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17 Oct 19. The F-35 jet might hit full-rate production more than a year late. U.S. Defense Department will not clear the F-35 fighter jet for full-rate production this year, and it may even have to push that milestone as far as January 2021, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive said Friday.
The Pentagon had intended to make a full-rate production decision — also known as Milestone C — by the end of 2019. But because the Joint Simulation Environment continues to face delays in its own development, the Defense Department will have to defer that milestone by as many as 13 months, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters during a news conference.
The Joint Simulation Environment, or JSE, is needed to conduct simulated evaluations of the F-35 in a range of high-threat scenarios.
“We actually had signed out of the JPO [F-35 Joint Program Office] earlier this week a program deviation report that documented expected schedule threshold breach in the Milestone C full-rate production decision of up to 13 months,” Lord said.
It is unclear whether the delay will cause an increase in program costs.
Although the Defense Department already buys the F-35 in large numbers, the full-rate production decision is viewed as a major show of confidence in the program’s maturity. During this time, the yearly production rate is set to skyrocket from the 91 jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin in 2018 to upward of 160 by 2023.
But before Lord signs off on the production decision, the F-35 must complete operational testing, the results of which will be validated by Robert Behler, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation.
The F-35’s testing community intended to complete initial operational test and evaluation, or IOT&E, by this summer; however, the JSE is not yet complete.
“We are not making as quick progress on the Joint Simulation Environment, integrating the F-35 into it. It is a critical portion of IOT&E. We work closely with Dr. Behler and DOT&E [[the office of the director of operational test and evaluation]. They are making excellent progress out on the range with the F-35, but we need to do the work in the Joint Simulation Environment,” Lord said.
“We have collectively decided that we need the JSE [to be] absolutely correct before we proceed, so I will make some decisions about when that full-rate production decision will be made shortly,” she added.
Specifically, the Defense Department and F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin are lagging behind in integrating the “‘F-35 In-A-Box” — the simulated model of the F-35 and its sensors and weapons — into the JSE, reported Military.com, which broke the news of the testing delay in September.
Even before IO&TE formally started, the F-35 test community had noted the challenge of maintaining the planned schedule.
The F-35 began operational tests in December 2018, three months after the originally scheduled start date in September. The program office maintained that its goal was to see the test phase finished by the summer of 2019. However, F-35 test director Air Force Col. Varun Puri documented concerns in a September 2018 presentation that the test phase could slip until September 2019, which could add budget pressure to the program.
In a statement, Lockheed Martin expressed confidence in its ability to ramp up production over the next few years.
“As Secretary Lord stated earlier today, the F-35 is performing exceptionally well for our customers and we continue to ramp up production, modernize the aircraft and improve sustainment performance,” the company said. “This year our goal is to deliver 131 aircraft and that is on track to grow to over 140 production aircraft deliveries next year. We are confident the full F-35 enterprise is prepared for full rate production and ready to meet growing customer demand.” (Source: Defense News)
16 Oct 19. 3 ways the Pentagon wants to make buying American weapons easier. America sold more than $55bn in weapons abroad in fiscal 2019, but the man in charge of those efforts hopes to increase sales as he continues to tinker with the security cooperation system.
Security cooperation has long been a foreign policy tool in America’s pocket, but under the Trump administration, it “has been elevated to a tool of first resort for U.S. foreign policy,” Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said during a panel at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
Since taking over at DSCA, Hooper has implemented a series of reforms aimed not only at speeding the process up, but shaving costs for potential buyers. He intends to keep that reform effort going in 2020. Here’s how:
Continue to cut surcharge costs. In June, DSCA dropped a surcharge on American defense goods sold abroad from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent; later that year, the agency also cut a transportation administration fee. Both those charges are used to support DSCA operations, but some in the security cooperation process had argued the increased prices for customers would lead potential buyers to look to cheaper Russian or Chinese goods in the future.
Hooper said that in 2020, DSCA plans to also cut the contract administration surcharge — applied to each FMS case to pay for contract quality assurance, management and audits — from 1.2 percent to 1 percent.
“This will reduce the overall costs of FMS and could potentially save allies and partners 16.7 percent in CAS surcharges in this coming year,” Hooper said.
Make it easier for customers to get custom weapon systems. The FMS system is set up to help sell weapons that are identical to systems already in use by the U.S. military. It’s easier to move a package of Abrams tanks equipped with the same gear that multiple countries use than to push through a custom version with specific capabilities. But Hooper noted that partners are moving away from standard designs and are looking for systems “designed and tailored to meet their needs. Our system was not initially designed to process these types of systems, which increases time and cost in the U.S. response.”
To help deal with that, DSCA established an “interagency non-program of record community of interest,” which involves all the agencies that have a say in the process, to figure out ways to make moving custom systems more plausible. The goal is to have a new pathway for moving those capabilities by 2020, which Hooper says will “reduce the time it takes to review request for non-program of record systems, to facilitate industry ability to compete in this global market.”
Plan out commercial offsets. Many countries require offsets from industry for big foreign military sales. These offsets are essentially throw-in sweeteners for the buying country, put together from the industrial partner. In the past, these were often things like building a new library or school. But in the last two decades, some countries specifically requested high-end technologies or tech transfer to jump-start their domestic defense industries.
Because offsets are negotiated between the industrial partner and the customer nation, the Pentagon, which serves as the in-between for an FMS case, often finds out about offsets only at the end of the process. But with offsets becoming more technological, those now require more review time, and so a deal can slow down while the relevant agencies approve the deal.
Hooper hopes 2020 will see industry better inform DSCA of potential offsets early in the process so that last minute hangups can be avoided.
“We continue to encourage our industry partners to inform the U.S. of potential offset requirements early on so that we can begin the necessary technology security foreign disclosure and policy reviews as early as possible,” Hooper said. (Source: Defense News)
16 Oct 19. U.S. Will Continue Defeat-ISIS Campaign, Official Says. The United States will continue its campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from outside Syria, said a senior defense official who wished to remain anonymous, yesterday in Washington.
“The Defeat-ISIS campaign will continue,” the official said in a background interview with Pentagon reporters. “The enduring defeat of ISIS remains one of our top security priorities. We have significant assets and personnel as well as coalition capabilities throughout the region that will continue to prosecute that campaign.”
The Turkish invasion of Northern Syria has complicated matters in the region. President Donald J. Trump ordered the evacuation of American service members from the region. U.S. personnel were in danger of getting between Turkish and Kurdish forces.
The situation is becoming even more complex as Russian personnel and forces from the regime of Bashir al-Assad have rushed to fill the vacuum in Northern Syria.
It is important to remember that ISIS is not just a Middle East/Central Asia phenomenon. The terror group is attempting to foment extremism in many other areas including Somalia, Niger, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and elsewhere. The Defeat-ISIS coalition — now up to about 80 entities — will continue to go after the group.
“We will adjust to new circumstances on the ground that create challenges, but we are pretty good at adapting and will continue to do so,” the official said.
Many of those leaving Syria will continue to operate against ISIS in Syria from nearby Iraq. “The intent is to reposition and use what assets and personnel we have available to continue the mission,” the official said. U.S. Central Command is working on how to employ these forces and assets, the official said.
Complicating the situation further in Turkey is a long-standing NATO ally — having joined the alliance in 1952. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper will participate in the NATO defense ministers meeting next week and will consult with the other NATO allies about the Turkish actions in Syria, the official said. (Source: US DoD)
15 Oct 19. U.S. foreign military sales fall slightly to $55.4bn in 2019. Sales of U.S. military equipment to foreign governments fell slightly in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 to $55.4bn from $55.6bn a year earlier, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. Looser restrictions on sales under the Trump administration had increased foreign military sales by 33 percent from 2017 to 2018. The Trump administration rolled out a new “Buy American” plan in 2018 that had relaxed restrictions on sales while encouraging U.S. officials to take a bigger role in increasing business overseas for the U.S. weapons industry.
There are two major ways foreign governments purchase arms from U.S. companies: direct commercial sales, negotiated between a government and a company; and foreign military sales, in which a foreign government typically contacts a Department of Defense official at the U.S. embassy in their capital. Both require approval by the U.S. government. The largest U.S. arms contractors include Boeing Co, Lockheed Martin Corp, Raytheon Co, General Dynamics Corp and Northrop Grumman Corp. (Source: Reuters)
14 Oct 19. Statement by Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper Regarding Turkey, Syria Border Actions.
“Despite the opposition and repeated warnings from the United States and the international community, Turkish President Erdogan ordered a unilateral invasion of northern Syria that has resulted in widespread casualties, refugees, destruction, insecurity, and a growing threat to U.S. military forces.
This unacceptable incursion has also undermined the successful multinational “Defeat ISIS” mission in Syria, and resulted in the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees.
Due to Turkey’s irresponsible actions, the risk to U.S. forces in northeast Syria has reached an unacceptable level. We are also at risk of being engulfed in a broader conflict. Therefore, at the President’s direction, the Department of Defense is executing a deliberate withdrawal of U.S. military personnel from northeast Syria.
Turkey’s unilateral action was unnecessary and impulsive. President Erdogan bears full responsibility for its consequences, to include a potential ISIS resurgence, possible war crimes, and a growing humanitarian crisis. The bilateral relationship between our two countries has also been damaged.
I will be visiting NATO next week in Brussels, where I plan to press our other NATO allies to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response to these egregious Turkish actions.” (Source: US DoD)
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