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21 Feb 19. US military officers prep the battlefield for White House budget. Ahead of the White House’s fiscal 2020 budget submission, expected next month, there’s been a solid push for diplomacy and development spending, and it’s coming from, well, the Defense Department.
The top uniformed officers who head U.S. Central Command, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Africa Command have offered over the last few weeks fodder to lawmakers who argue U.S. foreign policy cannot thrive on military might alone, and that a full State Department budget is vital to national security.
In Afghanistan, for example, President Donald Trump’s year-old South Asia strategy — which involves military and diplomatic pressure to leverage a U.S.-Taliban peace deal — is working, CENTCOM’s Gen. Joseph Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month. (The plan’s not without its critics and U.S. lawmakers have warnedagainst a hasty withdrawal.)
“We recognize this conflict will not be resolved solely by military force, but our military pressure serves as an enabler through a whole-of-government process and more directly supports diplomatic efforts led by Ambassador [Zalmay] Khalilzad,” Votel said.
All the remarks are in the public record, but excerpts were compiled by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which advocates to protect the international affairs budget to enhance national security. Ahead of the administration’s budget release, expected March 12, USGLC shared its excerpts, as it’s previously done.
AFRICOM’s Gen. Thomas Waldhauser offered a laundry list of diplomatic and development initiatives Feb. 7 in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The regional combatant command’s activities, he said, “directly complement Department of State and [U.S. Agency for International Development] efforts to reduce the spread of harmful ideologies, strengthen governments who protect their citizens, and foster security and economic successes.”
“First, very few, if any, of Africa’s challenges can be resolved using only military force. Consequently, U.S. Africa Command emphasizes military support to diplomacy and development efforts,” Waldhauser said.
China’s investments through its One Belt, One Road initiative, an economic policy that seeks to connect Eurasia to China, are developing relationships that go beyond the military’s defensive mission, the officers said.
Indo-Pacific Command’s Adm. Philip Davidson said the U.S. must proactively promote its values “in the diplomatic and the information space, as well as the economic space, quite briskly because China is spreading dollars around very perniciously through corruption … and we’ve got to be willing to work in these other realms.”
Both Davidson and SOUTHCOM’s Adm. Craig Faller touted the importance of foreign military financing — an area targeted by previous Trump budgets — which provides grants and loans for countries to purchase U.S. defense equipment, and International Military Education and Training, a program under which foreign officers attend U.S. military schools. The program is a favorite of SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
This security assistance spending, Faller said, represents “lifelong relationships with future leaders who trust us, understand our culture and doctrine, and are prepared to work with us on a range of challenges.”
Behind closed doors, there’s historically been a tug of war between the Defense Department, which Congress has favored with budgets and authorities, and the State Department. James Jeffrey, the U.S. envoy to Syria, lamented in 2017, before he had the job, that the Pentagon “has won budgets for supporting foreign forces, counterterrorism, and other military partner activities traditionally largely under State. The Pentagon also is active in State and USAID areas such as counternarcotics, foreign police training, and at times even local economic and capacity building.”
It’s unclear what role the public defense from officers will play in lawmakers’ deliberations. The State Department’s spending plan under the Trump administration isn’t public yet, but there is a pattern of Congress reversing cuts to development and diplomacy proposed by Trump.
In 2017, Trump proposed $40.1bn for his inaugural international affairs budget, and Congress enacted a $55.9bn budget. For fiscal 2018, Trump proposed a $42.2bn international affairs budget, and Congress approved $56.1bn.
It’s telling that one of the key advocates for budget discipline at the State Department and USAID, Brett Schaefer of the Heritage Foundation, anticipates this pattern will continue in the FY20 budget cycle. By his reckoning, the administration has long since fumbled its opportunity for an exhaustive reexamination of budgets, which have been “on autopilot for years,” he said.
Not only is Congress unlikely to tackle the issue, but the administration is unlikely to do so. Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s attempts damaged morale at the State Department such that his successor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has reportedlybacked off the effort.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed State Department authorization bills for three years in a row. However, Schaefer argued, the State Department isn’t called upon to justify its budget growth and show how more spending yields better results.
“It is certainly possible State Department and USAID budgets are 100 percent the best, but we don’t know that because Congress and the administration haven’t engaged in a real thorough analysis,” Schaefer said. “You get platitudes and not that exhaustive top-to-bottom look. Are we getting value for the increases that have been implemented? If so, show the American taxpayer.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
19 Feb 19. Trump Signs Bill Blocking Transfer of F-35 Fighter Jets to Turkey. U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a spending bill that blocks the transfer of the country’s F-35 new generation fighter jets to Turkey. According to spending bill signed by Trump on Friday, delivery of the jets to Turkey will be blocked until the U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense submit an update to the report regarding the purchase of Turkey of the S–400 missile defense system from the Russian Federation.
In earlier report to the Congress, Pentagon said Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile systems could result in Ankara’s potential expulsion from the F-35 program, as well as affecting its acquisition of other weapons including Boeing Co.’s CH-47F Chinook helicopter and Lockheed’s F-16 fighter and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the purchase and stated that there was no turning back from receiving the S-400 air defense systems from Russia in 2019. Turkey expects the delivery of the defence missiles to start this year with Russian officials promising the delivery within this year. The Congressional bill requires the U.S. departments to include a detailed description of plans for the imposition of sanctions, if Turkey goes ahead with the S-400 systems pursuant to section 231 of the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–44). The Congress asks U.S. secretaries to deliver the report by November 1, 2019.
The same spending bill also blocks the sale of weapons to Erdoğan’s security guards unless Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informs Congress that the guards charged with the assault on protestors in Washington, DC in May of 2017 have been brought to justice. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Ahval News)
14 Feb 19. The Pentagon’s National Military Strategy is done, and it’s unclear if the public will ever see it. UPDATE: After publication, Pat Ryder, spokesman for Gen. Joe Dunford, issued the following statement: “To clarify, an unclassified overview of the National Military Strategy is in development and will be released to the public. However, it’s important to highlight that compared to previous versions of the NMS, this document goes into a higher degree of detail on how the Joint Force will be employed to meet 2018 National Defense Strategy objectives and tackle existing and future security environment challenges. It’s because of the sensitive nature of this information and operational security concerns that the 2018 NMS will remain a classified document.
“In addition, I would point out this NMS is an excellent example of civil-military teamwork and partnership in that it takes the objectives outlined in the NSS and NDS from senior civilian policy makers and translates them into clear, executable strategic guidance for combatant commanders and service chiefs on how the Joint Force will employ, adapt, and innovate to meet the requirements of policy and defense strategy.”
Gen. Joe Dunford, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has finished his new edition of the National Military strategy — but currently has no plans to roll out a public version of the traditionally unclassified document.
“The 2018 National Military Strategy was approved by Gen. Dunford in December and submitted to the secretary of defense and Congress in accordance with statutory requirements,” said Col. Patrick Ryder, Dunford’s spokesman, in response to a question from Defense News.
“The strategy is classified to enable the chairman to fully assess the joint force operating environment and provide unfettered military advice in support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy,” Ryder continued. “An unclassified version is not currently available.”
The National Military Strategy is perhaps best thought of as the operational version of the National Defense Strategy outlining how the military will execute the goals laid out in that document, which was released in January 2018. Ryder described the NMS as the “strategic framework to inform the prioritization of force employment, force development and force design for the joint force. The NMS explains how the joint force will maintain its military advantage now and in the future to implement the defense strategy as articulated in the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”
Traditionally, the National Military Strategy, published at different intervals since the late 1990s, has come in an open format, including as recently as the 2011 and 2015 editions. However, in 2016, Dunford said that it was his belief the document should be more heavily classified than it previously had been.
While there currently is not an unclassified version, Ryder did not rule that out as a future possibility — and keeping the document fully classified would go against Dunford’s own comments made in the last year.
Last January, the chairman said “We’ll come out certainly with an unclassified description of it, so that we’re transparent — as we were last time.” And during a speech last July, Dunford told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that “it’s an unclassified document that has historically been written for the public. And we will certainly articulate to the public the guts of a National Military Strategy.”
Loren DeJonge Schulman, a former Pentagon and National Security Council staffer now with the Center for a New American Security, questions how ;much benefit the National Military Strategy brings given the recent publication of the National Defense Strategy — let alone the Nuclear Posture Review and Missile Defense Review documents published in the last year.
“The NMS could be a useful process, but in the past it’s just been a way to insert confusion and to overstress the civ-mil tensions in the department without resulting in distinct military priorities to execute the strategy,” she said.
Still, while saying it is “wise” for the Joint Staff to keep the bulk of the document classified in order to avoid worrying about public perception of their work, Schulman warned that keeping the document entirely behind walls could backfire.
Doing so would be part of “an unfortunate, and frankly undemocratic, tendency by this administration to withhold basic defense information from the general public,” she said.
“DoD believes that intensified ‘opsec’ and overall discretion is a virtue and a return to the days of the Cold War. This is a total misread of that period. It is also going to do more harm than good when they need the support of Congress and the American people,” Schulman added.
What to expect
Thematically, the NMS is expected to follow the broad layout from the National Defense strategy which prioritized dealing with the so-called “2+3” challenges to America – China and Russia as the primaries, followed by North Korea, Iran and violent extremism.
Structurally, Dunford described four key focus areas for the NMS over the summer: providing best military advice, strategy development, supporting the secretary of defense and making sure that the joint staff provides the integrating functions for war plans.
“In my mind, what the national military strategy ought to do is drive the development of our operation plans and, more importantly, drive the development of viable options that we would need in a crisis or contingency,” Dunford said.
He also emphasized that this document is being formulated at the highest levels of the Joint Staff, saying “this is not a document being written by the staff and then subsequently sent out for comment. We sit in. We’re framing the problem. We’re providing top-down guidance on each of these problem sets and then pulling that together.”
Although reluctant to get into details, Dunford did hint that part of the NMS is focused on more effective ways to use intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
“We can’t buy more Predators. We can’t have more CAPs and think that we’re getting out of the problem,” the chairman said. “So if you talk about an area where something disruptive is necessary, something innovative is necessary, it’s what information do we need to make decisions and how do we get that information is the question we’re trying to solve, not how can we afford to buy more CAPs.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
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