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24 Jul 20. Trump Eases Restrictions On Armed Drone Sales Abroad. The Trump administration is relaxing arms export restrictions, a move long sought by drone makers but one that critics say will provide little competitive edge to U.S. companies even as it alienates allies.
U.S. drone makers have complained that regulations have allowed China to sell copycat dones to U.S. allies and partners.
“We think this kind of reform is necessary in order to respond to a rapidly-changing technological environment, said R. Clarke Cooper, the assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, in a statement. “With the growing proliferation of UAS technology, particularly by China, coupled with a growing demand for UAS for both military and commercial applications, we need to adjust U.S. policies to address U.S. national security concerns.”
The changes involve a reinterpretation of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an informal political agreement between 35 countries to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology. The MTCR says that large Category 1 drones face the “presumption of denial” for export since they could be used as missiles.
“In a sector of rapidly evolving technology, the MTCR’s standards are more than three decades old,” the White House said in a statement. “Not only do these outdated standards give an unfair advantage to countries outside of the MTCR and hurt United States industry, they also hinder our deterrence capability abroad by handicapping our partners and allies with subpar technology.”
Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, called the change overdue and modest, as it would affect only large, slow-moving drones. Armed drones and drones that travel faster than 800 km an hour, more in line with cruise missiles, would continue to be non-exportable, Ford said Friday at the Hudson Institute.
Cooper told reporters on a Friday conference call that “This policy change, in effect, modernizes our approach to implementing our MTCR commitments, it makes it more reflective of technological realities, it helps our allies and partners It helps them all meet their urgent national security and commercial requirements, and it also advances the United States’ national security and economic interests.”
Ford said the State Department had been pushing for the change since March 2018 but other MTCR members have been resisting it — which has helped China and other countries swoop in and steal market share.
He said that since non-MTCR countries remain free to sell whatever they wish, the categorization of the drones as missiles “represents not only a net loss for those countries that are responsible enough to join the regime but also a net loss for nonproliferation as the market for such low threat systems is effectively ceded to the least responsible international players, those folks who don’t actually worry about those things like MTCR standards.”
Ford described the change as attitudinal. Where the MTCR language now calls for a “strong presumption of denial” for the export of such drones, the United States would, instead, not presume anything for such drones, which, he said, was a matter of “national discretion” and perfectly in line with the guidelines as written. Decisions would still be case-by case. “It has always been possible to make Category 1 transfers when there is a compelling reason to overcome presumption and such a step is well justified in terms of the non proliferation factors that are specified in the MTCR guidelines,” he said.
Experts had mixed predictions about the change’s likely effects on exports and national security. Michael Horowitz, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, said the change could help U.S. arms makers better compete with China. While the new speed test does not fully fix the fact that the MTCR treats drones as missiles, “the speed test could make the export of current U.S. uninhabited aircraft easier, most prominently the MQ-9 Reaper. China is already exporting uninhabited aircraft throughout the world, including to US allies and partners. It will be interesting to see how the new policy is implemented, and whether it will decrease China’s export edge.”
Rachel Stohl, vice president of the Stimson Center, said the change likely won’t help the U.S. sell more drones since the world is moving from big ones to smaller ones anyway. The only effect of the unilateral change would be alienating important allies. “The policy change will not give the United States more access to markets that the Chinese or Israelis already dominate,” said Stohl. “The global market is increasingly focused on smaller UAVs, where Category I restraints do not apply. The United States has already been overtaken as the dominant drones exporter… The decision further complicates U.S. relationships with multilateral regimes and further isolates the US from its closest allies.”
Defense companies have been pushing for export changes for years so that they can sell more drones overseas, especially in the Middle East.
“A lot of times what our partners [and] allies want, they want [a] weaponized MQ-9 platform,” said David Alexander, president of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, maker of the MQ-9 Reaper. He spoke July 1 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We’ve got to be able to push that faster.”
Alexander said that once a U.S. partner buys a Chinese drone, it could shut out U.S. companies that want not just to sell weapons but maintain and provision them for decades.
“It’s taking too long right now and we have to somehow get Congressional politics out of this … because if you let China in and, it’s not just the sale it’s you’re giving the market away because they’re going to get a logistics lock with their product for 20 to 30 years,” Alexander said. “Once they’re in, you’re out and I’m not sure that’s fully understood. They’re not buying shoes. They’re buying a system that will last 30 years.” (Source: Defense One)
22 Jul 20. USAF reveals strategy for regional stability in Artic. The US Department of the Air Force has revealed a new strategy for regional stability in the Arctic region. Currently, the department has its assets in Alaska and Greenland in the Arctic region. With environmental changes, new routes for transportation and new resources are being discovered generating opportunities in the Arctic region.
During a panel discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council, US Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said that Russia has the largest permanent military presence in the Arctic. Further, China has also claimed its presence in the region.
“Recent Russian investments in the Arctic include a network of offensive air assets and coastal missile systems. Almost 25% of Russia’s GDP comes from north of the Arctic Circle, mostly from hydrocarbons.”
With the increase in occupants and newcomers in the region, a new Arctic strategy has been proposed including four strategic priorities to guide its involvement. This will ensure the US’ equal representation in the region.
Firstly, it was proposed that the department increases its vigilance for defence in all domains followed by focusing on projecting power through a combat-credible force.
As part of the strategy, it will continue to focus on cooperation with existing allies and partners and on building new partnerships.
The goal further aligns with the National Defense Strategy.
Lastly, it was suggested that the Department of the Air Force will focus on preparation for Arctic operations.
Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said: “It’s a technological approach, but it really at the end feeds a leadership approach to joint operations, across the spectrum, from peacetime and competition, all the way to open warfare.
“No one domain is going to be dominant in that operation. The whole idea is to connect this team so that we can bring to bear military capabilities, from air, from space, from surface, from subsurface, manned, unmanned, all of the above.” (Source: airforce-technology.com)
21 Jul 20. COVID Drives AUSA Mega-Conference Online: Gen. Ham.
Bringing together an estimated 33,000 soldiers and civilians from around the world was just too dangerous in the coronavirus era.
Every October, the Walter E. Washington convention center in downtown DC – a behemoth building covering two whole city blocks – fills with soldiers, contractors, and reporters. Over 30,000 people pack shoulder-to-shoulder in conference rooms to hear from Army leaders, speak face to face, line up for fried chicken, shake hands, hug, and handle military hardware from prototype rifles to full-sized tanks. But with COVID-19 cases rising alarmingly around the country, none of that will happen this October.
“We’ve made the difficult decision to convert the 2020 AUSA Annual Meeting from an in-person meeting to a virtual experience,” said retired Gen. Carter Ham, the Association of the US Army’s president and CEO, in a statement Tuesday afternoon. The mega-conference – historically one of the biggest in-person gatherings for the defense industry in the DC area – will now take place entirely online over Oct. 13-16. Breaking Defense plans to cover the virtual event as exhaustively (and as exhaustingly for our reporters) as it has the physical one every year since 2011.
“With recent trends, it just became clear to me that we simply could not, in any reasonable manner, ensure a safe, secure environment for the 32,000-plus people we expected this October,” Gen. Ham told me in an follow-up email. “We are working very closely with the Army to craft an agenda which provides opportunities for key leaders to connect with our members and constituents.”
“One of the keys to that is finding ways to connect Army leaders with the businesses, large and small, who normally are present in the exhibition hall,” Ham said. “Finding a way to do something similar to that experience in the virtual world will be a challenge, but it is an integral part of the AUSA Annual Meeting, so we’ll figure it out.”
AUSA is still working out the logistics of this massive switch. Registrations and sponsorship agreements from the in-person version of the event will not automatically carry over. “Registration for the new virtual meeting is expected to open by September,” the AUSA statement says. “AUSA is now coordinating details for the virtual event, and team members will be reaching out directly to exhibitors and sponsors about new opportunities.”
With over 600 sponsors in a typical year – ranging from small businesses with a single, small booth to titans like Boeing and Lockheed Martin – the Annual Meeting is a major source of revenue for AUSA. How this will impact the association’s budget is unclear – even to AUSA itself at this point.
“The AUSA Annual Meeting is our most important revenue-generating event of the year,” Ham said bluntly. “The revenue from this event is largely what allows us to conduct other events throughout the year. So, I don’t know yet precisely what the impact will be, but there will be some effect. Fortunately, AUSA is in a strong financial position so we will be able to sustain this change.”
AUSA’s latest annual report said the 2018 conference “generated $16m in revenue,” just under half the association’s total projected revenue of $33m for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. (The report for 2019-2020 hasn’t been published yet). But AUSA also reported its investment portfolio was worth $51m; that was as of May 2019, before COVID roiled the stock market, but the portfolio should still be large enough to offer at least some buffer.
The initial wave of the COVID-19 coronavirus forced AUSA to cancel its Global Force conference in Huntsville, Ala. this March just a week ahead of opening day. That gave the association no time to schedule virtual alternatives, although multiple events from Army aircraft announcements to Shark Tank-style pitch meetings were hastily turned into teleconferences or webcasts.
Global Force had expected some 6,000 attendees. Since then, AUSA has held a host of online events, largely but by no means entirely without glitches, but they were all much smaller in scale. The Annual Meeting had expected some 33,000 attendees. Moving that conference online will be a vastly larger organizational and technical challenge.
It’s also an opportunity, Ham argued. “While we will all certainly miss the opportunity to be together with the broader Army Family, choosing to provide our programs in a virtual environment does offer us an opportunity to connect with audiences who might not know AUSA all that well or who have simply not been able to travel to Washington DC for the event in prior years,” he told me. “I view this very much as a chance to extend our reach and to more effectively fulfill our mission to support the Army.”
Even if nothing glitches, though, the virtual Annual Meeting won’t replace the human connection that came from the Army’s annual gathering of its disparate tribes.
“What will I miss? This is the Army’s family reunion,” Ham said. “Every October, the opportunity to see old friends and to make new friends is the most enjoyable part of the Annual Meeting. I’ll miss that, to be sure, but I also know that via this virtual experience, we will make new connections, new relationships that will make AUSA 2021 even better when we can all be together again.” (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
22 Jul 20. Air Force Reveals Cold Facts on New Arctic Strategy. As conditions change in the Arctic region, the Department of the Air Force has revealed a new strategy for how it will contribute to regional stability there, what new partnerships it should pursue and how its mission might evolve.
Within the U.S. military, the Department of the Air Force has the largest presence in the Arctic region, with assets in both Alaska and Greenland. As the environment changes in the Arctic, new routes for transportation have opened up and new resources are being discovered. This creates both new opportunities in the region as well as new security challenges, the secretary of the Air Force said.
“Historically, the Arctic, like space, was characterized as a predominantly peaceful domain,” Barbara A. Barrett, said today during a panel discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council. “This is changing with expanded maritime access, newly discovered resources and competing sovereign interests.”
Russia, she said, has the largest permanent military presence in the Arctic — no other country matches its presence there.
“Recent Russian investments in the Arctic include a network of offensive air assets and coastal missile systems,” she said. “The Arctic defines Russia. Almost 25% of Russia’s [gross domestic product] comes from … north of the Arctic Circle, … mostly from hydrocarbons.”
Barrett said that Russian economic reliance is one explanation for its growing military initiatives in the region. But Russia is not alone in its interest in the Arctic. China, which is not itself an Arctic nation, has also staked claims there, she said.
“China is trying to normalize its presence in the Arctic to gain access to regional resources, which are said to include over 90 billion barrels of oil and an estimated trillion dollars’ worth of rare earth metals,” she said. “In 2018, China linked its Arctic activities to its ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative. Many are concerned that China may repeat what some see as predatory economic behavior, to the detriment of the region.”
As long-time Arctic occupants increase their activity there, and newcomers begin staking claims as well, the Department of the Air Force has developed, as part of its Arctic strategy, four strategic priorities to guide its involvement in ensuring the United States is equally and fairly represented in the region.
First, Barrett said, the department is increasing vigilance for both deterrence and defense in all domains.
“Vigilance encompasses everything from weather forecasting and consistent communications, to threat detection and tracking,” Barrett said. “Physical facilities delivering vigilance include advanced systems like the long-range discriminating radar at Clear, Alaska, and the north warning system, stretching from Alaska to Labrador.”
Second, Barrett said, is a focus on projecting power through a combat-credible force.
“Bases in Alaska benefit from the region’s strategic geography,” she said. “When the full complement of planned F-35s arrive at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska’s unparalleled concentration of fifth-generation fighters will project unmistakable influence.”
Third, the Department of the Air Force will continue to focus on cooperation with existing allies and partners and on building new partnerships — a goal aligned with the National Defense Strategy.
“The United States deeply appreciates its strong defense relationships with six of the seven other Arctic nations,” she said. “Building upon past collaboration and expanding existing cooperation in the Arctic will continue as our priority. Already, air and space forces are increasing interoperability with allies and partners through everything from military exercises to satellite launches.”
Finally, she said, the Department of the Air Force will focus on preparation for Arctic operations.
“For example, at Alaska’s [Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex], the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve augment specialized exercises and training to prepare for Arctic air and space missions.”
The Department of the Air Force isn’t alone in operating in the Arctic, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. Successfully operating in the Arctic and ensuring free access to the region by the United States and its allies will require a joint effort from all U.S. services, including the Coast Guard.
“The Department of Defense does its very best work when we operate as a joint team,” Goldfein said. “While this is [the] Department of the Air Force strategy, it is completely nested with and must stay nested with the Coast Guard, … with the Navy, and with the Army, and with the Marine Corps.”
Goldfein said he and Space Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the chief of space operations, are working through a concept called “joint all-domain operations” that addresses the need for a joint effort in the Arctic.
“It’s a technological approach, but it really at the end feeds a leadership approach to joint operations, across the spectrum, from peacetime and competition, all the way to open warfare,” he said. “No one domain is going to be dominant in that operation. The whole idea is to connect this team so that we can bring to bear military capabilities, from air, from space, from surface, from subsurface, manned, unmanned, all of the above.”
The Space Force is new to the Department of the Air Force, but Raymond said space operations have happened in the Arctic for a long time now — and the environment in the Arctic is ideal for conducting those operations.
“If you look at one of the most critical missions that we do, and that’s missile warning, the Arctic is our front edge of that mission,” Raymond said. “We do that mission both at Thule, Greenland, north of the Arctic Circle, with our space professionals that are assigned there at Thule Air Base. We also do it in Alaska, at Clear Air Force Station.”
Raymond said the Arctic’s geographic location makes it the best place to conduct space operations.
“If you look at the key terrain aspect of that environment, we also command and control satellites,” he said. “If you’re going to command and control satellites that are in polar orbits, where better to do it then on top of the world at the pole? It allows us to get great access to those satellites to be able to command and control and do that business. So that geography and the position on the globe … makes it an extremely advantageous place to operate from.”
Barrett said the Department of the Air Force’s new Arctic policy involves both the land-based military air power the Air Force provides and the space-based capabilities provided by the Space Force.
“The U.S. air and space forces value the Arctic,” she said. “Access and stability require cooperation among America’s allies and partners, along with a commitment to vigilance, power projection, and preparation. The Arctic should remain a free and open domain for benevolent actors, and it is a critical domain to protect America’s homeland.” (Source: US DoD)
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