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20 Dec 19. DOD Leaders Look to Future, Reflect on End-of-Year Results. Congress’ passage of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act yesterday will enable the Defense Department to adapt to the challenges posed by great power competitors, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
Esper said President Donald J. Trump will sign the act into law today. The act also authorizes the establishment of the U.S. Space Force as the newest branch of the armed forces, the first in more than 70 years.
“We are looking forward to beginning a number of important modernization programs in areas such as hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence and directed energy that have been held back because of the [continuing resolution],” he said.
Reflecting on 2019, Esper said he is content with the progress DOD made toward implementing the National Defense Strategy. He also said the transatlantic alliance with NATO is on the right trajectory following a leadership meeting earlier this month.
“We have consistently pushed our NATO allies to contribute more to our shared security, and many of them have responded with greater contributions to defense spending and an improved focus on war-fighting readiness,” he added. “This is resulting in a stronger, more capable NATO alliance.”
The secretary said the United States must deal with the world we live in, not the one we want. “As we focus on long-term competition in China and Russia, we will not lose sight of our national security interest in the Middle East. Our troops deployed throughout the region continue to do great work to ensure ISIS remains defeated and to deter further Iranian aggression,” he said.
Esper extended his appreciation to military members — especially those who are in harm’s way — for their service far from home over the holiday season.
He also reemphasized DOD’s commitment to continued reforms in the new year. A DOD-wide review has netted more than $5bn in savings, he said. He also added that as DOD expands the process beyond the fourth estate to other parts of the department, it will continue to free up resources to invest back into the department’s top priorities.
Joining the secretary at the Pentagon press conference was Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Washington Post published what is called the Afghanistan Papers that suggested public and private statements about the Afghanistan war are different.
“There is an assertion out there of some sort of coordinated lie over 18 years,” Milley said. “I find that … more than a bit of a stretch. I find that a mischaracterization from my own personal experience. You’re looking at probably hundreds of general officers, State Department employees, CIA, Department of Defense folks. I just don’t think that you can get that level of coordination to do that kind of deception.”
The so-called Afghanistan Papers were an attempt in about 2,000 pages to do interviews looking backward to determine lessons learned for the force as it goes to the future, the chairman said.
“We have a mission in Afghanistan, that is to ensure that it … never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists,” Milley said. “So until we are confident that that mission is complete, we will retain a presence to do that.”
None of us wants forever wars, Milley said. “It has to do with national interest, with the realistic appraisal of what adversaries and enemies of the United States of America are doing and what their threats are to America.”
DOD weighs the costs, benefits and risks associated with that, he noted.
“And that’s why we are where we are in the various parts of the world. Specifically, with respect to Syria, we are there to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” Milley said.
The United States’ original objective going into Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, was to prevent Afghanistan from ever again becoming a platform to launch terrorist attacks on the United States, and, to date, that has been successful, the general said.
“… [There] is only one way that [the Afghanistan war] is going to end and it is a negotiated solution with the Taliban and it is going to have to be an Afghan-to-Afghan solution. That is what we have been saying for years,” Milley said. (Source: US DoD)
20 Dec 19. Defense Bill Funds Space Force, Pay Raise. Service members and families will benefit from the $695.1bn defense spending bill, which funds the largest pay increase in a decade and the creation of the U.S. Space Force. President Donald J. Trump signed the defense bill into law today at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
This historic initiative … will posture us to effectively defend our national interests in space.” Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper
For fiscal year 2020, Congress has funded the Defense Department at $622.6bn in the base budget, $70.6bn for overseas contingency operations and $1.8bn in emergency funding.
During a briefing today at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper thanked Congress and the president for their efforts to get the department funded and for establishing a space force — something he noted for its historical significance.
“This historic initiative … will posture us to effectively defend our national interests in space,” Esper said. “The last time we developed a new branch of the military was over 70 years ago when we separated the air corps from the Army in 1947, creating the U.S. Air Force.”
Esper said that because the United States relies so heavily on space for commerce and defense and because space has evolved into a new warfighting domain, it’s only appropriate that there be a new service to focus on defending U.S. interests there.
“Maintaining American dominance in that domain is now the mission of the U.S. Space Force,” he said, adding that details about implementation and the timeline for the new service will be coming in the next few weeks.
But whether service members transfer to the Space Force or remain in their current service, they will enjoy the largest pay increase in a decade — 3.1%, Esper said.
“This is a well-deserved pay raise for the men and women of the military, who continue to make great sacrifices for the nation as they stand watch all over the world to protect America,” he said. “It will also ensure that we continue to recruit our country’s best talent into the armed forces.”
Esper said the new bill also supports taking care of military families. Included in the law are programs to offset the costs of professional licenses for military spouses; reforms to on-base, privatized housing; and increases childcare capacity on military installations — including $110m across the services for child care programs.
“These are all very important to the readiness of the force and follow through on our commitment to take care of our service members and their families,” Esper said.
Also included in the bill is $108m for the hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor, as well as $230.9m to accelerate hypersonic defense programs within the Missile Defense Agency.
The Congress has provided $1.87bn for 20 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, $23.9bn for 14 battle force ships and $1.7bn for upgrades to Abrams tanks.
“We appreciate this strong demonstration of bipartisan support from the House and the Senate,” Esper said. “This legislation is a big step forward and will enable the department to adapt to the challenges posed by great power competitors.” (Source: US DoD)
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