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Another Pentagon official exits, saying US is at risk of losing tech edge

A senior official responsible for driving technological innovation at the US Department of Defense has resigned, saying the Pentagon needs “structural change” and should behave more like SpaceX, Elon Musk’s satellite company that has shaken up rocket launches.

“We’re falling behind the commercial base in key areas, so we’ve got to catch up,” Preston Dunlap, the first person in the US Department of Defense to fulfill the role of chief architect officer, told Bloomberg News in an interview. As a result, the US risked losing its technological edge against potential adversaries, he said.

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Dunlap, who handed in his resignation on Monday after three years in the post at the US Space Force and US Air Force, was responsible for pushing more technology into a $70 billion budget for research, development and acquisition.

“By the time the Government manages to produce something, it’s too often obsolete,” he said in a nine-page resignation statement he billed as a “playbook” to help guide the Pentagon, which he later made public on LinkedIn. “Much more must be done if DoD is going to regrow its thinning technological edge.”

Dunlap said the Pentagon, which he dubbed “the world’s largest bureaucracy,” needed to stop focusing on internal turf wars and reinventing the wheel and instead work together to tap the private sector, defend the country and compete with China.

“Ironically as I’m writing this, I received notification that the phone lines are down at the Pentagon IT help desk. Phone lines are down? It’s 2022, folks,” he wrote.

In a statement, an Air Force spokesperson confirmed Dunlap’s resignation, and said the military was grateful for his public service. Dunlap had “worked tirelessly for three years,” said Ann Stefanek, chief of media operations at the Department of the Air Force.

Dunlap’s comments come after two other senior tech officials in the US Department of Defense resigned, calling on the Pentagon to modernize its approach to technology on the way out the door.

Earlier this month, David Spirk, the Defense Department’s outgoing chief data officer, told Bloomberg that the Pentagon needed to speed up efforts to counter adversaries who are developing military tools supported by advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum science. Nicolas Chaillan, the US Air Force’s first chief software officer, resigned last year, telling the Financial Times the US was losing the AI race to China.

Such concerns are also shared by senior Pentagon officials. Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit, the Pentagon’s tech hub, told the Senate Armed Services Committee this month that a slow pace of inventing and adopting new technology was a “glaring weakness,” adding the US risked falling behind China.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks voiced concern last week over “real resistance from Congress to taking technologically risky approaches that might fail.”

Dunlap, who plans to start a space software company focused on the nexus with satellites, data and artificial intelligence, said the Pentagon was behind the domestic commercial sector in data, distributed computer processing, software, AI and cybersecurity. In order to emulate SpaceX and other innovative companies, he said, it must become braver about undertaking tests that might initially fail, spanning hypersonics to artificial intelligence algorithms.

He added the consolidation of the defense-industrial base from dozens of companies during the Cold War to a handful today was bad for competition and the country. To fix that, he said the Pentagon should instead contract multiple companies at a time in far more flexible ways.

Michele Flournoy, a former senior Pentagon official who has focused on the challenge to the US military from China’s own military modernization, said Dunlap had managed to bring in more than 100 new commercial contractors to the US Air Force, but that the Pentagon struggled to do that at scale.

“It’s way too hard,” she said, describing Dunlap’s departure as “a loss” and saying the Pentagon should find a replacement who is similarly “entrepreneurial.

She said there was a strong strategic imperative for the Pentagon “to figure out how to bring these new technologies in rapidly and at scale if we’re going to successfully deter aggression by China in the future and/or defeat it if it happens.”

Dunlap also celebrated what he described as a series of successes during his tenure, including initial efforts to link US military sensors and networks around the world in real time, the deployment of live AI algorithms by the military and efforts to develop seamless military communications that could prove impervious to attack.

Read more: Analysis: West’s failure to hold Syria’s Assad accountable motivated Russia’s Putin

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Hundreds of stolen cars recovered in global Interpol operation funded by the UAE

A United Arab Emirates-funded global police operation targeting stolen vehicle trafficking has led to the recovery of hundreds of cars, trucks and motorbikes and almost half a million stolen cigarettes in just two weeks, Interpol announced on Wednesday.

Operation Carback saw frontline police at seaports and land border crossings in 77 countries use Interpol’s secure global police communications network – I-24/7 – to check vehicles and their owners against Interpol’s databases and instantaneously detect potential criminals or criminal activity.

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Interpol launched its ‘Reducing Vehicle Crime and Theft’ Program in 2016 with funding from the United Arab Emirates via Interpol’s ‘Foundation for a Safer World’, which financed Operation Carback 2022.

Since May 2016, the foundation has been supporting seven key Interpol initiatives by donating $52 million over a period of five years, as part of a contribution agreement between the Foundation and the UAE government.

In just over two weeks, Operation Carback led to the identification of 1,121 stolen cars and 64 motorcycles, the arrest or detention of 222 suspected stolen vehicle traffickers, the detention of eight suspected people smugglers, the detection of 26 fraudulent vehicle documents and the seizure of 480,000 stolen cigarettes.

Officers raided chop shops – places where stolen vehicles are dismantled into parts that are smuggled or sold online – with confiscations triggering further investigations into car crime gangs globally.

Interpol supported the operation by crosschecking information collected in the field against its international databases, with Frontex also supporting the European leg of frontline operations.

Experts from Interpol’s Stolen Motor Vehicles Unit were deployed to key locations to assist national law enforcement with database checks in the field as well as in exchanging, analyzing and acting on operational data.

With the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) typically removed from stolen cars, on-the-ground assistance from Interpol enabled national law enforcement to connect with car manufacturers to identify vehicle origin.

Because stolen vehicles are frequently trafficked to finance and carry out crime ranging from drug trafficking, arms dealing and people smuggling to corruption and international terrorism, the Interpol General Secretariat headquarters is analyzing intelligence gathered during Operation Carback to identify links with other crime areas.

“With vehicles usually smuggled beyond borders and ending up thousands of miles away from where they were stolen, an international operation like Carback is crucial to enabling police to tackle the networks behind global car trafficking,” said Ilana de Wild, Interpol’s director of organized and emerging Crime.

“The main key to the success of Operation Carback is the wealth of information contained in Interpol’s Stolen Motor Vehicle database, and the fact that throughout the operation police in the field were able to access this crucial data.”

Last year, Interpol identified some 248,000 stolen vehicles thanks to the SMV database. More than 130 countries shared their national data with Interpol, and carried out more than 280 million searches.

The UAE has close links with Interpol and in November it was announced that the country’s Major General Ahmed Nasser al-Raisi, of the UAE’s interior ministry, had been elected as the new President of Interpol.

The senior police official will serve the four-year term in Lyon, France.

The new appointment makes him the first candidate from the Middle Eastern region to be elected into the position since the global crime fighting agency was founded in the 1920s.

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‘If Putin was a woman, there would be no Ukraine war’: UK’s Johnson

Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have started the war in Ukraine if he was a woman, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn't, but if he were, I really don't think he would've embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has,” Johnson told German broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday evening.

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Putin's invasion of Ukraine is “a perfect example of toxic masculinity”, he said, calling for better education for girls around the world and for “more women in positions of power”.

The British Prime Minister acknowledged that “of course people want the war to end”, but for the moment “there's no deal available. Putin isn't making an offer of peace”.

Western allies must support Ukraine to enable it to be in the best possible strategic position in the event that peace negotiations with Moscow do become possible, he added.

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Spain begins natural gas exports to Morocco following diplomatic row

Natural gas has started flowing from Spain toward Morocco through a pipeline that stopped flowing in November amid a diplomatic row between Morocco and Algeria, data from Spanish gas grid operator Enagas showed on Wednesday.
Algeria decided last year not to extend a deal to export gas through a pipeline running through neighboring Morocco to Spain, halting nearly all of Morocco’s gas supply, as relations between Rabat and Algiers worsened.
In April, Algeria warned Madrid not to re-export Algerian gas supplies to its Southern neighbor after Energy Minister Teresa Ribera confirmed plans to reverse the flow of the Maghreb Europe pipeline and begin exportation of natural gas to Morocco.
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“A certification process guarantees that this gas is not of Algerian origin,” a spokesperson for Enagas said on Wednesday.
In March, Spain angered its main gas supplier Algeria by supporting a Moroccan plan to offer autonomy to Western Sahara, prompting Algiers to suspend its 20-year-old friendship treaty with Madrid and causing a diplomatic crisis.
The shift was well received in Rabat as Morocco decided to return its ambassador to Spain after almost a year of absence following a long diplomatic dispute.
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Spain, Morocco to open land borders next week after two years

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