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28 Aug 19. Pentagon leads Fourth Estate review. The Defense Department has launched a review of its fourth estate agencies to look for efficiencies in time, money, and personnel, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Aug. 28 at a rare Pentagon press conference.
The defense secretary said a “defense-wide review process” meant to “identify time, money, and manpower that can be re-allocated to our highest priorities” was underway.
“We have begun this process with a focus on the Fourth Estate and will eventually address other parts of the Department of Defense enterprise,” Esper said during his first on-camera Pentagon press briefing since taking office in July.
Esper, formerly the Army secretary, instituted a service-wide zero-based budgeting approach that uncoveredmore than $30bn in cost savings—a process that analysts anticipated would come to the Pentagon as it gears up for its next audit. Starting with the Fourth Estate, or the DOD’s administrative agencies, jibes with previous congressional proposals to shrink its budget numbers.
The defense secretary didn’t specifically mention whether the review related to the 2020 defense authorization bill that is headed to conference, but did urge Congress to pass it on time or risk stifling the military’s modernization efforts.
“We are thankful for the two-year budget deal, which will give us the predictability needed to advance the [National Defense Strategy] to protect this great country,” Esper said. He also called on Congress to pass the Defense appropriation and authorization bills on time to avoid recourse to a continuing resolution.
“As I’ve expressed to Congress on many occasions, including yesterday, continuing resolutions harm our military readiness and stifle our modernization efforts,” he said. (Source: Defense Systems)
29 Aug 19. OFAC Targets Procurement Networks Supporting Iran’s Missile Proliferation Programs. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has targeted two Iranian regime-linked networks pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for engaging in covert procurement activities benefitting multiple Iranian military organizations. One network, led by Hamed Dehghan, has allegedly used a Hong Kong-based front company, Green Industries (Hong Kong) Limited, to evade U.S. and international sanctions and facilitate tens of millions of dollars’ worth of proliferation activities targeting U.S. technology and electronic components, for persons related to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iranian regime’s missile program. The second network, led by Seyed Hossein Shariat, has procured various aluminum alloy products on behalf of components entities owned or controlled by Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). As a result of these actions, all property and interests in property of these individuals that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons. In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the persons designated today may themselves be exposed to designation. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or provides significant financial services for any of the individuals designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions. Click here for further identifying information on the designated entities. (Source: glstrade.com)
26 Aug 19. Pentagon to Debut Intellectual Property Protection Team. The Defense Department is about to debut a new program to secure military technology and safeguard developing weapons against malign actors such as China. By October, the Pentagon will stand up an “intellectual property [IP] cadre” to create policy to better address protections for the military’s data security, as well as how the DoD deals with the defense industry on these issues going forward, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said Monday.
“Acquisition and sustainment is now issuing new functional policies on mission engineering and intellectual property,” Lord said during a briefing at the Pentagon.
The new cadre “will develop DoD policy within the whole of government effort to address concerns on data rights,” she said.
Lord cited recent comments by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump on intellectual property theft, which has adverse effects on national security, “American commerce and the defense industry.”
“We need to go on the offense to protect our technology versus merely acting defensively,” she said.
The fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act ordered the Pentagon to create a “cadre” of intellectual property experts in the DoD and private industry who can offer guidance on how to apply laws and regulations to acquisition strategy.
According to Holland & Knight, a law firm that specializes in data rights, the cadre’s duties “include developing strategies to acquire and support IP and interacting directly with contractors to implement the strategies, drafting solicitations or needs statements, and assisting with the valuation of IP and negotiation of IP prices.”
In a recent interview with Fox News, Defense Secretary Mark Esper agreed with the Trump administration that China has been taking advantage of U.S intellectual property — trademarked, copyrighted or patented ideas or works — for years.
China has engaged in the “greatest theft of intellectual property in human history,” he said in the interview last week.
“They’ve studied us, and they’ve learned about how we employ weapons,” Esper said. “They’ve learned about our doctrine. And so, that is something that we watch very carefully.” (Source: glstrade.com/military.com)
28 Aug 19. Night court comes to the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday confirmed his department spanning review won’t be limited to finding savings from “fourth estate” agencies, but will potentially involve cutting legacy programs that are diverting money away from next-generation projects needed to combat China and Russia.
Speaking at the SENEDIA industry conference in Rhode Island on Tuesday, Esper touted the forthcoming review by saying he was open to “divesting of legacy capabilities that simply aren’t suited” for future battlefields.
“My commitment is to look throughout the DoD enterprise, beginning with the fourth estate, and look for ways to find money to invest in those technologies,” he said.
Asked by reporters on his way back to Washington if he was willing to cut legacy programs loose to fund future capabilities, Esper said, “I’m looking for programs that don’t have as much value relative to another critical war-fighting capability, absolutely.”
“I’ve already found money, and it’s just going to be a long process,” he added. “I have a dollar amount in mind but I want to make sure I can refine it a little better before I can release anything.”
An Aug. 2 memo kicked off a department-wide review of programs ahead of the development for the fiscal year 2021 budget request. The goal is to find savings and drive a “longer-term focus on structural reform, ensuring all [defense-wide] activities are aligned to the National Defense Strategy while evaluating the division of functions between defense-wide organizations and the military departments,” per the document.
“No reform is too small, too bold or too controversial to be considered,” the memo reads, noting that there will be an emphasis on finding savings through the so-called “fourth estate,” internal DoD offices that don’t fall under one of the services, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and the Missile Defense Agency.
While the memo, first reported by Inside Defense, was signed out by Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, it makes clear the marching orders came from Esper, who as Army secretary spearheaded the now-infamous “night court” budgeting process.
Under that effort, the service took a hard look at legacy department programs and cut a number of them, refocusing funds on efforts to challenge China and Russia. Then-Army secretary Esper helped guide those restructurings through Congress, and the process, which found around $25bn in savings, has garnered largely positive reviews.
So, is it fair to call Esper’s forthcoming review a larger version of the night court process?
“If you want to call it that, that’s fine with me,” the secretary said.
Chris Brose, a former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee who is now head of strategy for Anduril Industries, played a major role in attempts to reform the Pentagon from 2015 through 2018. Beyond fourth estate cuts, he believes Esper must make tough and far-reaching budget decisions to compete with China and Russia.
“The bigger thing I think and hope he will do is look at all the activities of the services through the context of the National Defense Strategy. That’s the most important impact you can have,” Brose said of Esper. “That, to me, is what bringing ‘night court’ to DoD really means. It’s not only figuring out how to close data centers or wring savings out of Defense Health Affairs.”
The defense secretary is uniquely empowered to look across all activities and make hard choices within and between the services. He should be asking the big questions about force design, force development, force structure, roles and missions, Brose said.
“Not only are those the most important questions, that’s where the real money is,” Brose said. “We’ve been saying a lot of the right things for a long time. The question is whether we can implement the things we say are important. Buying Thing 1 means you have to divest from Thing 2.”
And for Esper to be effective at making consequential and forward-looking changes, he will have to do what he did as Army secretary and personally lead the process, not delegate to a deputy or, say, the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, Brose warned.
“The thing I can’t stress enough is the amount of his time he devotes to making this work will determine whether it succeeds or fails,” Brose said. “Unfortunately for many, many years, the secretary of defense has prioritized or been forced to prioritize jobs other than sitting in his office with senior decision makers and going through the gory details of programs and making hard decisions. Often, that gets kicked down.”
For his part, Esper indicated Tuesday he plans to stay directly involved ― as much as his other duties will allow.
“It’s a long road. I’m spending two hours a week, 90 minutes to two hours a week on this in formal session, so we’re just going to work our way through it week after week after week,” the secretary said. (Source: Defense News)
28 Aug 19. Esper, Dunford Emphasize Key Role of Strategy in American Defense. The Defense Department will continue to make all decisions based on the National Defense Strategy and will follow the lines of effort — increasing lethality, encouraging alliances and partnerships, and reforming the department — that provide the strategy’s foundations, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
Speaking alongside Esper at a Pentagon news conference today, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, supported the secretary’s statements and gave a quick summary of the steps the military has taken to support the strategy.
The strategy is based on four problem sets: the return of great power competition with China and Russia, changes in the character of war, the capacity of the force vis-a-vis operational commitments, and “the unprecedented pace of change in virtually every aspect of our profession,” Dunford said.
The U.S. military has changed how it plans, how it supports the secretary in making decisions, how it prioritizes resources and how it modernizes. “We have shifted from a traditional focus on operational plans for specific contingencies to plans that are globally oriented on each of the challenges addressed in the National Defense Strategy — China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and violent extremism,” the chairman said.
Esper has been in office for only a month, but it has been a busy month, as he has traveled to the Indo-Pacific region and is preparing to go to Europe. The secretary inherited the National Defense Strategy and said today that he stands fully behind it. The only change he has made is to the lines of effort, adding one: “Taking care of service members and their families,” he said.
The strategy is a realistic response to real concerns around the world, Esper said, noting that Russia and China are actively working to challenge the United States to enable their geopolitical aspirations. China and Russia are working to weaken America’s alliance network, and the two nations are bulking up their military capabilities. They want to replace an international system that has even benefitted them with one that works only to their advantage. “It is clear that China is engaging in a deliberate strategy to undermine the stability of the region,” Esper said. “It is clear that the values and behaviors of the Chinese Communist Party do not align with the vast majority states.”
Asian nations want the United States to remain involved in the region and want the United States to retain its leadership role, the secretary said.
Iran remains a problem regionally and globally, Esper said, and the United States has put in place Operation Sentinel to provide support to freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and adjacent waters. “Operation Sentinel is up and running, with the [United Kingdom], Australia and Bahrain joining us in this effort,” the secretary said. “The purpose of this operation is … to provide freedom of navigation for the commercial shipping that is so vital to global economic trade and … to deter provocations and avoid conflict in the region.”
The United States continues to work with other nations and would welcome their participation in this operation, he added.
Esper said he is excited about the activation of U.S. Space Command tomorrow. The command will “ensure the protection of America’s interest in space,” he said.
Air Force Gen. John W. Raymond will command the new combatant command. It will apply the necessary focus, energy and resources to the task of ensuring American dominance in space — a crucial domain for the military. “As a unified combatant command, the United States Space Command is the next crucial step towards the creation of an independent Space Force as an additional armed service,” Esper said. (Source: US DoD)
26 Aug 19. U.S. Manufacturers to Pick Up Turkey’s F-35 Parts Business. Turkey’s loss will be U.S. aircraft parts makers’ gains as work on the F-35 program shifts to domestic suppliers, the Defense Department’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment said Aug. 26.
In July, Ellen Lord announced that Ankara will be removed from the F-35 program in response to the country’s decision to purchase Russian S-400 anti-air missile systems. Fielding a Russian intelligence collection platform near areas where the F-35 is made and repaired would put the program at risk, she noted, saying that the aircraft’s strength “lies in its stealth capabilities, so the ability to detect those capabilities would jeopardize the long-term security of the F-35 program.”
“Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 is inconsistent with its commitments to NATO and will have detrimental impact on Turkish interoperability with the alliance,” she said. It will take about a year to formally remove Turkey from the program, she added.
Turkey is expected to lose out on about $9bn over the life of the program, she told reporters in a briefing at the Pentagon. Turkey had made over 900 parts for the aircraft. Now, the 900 parts will initially be sourced in the United States instead “to be expeditious and keep the program on track,” Lord noted. In July, she said production will “gradually open up to program partners for first, second and third sources.”
Meanwhile, Pentagon officials are still discussing the fate of the 100 F-35s slated to be sent to Turkey, which are located at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Over 100 F-35As were slated to go to Turkey and all Turkish F-35 students and instructors in the United States were scheduled to leave by the end of last month. Lord said she was not aware of whether any of these individuals have requested asylum to stay in the United States. However, Lord declined to say if the decision to remove Ankara from the program is permanent.
“The S-400 and the F-35 are incompatible,” she said. “Turkey is a strategic ally of ours, a strategic partner for us. So we always continue to talk.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Department reached a handshake agreement with Lockheed Martin for the next F-35 lot buy, Lord said. The DoD announced in June that the $34bn agreement includes the delivery of 478 aircraft for Lots 12-14. The deal is expected to result in an 8.8 percent savings from Lot 11 to 12 and about a 15 percent unit recurring flyaway cost reduction for each variant, according to the DoD.
“This is a historic milestone for the F-35 enterprise, and marks the largest procurement in the history of the department,” Lord said in the announcement. (Source: glstrade.com/https://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org)
27 Aug 19. Esper calls for new basing investments in the Pacific. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper today called for expanding base locations in the Pacific while continuing regular freedom of navigation operations in the region, as part of a broader attempt to stymie China’s influence.
Esper, speaking at the Naval War College, called the Indo-Pacific theater “our priority theater,” as the department continues its shift towards an era of great power competition.
“Many of you spent most of your career fighting irregular warfare or engaging with it,” Esper told the audience. “But times have changed.”
In the Pacific, “allies and partners want us to lead… but to do that we must also be present in the region,” Esper said. “Not everywhere, but we have to be in the key locations. This means looking at how we expand our basing locations, investing more time and resources into certain regions we haven’t been to in the past.”
The Secretary did not expand on what that may mean; reporters traveling with Esper were able to see his short opening speech but were not present for a question and answer session with students. But Patrick Cronin, a regional expert with the Hudson Institute, pointed to several possibilities for expanded bases in the Pacific.
“The U.S. is right to work on a more distributed set of access points throughout the Indo-Pacific in geographically strategic locations, where diplomatic and development support from the U.S. and allies and partners can ensure sustainable engagement to build capable partners and strengthen deterrence,” Cronin said. He pointed to Singapore and the Philippines as two classic allies who could stand to have U.S. presence built up. In addition, he identified Thailand’s U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, as well as broad improvements in Vietnam.
“As Vietnam [and] U.S. celebrate 25 years of normalization next year, we need to keep expanding exercise activity and port visits,” he said. “And there are access arrangements, perhaps not as public, in Malaysia and Indonesia. Beyond defense, these are also areas where some development and investment can occur that is sought from the local countries and wins public-private support for the U.S. and like-minded partners.”
Looking further south, both the Federated States of Micronesia and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands are regions which have not received major attention from the Department of Defense in the past. While far from the strategic center of the region, the U.S. could seek to keep Chinese influence away from those island collections. Another option is Papua New Guinea, which is currently building a joint naval base with the U.S. and Australia. Eric Sayers, a former special assistant to the head of U.S. Pacific Command, now with the Center for a New American Security, pointed to the islands of Yap and Palau as another area with “critical geography where the U.S. has exclusive access under our Compact agreements” from which U.S. Air Force assets could operate.
“This lets us diversify the locations we use, complicates PLA planning, avoids dependency on large bases that can become single points of failure, and buys down the diplomatic-political risk of relying too heavily on a place like the Philippines where we may only have access during a dispute that they are involved in,” Sayers said.
Later in his speech, Esper also called for a continuation of freedom of navigation operations, both in the region and elsewhere.
“It also means we have to continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international rules allow freedom of navigation, for both military and commercial operations, whether it’s the strait of Hormuz or the Malacca strait,” Esper said. (Source: Defense News)
27 Aug 19. To combat China’s hold on rare earth minerals, Pentagon looks to Australia. The Pentagon is in early talks with Australia’s government about a deal that would lead to that nation processing a significant portion of rare earth materials required by the U.S. Department of Defense, according to the department’s top acquisition official.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters during a Monday briefing that she spoke with counterparts in Australia during a summer visit there about “whether or not we could work with Australia to stand up a facility that would take care of our DoD needs, but a variety of other international needs as well.”
She said such an option is one of the “highest potential avenues” under consideration by the department as it tries to break China’s stranglehold on the production of rare earth materials that are vital to everything from lasers to radars to jet engines.
Any such agreement would be focused on the processing side of rare earths, as opposed to the digging of the materials, she noted. “The challenge is really the processing of them and having facilities to do that because quite often China mines them elsewhere and brings them back to China to process them,” Lord said. “So we are looking at a variety of mechanisms to stand up processing facilities.”
While experts have been nervous about the U.S. supply of rare earth materials ever since the only American refinery went bankrupt in 2015, the Pentagon underlined the alarm with a major October 2018 review of the defense-industrial base.
“China represents a significant and growing risk to the supply of materials and technologies deemed strategic and critical to U.S. national security; a challenge shared by key allies such as Germany and Australia,” the report read, singling out rare earth metals and critical energetic materials for munitions and missiles as areas of concern.
As a result, the Trump administration issued five presidential determinations that DoD funds should go toward developing a new rare earths capability.
The Australian firm Lynas is central to the Pentagon’s proposed plan. The firm has both a mine in Australia and a processing plant in Malaysia, but does not have capabilities to handle the heavy earth separation required for most of the materials needed by the DoD. (It is unclear from Lord’s comments if the department is talking primarily to Lynas or the government over the issue.)
Investing in some way to help build that capability would be a smart move for the department, said Jeff Green, president of J.A. Green & Company, a specialty government relations firm.
“You’re never going to beat the Chinese on a huge scale. The department’s strategy is focused on: ‘I don’t need to worry about the automotive industry, I just need to make sure my defense supply chain is secure.’ And for a relatively small investment, they can get that capacity up and running,” Green said.
As to why Australia, Green said the only other supplier outside of China would be Vietnam, and Australia is a much closer ally. “DoD is trying to leverage the only capability outside of China from an ally that exists,” he said. (Source: Defense News)
27 Aug 19. (84 Fed. Reg. 44671) – The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation has imposed additional sanctions on Russia under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act). On August 6, 2018, a determination was made that the Russian government used chemical weapons in violation of international law or lethal chemical weapons against its own nationals. Notice of this determination was published at 83 Fed. Reg. 43723 (Aug. 27, 2018), which resulted in sanctions against Russia. Section 307(B) of the CBW Act requires a decision within three months of August 6, 2018, regarding whether Russia has met certain conditions described in the law. Additional sanctions on Russia are required if these conditions are not met. The Secretary of State decided on November 2, 2018, that Russia had not met the CBW Act’s conditions and decided to impose additional sanctions on Russia on March 29, 2019. This determination is effective on August 26, 2019. The Secretary of State has decided that it is essential to the national security interests of the United States to wave the application of further export restrictions with respect to the following:
- CBW: Exports and reexports of goods or technology controlled for reason CB (Chemical and Biological Weapons) pursuant to new licenses for Russian state-owned or state-funded enterprises provided that such licenses will be issued on a case-by-case basis, subject to a “presumption of denial” policy.
- Other Reasons for Control: Exports and reexports of goods or technology controlled for AT (Anti-Terrorism), CC (Crime Control), FC (Firearms Convention), MT (Missile Technology), NP (Nuclear Nonproliferation), and RS (Regional Stability), pursuant to new licenses, provided that such licenses will be issued on a case-by-case basis, consistent with export licensing policy for Russia prior to enactment of these sanctions. For information on exports or reexports of goods or technology controlled for NS (National Security), see the notices at 83 Fed. Reg. 43723 (Aug. 27, 2018) and 83 Fed. Reg. 47390 (Sept. 19, 2018).
- License Exceptions: Exports and reexports of goods or technology eligible under License Exceptions GOV, ENC, RPL, BAG, TMP, TSU, APR, CIV, and AVS.
- Safety of Flight: Exports and reexports of goods or technology pursuant to new licenses necessary for the safety of flight of civil fixed-wing passenger aviation, provided that such licenses shall be issued on a case-by-case basis, consistent with export licensing policy for Russia prior to enactment of these sanctions.
- Deemed Exports/Reexports: Exports and re-exports of goods or technology pursuant to new licenses for deemed exports and reexports to Russian nationals, provided that such licenses shall be issued on a case-by-case basis, consistent with export licensing policy for Russia prior to enactment of these sanctions.
- Wholly-Owned U.S. and Other Foreign Subsidiaries: Exports and reexports of goods or technology pursuant to new licenses for exports and reexports to wholly-owned U.S. and other foreign subsidiaries in Russia, provided that such licenses shall be issued on a case-by-case basis, consistent with export licensing policy for Russia prior to enactment of these sanctions.
- Space Flight: Exports and reexports of goods or technology pursuant to new licenses in support of government space cooperation and commercial space launches, provided that such licenses shall be issued on a case-by-case basis, consistent with export licensing policy for Russia prior to enactment of these sanctions.
- Commercial End-Users: Exports and reexports of goods or technology pursuant to new licenses for commercial end-users civil end-uses in Russia, provided that such licenses shall be issued on a case-by-case basis, consistent with export licensing policy for Russia prior to enactment of these sanctions. (Source: glstrade.com)
26 Aug 19. DOD Makes Progress in Acquisition, Sustainment. The Defense Department is reducing timelines and lowering costs to provide the best military capabilities, a senior DOD official told reporters at the Pentagon.
“All of our efforts directly support our national defense strategy and our warfighters,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord said at a news conference today.
Lord specifically thanked Congress for passing a two-year budget agreement, noting that it provides budgetary certainty that the department needs to implement the National Defense Strategy. “The department cannot go back to the unpredictability of a continuing resolution,” she added. “Our men and women in uniform deserve better.”
The undersecretary’s mission is to ensure the delivery and sustainment of secure and resilient capabilities to warfighters and international partners quickly and cost effectively. There are six goals under this mission, she said, and the first is all about people.
Lord said she wants to recruit, develop and retain a diverse acquisition and sustainment workforce. “We want to modernize the acquisition workforce talent management tools and processes as well as deliver content consistent with adult learning,” she said.
Acquisition and sustainment professionals need to be innovators, Lord said, and the office encourages experimentation and learning from experience. This will “enable contracting at the speed of relevance,” Lord said.
The office strives to build a safe, secure and resilient defense industrial base that addresses the impacts of prohibited foreign investments, she said.
In addition, Lord said, the office is responsible to ensure safe and resilient DOD installations, so she looks to enhance the quality of housing and to ensure energy resilience and cyber-secure military facilities. The office further looks to increase weapon system mission capability while reducing operating costs, Lord said, citing the F-35 joint strike fighter program as an example.
Finally, Lord said, she looks to promote sustainment with key international partners. She needs to enable “timely foreign military sales deliveries via contracting, dialogue with industry, tech release and plans for exportability,” she said. (Source: US DoD)
26 Aug 19. The F-35s Dirty Little Secret Is Right in Front of Us All. Guesses? When the government awarded Lockheed the JSF contract back in 2001, it handed the Maryland-based plane-maker the keys to the main fighter recapitalization efforts for all three U.S. military branches that operate fast jets. The U.S. Senate just confirmed what an Air Force general hinted at in February 2016 — and which should have been obvious for years to close observers of U.S. air power. The Joint Strike Fighter program is not developing one, common warplane for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and the air arms of America’s closest allies.
No, the Joint Strike Fighter is actually three different plane designs sharing a basic cockpit, engine and software and a logistical network. The Air Force’s F-35A, the Marines’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C should, in all fairness, be the F-35, F-36 and F-37.
“Despite aspirations for a joint aircraft, the F-35A, F-35B and F-35C are essentially three distinct aircraft, with significantly different missions and capability requirements,” the Senate stated in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017.
Before the act becomes law, the Senate must reconcile its NDAA with the House of Representative’s own version of the same bill— and Pres. Barack Obama must sign it. The F-35 language could change or disappear in coming months. The Senate’s assertion comes just three months after U.S. Air Force lieutenant general Christopher Bogdan, head of the JSF program office, told a seminar audience that the three F-35 models are only 20- to 25-percent common, mainly in their cockpits.
It’s “almost like three separate production lines,” Bogdan said, according toAir Force magazine. A real joint fighter, the program boss said, is “hard” because each branch is adamant about its requirements. “You want what you want,” Bogdan said.
The Senate backs up its NDAA language by requiring Bogdan’s office to shut down in 2019, by which time the F-35 should be in full-rate production. The singular Joint Strike Fighter would break up into three separate programs — one each for the Air Force, Marines and Navy. “Devolving this program to the services will help ensure the proper alignment of responsibility and accountability the F-35 program needs and has too often lacked,” the Senate explained.
To be fair, the Navy tends to oversee most of the Marine Corps’ major weapons-acquisitions efforts. If the Senate’s proposal becomes law, the Navy could open up two new offices to manage the F-35B and F-35C. It’s unlikely the military will redesignate those JSF models as the F-36 and F-37, despite our humble recommendation that it do so. The Senate’s push to break up the monolithic JSF organization reflects poorly on Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the $400bn program. Lockheed sold the F-35 as a “universal” stealth warplane whose different models would be highly compatible in order to simplify production, maintenance and training — and to drive down cost.
Of course, as the F-35A, F-35B and F-35C have evolved and Lockheed and the government have struggled to solve deeply-ingrained conceptual and design flaws within the program, the three models have grown in separate directions. The multi-role F-35A is the lightest and most maneuverable of the three versions — and, at around $150m per copy as of 2014, the — ahem — “cheapest.” Granted, that price tag is trending downward as order volume increases and Lockheed’s workers gain experience.
The $250m, attack-optimized F-35B includes a secondary, downward-blasting engine for short and vertical takeoffs and landings — a feature that the Marines demanded and which has added significantly to the plane’s weight, complexity and cost.
The Navy’s F-35C — which the sailing branch primarily touts as a stealthy sensor-platform — possesses a bigger wing to allow for low-speed carrier landings and suffers from greater drag than the F-35A does. It cost a staggering $330m per jet in 2014.
When the government awarded Lockheed the JSF contract back in 2001, it handed the Maryland-based plane-maker the keys to the main fighter recapitalization efforts for all three U.S. military branches that operate fast jets.
If the military and lawmakers had recognized then what they admit now — that the JSF is three different planes — the government could have awarded three separate contracts to potentially three different contractors, thus preventing the current fighter monopoly and encouraging diversity and competition within the U.S. aerospace industry. The Pentagon alone plans to buy around 2,300 F-35s through at least the 2030s, replacing a wide range of existing planes including F-16s, F/A-18s, AV-8s and A-10s. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)
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