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26 Oct 19. Microsoft wins $10bn Pentagon cloud contract. Software group beats Amazon for highly sensitive Jedi project after Trump intervention The $10bn Jedi contract forms the key plank of the Pentagon’s efforts to move much of its computing power away from physical servers and on to the cloud.
Microsoft has beaten Amazon to win a highly sensitive $10bn US defence contract, following several rounds of bidding, a legal challenge and a last-minute intervention by Donald Trump. The Pentagon announced on Friday that Microsoft had won the so-called Jedi cloud computing contract, which will allow the company to handle large parts of the defence department’s data and communications. Many had expected Amazon to win the contract, but President Trump intervened at the last moment to warn that “great companies” had complained about the process, sparking a final review by Mark Esper, the US defence secretary. Mr Trump has regularly clashed with Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder and chief executive, and his intervention was seen by some as politically motivated.
Amazon is the only technology company that is currently able to provide secure enough encryption to meet the US government’s “top secret” requirements. The US Department of Defense made the announcement on Friday evening in a brief and technical statement that contrasted with much of the drama that has surrounded the awarding of the contract. Dana Deasy, the department’s chief information officer, said in the statement: “The DoD digital modernisation strategy was created to support this imperative. This award is an important step in execution of the digital modernisation strategy.” Ms Deasy’s announcement was the culmination of a two-year process which originally saw four companies bid for the contract. The contract forms the key plank of the Pentagon’s efforts to move much of its computing power away from physical servers and on to the cloud. The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, known as Jedi, has been highly contested not just because of its value but also because it places the winner in pole position to win a host of other similar contracts from governments and large institutions around the world. The bidding process was held up earlier this year when Oracle, one of the original four bidders, challenged the process in the courts. The company lost its appeal, but Mr Trump made his intervention soon afterwards, prompting a last-minute review by Mr Esper, who had recently been appointed as defence secretary.
Mr Trump’s comments were widely interpreted as an attack on Amazon, not least because he named Microsoft, IBM and Oracle — all three other bidders — as the companies who had complained about the process. Recommended Power and tech Microsoft/cloud computing: the Jedi order The Washington Post reported this week that a new book by a former Pentagon staff member claims Mr Trump wanted to “screw” Amazon by locking them out of the Jedi contract. Neither the Pentagon nor the White House has commented on that report. The newspaper is owned by Mr Bezos. On Friday night Mark Warner, the Democratic senator from Virginia, said in a tweet: “For the president to use the power of his office to punish critics in the media would be a complete abuse of power. This does not pass the smell test and we need some answers.” Earlier this week Mr Esper formally recused himself the final contract decision, citing his son’s employment as IBM — another of the original bidders — as the reason. Amazon said in a statement: “We’re surprised about this conclusion. [Amazon Web Services] is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion.” The company would not say whether it would challenge the decision legally. Microsoft said it was “working on” a response. (Source: FT.com)
25 Oct 19. US Air Force officially buying light-attack planes. The U.S. Air Force is officially putting down its money to buy two different models of light-attack aircraft. The service will purchase two to three aircraft each of the Textron Aviation AT-6 and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense & Security A-29 aircraft. The handful of planes will be used to support “allies and partner capacity, capability and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to an Air Force announcement. The A-29 Super Tucano contract should be awarded before the end of the year, with the AT-6 Wolverine contract coming in early 2020.
The plan to buy a handful of planes was previewed earlier this year by Air Force officials, but the companies will likely breathe a sigh of relief now that the deal is done. The purchase provides a much-needed show of confidence in the project. The two companies have invested internal funds on the Air Force’s light-attack experiment over the past two years and remain hopeful the service moves forward with a bigger buy of light-attack aircraft in the future.
The missions and basing for the planes will be different.
The AT-6s will go to Air Combat Command at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for “continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” according to the Air Force announcement. The A-29s will go to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and will be used to “develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance,” per the release.
“Our focus is on how a light attack aircraft can help our allies and partners as they confront violent extremism and conduct operations within their borders,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in the statement. “Continuing this experiment, using the authorities Congress has provided, gives us the opportunity to put a small number of aircraft through the paces and work with partner nations on ways in which smaller, affordable aircraft like these can support their air forces.”
Experiments will continue with a focus on creating a joint architecture and information sharing.
The Air Force has said that funding for the initial AT-6 and A-29 buys will come out of the estimated $160 m in unspent funds that Congress appropriated for the effort in previous budgets. Congress has appropriated $200m in total for the effort since it was announced in late 2016. (Source: Defense News)
25 Oct 19. Esper Details Moves in Syria, Discusses NATO Meetings. Not all U.S. troops will leave Syria, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said today at the conclusion of NATO meetings in Brussels.
Esper said the halt in operations along the Turkey-Syria border is welcome. He called on Turkey to abide by its commitment to protect innocent civilians minorities and to ensure Islamic State prisoners do not escape.
”We are withdrawing from Northeastern Syria at the direction of the president,” he said. ”That deliberate withdrawal began with the less than 50 troops in the immediate zone of attack, and we are now in the phase two withdrawal.”
Esper said the United States will maintain a presence at the Al-Tanf garrison. ”We are also considering how we might reposition forces in the area in order to ensure the oil fields,” he said. ”We are reinforcing that position, and it will include some mechanized forces, and I am not going to get into details.”
The U.S. efforts in Syria aim to ensure ISIS does not reconstitute. ”The United States will maintain a reduced presence in Syria to deny ISIS access to oil revenue as we reposition for the next phase of the Defeat-ISIS campaign,” Esper said.
The NATO defense ministers meetings set the stage for the NATO leaders meeting in London in December. The 29 defense ministers discussed a number of alliance efforts during their two-day meeting.
Afghanistan was a primary topic, and the alliance is fully committed to the Resolute Support Mission. The United States has 8,475 service members in Afghanistan out of a total contribution of 17,178 from NATO allies and partners.
”Along with our objective of ensuring terrorists are never again able to attack our homelands from Afghanistan, we all agree that the best way to achieve this outcome is through an enduring political settlement,” Esper said.
The conditions in Afghanistan are changing, and the United States and its allies and partners will tailor forces in the country to match the situation. The government held successful elections last month, and more and more Afghan security personnel have received training.
”Our goal is to have a sustainable force that meets the requirements of the mission,” he said. ”We will continue to consult with our allies, along with the Afghan government, to refine the way ahead in Afghanistan.”
The NATO ministers discussed the threat posed by Russia and the hybrid warfare Russian leaders have launched against NATO nations. The ministers also discussed the threat to NATO from China.
Esper also stressed the need for more equitable burden-sharing among allies, and he called on them to meet the goal of dedicating 2% of gross domestic product for defense, which they agreed to at the Wales Summit in 2014.
The ministers also discussed the NATO Readiness Initiative, and Esper said all forces for this program should be identified in time for the leaders meeting in December. (Source: US DoD)
24 Oct 19. Threats to Middle East Security, Stability Still Abound, Esper Says. Despite positive signs in the countries he visited in the past week, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said threats to the security and stability of the Middle East still abound. The secretary spoke from the German Marshall Fund in Brussels after visiting Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It is clear there is still a long way to go to achieve peace and stability in that part of the world,” he said. “In fact, the numerous security challenges of today have the potential to consume our time, to sap our resources and to dominate our focus.”
Esper said as the United States continues its efforts around the world to protect the homeland, to help defend allies and partners and to safeguard U.S. interests, it must do so with an eye to the future.
“New threats are on the horizon that we ignore at our own peril,” he said. “Meeting these challenges requires us to contend with today’s foes while [preparing for tomorrow’s potential adversaries] before it’s too late.”
In the future, wars will be fought not just on land and seas as they have for thousands of years, or in the air as they have in the past century, but also in outer space and cyberspace in unprecedented ways, he noted.
“Preparing for this type of warfare requires a new focus on high-intensity conflict,” the secretary said. “It requires continued reliance on allies and partners. And it requires the foresight to withstand our warfighting capabilities across all five of these domains.”
The National Defense Strategy is the Defense Department’s guidepost as the nation adapts its force to the new environment, Esper said.
“The NDS prioritizes China first and Russia second as we transition our primary focus toward this great-power competition,” he added. “It is increasingly clear that Beijing and Moscow wish to reshape the world to their favor, at the expense of others.”
Through predatory economics, political subversion and military force, Russia and China seek to erode the sovereignty of weaker states, Esper said. “Over time,” he continued, “this activity is undermining the current international rules-based order that generations before us worked so hard to achieve.”
China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative has left several nations with unsustainable debt, forcing them to trade sovereignty for financial relief, he pointed out.
“Even developed nations fear China’s growing leverage, which impacts not only their economic and political systems, but perhaps worse, leads them to make suboptimal security choices,” Esper emphasized.
The United States is not asking other nations to choose between China and the rest of the world, the secretary said, but it is asking them to pursue a future that supports democracy, enables economic prosperity and protects human rights.
As we’ve all agreed, we can, must and will do more. There can be no free rides to our shared security.”
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper
“All countries must enter their relationship with the [People’s Republic of China] with eyes wide open,” Esper said. “China’s state-sponsored theft of intellectual property, its militarization of the South China Sea and its mistreatment of ethnic minorities all set clear examples of Beijing’s unwillingness to abide by international rules and norms.”
Similarly, he said, Russia’s foreign policy demonstrates a blatant disregard for other nations’ sovereignty.
“In addition to [Russia’s] military incursions into Georgia and Ukraine, their use of cyber warfare and information operations continues to interfere in other states’ domestic affairs,” the secretary said.
Esper warned against malign behavior by China and Russia that puts the international security environment on a trajectory that concerns all free nations.
Over his next two days of meeting with NATO allies, the secretary said, his message will be that the U.S. commitment to NATO and Article 5 of the treaty that created the alliance is ironclad. Article 5 states that an attack on one NATO member is considered to be an attack on all.
“However, for the alliance to remain strong, every member must contribute its fair share to ensure our mutual security and uphold the international rules-based order,” Esper said. That means not only contributing to the important NATO security missions around the world, but also making sufficient investments toward the capabilities needed to deter potential adversaries tomorrow, he said.
“As we’ve all agreed, we can, must and will do more,” the secretary said. “There can be no free rides to our shared security.”
Esper said he is encouraged by the progress allies are making in readiness are close to the goals of the “four 30s” by 2020.
“As our leaders agreed when they adopted the NATO Readiness Initiative, [we will have] an additional 30 air squadrons, 30 combat vessels and 30 mechanized battalions ready to fight in 30 days or less — a critical first step to reinstilling a state of readiness in the alliance,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
24 Oct 19. Stratcom Nominee: Nuclear Triad Modernization Must Continue. The nominee to be commander of U.S. Strategic Command told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing today that adoption of a “no first use” policy for nuclear weapons is a bad idea.
“My best military advice would be to not adopt a no first use policy,” said Navy Vice Adm. Charles A. Richard, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A “no first use” policy is commitment by a nuclear power, such as the United States, to only use nuclear weapons in response to the use of such weapons by an enemy. Richard said the adoption of such a policy would impact its relationship with partner nations.
“I think adoption of a no first use policy would have a significant negative effect on our commitments to our allies,” Richard told senators.
Richard was also clear that modernization needs to continue on the U.S. nuclear triad, which involves ground-based missiles — commonly referred to as intercontinental ballistic missiles — submarine-launched ballistic missiles and air-launched cruise missiles, dropped from bomber aircraft. In all three areas, the U.S. modernization effort is underway.
“We have delayed and life-extended the triad systems to the maximum extent possible,” said Richard, who serves now as commander of Navy Submarine Forces. “What I mean by that is we are bumping into physics and engineering limits.”
Richard said the Ohio-class submarine, which carries the Trident II D5 missile, for instance, was designed for 30 years of use. It’s been in service now for 42 years.
“[That’s] a great credit to the people that put it together,” Richard said. “There are only so many times you can take a high-strength piece of steel tubing, subject it to the great pressures of submergence, cycle it by taking that off, to the point where you just don’t want to get in the tube anymore.”
Richard said a similar lack of confidence is in other systems that make up the triad.
Right now, he said, it’s expected the follow-on to the Ohio-class submarine, the Columbia class, would enter service in 2031.
Recapitalization of the nuclear triad, Richard said, is needed, worth the investment and doable.
“That’s only 3.5% of the defense budget on top of the 3.5% we spend to maintain the system that we have,” he said. “That defense budget is itself a fraction of the discretionary budget of this nation … that’s what buys our deterrence and defense against the only existential threat this nation faces. I think that is a good investment, and in the words of the former secretary of defense, [James] Mattis, this nation can afford survival.”
If confirmed, Richard said, he pledges to work closely with the Senate Armed Services Committee and with congress regarding U.S. strategic security challenges.
“I firmly believe that open, honest and timely communications will be necessary to address these challenges,” he said. “With the return to great power competition … we must never lose sight of the fundamental nature and importance of our nation’s strategic forces, a powerful ready triad remains the most effective way to deter adversaries from conducting attacks against the U.S. and our allies.”
If confirmed, Richard would also be promoted to the rank of admiral.(Source: US DoD)
24 Oct 19. Pence says China has become ‘more aggressive and destabilising.’ US vice-president also expresses support for Hong Kong and singles Nike out for criticism. Mike Pence, the US vice-president, has chided China for becoming “even more aggressive and destabilising” over the past year, but insisted Washington was not seeking confrontation with Beijing or a decoupling of the world’s two largest economies. In a long-awaited speech at the Wilson Center, a think-tank in the US capital, Mr Pence on Thursday attacked China for slashing “rights and liberties” in Hong Kong, building a “surveillance state unlike anything the world has ever seen” and continuing to “aid and abet the theft of our intellectual property”. He also criticised US multinational companies for allegedly kowtowing to Chinese officials, singling out Nike, the shoe company, for “checking its social conscience at the door” when it removed Houston Rockets merchandise from its shelves after the NBA basketball team’s general manager tweeted in support of protesters in Hong Kong. But Mr Pence balanced his bluster with more conciliatory language.
“The United States does not seek confrontation with China. We seek a level playing field, open markets, fair trade, and a respect for our values,” he said. “We want a constructive relationship with China’s leaders, like we have with China’s people”. Mr Pence’s speech comes at a delicate moment in US-China trade relations, as top officials attempt to finalise a limited deal to ease trade tensions between the countries so that it can be signed next month by Donald Trump, the US president, and Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart. The speech by the vice-president had been initially been planned for June 4, on the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests in China, but was delayed to avoid throwing a wrench into the trade negotiations. (Source: FT.com)
23 Oct 19. Trump lifts Turkey sanctions, declares victory for American troops after new cease-fire agreement in Syria. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a permanent cease-fire along the Turkey-Syria border and hailed his recent, controversial military moves in the region as an unequivocal victory for America.
He also blasted past American military intervention in the Middle East as making the region “less safe, less stable and less secure than before” and attacked his critics as overtaxing U.S. service members and overlooking more immediate threats like unchecked immigration from war-torn foreign countries.
“American forces defeated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate during the last two years,” Trump said at a White House press conference. “We thank the Syrian Democratic Forces for their sacrifices in this effort. Now, Turkey, Syria, and others in the region must work to ensure that ISIS does not regain any territory. It’s their neighborhood, they have to maintain it.”
“Countless lives are now being saved as a result of our negotiations with Turkey, an outcome reached without spilling one drop of American blood. No injuries, nobody shot, nobody killed.”
In response to the new cease-fire agreement — which Turkish officials were scheduled to confirm later today — Trump also announced plans to lift all sanctions leveled against Turkey for their recent military operations.
Earlier this month, Trump pulled back U.S. special operations forces working alongside Kurdish fighters in northern Syria amid reports that Turkish military forces were preparing an assault on border towns.
Defense Department leaders have scrambled to position troops in the region since then, including temporarily stationing hundreds of service members in Iraq with the promise they will not remain there for long.
Trump announced Wednesday that a small number of U.S. troops will remain the disputed border areas to help secure oil fields there, preventing terrorist groups from seizing control of them.
But he also declared an effective end to significant American military involvement in the region, saying that it was time to “let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand.”
With the Islamic State threat gone, Trump said, Defense Department operations in the region also need to end. He has framed fighting between Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian fighters as a local conflict outside U.S. national security interests, even as lawmakers from his own party and several former military leaders have warned that the conflict could allow terrorist cells to coalesce. (Source: Defense News)
23 Oct 19. Congressional task force to examine long-term defense strategy for Russia, China. The U.S. House of Representatives has launched a new task force to examine how to maintain the Pentagon’s technological edge against Russia and China as well as take on sacred cows along the way, its chairmen said Tuesday.
Led by House Armed Services Committee members Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Jim Banks, R-Ind., the bipartisan Future of Defense Task Force has a six-month charter and a broad scope. It’s expected to step-back from the annual budgeting cycle that dominates the committee’s work to examine long-term national security strategy and help the Pentagon become more innovative, technologically speaking.
The new group has a charter to “review U.S. defense assets and capabilities and assess the state of the national security innovation base to meet emerging threats and ensure long-term strategic overmatch of competitors.” To that end, it’s expected to hold a series of hearings and closed-door briefings, and eventually issue a report with recommendations, even if they’re unpopular.
“We’re saying we don’t think enough people are asking the big-picture questions about how we prepare for 30 years from now ― and I think a lot of people at the Pentagon will agree with that,” Moulton said, adding that America must match China’s efforts at leap-ahead technologies and long-term planning. He and Banks held a roundtable with reporters Tuesday.
“There’s no question that the model has changed, and innovation is no longer coming from big government contracts,” Moulton said. “The United States has to be smarter about adapting to this world. There’s a joke inside the Pentagon: If only the Chinese would hack our acquisition rules and copy them, we’d be more competitive. That’s a reality.”
The task force’s first hearing is set for Oct. 29 with the former Obama-era undersecretary of defense for policy, Michele Flournoy, and former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo.
Additional hearings could feature defense industry and “outside-of-the-box” witnesses, Banks and Moulton said. Potential topics for scrutiny include disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, biotechnology, a fifth-generation network known as 5G, hypersonic weapons and the Pentagon’s existing innovation organizations, such as the Defense Innovation Unit.
Formation of the task force comes as the Pentagon eyes the technological advances and works to absorb Congress’ latest round of acquisitions reforms. Senior leaders at the Pentagon are fundamentally rethinking modernization priorities amid fears that Russia and China will surpass the U.S. technologically.
A year after the U.S. Army’s began holding its “night court” to weed out inessential programs, Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger issued planning guidance in July to reshape the force and shrinking it if necessary to pay for modernization. The Pentagon has launched its own a departmentwide night court.
By Moulton’s reckoning, the Pentagon has not truly embraced the authorities granted by Congress. “When you talk about creating a culture of innovating, it’s not just about replacing weapons systems; it’s how do we get the Pentagon to continually be asking [tough] questions themselves,” he said.
The task force’s members include several new congressional lawmakers who have practical national security experience and few senior HASC members (Banks and Moulton are recent military veterans). The two chairmen said they sought lawmakers willing to ask tough questions.
Among the other members are Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., a former Air Force officer who studied technology and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; as well as Reps. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., and Michael Waltz, R-Fla., who have served in senior Pentagon policy positions.
Both Moulton and Banks said the idea is for younger members to ask challenging questions and energize the conversation.
“The task force’s work will complete in six months, but that doesn’t mean that Seth and I’s work ends at that point,” Banks said. “We’ll be here for a long time, and our work on the [annual defense policy bill] happens on a daily basis. This will set a platform for that work.”
HASC members Reps. Susan Davis, D-Calif., Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., have also agreed to serve on the task force. (Source: Defense News)
23 Oct 19. As Secret Pentagon Spending Rises, Defense Firms Cash in. The U.S. Defense Department’s overall budget request increased nearly 5 percent from 2019 to 2020, but classified spending rose 6 percent, according to the consulting firm Avascent. It accounts for about $76bn, or almost 11%, of the $718bn requested for the current fiscal year.
Military officials say they can’t talk about classified aircraft, space, and missile projects, lest they cede advantage to America’s enemies. (Critics, including House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith, D-Wash., say excessive hidden spending hinders oversight, leads to waste, and undermines public trust.)
But there is one group of people talking about classified spending: the executives of America’s largest defense firms. In recent months, what defense contractors call “restricted” projects have become a hot topic on quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts. Firms also tout the increase in classified contracts in annual reports and regulatory filings.
While the executives and corporate reports don’t disclose the details of these military projects, they often identify the specific business units receiving the cash.
This year, Lockheed received about $600m for secret work to develop hypersonic weapon technology and prototypes. Next year, that’s expected to grow to “about $1 bn,” Possenriede said. And that’s just for weapons under development and not yet in serial production.
Possenriede also touted the potential for counter-hypersonic weapon work.
The boost in secret contracts has also shown up in big defense contractors’ recent annual reports. For example, Raytheon’s 2018 annual report touted “record classified bookings of nearly $7bn” — up 46 percent in just a year and representing 19 percent of the company’s total revenues.
“These increases were largely driven by the need of our domestic customers to address advanced peer threats as outlined in both the National Defense Strategy and the Missile Defense Review,” the company said at the time. Raytheon remains well-aligned to both of these documents, which emphasize capabilities such as high-energy lasers, high-power microwaves, space, hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, next-generation sensors and cybersecurity.”
Northrop Grumman’s most recent annual report attributed part of $1bn increase in its 2018 Aerospace Systems division revenue to a “higher restricted … volume” of “manned aircraft” sales. Among its secret weapons portfolio, Northrop is building a new stealth bomber for the U.S. Air Force. While the Pentagon acknowledges the project’s existence and occasionally announces acquisition milestones, the effort is highly classified.
“We do expect that for 2019 and for … the long run we believe that the restricted portfolio will likely grow faster than the unrestricted portfolio,” Northrop CFO Ken Bedingfield said on an April earnings call.
Secrecy pros and cons
Part of the reason for the secrecy is that the U.S. has not had a “comprehensive adversary” since the Cold War ended nearly three decades ago, according to Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy. But the rise of China and Russia as strategic competitors has the Pentagon reviving some of the practices that it used to hide information from the Soviet Union.
“As a result of that, we are restoring some behaviors that used to be second nature to us when we did have have a comprehensive adversary before,” Munsch said Sept. 4 at the Defense News conference. “I think increasingly you’ll see that we are more guarded in talking about our capabilities and our intentions simply because any revealing of those things is exploited by potential adversary.”
But transparency advocates say excessive secrecy hurts Americans, including those charged with protecting them.
“Increasing classification of defense work makes it impossible to make an independent assessment of whether certain avenues of spending make sense,” said William Hartung, director of the Center for International Policy. “This is even more true when the Pentagon budget is nearing its highest levels since World War II — lots of money is flowing into DoD, and there is a tendency to try to keep projects moving with fewer internal controls than usual. Classification should be used sparingly; otherwise, intentionally or not, it can end up being a cover for ill-advised investments.” (Source: Defense One)
22 Oct 19. U.S. Remains Committed to Afghanistan’s Success, Esper Says. A negotiated political agreement among Afghans is the best path to a peaceful government in their country, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said during a visit to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul.
Until that agreement is reached, “we will continue to pursue an aggressive military campaign against the Taliban and terrorist groups that continue to conduct violence against the people of Afghanistan,” the secretary said yesterday.
In addition to his first trip as defense secretary to Afghanistan, Esper also is visiting Saudi Arabia, Iraq and NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Reflecting on his trip to Afghanistan, in which he engaged with U.S. and Afghan officials, Esper said, “We are making good progress toward our common goal — that is, to ensure that we and our allies never again face terrorist attacks from Afghanistan.”
The secretary and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke earlier in the day about the important relationship between the two countries. “The United States and Afghanistan have a strong security partnership built over many years of cooperation and shared sacrifice,” the secretary said.
That bond was forged in battle, and it grows even stronger as the combined effort continues, Esper added.
The United States remains committed to Afghanistan’s success, the secretary said, adding his thanks to Army Gen. Austin Scott Miller, commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. He also commended the “great work” the multination coalition is bringing for peace and stability in the country.
Earlier in the day, Esper visited Camp Morehead to meet with the NATO Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan and the Afghan National Army special operations command.
“I was impressed by the skill and professionalism of those brave soldiers,” he said. “Counterterrorism operations remain critical to our efforts to achieving peace and ensuring terrorist organizations cannot find safe haven in Afghanistan.”
The secretary also commended the Afghan national defense and security forces for their “apolitical approach” and achievements while providing security to the recent presidential elections.
“This is an example of the important progress being made by [the Afghan forces] to protect the Afghan people from the senseless violence of Taliban and terrorist groups,” he noted.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, Esper said, the U.S. security partnership with Afghanistan will remain strong.
“The United States remains fully committed to helping Afghans create a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and is supporting the Afghans’ efforts led by the government towards peace,” the secretary said.
Esper said Afghanistan will be on the agenda when he and his NATO counterparts meet in Brussels. “I look forward to sharing with our allies what I have seen here, and expressing our continued support to this important mission,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
22 Oct 19. The Navy’s Amphibious Warfare Force: Change Under Fiscal Constraints. Presentation by Eric Labs, a senior analyst for naval forces and weapons in CBO’s National Security Division, at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 24th Annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference. Summary
CBO estimates that the Navy’s 2020 shipbuilding plan would cost an average of $31bn per year (in 2019 dollars) over 30 years. Under the plan, the fleet would grow from 290 ships today to the Navy’s overall goal of 355 in 2034 but would fall short of the Navy’s specific goals for some types of ships. In particular, the Navy’s plan would increase the amphibious warfare force from the current 32 ships to a high of 38 ships by 2026. A larger fleet would lead to higher operation and support costs.
https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2019-10/55742-CBO-presentation.pdf (Source: Congressional Budget Office)
21 Oct 19. Transformational Change Comes to DOD Acquisition Policy. In December, the Defense Department will fully implement an adaptive acquisition framework designed to speed acquisition and make the process more agile, a top DOD official said last week. Ellen M. Lord, DOD’s undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment said the program will be the most transformational acquisition policy change the department has seen in decades.
“This policy embraces the delegation of decision-making tailoring program oversight to minimize unnecessary bureaucratic processes and actively managing risks based on the unique characteristics of the capability being acquired,” she said.
The policy is being tested and taught at the Defense Acquisition University at Fort Belvoir, Va. — and it’s just one of the policy changes in the offing at DOD.
DOD is also in the final stages of publishing the middle tier of an acquisition policy. This will allow program managers to prototype or field mature technology in an operational environment within five years, Lord said.
“We now have 50 middle-tier programs delivering military utility to warfighters years faster than the traditional acquisition system,” she said. Nineteen are in the Air Force, 11 in the Army, nine in the Navy, 10 by U.S. Special Operations Command and one by the Defense Information Systems Agency.
The department is also set to release an interim policy to drive modern software development across DOD programs. The policy’s key tenet simplifies acquisition processes to enable continuous integration and delivery of software capability quickly.
DOD is also publishing an intellectual property policy. The policy establishes an intellectual property group that will develop DOD guidance, training and assistance as part of the government’s effort to address protection of data rights.
Lord stressed that nuclear modernization remains the department’s highest priority. “Earlier this year, I briefed the Senate on nuclear modernization — helping ensure that the United States has a safe, secure, reliable and credible nuclear deterrent, now and in the future,” Lord said. “Delay is no longer an option. Systems can no longer be cost-effectively life-extended … we are very thankful for the bipartisan support.”
Lord is also responsible for fixes to military housing. She said she’s working to improve the trust and accountability of DOD leadership to provide a safe, healthy homes for our military families renting privatized housing.
She said the department will soon issue a Bill of Rights for military housing residents, as well as a document outlining residents’ responsibilities.
“We are planning for publication and implementation following the (National Defense Authorization Act) release,” Lord said. “The Senate NDAA bill included some very prescriptive requirements regarding these two documents. We will ensure our documents are aligned with congressional guidance. The Bill of Rights was based on input from military and veteran service organizations, Congress, our housing privatization partners, as well as resident surveys.”
She also said DOD is continuing to increase production capabilities to ensure F-35 aircraft — the department’s largest and most expensive procurement — are ready and capable.
“Across the international partnership and around the world, the F-35 continues to show us why it is the most advanced, lethal and interoperable aircraft ever developed,” she said.
She noted the aircraft is on duty in the Pacific and in U.S. Central Command. “Our allies have made tremendous progress in integrating the F-35 into their tactical air fleets — as demonstrated by recent deployments from the [United Kingdom] and Italy,” Lord said.
“On F-35 production, we reached a handshake agreement with Lockheed Martin and continue to negotiate on the next F-35 lot of 478 aircraft.”
But the program is not moving as fast on integrating the F-35 Lightning II into the joint simulation environment. “They’re making excellent progress out on the range with F-35, but we need to do the work in the joint simulation environment,” she said. “We have collectively decided that we need to get that JSE absolutely correct before we proceed. So I’m going to make some decisions about when that full-rate production decision will be made shortly, and I’ll get back on them.”
This means full-rate production will probably slip 13 months, Lord said.
Lord is traveling to India to continue to build the burgeoning U.S.-India defense relationship. She will co-chair the ninth India-U.S. defense technologies and trade initiative group meeting.
“I’m excited to continue working with … our Indian major defense partner,” she said. (Source: US DoD)
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