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21 Dec 18. Jim Mattis resigns as US defence secretary. Retired general criticises Trump a day after the president announced withdrawal of troops from Syria. Jim Mattis has resigned as US defence secretary to protest against the way Donald Trump has treated allies and dealt with adversaries such as China and Russia, in a dramatic exit that came a day after the president said he would withdraw forces from Syria. Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday that Mr Mattis would be “retiring”. But in a resignation letter, Mr Mattis made clear he was leaving because he disagreed with the commander-in-chief over a wide range of policies and suggested that the president was putting the nation at risk. Mr Mattis and other officials opposed withdrawing troops out of Syria. “Because you have the right to have a secretary of defence whose views are better aligned with yours . . . I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mr Mattis wrote in the letter, which was released shortly after a meeting with Mr Trump. In the letter, Mr Mattis said US strength was “inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships”. He said the US should be “resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours”, including China and Russia. Read the letter here Jim Mattis: Letter of resignation While many other senior Trump administration officials have resigned — or been fired — Mr Mattis is the first to write such a critical letter as he prepares to depart the Pentagon in February. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democratic senator who spoke with Mr Mattis on Thursday morning, told CNN that the Syria decision was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. The resignation came as reports circulated that Mr Trump was considering following his move on Syria by withdrawing 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, declined to comment “on future strategic developments”. In the 24 hours since Mr Trump tweeted about Syria, he has come under heavy fire from Republicans with one senator calling his claim that Isis had been defeated “fake news”.
William Cohen, a friend of Mr Mattis who was secretary of defence in the Clinton administration, said Mr Mattis was “distraught” about the Syria decision. “He felt this is a betrayal of our allies . . . who have supported this battle against Isis. He was concerned about our credibility,” said Mr Cohen, who spoke to Mr Mattis on Wednesday. The move to withdraw troops from Syria, which was opposed by most top officials, suggested Mr Trump was not listening to Mr Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general who had more than four decades of experience and was respected around the world. In a sign Mr Trump had been distancing himself from his defence secretary, he ignored a recommendation from Mr Mattis in choosing General Mark Milley, chief of staff of the army, to succeed General Joe Dunford as chairman of the joint chiefs in September. James Stavridis, a former Supreme Allied Commander of Nato, said he was “deeply worried” about the exit of Mr Mattis who had tried his best to “inject some measure of reality and experience into a White House that is clearly in complete dysfunction”. Mr Stavridis said he hoped Mr Trump would replace Mr Mattis with an experienced person who the president would listen to, but said “every indication would tell us that he will continue to swing for the fences [and] follow his gut and that path may lead us into very dangerous waters”. He said the “big winners” from the Mattis departure were Russia, Iran, Syria, and North Korea, “all of our opponents”.
The departure of Mr Mattis came a week after Mr Trump revealed that John Kelly, another retired Marine general, would leave his position as White House chief of staff. This country is going through a steady diet of chaos and crisis . . . that I think puts our nation at risk Leon Panetta, former defence secretary It follows the departure this year of Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil chief executive, who was secretary of state until Mr Trump grew tired of the Texan. Mr Mattis and Mr Tillerson were frequently referred to as the “adults” in the Trump administration. They frequently found themselves reassuring US allies that the president’s comments and tweets about allies did not mean that the US was abandoning its friends around the world. Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate foreign relations committee, last year said Mr Mattis was a critical pillar in an otherwise dysfunctional administration. “Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos,” said Mr Corker, who called the White House an “adult day-care centre” because of Mr Trump’ actions. The resignation adds to the long list of departures. After less than two years, Mr Trump is on his third national security adviser, second secretary of state and soon will have a third chief of staff. He also recently fired Jeff Sessions as US attorney-general. When Mr Mattis was interviewed by Mr Trump for the Pentagon position, he made clear to the president that he disagreed with the critical comments that he made about allies. Over the past two years Mr Trump largely toned down the kind of criticism of allies that was common during the presidential race. But he has on occasions angered allies with his outbursts about nations, including Germany, France, Japan and South Korea.
Mr Trump has also continued to vent privately to friends and advisers about why the US needs to maintain so many troops in Japan and on the Korean peninsula — which has greatly worried allies who see them as a bulwark against China and North Korea. At the annual Nato summit in Brussels this summer, Mr Trump stunned the other leaders by castigating Chancellor Angela Merkel over Germany’s contributions to the transatlantic security alliance. US allies were particularly angry at his attacks on Nato since they came days before he met Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. At the summit with Mr Putin, Mr Trump shocked his intelligence officials by appearing to accept the denial by the Russian president that the Kremlin did not interfere in the US election. The US intelligence community is unanimous that Russia did interfere. The decision to remove troops from Syria — and signs of a similar move in Afghanistan — marks another step towards Mr Trump’s implementation of the isolationist policy that was central to his presidential campaign and a central part of his inauguration speech. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican senator, expressed “great sadness” about Mr Mattis, and described him as a “role model for the concept of duty, honour, country”. He called on Mr Trump to reassess his decision to remove troops from Syria. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican senator, said Mr Mattis had made it “abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances and empower our adversaries”. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the news about the departure was “scary”. Speaking on CNN, Leon Panetta, defence secretary during the Obama administration, said the departure raised serious alarm bells. “This country is going through a steady diet of chaos and crisis . . . that I think puts our nation at risk,” Mr Panetta, a former CIA director, said. Recommended Instant Insight Edward Luce Edward Luce: Mattis and the beginning of Donald Trump’s end The resignation adds to the turbulence in Washington just before the end-of-year holiday season.
Mr Trump is threatening to shut down the federal government from midnight Friday unless Congress provides $5bn to pay for the wall on the US-Mexico border that he pledged to build during the 2016 presidential race. Mr Trump is facing widespread criticism from Republican lawmakers and military allies over his Syria decision. While the president tweeted on Wednesday that US troops had “defeated Isis in Syria”, critics said his decision would leave the region open to a resurgence of Isis, the terrorist group, while emboldening Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and giving US adversaries Iran and Russia greater influence in the region. A military withdrawal not only breaks with existing US policy on Syria, but contradicts the position of a host of Mr Trump’s closest advisers. Three months ago John Bolton, US national security adviser, said US troops would ensure that Iranian forces left Syria. On Monday Jim Jeffrey, US envoy to Syria, stressed the US commitment to maintain forces in the region. Last week Brett McGurk, a top state department official, said that although the “end of the physical caliphate” was in sight, “nobody is declaring a mission accomplished”. On Wednesday, however, Mr Trump did exactly that. On Twitter, Mr Trump thanked Mr Mattis and said he would soon name a replacement. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, thanked Mr Mattis, saying he had “contributed much to the deterrent power of the US-Japan relationship and to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region”. (Source: FT.com)
20 Dec 18. Trump’s new Space Force to reside under Department of the Air Force. After months of deliberating how to stand up a Space Force, a sixth branch of the military proposed by President Donald Trump, Pentagon leaders have decided to funnel the new organization under the Department of the Air Force, Defense News has learned.
“There is established a United States Space Force as an armed force within the Department of the Air Force,” states a draft of the legislative proposal due to be put forward alongside the fiscal year 2020 budget early next year, which was viewed by Defense News on Dec. 20.
The new service will be overseen by the newly created undersecretary of the Air Force for the Space Force and a Space Force chief of staff, who will sit on the Joint Chiefs. Although the version of the proposal seen by Defense News is still in draft form and thus subject to change, an administration official with knowledge of discussions said that there is alignment across the Defense Department on keeping the Space Force within the Department of the Air Force. The document has been circulating among top Pentagon and service leaders, with the intent to hand it off to the Office of Management and Budget next, said one Defense Department official who was not authorized to speak on the record.
The decision is a major victory for the Air Force, which initially stood against attempts to carve out space operations from the service. Although Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson eventually declared her support for the president’s Space Force initiative, keeping the new branch within the Department of the Air Force will allow Air Force leaders to continue to have a voice on military space.
A spokesman for Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who is leading the department’s efforts to create a Space Force proposal, declined to confirm the details of the draft.
“In concert with White House guidance, we are moving forward with a legislative proposal for Space Force,” said Lt. Col. Joe Buccino in statement.
The proposed structure of the new service — which retains the moniker of Space Force that is favored by Trump — most closely mirrors the Space Corps proposal originally offered by Rep. Mike Rogers, the Alabama Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces committee.
Rogers and others in the House had advocated for a Space Corps that would sit under the Department of the Air Force, similar to the Marine Corps’ existence as an independent service under the Department of the Navy. The measure was passed through the House as part of the 2018 defense policy bill, but failed to make it though the Senate.
However, it was seemingly brought back to life stronger than ever when Trump directed the Pentagon to stand up a Space Force. Trump said this new, independent military branch would be “separate but equal” to the Air Force, leading defense wonks to speculate that a new Department of the Space Force would be created.
It appears that, after doing its analysis, the Pentagon favors a more modest approach — one that allows the Air Force to retain a degree of oversight over the Space Force initially, with the idea that it could establish a Department of the Space Force later if the need presented itself.
“The Space Force shall be organized, trained and equipped to provide for freedom of operations in, from and to the space domain for the United States and its allies” and “to provide independent military options for joint and national leadership and to enable the lethality and effectiveness of the joint force,” the legislative proposal states.
The service, which consists of an active duty component and Space Force Reserves, “includes both combat and combat support functions to enable prompt and sustained offensive and defensive space operations and joint operations in all domains.”
The undersecretary of the Air Force for the Space Force will be responsible for “the overall supervision” of the new service, but is still subordinate to the Air Force secretary, the legislative proposal states. On the uniformed side, a chief and vice chief of the Space Force would lead the “Space Staff.”
The proposal does not lay out the Space Force’s relationship to the newly re-established U.S. Space Command or the Space Development Agency, which the Pentagon intends to form to organize the rapid procurement of space technologies. Nor does it spell out the cost of standing up a new space service, a topic that has been hotly debated within the Pentagon and beyond.
In November, Defense One reported that the Defense Department was evaluating multiple ways of organizing the Space Force, including as a subordinate organization to the Air Force. This marked a change from its initial mandate to create a wholly independent department, one that Pentagon leaders saw as necessary to appeal to Congress, which gets the final decision on whether to establish a Space Force, the publication wrote.
Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters that the Pentagon had finalized an answer to questions about the organization of a Space Force, and that Trump had been briefed on the proposal.
“There were two primary options,” he told reporters Dec. 13. “We’re now down to one option. I’m really not in a position to disclose what that one option is, but I can tell you that the legislative proposal itself probably tomorrow will start to go through the [Pentagon] for coordination.”
Vice President Mike Pence was briefed on the way forward during a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday, reported Space News. (Source: Defense News)
21 Dec 18. DOD Releases Report on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. Today the Department of Defense provided to the Congress the semiannual report “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” covering events during the period from June 1 to November 30, 2018. The report was submitted in accordance with requirements in Section 1225 of the Fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as amended by Sections 1231 and 1531 of the Fiscal 2016 and Fiscal 2017 NDAA.
The principle goal of the South Asia Strategy is to conclude the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States. During this reporting period, the United States and its partners used military force to drive the Taliban towards a durable and inclusive political settlement. There have been some notable developments – the June Eid al-Fitr ceasefire and the support for peace from the broader Islamic community – which threatened the legitimacy of the Taliban.
The Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation (SRAR), Ambassador Zalmay Khalilizad, has reinforced U.S. diplomatic engagements with Afghans, neighboring states and interested parties in the broader region. Increased military pressure on the Taliban, international calls for peace, and the new SRAR’s engagements appear to be driving the Taliban to negotiations.
The introduction of additional advisors and enablers in 2018 stabilized the situation in Afghanistan, slowing the momentum of a Taliban march that had capitalized on U.S. drawdowns between 2011 and 2016. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) remain in control of most of Afghanistan’s population centers and all of the provincial capitals, while the Taliban control large portions of Afghanistan’s rural areas, and continue to attack poorly defended government checkpoints and rural district centers.
The reinforcement and realignment of U.S. and coalition forces and authorities under the South Asia Strategy have significantly increased pressure on the Taliban. Continued DOD partnership with the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) has produced an extremely lethal and agile offensive force. Enhanced efforts to train, advise and assist (TAA) the ANDSF, from strategic to tactical levels, including the employment of the Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) improved Afghan offensive capabilities.
NATO allies and partners remain committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability. At the July 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels, allies and partners reaffirmed their commitment to the Resolute Support (RS) TAA mission and agreed to extend financial sustainment of the ANDSF through 2024. Furthermore, RS welcomed Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as new operational partners, increasing the coalition from 39 to 41 allies and partners and providing evidence that our partners and allies know that our strategy is working.
Afghanistan held parliamentary elections in late October, and did so with minimal U.S. military support. Although the elections were not without violence, ANDSF preparation to secure polling stations resulted in an election that was less violent than any election conducted over the past ten years. The parliamentary elections demonstrated the significant growth and development of Afghanistan’s institutional and security capabilities, and help set the stage for presidential elections in 2019.
20 Dec 18. Lockheed Martin Meets 2018 F-35 Production Target with 91 Aircraft Deliveries. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) delivered the 91st F-35 aircraft for the year, meeting the joint government and industry delivery target for 2018 and demonstrating the F-35 enterprise’s ability to ramp to full rate production. The 91 deliveries in 2018 represent nearly a 40 percent increase from 2017 and about a 100 percent production increase compared to 2016. Next year, Lockheed Martin is set to deliver more than 130 F-35s representing yet another 40 percent increase in production.
“This milestone demonstrates the F-35 enterprise is prepared for full rate production and ready to deliver on increasing demand from our customers worldwide,” said Greg Ulmer, Lockheed Martin vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. “Year-over-year, we have increased production, lowered costs, reduced build time, and improved quality and on-time deliveries. Today, the F-35 is the most capable fighter jet in the world, and we’re delivering more aircraft per year than any other fighter on the market at equal to or less cost.”
The 91st aircraft is a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, to be delivered to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. In 2018, deliveries included 54 F-35s for the United States, 21 for international partner nations and 16 for Foreign Military Sales customers.
To date, more than 355 F-35s have been delivered and are now operating from 16 bases worldwide. More than 730 pilots and over 6,700 maintainers are trained and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 175,000 cumulative flight hours. Ten nations are flying the F-35, seven countries have F-35s operating from a base on their home soil, four services have declared Initial Operating Capability, and two services have announced their F-35s have been used in combat operations.
Transitioning to Full Rate Production and Operational Sustainment
Through lessons learned, process efficiencies, production automation, facility and tooling upgrades, supply chain initiatives and continuous improvement actions, the F-35 enterprise has significantly improved efficiency and reduced costs.
The price of an F-35A is now $89.2m and the enterprise is on track to deliver an $80m F-35A by 2020 (Lot 14), which is equal to or less than the price of less capable, 4th generation aircraft.
The F-35’s mission readiness and sustainment costs are also improving. Lockheed Martin’s sustainment cost per aircraft per year decreased three years straight, and by about 15 percent since 2015. The joint government and industry team is also taking aggressive actions to deliver 80 percent mission capable rates and reduce costs per flight hour by about 40 percent.
With stealth technology, supersonic speed, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and superior range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable and connected aircraft in the world. More than a fighter jet, the F-35’s ability to collect, analyze and share data, is a powerful force multiplier that enhances all airborne, surface and ground-based assets in the battlespace enabling men and women in uniform to execute their mission and return home safely. In joint combat exercises, the F-35 has proven to be more than 20 times more effective compared to legacy 4th generation aircraft.
20 Dec 18. U.S. Air Force to take delivery of Boeing tanker by year end, sources. The U.S. Air Force will take its first delivery this month of the long-delayed KC-46 aerial refueling tanker made by Boeing Co (BA.N), people familiar with the process said.
Final paperwork has been moving through the Pentagon’s chain of command in recent days, signaling that government concerns about the problem-plagued jet have been addressed after a multi-year delay, the people said.
The delays and fixes for the program has been costly for Boeing, which recorded $176m in additional charges on the KC-46 tanker in the third quarter alone. This brought the total pre-tax cost of the program to more than $3bn.
Delivery means Boeing could now begin to reverse what has been a steady stream of financial losses related to the KC-46 program, and a major public relations headache for the world’s largest aircraft maker. The acceptance will be final when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signs off on the delivery.
The Air Force currently plans to buy a total of 179 of the tankers, and could receive them at a pace of about three jets per month to McConnell Air Force base in Kansas.
In September, Boeing said the KC-46 completed the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certification, nearly three years after the planemaker commenced testing for the certification.
Boeing landed the $49bn contract in 2011 to build the tankers based on 767 commercial jets.
“The KC-46 is a top priority for the Boeing Company, and we have the best of Boeing working to ensure the U.S. Air Force gets their tankers as quickly as possible,” Boeing said.
An Air Force spokeswoman said “We are working with Boeing to resolve deficiencies and move towards acceptance and delivery.”
Problems with the jet, which refuels other aircraft mid-air, revolved around the mechanism for delivering fuel and the operation of that device, known as a “boom”.
Those issues have been mitigated in the eyes of the Air Force, the people said.
Boeing previously missed a forecast that the aircraft would be delivered last year, as the planemaker was trying to get airworthiness certifications and complete a flight test program (Source: Reuters)
19 Dec 18. White House says US is withdrawing troops from Syria. Republican senators push back against Trump administration departure from previous policy. President Donald Trump claimed victory over Isis in Syria as the White House said the US had begun to pull troops out of the country. The troop withdrawal was quickly branded a “mistake” by two influential Republican senators, pointing to possible disagreements between the White House and the Pentagon over Syria policy. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning. Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, said US troops had “started returning home” after defeating the “territorial caliphate” but that the US was “ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary”. An American withdrawal will put the Kurds and all those who came to America’s aid in destroying Isis at tremendous risk Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina Dana White, spokesperson for the US Department of Defence, said the coalition had “liberated the Isis-held territory”, but added that “the campaign against Isis is not over”. “We have started the process of returning US troops home from Syria as we transition to the next phase of the campaign,” said Ms White, adding: “We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat Isis wherever it operates.” A senior government official characterised the “next phase” of the campaign as “remaining vigilant” of the threat posed by Isis. Foreign policy analysts described Mr Trump’s move as a stark departure from existing US policy on Syria that left future diplomatic involvement in the region in question. Aaron David Miller, a director at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said: “It’s clear [Trump] doesn’t understand the rationale, nor has he ever been comfortable, with this deployment, and I think if there’s any silver lining here at all it’s the surfacing of the reality that we don’t have a coherent, cohesive policy towards Syria.” Mr Trump’s declaration came shortly after media reports that his administration was considering a plan to withdraw US troops from Syria, which has been mired in a civil war since 2011 and was a breeding ground for Isis. His move also underscores Mr Trump’s long-held desire to bring US forces home where possible. As part of what critics describe as his isolationist policy, Mr Trump has also talked on occasion about withdrawing US forces from allied countries such as Japan and South Korea. The US president previously said in April that he planned to withdraw the estimated 2,000 American troops from the country “soon”. But he was apparently persuaded not to pull them out, and in September John Bolton, his national security adviser, said US forces would remain in the country as long as Iranian forces operated there. US officials have also expressed concern in recent weeks about Isis’s ability to regain strength if left unchecked. James Jeffrey, the US’s top diplomat on Syria, said last month that Washington was “concerned about Isis as an insurgent force, as a terrorist force”. “That’s why we say that US troops will stay on in Syria until the enduring defeat of Isis,” he said. “We’re not there yet.” When asked whether Jim Mattis, US secretary of defence, Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, or Mr Jeffrey were briefed on Mr Trump’s decision ahead of time, a senior government official said they could not comment on the deliberative process. “The president’s statements have been one hundred per cent consistent on this topic from his [presidential] campaign through to today, and the notion that anyone in the administration has been caught unaware I would challenge,” the official said. “I don’t really see this as a surprise.” They added: “The president has directed troops to destroy the territorial caliphate of Isis, not create an utopian democracy.” Nicholas Burns, a former US undersecretary of state, said the US troop presence gave the US diplomatic leverage that would be crucial to rebuilding Syria. “If, in fact, the Syrian civil war is going to wind down in 2019, there is going to be a major diplomatic negotiation to put Syria back together,” he said. “The US should want to assemble a diplomatic alliance that includes the US, the European allies, the Sunni Arab states and Turkey if possible to balance the weight of Russia, Iran and the Syrian government in the high stakes diplomacy ahead.” Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, said the withdrawal of troops was a “mistake” that would leave Kurdish militias — the US’s main local ally in the fight against Isis — vulnerable. “An American withdrawal will put the Kurds and all those who came to America’s aid in destroying Isis at tremendous risk,” said Mr Graham. “It will make it more difficult to recruit future partners willing to confront radical Islam. It will also be seen by Iran and other bad actors as a sign of American weakness in the efforts to contain Iranian expansion.” Recommended Syrian crisis Turkey risks clash with US over Kurdish militants in Syria Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, also described the decision as a “mistake” that would increase instability in Syria. “Our adversaries will use this as evidence that America is an unreliable partner,” he said. “Today’s decision will lead to grave consequences in the months and years to come.” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, warned last week that his military was preparing an offensive against the Kurdish forces that dominate the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in north-eastern Syria. Ankara considers the Kurdish militants to be terrorists and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ party, which has been fighting a three-decade insurgency against Turkey. It has long complained of the US’s support for the SDF. A spokesperson for Kurdish militants told the Financial Times that they were not aware of a US decision to withdraw. Isis militants have been driven out of almost all the territory they controlled after launching a devastating insurgency across Iraq and Syria in 2014. The SDF claimed last week to have captured Hajin, a town in north-eastern Syria that was the militants’ last urban stronghold in the country. But US and SDF officials say the extremists have returned to their insurgent roots and are still capable of mounting deadly attacks. (Source: FT.com)
17 Dec 18. The military could save hundreds of billions — by capping pay, scrapping aircraft, slashing benefits, experts say. Analysts from the Congressional Budget Office say the government could trim hundreds of bns from the federal deficit by enacting a host of already discussed military and veterans program reforms. The problem is that those reforms include some of the most controversial and politically unpopular policies of the last few years, things like limiting military pay raises, ending a host of military equipment purchases, and cutting back on veterans benefits.
The document released last week — CBO’s annual “options for reducing the deficit” report — lists more than 120 ideas to reduce federal spending or boost federal revenues over the next 10 years. Authors said the goal is to “reflect a range of possibilities” of moves that lawmakers could make in dealing with government debt and escalating federal programming costs.
Twenty of the proposals would affect the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, including a plan to cut the Pentagon budget by 10 percent ($591bn in reduced budget authority over the next decade). That dramatic cut would “require DOD to decrease the size of its forces, slow the rate at which it modernizes weapon systems, or do both,” which in turn would prompt a host of complaints from military leaders and defense lawmakers.
Still, the size of the savings involved show why the ideas continue to attract debate on Capitol Hill each year, even with the significant disruptions they may bring.
Here is a look at some of the other potential VA and Pentagon moves:
Limit pay raises for troops ($18bn in savings over 10 years)
The CBO idea would give troops an annual raise of 0.5 percent less than the expected growth in civilian salaries. Service members would still see annual raises, but opponents of the idea argue that those increases wouldn’t keep up with the cost of living for military families.
President Barack Obama’s Pentagon capped the military raises at this level for three years during his presidency, leading to criticism from advocates that he had created a new gap in military and civilian wages. President Donald Trump suggested a 0.3 percent reduction in the expected raise formula in his first budget, but saw the proposal rejected by Congress.
Narrow eligibility for VA disability benefits ($33bn over 10 years)
The CBO plan would drop a host of conditions not directly related to military service — illnesses like arteriosclerotic heart disease, hemorrhoids and multiple sclerosis — from the list of claims eligible for disability benefits. More than 750,000 veterans’ checks would be affected by the move.
Any such trims in benefits have prompted harsh attacks from veterans groups, who have accused supporters of breaking faith with men and women who were promised lifelong assistance for their military service.
Cancel new F-35 purchases ($16bn over 10 years), retire the F-22 fleet ($30bn over 10 years) and delay development of the B-21 bomber until after 2028 ($45bn over 10 years)
All three ideas would require Air Force officials to continue using aging aircraft, a concern for Pentagon planners who have seen a spike in aviation accidents in recent years.
The CBO report acknowledged that a disadvantage of the idea would be making the military “less flexible against advanced enemy air defense systems” but said the current mix of aircraft types already in use by the services would mitigate some of those concerns.
Stop building Ford-class aircraft carriers ($18bn over 10 years)
Under this option, the Navy would stop building new aircraft carriers after the USS Enterprise, scheduled to be completed in 2027. A carrier set for the start of construction in 2023 would be scrapped.
The CBO report argues that even with the move, the Navy would still have 11 active carriers until 2036 given its current fleet size. However, defense lawmakers have long argued against any delays in ship building schedules, given the long wait for construction and fielding of new vessels.
End VA’s Individual Unemployability program for retirement-age veterans ($48bn over 10 years)
Trump also suggested this idea in his first VA budget, only to have lawmakers and veterans groups soundly reject it.
The IU program provides extra benefits to veterans unable to work because of disabilities, even if they don’t have a 100 percent disabled rating. Supporters have argued that money should stop once Social Security payouts begin. Opponents of the idea could leave as many as 235,000 veterans in dire financial need.
Reduce military housing allowances to 80 percent of rent costs ($15bn over 10 years)
Under this plan, BAH payments wouldn’t change for troops until they move, but it would slowly increase their out-of-pocket costs for housing. The change would also create savings for the VA, since post-9/11 GI Bill housing stipends are tied to the military housing formula.
Similar BAH reform proposals on Capitol Hill have met fierce opposition in recent years. Advocates argue that since military members have little say in their next duty assignment, they shouldn’t have to shoulder the costs of unexpected moves and expensive housing costs.
Replace thousands of troops with civilian workers ($17 bn over 10 years)
The CBO idea calls for reducing military end strength by 80,000 over four years and replacing them with 64,000 civilian employees. The work would not be directly related to warfighting, and the health care and ancillary costs of non-military workers would create significant savings compared to service members’ benefits.
But Congress has worked to increase the military’s end strength in recent years, saying it brings more readiness and flexibility to the overall force. An end-strength cut of that size would represent a major political backtrack for many elected officials. (Source: Defense News)
14 Dec 18. DOD on track to take over background checks. The Defense Department is on track to absorb the National Background Investigations Bureau ahead of an anticipated executive order demanding the shift by the end of fiscal 2019, officials told Congress.
The Department of Defense is “going into this clear eyed,” Garry Reid, the director for defense intelligence for the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Office, told Congress during a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing Dec. 12, but it also understands “this is a significant undertaking.”
NBIB is slated to transfer functions, resources, infrastructure and personnel to DOD over nine months, starting Jan. 1 and ending Sept. 30, 2019.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said he was “skeptical of DOD’s ability to absorb” the NBIB, but officials ticked off recent successes as evidence that they were ready for the transition once an executive order hits.
Dan Payne, director of the Defense Security Service, testified that his agency was waiting for executive guidance to integrate NBIB’s structure into its own, minimizing disruption to the workforce amid job status concerns, and maintaining progress already made.
“We are expecting the executive order will allow NBIB to integrate structure into DSS in a way that will not reverse or impact the great progress that NBIB has made in drawing down the investigative inventory, while allowing DSS to continue the progress we have made in innovation and transporting the vetting process,” Payne said.
DSS and NBIB are developing a joint transfer plan and joint transition team, Payne said. The goal is to focus on high-risk cases within the cleared workforce and reduce the backlog.
In prepping for the transfer, NBIB and defense officials said there has been some reduction in the security clearance backlog even ahead of official directive.
Reid said that there’s been an approximate 20 percent reduction of overall DOD inventory at NBIB. DOD’s investigations make up about 80 percent of the bureaus investigative load.
The bureau’s director Charles Phalen testified that NBIB’s highest inventory level hit 725,000 investigative products in April but that number would fall below 600,000 in the next 24 hours, marking a 17 percent reduction in six months. Phalen also clarified that the number of government and industry employees waiting for a security clearance was 275,000, of which 110,000 are already at work under a clearance.
“Though these numbers are not optimal, they are not as high as the 600,000 number,” Phalen said.
Additionally, NBIB has increased federal and contractor workforce in the past two years and begun implementing robotic processing automation via about 20 bots to streamline and automate manual activities and expedite case closure, Phalen said.
Separately, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a vocal critic of the security clearance backlog, recently introduced a bill that would enshrine the NBIB move to the Department of Defense into law.
“In light of new and emerging threats, this bill reflects the changes we need to make to this 70-year-old system to adjust to the increasing availability of data, new technologies, and a more mobile workforce so that we can maintain the pipeline of trusted professionals that the nation requires,” Warner said in a statement. (Source: Defense Systems)
Lincad is a leading expert in the design and manufacture of batteries, chargers and associated products for a range of applications across a number of different sectors. With a heritage spanning more than three decades in the defence and security sectors, Lincad has particular expertise in the development of reliable, ruggedised products with high environmental, thermal and electromagnetic performance. With a dedicated team of engineers and production staff, all product is designed and manufactured in-house at Lincad’s facility in Ash Vale, Surrey. Lincad is ISO 9001 and TickITplus accredited and works closely with its customers to satisfy their power management requirements.
Lincad is also a member of the Joint Supply Chain Accreditation Register (JOSCAR), the accreditation system for the aerospace, defence and security sectors, and is certified with Cyber Essentials, the government-backed, industry supported scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber attacks. The majority of Lincad’s products contain high energy density lithium-ion technology, but the most suitable technology for each customer requirement is employed, based on Lincad’s extensive knowledge of available electrochemistries. Lincad offers full life cycle product support services that include repairs and upgrades from point of introduction into service, through to disposal at the end of a product’s life. From product inception, through to delivery and in-service product support, Lincad offers the high quality service that customers expect from a recognised British supplier.