SPSN Releases Soft Networks White Paper


Dear Soft Network Advocates,

2019 has been an exciting year for SPSN. A generous grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation, in 2018, and the continued support from the Pacific Council, No One Left Behind, and many other valuable partners provided SPSN with the opportunity to delve deeper into the strategic challenges and solutions to protect soft networks. SPSN researchers Steve Miska, Rebecca Ash, and Sam Romano pursued a nearly year-long study that culminated in the creation of Soft Networks: Protecting an Achilles Heel of American Influence.

Building on previous suggestions and research they examined best practices used by non-military actors and local national partners, cybersecurity threats to soft networks, and the gaps in government contracting policy that jeopardize local partner security. Read the Executive Summary here.

This month also saw us welcome a new researcher to our team for this summer. Jure Erlic is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Politics and Strategy and will be housed in the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles. Please join me in giving Jure a warm welcome.
Thank you for your continued support of our work in strategically protecting soft networks. We look forward to providing further updates on research and policy development efforts processes to protect our closest partners in conflict zones.  

The SPSN team

Suggested Readings:



Holidays 2018 Update

Ambassador Ryan Crocker discusses protecting soft networks with Steve Miska at the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) Annual Summit on November 13
Dear Soft Network Advocates,

We hope you had a warm and meaningful Thanksgiving. At SPSN, our November was filled with numerous exciting developments for both our own efforts and our partners.

On November 13, SPSN was featured as a keynote partner at the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) annual summit. SPSN principal investigator Steve Miska interviewed Amb. Ryan Crocker on the importance of protecting soft networks and the viability of current protection measures. Crocker drew on his experience as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan to explain how critical our local national allies are to mission success and the pitfalls of failing to protect them from harm. The summit audience expressed great interest in the issue and asked Amb. Crocker insightful and interesting questions. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in this forum and are grateful to ISOA for allowing us to do so.

Becca Heller, IRAP co-founder and executive director and 2018 MacArthur Fellow
We wish to extend our congratulations to Ms. Becca Heller, co-founder and executive director for the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) on being named a 2018 MacArthur Fellow. The MacArthur Fellowship is awarded to individuals “who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future.” Becca Heller is being recognized for “mobilizing the resources of law schools and law firms to defend the rights of refugees and improve protection outcomes for many of the world’s most at-risk populations.” Her work and IRAP’s work are vital to SPSN’s overarching goal of providing meaningful support to refugees and our local-national partners alike as they migrate to the United States. Congratulations Becca!

Thank you for supporting our work in strategically protecting soft networks. We hope you have a lovely holiday season and we look forward to sharing more exciting updates as our research progresses.

The SPSN Team

Suggested Readings:

September 2018 Update

members weekend 2016

The audience from the Pacific Council’s 2017 Member’s Weekend, now called PolicyWest. (courtesy of The Pacific Council for International Policy)

Dear Soft Network Advocates,

As summer comes to a close and fall (and cooler weather!) sets in, the Soft Networks team continues to be hard at work. We have several exciting events coming up on both the East coast and the West coast as well as a new publication in the Pacific Council on International Policy’s newsroom.

On October 12, SPSN will be participating in the Pacific Council’s PolicyWest annual conference. Megan Karsh, the Pacific Council’s Vice President for Initiatives, will moderate a discussion between SPSN’s Steve Miska, Fadi Matti, and the Washington Post’s Sarah Feinberg. Ms. Feinberg is a Marine veteran and sponsored numerous local-national partners who immigrated to the U.S. after fleeing violence in their home countries. Mr. Matti is a former Iraqi interpreter who immigrated to the United States and married a navy service-member–his story is detailed in two books authored by his wife (see ‘suggested readings’ at the bottom of the email for links to purchase both books).

The moderated discussion will occur before PolicyWest’s diverse audience of experts and industry professionals, and audience members will have the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session during the panel. You can register for PolicyWest through the link: http://policywest.pacificcouncil.org/

To learn more about the west coast event, read Pacific Council junior fellow, Sam Romano’s, piece in the Pacific Council’s Newsroom on our upcoming participation in PolicyWest and updates on his research on non-traditional methods of soft network protection. You can find his article through the link: https://www.pacificcouncil.org/newsroom/strategically-protecting-soft-networks


Sarah Feinberg (courtesy Wharton Magazine)

Fadi Matti Iraq 2008 (3).jpg

Fadi Matti

We are also excited to announce SPSN’s participation in the International Stability Operations Association’s (ISOA) annual summit on November 13th. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will provide a keynote discussion from 2pm – 3pm with Steve Miska leading the discussion in interview format. Keep a look out for updates on this exciting event and register through the link before October 14 to take advantage of early-bird registration tickets: http://isoasummit.net/registration/

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


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