DailySA: Biden admin prepares for gray zone warfare (16 DEC 21) – Forward Observer

DailySA: Biden admin prepares for gray zone warfare (16 DEC 21)

Good morning. Here’s your Daily Situational Awareness for Thursday, 16 December 2021. You can receive this daily briefing by signing up at https://forwardobserver.com/daily-sa


  • Biden admin prepares for gray zone warfare
  • China’s new hypersonic plane from rejected NASA design
  • Ukraine in Brussels for NATO security talks


BIDEN ADMIN FOCUSES ON THE GRAY ZONE: President Biden signed an Executive Order establishing the U.S. Council on Transnational Crime. Citing national security risks, the council will utilize integrated intelligence and operational capabilities to “target, disrupt, and degrade” criminal organizations. The group includes Secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence. (AC: While essentially a rebranding of the Threat Mitigation Working Group, the new council may mean a new direction for previous efforts. U.S. intelligence officials suspect China of working alongside drug cartels for revenue generation and destabilizing operations in the United States. China’s cooperation with or facilitation of migrant caravan organizers are a likely target of this new council. Intelligence is often siloed between agencies, but integrating internal and external U.S. agencies indicates the need to improve intra-government information sharing on adversarial gray zone tactics. – D.M.)

CHINA BUILDS HYPERSONIC PLANE FROM NASA PLAN: China is building a hypersonic plane based on a 3D thrust vectoring prototype previously rejected by NASA. The X-44 Manta prototype was terminated in the early 2000’s due to technical difficulties and costs. Nanjing University has now tested a version of the design in a wind tunnel that simulates flight at Mach 4 to Mach 8. Additionally, Chinese engineers were reportedly able to get successful engine starts in hypersonic conditions. The U.S declassified the blueprints of the X-44 in 2011. (AC: China has once again scavenged up U.S. R&D to build a potential high-tech weapons platform. Piggybacking off of the U.S. initial efforts on this design likely decreased the costs and development timeline to within reasonable limits. – M.M.)

UKRAINE MEETS WITH NATO: Ukraine’s President Zelensky met with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg in Brussels. They will hold a joint press conference following a closed-door conference. No public agenda is available, but Zelensky’s travel to NATO HQ will be considered escalatory by Russia. President Zelensky said, “NATO doesn’t owe Ukraine anything,” but NATO may be forced to respond to Russia if fighting escalates past Ukraine’s borders. (AC: The Russians will likely use this meeting as an excuse for further military action. Putin’s chief ask from Biden was to guarantee NATO would not accept Ukraine, which may result in an eventual German veto. As the NATO meeting began, Russian media outlets and officials started decrying the slow U.S. response to hand-delivered “security agreements” which are unlikely to gain traction. – D.M)


In today’s Early Warning, we have our Economic Early Warning reporting, which includes updates on inflation, what to expect from the housing bubble, and other warning indicators. Upgrade your Situational Awareness to Early Warning here: https://forwardobserver.com/subscribe

Mike Shelby is a former Intelligence NCO and contractor. He's now the CEO of Forward Observer.

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