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26 May 19. Australian PM announces new look Defence postings. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has officially revealed his new look Cabinet and Ministerial team with the Defence portfolio playing a major role in the returned Coalition government.
Defence Connect can today confirm the appointment of Senator Linda Reynolds CSC as Australia’s Minister for Defence succeeding Christopher Pyne, with [insert name] as the Minister for Defence Industry and [insert name] becoming/remaining the Assistant Minister for Defence in the new look Coalition cabinet.
Minister Reynolds comes to the role following a brief stint as the Minister for Defence Industry – Senator Reynolds was elected to the Senate in 2014 following more than 20 years’ experience at the national political level working for Ministers, Members of Parliament and the Liberal Party of Australia.
Senator Reynolds served for 29 years in the Australian Army as a Reserve Officer in a wide range of part and full-time appointments. Senator Reynolds combines a wealth of political, academic and professional corporate experience, including:
- Chief of Staff to the Minister for Justice and Customs;
- Project Director with Raytheon Australia;
- Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia;
- Commanding Officer of a Combat Service Support Battalion; and
- Adjutant General of Army, the Chief of Army’s key governance advisor.
Senator Reynolds was the first woman in the Australian Army Reserves to be promoted to the rank of Brigadier and was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross, she has completed a Master of Arts (Strategic Studies).
The new Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price professional career includes working for leading Australian law firm Clayton Utz. She also has more than 20 years’ experience in the private sector, working in the mining and grain industry in a variety of commercial and legal roles, including iron ore company Crosslands Resources, which is owned by Mitsubishi Corporation.
Minister Price was elected to Parliament in 2013 and joined the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry, Indigenous Affairs, and Infrastructure and Communications, and the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, to represent the electorate of Durack on a range of important issues.
Prior to stepping into the Defence Industry portfolio – Minister Price was elevated to her first outer ministerial appointment in the role of Assistant Minister for the Environment. In 2018, Minister Price was sworn in as Minister for the Environment in the Morrison Government.
New Assistant Minister for Defence, Alex Hawke was elected at the 2007 election as the Federal Member for Mitchell, an electorate centred on the Hills Shire in Northwest Sydney. Minister Hawke will also be responsible for the International Development and the Pacific – which has been re-elevated to a full ministry position.
In September 2015, Alex was appointed as the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer. Following the 2016 Federal Election Alex was appointed the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. Due to the establishment of the Home Affairs Portfolio in late 2017, Alex was appointed the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs. On 27 August 2018, Alex was officially sworn in as the Special Minister of State in the first Morrison Government.
Alex’s previous Parliamentary positions included service as Member, Speakers Panel and Committee roles as Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and Chair of the House Standing Committee on the Environment.
Minister Hawke holds a Masters of Government and Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sydney University. He has also served as an Army Reserve Officer.
The new ministry is expected to be sworn in Wednesday, 29 May at a ceremony at Government House in Canberra. (Source: Defence Connect)
24 May 19. US To Send 900 Troops To Middle East To Counter Iran. The Trump administration insists that the deployment is purely defensive. The Trump administration is sending about 900 additional troops to the Middle East in what senior defense officials insisted Friday is a “narrowly-focused defensive posture” intended to
“We think that through a combination of a very measured deployment of assets as well as public messaging, we are again trying to underscore that we are not seeking hostilities with Iran,” said Joint Staff Director Rear Adm. Michael Gilday. “In the military dimension, that is the best we can do — because they are reacting in the military dimension.”
“We just want to be clear that based on our posture and the assets we are flowing to theater, [U.S. posture] is not in any way designed to be provocative.”
The deployment will include 900 fresh troops, including an Air Force fighter squadron, to allow the Pentagon to respond to any attacks, gather intelligence on Iran and its proxies, and harden its existing defenses. One Patriot missile defense battalion — which includes about 600 troops — already in the region will also be extended.
Pentagon officials declined to say where the troops would be sent. Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Katie Wheelbarger told reporters Friday only that they would not go to Iraq or Syria. The U.S. currently has about 70,000 troops across all domains in the Middle East.
President Trump notified Congress of the deployment on Friday.
The deployment comes amid ongoing skepticism on Capitol Hill over the Trump administration’s claims of new intelligence that has thrust heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran into public view over the past two weeks. On May 5, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the Defense Department was positioning a carrier strike group to the region to respond to what Defense Department officials later said was a credible threat from Tehran on U.S. forces in the region. Since then, defense officials have attributed a number of attacks on U.S. partners in Saudi Arabia and off the coast of the U.A.E. to Iran-aligned groups and proxies that Gilday said Friday were directed by Tehran.
Administration and military officials have provided no evidence to back up their intelligence claims, drawing unfavorable comparisons to the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003 from criticsand veterans of that conflict. Republican lawmakers have backed up the Trump administration’s assessment of a credible threat to U.S. troops in the region, and blocked a Democratic measure to curb Trump’s powers to send forces. Democratic lawmakers who have also been briefed say the administration is inflating the threat in order to make the case for war with Iran. The Pentagon’s three-star Joint Staff director rejected that theory,
“This truly is operations-driven by intelligence,” Gilday said. The DOD assesses with a “high degree of confidence” that Iran was behind “all” of the recent attacks, he said — including a drone attack on an oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia claimed by Houthi rebels with murky ties to Iran; an attack on two oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE; and a rocket that landed near the U.S.embassy in Baghdad. Iran also attempted the “covert deployment of modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles,” Gilday said.
“We view this as a campaign,” he said. “I think that it does have a degree of complicated nature to it in terms of tying a bunch of threads together. We see this differently than just an episodic errant rocket here and there.”
While Trump adminsitration officials have made threats from Iran a central focus of its Middle East policies and messaging, senior military officials for more than a year have also tried to sound alarms about Iran’s proliferation of ballistic missiles, suicide drones, and IED boats, especially in and around Yemen. Military and administration officials have repeatedly insisted in the past two weeks that this recent request for troops came up the chain from regional command, rebuffing theories it was a Bolton-hatched plot. The request for additional troops came from newly-installed U.S. Central Command head Gen. Ken McKenzie, Gidlay said.
Democratic lawmakers briefed on the underlying intelligence on Wednesday were not satisfied.
“The intent of this administration for quite some time — people like John Bolton, people like [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo — have a long history of calling for regime change in Iran and wanting to go to war in Iran,” House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who is also running for president, said Wednesday.
“This is the concern that many of us have, knowing that has been a stated intent. Even though the administration is saying they have no desire to go to war with Iran, their actions tell a very different story.”
On Friday, the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Mac Thornberry, of Texas, said in a statement, “The forces being deployed are in response to a request from CENTCOM. I understand that there is a temptation to view everything through a political lens, but a request from a commander on the ground for additional force protection should never be subject to a partisan debate. This is a prudent step to protect our forces and deter Iran.”
Trump publicly has been ambivalent about military engagements in the Middle East since his 2016 campaign, pledging to return U.S. troops from long wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan while encouraging regional powers to do more of their own fighting. On Monday, Trump in a tweet threatened “the official end of Iran” if they “want a fight.” But in the past two weeks, he has stated repeatedly he does not want war and wants regime leaders to “call” him.
Lawmakers briefed this week by Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford have raised questions about the Trump administration’s broader policy for dealing with Iran. Tensions between the two countries have been rising since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last year, which traded sanctions relief for certain curbs on the regime’s nuclear weapons program. Republicans have long derided the deal as too narrow in scope and have kept Iran as a central focus of their national security policy. Pompeo and Bolton, in particular, long have been proponents of a harsher approachto Iran.
“They didn’t tell us how they were planning to get them to talk,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, said following Wednesday’s briefing. “It just seems to be a process of blind escalation with the hopes that the Iranians will come to their senses at some point.”
Wheelbarger pushed back on that characterization on Friday.
“We have attempted to be very clear with Congress that our policy objective remains to return Iran to the negotiating table to address more than just their nuclear program, but to address the range of their destabilizing behavior across the region,” Wheelbarger said. Twelve demands on Iran’s behavior made by Pompeo last year “is the most concrete example of the issues that we want to address in that comprehensive deal with Iran,” she said.
“I want to make clear that our policy with regards to Iran has not changed.” (Source: Defense One)
23 May 19. Pakistan says it wants peace with India, conducts missile test. Pakistan has signalled a willingness to open peace talks with India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears set to return to power in New Delhi after an election fought in the shadow of renewed confrontation between the nuclear-armed enemies.
But in a possible warning to India, Pakistan also announced that it has conducted a training launch of a Shaheen II, surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which it said is capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons at a range of up to 1,500 miles.
“Shaheen II is a highly capable missile which fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards maintenance of deterrence stability in the region,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement that made no direct mention of its neighbour.
On Wednesday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi spoke briefly with his Indian counterpart at the sidelines of a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
“We never speak bitterly, we want to live like good neighbours and settle our outstanding issues through talks,” he said following the meeting.
The remark follows months of tension between the long-time rivals, which came close to war in February over the disputed region of Kashmir, which both sides have claimed since independence from Britain in 1947.
Following a suicide attack in Kashmir that killed 40 members of an Indian paramilitary police force in February, Indian jets launched a raid inside Pakistan, striking what New Delhi said was a training camp of Jaish-e Mohammed, the radical group that claimed the Kashmir attack.
In response, Pakistan conducted a retaliatory strike of its own and jets from the two countries fought a dogfight in the skies over Kashmir during which an Indian pilot was shot down and captured.
Amid international pressure to end the conflict, Pakistan returned the pilot and there were no further strikes but tensions remained high, with regular exchanges of artillery fire from both sides in Kashmir.
Pakistan has also kept part of its airspace closed to international air traffic, disrupting flights to India and other parts of the region.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly offered to start talks with India to resolve the Kashmir issue, and officials have said that they hoped the process could start once the election is concluded.
Khan himself said last month he believed there was more prospect of peace talks with Indian if Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the election. (Source: Reuters)
21 May 19. Looking towards the 2030s – Ideas for the next Australian Defence White Paper. As the regional balance of power continues to evolve, the next iteration of Australia’s Defence White Paper will be presented with a number of geo-strategic challenges. It is time to discuss a few items to enhance Australia’s future defence, defence industry and national security capabilities. The rise of Indo-Pacific Asia is serving to exacerbate Australia’s identity crisis, with politics playing an important role in navigating the quagmire of ideas to develop and implement a clear, concise and considered role for Australia in the 21st century. In order to do so, however, Australia needs to clearly identify what role it needs to play: that of a minor, middle or regional great power.
Australia’s next Defence White Paper (DWP) will be tasked with responding to the challenges of an ever changing regional and global geo-political and strategic environment, through a number of programs focused on defining the nation’s role and strategy in the Indo-Pacific, enhancing Australia’s defence capabilities and supporting the further development and competitiveness of Australia’s burgeoning defence industry.
These changing strategic realities, driven by the rise of nations like China and smaller regional powers, a resurgent and assertive Russia, combined with the relative decline of the US, means it is time to open the forum for discussion to shift the discourse from one of traditional ‘black and white’ thinking as it relates to Australia’s defence and national security.
Strategic policy thinkers, academics, Australian politicians and the public all have a role to play in the discussion to change the nation’s approach to defence policy.
It is also important to recognise that while Australia’s defence expenditure looks set to increase to $38.7bn in 2019-20, the rapidly evolving strategic realities of the Indo-Pacific region will necessitate greater investment in the nation’s strategic capabilities. Recognising this and following feedback from our readers, Defence Connect has put together a brief list of ideas and is encouraging conversation about the strategies, policies and capabilities to be included in the next Defence White Paper.
- Develop a cohesive National Security Strategy – as the guiding document for the 2020 DWP, Integrated Investment Plan and Defence Industry Development Strategy
Australia has long stumbled from strategic doctrine to strategic doctrine – from ‘Forward Defence’ to ‘Defence of Australia’, the nation’s approach to National Security Strategy (NSS) has been dependent on a combination of domestic and international factors and heavily eclectic, with no clear definition or understanding of Australia’s role and responsibility in the Indo-Pacific region.
Any NSS must clearly define the roles, responsibilities and expectations of Australia in the rapidly changing regional order. A key component of this is implementing the first force posture review since 2012 – as announced by the opposition during the 2019 election – to focus on defining Australia’s capabilities out to the 2050s.
Further enhancing the effectiveness of the NSS is the introduction and development of a National Strategic Reserve Program to stockpile key strategic resources (including crude and refined energy supplies, iron, aluminium, rare earth elements, coking coal, agricultural produce and medical supplies) and support the development of national strategically important industries.
Developing these concepts, in conjunction with an updated DWP and an expanded Integrated Investment Plan and Defence Industry Strategy, to enhance the capabilities of Australia’s defence industry – splitting the focus on domestic demand and export-oriented industrialisation in a similar manner to the policy and doctrines that supported the development of South Korea.
- Shift focus of DST to focus on ‘developing the weapons systems of the future’
Mimicking the effectiveness of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which focuses on developing next-generation technologies with a longer-term focus (25 years plus), shift the focus of the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) to locally develop and commercialise breakthrough technologies to support the modernisation and integration of leading-edge technologies by the Australian Defence Force.
This shift is one supported by Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, who told Defence Connect, “While we have to ask what are the sorts of capabilities we can field now, we also have to ask what are the capabilities we will need to field in the future, out to 2040? This is where an organisation like DARPA becomes particularly powerful in helping the US to locally develop key technologies, which will provide us with a tactical and strategic deterrent in the future.”
- Begin development of a credible conventional strategic deterrence capability
Ruling out the development of a credible nuclear deterrent, Australia’s focus on developing a strategic deterrence-focused ‘joint force’ concept requires an emphasis on developing ‘great power’ level capabilities. Key to developing these ‘joint force’ strategic capabilities is developing a range of capabilities, including:
- Rapidly deployable expeditionary focused ground forces – combining amphibious units and traditional, high-intensity and manoeuvre warfare-focused ground combat elements;
- Comprehensive naval power projection forces including aircraft carrier strike groups, amphibious assault groups and conventionally-focused at sea deterrence submarine forces; and
- Integrated, expeditionary capable air forces combining tactical fighter aircraft, tactical and strategic strike, air lift and tanker, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
Developing these individual forces requires an acceptance of Australia’s position within this shifting regional environment, and an acceptance that Australia’s precarious position and dependence on the Indo-Pacific will require increased investment and targeted policy development to maintain the nation’s prosperity, security and way of life.
- Recognise Australia’s role as a regional benefactor
Australia’s security and prosperity are directly influenced by the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, meaning Australia must be directly engaged as both a benefactor and leader in all matters related to strategic, economic and political security, serving as a complementary force to the role played by the US.
Australia cannot simply rely on the US, or Japan, or the UK, or France to guarantee the economic, political and strategic interests of the nation. China is already actively undermining the regional order through its provocative actions in the South China Sea and its rapid military build-up.
To assume that Australia will remain immune to any hostilities that break out in the region is naive at best and criminally negligent at worst. As a nation, Australia cannot turn a blind eye to its own geo-political, economic and strategic backyard, both at a traditional and asymmetric level, lest we see a repeat of Imperial Japan or the Iranian Revolution arrive on our doorstep.
It is clear from history that appeasement does not work, so it is time to avoid repeating the mistakes of our past and be fully prepared to meet any challenge.
- Support the development of a passive and active Australian space capability
Australia’s burgeoning space industry and space capabilities draw on the nation’s existing strengths in space situational awareness, over-the-horizon sensor technology, geospatial monitoring and emerging fields of launch and electronic warfare to develop a robust Australian space capability – completely self reliant and capable of supporting the national security objectives of the Australian economy and Defence Force.
Key components of this include the development and integration of advanced nano-satellite sensors forming a defence-focused ‘internet of things’ combining passive and active sensors to support decision making – and the high-speed flow of information in and out of a battlespace. Additionally, Australia also needs to introduce and enhance a credible anti-space capability to serve as a key component of a broader strategic deterrent capability given the growing dependence of modern economies and militaries on space technologies operating under the auspice of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Each of these individual components supports the development of a truly ‘joint force’ Australian Defence Force capable of supporting and enhancing the nation’s strategic engagement and relationships in the region. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below, or get in touch with
or . (Source: Defence Connect)
20 May 19. Report: RM300m paid for US-made helicopters that were never delivered. RM300m was paid for helicopters that were never delivered to the Royal Malaysian Army, a source close to investigations into allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the purchase of defence assets was reported as saying. Free Malaysia Today reported six MD530G light scout attack helicopters, manufactured by MD Helicopters of US aerospace giant McDonnell Douglas, had been ordered in 2016 by the defence ministry (Mindef). Then headed by Hishammuddin Hussein, the defence ministry had ordered the helicopters following a demonstration at the 2015 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (Lima) exhibition.
The helicopters are also known as “Little Birds”.
The publication reports that a local company -the appointed agent in Malaysia for MD Helicopters- has strong ties to “a very senior” Mindef official and made a proposal to Mindef to acquire the six MD530G.
This proposal was submitted to former prime minister and finance minister Najib Razak for approval.
The acquisition was given the green light through direct negotiation, and the deal was exempted from undergoing value management checks.
The terms of the contract, signed in November 2016 stipulated that the helicopters were slated to be delivered in two batches. The second batch was scheduled to arrive last year.
The company was paid 35% of the contract value, amounting to some RM113m.
“The main issue is that no real due diligence was done with the government,” said the source. Approval had been given about four months after submission of the proposal, the source said.
“The decision-making process for vital military assets would take time so that market research, due diligence, and value management checks could be done.”
However, due to absence of due diligence, Mindef was not aware that the company had previously been terminated as the local agent for MD Helicopters due to failure to meet financial obligations.
“This was very irresponsible because it opened up the government to the risk of financial losses and a failure to obtain the helicopters.”
The Malaysian Air Force had also raised concerns over the ability of the MD530G.
“One complaint was that it did not have a combat-proven record,” a retired air force official was reported as saying to the news portal.
A proposal sent to Hishammuddin in 2015 quoted the price at worth US$60m, but three months later, the price was inexplicably inflated.
“Just three months later, it submitted another proposal, this time over US$70m,” the source was quoted as saying.
“In just three months, the price inexplicably went up by over 20%.”
In checks about the company, it was found to have been making financial losses prior to the deal, and the helicopter deal is reportedly its first contrac, and first multi-million ringgit agreement.
“It only owned computers, furniture and office supplies valued at under RM50,000. Mindef could have gone directly to MD Helicopters (the American aerospace manufacturer that produces the helicopters) and saved millions in taxpayers’ money,” said the source.— EdgeProp.my (Source: Google/https://www.theedgemarkets.com)
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