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06 Mar 19. Why the US Might Reject Selling Arms to the Philippines. The Philippine foreign secretary says his country wants to buy American weaponry to shore up defense. But although the two countries have worked closely together on security over the past 70 years, costs and broader security worries will make any arms hard to get, experts in Asia caution. Secretary Teodoro Locsin told a news conference in Manila that he and visiting U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had discussed the “vital support” of the United States for Philippine military modernization. Mutual defense, he said, “should cover a partner’s back as well as its front.”
Locsin later tweeted that he hopes the U.S. government will sell weapons to “re-arm our military” for self-defense. But the Philippines may not be able to afford complex new weapons systems, while U.S. officials would worry that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte might use them in his deadly anti-drug campaign, experts believe. Duterte for his part might not want any new U.S. hardware to upset a 3-year friendship with China, which has its own differences with the United States.
“The geopolitical issue, that’s one, second is the limited funding as well as security concerns when it comes to sourcing equipment,” said Collin Koh, a maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. “So, in a way it limits the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines).”
The U.S. Arms Export Control Act governing foreign sales is what one political consultant called for this report “a minefield of intricacies and legalities.” For that reason, scholars say, the U.S. government sells its new, high-end arms such as aircraft largely to long-term partners such as Australia, Singapore and Taiwan.
Those partners know the Act, can pay the billions of dollars for new equipment and do not turn the weapons on their own people. Sales sometimes irk China as its navy expands onto the high seas, but Chinese leaders are used to the repeat customers.
The anti-drug campaign may raise questions in the United States about “human rights” issues, said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school. Human rights groups say anti-drug police have killed thousands of people without due process.
China hopes the Philippines, a rival claimant to sovereignty in the sea between them, will ease away from the United States as part of a Sino-Philippine friendship that included China’s pledge in 2016 for $24bn in aid and investment.
“If you sell one or two ships to the Philippines and the Philippines buys it, what signal does that send to China, that the Philippines is an un-loyal and unreliable neighbor and partner?” Araral said. “For the Philippines, you don’t want to send the wrong signal to China.”
In Southeast Asia, only Singapore has the formula down for getting U.S.-made weaponry, said Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia. Singapore buys American fighters, helicopters and drones. Officials in Vietnam, he noted, have looked into buying American-made arms but fear they might get turned down, he said.
American lawmakers may worry Manila would use weapons “recklessly,” Thayer said.
“There’s no one there, leaving Singapore out, where you have a well-established relationship that would run smoothly, and where there is none it hits the bumps in the road,” he said.
Smaller, used and donated arms
Manila and Washington have lived by a mutual defense treaty since 1951, followed by a visiting forces agreement in 1991 and ongoing joint naval exercises. U.S. officials count the Philippines as an Asian ally useful for containing China’s maritime expansion – also a reason Manila wants to upgrade its navy in case its relations with Beijing someday sour.
Washington also has sold the Philippines pistols, assault rifles, ammunition and rocket launchers since 1980, according to a Federation of American Scientists research paper.
Small arms used for anti-terrorism work or coast guard patrols normally cause little political concern, scholars note.
The database GlobalFirePower.com ranks the Philippine military strength No. 63 out of 137 countries. Ex-president Benigno Aquino kicked off a military modernization program that called for two new frigates or warships, but domestic media said last year a special assistant to Duterte had “intervened” in the deal to acquire those from a builder in South Korea.
Philippine officials may need to keep depending on small, donated, refurbished arms for low-key use, and not just from the United States, Koh said. Foreign sellers are already obliging. In 2017 South Korea donated a corvette warship to the Philippine navy, and last year an Australian shipbuilder said it would deliver six offshore patrol vessels. (Source: glstrade.com/https://www.voanews.com
09 Mar 19. At advent of ambitious mod plan, Army seeks $190bn in FY20. The Army is asking for around $190bn in fiscal year 2020, an increase of roughly $8 bn above last year’s budget top line, which will cover the cost of the advent of an ambitious modernization plan, a defense official told Defense News ahead of the White House’s FY20 budget request release.
Breaking that top line down, the service is requesting roughly $120 bn in its base budget and then another $31bn in Overseas Contingency Operations-for-base funding. The Army is asking for another $30bn in traditional OCO funding — which is the account used to pay for wartime operations in theater — and another $10 bn to cover emergency funds, according to the source.
The budget is expected to be officially released March 12.
OCO-for-base funding is money that could be in the base budget, but is classified as OCO for the purpose of getting around statutory budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act. Both Congress and the Pentagon have relied on OCO as a work-around for the budget caps in the past.
The Army’s request will be a part of the roughly $718bn budget request the Pentagon will submit to Congress next week.The Defense Department plans to ask for $545 bn in the base budget, roughly $100bn in OCO-for-base funding, about $64 bn in OCO dollars and approximately $9bn in “emergency” funding that could be used to cover funding gaps in military construction that result from President Donald Trump’s move to use an emergency declaration to fund a wall at the United States’ southern border.
While last year’s Army budget request saw an enormous $13bn increase above the FY18 funding levels in order to recover from readiness decrements and fill out capability gaps, this budget builds upon the service’s big push to modernize its force significantly by 2028.
The Army’s yearly end-strength numbers, however, will slow, according to the official. The plan is to increase troop numbers by 2,000 a year.
Last year, at the time of the budget release, the active force size was 483,500 with a plan to increase the end-strength steadily by 4,000 a year for three years, ultimately reaching a force of 495,500 by 2021.
But after a bad recruiting year, the Army is slowing its growth to match the market, according to the official. The Army anticipates reaching 478,000 active troops by the end of this year.
The service will also spend the next 12 to 18 months studying force structure that could lead to big changes, but no major upheaval is afoot in FY20 or even in FY21, the official said.
Coming as no surprise, the Army’s biggest budget boosts will be in the Research, Development and Acquisition accounts.
The Army is requesting an additional $1bn in the Research, Development, Test & Evaluation account for a total of $12.2bn.
On the procurement side, the Army is cutting a sliver — roughly $200m — for a total of $21.8 bn, mostly because the service is focused on prototyping future systems ahead of buying new equipment. Along with that is a plan to slow the procurement and upgrades of legacy systems.
The service has been holding what has been called “night court,” or a series of “deep dives” to assess how essential existing programs are compared to the service’s radical modernization goals throughout FY18. The Army found roughly $31 bn through the process of cutting and terminating existing programs and in future cost avoidance to apply to its new priorities.
According to Army leadership, if programs or activities didn’t fit in the top six modernization priorities the service laid out a year ago, then the programs could go, freeing up dollars to priorities.
The Army announced in 2017 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference that it planned to stand up Army Futures Command, a new four-star organization tasked to push forward efforts within its priorities list that will modernize the Army by 2028. The six modernization priorities are Long-Range Precision Fires, Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air-and-missile defense, and soldier lethality.
To the uninitiated it will be difficult to see terminations of programs in the FY20 budget as much of the possible legacy system terminations will happen in the outyears as development progresses within the six priorities, according to the official.
Some legacy programs will see reductions in FY20, but the Army’s budget request and five-year budget plan attempts to leave options open.
A couple of major programs — the CH-47 F-model Chinook cargo helicopter and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle — will see funding reductions specifically in FY20, the official confirmed.
To replace those legacy program reductions, the Army is requesting to fully fund — across the five year plan — two new helicopter programs, a medium-lift, long range assault helicopter and an attack reconnaissance aircraft, relatively back-to-back, the official said. And more funding is also being requested for the NGCV, which would replace the Bradley.
The Army has also plussed-up funding in FY20 for the new Integrated Vision Augmentation System for the Infantry, which fits in the Soldier Lethality category.
The official explained that if something doesn’t pan out as part of major modernization efforts, then the budget can again be amended to keep legacy systems longer. For example, if the Army determines it’s better to just continue to upgrade the Bradley rather than procure a new NGCV, then it will adjust funding based on that decision.
Overall, the Army has more than doubled the funding across the six modernization priorities in its five year budget plan from $24.2 bn in the FY19 request to $57 bn in FY20.
The Army is also funding two large exercises in FY20 in Europe and the Pacific —dubbed Defender Europe and Defender Pacific.
The service’s portion of the European Deterrence Initiative — or EDI — will hold steady, according to the official.
But the overall Pentagon budget request for EDI will drop moderately after several dramatic plus-ups in previous years. The operations and maintenance account remains virtually level in the FY20 request, increasing from $50bn to $52bn to account for inflation. (Source: Defense News)
08 Mar 19. Turkey and U.S. head for showdown over missile contracts. Turkey is running out of time to avert a showdown with the United States over its plans to buy advanced Russian air defences and spurn a counter-offer from its NATO partner, raising the chance of U.S. sanctions against Ankara.
The last diplomatic crisis between the two countries contributed to driving the lira to a record low in August. Disputes over strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff remain unresolved, and the issue of missile defence threatens to widen the rift again.
This week, despite the Central Bank maintaining interest rates well above inflation, Turkey’s currency has fallen 1.5 percent – largely due to renewed concerns over relations with Washington, traders say.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has missed a ‘soft deadline’ set by Washington to decide whether to buy a $3.5bn Raytheon Co. Patriot missile shield system. The formal offer expires at the end of this month, U.S. officials have said.
Without publicly rejecting the U.S. proposal, Erdogan has repeatedly said he will not pull out of a contract for Russia’s S-400 defence system, due to be installed in October. Washington says Ankara cannot have both.
If it goes ahead with the Russian deal, Turkey also risks losing delivery of Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets and could face sanctions under a U.S. law known as Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
In one of the strongest comments on the topic yet, the U.S. Pentagon warned on Friday of “grave consequences” in the military relationship between the United States and Turkey if Ankara takes the S-400.
“They would not have access to Patriot and the F-35,” Acting Pentagon spokesman Charlie Summers said.
But Erdogan has ruled out cancelling the deal with Russia, an increasingly powerful regional force which is building a nuclear power plant in Turkey and a gas export pipeline across Turkish territory to Europe.
“It’s done. There can never be a turning back,” Erdogan responded this week when asked about the S-400 contract. “This …would be immoral. Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat.”
Ankara may even seek to procure Russia’s next generation S-500 system, he said.
NO BACKING DOWN
Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday U.S. officials have told Turkey it would be impossible for Congress to approve the sale of F-35 jets if Ankara buys the S-400, but that Turkey is working to overcome those problems.
Turkey says it has already paid Moscow some of the bill, and analysts say Erdogan, who is campaigning for March 31 local elections, would find it hard to back away from the Russian deal now.
“They have not once said they could change their mind,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara.
Turkey does not want to jeopardise efforts to find common ground with Russia on Syria, and has little time remaining for second thoughts as the S-400s’ delivery date approaches, he said.
That means the chance of U.S. sanctions are increasing, defence analyst Can Kasapoglu said, adding that “diplomatic room for manoeuvre is narrow.”
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said this week it intended to end a preferential trade system for Turkey.
It cited the country’s economic development, suggesting the decision was not political, but it first announced a review of Turkey’s eligibility after Ankara set retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods at the height of their dispute last year.
If Washington imposes sanctions under CAATSA, it could affect the combat readiness of Turkey’s existing fleet of U.S. F-16 jets, Kasapoglu wrote in a report in January. The jets have spearheaded Turkey’s air operations against Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria.
While bilateral tensions are focused for now on missile defence, other unresolved disputes continue to erode trust.
In addition to policy disagreements focused on the Middle East, the two countries are at odds over Venezuela. Washington backs its opposition leader Juan Guaido while Ankara endorses President Nicolas Maduro.
In that climate, even apparently innocent gestures can stoke tension.
A visit this week by U.S. First Lady Melania Trump to a pre-kindergarten class in Oklahoma raised hackles in Turkey. Turks believe the school she toured is linked to supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric Ankara blames for a failed 2016 coup. Gulen has denied any involvement.
Retired Turkish diplomat Uluc Ozulker said Turkey now finds itself backed into a corner.
“The United States on the one hand, Russia on the other… We are stuck between the two,” he said. “Turkey cannot exit this crisis.”
08 Mar 19. U.S. Air Force Secretary Wilson to resign, leaving new vacancy. U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who was considered a top candidate to become the next secretary of defence, said on Friday she has decided to resign and return to academia, leaving another vacant post at the top level of the Pentagon.
Wilson confirmed the news, first reported by Reuters, in a tweet here, saying she had informed President Donald Trump of her plans to become president of the University of Texas at El Paso. She plans to step down on May 31.
Today I informed the President I will resign as Secretary of the Air Force to be President of the University of Texas at El Paso. It has been a privilege to serve with our #Airmen—I am proud of the progress we have made to restore the readiness & lethality of #USAF.
The resignation leaves another senior Pentagon job open and follows the December departure of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who quit over policy differences with Trump and who had hand-picked Wilson for the post.
Like Mattis, Wilson was a staunch advocate of alliances like NATO and firmly supported Mattis’ push to refocus the U.S. military on higher-end competition with China and Russia after more than a decade-and-a-half of counterinsurgency campaigns. “It has been a privilege to serve alongside our Airmen over the past two years and I am proud of the progress that we have made in restoring our nation’s defences,” Wilson, 58, said in her resignation letter to Trump.
A former Republican lawmaker who was close to Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, Wilson would have been the first woman to take the Pentagon’s top job, if she had been nominated. By all accounts, her nomination would have had strong support in Congress.
Mattis’ deputy, Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, is now performing the role in an acting capacity in what is widely seen as an audition for the position. Wilson’s resignation could add to speculation that Shanahan may remain in the post of defence secretary.
Other top Pentagon positions, including the deputy defence secretary, are either being filled provisionally or are vacant.
“Everyone she has talked to wants her to stay, but she thinks the time is right to take on this new challenge,” a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official added Wilson was not resigning under pressure and had not been asked to step down.
Wilson informed Pence of her decision earlier in the week and Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein on Thursday, the official said.
The University of Texas Board of Regents still has to approve Wilson’s selection to head its El Paso campus, but she is the sole finalist.
It is unclear who might succeed Wilson and inherit steep challenges facing the Air Force, which include the creation of Trump’s “Space Force,” a new branch of military service that will carve out some responsibilities current done by the Air Force. The Air Force is also reeling from a fresh scandal involving sexual assault.
Wilson was the first Air Force Academy graduate to ever take the highest position in her service, and counted a robust resume that included a decade as a Republican lawmaker in Congress. She also served on the National Security Council staff during the George H. W. Bush administration, and as president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. After joining the Pentagon, Wilson visited Iraq and Afghanistan and came away concerned about the wear and tear on an Air Force that she thought was too small, especially as the Pentagon shifted its focus to competition with Russia and China.
Last fall, she predicted the Air Force would need to grow sharply over the next decade or so, boosting the number of operational squadrons by nearly a quarter to stay ahead of Moscow and Beijing.
She told reporters at the time that the preliminary analysis drew partly from classified intelligence about possible future threats, showing that Air Force, at its current size, would be unable to preserve the United States’ edge.
Wilson estimated the Air Force would need about more 40,000 personnel as part of the plan to have a total of 386 operational squadrons, compared with 312 today. The U.S. Air Force had 401 squadrons in 1987, at the peak of the Cold War. (Source: Reuters)
05 Mar 19. U.S. should not sell F-35 jets to Turkey unless it drops Russian system – U.S. general. The top U.S. general in Europe said on Tuesday that he would recommend that the United States should not sell Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 jets to NATO ally Turkey if Ankara does not drop plans to buy S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems from Russia. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said it is committed to buying the Russian system, despite warnings from the U.S.-led alliance that the S-400s cannot be integrated into the NATO air defence system.
“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air defence systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,” U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of U.S. forces in Europe, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Scaparrotti is also the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. U.S. officials have said that if Turkey proceeds with the S-400 purchase, Washington will withdraw its offer to sell a $3.5bn Raytheon Co Patriot missile package. Last month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system was a done deal. (Source: Reuters)
05 Mar 19. Top US general in Europe seeks more troops, warships to counter Russia. The top U.S. military commander in Europe warned Tuesday of a growing Russian threat and is calling for more troops, warships and aircraft, saying he’s “not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture” of the American troop presence.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, both head of U.S. European Command and the NATO Supreme Allied Commander-Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it will take more armored units and U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers, carrier strike groups and amphibious strike groups to stay ahead of Russia’s growing and modernizing forces.
“I’m not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe in support of the National Defense Strategy,” Scaparrotti told SASC Chair Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., adding: “Of concern is my intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity given that increasing and growing threat of Russia. I need more ISR.”
Scaparotti said he has requested two more destroyers for Naval Station Rota, Spain, where the U.S. Navy has four Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyers, which carry the Aegis weapon system. He said he needed better numbers and capabilities, “to stay head of, frankly, the modernization we see in Russia’s maritime forces.”
The guided-missile destroyer Donald Cook this week departed the Black Sea — one of two such deployments there since the Russian seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and arrest of 24 sailors in late November at the Kerch Strait.
Congress funded the European Deterrence Initiative at $6.3bn last year, and the Trump administration is due to unveil its FY20 federal budget request next week.
On Tuesday, Scaparrotti disclosed few details of his needs, punting to a closed session with lawmakers later in the day. (Source: Defense News)
04 Mar 19. U.S. launches national security probe into titanium sponge imports. The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday launched a national security probe into titanium sponge imports, a key input in military aircraft and other equipment like space vehicles, satellites, naval vessels, missiles and munitions. The probe under Section “232” follows an investigation by the Commerce Department in 2017 to review if titanium sponge imports from Japan and Kazakhstan were injuring U.S. producers and was prompted by a petition from U.S.-based Titanium Metals Corp, part of Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s Precision Castparts Corp.
In 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission voted to end its probe into the imports, saying it found no harm.
The Commerce Department said the Pentagon supported the national security probe.
“Titanium sponge has uses in a wide range of defence applications, from helicopter blades and tank armour to fighter jet airframes and engines,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Titanium sponge is a porous form of titanium resulting from the first stage of processing the metal for use in the aerospace, electronic, architectural and sports equipment industries. Titanium is also used in infrastructure and commercial products including civilian aircraft, chemical plants, oil and gas plants, electric power and desalination plants, building structures, automobile products and biomedical devices, the Commerce Department said.
Boeing Co and Airbus SE are major users of titanium sponge.
Imports account for more than 60 percent of U.S. titanium sponge consumption. Only one facility in the United States currently has the capacity to process titanium ore into the sponge used in manufacturing, the department said, adding that it was difficult to stockpile the material because it degrades.
In July, the department a launched national security investigation into uranium imports. The new probe is the fifth launched by the Trump administration under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, previously a seldom-invoked Cold War-era law.
Probes on steel and aluminium imports have led to tariffs and quotas on the metals, prompting retaliation from trading partners including Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
The Commerce Department completed a Section 232 probe into automotive imports that could lead to a significant hike in U.S. tariffs for the sector. That probe’s findings were submitted to the White House last month, but have not yet been made public. (Source: Reuters)
04 Mar 19. Huawei to sue US government over equipment ban. Chinese telecoms supplier raises stakes in national security confrontation. Officials in the US have long argued that Huawei equipment in the country’s telecoms networks constitutes a security threat. Huawei is suing the US government over its ban on government agencies buying equipment from the Chinese company, raising the stakes in an ongoing confrontation between Washington and one of China’s biggest corporate champions. People familiar with the legal case told the Financial Times that the Chinese telecoms supplier would this week announce a legal case against the ban, which was enacted last year on national security grounds under the John S McCain National Defence Authorisation Act. Huawei will argue the ban is unconstitutional. Officials in the US have long argued that Huawei equipment in the country’s telecoms networks constitutes a security threat, as it could potentially be used by Beijing either to interfere with those networks or to spy on the US.
Last year Donald Trump, the US president, put further pressure on the Chinese company when he announced government agencies would not be allowed to buy technology that includes components from Huawei or its domestic rival ZTE. The ban ensured that major US telecoms companies such as AT&T and Verizon would not use Huawei equipment, limiting the Chinese company to supplying just a few smaller regional players. In recent months, however, the US has further ramped up its pressure on Huawei. Last year, Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder, on US charges of breaking sanctions against Iran. The US has since charged the company with both sanctions-busting and stealing US technology, and is pushing for Ms Meng to be extradited to the US. A hearing on her case is due to begin this week. Recommended Telecoms Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou retreats from public eye in Vancouver Meanwhile, US officials have been pushing allies around the world not to use Huawei technology in their own 5G networks, in a diplomatic push that has achieved mixed results. But Huawei is pushing back, and last week Ms Meng filed a lawsuit accusing Canadian border agents of illegally detaining and interrogating her for three hours before formally arresting her. That lawsuit came days after the company’s rotating chairman Guo Ping wrote an article in the Financial Times in which he accused the US of hindering Huawei in order to help its own companies and intelligence agencies. “Huawei . . . hampers US efforts to spy on whomever it wants,” Mr Guo wrote. “This is the first reason for the campaign against us.” Huawei declined to comment. (Source: FT.com)
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