CNA Talks: A National Security Podcast

CNA’s experts understand today’s complex and dynamic national security environment. On CNA Talks, you’ll find analysis of globe-shaping conflicts, foreign policy and shifting alliances, regional breakdowns, pandemics and other health crises, environmental disasters, homeland security concerns, and the future of strategic competition. Follow CNA Talks to go behind the headlines and learn from data-driven, objective, discussions on the factors shaping today’s national security landscape.
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Now displaying: 2022
Dec 7, 2022

On November 28, thousands of people across China took to the streets to protest the country’s ‘zero-COVID policies and censorship and to call for democracy. These demonstrations were an unprecedented show of dissent against the government in the era of Xi Jinping. How has the government responded to these uprisings, and how will they affect Beijing’s COVID strategy going forward?

To answer these questions Heidi Holz and Josiah Case, analysts from CNA’s China Studies Program, join the podcast.  

Heidi Holz is a Research Scientist in the CNA China Studies Program. Her research interests include China's media environment, Chinese military doctrine and operations, as well as U.S.-China military-to-military relations.

Josiah Case is a Research Analyst in CNA's China Studies Program. His research at CNA has focused on PRC media and Beijing's global activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CNA InDepth: Bejing's Zero-COVID Dilemma 

CNA Report: Telling China's COVID-19 Story Well

Propaganda, Disinformation, & Other Influence Efforts

Nov 24, 2022

Video Link to this Podcast:


Featuring: Dr. David Finkelstein, Vice President, CNA and Director, China and Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Division, CNA ( Dr. Elizabeth Wishnick (, Senior Research Scientist, China Studies Program (, CNA, and Senior Research Scholar, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University Dr. April Herlevi ( Senior Research Scientist, Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Program (, CNA For a recent analysis of the CCP Congress report see our InDepth blog posts by David Finkelstein and Brian Waidelich.

Nov 9, 2022

Analysis of the impact of the women-led protests since the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police. Is this a new Iranian Revolution led by women?

Featuring: Dr. Michael Connell, Principal Research Scientist, Strategy, Policy, Plans, and Programs Division, CNA Nazee Moinian, Non-Resident Scholar, Iran Program, Middle East Institute

Moderated by: Nilanthi Samaranayake, Director, Strategy and Policy Analysis Program, CNA

With Introductions by: Halleh Seyson, Vice President/Director, Institute for Public Research, CNA A Virtual Seminar by CNA’s Inclusive National Security & National Security Seminar Series October 25, 2022.

Full Event: The Crackdown in Iran: A Women, Peace, and Security Situation Spotlight


Oct 26, 2022

The Pacific Islands region is a massive and diverse region, and one with strategic value to both the United States and China. What challenges do the people of the Pacific Island Countries face and how can they navigate strategic competition between the great powers. 

April Herlevi and Chris Cairns from CNA’s Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Program, sit down to discuss the latest from the Pacific Islands, and how China and the United States are engaged in the region.

Further Reading
Army War College: Enabling a More Externally Focused and Operational PLA

CNA: Mapping the Information Environment in the Pacific Island Countries

CNA: PRC Vessels Detained for Illegal Fishing in Vanuatu EEZ 

CNA InDepth: China and the Solomon Islands: Drivers of Security Cooperation" 

CNA InDepth: ​Pacific Connectivity and Tonga's Volcanic Eruption

CNA InDepth: Tonga Aid

Oct 12, 2022

Brazil is currently amid a contentious presidential election between incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. President Bolsonaro has consistently claimed that Brazil's election system is vulnerable to fraud, sparking fears that the peaceful transition of power could be threatened.

Ralph Espach, from CNA’s Strategy and Policy Analyses Program, joins the show to discuss the Brazilian election, the threat to democracy in the country and what this could mean for U.S. interests in South America.

Sep 28, 2022

For the past 80 years, the Center for Naval Analyses has been the Navy’s partner and an essential resource for agencies across the federal government.

In this episode, Executive Vice President of the Center for Naval Analyses, Andrew Mara sits down to discuss the Center’s accomplishments over the past fiscal year and where the organization is headed in the coming one.

Sep 14, 2022

It’s been just over a year since the Taliban seized control of Kabul and established themselves as the government of Afghanistan. What has changed in Afghanistan in that time and what is the status of the major factions in the country?

CNA’s Jonathan Schroden is joined by three experts on militant groups in Afghanistan, they discuss the status of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS-K in Afghanistan and the relationships between these groups.

Jonathan Schroden is the director of CNA’s Counter Threats and Challenges Program.

Twitter: @JJSchroden

Amira Jadoon is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Clemson University. Previously she worked at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Twitter: @amirajadoon

Asfandyar Mir is a senior expert in the Asia Center at USIP. His research interests include the international relations of South Asia, U.S. counterterrorism policy and political violence — with a regional focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Twitter: @asfandyarmir

Andrew Watkins is a senior expert on Afghanistan for the U.S. Institute of Peace. He joined after serving as the senior analyst on Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group, where he published in-depth reports and analytical commentary on the country’s conflict and efforts to initiate a peaceful settlement.

Twitter: @and_huh_what

Aug 31, 2022

In July, the eyes of the world were fixed on Sri Lanka, when protesters stormed the Presidential Palace, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. But while the headlines have since faded, the story is far from over.

In this episode of CNA Talks, Nilanthi Samaranayake stops by to fill us in on what has happened in Sri Lanka since the protests and how the new President can address the crisis. 

Nilanthi Samaranayake (@nilanthis) directs CNA's Strategy and Policy Analysis Program, her recent analysis of Sri Lanka has been published in Newsweek and Lawfare.

Further Reading

Newsweek: China's Not to Blame for All of Sri Lanka's Woes

Lawfare: How Has Sri Lanka’s Crisis Impacted Indian Ocean Security?


Aug 18, 2022

This content was originally published on BMNT's YouTube Channel. You can find the original video here.

In this follow-up conversation to BMNT’s June panel "The Race for Autonomy: Navigating a New Battlefield," A'ndre Gonawela talks to Dr. David Broyles, Research Program Director at the Center for Naval Analysis and co-host of "AI with AI", on the challenges facing the Department of Defense when it comes to developing and leveraging autonomous systems and capabilities. Dr. Broyles digs into why he (like our prior panelists) believes the state of autonomy today is ‘brittle’, and why the end goal for many is ‘general AI’ – the ability for artificial intelligence to behave and adapt like human intelligence can. We discuss Dr. Broyles’ belief that an ‘AI Winter’ may be approaching, where momentum in the development of systems is slowed or even halted. We then dig into where the Department of Defense is on the racetrack, dissecting the lingering confusion that underlies the differences between unmanned systems and autonomous systems, and how we can better equip DoD leaders in understanding how autonomous systems can operate. Dr. Broyles highlights opportunities to build trust in autonomous systems with the warfighter, in addition to addressing the edge cases and ‘fat tails’ that can impede the success of autonomous vehicles.


You can read about our first panel here:

Notes from Episode

  • General consensus of state of autonomy is that it is brittle, and still in infancy when it comes to DoD
  • Bigger debate in AI community – end state is general AI, equivalent to human intelligence, adaptable to environment, and process things like a human can. What are the tools to go about this?
    • Two camps that disagree with each other:
      • Neural network reward: Can employ larger neural networks, dump more data, put more processing power, and have reward schemes.
      • Symbolic logic camps – need ways to encode information in symbols that machines can manipulate at higher levels of aggregation.
    • Still trying to figure out the things we really need to make these things work and get rid of the bugs.
    • AI Winter?
      • There have been periods where the momentum in AI development stopped – last one in early 2000s, influenced by availability of graphical processing capabilities (large computational power being dumped on the problem)
      • Are we coming to the limits of the tools and capabilities we’ve developed? Margins of incremental improvements are diminishing.
      • AVs are a bellwether of progress – if progress isn’t delivered in tangible ways, market could lose interest, meaning less financial investment.
    • AI Summer?
      • Alexnet winning image recognition competition in 2014 was first real success of neural networks, motivated community at large, many developments between 2014 through 2019. People were trying many different tools.
    • Where’s DOD with developing/leveraging autonomous systems?
      • It’s hard to pinpoint where they are on the racetrack.
      • Confusion between unmanned and autonomous systems – can be communicated unclearly, sometimes unmanned systems are mistakenly attributed as autonomous when they aren’t.
      • First major step is for DoD to employ more unmanned systems – it’s been slow, but CNO actually incorporating uncrewed systems into their force structure direction is a significant step.
      • Lots of little things here and there are going on but there’s nothing being coordinate in a big way. CDAO (Chief Digital AI Office, former JAIC), is trying to play a role here but there’s more ways in which they can step in.
    • Ensuring trust for warfighters?
      • You can either not have enough trust, or you can overtrust, and the latter gets less attention – the example here is Tesla’s autopilot system being overtrusted and then getting involved in deadly crashes.
      • Need to get autonomous systems into the hands of the warfighters – biggest priority.
      • Need to communicate the capabilities better to an operator, need to ensure that the operator can have other cues and/or ways of interacting with the system.
    • Do our DoD leaders understand how autonomous systems can be used/leveraged and how they work? Can we work to educate them quickly?
      • Area of high concern, and cyber discussions are indicative of the difficulties that could be faced as senior leaders have taken some time to embrace and understand the technologies.
      • Very small number of senior leaders who have a good idea of what’s going on, and larger number with staff who know what they’re talking about, but there’s issues with proposals promising to develop tech that simply won’t happen.
        • People in approval chain may not understand that these things won’t work
      • Arming senior leaders with the key questions, but that’s a bandaid – we need more people with basic understandings of how these technologies work. This does not necessarily mean we hire computer scientists, but DoD can work internally to raise the floor on level of understanding – and these areas are beginning to slowly come up to speed.
    • Addressing edge cases?
      • Fat tails – distribution of things that you may run into, most of the stuff is going to fall into a general bin, but there’ll be edge cases that’ll extend.
        • What happens if a plastic bag runs into a screen of an AV?
      • Uber and others couldn’t just throw hundreds or millions of hours of driving data to fix this.
      • Solution is General AI – we can’t throw fat tail problems into same bucket. Running simulations still runs into the same problem, and throwing info won’t solve it. There really is no good answer, there’s not been a good articulation of the answer.
      • We’re trying to minimize the edge cases as best we can. However, alternatives like smart roads and sensors can provide added information to help prevent accidents or minimize disruptions in environment.
    • Experimentation – What’s Commercial doing that DoD is not doing?
      • Mechanics around how to do things are the primary thing that can hinder experimentation.
      • There’s a strange acquisition ecosystem that isn’t always friendly to innovative ideas going through standard program office processes.
    • Policy Lagging Behind on Autonomous Systems?
      • There are some new technologies falling under clear regulation – and as long as it doesn’t cause any other problem, but because these technologies are so wide ranging they can cause issues.
      • You can forecast some of these things, but there’s always an unexpected bit. Is there a general philosophy on how to handle this? There’ll always be questions on privacy and safety.
    • Is DoD adequately reaching out to small businesses?
      • It is happening, but biggest barrier (in his view) is DoD contracting and being able to decipher postings, requirements, forms, and etc.
      • Need to take a quantitative approach to assessing effectiveness of this.
Aug 17, 2022

Hi Listeners,

Due to technical difficulties, CNA Talks will be released tomorrow, August 18. Thank you all for your patience. 

Aug 3, 2022

As the Navy transitions to the new Detailing Marketplace Assignment Policy increased demand will be placed on its detailers. In today’s episode, we discuss a new tool from CNA which could help expedite the assignment process and help detailers execute their mission.


Warren Sutton is a Senior Research Scientist in CNA’s Navy Human Resources Program.

Further Reading

Navy Enlisted Detailing Marketplace Assignment Algorithm

Jul 20, 2022

Every branch of the military is struggling to meet its fiscal year 2022 recruiting goals. Marine General David Ottignon recently told Congress that 2022 is “arguably the most challenging recruiting year since the inception of the all-volunteer force.”

In this episode, we explore what is driving these challenges and how the military can adapt its recruiting strategizes to the modern media environment.


Elizabeth Clelan is a Principal Research Scientist in CNA’s ​Marine Corps and Defense Workforce Program.

Heather Wolters is a Senior Research Scientist in CNA’s Marine Corps and Defense Workforce Program.

Jared Huff is a Principal Research Scientist in CNA’s Navy Human Resources Program.


Strategy, Policy and Analysis Program

Jul 6, 2022

This week we are bringing you a rebroadcast of Episode 108, to coincide with CNA's recent case study on the same topic. 

As climate change increases the frequency and impact of natural disasters, the consequences of these events are not felt evenly. While disasters are devastating for everyone, they are exponentially worse for already vulnerable populations.

In this episode of CNA Talks, CNA’s Angie De Groot sits down with Jason Biermann and Jody Ferguson, emergency management professionals from the Pudget Sound region, in Washington. They discuss an innovative approach that priorities getting aid to their most vulnerable citizens, with the help of their private sector partners.

A Case Study in Supply Chain Resilience Private-public Collaboration To Facilitate Flows: The Experience of Puget Sound Early in the Pandemic

Jun 22, 2022

Since the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear weapons has largely faded from popular consciousness. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats have brought the issue back into focus.

In this episode of CNA Talks, we are discussing nuclear policy and strategy, and how things have shifted since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Timothy McDonnell is a research analyst in CNA's Strategy and Policy Analysis program, where he studies nuclear weapons policy, and nuclear strategy.

Mary Chesnut is an Associate Research Analyst in CNA’s Russia Studies Program, where she studies Russian nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy.

Further Reading

Prevailing Under the Nuclear Shadow: A New Framework for U.S. Escalation Management

Russian Strategy for Escalation Management: Key Debates and Players in Military Thought

Jun 8, 2022

Since the start of the global war on terror in 2001, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have been laser-focused on counterterrorism. But as the Department of Defense shifts its priorities to great-power competition Special Operations Command (SOCOM), is adapting to fit this new mission.

In this episode of CNA Talks, experts on Special Operations Forces sit down to discuss the Special Operations Command’s Vision and Strategy document.


Jonathan Schroden is the Director of CNA's Special Ops Research Program. He recently directed a congressionally mandated assessment of special operations force structure.

Thomas Trask is a Senior Fellow in CNA’s Countering Threats and Challenges Program and a former Vice Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

Alexander Powell is a Research Scientist with CNA’s Countering Threats and Challenges Program. He is an expert on terrorist group tactics, counterterrorism, and special operations forces

Jun 3, 2022

This episode originally aired on September 3, 2020.

Sometimes truth is more interesting than fiction. Christine Fox was a CNA analyst working at the Navy's legendary fighter school in Miramar, California when a Hollywood producer decided she'd be the perfect inspiration for Tom Cruise's love interest in the 1986 blockbuster "Top Gun." But that was just the start of Fox's incredible career -- she'd go on to become the most senior woman at the Pentagon, serving under multiple defense secretaries. In this episode, she talks about her role in the "Top Gun" legacy, and what it means to her to have been a trailblazing woman in national security. Hear more from Christine Fox: Analysis in Combat: The Legacy of Desert Storm

May 25, 2022

Drones once an exclusive tool of the military, are spreading throughout our society. Hobbyists use them for photography, businesses are exploring them as a tool to make deliveries, and local and state governments are exploring how they could be used for public safety. But at the same time, we’ve seen the rise of another new paradigm, the threat of cyberattacks. How can we ensure that these technologies are implemented in ways that increase public safety while ensuring that they are safe and secure? In this episode, CNA analysts Steven Habicht, Adam Monsalve, and Addam Jordan discuss their award-winning research on unmanned aerial systems.  

Steven Habicht is the director of CNA’s Center for Enterprise Systems Modernization.

Addam Jordan is the Chief Scientist of CNA’s Center for Enterprise Systems Modernization.

Adam Monsalve is a Lead Cybersecurity and Unmanned Aerial Systems Analyst.

CNA's Center for Data Management and Analytics:

CNA's Center for Enterprise Systems Modernization:


May 11, 2022

Like many militaries, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) played a role in their COVID-19 relief efforts. What do these operations show us about the PLA’s domestic and international capabilities?

In this episode of CNA Talks, Heidi Holz and Brian Waidelich discuss their recent report on this topic.

Heidi Holz is a Senior Research Scientist in the CNA China Studies program. Her research interests include PRC maritime policies and activities, and Chinese military doctrine and operations.

Brian Waidelich is a Research Scientist in CNA's Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Program. His research focuses on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) organization and Indo-Pacific maritime and space security issues.

Rx PLA: The PLA Medical System’s Role in China’s Efforts to Fight COVID-19

CNA InDepth: Tonga Aid

Apr 27, 2022

As China seeks to expand its presence in the Arctic, it is important for observers to understand its motivations and how it fits into its larger global strategy.

In this episode CNA analysts Heidi Holz and Andrew Taffer join John Stimpson, to discuss what the arctic means to Beijing, what it hopes to accomplish there and some unexpected obstacles to its objectives.

Heidi Holz is a Senior Research Scientist in the CNA China Studies program. Her research interests include PRC maritime policies and activities, and Chinese military doctrine and operations.

Andrew Taffer is a Research Scientist Indo-Pacific Security Affairs program.

Apr 13, 2022

China has consistently used foreign direct investment to increase its power and influence around the globe and has set its sights on the Arctic. These investments can be incredibly useful to smaller states but may also pose risks to their national security.

In this episode of CNA Talks, Cornell Overfield and Rebecca Wolfson join John Stimpson to discuss China’s foreign direct investment in the Arctic States, what mechanisms are in place to protect their national security interests, and what the international community can do to expand these protections. 

Cornell Overfield is an Associate Research Analyst with CNA’s Strategy, Policy and Analysis Program.

Rebecca Wolfson is a Regulatory Analyst with CNA’s Office of the General Counsel.    

Related Materials Arctic Prospecting: Measuring China’s Arctic Economic Footprint:

Foreign Direct Investment Screening in the Arctic:

Exploring the Relationship between China’s Investment in the Arctic and Its National Strategy:

Arctic Economic Security: Recommendations for Safeguarding Arctic Nations against China’s Economic Statecraft:


Mar 30, 2022
As climate change increases the frequency and impact of natural disasters, the consequences of these events are not felt evenly. While disasters are devastating for everyone, they are exponentially worse for already vulnerable populations.

In this episode of CNA Talks, CNA’s Angie De Groot sits down with Jason Biermann and Jody Ferguson, emergency management professionals from the Pudget Sound region, in Washington. They discuss an innovative approach that priorities getting aid to their most vulnerable citizens, with the help of their private sector partners.


Jason M Biermann is the Director of the Snohomish County (WA) Department of Emergency Management. He has supported the response and recovery efforts to multiple disasters including the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States in January 2020.

Jody Ferguson is the Director of Emergency Management for Pierce County Emergency Management, the second-largest county in Washington State and is the Sponsoring Agency Chief for Washington Task Force One, one of FEMA’s 28 urban search and rescue teams.

Angie De Groot is a senior research scientist with CNA's Institute for Public Research. In 2019, she led the planning for a new emergency support function under the National Response Framework, created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to promote the stabilization of critical lifelines.

Mar 16, 2022

As new cases of COVID-19 continue to fall in the U.S., experts have begun to predict that the virus is shifting from a pandemic to an endemic. But while states all over the country have rolled back restrictions and mandates intended to slow the spread of the virus, it is something that we will continue to live with for the foreseeable future. In this episode of CNA Talks Eric Trabert and Yang Li, of CNA’s Center for Public Health Preparedness and Resilience, sit down to discuss what this new period of the pandemic means for the public, and what the work of public health practitioners might look like going forward.

Eric Trabert is the Director of CNA’s Center for Public Health Preparedness and Resilience. He has evaluated the public health and medical responses to the 2014-2016 Ebola virus disease epidemic and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Yang Li is a Senior Research Scientist with CNA's Institute for Public Research. His research includes assessments of past real-world public health emergencies, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and he has authored publications jointly with researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yang also represents CNA on the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium (GHSAC) as a Steering Committee member.

Mar 2, 2022

As militaries around the world begin to integrate more autonomous systems into their ranks, nations have been asking themselves how to ensure that these systems follow the laws of war.

To start to answer this question, Don Boroughs sits down with Jason Stack from the Office of Naval Research and CNA analyst Mike Stumborg. They discuss Mike’s recent report which provides a checklist for ethical autonomy.

Follow the link below to read the report.

Jason Stack is a Director at the Office of Naval Research. He has led autonomy projects both at the Office of Naval Research and as the Chair of the Autonomous Systems Strategy Development Team.

Mike Stumborg is Principal Research Scientist with CNA’s ​Strike and Air Warfare Program.

Feb 16, 2022

Last summer, following the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, the Taliban seized control of the country. In the months since Afghanistan’s economy has been devested by the Taliban’s policies and by international sanctions against the country.   

On this episode of CNA Talks Jon Schroden welcomes economists Torek Farhadi and Bill Byrd, to discuss this crisis and what can be done to alienate it.  

Jonathan Schroden is the Director of CNA’s Countering Threats and Challenges Program.

Torek Farhadi is a former senior advisor to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He has discussed Afghan economic, security and humanitarian issues with the BBC, NPR and USA Today.

Bill Byrd is a developmental economist with the U.S. Institute of Peace. He previously served as the World Bank’s country manager for Afghanistan.

Feb 2, 2022

In response to Russia’s buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border, the U.S. and its European partners have threatened crippling sanctions if Russia were to invade. As this situation evolves, another leader familiar with the cost of sanctions arrived in Russia on January 19: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

On this episode of CNA Talks, Iran expert Mike Connell and Russia analyst Julian Waller discuss the consequences of that meeting and its likely geopolitical impact.  

Listener Note: In this episode, Iran Nuclear Deal and JCPOA are used interchangeably.

CNA’s Mike Connell is an expert on the armed forces of Iran and Persian Gulf Security issues.

Julian Waller is an analyst with CNA’s Russia Studies program.


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