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15 Aug 19. Army announces winter deployments to Afghanistan and Europe. The Army has announced upcoming deployments to Afghanistan and Europe for four units. The 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 10th Mountain Division Combat Aviation Brigade out of Fort Drum, New York, will be heading to Afghanistan. The 3rd Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade, stationed at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, will be rotating to Europe.
The 3rd SFAB will replace the 2nd SFAB as part of a regular rotation of forces in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel — the mission in Afghanistan that began in January 2015.
The 3rd SFAB is scheduled to conduct a unit validation exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana, this summer.
“Our team continues to advance the advisor profession forward as we prepare for our upcoming deployment to the CENTCOM AOR,” said Brig. Gen. Charles J. Masaracchia, 3rd SFAB commander, in a statement. “We are prepared to advise, support, liaise and assess our partnered foreign security force as they work to bring peace and stability to their country.”
The 10th Mountain Division Combat Aviation Brigade will replace the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade.
“The Falcon Brigade is honored and stands ready to answer our nation’s call to deploy by employing highly-trained and highly-skilled Soldiers and aviators utilizing the best aircraft and equipment the Army possesses,” said brigade commander Col. Darrell Doremus in a statement.
“Our team is exceptionally well-trained, equipped and led at every echelon to conduct its assigned mission,” Doremus added. “With the help of our National Guard partners and the international coalition, we will work to defeat ISIS and set the conditions for long-term regional stability.”
SFABs are designed to work on behalf of geographic combatant commanders, integrating with foreign partner forces and advising them to build security capacity in support of U.S. national interests.
Although the SFAB concept was originally designed to be available all over the world, the brigades have been mostly tapped for Central Command’s need to train and advise Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
The deployments to Afghanistan come amid ongoing peace talks with the Taliban between the insurgent group’s leadership and U.S. diplomatic officials.
The Taliban has expressed a desire to have all U.S. forces withdraw in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for other terrorist groups. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated in July that “there is no deadline” for the end of the American mission there.
The 3rd Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade will replace the 1st Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade as part of a regular rotation of forces in support of NATO allies and partners.
“Marne Air Soldiers trained hard and are ready for this important mission or anything else the nation needs,” said Maj. Gen. Antonio A. Aguto, Jr., commander of the 3rd Infantry Division. “I am extremely confident in the Soldiers and their leaders, and I look forward to seeing the Falcon Brigade provide support and air capability to our military and our European Allies.”
The 2nd BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, will replace the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, in support of the same mission as their aviation counterparts.
“The Blackjack Brigade is well-led, expertly maintained and incredibly lethal,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Calvert, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division.
“There is no doubt that they are ready to execute this mission,” Calvert added. “While in Europe, the troopers of this brigade will continue to increase their readiness while supporting the United States’ effort to deter aggression. In doing so, our allies will be assured of the enduring commitment of the U.S. to security in Europe.”
The U.S. military stepped up its rotational presence to Europe since 2014 in an effort to reassure NATO and eastern European allies amid an increasingly resurgent Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula that year.
There are three types of Atlantic Resolve rotations — armored, aviation and logistical — that serve for nine-month missions.
15 Aug 19. Defense Contractors Return $200m in Self-Reported Waste to U.S. Government. Defense contractors have returned more than $200m to the U.S. in the decade since it became mandatory to self-report potential fraud, waste or abuse, according to a new tally by the department’s inspector general. Until late 2008 the Defense Department had a voluntary program for contractors to disclose potential violations. Then lawmakers made timely disclosure mandatory at the risk of potential suspension or disbarment when there’s credible evidence of a criminal violation.
“The disclosures we receive involving recoveries” may be for “labor mischarging or timecard fraud,” such as when employees put in for time they didn’t work or for work they didn’t complete, Patrick Gookin, director of the inspector general’s hotline, said in an email. “We also receive disclosures involving overpayments, or false claims that can lead to additional recoveries than initially reported.” Gookin’s team assembled the tally. In an example of the self-reporting requirement under the Contractor Disclosure Program, Sierra Nevada Corp. disclosed in December 2012 possible Pentagon overpayments for development costs on some contracts after a preliminary inquiry, according to a summary by the inspector general. The company later supplemented its disclosure, identifying $6m in potential overpayments.
The inspector general’s criminal investigative arm, as well as the Navy’s, subsequently conducted probes, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency reviewed the paperwork.
The Sparks, Nevada-based company reached a $14.7m settlement with the Justice Department in February 2017 to resolve allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act “when it knowingly misclassified certain costs, resulting in inflated overhead rates paid,” according to the department.
Sierra Nevada said in a post-settlement statement that after the disclosure it “implemented rigorous and comprehensive accounting processes, and added additional training and tools designed to ensure adherence to the highest standards of compliance with regulations.”
In addition to the $200m in self-reported possible overpayments, the inspector general’s latest semi-annual report cited $4m in potential recoveries for reasons such as non-confirming or counterfeit parts, false certifications and theft of government property. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Bloomberg)
14 Aug 19. Finding a safe place for big ideas at the Pentagon. On its surface, the situation does seem discouraging. The director of the Strategic Capabilities Office is abruptly out, less than a year on the job, reportedly unhappy with the SCO’s future. The Pentagon’s top technology expert then moves SCO under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — four levels down from where it once lived under former Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The explanation from Mike Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, seemed equally discouraging. In a nutshell, it ate up too much time.
So how bad is it? Are skeptics correct, including the House Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Mac Thornberry, when they argue that the move could create layers of extra bureaucracy — the very thing SCO is meant to diminish? Is this an example of walking away from a driver of change?
One could argue it’s both of those things. Or maybe one could argue it’s a smart decision that will help SCO expand.
The truth is that Griffin is right. Placement of an office toward the top echelon at the Pentagon — even under the secretary as SCO once was — doesn’t prompt success. It might, in fact, do the opposite, causing the office to get lost amid higher, near-term priorities and demands, actually slowed down by the lack of concentrated attention.
And what is gained? The ability to say the SCO director reports direct to the secretary or (more recently) the R&E head, and perhaps the access needed to better sell an idea or concept. But would that get lost at DARPA — an agency that has arguably the best track record at the Department of Defense in pushing big ideas, in getting funding to experiment and in convincing services to change the old way of doing things?
And if the world has learned nothing else from Silicon Valley success stories, it’s that success breeds success. Enable the big ideas to fester by surrounding them by a lot of the big thinkers. With all due respect to the five-sided box, perhaps moving outside those walls offers more opportunity to come at a problem in a different way.
Maybe SCO did need to directly report to the defense secretary in its earlier years. Created in 2012, the office was expected to do things differently — to tackle requirements in new ways, combining and modifying existing systems along the way. That was a foreign concept that could have withered on the vine nearly a decade ago. That’s probably why Carter shifted SCO to his direct purview when he became secretary.
His endorsement mattered. SCO also suited his agenda to drive more innovation into the Pentagon — a priority that also spurred him to pull the newly created Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (today just DIU) under him a few years later.
But the logic behind those moves rested at least in part in a desire to exude legitimacy and drive buy-in. We’re now at a place where the DoD is on board with innovative ideas, generally, but still struggles to understand how to execute those ideas and how to adapt to change. Entities like SCO and DIU and DARPA can help them along in that — but not when they’re so tightly integrated into the larger machine.
There’s been a tendency in the last few years to hold sacred these pockets of innovation happening in and around the Pentagon as if they’re fragile. Dare to shift the approach or strategy, and be chastised for standing in the way of big ideas.
But true innovation won’t come form pet projects.
In April, I wrote about Jason, the independent group of scientists that has advised the Pentagon for about six decades on matters of science and technology. When Jason apparently lost its contract with the Department of Defense, many objected; they said it was part of a larger trend by federal agencies to limit independent scientific and technical advice.
What I said then about Jason I will say again here about SCO: Let’s hope it’s instead a sign of a productive effort to consolidate expertise to help the DoD become smarter about innovation. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
10 Aug 19. DOD Cloud Has Leading Uses For Warfighter, Officials Say. Warfighters are “absolutely” waiting for the enterprise cloud so they can gain real-time data access and other tools, the Defense Department’s chief information officer told reporters in a media roundtable at the Pentagon.
“This is an imperative to what they need each and every day to defend and execute their missions,” Dana Deasy said.
“The warfighter needed the enterprise cloud yesterday,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. “Dominance in [artificial intelligence] is not a question of software engineering, but instead, it’s a result of combining capabilities at multiple levels. For AI across DOD, enterprise cloud is existential.”
Shanahan said without enterprise cloud, there is no AI at scale. AI remains a series of small-scale, stovepiped projects. An enterprise cloud platform will provide on-demand compute capabilities and data at scale, and substantial network advantages at all classification levels, Shanahan noted.
“Enterprise cloud allows AI cycle speeds that can be measured in updates across an entire enterprise in hours, as opposed to in months, six months or maybe even a year,” Shanahan told reporters.
The top AI companies are first and foremost cloud-data-based, data-centric organizations with a continuous development culture where integrating, managing and analyzing data at scale is the lifeblood of the organization, the JAIC director said.
“That’s where we want to be and need to be an enterprise-cloud solution,” he added.
“Local military equipment that is connected to the JEDI cloud hardware, could still operate and be used to execute missions in a degraded, disrupted or denied environment, extending enterprise cloud, in other words, all the way out to the tactical edge,” Shanahan said.
“It is also about joint, all-domain warfighting,” Shanahan said. “Taking advantage of emerging technologies to develop new operating concepts for a kind of warfare will look completely different than what we’ve experienced for the past 20 years.”
In this future high-end environment, DOD envisions a world of algorithmic warfare and autonomy in which competitive advantage goes to the side that understands how to harness 5G, AI, enterprise cloud in quantum into a viable, operational model.
“This digital modernization is a warfighting imperative,” Shanahan said. “It’s one that will be fueled by enterprise cloud solutions.” (Source: US DoD)
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