaster response. Given the complexities associated with both disasters and AI-enabled technologies, an integrated approach to development will be necessary to ensure that new technologies are both science driven and operationally feasible.
APL has published the event summary for the inaugural National Health Symposium, which brought together more than 160 experts from government, academia and industry to discuss ways that advances in research and development can translate into better delivery of health care.
Research and development issues highlight APL's diverse contributions to critical national challenges. This issue begins with an overview and examples of a novel and practical method for estimating the reliability of a complex system. The second article, based on a chapter in the award-winning textbook Advanced Signal Processing: A Concise Guide published by McGraw Hill Professional (2020), explores and provides insight into modern neural network concepts and applications. The issue concludes with two special features: a summary of APL's Achievement Awards for work in 2019 and 2020 and a look at a few of the labs of the Lab.