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26 Jun 20. AI Gleaned Information About Emerging Threats, Future Plots From bin Laden Raid. On May 2, 2011, U.S. Navy special operators carried out a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaida, the group responsible for many terrorist activities, including the 9/11 attacks. The raid on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, owned by OBL, as he was called, was launched from Afghanistan.
Here’s the rest of the story:
The operators that entered the compound gathered a treasure trove of documents explained Brian Drake, Defense Intelligence Agency’s Science and Technology director of artificial intelligence, as he spoke via a webcast discussion yesterday. The webcast, titled “Human Machine Team: The Intersection of Diverse Skill Sets” was sponsored by Defense One.
DIA’s National Media Exploitation Center, working with the CIA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and others, collaborated on this, Drake said.
The media that was captured was flown to NMEC, where rudimentary artificial intelligence was able to exploit the data to discover future al-Qaida plans.
NMEC invested early in AI capabilities across the board, he said, in things like text recognition, object detection, machine translation and audio and image categorization that allowed them to go through petabytes of data that they get from document exploitation.
The result was tens of billions of pieces of relevant data that allowed analysts to quickly delve into the terrorist organization. The data alerted them to future plots, emerging threats and a greater understanding of mysteries they didn’t understand before, he said.
“Their installation of AI was the most impressive in government I’ve seen,” he added.
Had AI not been used in that instance, it would have taken the entire federal workforce to piece the puzzle together and it still probably wouldn’t have succeeded, he noted.
AI can enable analysts not only to discover what they’re looking for, but also enable them to gain insights from things they don’t know they’re looking for but are relevant and important, he added.
The speed of AI analyzing the media after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was approximately a couple of hours. Today, AI can deliver the same information analysts need in mere milliseconds, he said.
Jane Pinells, the chief of test/evaluation of AI for the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, who also spoke, said that AI will soon deliver an even greater competitive advantage to warfighters.
Part of that effort, she said, will be done with interdisciplinary teams from such fields as neuroscience, education and experimental psychology, who can understand how the human-machine teaming with AI can be best integrated with the warfighters.
Communications will be especially key, she added. “Operators need to understand how the technology works, and what the limitations and risks with AI systems are.”
Another important piece of AI is ethics in using these systems. If AI cannot be employed in a responsible way on the battlefield “then we will not use AI for that mission,” she said. Everyone at the JAIC is responsible for ensuring this. (Source: US DoD)
26 Jun 20. Smith reveals $3.6bn plan to counter China. Congressional defense leaders now have at least three competing plans to push back on China in the Pacific. Which will they choose?
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., introduced his own $3.6bn Indo-Pacific Reassurance Initiative plan Thursday ― a response to two plans, each called the Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative ― that would spend more and be more prescriptive about how the Pentagon would use that money.
“Our goal in this was to send a signal to our partners and allies that we have an enduring commitment to the region and that collectively we want to help address the full spectrum of security threats that our partners and allies in the region face,” a committee aide said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.
Among other things, Smith’s plan identifies $3.6bn in the base budget already detailed in the president’s budget request, and it requires the Pentagon produce a raft of analyses before Congress beefs up U.S. presence in the Pacific. The dollar figure is identified in a nonbinding “sense of Congress” provision.
The language is part of the HASC draft of the annual defense policy bill, due to be marked up in committee July 1. Whatever language survives the markup and amendment process on the floor will become the House’s negotiating position with the Senate, which began a preliminary floor debate this week.
Smith’s plan and the others represent Congress’ efforts to sharpen the Pentagon’s spending and focus in the Asia-Pacific region, even as Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said China is his department’s top adversary.
Each plan was inspired by the multiyear European Deterrence Initiative, which has consumed $22 bn since its inception in response to Russia annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
HASC’s top Republican, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, has proposed an Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative that spends $6bn ― all in fiscal 2021 ― on specific priorities that include air and missile defense systems as well as new military construction in partner countries.
Thornberry will offer amendments during the markup to get the bill closer to his plan, according to a memo he released Thursday. Smith’s plan lacks “several important elements,” and the amendments will be “focused on specific authorities and investments needed to strengthen greater cooperation with allies and partners,” the memo said.
Smith’s plan would require another strategy from the defense secretary and chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command for all the forces, equipment and facilities, and they would need to reassure allies with a detailed budget, timeline and list of locations for proposed assets. Budget justification materials would be required in FY22 and each year after.
Responding to a requirement in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act, Indo-Pacific Command previously provided Congress with a plan for $20 bn in spending through FY26 so that the combatant command can fulfill the National Defense Strategy and maintain an edge over China.
The idea with the new legislation, a HASC aide said, was to further establish a basis for the initiative and get the Defense Department into regular talks with Congress to describe how the military was meeting Congress’ objectives and spending what lawmakers provided, the HASC aide said.
Congress will have to internally negotiate the final dollar amount for any such fund and what those funds would buy. Once approved by the full House, its version of the NDAA would be reconciled with the Senate’s version, which contains its own Indo-Pacific Deterrence Initiative.
The Senate Armed Services Committee-approved plan authorizes $1.4bn in 2021 (which is $188.6m more than the president’s budget request) and $5.5bn in 2022. It also emphasizes investment in an array of specific enabling capabilities and infrastructure.
Its transparency measures aren’t as comprehensive as the HASC bill, but it requires the Pentagon provide detailed information in its annual budget request, including projections for spending over five years.
Compared with the SASC bill, Smith did not propose additional funding as SASC did, nor did he include off-budget wartime funds, a HASC aide said.
“So there’ll be some differences to work out as we go through this,” the aide said, “but we think there’s a bipartisan consensus to try to get it done.”
Inhofe, in a floor speech Thursday, touted the SASC bill’s goal of countering Russia and China, which has “antagonized and harassed Taiwanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Indonesian vessels in the South China Sea.”
“The fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act is all about sending a message to China and Russia,” Inhofe said. “It says: ‘There is no way you can defeat us — so don’t even try.’”
24 Jun 20. HASC Subcommittee wants to restrict Pentagon funding until navy shipbuilding plan is delivered. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces threatened to restrict some Pentagon funding on 23 June unless the legally mandated US Navy (USN) shipbuilding plan is delivered to lawmakers.
“The statutory requirement for the Defense Department to submit a 30-year shipbuilding plan was, and continues to be, brazenly ignored,” Congressman Joe Courtney (D-Connecticut), subcommittee chairman, said on 23 June during a hearing on its official markup of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
“The Department of Defense has also put us in the untenable position of authorising their shipbuilding request without any meaningful strategic or analytical context,” Courtney said.“
“The law is clear here,” he noted. “Since 2002, a 30-year shipbuilding plan is mandated to accompany the budget. The (Defense) Secretary (Mark Esper) has stated his opinion that a 30-year shipbuilding plan is of ‘questionable value,’ but the fact remains he is required to submit it. Congress has reaffirmed its support for this law on a number of occasions regardless of political party. This unprecedented impasse is unacceptable and therefore our mark restricts some funding for the Office of Secretary of Defense until the 30-year shipbuilding plan is delivered, and prohibits the retirement of any navy vessel until the Secretary of Defense provides a navy force-structure assessment.”
The navy’s shipbuilding budget was cut by 17% compared to last year, Courtney noted, and the request for new ships, as verified by the Congressional Research Service, was seven – the lowest since 2009. (Source: Jane’s)
24 Jun 20. Senate Intel Committee wants to know what the US knows about UFOs. The US Senate Intelligence Committee has voted to require that the Department of Defence (DoD) and US Intelligence Agencies compile a report on what they know, and how they collect data on Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAP).
The request was disclosed in a report on the 2021 Intelligence Authorisation act submitted by Senator Marco Rubio. In the report, the committee wants a ‘detailed analysis’ of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence held by the Office of Naval Intelligence and other agencies.
This specifically includes a request for information on UAPs held by the Office of Naval Intelligence’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force.
The report reads: “The committee supports the efforts of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force at the Office of Naval Intelligence to standardise collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to US military assets and installations.
“However, the committee remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the Federal Government for collecting and analysing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat.
“The committee understands that the relevant intelligence may be sensitive; nevertheless, the committee finds that the information sharing and coordination across the Intelligence Community has been inconsistent, and this issue has lacked attention from senior leaders.”
If the bill is given the go-ahead in the wider Senate, the Director of National Intelligence will have 180 days to work with the heads of the US intelligence agencies and the Secretary of Defence to compile and make the report available to the Senate.
Going into further detail on what it wants in the report, the committee said it should include “A detailed analysis of unidentified phenomena data collected” from several sources including geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence, and measurement and signals intelligence.
The committee also wants analysis from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on its own data collected from investigations into “intrusions of unidentified aerial phenomena data over restricted US airspace.”
The report should also include information on the interagency process for collecting and sharing data about UAPs.
In the report, the Senate also wants the various agencies to identify where UAPs or other advanced aerial threats may pose challenges to national security. The report says: “Identification of potential aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries.”
While the report on UAPs will spark interest among UFO enthusiasts, the committee is focused on terrestrial threats rather than those from above, asking that the report include “identification of any incidents or patterns” that could signal one of the US’s adversaries has “achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put US strategic or conventional forces at risk”. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
24 Jun 20. US Navy defends FFG(X) cost estimate. With federal lawmakers demanding a guarantee of an independent cost estimate for the service’s guided-missile frigate (FFG(X)) programme, Rear Admiral Casey Moton, USN Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants, said on 23 June that the service had already completed such an estimate.
In its official markup of the fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) released 23 June, the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces called for Defense Secretary Mark Esper to “ensure that an independent cost estimate of the full life-cycle cost of the FFG(X) frigate program of the Navy has been completed before the conclusion of milestone B of such program”.
Speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) virtual event, Rear Adm Moton said, “Certainly I saw that. We’ve done that.”
The Pentagon Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) had done a frigate estimate as the USN went to award the FFG(X) contract, Rear Adm Moton noted.
Fincantieri Marinette Marine was awarded the USD795.1m fixed-price incentive, firm-target navy contract on 30 April for FFG(X) detail design and construction (DD&C).
The US Navy awarded Fincantieri Marinette Marine the detail design and construction contract for the FFG(X) class of guided-missile frigates in April. (Fincantieri Marinette Marine)
“That estimate was independent,” Rear Adm Moton said, adding the estimate was close to an earlier USN estimate. The service had been focused on price from the earliest stages of the FFG(X) programme, he said, and having the similar data points gave the USN confidence in the estimates.
“I would say the entire frigate acquisition strategy was designed in part to reduce risk,” he said, “and help us stabilise cost.” (Source: Jane’s)
24 Jun 20. SASC Trims Hypersonics & Robot Ships, Boosts Ships & F-35. Skeptical senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee want to slow down bleeding-edge prototypes, while building up more traditional weapons.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft of the annual defense policy bill would slash more than $100m from hypersonic missile R&D — half of that from the Navy program — and over $430m from prototypes of unmanned ships and submarines. Meanwhile, according to our analysis of 70 pages of detailed funding tables, more traditional weapons systems like manned ships and aircraft would get major increases.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program would get an additional $1.36 bn, scattered across multiple accounts: $977m for more Air Force F-35As; $125m for Marine Corps F-35Bs; $200m for Navy F-35Cs; and $60 m for the extra spare parts these added aircraft will require. (Of course, only appropriators can actually approve new money.)
Navy shipbuilding would grow by $1.35bn, including:
* $175m for advanced procurement of the new Columbia-class nuclear missile submarine, justified as ensuring the stability of the supplier base;
* $472m for advanced procurement of a future Virginia-class attack submarine in addition to those requested by the Trump Administration (but there’s by a $74.4m cut to the Virginias currently under construction on grounds of “unjustified cost growth”);
* $435m for advanced procurement of future Arleigh Burke destroyers (but there’s a $30m cut to the current ships); and
* $500m for amphibious ships, split between the mid-size LPD class and the larger LHA-9.
* Lower-profile Shipbuilding & Conversion line items like landing craft and outfitting suffer a net cut of $126m (which is what keeps the total to $1.35bn).
The Missile Defense Agency would get the eighth Army THAAD battery it requested, a $349.4m increase: $243m for the high-tech AN/TPY-2 radar, $30.1m for HEMTT trucks, and $76.3m for other components.
Now, this assumes SASC’s figures are approved, a multi-month process whose outcome is far from guaranteed. The House Armed Services Committee won’t release its funding tables until next week, and even once HASC and SASC have reconciled their differences in conference, the powerful appropriations committees are the only bodies who can actually approve new spending. So at this stage, the specific numbers are less significant than the signal they send, both to the Pentagon and to other committees in Congress.
The US is racing to catch up with China and Russia on hypersonic weapons, which can defeat traditional defenses by being faster than cruise missiles and more maneuverable than ballistic ones. Congress is generally supportive: the SASC draft (Sec. 219) declares “It is the sense of Congress that development of hypersonic capabilities is a key element of the National Defense Strategy.”
But legislators are still leery of the risk and redundancy that often lurks in high-stakes programs. Yes, the armed services are striving to coordinate their separate hypersonic programs. The Army and Navy missiles, in particular, will be largely identical. But SASC’s funding tables still dock them repeatedly for “Lack of hypersonic prototyping coordination”:
* Defense-wide Advanced Component Development & Prototyping for hypersonics loses $20m.
* Defense-wide Advanced Technology Development (the stage of R&D that precedes prototyping) also loses $20m.
* The Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) prototype loses $5m.
* The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) prototype loses $5m for “lack of … coordination” and another $52m for what SASC deemed “excess” spending to modify the Virginia-class attack submarine to launch the CPS missile.
Now, these cuts are very modest relative to the size of the programs: The Navy’s still getting just over $1bn for CPS, the Army $796.4m for LRHW. The DoD-wide total is close to $2.9bn.
In short, the senators are doing their jobs of overseeing how the Pentagon spend taxpayers dollars. But they make clear that the Pentagon needs to address the committee’s concerns to avoid a bigger hit in the future.
Interestingly, the only service developing multiple hypersonic weapons at the same time — the Air Force — is the one whose hypersonics budget comes through unscathed. To the contrary, the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapons Concept (HAWC) gets a $65m increase. The SASC draft also says the undersecretary of Defense for research & engineering, “in consultation with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force,” provide Congress “an executable strategy and plan to field air-launched and air-breathing hypersonic weapons capability” within three years. That’s the category of hypersonic weapons to which HAWC belongs, and it’s the hardest to develop. “Air-breathing” engines, i.e. jets, have a harder time at hypersonic weapons than rockets, and weapons fired from aircraft must be much more compact than ones launched by trucks, ships, or submarines.
There’s no mention of the Air Force’s other missile, HSW-ab, or the service’s third hypersonic weapon, the rocket-propelled ARRW. That suggests their funding would stay steady.
Robot Ships & Submarines
Congress and the Pentagon are deeply at odds over the future of the fleet. The Navy, backed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, sees robotic vessels as crucial adjuncts to larger manned warships, with unmanned surface and underwater vehicles (USVs and UUVs) serving as relatively expendable scouts, decoys, and missile launchers. Congress, however, remains deeply committed to traditional shipyards and President Trump’s campaign promise of 355 (manned) ships. There’s fear on Capitol Hill. that the Navy may be moving too fast towards full-up prototypes before working out technical basics, like how to keep ships running with no maintenance crew aboard and how to retain human control of lethal weapons from a long way away.
Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have passed language limiting the robo-boat programs. SASC forbids the Navy from spending 2021 appropriations on the Medium USV, Large USV, Large Displacement UUV, or Extra-Large UUV until it can show their “‘critical mission, hull, mechanical, and electrical sub-systems’’ will work well. The HASC language specifically says the LUSV must function 30 days without human maintainers; SASC sets a 45-day (1,080-hour) threshold for both LUSV and MUSV.
We haven’t seen HASC’s funding tables yet, so we don’t know if the House committee wants to cut these programs. But the Senate funding tables cut them by over $548m (and authorizers do have the power to limit spending):
* Prototyping for Medium and Large USVs is cut entirely, with SASC rejecting the entire $464m request as “excess procurement ahead of satisfactory testing.”
* Prototyping for Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles is cut nearly in half, losing $36m out of a $78m request, again as “excess procurement ahead of…. testing.”
* Prototyping specifically for the XLUUV (aka the Boeing Orca) and the LDUUV (aka Snakehead) are each cut $10m (out of an unspecified total) for having an “uncertified test strategy.”
* Even the relatively small and modest Barracuda mine-hunting UUV prototype is cut $28 m for an unspecified “program delay.”
On the upside, SASC would add $115m for “advanced surface machinery” to help unmanned surface vessels operate without human maintainers: $45m for “USV autonomy” and $70m for “engine and generator qualification testing.” That partially offsets the cuts above – but in a way that makes it very clear the Senate wants the Navy to get the basics right before putting prototypes to sea. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
24 Jun 20. Mission of Leaders: Prevent Great Power Wars, Says Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A year ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went to Normandy, France, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. While there, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley said during his keynote address today at the Naval War College’s virtual graduation ceremony, he met a veteran of that landing and asked him what his lesson from World War II would be for those in uniform today.
“He looked up at me and tears came to his eyes and he said, ‘General, never let it happen again. Never let it happen again,'” Milley said.
The Naval War College, located in Newport, Rhode Island, develops strategic and operational leaders. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s graduation ceremony was held virtually.
The international order, which includes processes, policies, laws and organizations, is designed to prevent another great power war, such as World Wars I and II, where about 150 million were killed, Milley told the graduating class. Although wars have taken place since World War II, none approach that magnitude of death and destruction, he added.
Today, however, the international order is under tremendous stress, the chairman said, as China and Russia seek to weaken it, North Korea threatens the U.S. homeland and Iran promotes and supports terrorism throughout the region.
“Today, your mission, my mission, is to prevent another great power war and maintain the great power peace,” he said, laying out three ways to achieve this.
First, be vigilant, he said, and identify signs of aggression, especially during periods when America is weary from conflict or is otherwise preoccupied. These are times aggressors sense opportunities, he said. Rapid military expansion, aggressive foreign policy, economic intimidation, violations of international norms, growing nationalism and bellicose rhetoric are among those signs of aggression, and many of these indicators in the international environment, Milley added.
“Hone your ability to understand the context of what you read day to day by being an avid consumer of multiple forms of media, daily review of current intelligence, study international politics and geostrategy, and have a deep understanding of military history,” he advised the graduating officers.
The second lesson, he said, is to maintain a high degree of readiness for the joint force so as to preserve the peace by deterring adversary aggression.
Third, he said, is to appreciate the importance of allies and partners. “We’re most successful when we collaborate to achieve common security goals,” he said.
Navy Rear Adm. Shoshana S. Chatfield, the Naval War College president, also offered some advice, telling the graduates to continue to invest in personal and professional development outside their area of expertise.
“Be informed by others who have different ways of thinking,” she said. “You are duty-bound to take your enhanced intellect, your improved analytical skills and your expanded perspective and to lead.” (Source: US DoD)
25 Jun 20. Pentagon lists 20 companies aiding Chinese military. State-owned and US-listed groups named against backdrop of rising tension with Beijing. The Pentagon’s list includes several Chinese state-owned entities and US-listed groups China Telecom and China Mobile, involved in fields ranging from nuclear power to aviation.
The Pentagon has compiled a list of Chinese companies with ties to the country’s military as part of an intensifying effort by the Trump administration and Congress to make it harder for Beijing to secure US investment and sensitive technologies. The list, which was obtained by the Financial Times, includes several state-owned entities involved everything from nuclear power to aviation. China Telecom and China Mobile, two telecoms companies that are listed in New York, are also named. Congress required the Pentagon to produce the list in 1999 but officials never followed through on the request. The FT reported last year that the effort gained momentum as lawmakers responded to rising tension with Beijing by telling the Pentagon to name companies it believes help China’s military. The 1999 law, which specifies Chinese companies that operate “directly or indirectly” in the US, gives the president authorisation to impose sanctions. A senior official said China’s acquisition of sensitive technology and intellectual property was “a threat” to US economic and national security. Recommended Read the Pentagon’s list of Chinese companies with ties to China’s military “This list sheds light on Chinese military companies operating in the US to inform the named congressional committees and?.?.?. the executive branch, in light of the role such companies may play in transferring sensitive technology to the Chinese military,” the official said.
Congress is not required to act on the list. But China hawks say it will pressure investors to divest from companies that Washington says threaten national security just weeks after President Donald Trump told the main US government pension fund not to invest in any Chinese-listed companies. The 20 named companies include Huawei, the Chinese telecoms equipment maker the US believes helps Beijing conduct cyber espionage. It also names Hikvision, which supplies surveillance technology to detention camps in the Xinjiang region where the Chinese government has interned more than 1m ethnic Muslim Uighurs.
The complete disconnect between the US security community and Wall Street fund managers and index providers will probably prove unsustainable, especially for the Wall Street folks Roger Robinson, RWR Advisory Group Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, this month said Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, had “greenlighted a brutal campaign of repression against Chinese Muslims”. But John Bolton, the former national security adviser, has said Mr Trump told Mr Xi he did not object to the internments. Roger Robinson, a former National Security Council official who advocates for a tougher stance on China, said the list would add to the scrutiny of Chinese companies in US capital markets with military ties. “The complete disconnect between the US security community and Wall Street fund managers and index providers will probably prove unsustainable, especially for the Wall Street folks,” said Mr Robinson, who heads RWR Advisory Group, a consultancy. Eric Sayers, an Asia security expert and adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security think-tank, said the list would add to the pressure to respond to China’s “military-civil fusion strategy”. This policy requires Chinese companies that develop certain technologies to share them with the country’s military. The US official added that as China “attempts to blur the lines between civil and military sectors, ‘knowing your customer’ is critical”.
He added that the list would help the government, private sector and academia to conduct due diligence, particularly as the Pentagon adds more names. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican senator who has been a leading voice for taking a tougher stance on China, said the list was a start but was “woefully inadequate”. “The list only touches the surface of the Chinese government’s exploitation of US capital markets at the expense of retail investors and pensioners by omitting the networks of affiliated and subsidiary companies,” he said. Recommended Robert Armstrong Business will be the loser in the US-China fight Mr Rubio added that it was important that US investors were told which Chinese companies were involved in spying, human rights abuses and the broader military-civil fusion strategy. The Pentagon action comes as relations between the US and China continue to worsen over a range of economic, security and global health issues. Mr Trump has blasted China over Covid-19 and blamed Beijing for its global spread. Last month he threatened to “cut off the whole relationship” with Beijing. The list includes Aviation Industry Corporation of China, or Avic, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and China Railway Construction Corporation. It also names Norinco, a defence company, and Inspur, a big data and cloud computing group. (Source: FT.com)
24 Jun 20. Changes in Tech, Strategy Drive Missile Defense. Changes to technologies, strategy and capabilities make a good case for closer cooperation among the combatant commands, the services and allies in regard to missile defense, military officers charged with this crucial mission said.
At yesterday’s virtual conference sponsored by the Missile Defense Advocacy Association, the idea that the return of great power competition has shifted the missions of missile defense was the unifying theme.
China and Russia are investing heavily in building new missile capabilities in everything from hypersonics to cruise missiles to various ranges of ballistic missiles. But other nations — most notably Iran and North Korea — remain threats, too, and missile defense capabilities from afloat, on the ground or in space must cover that total range, the conferees said.
In the 1980s, critics derided missile defense as a “Star Wars” fiction. That fiction, if it ever was, is now more of a reality than ever.
“[Missile defense] is about just protecting this country,” said Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill, the director of the Missile Defense Agency. “It is about layered defense … to protect the country or deployed forces and our allies.”
While the agency works on the capabilities, the combatant commands must field and use them. Whether it is Aegis destroyers in the East China Sea or Patriot missile batteries in Saudi Arabia or soldiers manning the missile fields of Alaska, the problem set is constant: “We’ve got to be able to sense it, got to be able to see it, got to attribute it, and then we [have] got to be able to intercept it,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, the commander of Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
But there are differences among the combatant commands, and commanders must constantly talk and share information and best practices.
Changes to the National Defense Strategy are intensely felt in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which is facing a China actively trying to overturn the existing international order. “China invests heavily in air and missile systems … to project ‘anti-access, area denial,’ which challenges a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Navy Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, IndoPacom’s director of operations.
China should be a concern for all combatant commands, the admiral said, because the nation is becoming increasingly capable. “China represents the greatest long-term strategic threat to security in the 21st century, not only in the Indo-Pacific, but to the entire globe,” he said. “The Communist Party of China is actively seeking to supplant the established rules-based order in order to dictate new international norms and behaviors.”
The National Defense Strategy directs the military to retool after 20 years of counterinsurgency warfare to protect against existential threats and near-peer adversaries. U.S. military investments must aim at maintaining the deterrent effect of missile defense. The program has to harness advanced capabilities based on leading edge technologies, all of the officers said, and missile defense must be adaptable to changing threats and different parts of the globe.
It also must be inclusive. The United States works with close allies — including the NATO nations, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The defense of the homeland is paramount. “We’re not resting on our laurels,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Kevin A. Huyck, director of operations for U.S. Northern Command. “It’s through advancements in technology, continual testing, and then looking at how we bring in new advances in the systems that we currently have, and then an eye to the future.”
This includes better sensors, the next-generation interceptor and better command and control architecture, he said.
“Failure is really not an option — we’ve heard a lot of that before,” Huyck said. “I see that as the threats continue to evolve, we do have to evolve to maintain our technical and our military advantages. What we need to be mindful of is what this does to our overall architecture and the need to improve.” (Source: US DoD)
22 Jun 20. Nearly all defense companies have reopened from COVID-19. As large chunks of the country begin to scale back restrictions caused by COVID-19, the companies of the defense industrial base have largely reopened for business, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official said Monday.
Speaking to reporters, Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said that only 33 total companies in the industrial base, largely smaller services providers tracked by the Defense Logistics Agency, remain closed for business.
“Out of 10,509 companies [the Defense Contract Management Agency] tracks: we are down to two closed, and 267 companies having closed and reopened,” Lord said in her remarks. “Out of 11,413 companies DLA tracks: 31 are closed with 661 having closed and reopened.”
That is an improvement from April 30, when Lord said there were 93 defense-related companies tracked by DCMA closed, with 437 of the DLA tracked companies shut down at that time.
“We see an enormous amount of recovery in the defense industrial base. It depends on location and what type of work is being performed, but there is enormous progress coming back,” she said. “Obviously, for manufacturing, we need people on the line. So, we’re doing things differently in terms of following CDC guidelines and so forth.
“We don’t know what that new normal will be on speed, but we see an enormous amount of recovery.”
Lord acknowledged that the efforts to stabilize the defense industrial base would be ongoing, noting officials “continue to see the greatest impacts both domestically and internationally in the aviation and shipbuilding supply chains.” She added that advanced progress payments to companies has hit over $2bn, and that all of the prime contractors have “confirmed their detailed plans to work with their supply chains to accelerate payments to identify distressed companies, and small businesses.”
The department is still tracking a roughly three-month period of delays that could have repercussions on major defense programs, Lord said, although she declined to give any specific examples.
“We have seen inefficiencies across most programs,” Lord said. “DoD continues to partner with our industry partners to do everything possible to keep programs on schedule and to minimize the cost and schedule impacts. This is obviously a dynamic situation, and the overall impacts will not be completely known for a while as we work through how we operate over the next few months.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
22 Jun 20. House lawmakers put limits on the Air Force’s planned Global Hawk divestment. The House Armed Services Committee will allow the Air Force to retire a portion of its RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone inventory in fiscal year 2021 as long as it can meet certain conditions.
In its FY21 budget request, the Air Force proposed retiring all 21 of its Global Hawk Block 30 aircraft as well as three Block 20 drones modified to the EQ-4B Battlefield Airborne Communication Network variant, leaving its remaining RQ-4 Block 40s to carry out the high-altitude surveillance mission along with the U-2 spyplane.
HASC’s tactical air and land forces subcommittee’s markup of the FY21 defense authorization act stipulates that the service can move forward with retiring the Block 30 drones if it meets one of two conditions:
- Ellen Lord, as the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, must certify that the replacement for the RQ-4 will cost less to operate and sustain, and Gen. John Hyten, in his position as the chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, must also attest that the replacement would result in equal or greater capability available to combatant commands.
- As an alternative, Defense Secretary Mark Esper can endorse the retirement of these RQ-4 aircraft, even if the replacement’s operating and sustainment costs are higher.
Similarly, Hyten, Lord, and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, are all required to sign off on retiring the EQ-4 BACN aircraft, the language states.
“Right now none of those conditions have been been met to give us any sort of peace of mind that the Air Force’s fiscal year 2021 to divest Block 30 is with acceptable risk,” a committee aide said.
If the Air Force moves forward with the retirement of the Block 30 Global Hawks as planned, it will lose half of the funding authorized for the Advanced Battle Management System, a key priority of the service that aims to connect all of the military’s sensors and weapon systems together.
Throughout the legislation, HASC lawmakers make clear their reluctance to curtail spending on existing drones and special mission aircraft like the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System when the Air Force’s plans for replacing them are unclear.
“The Air Force fiscal year 2021 budget request included several significant changes to ISR force mix and modernization. The request proposed immediate divestment of all RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 multi-intelligence aircraft, as well as an end to the MQ-9 Reaper production line in fiscal year 2020 without any time to allow for adequate supply chain management planning,” the markup language states.
“While these changes may align with long-term Air Force strategy, the absence of such a strategy incorporating both current and future capabilities concerns the committee.”
The subcommittee calls for the Air Force to submit a comprehensive plan for its future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. It also blocks any attempt to retire the E-8 JSTARS until there is a replacement and prohibits the Air Force from retiring the RC-135 through FY25.
The Air Force has frequently cited ABMS as the primary vehicle for replacing its current ISR and command and control assets, however, it has not generated a comprehensive list of technologies that will comprise the system or the requirements for those new capabilities. Instead, the service plans on procuring technologies in an ad hoc fashion if they prove to be successful in experiments held periodically throughout the year.
HASC clearly has questions about this approach, and in its markup includes language that would require the Air Force to conduct quarterly briefings on each on-ramp demonstration, including the objectives achieved, cost, realism of the exercise. It also calls for a report on ABMS capabilities, the schedule for developing and fielding technologies that will comprise the system, and a detailed plan for transitioning tech from the demonstrations into a program of record.
The subcommittee’s markup of the defense authorization act isn’t set in stone, as both the House and Senate must go through the conference process where lawmakers resolve differences between different versions of the bill. (Source: Defense News)
22 Jun 20. DOD, DFC Sign Memorandum of Agreement on Defense Production Act. Today, U.S. Department of Defense Under Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen M. Lord and U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler signed a memorandum of agreement. The MOA formalizes the relationship between the two organizations as outlined in Executive Order 13922, which delegated authority to DFC to execute loans using Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III in support of COVID-19 response. The program will utilize $100m of DOD’s CARES Act spend plan to support DFC financing to projects that create, expand, or restore domestic industrial base capabilities in response to COVID-19.
“Today marks an important milestone in DFC’s collaboration with DOD under the Defense Production Act,” said Boehler. “We look forward to working together with DOD and the private sector to protect the health and safety of Americans by strengthening critical supply chains at home. Increased U.S. production of strategic resources will also allow the United States to assist allies around the world.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic response has highlighted what DOD has always known, a strong domestic supply chain is critical for economic and national security. DOD is committed, in partnership with other federal agencies, to bring all tools available to support the response to COVID-19,” said Under Secretary Lord. “I look forward to this partnership between DOD and DFC. We both wholeheartedly believe it will provide new avenues to expand and support our domestic industrial base for medical resources in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response.”
Under the MOA, DFC will originate, screen, and conduct due diligence on projects seeking financing under the DPA. The agency will also underwrite and finance projects that clear DFC’s comprehensive review process. These responsibilities will be carried out in close consultation with DOD, which will bear all direct and indirect costs of DFC’s DPA programs. Further, the agencies will establish a working group to ensure close coordination and implementation of the MOA.
The signing of the MOA was followed by the launch of a request for proposals from private sector entities seeking DFC financing under the DPA. Eligible projects should help re-shore production—or strengthen related domestic supply chains—of personal protective equipment, medical testing supplies, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, ventilation equipment, or relevant ancillary materials and technologies. Interested parties can review the full eligibility criteria and learn how to submit a proposal on the DFC website. Submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis and selected through a competitive process subject to a thorough due diligence and approval process. Visit www.dfc.gov/dpa to learn more. (Source: US DoD)
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