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02 Aug 19. Pentagon Tops $2trn in Costs to Field Major Arms Programs. The total projected costs to field major U.S. military weapons systems topped $2trn in 2018, as the Pentagon planned to boost key missile and aircraft programs, according to the Defense Department’s latest annual assessment. The new estimate puts the costs, including money already spent, in the pipeline and expected to be spent in the future, almost equal to 10% of the U.S.’s $21.3trn annual gross domestic product. The report looked at 87 of the Pentagon’s top weapons programs, up four from the previous year.
Quantity, scope changes and revised estimates account for most of the increases to $2.01trn in 2018 from $1.9trn in 2017, according to the summary of Selected Acquisition Reports released today. FY 20 Sar summary finally out– about four months late, because Pentagon was waiting for the Army’s documents, which require certification from the Army chief of staff and secretary, according to a DoD Spokx That also explains why Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jet, the world’s costliest weapons program, has become even more expensive. The estimated total price for F-35 research and procurement has risen by $22bn, according to the report, and the estimate for operating and supporting the fleet of fighters over more than six decades grew by almost $73bn to $1.196trn. The increase reflects for the first time the current cost estimates for a major set of upgrades planned in forthcoming “Block 4” modifications, according to the report. Bloomberg News first reported the projected cost increase in April. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Bloomberg News)
02 Aug 19. Statement From Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper on the INF Treaty. Russia has failed to comply with its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and as such, the United States has withdrawn from the INF Treaty effective today, Aug. 2, 2019. This withdrawal is a direct result of Russia’s sustained and repeated violations of the Treaty over many years and multiple presidential administrations.
The facts are clear. The Russian Federation is producing and fielding an offensive capability that was prohibited by the INF Treaty. Russia’s material breach erodes the foundation of effective arms control and the security of the United States and our allies and partners. As stated by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today, NATO’s position is united and clear: Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty. The United States is not.
In light of Russia’s noncompliance, the Department of Defense commenced Treaty-compliant research and development activities beginning in 2017. The department’s initial research and development efforts focused on mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems. Because the United States scrupulously complied with its obligations to the INF Treaty, these programs are in the early stages. Now that we have withdrawn, the Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles as a prudent response to Russia’s actions and as part of the Joint Force’s broader portfolio of conventional strike options.
The United States will not remain a party to a treaty while Russia is in deliberate violation. The Department of Defense will work closely with our allies as we move forward in implementing the National Defense Strategy, protecting our national defense and building partner capacity. (Source: US DoD)
01 Aug 19. Grassley Presses DoD Secretary on Ongoing Issues with the F-35 Program. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Mark Esper pressing for more information on the management of the F-35 program and how DoD plans to resolve ongoing issues in the program moving forward.
“The recent reports released by the Defense Department Office of the Inspector General are alarming, to say the least. When an agency is responsible for billions of dollars and the lives of our men and women in uniform, there needs to be accountability on every level,” Grassley said.
“I implore Secretary Esper to not only look seriously at the issues highlighted by the Inspector General, but move forward quickly to resolve these issues. There is no excuse for the continued wasteful spending and lack of transparency occurring at DoD.”
Highlights of the March 13, 2019 report include:
— DoD did not maintain an independent government record of F-35 Government Furnished Property;
— DoD did not award contracts with complete Government Furnished Property lists; and
— DoD did not coordinate with Defense Contract Management Agency officials to transition Contractor-Acquired Property to Government Furnished Property as required.
Highlights of the June 17, 2019 report include:
— DoD did not receive parts that were ready for use and installation for the F-35; and
— The Joint Program Office was aware of the problem, but did not take adequate steps to resolve it or require the military branches to track the number of unusable spare parts they received.
Text of the letter is below.
Dear Secretary Esper:
Since its inception, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (F-35) has been plagued by technical issues, delays, and exorbitant costs. Recently, two audits of the F-35 program conducted by the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (OIG) revealed numerous shortcomings related to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) oversight of the F-35 sustainment program.
The lack of oversight has not only resulted in financial waste and further delays to the mission readiness of the F-35, but has potentially jeopardized the lives of pilots responsible for flying these aircraft.
On March 13, 2019, OIG released a report regarding DOD’s failure to properly account for and manage government property relating to the F-35 program. Specifically, OIG determined that DOD did not: (1) maintain an independent government record of F-35 Government Furnished Property; (2) award contracts with complete Government Furnished Property lists; and (3) coordinate with Defense Contract Management Agency officials to transition Contractor-Acquired Property to Government Furnished Property as required.
Since DOD officials did not maintain an independent record of F-35 government property, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics (Lockheed), the prime contractor for the F-35 program, and its subcontractor hold the only record of the 3.45 million pieces of property that DOD purchased, valued at $2.1bn.  (Emphasis added throughout—Ed.)
Per the OIG report, DOD currently has no mechanism to independently verify the veracity of the Lockheed record. It may also further set back DOD’s already delayed operational readiness goals for the F-35. A contributing factor to this predicament is DOD’s failure to appoint key oversight and accountability personnel, including a component property lead and an accountable property officer. If appointed, these individuals would have been responsible for overseeing critical property administration functions. However, despite assurances from the F-35 Program Office’s Director of Program Operations that both vacancies would be filled by the end of March 2018, both positions remain vacant.
In a separate report published on June 17, 2019, OIG detailed how the Joint Program Office failed to provide adequate oversight of Lockheed’s performance as it relates to F-35 spare parts and aircraft availability hours. Specifically, OIG found that DOD did not receive parts that were ready for use and installation (RFI) for the F-35 “in accordance with contract requirements and paid performance incentive fees on the sustainment contracts based on inflated and unverified F-35A aircraft availability hours.”
Per the terms of its contract with DOD, Lockheed is required to deliver RFI spare parts. However, OIG determined that Lockheed has not been meeting this requirement since F-35 sustainment efforts began in 2015. 
Additionally, OIG indicated that the Joint Program Office was aware of this problem, but did not take adequate steps to resolve the issue or require the military branches to track the number of unusable (NRFI) spare parts they received.
If DOD personnel receive NRFI parts for an F-35, they are instructed to attempt a seven-step process to bring the part to an RFI condition and make it available for use. If DOD personnel cannot resolve the problem using the seven-step process, personnel submit an Action Request to Lockheed to resolve the issue, the cost of which is incurred by the government. However, DOD personnel at two F-35 sites were forced to resort to issuing local policies allowing them to circumvent the seven-step process in order to fly aircraft with NRFI spare parts. Similarly, DOD personnel at several F-35 sites used spreadsheets or whiteboards in order to track the amount of time NRFI parts were used on an aircraft.
Between December 2015 and June 2018, DOD personnel submitted over 15,000 Action Requests to Lockheed to fix NRFI spare parts.
OIG could not determine the cost resulting from these ARs because Lockheed refused to disclose the amount it charged DOD for each Action Request,despite numerous requests by OIG to do so.
However, OIG did determine that, since 2015, DOD has spent up to $303m in labor costs as a result of manual processes necessary to remedy the issues with NRFI parts. DOD will continue to pay up to $55m annually until the issue is finally resolved. Even more egregious than the financial burden of the DOD’s lack of oversight is the fact that “until the DOD addresses the delivery of [NRFI] spare parts, the use of manual processes to mitigate [NRFI] problems creates a life and safety concern for aircrews.”
Under its sustainment contracts with DOD, Lockheed receives performance incentive fees based on its ability to meet certain performance metrics related to the number of aircraft availability hours. By installing NRFI spare parts on F-35s that did not have the necessary logistical paperwork, DOD personnel unintentionally inflated aircraft availability hours. Additionally, Lockheed was solely responsible for collecting and reporting F-35 aircraft availability hours. As a result, the Joint Program Office paid Lockheed nearly $26m in performance incentive fees for the 2017 sustainment contract, 85% of the total amount available for this purpose, based on inflated and unverified data. 
In short, due to a lack of DOD oversight, and insufficient internal mechanisms, Lockheed is delivering NRFI parts to DOD, resulting in overinflated “up aircraft” statistics – for which they receive financial incentives – and receiving additional payment for repairing the parts they initially delivered in an NRFI condition.
Both of these reports indicate significant mismanagement and poor oversight of the F-35 program on the part of DOD. So long as these issues remain, DOD will continue hemorrhaging money on the F-35 program. Even more egregious is that continued reliance on manual processes to mitigate NRFI parts problems threatens not only the operational readiness of F-35s but also the safety of the men and women who pilot them.
It is imperative that DOD act quickly to resolve the issues addressed herein in order to prevent additional wasteful spending. In an effort to better understand how DOD oversees the F-35 program and how the agency can improve oversight standards, please answer the following questions no later than August 15, 2019:
— DOD concurred with DOD OIG’s recommendations in both reports. When does the Department expect to complete implementation of those recommendations?
— Is there any way to restructure future F-35 sustainment contracts to require Lockheed to incur the cost of fixing NRFI parts improperly provided to DOD?
— What DOD personnel are taking part in negotiating the next F-35 sustainment contract?
— What steps has the DOD taken to ensure that personnel are complying with FAR requirements and ethics standards to ensure fair, impartial negotiations in the best interests of the United States?
— Does DOD have any mechanism for verifying Lockheed’s self-reported losses? If not, why not?
— Does DOD intend to conduct a full audit of its Government Furnished Property and other inventory related to the F-35? If so, when? If not, why not?
— Does DOD intend to develop and implement a system to verify and track the parts it receives from Lockheed? If not, why?
— Does the F-35 Program Office intend to appoint a component property lead and an accountable property officer per OIG’s recommendation and as required by DOD Instruction 5000.64? If so, how will the persons selected to fill these roles be chosen?
— How will DOD ensure these officials improve oversight of F-35 program, specifically regarding the acquisition of RFI spare parts?
— Has anyone been held accountable for the mismanagement/loss of over $2bn of government property?
— Who was initially responsible for appointing a DOD component property lead as required by DOD Instruction 5000.64?
— Who was in charge of supervising the Contract Officer’s Representatives?
— Does DOD intend to better equip personnel to identify NFRI parts prior to accepting shipment? If not, why?
Should you have questions, please contact Daniel Boatright or Quinton Brady of my Committee staff at (202) 224-4515. Thank you for your attention to this important mater.
PS: I hope you will take this issue seriously. The F-35 is the best, but not so if the organization to supply parts is not functioning well.
(Source: defense-aerospace.com/Senator Chuck Grassley)
02 Aug 19. After INF treaty’s demise, U.S. seeks funds for missile tests. The United States will no longer be prohibited from having ground-launched intermediate-range missiles once it pulls out of an arms control treaty with Russia on Friday, but funds to test and develop the missiles may soon run out, officials say.
Washington said last year it would be withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), accusing Russia of failing to comply with it. Moscow denies it has violated the treaty and says Washington is pulling out because it wants to pursue a new arms race.
Within the next few weeks, the United States is expected to test a ground-launched cruise missile. In November, the Pentagon will aim to test an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Both would be conventional weapons tests – and not nuclear.
U.S. officials told Reuters this week that once existing funding runs out, future research and testing would be at risk because of resistance from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
Unlike in the Senate, which is led by President Donald Trump’s Republicans, the House declined to fund the Trump administration’s request of about $96m for the development of the missiles in its version of a fiscal-year 2020 budget and defence policy bill.
“If you cut this, you’re hampering the Department of Defense’s ability to respond to the Russian treaty violation,” said a senior U.S. defence official, describing the Pentagon’s message to Congress.
“It’s not going to bring the treaty back, it’s going to help Russia.”
The 1987 pact banned ground-launched nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,400 miles (500-5,500 km).
Washington and Moscow blame each other for the breakdown of the treaty, the latest in a growing list of East-West tensions. The United States says it needs to develop its own intermediate-range missiles to deter Russia, even if it does not field them in Europe.
The Pentagon also sees a benefit in developing the new weapons as a counter to China, which boasts an increasingly sophisticated land-based missile force.
PLAYING INTO PUTIN’S HANDS
The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Adam Smith, has opposed the U.S. pullout of the treaty.
“Withdrawing from the treaty would allow Putin to deflect responsibility and blame the U.S. for both the treaty’s collapse and any ensuing arms race,” Smith wrote in an op-ed earlier this year with the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
They added: “The Trump administration has played right into (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s hands.”
The Pentagon hopes that the funding will be restored when the House and Senate confer to resolve discrepancies in the legislation. A Senate Armed Services Committee spokeswoman said those discussions were expected to take place in coming weeks.
U.S. officials have been warning for years that the United States was being put at a disadvantage by China’s development of increasingly sophisticated land-based missile forces, which the Pentagon could not match thanks to the U.S. treaty with Russia.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last month that leaving the INF treaty would free up the U.S. military “to deal with not just Russia, but China.”
“China has a very, very capable and robust INF Treaty-range missile inventory, if you will. So you can see, it frees us up to do other things,” he said.
While no decisions have been made, the United States could theoretically put easier-to-hide, road-mobile conventional missiles in places like Guam. The officials said it was not clear how China would handle the United States leaving the INF and potentially deploying ground-launched intermediate-range missiles closer to the country.
“Who knows which way China might go? But they are going to have to react some way … whether it’s hardening, moving things around, changing your (concept of operations),” a second U.S. official said. (Source: Reuters)
30 Jul 19. State clears $1.5bn in arms sales for Egypt, South Korea and Canada. The U.S. State Department today cleared a trio of weapon sales for Egypt, South Korea and Canada, which could net American firms more than $1.5bn in revenues. Announcements for the three deals were published online by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. DSCA announcements are not final sales; if cleared by Congress, contract figures can change during future negotiations. The largest of the three agreements is with South Korea, which was ok’d to receive contractor logistics support for its fleet of RQ-4 Block 30 unmanned systems. That comes with an estimated cost of $950m. Northrop Grumman will be the prime contractor on the work, with offset requirements to be determined later.
Northrop’s work order will cover “program management; training for pilots maintenance, logistics and communications personnel; depot and organizational level maintenance; minor modifications and upgrades; spares and repair/return parts; operational flight support; program analysis; publications and technical documentation; U.S. Government and contractor technical and logistics services; and other related elements of logistics and program support,” per the DSCA.
Egypt’s deal involves follow on technical support for a variety of ships in its navy. Work will cover Egypt’s fleets of Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, fast missile craft, coastal mine hunter ships, and 25 meter and 28 meter fast patrol craft.
The prime contractor will be the Virginia-based VSE Corporation, with an estimated price tag of $554m.
Finally, Canada is looking to buy 152 American-made radios, for $44m. Known formally as the Multifunctional Information Distribution System – Joint Tactical Radio System, the radio is Link 16 enabled, an important capability for the NATO ally.
“Canada intends to upgrade its current inventory of CF-18 aircraft, CC-130J, and the Royal Canadian Air Force’s ground stations with the purchase of these MIDS JTRS (5) terminals to be fully interoperable with U.S. and allied forces to support and compliment joint operations in a net-enabled environment; have modernized electronic protection and secure, jam-resistant wave forms; and be capable of improved Link 16 message exchange and information fidelity including support to advanced weapon employment,” the DSCA announcement says.
Primary vendors are Viasat and Data Link Solutions, and some form of industrial offset is expected. (Source: Defense News)
30 Jul 19. US Senate allows arms sales to Saudi Arabia, sustaining Trump vetoes. The U.S. Senate on Monday failed to muster the 67 votes needed to override President Donald Trump’s vetoes of three congressional resolutions meant to block his administration from bypassing Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Senate voted three times ― 45-40, 45-39 and 46-41 ― to override the vetoes after the administration and some Senate Republicans cited Saudi Arabia’s status as bulwark against Iran’s influence in the Mideast to support the sales. The resolutions, connected to a proposed $8.1 bn U.S. sale set to include precision-guided bombs and related components, were meant to reassert Congress’s oversight role.
Last month, the White House argued against the resolutions, saying the sales improve the security of two friendly countries. “Apart from negatively affecting our bilateral relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the joint resolution would hamper our ability to sustain and shape critical security cooperation activities and would significantly hinder the interoperability between our nations,” the White House said in a statement then.
Trump, who issued the veto on July 24, has also argued that the resolutions would impact the global supply chain ― specifically allies United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, France, Spain and Italy, which have co-production licensing agreements for some of the systems.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Robert Menendez, had led the bipartisan effort against the sales, channeling frustration on Capitol Hill over civilian casualties in the U.S.-backed and Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen as well as the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Ahead of the vote Monday, Menendez, D-N.J., said the U.S.-Saudi co-production agreements in the larger deal would transfer jobs and sensitive military technology to Saudi Arabia. With the sale, the U.S. would green light plans by Raytheon to shift manufacturing of a part of the guidance system for the PGMs to the Saudis.
Calling the deal “a Saudi jobs program,” and “madness,” Menendez said State Department officials have indicated privately that this would the first in a series, allowing the Saudis to manufacture larger, more sensitive portions of the weapons. He argued the work, “should be done by American workers in the United States.”
“I ask my colleagues who are thinking of allowing this veto to stand, do you want to be on record supporting a Saudi jobs program, do you want to be on record aiding and abetting the transfer of sensitive U.S. military technology to Saudi Arabia, a source of extremism and bloodshed in the world?” Menendez said. (Source: Defense News)
01 Aug 19. New data shows the soaring cost of government contracts. Pentagon spending on federal contracts soared in fiscal year 2018, accounting for about $373bn of $559bn in overall contracting spend from federal agencies, according to Bloomberg Government’s 8th annual top 200 contractors report.
The spending by the Pentagon is a $40.5bn increase from the previous fiscal year and over $90bn rise since FY2015. Total government spending increased 9 percent from the previous fiscal year, from $512bn in FY2017.
The $559 bn in FY2018 spending is the most since FY2010, when the government spent $562bn.
The BGOV Top 200 ranks vendors by value of prime, unclassified contracts awarded by 24 different federal agencies. This is distinct from the approach taken for the Top 100 list of the largest defense companies published by Defense News, which ranks by defense revenue.
Weapons and ammunition saw staggering growth in FY2018, with an overall spending increase of nearly 40 percent and totaling $8.2bn. Land vehicles, and aircraft and engine components each increased by over 35 percent, thanks largely to the F-35 and Abrams tank, Dan Snyder, director of government contracts research at BGOV said.
The top six contractors remained unchanged from last year, with Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-35, receiving the top with $43.4bn in receipts. It is followed by Boeing with $29.7bn, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and McKesson, respectively.
United Technologies, which makes the F-35′s engines, jumped up from position 20 to 7, totaling $7.9bn in FY2018 contracts. Raytheon’s merger with United Technologies is not reflected in this report, because it is not set to close until next June, the report noted. The combined company will likely surpass General Dynamics next year, Snyder said.
Overall, 118 companies improved their rankings, while 68 lost ground. There were 32 new entrants to the rankings. Federal civilian agencies spent about $187 bn on contracts. The biggest spending increases came from the Department of Energy with gains of $3.1bn, Homeland Security at $2.1bn, and Veterans Affairs at $900m.
BGOV found that large agencies like the State Department, Treasury and Health and Human Services decreased their spending obligations. The State Department decreased its spending by $1.1bn, BGOV found.
Government efforts to modernize are also reflected in the new report. Federal technology spending reached nearly $82bn in FY2018, an $18 bn increase from FY2015 and an $8bn increase since last year.
BGOV anticipates that federal IT spend will continue to rise. The Trump administration requested $87.8bn for unclassified IT spend in FY2020, totaling $51 bn for civilian agencies and about $37 bn for defense agencies.
“Many of those investments are intended for modernizing outdated legacy systems to make the government run more efficiently and effectively, and about $27bn will be directed toward improving the country’s cybersecurity posture,” BGOV wrote.
BGOV also estimated that classified IT spending would add about $10 bn more.
General Dynamics, Leidos and Perspecta were top IT services performers, raking in a combined $7.6bn, the report found. BGOV credited that with their large portfolios of multiple award contracts.
BGOV also identified three trends in government contracting that are affecting government spending. The first, it found, was the increased “momentum” behind best-in-class contracts — contracts for solutions that can be used across agencies and must meet certain performance and data management requirements, as well as pricing strategies, according to GSA. The report said that there about 40 BICs, up from around 30 last year.
BGOV also reported agencies starting to use other transaction authority agreements, used for prototyping and certain types of technology development, in greater numbers. BGOV found that OTA purchases went up to $4bn in FY18, up from $2.3bn the year before.
Finally, BGOV also found continuous growth in agencies’ use of as-a-service contracts for cloud computing, where they essentially buy by the drink. But BGOV also saw the purchasing approach in other areas, such as security operation centers or mobility.
These types of contracts are “beginning to increase in popularity as the government moves beyond buying a set number of licenses to divvy up and pivots to a more flexible model focused on buying the amount it wants when it needs the service,” it wrote. “That buying attitude allows agencies to shift from buying capital assets and count costs as operating expenditures, which normalizes their year-to-year ledgers.”
BGOV estimates that the FY2019 obligations could total $565 bn, which would be the most its ever recorded. (Source: Defense News)
31 Jul 19. Path to 60 Senate Votes for Two-Year Spending Deal Unclear. Senate leadership is eager to bring the House-passed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 to the floor this week before members leave for recess Aug. 2. But with multiple GOP members still reportedly undecided and eight Democrats out of town this week for presidential debates, it is still unclear whether the votes are there to pass the two-year spending bill to avoid a potential continuing resolution or a return to sequestration.
The House last Thursday passed H.R. 3877, which would provide $738 bn for national defense in fiscal year 2020 and $741.5bn in 2021, as well as stave off the threat of sequestration returning for the last two years of spending caps as imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The bill passed the lower chamber by a vote of 284-149, with 66 Republicans voting for it and 16 Democrats voting against it. House leaders from both sides of the aisle pushed for the bill as a compromise solution that was the only chance of passing the Republican-led Senate, but as of July 30, many Senators, Republican and Democrat, remained on the fence.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, told reporters July 30 that he would vote against the bill because it did not include structural reforms that would keep lawmakers from shutting down the government if they don’t reach a budget deal. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), also said he would vote against it.
Republicans including Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and John Kennedy (La.) had previously come out against the bill as well. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) declined to comment when asked by Defense Daily Tuesday. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-Fla.), also a SASC member, told Defense Daily he would support the bill, because “We can’t stop the momentum we have started with our military funding, and we have a lot of catching up to do.”
He argued that even from a conservative standpoint, the proposed deal achieved by White House leaders and House Democrats is more beneficial than any deal that could be reached later on.
“If we don’t seize this moment this week, whatever comes next will be far more expensive,” he warned.
Some Democrats, such as Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), said there were still issues within the bill they are looking to resolve before making up their mind. Shaheen said she wanted further clarity on defense spending vs. domestic spending but added she was “optimistic” about the House voting for the bill. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who sits on SASC along with Shaheen and Blumenthal, told Defense Daily he would support the bill. As votes are whipped on both sides of the aisle, seven Democrats are in Minnesota this week for the second round of primary debates ahead of the 2020 election. They include: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he plans
to keep lawmakers in town until all orders of business under consideration are complete, to include the budget deal.
“Considering the circumstances of divided government, the government funding agreement that President Trump’s team negotiated is a strong deal,” he added in a tweet later that day. “It achieves Republicans’ number one priority: Continuing to fund the rebuilding of our Armed
Forces and modernizing our national defense.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters he is hoping the bill will pass “in a bipartisan way,” but admitted that the path to 60 votes was not crystal clear.
“If they fail to pass that bill, it would be a setback for everybody,” he said, adding that “mainly the military” would be affected.
He declined to say whether the SAC defense subcommittee – which he also chairs – would mark the FY ‘2020 budget topline to $738bn even if the bill didn’t pass, or if it would work on the
original $750bn topline as originally included in the presidential budget request.
“I am hoping this passes and we are going to work together” on draft appropriations, he added.
Once the Bipartisan Budget Act’s vote is complete, there will be more clarity about when the Senate appropriations process will begin, he said.
Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito (R-W.Va.), who chairs the SAC homeland security subcommittee, said that while a definite schedule is not in place yet, her committee’s staff plans to work on appropriations bills through August, “so I would imagine if we mark it up, it would be in September.” She added that she has begun conversations with her counterparts in the House Appropriations Committee and with SAC-HS Ranking Member Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.). As of Defense Daily’s deadline, Capitol Hill sources said efforts were ongoing to whip Democratic votes to support the bill and get senators out of town by Friday. Cramer said Republican support for the bill appeared to be “tenuous on board.”
“I think people see the path to 60 votes, but not necessarily certain which path it will be that will get us there,” he said. “I don’t know if anybody can give you a list of 60 senators that are definitely going to vote for it, but they might be able to give you a list of 70 senators that might vote for it.” (Source: Defense Daily)
30 Jul 19. Korean Fat Leonard? Feds probe new US Navy corruption case in Asia. The Justice Department has filed corruption charges against the head of a Busan, Korea,-based husbanding services provider in a case with unmistakable echoes of theFat Leonard scandal that has rocked the Navy since the investigation was revealed in 2013.
Sung-Yol “David” Kim, head of DK Marine Service, has been charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery, according to documents filed with the Eastern District of Michigan.
The investigation has already netted the former civilian master of the dry cargo ship Charles Drew, a Military Sealift Command ship that operates in the Pacific. James Driver pled guilty July 16 to one count of conspiracy, according to court documents, and is awaiting sentencing.
It’s unclear how deep the alleged fraud ran but it is clear that, DK Marine Services performed extensive work for both Military Sealift Command and US Navy assets, including the carriers Reagan and George Washington, the minesweeper Chief, the destroyer Sterett and numerous other support ships, according to images posted on DK Marine Service’s website.
The news that another husbanding services provider in Asia is at the center of a federal corruption case is a hammer-blow to the Navy, which has been struggling for years as dozens of its officers, including several senior leaders, have come under scrutiny for their dealings with Glenn Defense Marine Asia and its gregarious, corpulent chief executive Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis.
Husbanding services providers act as fixers for the Navy, contracting with the service to arrange tugs, fresh water and sewer service, cable and internet, trash pickup and various other essential services ships require when in port. Francis was accused of ingratiating himself with Navy officers with everything from golf junkets and prostitutes to Broadway musical tickets to secure contracts that he’d then overcharge for.
The Kim indictment seems to outline a somewhat lower-level scam. The indictment alleges that the DK Marine executive gave Driver, at various times, high-speed rail tickets to visit an unnamed associate in a Korean hospital, a hotel room for him and his family, promises of a job in exchange for classified ship schedules, competitors’ pricing information and other information. Driver used his personal email to communicate with Kim to avoid scrutiny, DoJ alleges.
But investigators also seem to be circling around the former director of operations for MSC’s Busan hub, who is labeled as a co-conspirator but is unnamed in Kim’s indictment. Labeled “co-conspirator 1,” the unnamed operations director of Military Sealift Command Office Busan worked for eight years in the office between 2006 and 2014.
In Driver’s indictment, “co-conspirator 1” is described as being “responsible for directing all aspects of MSC ships’ arrival, logistics support, and departure from port.”
Ships send out the logistics request messages, known as LOGREQs, ahead of port visits that request the services that ultimately are arranged by husbanding agents. According to Kim’s indictment, the Justice Department alleges that Kim instructed Driver not to loop in the contracting agency in Japan, Fleet Logistics Center Yokosuka, formerly known as Fleet and Industrial Supply Center Yokosuka or “FISC,” but to send it directly to MSCO Busan’s ops director, known as “co-conspirator 1.”
Quoting an email between Kim and Driver, the indictment reads “When submitting log reg. Do no Cc fisc. Only [CC-1’s first initial] and your other msc reps. You know what I mean. Then [CC-1’s first initial] will handle the rest.”
It is unclear how much business was conducted between DK Marine and the Navy during the time “co-conspirator 1” was director of operations.
Military Sealift Command would not comment on the case nor the scope of the investigation, directing questions to the Department of Justice. MSC did, however, confirm that Driver is a retired civilian master. Emails to Kim and his business partners at DK Marine were not answered by press time. (Source: Defense News)
30 Jul 19. The fight over Jason, a longstanding panel of military scientists, signals a larger story about the escalating conflict between the Trump Administration and world of science. They’re members of a prestigious academic panel with top-secret clearances who’ve advised the Pentagon on some of America’s most vexing national security issues since the Cold War. Over 60 years, they’ve won 11 Nobel prizes and conducted hundreds of government studies. The advisory group, known as Jason, is a team of some 60 of America’s top physicists and scientists who spend each summer in La Jolla, California, conducting studies commissioned by the Pentagon and other U.S. government agencies.
On March 28, Trump appointee Michael Griffin – the Pentagon’s chief technology officer – unexpectedly moved to terminate the group.
Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, objected, telling Griffin’s office the scientists were crucial for keeping America’s nuclear stockpile secure, according to an NNSA official and others affiliated with the Jason program. Gordon-Hagerty’s agency offered to take responsibility for the program. She only needed Griffin’s signature to make it happen.
He declined comment, but a Defense Department spokeswoman said the Pentagon decided it had less need for the studies than previously thought. “The department remains committed to seeking independent technical advice and review. This change is in keeping with this commitment, while making the most economic sense,” said spokeswoman Heather Babb.
Jason’s supporters, backed into a corner, managed to keep the group alive, temporarily for now, for eight more months. Democrats in Congress are trying to get Jason funded through a different Pentagon office not run by Griffin, but it’s unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will go along.
A day after Griffin moved to axe Jason, a 35-word blurb in the Federal Register announced the end of two other independent scientific boards, including the Navy Research Advisory Committee, which had advised the Navy and Marine Corps for 73 years.
The efforts to kill the scientific panels show how the Trump administration’s crackdown on the role of independent science in the U.S. government is reaching into areas long thought immune from political influence.
“These are institutions of great technical expertise,” said Sherri W. Goodman, a former member of the International Security Advisory Board, a State Department panel suspended shortly after Trump took office. “They are great repositories of national expertise and also scientific expertise that have helped keep America’s competitive edge militarily.”
This may be just the beginning. A June executive order signed by Trump requires all federal agencies to slash a third of their independent advisory committees by September 30, with the goal of ultimately reducing the total number of such committees to no more than 350 from about 1,000 now.
The move will cut back on red tape and costs, Trump officials say. Jason, for instance, receives about $8m in taxpayer financing a year. “Formal boards are only one of many avenues for senior leaders to receive advice from experts, but some boards outlive their mission,” said Lisa Hershman, the Defense Department’s acting chief management officer.
The Trump administration is not the first to seek to reduce independent advisory panels, though its effort appears more ambitious in terms of the number of cuts. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, cut a handful of boards during his tenure.
Gates declined to comment, but a former defense official said Gates felt senior military officials lost time rebutting recommendations. “Gates looked at it and said you guys may decide they’re not worth the effort,” said Bill Bowes, a former vice admiral in the U.S. Navy and vice-chair of the Naval Research Advisory Committee until it was disbanded earlier this year.
In the case of the Naval panels, two former members said they were told Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was frustrated the groups took months to turn out recommendations. Instead of depending on advisory committees, a Navy spokesman said, Spencer preferred to hear from experts on a case by case basis.
Yet others say killing the committees will weaken independent assessments of crucial military and scientific issues. “The pattern of resistance that has been directed at independent science advisors suggests that it is their independence that is unwanted,” said Steve Aftergood, a government secrecy specialist with the Federation of American Scientists.
Reuters’ account of the effort to disband Jason is built from interviews with the outgoing and incoming chairs of Jason, panel program administrators, and officials at the Pentagon and National Nuclear Security Administration. Reuters also reviewed emails and correspondence involving Jason.
Independent group, pink slip
The Jasons, drawn from America’s elite scientists, are hand-picked by the existing membership. They are known for fiercely guarding their independence and, at times, ruffling feathers.
Named after the leader of the Argonauts who sought the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology, they were formed after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit Earth, in 1957. Fearing it was losing the space and technology war, the United States created the Jason program.
In the 1960s, the Jasons invented a type of sensor that could detect enemy guerrillas in Vietnam and communicate their location to U.S. bombers. Four decades later, the group pushed back when the Pentagon sought to appoint some of Jason’s scientists.
“They speak their mind,” said David Wright, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group. “They’ve tried very hard to be independent of the agency that is paying them. Jason can be a pain in the ass. It doesn’t always give people the answers they want.”
More recently, the Jasons determined that a rare jungle cricket, not a mysterious radio frequency weapon, likely caused the odd sound that U.S. diplomats in Cuba had suspected caused them to fall ill in late 2016. No definitive cause of the illnesses has been determined.
The Jason contract operates under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Defense, with the Pentagon funding DOD studies. Other government agencies pay for studies they commission. Each study costs about $500,000, with 12 to 15 conducted a year, say Jason members, who are paid about $1,200 a day for their time.
The contract was due for renewal March 31. In January, Mitre Corp, the McLean, Virginia, nonprofit that manages federally funded research centers and oversees Jason, submitted a proposal to continue managing the program as it has every five years since the early 1990s.
The Pentagon told Mitre it would reply by March 16. That date came and went with no word.
On March 28, three days before the contract was due to expire, Mitre received a letter from Washington Headquarter Services, the contracting arm of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, saying it had decided to cancel calls for bids on the renewed contract.
“The requirement has changed from multiple studies being projected to only one study being needed for the Under Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering,” Sharon Hilton, a contracting officer with Washington Headquarter Services, wrote Mitre. Issuing a new contract “does not make economic sense at this time.”
Jason chairwoman Ellen Williams, a physics professor at the University of Maryland, said the rationale for gutting the program was “ridiculous.” The Pentagon only pays for studies it commissions, she noted, while other government agencies pay for their own studies.
“It was quite a shock,” Williams said.
A ‘Star Wars’ collision
At the center of the conflict: Trump appointee Griffin, the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. The GOP-controlled Senate confirmed his appointment in February 2018.
Griffin is known as an outspoken advocate for space-based missile defense systems, an area that has drawn tough scrutiny in the past from Jason scientists.
During the Reagan administration, Griffin played a central role in the military’s Strategic Defense Initiative, an ambitious idea of space-based weaponry dubbed by some as “Star Wars.” (Source: Reuters)
26 Jul 19. China: US ‘in pursuit of absolute military superiority.’ China’s latest defense white paper has warned of intensifying global competition as major powers readjust their security and military strategies to gain strategic advantage. At the same time, the document also comes out against what China sees as attempts to split the country, pointedly referring to independence movements in Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang and calling them “threats to China’s national security and social stability.”
Unsurprisingly, the white paper addressed the actions of the United States several times, noting that “the U.S. is engaging in technological and institutional innovation in pursuit of absolute military superiority.”
It added that “the U.S. has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies. It has provoked and intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermined global strategic stability.”
It also saw the strengthening of regional military alliances and reinforcing its forces in the region as “adding complexity to regional security,” once again singling out the introduction of advanced U.S. missile defense systems to South Korea for criticism, saying that the “deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the Republic of Korea (ROK) by the U.S. has severely undermined the regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of regional countries.”
The white paper also addressed regional American allies, noting that “Japan has adjusted its military and security policies and increased input accordingly, thus becoming more outward-looking in its military endeavors,” while “Australia continues to strengthen its military alliance with the U.S. and its military engagement in the Asia-Pacific, seeking a bigger role in security affairs.”
However, it reserved stronger criticism for the government in Taiwan — the self governing island which China sees as a breakaway province. The paper accused Taiwan of having “gone further down the path of separatism by stepping up efforts to sever the connection with the mainland in favor of gradual independence, pushing for de jure independence, intensifying hostility and confrontation, and borrowing the strength of foreign influence.” It reiterated that “China resolutely opposes the wrong practices and provocative activities of the U.S. side regarding arms sales to Taiwan.”
At the same time, China also defended its own conduct in handling relations between the two, declaring that it “actively and properly handles its military relationship with the U.S. in accordance with the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”
The growing entente between China and Russia was also addressed, with the white paper saying that “the military relationship between China and Russia continues to develop at a high level, enriching the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era and playing a significant role in maintaining global strategic stability.”
This growing military relationship was on display in recent days, with the first joint Russian-Chinese air patrol comprising of bombers and an airborne early aircraft in airspace between the U.S. allies, triggering scrambles by South Korean and Japanese fighter jets in response. During the encounter, South Korean fighters fired warning shots at the Russian airborne early warning aircraft when it flew close to an island administered by South Korea, but whose ownership is disputed by Japan, triggering diplomatic protests against each other by both protagonists.
(Source: Defense News)
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