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22 Nov 19. U.K.’s Newest Aircraft Carrier Hosts Atlantic Future Forum. Great Britain’s newest and fifth generation of warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, was at anchor near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Annapolis, Maryland, yesterday for the Atlantic Future Forum 2019.
Inside, U.S. and U.K. military members, industry members and senior Defense Department civilians sat in a vast room listening to forum panelists, who came to speak on strengthening the two nations’ relationship and to encourage collaboration between public- and private-sector technology.
Dana Deasy, DOD’s chief information officer, spoke on the need for such collaboration between the two sectors to help equip the war fighter.
Also inside was the ship’s captain, British naval officer Capt. Steve Moorhouse, overseeing the aircraft carrier, anchored near the bay’s ship channel.
Named for Queen Elizabeth and christened by England’s Queen Elizabeth II, the carrier was launched July 17, 2014.
The ship is the Royal Navy’s largest-ever and generation of warfighting ship, to be used for airborne early warning and anti-submarine warfare.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is both a new ship and a new class of aircraft carrier, and is expected to be joined by her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales next year.
The carrier has two “islands” — double towers for command centers of flight-deck operations.
Below on the flight deck, the ship has room for more than 70 various aircraft, from Merlin helicopters to the F-35B, the Lightning II joint strike fighter.
This class of aircraft carrier is Great Britain’s most advanced warship. It comprises 4 acres, and could be used for work such as high-intensity warfighting or giving humanitarian aid and disaster relief, worldwide.
The ship’s displacement is 65,000 tons and her working life is expected to be 50 years.
The ship has a top speed of 25 knots.
The ship is powered by Integrated Electric Propulsion by way of two Rolls-Royce marine 36 MW MT30 gas turbine alternators and four 10 MW diesel engines.
The flight deck is 280 meters long — more than 918 feet — and 70 meters wide — nearly 230 feet.
The crew numbers total 700 personnel, which can increase to 1,600 service members when the ship has its full complement of aircraft – mostly Merlin helicopters and F-35Bs.
There are 364,000 meters of pipes — more than 226 miles — inside the ship.
Defensive weapons include the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System for anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense. The ship has 30-mm automated small caliber guns and mini guns to use against fast-attack craft.
The carrier would be escorted into high-risk environments by a type-45 destroyer, which was designed to do the job. In lower-risk situations, frigates or patrol vessels can be used. The ship carries four mini guns and eight machine guns.
Before the fifth-generation of aircraft carriers, Britain relied on the Invincible class, which included HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal, commissioned in 1980, 1982 and 1985 respectively. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is three times the size of the Invincible class, and carries three times the number of aircraft. (Source: US DoD)
23 Nov 19. Threat From China Requires Innovative Approach, Says DOD Official. Alan Shaffer, deputy under secretary of defense, acquisition and sustainment, discussed the threat from China and what the U.S. must do to respond to the threat. He spoke at the Professional Services Council-sponsored Defense Services Conference in Arlington, Va., Nov. 21, 2019.
“We’ve been in conflict with China for 10 years and I’m not sure we know it. But we’ve got to wake up to it,” he warned, citing an example.
“How valuable is your intellectual property to you?” Shaffer asked several dozen small and large military contractor executives in the audience.
”Very valuable,” they responded.
”It better make you mad,” Shaffer said. ”China doesn’t play fair.”
Each year, China steals over half a trillion dollars of IP in the U.S. through human and cyber espionage, he said, citing several reports.
That’s why the Defense Department is pushing hard to have strong standards for cyber protection of venders’ computers and databases, he said.
Another area of national security concern for the U.S. is that China is the only nation in the world with 5G end-to-end network infrastructure, he said, naming Chinese company Huawei that has fielded this network.
”The future will be about who can best navigate the digital environment most effectively,” he said. ”We in the West are not in great position now.”
An immediate concern for DOD is the electrical grid and other infrastructure, he said.
China, other nations or bad actors could launch a cyber attack and take out the grid, he said. Installations, with their readiness platforms, rely on the grid for operations. Installations must continue to take steps to become self-reliant on vital infrastructure like the grid.
Shaffer then spoke of China’s kinetic power.
Besides the U.S., China is the only other nation that has an operational fifth-generation fighter, he said, noting that European allies are starting to buy the Joint Strike Fighter, so that could change.
He also mentioned China’s formidable fleet of nuclear-capable submarines.
As of today, China cannot match U.S. military power, but they’re a regional threat and their capability and reach is growing, he said.
Shaffer then spoke about the path forward for the department, the challenges, and some solutions.
For decades, the U.S. has not addressed nuclear deterrent modernization, he said.
Now that DOD has an adequate budget, it is addressing this, but it will take time and money for the modernization to be completed, he said, mentioning that 3% of the DOD budget is going for nuclear modernization, but within a decade, that will increase to 6.5%.
He added that other DOD modernization priorities will have to be sacrificed to pay for nuclear modernization.
Regarding hypersonics, an area where China has heavily invested, Shaffer said that to be effective against a great power like China, DOD needs to field many hypersonic weapons, not just a handful.
However, the industrial base cannot scale up to meet the quantities required, he warned.
Shaffer then addressed near-term fiscal pressures.
”The most frightening thing to me is that by 2026, the largest part of the discretionary federal budget will be servicing the debt,” he said. ”And, by 2026 the nation will be paying more on interest from our accumulated debt than for the defense of the nation.”
In response to the urgent need to modernize, coupled with fiscal challenges, the department will have to rethink the way it does business, he said, urging industry to help find ways to cut costs and deliver capability more quickly.
The DOD will also need more reform in how it conducts business by further shortening acquisition timelines and getting industry more involved in the requirements process, he said. (Source: US DoD)
22 Nov 19. Partnering With Private Industry Necessary for U.S., U.K. Defense, Official Says. The future of defense for the United States and the United Kingdom in the face of growing cyber threats and technological change was a key topic of the 2019 Atlantic Future Forum yesterday aboard the U.K. Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, anchored near Annapolis, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay.
Discussions centered on how crucial the competitive edge is against potential adversaries and how emerging technology affects the future of warfare.
The Defense Department’s chief information officer, Dana Deasy, was on a defense panel aboard the ship. He emphasized the need for both nations’ militaries to encourage collaboration with private industry to help the war fighter.
”If you look back at the history of the Department of Defense, you could say at one point, we were the curators of technology, we were the innovators,” Deasy said of the United States. ”But over time, what evolved was a very large, robust defense industrial base.”
”We are going to have to lean heavier and heavier on a much broader commercial base,” Deasy told the forum.
”That means changes for us, inside the Department of Defense. [It changes] the way we go about seeking those relationships, contracting those relationships, onboarding them [and] integrating them into this very large ecosystem that for years has been more dominated by the large industrial players,” he noted.
Deasy said such changes will require serious thought.
“There is no doubt we are seeing it in the early days, for example in AI, there’s going to be a real important need for ‘how do we take our large, industrial base and how are we going to integrate it with startups? How are we taking the human factor of the partnership with the computer that’s going to change in a significant way?’”
Deasy said he spends a lot of time advising DOD that it will have to attract the best people in the academia and the private sector to employ people. These outsiders must not see DOD as being too difficult or too large to work with, and he said the department must show it agility and openness to working with them in the future. (Source: US DoD)
21 Nov 19. USAF Reveals Details on S&T ‘Vanguard’ Programs. Earlier this year, the Air Force released its much-anticipated science-and-technology strategy which called for the establishment of special programs targeted at gamechanging capabilities. The service is now revealing details about what those foundational programs will include.
The “Science and Technology Strategy: Strengthening USAF Science and Technology for 2030 and Beyond” document — released in April — emphasized the development of transformational technologies in the areas of: global persistent awareness; resilient information sharing; rapid, effective decision-making; complexity, unpredictability and mass; and speed and reach of disruption and lethality. The service pledged to spend 20 percent of its annual S&T budget on these efforts.
Under those focus areas are a handful of “vanguard programs” that could yield revolutionary capabilities, said Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., commander of Air Force Materiel Command.
“We believe they can dramatically change the way that we fight and the way that we employ air power,” he said Nov. 21 during a meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C.
The Air Force has now identified three efforts that will be part of the vanguard initiative: Golden Horde, Navigation Technology Satellite 3 and Skyborg.
Golden Horde is meant to connect precision-guided munitions together to be employed in a teaming fashion. The Navigation Technology Satellite 3 is a spacecraft that will be in geosynchronous orbit and provide position, navigation and timing capabilities. Skyborg is an unmanned combat aircraft which is envisioned as a low cost and attritable platform that can be employed in large numbers in future fights. The system will take advantage of advancements in artificial intelligence.
“We’ve funded those for the next couple of years to make sure we’ve got all the efforts for the prototyping and experimentation that we want to move forward,” Bunch said. Those efforts could become programs of record in the future based on their progress, he added.
Each of the efforts were evaluated on their own merits but fit a common theme of being potentially gamechanging technologies, Bunch said.
“We’re not looking for … an incremental increase” in capability, he said. “The way that we see these, if we get these to work and … function in the way we expect, then it’ll be a leap ahead.”
The service is working to ensure it can afford the projects, realigning its program portfolio so that it has the flexibility to put 20 percent of its S&T budget toward the strategy’s focus areas, Bunch noted.
Bunch said he is trying to create a “sense of competition” for every S&T dollar.
“If you’re doing a program, if it’s not performing [well] and you’re not doing a really good job, then maybe we don’t need to do that program and we need to … off-ramp it and we need to look at other areas” to invest in, he said.
Bunch noted that hypersonics technology is not part of the vanguard programs because the Air Force is already making significant progress in that area. The service currently is working on two efforts known as the hypersonic conventional strike weapon and the air-launched rapid response weapon, he said. The Air Force anticipates having an early operational capability for at least one of those two systems by fiscal year 2022.
With hypersonics, “I’m already there, I’m already doing it,” he said. The vanguard programs are more about “artificial intelligence, linking and pairing things together and having them operate together,” he explained.
Bunch noted that investments for the vanguard programs will come from prototyping and experimentation funding from fiscal years 2019 and 2020, which will move the efforts forward until the service can make a final decision about which technologies to pursue further. (Source: glstrade.com/NDIA)
21 Nov 19. Military Services Strengthen, Modernize Industrial Base. The military services are making progress on strengthening and modernizing their organic industrial base, service officials said.
Lt. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, Army deputy chief of staff for logistics, said the organic industrial base in important to strategic readiness. “The material readiness it enables is critical to ensuring our Army can provide the responsiveness, the depth and the capability demanded of us in the National Defense Strategy.”
Gamble was among the representatives of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps who appeared Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on readiness to discuss the modernization of the organic industrial base.
The industrial base includes the infrastructure and facilities owned by the government to maintain and refurbish military hardware, including aircraft, tanks and ships. Gamble told lawmakers the skilled workforce at its facilities is the backbone of that industrial base and attracting the best talent is critical.
He said Congress has helped that effort through legislation that grants authority to do direct hires into the workforce. That authority helped the Army process 3,560 personnel actions during 2019, and more than 4,800 since 2017, he said. “It’s helped us reduce our hiring time from 114 days to 85 days, which allows our [organic industrial base] to remain competitive with industry employers seeking the same critical skills,” he said. “It’s a competition for talent.”
Gamble also said the Army has an infrastructure master plan to help it maintain the appropriate level of readiness with an aging organic industrial base, more than half of which was built before 1945.
“That plan will carry us over the next 20 years,” he said. “This plan is a forward-looking and forward-thinking solution that will keep our OIB, facilities and infrastructure postured and programmed to sustain Army readiness.”
Representatives from both the Navy’s Sea and Air Systems Commands also testified about the status of the Navy’s organic industrial base.
Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, said four shipyards have seen a 25% increase in planned work since 2010.
To match that growth, the Navy has increased the size of the public yards by more than 9,000 people: from 27,368 in 2010, to 36,696 in 2018, he said.
The Navy achieved that growth about a year sooner than planned, which has allowed backlogs to be eliminated earlier than expected.
The Navy fully understands that on-time delivery of ships and submarines … is a national security imperative.”
Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command
One drawback of that expansion is that the workforce is fairly new — about half of workers have been on the job less than five years. Because of that, the Navy has responded with changes in training.
“The shipyards have transformed how they train new employees through learning centers that use both virtual learning tools and hands-on work,” Moore said, which has cut in half the time it takes to make a productive worker.
Moore also said the Navy is now in the second year of a 20-year, $21 billion shipyard infrastructure optimization plan that will support current and future ships.
“The Navy fully understands that on-time delivery of ships and submarines … is a national security imperative,” Moore said. “The department has taken a holistic approach to ensure both our public and private yards have the information, people and equipment needed to maintain the world’s greatest Navy.”
In addition to ships and boats, the naval aircraft also take off from carriers. Vice Adm. Dean Peters, commander of the Naval Air Systems Command, discussed successes in efforts to modernize the organic industrial base that keeps Navy aircraft ready.
Peters said improvements can be seen in the 80% mission-capable rates for F/A-18 Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and EA-18G Growler aircraft.
He said the Navy surged to 372 mission-capable Super Hornet aircraft on Sept. 30, 2019, after years of having an average of 250 to 260 mission-capable aircraft.
“Our aircraft depot lines and component repair lines are now delivering more effective and reliable products with reduced turnaround times and significant improvements in quality,” Peters said.
Such depots now do much more than completing repairs and then sending them back to the fleet, he said. Now, the depots return fully restored aircraft to promptly support squadron flight schedules, he said.
The first of the new KC-46 Pegasus refueling aircraft, meant to replace aging KC-135 Stratotankers, was delivered to the Air Force in January of this year.
Lt. Gen. Donald E. Kirkland, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, told lawmakers that just last month the service opened the first hanger of a depot campus dedicated to the KC-46 at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Kirkland also said the Air Force is continuing to expand support of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft at both the Ogden Air Logistics Complex in Utah and at Warner-Robbins AFB, Georgia. The Air Force is also making preparations for depot support to the B-21 Raider aircraft, Kirkland said.
The general told lawmakers that current funding is not enough to achieve and maintain the depot capacity that is needed to keep the Air Force’s fleet ready.
“Over the next 20 years, we will need resources above current thresholds to modernize across four major dimensions of our industrial base,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Shrader, commander of the Marine Corps Logistics Command, said the Marine Corps has a plan to repair, repurpose, consolidate and construct new facilities within its organic industrial base.
“We are pursuing innovative and state-of-the-art technologies, such as robotics on our main production lines and sub-shops, also 3D printing and additive manufacturing to augment the supply chain and extend our operational reach,” he said.
Shrader also said that the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia, will be one of the first Defense Department locations to get 5G to better enable them maintain Marine Corps gear.
“Our commandant’s vision for the Marine Corps is to be manned, trained and equipped as the world’s premiere naval expeditionary force in readiness, forward postured with the Navy’s fleets to deter conflict and respond to crisis and to be globally recognized as an elite corps of Marines of exceptional talent,” Shrader said. “A ready and modern organic industrial base plays a key role in achieving the commandant’s vision.” (Source: US DoD)
21 Nov 19. DOD Officials Discuss Systems, Warfighters Who Use Them. Defense Department leaders discussed systems acquisition and sustainment and the people who use those systems during the 2019 Defense Services Conference today in Arlington, Virginia.
Veronica Daigle, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, said delayed passage of the 2020 military budget and piecemeal funding through continuing resolution is having an adverse effect across the military services and industries. She said it has caused delayed purchases and maintenance, deferred facility improvement and scaled-back training exercises.
She said continuing resolutions result in a lack of certainty about what will be funded and how much will be allocated.
Other speakers addressed specific systems challenges and solutions.
Scott Baum, principal director of industrial policy at DOD, said systems are made of various materials that may be rare or difficult to obtain in the future.
He said that includes rare earth metal, but there are other things that go into weapons and systems that are classified.
Besides mining new metals, a good solution to this problem could be to design the systems to require less of these metals or perhaps use a different alloy.
Baum said new designs could be created quickly and efficiently using additive manufacturing — also called 3D printing — for rapid prototyping assisted by artificial intelligence and machine learning.
He said 80% of DOD’s dollars don’t go for the purchase of new systems, going instead to sustainment costs for such things as tanks, planes, ships and software.
Sustainment costs include routine maintenance, software upgrades, spare parts and so on.
But there are ways to reduce sustainment costs, he said.
For instance, 3D printing could bring down the cost of spare parts, he said, adding that some systems are so old that parts aren’t even made anymore.
Baum also said artificial intelligence can be helpful in predictive maintenance that point to areas of systems prone to failure or breakdown.
Artificial intelligence and 3D printing can also be used to design systems that are more robust, so they don’t break down as often.
Baum said DOD has 174,000 personnel in the acquisition community across the services, and DOD’s leaders are challenged in recruiting, retaining, training and better utilizing workers.
“People are the secret sauce of our success, not just in DLA but across the department,” Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, director of Defense Logistics Agency.
Williams said it’s challenging to recruit people with high-demand skills — including data scientists and analysts and cybersecurity professionals — because industry is also competing for employees to fill those jobs and others.
Williams said his agency is in the midst of building modernized distribution centers worldwide and a new warehouse management system that will require new job skills.
Daigle said DOD and each of the services must cultivate a talented workforce through training and education. (Source: US DoD)
21 Nov 19. Congress passes deal to avert Thanksgiving government shutdown, but December shutdown looms. Senate lawmakers on Thursday took another step toward erasing the threat of a government shutdown over the Thanksgiving holiday by passing a four-week budget extension, raising the possibility of a Christmas shutdown instead.
The move came over continued objections from some defense lawmakers who warned the short-term budget deals jeopardize military planning by keeping Pentagon funding stuck at last fiscal year’s levels and adding future uncertainty into long-range procurement plans.
But House lawmakers advanced the deal by a 231-192 vote on Wednesday and the Senate by a 74-20 vote a day later, noting that without the one-month reprieve federal workers would have faced furloughs and program halts starting Friday morning.
President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign the measure into law later in the day, meaning the new budget extension would run out on Dec. 20.
This is the second extension passed by Congress since the days leading up to the new fiscal year (Oct. 1) even though congressional Democrats and Republicans reached a deal on spending plans for fiscal 2020 over the summer.
In July, both chambers agreed to the outline of a two-year, $2.7trn budget plan with $738bn in military funding for fiscal 2020, about a 3 percent raise from last year’s defense spending levels.
But since that funding breakthrough, negotiations between the two parties and two chambers have been stalled over details.
In particular, Democrats have sought to place limits on President Donald Trump’s ability to shift military construction funds into his controversial southern border wall construction project. Republicans have insisted on leaving that language out of any budget plan.
That same fight prompted a 34-day partial federal shutdown at the start of the year, one which caused missed paychecks for members of the Coast Guard and numerous other federal employees. The Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs were not among the agencies caught in that confrontation.
Thursday’s vote gives lawmakers a few more weeks in this session of Congress to try and find a compromise on the fiscal fights, or opt for a full-year extension of fiscal 2019 spending levels.
On Wednesday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said talks between lawmakers and the White House, “keep improving … but we haven’t gotten there quite yet.”
Earlier this week, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee warned that move could be debilitating for the armed forces, potentially cutting $3.8bn in anticipated funding for military personnel programs and almost $13bn in anticipated funding for military readiness accounts.
“These stop-gap measures do more than just waste taxpayer dollars, they deny our troops and the country tangible resources needed to keep America safe,” the group said in a statement. “A year-long CR would essentially cut bns from what senior commanders and national security leaders have testified is required to keep our country safe.”
Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist echoed that message later in the week, saying the Pentagon is effectively barred from starting new acquisition programs or buying more ammunition, replacement parts, or anything else than it did the year before.(Source: Defense News)
21 Nov 19. AeroVironment Settles with United States Department of State for Voluntarily Reported Alleged Export Violations.
- The company voluntarily reported issues from the period June 5, 2014 to December 22, 2016
- U.S. Department of State cites the company’s efforts to improve compliance and finds no cause for debarment
AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), today announced it has reached a settlement with the United States Department of State for alleged export violations the company reported voluntarily for the period June 5, 2014 to December 22, 2016. AeroVironment has agreed to pay $1,000,000 over a two-year period, $500,000 of which is suspended and can be credited against investments already made or to be made to enhance export controls. AeroVironment will also hire an outside Special Compliance Officer (SCO) for a term of one year and conduct an external audit to assess and improve its compliance program during the Consent Agreement term.
“AeroVironment’s unmanned aircraft systems provide meaningful operational advantages to frontline troops of the United States and more than 45 allied nations,” said Melissa Brown, AeroVironment vice president and general counsel. “We understand the importance of protecting our technology while making it available to help protect our allies, and therefore take United States export regulations very seriously. We will continue to enhance our export controls and appreciate the Department of State’s acknowledgement of the corrective actions we have already taken.”
In reaching this settlement, the Department of State considered certain mitigation factors with respect to the alleged violations. An announcement from the Department of State included the following statement:
“AeroVironment voluntarily disclosed to the Department the alleged AECA (Arms Export Control Act) and ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) violations, which are resolved under this settlement. AeroVironment also acknowledged the serious nature of the alleged violations, cooperated with the Department’s review, and instituted a number of compliance program improvements during the course of the Department’s review. For these reasons, the Department has determined that it is not appropriate to administratively debar AeroVironment at this time.” (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
20 Nov 19. NATO allies worried U.S. President Donald Trump will abandon the Open Skies Treaty have been told the administration views the arms control agreement as a danger to U.S. national security, and that unless those nations can assuage such concerns, the U.S. will likely pull out, Defense News has learned. At a meeting in Brussels last week, Trump administration officials laid out for the first time a full suite of concerns with the treaty and made clear they were seriously considering an exit. The agreement, ratified in 2002, allows mutual reconnaissance flights over its 34 members, including the U.S. and Russia.
According to one senior administration official, the U.S. delegation presented classified intelligence to the foreign officials to explain its concerns, chiefly that Russian forces are “misusing the treaty in their targeting of critical U.S. infrastructure,” and to request help from allies to address those concerns if the treaty is to be saved.
“This is a U.S. position — that we think this treaty is a danger to our national security. We get nothing out of it. Our allies get nothing out of it, and it is our intention to withdraw, similar to what we did with [the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty]. From our perspective, the analysis is done,” the senior Trump administration official said. “The Europeans got that. It was a splash of cold water on their faces.”
The NATO allies did not reach an agreement at that meeting, the official noted.
Sources with several of these allied countries told Defense News that the Trump administration has indicated over the last month that there likely won’t be a final decision on the treaty before late January. In the interim, they said the U.S. sent a number of NATO nations a diplomatic communication earlier this month about the pact, essentially asking treaty members to make the case for its survival.
The U.S. outreach comes amid unusually strong and coordinated pressure from European allies inside and outside of NATO upon both the administration and Congress to remain in the treaty — and before a planned NATO leaders summit in London next month.
Allies generally argue the treaty is a valuable channel for transparency and dialogue between Russia and the United States, the world’s top two nuclear superpowers.
The meeting was meant to send a strong signal about the White House’s position, as the U.S. delegation included mid-level representatives from the Defense Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff, State Department and National Security Council. Broadly speaking, the American delegation argued Russian aggression since 2014 and the proliferation of high-quality commercial satellite imagery since 2002 had rendered the treaty obsolete.
The Trump administration’s efforts to solicit feedback from allies also seemed to be a response to criticism from Congress and allies that the president has a history of acting unilaterally when scrapping multilateral accords. Lawmakers and allies were caught off guard, for example, when the Wall Street Journal reported in October that Trump signed a document signaling his intent to withdraw from Open Skies. Weeks later, the administration had yet to make public its intentions.
A U.S. exit from the treaty would further erode the post-Cold War arms control architecture, after the U.S. and Russia walked away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in August. The last remaining major nuclear arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia, New START, expires in 2021.
European support for Open Skies so far has included a joint verbal demarche, or diplomatic protest, to the National Security Council from a number of Nordic countries, and another joint demarche from Germany, the U.K. and France; Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. reportedly also made a visit to the White House to argue on the treaty’s behalf.
Sweden, a particularly active participant in the fight to save Open Skies, sent a letter from its defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, to U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, expressing “deep concern.”
“A well-functioning Open Skies Treaty contributes to the ability to hold states, including the Russian Federation, accountable for breaches against the norms and principles that underpin the European security architecture. The Treaty is vital as one of very few remaining confidence and security building measures,” Hultqvist wrote in the Oct. 24 letter, obtained by Defense News.
“One aspect of maintaining the Treaty is to work with other participants to curtail any violations. In our view, it important that violations of others not be taken as grounds for withdrawing from the Treaty altogether,” Hultqvist wrote.
American and European complaints
Critics of the treaty have complained that Russia restricts flights near the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and the Georgian border-conflict regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The U.S. responded with flight restrictions over parts of Hawaii and Alaska.
However, in Brussels, Trump administration officials challenged NATO ally Germany’s plan to test a new infrared sensor in a flight over the United States in 2020, arguing it would open the door for Russia to do the same. Russia’s Tupolev Tu-154 already progressed from wet film to a digital electro-optical sensor in 2017, which at the time raised concerns within the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community.
Another U.S. concern is a claim that there’s no way under the Open Skies Treaty for signatories to know if Russia is surreptitiously gathering intelligence on U.S. forces while en route to its scheduled overflights. For example, the U.S. was concerned Russia’s aircraft would focus its sensors on American forces in Poland while flying to Germany. (Cameras on Open Skies aircraft are supposed to be covered during transit flights between the host nation and the area being surveilled.)
Following the meeting in Brussels, it was unclear how NATO allies might work to address the administration’s concerns. Several sources from treaty nations told Defense News this week they believe the administration’s efforts to solicit feedback from Europe offer a chance to convince the White House to remain a signatory to the treaty.
Others were more skeptical. One senior European official said the “big question” is whether the administration’s outreach represents a good faith effort, or whether it’s laying the groundwork to blame allies for not meeting the administration’s demands.
“We heard at one point they had already made up their mind, and at one point there was word they had signed a withdrawal. So it’s hard to say if it’s for show or not,” the European official said.
One of the main arguments in favor of Open Skies is that it helps maintain Europe-wide security and serves as a rare communications channel between Russia and other signatories. But because arguments based on maintaining global norms and respecting arms control pacts are seen as ineffective with the Trump administration, the Europeans are likely to push on a different lever.
“It’s an arms control treaty, and we don’t have too many of those left. [A U.S. exit] would give a propaganda victory to Russia,” the European official said. “There’s really only one argument that we think might work with the administration, and that’s the benefits we get from the treaty from an intel perspective.”
Yet, the intelligence benefits are under debate. Opponents argue that commercial imaging satellites are readily available as a superior alternative to flyovers, and that allied militaries can always share more advanced intelligence as they fit.
Advocates see value in airborne assets that can fly quickly and below cloud level; they question how efficiently America or the U.K. can share intelligence with all Open Skies signatories, which includes a number of non-NATO nations.
Jim Townsend, a former Pentagon official now with the Center for a New American Security think tank, was skeptical that, even if the intel is valuable, this argument would work on the Trump administration.
“If they tell the administration they need it because they need the intel, the administration will say: ‘So you’re freeloading on us again with Open Skies. Buy your own damn satellites or aircraft,’” Townsend said. “That’s a losing argument with these guys.”
With future U.S. participation in the treaty an open question, Congress is weighing in, though members of Trump’s own political party have been split over the issue.
For flights by the United States, the Air Force uses two deteriorating Boeing OC-135B aircraft, which are assigned to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Congress has debated whether to recapitalize those planes, but Trump’s 2019 budget request included $125m for two new aircraft, with the Air Force eyeing two new commercial airliners that could be outfitted with the existing Digital Visual Imaging System used by Open Skies aircraft.
Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Helsinki Commission member, said Tuesday at a House hearing on Open Skies that Congress ought to devote more robust funding to support the treaty. “It’s a little bit frightening that the U.S. is flying some hoopties in 2019,” the Missouri congressman said.
Senate Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Deb Fischer as well as Rep. Don Bacon, both Nebraska Republicans, support Open Skies. Last year, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a letter to Fischer that the overflights were particularly useful after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, adding that it is in America’s “best interest” to stick with the pact because of information gathered about Russian activity in Ukraine.
“I have personally communicated to the White House my opposition [to ending the treaty], I’m on record about it,” Bacon, a retired one-star general who commanded Offutt’s 55th Wing from 2011-2012, told Defense News. “The problem is the administration has not said why it wants to pull out of it. If it merits, if it’s a budget discussion, I want to hear where they’re coming from.”
On Monday, Bacon and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., introduced bipartisan legislation that would “require the administration certify to Congress that exiting the treaty is in the best interests of U.S. national security, and develop a comprehensive strategy to mitigate against reduced military capability.” The co-sponsors included Reps. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who chairs the Helsinki Commission.
Meanwhile, Senate AirLand Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, last month introduced legislation to withdraw from Open Skies and to declassify to the maximum extent possible U.S. intelligence about how Russia exploits the treaty to undermine American national security. Cotton, a longtime opponent of the treaty, has said the money would be better spent on more urgent Air Force projects.
The House-passed version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act included language to support the treaty and prohibit a withdrawal, unless the administration certifies Russia has breached it, or that an exit is in America’s best interest and other parties were consulted.
The White House has objected to the provision for impinging on the president’s treaty authorities, but the Senate version did not include a similar provision. The House and Senate were still in negotiations this week to reach a final version of the bill. (Source: Defense News)
19 Nov 19. Iran Military Power Report Statement. The following remarks were delivered by Christian Saunders, the Senior Defense Intelligence Analyst for Iran, Defense Intelligence Agency. The complete report is posted at:
Today, the Defense Intelligence Agency presents Iran Military Power, a report that examines the core capabilities of Iran’s military. This publication is part of DIA’s series of unclassified military reports that provide details on foreign military intent, strategy and capabilities. This report examines Iran’s military strategy and goals, the organization’s structure and capability of the military that supports those goals, as well as the enabling infrastructure and industrial base.
The Military Power Series is designed to help the public achieve a deeper understanding of key challenges and threats to U.S. national security and the security of our partners and our allies. The department requires a sophisticated understanding of foundational military intelligence, and DIA produces extensive military capability studies at all levels of classification, and various levels of detail provide this insight to all constituencies and stakeholders.
We have a long history of producing comprehensive and authoritative defense intelligence overviews at the unclassified level. DIA first published the unclassified Soviet Military Power Report in 1981. We renewed the publication of these unclassified military studies in June of 2017 with Russia Military Power, and earlier this year with China Military Power, and today we’re turning to Iran.
Throughout its 40-year history the Islamic Republic of Iran has remained opposed to the United States and our presence in the Middle East. Iran projects its military power through two different military institutions: the regular forces, or Artesh, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the IRGC. These organizations serve two important strategic goals for Iran: first, the survival of the regime; and second, securing a dominant position in the region.
Iran employs a hybrid approach to warfare using both conventional and unconventional elements. On the conventional side, Iran’s military strategy is primarily based on deterrence and the ability to retaliate against an attacker. Iran also uses unconventional warfare operations and a network of militant partners and proxies to enable Tehran to advance its interests in the region, as well as attain strategic depth.
The Iranian military largely relies on three core capabilities: first is ballistic missiles; the second are naval forces capable of threatening navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz; and the third is unconventional capabilities including the use of partners and proxies abroad.
First we’ll turn to ballistic missiles. Iran’s ballistic missiles constitute a primary component of its strategic deterrent. Lacking a modern air force, Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries from attacking Iran. Iran also has the largest missile force in the Middle East, with substantial inventory of close-range ballistic missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and medium-range ballistic missiles that can strike targets throughout the region as far as 2,000 kilometers away. Iran will deploy an increasing number of more accurate and lethal theater ballistic missiles, improve its existing missile inventory and also field new land attack cruise missiles. Iran’s developments of its space launch vehicle program could also serve as the test bed for the development of intercontinental ballistic missile technologies.
Secondly, Iran’s naval capabilities emphasize an anti-access area denial strategy. Benefiting from Iran’s geostrategic position along the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s layered maritime capabilities emphasize asymmetric tactics using numerous platforms and weapons intended to overwhelm an adversary’s naval force. The full range of these capabilities includes ship- and shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, small boats, naval mines, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles, anti-ship ballistic missiles and air defenses.
Iran’s use of partners, proxies and unconventional warfare is central to its regional influence and deterrent strategy. The IRGC Qods Force, Iran’s primary tool for unconventional operations, maintains a wide network of non-state partners, proxies and affiliates throughout the region. Iran provides a range of financial, political, training and material support to groups which would include Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militant groups, the Houthis in Yemen, some Palestinian groups, the Taliban and Bahraini Shia militants.
Another point of concern to the United States and our allies is Iran’s rapid progress in advancing its UAV capabilities. Iran sees these as versatile platforms for a variety of missions, including Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR, and air-to-ground strikes and has steadily expanded its UAV inventory. Iran has deployed various armed and unarmed UAVs to Syria and Iraq for ISR and strike missions.
Iran is also strengthening its integrated air defense systems through domestic production as well as foreign acquisition. Iran is fielding more capable domestically developed surface to air missiles and radar systems, and in 2016, acquired the Russian SA-20C air defense system, which provided Iran with its first capability to defend itself against a modern Air Force.
In the cyber domain, Tehran views cyberspace operations as a safe, low-cost method to collect information and retaliate against perceived threats, and Iran’s regime is continuing to improve its cyber capabilities.
Iran has no nuclear weapons but its nuclear program remains a significant concern for the United States. Earlier this year, Iran began a counter-U.S. maximum pressure campaign, which has included gradually exceeding some of the nuclear related limits stipulated in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. In early July 2019, the IAEA first confirmed that Iran had exceeded some of its JCPOA limits. Tehran has threatened to continue ceasing other JCPOA commitments unless it released – unless it receives sufficient sanctions relief.
Iran’s military strategy, as I said earlier, is focused on deterrence and is unlikely to change considerably in the near term, but Iran has taken steps towards developing a limited expeditionary capability through its operations in Syria and Iraq.
The IRGC Qods Force and its network of proxies will remain critical to Iran’s military power and Tehran will also improve its conventional forces in seeking new capabilities. Iran’s current modernization plans emphasize a broader range of conventional capabilities than in the past.
Iran probably will continue to focus on the domestic development of increasingly capable missiles, naval platforms and weapons, and air defenses while it attempts to upgrade some of its deteriorating air and ground capabilities primarily through foreign purchases.
Under U.N. Security Resolution 2231, Iran is prohibited from procuring most types of conventional weapons systems from abroad. However, these restrictions are set to expire in October 2020, providing Tehran an opportunity to acquire some advanced capabilities that have been beyond its reach for decades.
As Tehran expands its capabilities in role as both an unconventional and conventional threat in the Middle East, it is more important than ever that we understand Iran’s military power and the threat it poses to our interests, our allies and our security (Source: US DoD)
20 Nov 19. Norquist: With 2 Audits Done, DOD Still Has Work to Do. The results are in from the Defense Department’s second audit, and Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist told lawmakers that the process is benefiting the American people. Norquist talked about the department’s first-in-history audit of fiscal year 2018 audit and the results of fiscal 2019’s audit today before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on readiness and management support. The audit demonstrates progress, but we have a lot more to do.” Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist
“The short answer of why we have an audit is the DOD is an extraordinary large and complex organization,” Norquist said. “We employ nearly 3 million service members and civilians, [and] while a typical commercial airline manages between 300 and 1,600 aircraft, the military services fly approximately 16,000 aircraft.”
DOD also manages $292bn in inventory — more than six times the size of Walmart, the world’s largest retail company, he added.
Financial statement audits are a proven commercial solution that uses independent auditors to effectively assess complex operations, Norquist noted. A financial statement audit is comprehensive, he explained, and includes verifying the count, location and condition of military equipment, property, material and supplies.
“[An audit] tests vulnerabilities in the security system of our business systems, and it validates the accuracy of records and actions such as promotions and separations,” he said, noting it is the independent feedback that DOD leaders and members of Congress need.
For the fiscal 2019 audit, more than 1,400 auditors conducted more than 600 site visits with these results, he said:
- Consistent with last year, they reported no evidence of fraud;
- There were no significant issues with the amounts paid to civilian and military members; and
- DOD could account for the existence and completeness of major military equipment.
Also, one more organization than in the fiscal 2018 audit received a clean opinion for fiscal 2019: the Defense Commissary Agency. Seven of 24 organizations will have an unmodified or clean opinion this year, Norquist said.
“And of the 2,377 findings in [fiscal] 2018, the department was successful in closing more than 550 – 23% of the findings,” the deputy secretary told the senators. “The audit demonstrates progress, but we have a lot more to do.”
Audits benefit the taxpayer through transparency, Norquist said. But DOD has also seen how the audit saves money improving inventory management, identifying vulnerabilities in cybersecurity and providing better data for decision-makers.
For example, he said, the Navy’s fleet logistic center in Jacksonville, Florida, conducted a 10-week assessment and identified $81m worth of active material not tracked in the inventory system. That equipment is now available for immediate use to decrease maintenance and fill 174 requisitions.
“They also eliminated unneeded equipment, freeing up approximately 200,000 square feet — the equivalent of 2.6 acres,” the deputy secretary said.
Each of us owes it to the American taxpayer to be as responsible in spending their money as they were in earning it.”
Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist
The benefits of metadata and the use of data analytics are already becoming evident, Norquist said. He told the panel that DOD uses the Advanta workflow tool to automate the quarterly review process of its obligations. It has eliminated inefficiencies and provided analysts the time and insights they needed to identify $316m in high-risk funds, moving them from a low-priority function to better use before they were canceled or expired, he added.
“The audit is a foundational element of a broader landscape of business reform in the National Defense Strategy,” Norquist said.
“We are moving forward on multiple fronts, improving our enterprise buying power, consolidating [information technology], realigning and reforming health care consistent with congressional direction, reforming how we do background investigations to make them more effective and less expensive, and eliminating duplicate and inefficient business systems, as well as identifying efficiencies in what we like to call the Fourth Estate,” he said.
Moving to the subject of a DOD budget, Norquist said the continuing resolution now in place and the one under consideration have harmful impacts on DOD.
“The department and the White House have both expressed the urgent need for Congress to pass the [fiscal] 2020 authorization and appropriation bills,” he said. “The CR stop-gap measures are wasteful to the taxpayer. They delay storm-damage repairs and damage the gains our military has made in readiness and modernization.”
Ultimately, a continuing resolution is good for the enemy and not for the men and women of the U.S. military, Norquist told the Senate panel. “The administration and I urge Congress to come to agreement as quickly as possible consistent with the budget deal reached in the summer,” he said.
DOD is one of the most complex enterprises in the world, Norquist said. “In partnership with this Congress, we must continually improve our business practices to reduce costs and maintain our competitive edge,” he added. “Each of us owes it to the American taxpayer to be as responsible in spending their money as they were in earning it.” (Source: US DoD)
19 Nov 19. DOD Official: Iran’s Military Strength Relies Partly on Nonstate Actors. Iran relies in part on terrorist organizations, proxy groups and militant partners to protect its interests and to further its agenda of expanding influence in the Middle East, a defense official said.
Christian Saunders, a senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst for Iran, spoke to Pentagon reporters today ahead of the release of the new report titled “Iran Military Power” — the third in a series that also includes China and Russia.
“As Tehran expands its capabilities and role as both an unconventional and conventional threat in the Middle East, it is more important than ever that we understand Iran’s military power and the threat it poses to our interests, our allies and our security,” Saunders said.
The use of unconventional capabilities, including the use of partners and proxies, is one of three core capabilities the Iranian regime uses to ensure its own survival and secure a more dominant position in the region, Saunders said.
“The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force, Iran’s primary tool for unconventional operations, maintains a wide network of nonstate partners, proxies and affiliates throughout the region,” Saunders said.
To advance their agenda, Iran, he said, provides financial, political and material support, as well as training, to groups that include Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militias, the Houthis, some Palestinian groups, the Taliban and Bahraini Shia militants.
Ballistic missiles also play a substantial role in the Iranian military effort. Iran has the largest cache of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, Saunders said.
With an antiquated military, he said, missiles play a large role in the Iranian military effort.
“Iran has embraced ballistic missiles as a long-range strike capability to dissuade its adversaries from attacking Iran,” he said, adding that Iran’s arsenal includes short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles that can strike targets throughout the region as far as 2,000 kilometers away.
Saunders said he expects Iran will focus now on increasing the number of more accurate and lethal ballistic missiles, as well as fielding land-attack cruise missiles. Its space launch vehicle program, he said, might also serve as a test bed for the development of intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
Iran is strategically positioned along the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and maintains naval forces capable of threatening navigation in those strategically important waterways, Saunders said.
“Iran’s naval capabilities emphasize an anti-access, aerial-denial strategy,” Saunders aid. “Iran’s layered maritime capabilities emphasize asymmetric tactics using numerous platforms and wagons intended to overwhelm an adversary’s naval force.”
Those capabilities include ship- and shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, small boats, naval mines, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicle, anti-ship ballistic missiles and air defenses, he said.
Saunders said Iran’s continued use of cyber capabilities as a safe, low-cost method of collecting intelligence is a concern to the U.S. — and it’s something they continue to improve on.
He also said that, while Iran has no nuclear weapons, it continues to ignore commitments it made as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Sanders said in July, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran had exceeded limits it agreed to as part of the joint plan of action.
Additionally, he said that while now Iran is prohibited from buying most kinds of weapons from foreign powers due to a United Nations security resolution, that limit will expire in October.
That expiration provides Tehran with an opportunity to acquire some advanced capabilities that have been beyond its reach for decades, Saunders said. (Source: US DoD)
16 Nov 19. A Power Struggle Over the F-35 Fighter Jet Comes to A Head As Lawmaker Threatens to Hold Up Contract. The U.S. military’s most expensive weapons program seemed to be under threat from all sides at a recent hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, as skeptical lawmakers called out supply chain problems that have meant only a third of the Pentagon’s F-35 fighter jets are capable of carrying out all the missions for which they were built.
Ellen Lord, a former defense executive who is now the Pentagon’s top weapons-buyer, admitted that the complicated IT system supporting the fleet’s maintenance infrastructure still falls far short of expectations. Lockheed and the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office are still embroiled in a long-running dispute over who owns the F-35’s complicated algorithms, a debate that could chart the future of the program.
And some lawmakers criticized the terms of Lockheed’s arrangement with the government, saying overly generous intellectual property agreements threaten to lock Lockheed into a wasteful long-term profit machine with limited accountability.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) threatened to hold up a multibillion-dollar contract if fundamental questions aren’t resolved, suggesting there should be a broader sea change in how military agencies work with weapons builders.
“Heretofore, the contractors have had the ‘long end’ of the lever, and the government has been on the ‘short end’ of the lever. … That is going to change,” Garamendi told Lockheed Martin executives assembled at the hearing. “The power is shifting … with the fulcrum moving closer to the government’s side.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com/The Washington Post)
17 Nov 19. The Pentagon completed its second audit. What did it find? For the second year in a row, the Pentagon has officially failed its audit. And for the second year in a row, that result was expected.
Elaine McCusker, the Pentagon’s acting comptroller, told reporters ahead of the formal audit release — which occurred late on a busy Friday night in Washington — that “as expected,” the department would be receiving what is known as an “overall disclaimer,” a technical term that means the results of the audit did not come back clean.
Still, McCusker said she sees real progress being made. “I think the department has been pretty open with the fact that it’s got material weaknesses, it’s got things that need [to be] fixed,” she said. “But, you know, our ability to really demonstrate solid progress, I think is the headline.”
The department’s overall audit is really a series of 24 individual audits, led by the Department of Defense’s inspector general, in collaboration with the comptroller’s office. Of those, seven came back clean, an improvement by one (the Defense Commissary Agency) over the previous audit. Two audits are still ongoing and will be completed by January.
The audit effort covered more than $2.9trn in total assets and $2.8trn in liabilities, with 1,400 auditors, visiting 600 sites around the world and requesting more than 100,000 samples of equipment as they surveyed the department’s inventory.
Through all that research, auditors found no evidence of fraud for the second straight year. They also turned up what McCusker called “completeness” of major military equipment inventories, which is to say, major defense articles are where they were supposed to be.
In a statement, acting inspector general Glenn Fine said the “Department of Defense has made progress in improving its financial management processes since the prior year audit, but much more progress is necessary. The Department of Defense still has a long way to go before it will be able to obtain a clean opinion.”
A 1990 law passed by Congress required audits for all government agencies. But the Pentagon had been the sole holdout, with leadership across several administrations arguing the building is too large and has too many systems that don’t link up, to give any kind of helpful result that would be worth the cost.
Finally, last year the Pentagon’s first audit was completed, much to the relief of long-annoyed members of Congress. DoD officials have pledged to keep the audit going every year.
Of the 2,300 Notifications of Findings and Recommendations, which is to say specific issues found by the audit, issued after the FY18 effort, 23 percent were closed by the FY19 audit, which McCusker called “solid progress for our first year.” She also warned that the NFR number will grow “as auditors go deeper into our systems and processes. This is a good thing. We need continued focus on property accountability, inventory and property in the hands of contractors and our systems.”
According to the IG report, 1,300 new NFRs were discovered during the course of the audit.
The department also released a list of positives from the audit, including:
- A deep dive into inventory at Naval Air Station Jacksonville identified $280m of items not tracked properly. Of that, $81m of material was identified as available for immediate use for Naval operations that the service had no idea it had on hand. Getting rid of old, unusable material freed up approximately 200,000 square feet of storage space.
- The Army implemented a new automated solution for data entry into the U.S. Standard General Ledger. Moving to automation should save the service around 15,500 labor hours.
- The Air Force also tapped automation, in order to identify user accounts that are no longer relevant in military IT systems, closing an average of 55 a month, which should improve cyber security.
That Air Force project ties into the biggest single area of concern identified by the FY18 audit: information technology realm, both from inventory issues and from failure to follow security recommendations. McCusker said the department closed roughly 30 percent of the overall NFRs in the IT area this year, with a particularly high closure rate among the services.
“We’re really getting at physical access controls, authority documentation, you know, policies that we were updating controls on privilege of users. We really went after all those areas,” she said. “Still plenty to do, but we did focus on that.”
The audit cost around $1bn to execute, of which roughly half was the cost of fixing issues previously identified. McCusker said she expects the $1bn figure to be “pretty consistent for a few years” going forward, and argued the investment was small compared to not just the financial return, but improvements for the warfighting capability of the department.
“As far as the return on investment from the audit, you know, when we do automation, and we reduce manual workloads, we free up manpower, and that’s a savings,” she said. “DLA did some inventory and saved over $200m when they found some inventory that they put back into the system.”
However, those savings won’t be plowed right back into the 2021 budget plans, with McCusker saying “We’ve got a lot of I think examples that get to the savings side of things, but it’s not going to be something that I would translate into, you know, a trackable way that goes into the ‘21 budget, that would be more of some of the reform stuff that we’re doing and you’ll see that.” (Source: Defense News)
18 Nov 19. The US Air Force is in no hurry to commit to a next-gen fighter design. The U.S. Air Force is taking its time to settle on a next-generation fighter design, awaiting instead lessons learned from the F-35 jet and playing the field with promising technologies, according to a senior service official. Options being kicked around are still in the conceptual stage, as America’s newest fighter, the fifth-generation F-35, is only now “coming off the line,” according to Lt. Gen. David Nahom, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and programs.
“We’re not in a hurry,” Nahom told Defense News on the sidelines of the International Fighter Conference, an air power-themed confab of industry and government officials held in Berlin, Germany. He noted that expected deliveries of the F-35 and the relatively young age of the F-22 fleet enables the service to be picky about moving forward with the envisioned Next Generation Air Dominance weapon.
In short, the Air Force wants to keep its options open for as long as possible for a weapon whose combat punch will lie not in a single aircraft but rather in the amalgamation of hardware and software, an airborne concerto of data clouds, artificial intelligence, and boundless interconnectivity.
“We don’t want to get too stuck into a platform,” Nahom said. “It’s a very different way to approach it.”
Still, the service plans to lay the groundwork for boosting the domain of information and data — organizing it, analyzing it, sharing it — as a key element for future aerial warfare. To that end, officials will include a “significant investment in the digital backbone” in the next budget request, Nahom said.
As the Air Force studies its options, service analysts have shied away from the term “sixth-generation” aircraft as a successor to the F-35 because it’s unclear what breakthrough technology will be created next. “What are the characteristics of sixth-generation? I don’t know,” Nahom said.
“Stealth is important,” he added, referring to one of the advertised features of the F-35. “But speed is important, too.”
The service aims to develop a new capability quickly once the theoretical legwork is done. That is why there is a renewed emphasis now on engineering processes and algorithm development that Nahom said will have to unfold much faster than under previous aircraft programs.
Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper has put down a marker to develop an aircraft within five years. “Based on what industry thinks they can do and what my team will tell me, we will need to set a cadence of how fast we think we build a new airplane from scratch. Right now, my estimate is five years. I may be wrong,” he told Defense News in an interview in September.
The service’s information-heavy tack on future aerial warfare echoes two European projects aimed at building a next-generation weapon: the British-led Tempest and the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System. Both programs also lean on the the premise that data clouds, driven by artificial intelligence, can turn flying pieces of metal into breakthrough weaponry.
In the case of the continental program, an envisioned “combat cloud” will be “the ocean between the islands of the platforms,” French Maj. Gen. Jean-Pascal Breton said at the conference.
But Nahom noted a difference in the American way of thinking when it comes to piercing contested airspace — a key skill required of all future warplanes. While the Europeans seem to perceive the task as popping dispersed bubbles of ever-improving air defense systems, the U.S. view is that any airspace may be contested at any given time.
That means a next-generation aircraft will be constantly engaged in the mission of punching its way through enemy defenses, like finding the holes in a never-ending series of Swiss cheese, Nahom said. (Source: Defense News)
18 Nov 19. Audit for 2019 Shows DOD’s Progress. The 2019 departmentwide audit of the Defense Department did what DOD needed, the department’s comptroller said. It tested all fixes that were made from the previous year and shows the department is making progress, Elaine McCusker said.
“Our first-ever consolidated financial statement audit in 2018 resulted in a disclaimer,” which means it failed, she said. The 2019 audit shows the same, though, the comptroller noted, that result was expected. We made progress in our priority areas while focusing on the importance of sustainable solutions.” Elaine McCusker, DOD comptroller.
“To set the stage for 2019, DOD has 3 million employees in 160 countries, in more than 4,500 defense sites and close to 30 million acres of land,” McCusker said. “We manage a $292bn inventory and 573,000 building structures. The 2019 consolidated audit covered the department’s more than $2.9trn in total assets, and $2.8trn in liabilities.”
During this years’ audit, she said, 1,400 auditors visited 600 sites around the world and requested more than 100,000 samples. Auditors finished 24 stand-alone audits, in addition to the consolidated audit. They looked at buildings and property, military equipment, munitions and payment reports.
“We made progress in our priority areas while focusing on the importance of sustainable solutions,” McCusker said.
“But as expected, we will receive an overall disclaimer again this year,” she said.
“We are measuring progress by development and implementation of corrective action plans that are successful, closure of [notices of findings and recommendations], increased fidelity on root causes and interdependencies behind our material weaknesses, movement of individual organizations up the chain of opinions, but ultimately better performance and responsiveness to war-fighter requirements in support of the [National Defense Strategy],” she said.
DOD closed more than 23% of the more than 2,300 NFRs issued during its 2018 audit. “This is solid progress for our first year. We expect to increase the number of entities with unmodified opinions from six to seven. Two of the seven organizations with clean opinions maintained a sustainable history,” McCusker said.
The military retirement fund will get its 24th consecutive unmodified opinion. And with close to $900bn in assets, it represents about a third of DOD’s total assets, she added. “The Defense Finance and Accounting Service Working Capital Fund is expected to get its 19th consecutive clean audit opinion,” she said.
“DOD made progress in demonstrating our ability to support more in-depth auditing, supporting more extensive testing that will give us faster insights and allow us to identify more sustainable solutions,” McCusker said.
We need continued focus on property accountability, inventory and property in the hands of contractors and our systems.” Elaine McCusker
“We have been driving positive cultural change for joint enterprise solutions. We have improved cybersecurity by tightening access controls and documentation. We have supported improved readiness through inventory visibility. And we have increased buying power through expanded use of accurate data and advanced analytics,” she said.
DOD also sustained what it did well last year, McCusker said, adding there were no reported material weaknesses in civilian or military pay. “Auditors found no evidence of fraud. And we have existence and completeness of major military equipment,” she said.
“But much work remains to be done as we continue to pursue an agencywide clean audit,” McCusker said.
DOD will get a lot of new NFRs this year as auditors go deeper into systems and processes, she noted. “This is a good thing. We need continued focus on property accountability, inventory and property in the hands of contractors and our systems.”
She added it was essentially balancing the checkbook with the Treasury Department.
“We will continue to strengthen our target system capability aggressively and work to retire old systems and support those organizations closest to positive opinions,” McCusker said.
“This is an annual regimen where we expect continuous progress in terms of material weaknesses, emerging audit opinions and continuing to find and attack findings,” she said. (Source: US DoD)
15 Nov 19. DOD Completes Second Annual Department-Wide Audit; Demonstrates Progress. Today, the Department of Defense (DOD) completed its second Department-wide financial statement audit. Seven DOD organizations are expected to receive unmodified or “clean” opinions. Two audits are still underway and are expected to be completed in January 2020.
- This is one more clean opinion than last year Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA)
- Auditors also validated that DOD resolved over 550 findings, more than 23 percent, from the Department’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 audit
The audit is doing what the Department needs it to do – expanding testing and generating new findings and recommendations. Auditors assessed the completeness and accuracy of financial data, the counts, location and condition of assets, and corrective actions implemented to address prior year findings and recommendations. The key benefits of audits come from these findings, which help us identify vulnerabilities in cybersecurity, improve inventory management, and provide better data for decision-making.
This year, we expect the DeCA to progress from a qualified opinion to an unmodified opinion. The following entities sustained their unmodified opinions: the U.S. Army Corps of Civil Engineers – Civil Works; the Military Retirement Fund (MRF); the Defense Health Agency – Contract Resource Management; the Defense Contract Audit Agency; and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s Working Capital Fund (DFAS WCF). These were the 24th and 19th consecutive unmodified opinions for the MRF and DFAS WCF, respectively. The Defense Information Systems Agency and DOD Office of Inspector General (IG) audits are still underway. We expect the IG to get a clean opinion again.
The FY 2019 audit demonstrates dedication in pursuing changes necessary to set the Department on an irreversible course in support of the National Defense Strategy. The DOD has made important progress since last year. For example, auditors were able to increase the depth of their audits by expanding their property testing to include asset valuation. Auditors also confirmed during the FY 2019 audit that the Department successfully closed over 550 FY 2018 audit findings. These advances occurred in a broad range of areas including information technology, property, and inventory.
During the FY 2019 audit, auditors verified the Department sustained highlights from the FY 2018 audit, including:
- No significant issues found with payment amounts made to civilian or military members,
- No evidence of fraud,
- Existence and completeness of major military equipment
The annual audit is a forceful and effective catalyst that is driving reform and innovation across the DOD. DOD audit efforts support the National Defense Strategy, reinforcing accountability to taxpayers and directly contributing to enhanced military readiness. The Department welcomes the scrutiny and transparency the audit provides. The audit enables faster insights to develop focused, sustainable solutions for the Department’s complex problems.
The DOD-wide audit report and links to component audit reports will be available at https://comptroller.defense.gov/ODCFO/afr2019.aspx. (Source: US DoD)
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