August 2018 Update

August has been full of exciting developments for SPSN. We held a faculty colloquium at the College for International Security Affairs (CISA) at the National Defense University (NDU). Several members of the NDU faculty and national security professionals from the DC area provided constructive critique on SPSN’s research thus far and offered suggestions on paths forward.

Summer researchers Alek Ball and Sam Romano presented their research before the faculty. Ball spoke on federal government interactions with contractors that hire translators on behalf of the US military. He proposed a threat assessment system for soft networks which would precede a specific action plan. Romano discussed non-traditional methods for soft network protection by non-government entities and presented a three pronged approach for his research: Pre-Conflict Protection, Conflict & Post-Conflict Protection, and International Legal Protections.

The colloquium’s feedback was valuable and constructive. Discussants offered insights on how to understand soft networks that operate in war-zones, and encouraged the researchers to consider different variables, such as the individual’s affiliations and education in order to better design a comprehensive protection scheme. These suggestions gave our team new considerations and helped affirm much of the previous research. We plan on holding another faculty colloquium in several months to continue assessing and strengthening the work.


 Summer researcher Alek Ball with lead researcher Rebecca Asch
at a baseball game earlier this summer. 

This month, we also said goodbye to our summer researcher, Alek Ball. Alek was graciously hosted by CISA at NDU this summer. He took full advantage of his time on campus and was advised by faculty members Dr. Kirklin Bateman and Dr. Thomas Marks. He returns to continue his Masters degree in Peace and Justice Studies at the Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego. Alek conducted valuable research during his time with SPSN and made an excellent team member. We will certainly miss him.

Thank you for supporting our work in strategically protecting soft networks. We look forward to sharing more updates with you as the research and policy development efforts progress.

The SPSN Team

Suggested Reading:

Upcoming Events:

  • Pacific Council on International Policy, 10/12/18, Los Angeles – Steve Miska and Sam Romano will present on research & policy development efforts.
  • International Stability Operations Association, 11/12 – 11/14, Washington, D.C. – Steve Miska on a panel discussion about the strategic importance of Soft Networks


6 thoughts on “August 2018 Update

  1. This is my first time reading these reports. I must say, it seems to exemplify the complex problems that many face. I think that the majority of people living in 1ST world nations don’t fully grasp the idea of citizenship or immigration.

    When the idea of merit was brought about for immigration, some scoffed while others applauded. A complex issue that many want simple answers to.

    I’ll admit, I am not that well versed in law let alone international or immigration law. With that being said, Air B&B, Uber and many other simple companies stand out to me. They allow people to be their own boss and take what they already have and make money off of it. It seems that to the general public, the idea of more people coming into the country makes their lives harder, true or false, I think this cannot be brushed aside as simple ignorance or bigotry.

    What is the benefit for the regular American citizen to willfully accept foreigners moving into their neighborhoods? To the regular person, I don’t think they are directly benefited. I understand that these people’s lives are in danger, but to the rest of us it could be as simple as “out of sight, out of mind”. I don’t think that education or anything else will really sway that many.

    I think that if people could volunteer of their own volition to be temporary sponsors and be rewarded monetarily, many would readily volunteer. Like foster parents. I don’t mean to cheapen the process. I just think that the better people do here, the more willing they are to help out. The first step would be to reward sponsors. Instead of government housing or government assistance, pay the sponsors to cover the costs but also to allow citizens another path towards financial freedom.

    Like I stated prior, this scenario might be illegal, then again, there might be a work around.


    • Thank you for your comment. The project seeks to insulate people who work with Americans abroad and keep them in their own country, alive. As you know, people who help Americans as interpreters or in other capacities come under threat. Americans have very few tools to protect them. The project’s main goal is to provide more tools for diplomats and military members in conflict zones to protect their most critical partners. As a last resort, the project advocates for policies like the Special Immigrant VISA (SIV) that brings people to the United States or possibly other countries. Assimilation challenges tend to be extreme in western countries. However, SPSN feels that U.S. interests are better served when we stand by those who stood by us in harm’s way, than by turning the other cheek. At the end of the day, strategically protecting soft networks goes beyond morality, it is clearly in our national security interests: 1) instilling confidence in those allies serving with men and women in conflict zones right now 2) demonstrating to host nation security forces that Americans take care of their closest partners 3) facilitating law enforcement investigations by encouraging informants that they will be safeguarded 4) countering enemy narratives that say Americans abandon their allies and 5) helping military veterans who suffer from guilt and feelings of violating their military ethos of leaving no one behind. This is one of the few areas where American values and national security interests align well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My friends and I were actually discussing Eric Prince’s solution to creating stability in volatile regions, I believe centered more around Iraq and Afghanistan, a few weeks ago. I don’t think it intersects with what you are attempting to figure out. After your reply, I’ve been thinking about what you discussed.

        I guess the problem lies with securing these soft networks without appearing to be colonizing or even emplacing. From what I gathered, “how does one maintain relationships and provide safety to people in their native land without dominating those people”?

        I can appreciate the complexity of the scenario. We need those people to remain in their homeland. Yet how do we further encourage them to trust us, without disrupting their lives and their families?

        I think it is irresponsible to turn over military action to any contracting agency, just because it may seem easier in the beginning. I’m sure Eric Prince could handle the situation, the problem lies in next time. If it works now, then every time thereafter it becomes easier and easier to pay someone else to deal with our own problems.

        I honestly wish I could aid in this conversation, but I fear it is so far over my head, that I could not contemplate the intricacies of these delicate yet paramount relationships that are in peril.

        Too often, our nation has simply turned its back on the enablers and clandestine operators that provided outstanding insight and information to us. To simply ignore these people only magnifies the quagmire that we have been in for decades. If we wish to gain some trust and fidelity, these people must be protected and championed for their selfless service. They are aiding us in our fight against terrorism, while the terrorist has a blade to their jugular. I couldn’t think of anything braver and more courageous. The information they provide, at the literal risk to not only their lives, but the lives of their loved ones, aids our efforts to improve and stabilize the regions in which they live.

        I hope that the solution will become evident sooner rather than later.


  2. Pingback: Bottomless CoffeeSimple Atmospherics, Core Values and Beliefs, A Place to Speak FreelyProject to Strategically Protect Soft Networks

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