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11 Dec 19. Milley Details DOD Operations Throughout the Middle East. The Middle East remains a challenge to U.S. national security interests, as terrorist groups thrive on the region’s instability as they try to export violent extremism around the world, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
“We are not finished with that fight,” Army Gen. Mark A. Milley told the House Armed Services Committee today.
Milley appeared with Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper at a hearing on U.S. policy in Syria and the broader region.
Iran also exploits the volatility and asserts itself through malign influence to achieve regional dominance, he added.
The Defense Department adheres to clear goals in the region that are set forth in the National Security Strategy, Milley said:
- A stable and secure Middle East;
- A Middle East that is not a safe haven and breeding ground for violent extremists;
- A Middle East that is not dominated by a nation hostile to the United States; and
- A Middle East that contributes to a stable, global energy market.
The National Defense Strategy provides military objectives to deter destabilizing activities by Iran and violent extremist organizations, the general said. In turn, he told the panel, the National Military Strategy describes how the joint force achieves NDS objectives with five areas of focus:
- Responding to threats;
- Deterring strategic attack, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
- Deterring conventional attack;
- Assuring allies and partners; and
- Competing below the level of armed conflict.
- Milley gave the committee an overview of DOD’s current operations in the Middle East.
In Syria, he said, combined operations with the Syrian Democratic Forces continue toward completing the enduring defeat of ISIS and preventing its reemergence, he said.
Iraq has been an essential partner in defeating ISIS in the region, the chairman said, and the department continues to work by, with and through Iraqi security forces to achieve a secure and stable Iraq that is able to defend itself.
The military strategy in Afghanistan is to continue to deny the nation as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland, Milley said. “That has been our objective since Oct. 7, 2001,” he added.
The Defense Department also supports the effort to reach a political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government in ”an Afghan-to-Afghan effort that ends this war in a responsible way and meets U.S. national security objectives,” Milley said.
Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism, the general said, and has increased instability in the region through state and proxy actions. In response, he told the House panel, DOD increased its force posture in the response to Iran’s recent attacks on Saudi Arabia and its continued acts of aggression and malign influence throughout the region.
“We will maintain the strategic depth of the joint force in the region in order to deter Iran, assure our partners, and if necessary, respond if deterrence fails,” he said.
In broad terms, Milley said, the military strategy in the Middle East is part of an interagency, international effort to sustain the conditions-based approach. (Source: US DoD)
11 Dec 19. Nuclear deterrent still the US Navy’s top priority, no matter the consequences, top officer says. The U.S. Navy’s new top officer is doubling down on the service’s commitment to field the new generation of nuke-launching submarines.
Adm. Michael Gilday, who assumed office as the chief of naval operations in August, visited General Dynamics Electric Boat in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on Tuesday. He reiterated in a release alongside the visit that the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine remains the Navy’s top priority.
“The Navy’s first acquisition priority is recapitalizing our Strategic Nuclear Deterrent — Electric Boat is helping us do just that,” Gilday said. “Together, we will continue to drive affordability, technology development, and integration efforts to support Columbia’s fleet introduction on time or earlier.”
The service has been driving toward fielding the Columbia’s lead ship by 2031, in time for its first scheduled deployment. Construction of the first boat will begin in October 2020, though the Navy has been working on components and design for years.
Two generations of submariner CNOs have emphasized Columbia as the service’s top priority. Gilday has made clear that having a surface warfare officer in charge has not changed the service’s focus.
In comments at a recent forum, Gilday said that everything the Navy is trying to do to reinvent its force structure around a more distributed concept of operations — fighting more spread out instead of aggregated around an aircraft carrier — would have to be worked around the Columbia class, which will take up a major part of the service’s shipbuilding account in the years to come.
“It’s unavoidable,” Gilday said, referring to the cost of Columbia. “If you go back to the ’80s when we were building Ohio, it was about 35 percent of the shipbuilding budget. Columbia will be about 38-40 percent of the shipbuilding budget.
“The seaborne leg of the triad is absolutely critical. By the time we get the Columbia into the water, the Ohio class is going to be about 40 years old. And so we have to replace that strategic leg, and it has to come out of our budget right now. Those are the facts.”
The latest assessment puts the cost of the 12 planned Columbia-class subs at $109bn, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Having nearly 40 percent of the shipbuilding budget dominated by one program will impact the force, which will force the Navy to get creative, the CNO said.
“I have to account for that at the same time as I’m trying to make precise investments in other platforms,” he explained. “Some of them will look like what we are buying today, like [destroyer] DDG Flight IIIs, but there is also an unmanned aspect to this. And I do remain fairly agnostic as to what that looks like, but I know we need to change the way we are thinking.”
Renewed push for 355
While the 12-ship Columbia-class project is set to eat at 40 percent of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget for the foreseeable future, acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly has renewed calls to field a 355-ship fleet.
The 355-ship goal, the result of a 2016 force-structure assessment, was written into national policy and was a stated goal of President Donald Trump.
“[Three hundred and fifty-five ships] is stated as national policy,” Modly told an audience at the USNI Defense Forum on Dec. 5. “It was also the president’s goal during the election. We have a goal of 355, we don’t have a plan for 355. We need to have a plan, and if it’s not 355, what’s it going to be and what’s it going to look like?”
“We ought to be lobbying for that and making a case for it and arguing in the halls of the Pentagon for a bigger share of the budget if that’s what is required,” Modly added. “But we have to come to a very clear determination as to what [355 ships] means, and all the equipment we need to support that.” In a memo, he said he wants the force to produce a force-structure assessment to get the service there within a decade.
Modly went on to say that the Navy’s new Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment, while will incorporate Marine Corps requirements, should be presented to him no later than Jan. 15, 2020. The Navy plans to look at less expensive platforms to reach its force-structure goals, which will likely include unmanned systems. But Congress has shown some reluctance to buy into the concept because of the sheer number of unknowns attached to fielding large and medium-sized unmanned surface vessels.
The newly released National Defense Authorization Act halved the number of large unmanned surface vessels requested by the service, and skepticism from lawmakers toward the Navy’s concepts appears unlikely to abate by the next budget cycle.
That means the 10 large unmanned surface vessels, or LUSV, the Navy programmed over the next five years seem unlikely to materialize at that rate. The Navy envisions the LUSV as an autonomous external missile magazine to augment the larger manned surface combatants.
But the drive to field less expensive systems to execute a more distributed concept of operations in large areas such as the Asia-Pacific region is being pushed at the highest levels of the government. In his comments at the Reagan National Defense Forum over the weekend, Trump’s national security adviser said the military must rethink how it buys its equipment.
“Spending $13bn on one vessel, then accepting delivery with elevators that don’t work and are unusable is not acceptable,” O’Brien told the audience, referring to the troubled aircraft carrier Ford.
“The National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy are clear: We must be ready for an era of prolonged peacetime competition with peer and near-peer rivals like Russia and China. … The highest-end and most expensive platform is not always the best solution.” (Source: Defense News)
11 Dec 19. U.S. Army will fund rare earths plant for weapons development. The U.S. Army plans to fund construction of rare earths processing facilities, part of an urgent push by Washington to secure domestic supply of the minerals used to make military weapons and electronics, according to a government document seen by Reuters.
The move would mark the first financial investment by the U.S. military into commercial-scale rare earths production since World War Two’s Manhattan Project built the first atomic bomb.
It comes after President Donald Trump earlier this year ordered the military to update its supply chain for the niche materials, warning that reliance on other nations for the strategic minerals could hamper U.S. defenses.
China, which refines most of the world’s rare earths, has threatened to stop exporting the specialized minerals to the United States, using its monopoly as a cudgel in the ongoing trade spat between the world’s two largest economies.
“The U.S. rare earths industry needs big help to compete against the Chinese,” said Jim McKenzie, chief executive officer of UCore Rare Metals Inc (UCU.V), which is developing a rare earths project in Alaska. “It’s not just about the money, but also the optics of broad support from Washington.”
The Army division overseeing munitions last month asked miners for proposals on the cost of a pilot plant to produce so-called heavy rare earths, a less-common type of the specialized minerals that are highly sought after for use in weaponry, according to the document.
Responses are due by Dec. 16. UCore, Texas Mineral Resources Corp (TMRC.PK) and a joint venture between Lynas Corp (LYC.AX) and privately-held Blue Line Corp are among the expected respondents, according to company officials and sources familiar with the matter.
The Army said it will fund up to two-thirds of a refiner’s cost and that it would fund at least one project and potentially more. Applicants must provide a detailed business plan and specify where they will source their ore, among other factors.
This latest move by the Army, a division of the Pentagon, comes after a military study earlier this year on the state of the U.S. rare earths supply chain.
The rare earths tension between the U.S. and China goes back to at least 2010, when China limited exports to Japan after a diplomatic dispute, sending prices for the niche metals spiking and fueling concerns across the U.S. military that China could do the same to the United States.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Chemical Biological Center and the U.S. Army headquarters did not respond to requests for comment.
The request does not give a specific financial amount the Army could fund, though it is derived in part from the Defense Production Act (DPA), a 1950s-era U.S. law that gives the Pentagon wide financial latitude to procure equipment necessary for the national defense. A rare earth processing pilot plant could cost between $5m and $20m, depending on location, size and other factors, with a full-scale plant potentially costing more than $100m to build, industry executives said.
“It’s great to see interest in financially supporting the industry from the Department of Defense,” said Jon Blumenthal, CEO of Blue Line Corp, which earlier this year signed a memorandum of understanding to build a rare earth processing facility in Texas with Australia-based Lynas Corp (LYC.AX).
Blumenthal declined to comment when asked if Blue Line will respond to the Army’s request. Lynas declined to comment.
It is not clear how the Army will rank the responses given that much of the rare earths industry expertise is now located in China, though the modern rare earths industry itself had its genesis in the United States decades ago.
“Instead of providing funds for yet another study, this allocates money toward establishing a U.S.-based rare earth supply chain,” said Anthony Marchese, CEO of Texas Mineral Resources, which is developing the Round Top mine in Texas with USA Rare Earth.
After processing, however, rare earths need to be turned into rare earth magnets, found in precision-guided missiles, smart bombs and military jets and China controls the rare earths magnet industry, too.
The Pentagon has not yet launched an effort to finance domestic magnet manufacturing.
“Closing the magnet gap would do more to address the nation’s defense needs, and as well the needs of electric vehicle makers and others,” said Ryan Castilloux, managing director with Adamas Intelligence, a research firm that closely tracks the rare earths industry. (Source: Reuters)
11 Dec 19. OTAs, cyber investments make defense policy bill. Defense committees in Congress have come to an agreement on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that features a $738bn topline budget with $71.5 bn for overseas operations.
In its report released late Dec. 9, Congress homes in on other transaction authorities (OTAs), drones and cybersecurity investments. Here’s a breakdown of a few provisions in the bill the House plans to vote on Dec. 11:
Data on OTAs and prototypes. The House proposed an annual reporting requirement on how the Defense Department is using OTAs. The final amendment revises section 873 of the 2019 NDAA to extend such reporting until 2023. Ellen Lord, DOD acquisition head, told reporters Dec. 10 that OTA use for prototyping has nearly tripled from $1.7 bn in 2016 to $3.7 bn in 2018, with 88% of OTAs awarded to companies that haven’t previously worked with the government, Lord said.
Microelectronics under the scope. One of several supply chain-related provisions requires DOD to establish “supply chain and operational security standards and requirements for microelectronics” by Jan. 1, 2021. The conferees intend that “by incorporating and standardizing best practices the Department will improve its acquisition of securely manufactured, commercially-available products and ensure that a growing industrial base is more resilient to a variety of risks in the supply chain,” they wrote in the legislative explanation.
Additionally, conferees request the undersecretary of defense acquisition and sustainment brief Congress by Aug. 31, 2020, on the military’s reliance on foreign sources for microelectronics used in precision-guided munitions. They also want more information on cybersecurity risk, including whether contractors are single- or sole-source providers and which subcontractors supply them. This was in lieu of a separate provision that wasn’t adopted.
Foreign influence. A provision directs the defense secretary to modify current policies and regulations to increase scrutiny of contractors for foreign influence, hacking or access to sensitive defense assets. “The acquisition community must have greater visibility into all cleared and uncleared potential contractors and subcontractors seeking to do business with the Department” to ensure they “do not pose a risk to the security of sensitive data, systems, or processes such as personally identifiable information, cybersecurity, or national security systems,” the conferees wrote.
Drone ban. If the bill passes, DOD will be prohibited from buying or renewing contracts to acquire foreign-made unmanned aircraft systems except when used for counter-UAS activities. The Defense Department is already working to expand the U.S.-based drone manufacturing to combat foreign dominance in the drone industry.
IT and cyber investment management. DOD’s chief information and data officers would be required to “account for, manage, and report its information technology and cyberspace investments” and make any legislative suggestions by Feb. 3, 2020.
The conferees call DOD’s current accounting process for its $50 billion in IT and cyber spending “inefficient,” adding that it creates “unnecessary delays in preparing the annual budget.”
New software chief? The conference report includes a provision that would create a “Chief Digital Engineering Recruitment and Management Officer” who would implement policy and help “maintain digital expertise and software development as core competencies of the civilian and military workforce.”
Another provision requires the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering to “designate a senior official or existing entity” to guide next-generation software and software-intensive systems development via a new strategy due to Congress next year.
Cybersecurity for all. The report also contains a provision requiring DOD’s CIO to ensure an enterprisewide cybersecurity infrastructure and make mission data accessible to other DOD components. A separate provision tasks the National Security Agency as a cyber advisor to the DOD CIO when evaluating the security of commercial products.
Moreover, the bill calls for a cybersecurity framework, such as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, for the defense industrial base. The provision notes CMMC as a third-party certification pilot program that could be used “as the basis for a mandatory Department standard. CYBERCOM’s acquisition authority. U.S. Cyber Command’s acquisition authority is amended to not permit spending more than $75m on new contract efforts. (Source: Defense Systems)
10 Dec 19. Judge halts $3.6bn diverted from military construction projects for border wall. A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from spending some Defense Department money to build a border wall with Mexico, the latest twist in a long-running legal battle over one of the president’s signature domestic issues and campaign priorities. The ruling by District Judge David Briones in El Paso, Texas, prevents the government from spending $3.6 bn that was diverted in September from 127 military construction projects to pay for 175 miles (280 kilometers) of border wall. His decision doesn’t apply to another pot of Pentagon money, $2.5bn that was initially meant for counter-drug operations and was redirected to wall spending. In July, the Supreme Court granted an emergency order allowing that money to be spent during a legal challenge.
The Justice Department said it would appeal Tuesday’s ruling.
Spending that was halted — at least for now — is intended for 11 projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The longest and most expensive by far would blanket 52 miles (83.2 kilometers) in Laredo, Texas, at an estimated cost of $1.27bn.
The Pentagon freed $6.1bn after Trump declared a national emergency on the Mexican border to end a government shutdown in February. Congress gave $1.4bn for wall construction, far less than what Trump wanted.
Briones, ruling in a case filed by El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights, said he didn’t want to minimize the importance of border security but “that concern cannot override the public’s interest in the Executive Branch complying with the law.”
“That is especially so when Congress — the People’s representatives — determined that securing the border required only $1.375bn, not $6.1bn, to be spent on a wall,” he wrote.
Briones, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, stopped short of extending his ruling to the $2.5bn pot of Pentagon money because, he wrote, it would effectively override the Supreme Court.
The president’s critics cheered the decision.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it “confirms the president’s national emergency declaration to steal funds from military families to build a wall he promised Mexico would pay for was, and is, an outrageous power grab by a president who refuses to respect the constitutional separation of powers.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military Times/AP)
10 Dec 19. DOD Official Says Integration With Partner Nations’ Defense Industry Is Important. The assistant secretary of defense for acquisition spoke today on the deepening industrial partnership between the United States and South Korea at a Center for Strategic and International Studies conference in Washington.
Kevin Fahey said the alliance with South Korea is very important and added that his remarks about industrial cooperation also apply to other allies and partners.
Fahey said the Defense Department would like to work with South Korea’s military industry on 10 science and technology priorities:
- Directed energy
- Command, control and communication
- Defensive and offensive cyber
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Missile defense
- Quantum science and computing
Cooperation on these would include shared doctrine, development, training and integrated operating capabilities that would allow both nations to employ these systems in operations, he said.
Within the realm of command, control and communication, Fahey said co-development of a 5G network would be welcomed.
He also said protecting intellectual property and cybersecurity of the industrial bases are important to both nations.
Other areas of importance in the industrial base are speeding acquisition, policy reform and improving contracting and procurement.
Fahey congratulated South Korean industry for being selected to provide maintenance, repair and overhaul of the F-35 Lighting II joint strike fighter aircraft.
Fahey was joined on the panel by Wang Jung-hong, South Korea’s minister of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration. (Source: US DoD)
10 Dec 19. Making a Difference Fuels Retention in Space, Cyber Commands. More than anything, making a difference and staying on mission are the keys to retention in U.S. Space Command and U.S. Cyber Command, the senior enlisted leaders for those two organizations said.
“Retention is a challenge that we face in Cyber Command and with our cyber workforce,” Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Scott H. Stalker, the senior enlisted leader for Cybercom, said during a briefing yesterday at the Pentagon. “What we’ve found is there are a lot of factors to keeping that talent in and keeping them on the mission.”
One way Cybercom retains talent is that the military services offer certain bonuses, up to $90,000 in some cases, to those qualified, Stalker said. Some offer special duty assignment pay as well, up to $1,500 a month in some cases, he added.
“But what we found is, with all of that, you are going to keep in manpower, but not necessarily talent,” he said. “So we have go to look at our high-end talent, our top 25%. What are the things that keep them in? And more often when I talk to them, they want to have stability. They want to do something that is important and hard.”
Stalker said there’s no shortage of hard, challenging work at Cybercom and the National Security Agency, both at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“So we really focus on the job that they have to do — not so much ‘Here’s more money, we’ll keep you in,'” he said. “We want them to know that what they are doing is relevant. … When it comes to targets like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and violent extremist organizations, on a daily basis they are employed. They are working hard. That’s what they want to be doing. They want to be on mission doing their job. I’d say that’s probably the same in most domains. They want to do the job they came in for.”
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Towberman, the senior enlisted leader for Spacecom, said the command’s work is so exciting that he’s not really concerned about retention of the force — or even about recruitment.
“From a space perspective, there’s never been a better time to be in this business,” he said. “Getting people excited about space isn’t one of our current challenges. People are really excited. They are asking all the time. They want in. They want to be a part of it. And so I am not too concerned with retention, certainly not in the short term. There is just so much work to do, and it’s such an exciting business to be in right now. We’ve got lots of folks ready to step up and help us out.”
Towberman said he sees first hand the new talent that’s coming through the door — and he’s impressed with what America has to offer.
“What’s really interesting is [that] the raw material we’re getting from America has never been more incredible,” he said. “The digital natives that are coming into the military today are exactly the warfighters we need for the future. And it’s more about figuring out how to unleash the talent and capability that’s within them than it is kind of teaching them things.”
Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the young Americans coming into careers in space and cyber have other options, but the military provides something else that keeps them interested.
“I will tell you most of these high-end warriors like cyber and space, … they want to make sure that what they are doing is having an impact,” he said. “That they belong to a team that is cohesive, and they know that they are valued members of that team, and finally that their families are being taken care of. They are at a place they want to serve, and they are comfortable doing it.”
“So more and more,” he continued, “as we move forward and we look at these critical skills we have to be in the talent management business, as opposed to potentially a personnel management business.” (Source: US DoD)
10 Dec 19. U.S. lawmakers reach deal on massive defence bill, eye Russia, Turkey, China. U.S. lawmakers announced an agreement on Monday on a $738bn bill setting policy for the Department of Defense, including new measures for competing with Russia and China, family leave for federal workers and the creation of President Donald Trump’s long-desired Space Force. It also calls for sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian missile defence system, and a tough response to North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, after months of negotiations. It is expected to pass before Congress leaves Washington later this month for the year-end holiday break.
The legislation includes $658.4bn for the Department of Defense and Department of Energy national security programs, $71.5bn to pay for ongoing foreign wars, known as “Overseas Contingency Operations” funding, and $5.3bn in emergency funding for repairs of damage from extreme weather and natural disasters.
There were concerns earlier this year that the NDAA might fail for the first time in 58 years over steep divides between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate over Trump’s policies.
Because it is one of the few pieces of major legislation Congress passes every year, the NDAA becomes a vehicle for a range of policy measures as well as setting everything from military pay levels to which ships or aircraft will be modernized, purchased or discontinued.
It includes a 3.1% pay hike for the troops, the largest in a decade and, for the first time, 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers, something Democrats strongly sought.
Among other things, the proposed fiscal 2020 NDAA imposes sanctions related to Russia’s Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines and bars military-to-military cooperation with Russia.
Russia is building the pipelines to bolster supply to Europe while bypassing Ukraine, and members of Congress have been pushing the Trump administration to do more to stop the projects as they near completion.
The NDAA also prohibits the transfer of F-35 stealth fighter jets, which Lockheed Martin Corp is developing, to Turkey. It expresses a Sense of Congress that Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system, which Washington says it not compatible with NATO defenses and threatens the F-35, constitutes a significant transaction under U.S. sanctions law.
The bill says Trump should implement sanctions on Turkey over the S-400 purchase, something lawmakers have been demanding.
The NDAA also reauthorizes $300m of funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, to include lethal defensive items as well as new authorities for coastal defense cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles.
Military aid to Ukraine has been at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Trump, after his administration held up security assistance for Kiev last summer even as the country dealt with challenges from Russia.
Fulfilling one of Trump’s most high-profile requests, the bill establishes the U.S. Space Force as the sixth Armed Service of the United States, under the Air Force.
The legislation also contains a series of provisions intended to address potential threats from China, including requiring reports on China’s overseas investments and its military relations with Russia.
It bars the use of federal funds to buy rail cars and buses from China, and it says Congress “unequivocally supports” residents of Hong Kong as they defend their rights and seek to preserve their autonomy with China. It also supports improving Taiwan’s defense capabilities.
The NDAA calls for a sweeping approach to North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, as well as the threat it poses to U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula and allies in the region.
It puts mandatory sanctions on North Korean imports and exports of coal and other minerals and textiles, as well as some petroleum products and crude oil, and it puts additional sanctions on banks that deal with North Korea.
The bill also bars the Pentagon from reducing the number of troops deployed to South Korea below 28,500 unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that it is in the U.S. national security interest to do so. (Source: Reuters)
09 Dec 19. Indo-Pacom Commander Describes Threats From China. In addition to threatening freedom of navigation in international waters off its coast, China is stealing intellectual property and personally identifiable information from U.S. companies and citizens, as well as from allies and partners, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said.
Navy Adm. Philip Davidson addressed threats from China at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, Dec. 7.
The United States, its allies and its partners will continue to navigate through the East and South China Seas, he said, noting that undersea telecommunications cables and $3trn worth of trade, all vital to the global economy, pass through that area.
Last week, the admiral said, he spoke with telecommunications and technology industry leaders about China and its Huawei 5G network. That network is a threat to the United States and other nations, he said, because by law, Huawei and other firms such as ZTE must provide information to the Chinese Communist Party when asked. China’s advantage in spreading this technology is its ability to offer extraordinarily cheap goods at state direction that other nations can’t compete with.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which includes lending money to countries wanting to improve their infrastructure, is another threat China poses, Davidson said. The danger, he explained, is that if nations can’t pay back the loans, they can be subject to political, economic or military pressure from China. Nations are starting to resist the initiative, he said, citing the example of the small island nation of Tuvalu in the Southwest Pacific. Tuvalu rejected China’s offer of a $400m loan for infrastructure improvements such as levee construction, he said. The island’s annual gross domestic product is just $40m, and Tuvalu’s leaders recognized that if they were unable to pay it back, their sovereignty could be threatened.
The admiral also noted that China’s authoritarian model has resulted in the suffering of its own people from the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region and the people of Hong Kong, who want freedom and democracy.
The world should be outraged China’s behavior, Davidson said, adding that about 100,000 Americans live in Hong Kong. And if things don’t go well there, he said, global business — including China’s — will suffer.
Davidson said the United States and other countries have no desire to see the Chinese economy collapse or to ”decouple” with China on a diplomatic, economic or military level. Nations just want China to offer a fair playing field and to play by the rules of international norms, he said.
As it engages in great-power competition with China and Russia, Davidson said, the United States draws strength through its numerous alliances and partnerships. (Source: US DoD)
09 Dec 19. Amazon claims Trump pressure in lawsuit over $10bn contract. Lawsuit alleges president pressured defence department to hurt tech group’s founder. Amazon was denied a $10bn US defence contract because of “escalating and overt pressure” from President Donald Trump designed to hurt the company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, the company claimed in a lawsuit. The tension between the two men, which stems from Mr Trump’s hostility towards the Bezos-owned Washington Post, took on a legal dimension with a court filing in which Amazon claimed the president improperly leaned on officials at the Department of Defense. The department later awarded the so-called Jedi contract to a rival bid from Microsoft. The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington on November 22 but made public on Monday alleged Amazon’s cloud computing division AWS would have won the contract but for flaws in the procurement process. It claimed the flaws could be explained by the president’s vendetta. “These errors . . . were not merely the result of arbitrary and capricious decision making,” the company said in the filing. Mr Trump launched “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the Jedi contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy.” The president has regularly clashed with Amazon and Mr Bezos, not least over coverage of Mr Trump in the Washington Post, which the Amazon founder has owned since 2013.
In October, the Pentagon picked Microsoft to run the Jedi project, which allows the company to handle some of the US military’s most sensitive data and communications in the cloud. There were no external influences on the source selection decision Department of Defense Many experts had expected the contract to go to Amazon, which is the only company able to encrypt data to the “top secret” level the military requires. Microsoft and Amazon were the only technology companies to be shortlisted and the bidding process had already triggered one legal challenge, from Oracle, one of the unsuccessful bidders. Just weeks before the contract was due to be announced, Mr Trump warned “great companies” had complained about the process. His words were interpreted as an attack on Amazon, as he named Oracle, IBM and Microsoft — the other three bidders — as the complainants. A spokesperson for the defence department said the contract decision was made by career public servants and military officers in accordance with DOD’s normal processes.
“There were no external influences on the source selection decision,” the spokesperson said. “The department is confident in the Jedi award and remains focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.” The White House did not respond to a request to comment. As the president continued to tweet and speak about Mr Bezos and Amazon, the company alleged that the Pentagon made a series of decisions to ignore key elements of Amazon’s Jedi bid. The complaint claimed Mr Trump’s public fights with Amazon and its chief executive were enough to weigh on the Pentagon’s decision “consciously or subconsciously”. A former Pentagon official’s book released this year claimed Mr Trump wanted to “screw” Amazon by denying it the Jedi contract — something Amazon explicitly referenced in its lawsuit. The complaint said the defence department’s “substantial and pervasive errors” were “hard to understand and impossible to assess separate and apart from the president’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon’.” (Source: FT.com)
09 Dec 19. Acting US Navy secretary: Deliver me a 355-ship fleet by 2030. Acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly in public comments and in a directive to the force has mandated that the service find a path to quickly get to 355 ships. Despite some soft-pedaling from Navy leadership on the 355-ship goal, Modly has made it clear that such an inventory is national policy and that he wants leadership to get behind it.
“[Three hundred and fifty-five ships] is stated as national policy,” Modly told an audience at the USNI Defense Forum on Dec. 5. “It was also the president’s goal during the election. We have a goal of 355, we don’t have a plan for 355. We need to have a plan, and if it’s not 355, what’s it going to be and what’s it going to look like?”
In a memo released Thursday to the force, Modly said he wanted an actionable plan by the end of the 2020s.
In the memo, Modly called for the services to develop “an integrated plan to achieve … 355 ships (or more) unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned surface vehicles for greater naval power within 10 years.”
The push toward the 355-ship fleet, which kicked off after a 2016 force-structure assessment, has been on shaky ground of late, with former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer calling it “aspirational.” Last year, the service’s former top requirements officer told an audience at the Navy’s largest annual conference that people should focus more on capabilities and less on the number.
The issue is that the Navy is required by law to pursue a 355-ship Navy, something that was the focus of House and Senate lawmakers early on in the Trump administration. The fleet currently stands at 292 ships.
During his comments at the USNI Defense Forum, Modly said that if the Navy must fight the other services for money to achieve that goal, then that’s what it should do.
“We ought to be lobbying for that and making a case for it and arguing in the halls of the Pentagon for a bigger share of the budget if that’s what is required,” Modly said. “But we have to come to a very clear determination as to what [355 ships] means, and all the equipment we need to support that.
“How many more hypersonics are we going to need? Where are we going to put them? These are long-term investments that we will have to make, but we have to get our story straight first. So I’m going to focus a lot on that this year.”
Modly’s comments and his Dec. 6 directive got a boost from President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, the following day at the Reagan National Defense Forum. O’Brien told the audience there that Trump meant business when he called for a larger Navy during the 2016 campaign.
“When President Trump says a 350-ship Navy, he means a 350-ship Navy, and not decades from now,” O’Brien said. (Source: Defense News)
09 Dec 19. US “in trouble” if big tech doesn’t work with DoD: Bezos. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the weekend warned that the US would face a challenge maintaining technological supremacy if large technology companies choose not to work with the Department of Defence (DoD).
Speaking at the annual Reagan National Defence Forum, Bezos said: “If big tech is going to turn their backs on the Department of Defense, this country’s in trouble. That just can’t happen.”
He went on to describe the US as the “the good guys.” Bezos’ various companies are currently vying for several DoD contracts, and recently Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it was taking legal action against the Department over the handling of the $10bn Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.
Bezos said: “Look, I understand these are emotional issues, that’s okay, we don’t have to agree on everything, but this is how we are going to do it, we are going to support the Department of Defense. This country is important.”
US companies have in the past come under fire from their employees for working with the Pentagon. A notable example of this was Google’s decision to stop working on the DoD’s Project Maven, which sought to use Artificial Intelligence to analyse images captured by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
Thousands of Google employees signed up to a petition against the company’s involvement leading it to let the contract lapse. The petition called for Google to stay out of the “business of war”.
Commenting on the need for the leadership of tech companies to bolster the case for working with the DoD Bezos added: “I know it’s complicated but, you know, do you want a strong national defence or don’t you? I think you do. So we have to support that.”
Amazon narrowly lost out on the defence cloud programme contract to Microsoft but was originally expected to win based on its work on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) cloud project.
Regarding the JEDI contract, AWS previously told Army Technology: “AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the US military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernisation effort.
“We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence.” (Source: army-technology.com)
07 Dec 19. Esper Outlines Global Challenges, Opportunities. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper discussed issues ranging from the budget and National Defense Strategy to global Defense Department activities today at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
Esper said he was appreciative of the recent budget, which he said allowed the department to address modernization and readiness shortfalls in the face of growing challenges from Russia and China. But he lamented the ongoing legislative continuing resolutions that prevent utilization of the 2020 defense budget.
While the continuing resolution allows DOD to expand its work on space and cyber, along with other programs such as artificial intelligence, hypersonics and robotics, he said about 200 new programs haven’t been able to start.
“Continuing resolutions are killers for us,” he said. Because of the continuing resolution, Esper said, the department has $19bn less than it should have. This has also led to canceled exercises, empty training slots and maintenance slowdowns, the defense secretary said. “This must end,” he added.
“Every day under a CR is a day we’re competing with Russia and China with one hand tied behind our back,” Esper said.
National Defense Strategy
Esper said he and top military and civilian leaders from each of the services meet every week in the Pentagon to discuss progress on NDS efforts, including focusing on NDS priorities and cutting or eliminating programs that don’t.
“This is a significant management shift inside the Pentagon, but we are committed to fully implementing the strategy at every level. … We have already made solid progress, however to keep up this momentum we depend on a predictable sufficient and timely budget,” the defense secretary said.
The defense secretary also highlighted global developments, particularly DOD’s reliance on allies and partners.
Esper said NATO is critical to world peace and security, noting it has started focusing on threats from China, not just regional threats from Russia.
Nine NATO member nations now meet the 2% GDP commitment, he said, adding that many more are on their way to meeting that goal by 2024.
“We continue to add more partners to global efforts to deter aggression,” the defense secretary said, “such as the international maritime security construct in the Strait of Hormuz and the more nascent integrated air and missile defense effort to protect critical infrastructure in the Middle East. And we have secured greater host nation support in countries where U.S. troops are stationed abroad.” (Source: US DoD)
08 Dec 19. Service Chiefs Discuss Current, Future Challenges of Great Power Competition. Great power competition doesn’t necessarily mean great power conflict, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said yesterday, but it could lead to that if the U.S. doesn’t have a strong military.
The four military service chiefs were at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, where they addressed the challenges of facing high-end competitors such as Russia and China.
The military “needs to win the next fight, not fight the last fight better,” McConville said.
McConville said Russia’s nuclear weapons make that nation an existential threat. He noted that China is developing longer range, precision missiles that could deny U.S. forces access to the region.
In response to these threats, the Army is focusing on improving its own long-range precision fires, developing a next-generation combat vehicle and future vertical lift aircraft, bolstering air and missile defense and making the network more robust and resilient.
McConville emphasized that people are the Army’s greatest strength and the development of a new talent management system will ensure the right people are in the right job at the right time.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said that during Operation Desert Storm, China studied how the U.S. was manned, trained and equipped, and in response, “they purpose-designed the Chinese military to go head-to-head against us across all those areas.”
Gilday also noted China’s advanced missile technology — where, he said, missile ranges continue to grow — their improvements in the cyber and space domains, and its improvements in the maritime domain, such as building a large number of modern and capable ships.
He said about 60% of U.S. Navy ships are late getting out of shipyards and that reduces military readiness. Better processes are needed to lower that percentage, he said.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein said one of the most important things the department needs to do is to connect the joint force, meaning sharing common data and digital architecture and having adequate cybersecurity.
“The fundamental question that we’re asking is ‘How do you connect it [the future force] in ways that it can be used to fight in the new kind of warfare — multidomain operations?'” Goldfein said. That needs to occur, he said, “so we can fight at the speeds that we know we’ll need in the future.”
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger said radical changes are needed in readiness and modernization, not incremental improvements.
“We are at an inflection point. … We have to make some fundamental decisions about our force now. Then you can either elect to make the changes around the edges — sort of refinements. Our assessment [is] that’s not going to cut it. We have to make some transformational changes to the military force.” The Corps is still better structured for a fight against terrorists than for near-peer competition against China and Russia, he said, and that must change.
“We need to shed weight and become a naval expeditionary force,” Berger said, in order to be postured for great power competition.
“The biggest change in China — and it reflects their publicly stated strategies — is that they have pivoted to the sea,” he said. “Their belt and road initiative and the reasons behind it have launched them on a growth of their naval — and now Marine Forces — in a pretty rapid manner. So, for us that means they’re not just a homeland defense force anymore — close in to the shoreline. They are clearly stretching out.”
This puts the day-to-day competition squarely in the cyber and space domains, Berger said, and wherever China seeks to extend its military forces into common areas. (Source: US DoD)
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