Shortbursts: CJCS nominee, conferences, graduations, new papers and more!

Shortbursts are an occasional feature of Lawfire® designed to provide quick updates on a variety of matters.

Former LENS Speaker nominated to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

The President has nominated Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles (“CQ”) Q. Brown to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS).  Lawfire® readers may recall that General Brown was a speaker in 2021 for our 26th Annual National Security Law conference.

I met General Brown (then a colonel) when our Pentagon assignments overlapped in 2008-2009.  He was serving as the director of the Air Force’s Executive Action Group, and I was the deputy in the Office of the Judge Advocate General. 

We ran across each other from time to time and I found him to be not only smart and thoughtful, but also very straightforward and businesslike.  Most importantly, if he told you something, you could take it to the bank’. 

A news report said this about him recently (and I think it’s very accurate):

“Brown is widely respected by service leaders and outside observers as one of the military’s most thoughtful and transformative leaders. In his two-and-a-half years leading the Air Force, Brown sought to rapidly reshape its structure, move off old and outdated aircraft ill-suited for a future war, and change how the service prepares for a possible war against China — an effort he calls “Accelerate Change or Lose.””

Here’s how the Pentagon describes the duties of the CJCS:

The Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986 identifies the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the senior ranking member of the Armed Forces. As such, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military adviser to the President. He may seek the advice of and consult with the other JCS members and combatant commanders. When he presents his advice, he presents the range of advice and opinions he has received, along with any individual comments of the other JCS members.

Though it comes as a surprise to many people, the CJCS is prohibited by law from exercising anyany command authority.”  Command authority or not, General Brown’s nomination is really good news for the country!


Super Soldiers

I’ve been honored to have been invited to a number of conferences recently, and though two of them were governed by the Chatham House Rule which limits what I can say about the proceedings, you may find it interesting to know what discussions are ongoing.

In mid-April the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) at the University of Pennsylvania held a conference on The Ethical and Legal Significance of Super Soldiers.  The event, co-sponsored by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and The University of Massachusetts Lowell, acknowledged:

“With technological innovations from both private and governmental sectors, the prospect of enhanced warfighters is increasingly plausible. Hypothetical enhanced warfighters, or “super soldiers,” would represent a unique class of soldiers assigned to execute high-risk, high-skill missions requiring superhuman strength, sensory nodes, or intelligence.”

Consequently, the conference sought to address the following difficult questions:

What are super soldiers?
How do different cultures view human military enhancements?
Which enhancement technologies are imminent, or at least feasible?
How should super soldier research be conducted?
When, and for what purposes, is it permissible to use super soldiers?
What ethical, legal, and practical complications attend the dis-enhancement of soldiers?
How can society best provide long-term care for super soldiers?

I can’t tell you all were fully answered (or even answered at all!), but–importantly–the dialogue has begun!  It was great to hear what experts are thinking about a matter that is sure to increasingly move to the forefront.

This is an instance where the interdisciplinary nature of the conference was especially helpful, and it was great to meet those grappling with the issues.  I was also pleased to reconnect with my friend, Professor Claire Finkelstein. who is a professor of law and philosophy at Penn, as well as being the faculty Director for CERL.

Law-Tech Connect Workshop

During the week of May 8th, I was pleased to participate in two other conferences, both of which also involved the growing role of technology.  That Monday, I served as a panelist for the Law-Tech Connect Workshop™ that was part of the XPONENTIAL conference which is a a yearly gathering of global leaders and end users in the uncrewed systems and robotics industry.”

The workshop was produced by P3 Tech Consulting founded by retired Air Force Colonel Dawn Zoldi.  If that name sounds familiar to you she is a Lawfire® contributor and frequent LENS Conference speaker.

The panel on which I participated was entitled Commercial Drones on The Battlefield – Implications to the Law Of War.”  Moderated by retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Miller, now the founder and principal of 21st Century Defense Strategies, the panel included retired Air Force Maj Gen. Jim Poss, now CEO of ISR ideas; former Air Force judge advocate Brendan Groves, now VP of Regulatory and Policy Affairs for Skydio and Air Force Major Melissa Ken, assistant professor of law at the Air Force Academy.

The discussion was a rich one, and Dawn advises the video should be available by the end of June, so stay tuned. (Regarding the picture to your right, I’m hoping that Maj Ken who is, frankly, a lot smarter than I, is laughing with me, not at me!)

One of the best things about an in-person conference like this one is the opportunity to reconnect with old friends.  In the photo to the left RADM (ret.) Kirk Foster, a former Navy judge advocate and now Director of Compliance and Assistant General Counsel for Huntington Ingalls Industries, joined Dawn and I for a selfie – we are all vets and Villanova Law grads! (Different eras of course!)

Future of Warfare and the Law Symposium

I was excited to be part of this ground-breaking event presented by a partnership of the University of Texas’ Strauss Center for International Security and Law, the Lieber Institute for Law & Warfare at West Point, and Army Futures Command, headquartered in Austin.  Here’s a bit from the letter describing the symposium’s aims:

“While the evolution of the global political order is beyond the scope of this symposium, the proliferation and development of technology – and the legal implications therein – is precisely what we hope to discuss this week.  Whether technological development is evolutionary or revolutionary impacts the speed with which the legal community needs to address the myriad legal issues arising from these technologies.  At present, the trend feels revolutionary.”

This symposium was also governed by the Chatham House Rule but I can say that much of the discussion centered around cyber, AI, and outer space – and it was thoroughly interdisciplinary. 

Additionally, a ‘brown bag’ lunch allowed participants to engage in discussion about what “national security law’ means these days, and how it is being taught in both the military and in civilian academia.  Increasingly, there is more attention being paid to how national security issues are becoming relevant to civilian businesses and the law firms that serve them.

with Col Ford (Army Futures Command) and Col Williams (Lieber Institute)

Again, the in-person aspect of the this conference provided lots of opportunity to see friends (a speaker quipped “it’s like the band getting back together”) and to make new ones. 

The organizers labeled the symposium the “First Annual” as they hope to have yearly conferences to address the legal implications of the emerging issues of future warfare.  They plan “to bring together legal, technical, and military community for a broader understanding of these developments.”  Let’s hope this terrific initiative continues!

Outstanding Graduating Research Assistants!

Duke Law just completed its commencement exercises with the new grads moving on to the next phase of their careers. This is bittersweet for LENS as it means that two of our Research Assistants will be leaving at the end of the summer.

Molly Diamondstein had a brilliant law school career, and has the awards to prove it.  Here’s how the Law School described one of her awards:

“Diamondstein received the Outstanding Contribution to the Duke Law Community award, which recognized the myriad ways she has gotten involved at the Law School, including as a LEAD Fellow, admissions assistant, research assistant, and student attorney in the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, as well as in numerous student organizations. “Her tireless efforts and passion for serving others have made her an admirable leader and outstanding member of the Duke Law community,” Ugalde said, citing one student’s comment that “‘Molly really does it all and has contributed to Duke Law more than anyone else I know.’”

LENS was fortunate to be among those who benefited from Molly’s energy and talent.  Her social media expertise broadened the profile of LENS, and her editing and research skills were valuable additions.

That wasn’t all.  She also received the Justin Miller Award for citizenship.  It honors the student who best demonstrates a “genuine enthusiasm for the Duke Law School community distinguishes this recipient as someone who brings people together in constructive ways. With a spirit of optimism, he or she looks beyond individual differences to find common ground in mentoring relationships with others.”  Molly really did it all!

Nicole De Brigard’s law school career was so exceptional that she was the featured student in the Spring issue of the Duke Law Magazine (here).  Here’s an extract from the article:

“In addition to serving on the Dean’s Advisory Council, she is a student representative on Duke University’s Racial Equity Action Council and the Law School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee this year. She also worked on two initiatives to increase the pipeline of law students of color nationally, as a teaching assistant for Duke’s PreLaw Fellowship Program during her 1L summer and a law school prep coach for a deferral program sponsored by the AccessLex Institute since August. And as vice president of external affairs for the Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA) during her 2L year, she led the group’s outreach to admitted applicants last spring, helping the Admissions Office recruit the highest percentage of Latinx students in the school’s history.”

Additionally, as a 3L Nicole served as the President of Duke’s National Security Law Society, which she took to new heights. In that capacity she was a vital contributor to LENS’s highly-successful 28th Annual National Security Law Conference this past February.  She also managed the LENS LinkedIn account, and proved to be an expert editor, researcher, and valued source of feedback.  A skilled writer herself, Nicole had an article selected for the LENS Essay series (see here).  Furthermore, she was a finalist for the University’s Young Trustee position (see the write-up here). 

Believe me, both will be greatly missed! 


Ms. Madison (“Maddie”) Cash, the new co-president of Duke’s National Security Law Society (and LENS Research Assistant!), just published a fascinating article in the Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law that you will want to read:  “Reversing CFIUS : Analyzing the International and Constitutional Implications of the Revised National Critical Capabilities Defense Act.” 

Maddie’s article is a great illustration as to how national security matters are arising in a variety of ways – to include in the kinds of issues major law firms now need to address.

CNN interview

Ms. Zhanna Malekos Smith, the former Ruben Everett Cyber Scholar here at Duke Law and now a cyber law and policy fellow with the Army Cyber Institute (among other appointments), recently was interviewed on CNN by Christine Romans about generative artificial intelligence (AI).  A key extract:

“[O]n the one hand the policy, regulation, and legal issues created by generative AI tools like ChatGPT and the clip you played earlier poses challenges to creators, companies and users. But on the other hand, the challenges are not unmanageable. There is a lot of value in first properly defining the contours of the problem set.”

The full CNN clip can be found here.  (BTW, she has written about AI for Lawfire® previously – see here.)  Well done Zhanna! 

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!

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