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06 Aug 20. U.S. senators plan measure to block many foreign drone sales. Republican and Democratic senators will introduce legislation as soon as Thursday that would block international sales of American-made drones to countries that are not close U.S. allies, a Senate aide said.
Reuters broke the news in June that President Donald Trump’s administration planned to reinterpret the Missile Technology Control Regime, a Cold Wars arms agreement between 35 nations, with the goal of allowing U.S. defense contractors to sell more drones to an array of nations.
Republican Senator Mike Lee, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy and Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, are introducing the measure, the aide said.
U.S. lawmakers have tried before to rein in Trump administration plans for arms sales, particularly to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen. The measures have passed with bipartisan support, but failed to get enough Republican support to override Trump’s vetoes.
The New York Times first reported the lawmakers’ plan to introduce the bill on Thursday. (Source: Reuters)
05 Aug 20. Stratcom Chief: Attack On U.S. Would Be ‘A Very Bad Day’ For Adversary. To deter U.S. adversaries in the 21st century, those adversaries must know that any attack on the United States will result in a very bad day for them, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said.
Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard outlined threats the nation faces from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as he discussed the capabilities and integration the Defense Department needs in its warfighting strategies, plans and operations in a taped speech presented at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium yesterday.
“War is over. And we’re entering a sustainment phase in the war on terror. But we’re now in an era of great competition,” Richard said. “We as a nation in the military need to focus on the threats in front of us. And those threats go all the way down to the gray zone area below traditional conventional armed conflict.”
The nation cannot wait for conventional conflict to break out before it starts thinking about nuclear deterrence, the Stratcom commander said.
“Make sure an adversary doesn’t miscalculate where they believe they can win with a jump in escalation,” he said. “This is why U.S. Strategic Command exists. We are here to deter great power war in this era of great power competition.”
The strategic environment has changed from the Cold War through the war on terror and now into great power competition, Richard said. The United States must ensure that its strategies, plans, capabilities and operations are integrated across all domains and the full spectrum of conflict, he added. “We must hone our capabilities based on the threats we face,” he said.
The fact that the nuclear triad still provides the flexibility to address changing threats in this new era is a testament to its original designers and everyone who has maintained, operated and sustained it over the lifetime of these systems, the admiral said.
“I am laser-focused on modernizing our triad and its supporting infrastructure like nuclear command, control and communications,” he said. And as our adversaries develop these advanced weapon systems, he added, the United States must develop and build capabilities to counter these threats.
Richard said 21st century deterrence is a lot more than “just” nuclear. “It’s deterring multiple adversaries of all domains,” he explained. “Strategic deterrence is the highest-priority mission of the Department of Defense. It is foundational to our national defense and underpins every U.S. military operation around the world.”
That is based on the most fundamental assumption of all U.S. strategies and plans, he said: that strategic deterrence will hold.
“We like to think deterrence will hold in ways we haven’t tested it in before,” he said. “This assumption is going to be tested in new ways. We’re going to need that triad or recapitalize the triad. We’re going to need combat-ready forces, and we’re going to need missile defense.”
Effective missile defense deters adversaries from attacking because they know they have little chance for success and at potential risk, Richard said, adding that the United States has to rethink how it does business.
The nation’s integrated approach to deterrence must continue to improve, the admiral said. Missile defense capabilities are vital to deterrence strategy, he added, and must be integrated and tailored to the threats ahead, the admiral said.
Stratcom is working to integrate planning and execution processes through competition, crisis and conflict, he said. “We want everyone across the department to continuously consider the risk of strategic deterrence failure,” he said. “The progress … and the relationship between government and industry are important to our national defense and integrated strategic deterrence.”
To be successful, DOD must make sure it integrates its efforts in more than its planning and execution, but also with industry and in the whole government, Richard said.
“I ask each of you to work with your counterparts across the department, interagency and industry to find the best solutions for the complicated strategic environment we face. The threats are real,” he emphasized to the audience. “And because of everything you’re working on, we’ll be ready if conflict begins on our watch.” (Source: US DoD)
04 Aug 20. Missile Agency Director Describes Threat, Countermeasures. In recent years, threats from new missile systems against the homeland, deployed forces and friends and allies have arisen from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said.
Navy Vice Adm. Jon A. Hill spoke today at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Washington.
At one time, the MDA focused on the ballistic missile threat. However, adversaries have designed extremely fast and maneuverable advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons that make for “a very tough environment for defense,” Hill said. The Missile Defense Review addressed these new threats, laying out a path to follow in developing new offensive and defensive measures, he added.
Though defense is a key part of deterrence, Hill said, “you can’t shoot what you don’t see.” Providing that sight are sensors and radars aboard ships, on the ground and in space.
Space-based sensors are the ultimate, Hill said, because they can provide global coverage. Space tracking and surveillance systems collect data, intelligence and real-world missile testing, he said, but that capability is nowhere near where it needs to be.
Sensors start the kill chain by sending out a warning, the admiral explained. Then, radars track the missile, and fire control launches a defensive projectile.
This projectile can come from a Patriot system or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, all operated by the Army, or the Standard Missile 3 Block IIA or the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, both operated by the Navy. Besides those defenses, ground-based interceptors, operated by the Army, are deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The command and control and battle management system, fully protected with cybersecurity measures, ties these systems together with the operators.
Many missile defense components are in the research, science and technology and demonstration phase, Hill said. For example, work is being done on the next-generation interceptor and long-range discrimination radar, as well as space-based sensors.
“Where we live today is we don’t have everything we want deployed in space, nor do we have the terrestrial or mobile sea-based sensors where we want, where we need them at the right time,” the missile agency director said.
Besides new, cutting-edge systems, Hill noted that current systems such as Aegis and command and control are receiving important upgrades as they become available.
MDA is working with the Army to integrate the THAAD and Patriot systems so operators can communicate with both and shoot with either, depending on the scenario, the admiral said.
Allies and partners are developing their own missile defense systems or buying them from the United States through the foreign military sales system, Hill said. These systems used by friends and partners furthers global security, he pointed out, and the Defense Department is working to better integrate those systems so they’re even more effective.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges, Hill said, that hasn’t affected MDA’s ability to perform its mission: “If you ask me where we took risk during the global pandemic, we never took any risk in supporting the warfighter,” he said. “We continue to deliver capability, we continue to support major movements around the globe.” Delivery of systems caused some delay, he acknowledged, because assembly lines require people in confined and enclosed places.
Hill termed his MDA team and those in the services as stellar, and he said there’s no nobler calling than defending America. (Source: US DoD)
04 Aug 20. To keep weapon sales in place, US offers new options for payment. The United States is developing new options for arms customers as a way to ensure allies and partners don’t drop planned procurements as the world economy remains in shock from the impacts of COVID 19.
Among the options, according to outgoing Defense Security Cooperation Agency head Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, are allowing foreign countries to finance arms procurement through U.S. bank loans and altering existing payment schedules to stretch the costs over time.
“The bottom line here is, we are willing to work with our allies and partners, when they raise the challenges that they have, to find ways for them to continue to buy American and to ensure that they can pay for the equipment along a payment schedule that reflects their own economic conditions,” Hooper said.
During an exclusive exit interview with Defense News, Hooper declined to say which countries have already approached his agency about economic impact from the disease, but said that there are “certainly” customer nations that have reached out.
“There are partners that, we’re already seeing that they are having challenges. So we’re standing ready to work with them. As soon as we can gain an appreciation and the understanding of the challenges, we can find ways to help them,” Hooper said.
Hooper talked with Defense News two weeks before his Aug. 3 retirement. He is succeeded by Heidi Grant, the head of the Defense Security Technology Administration, a move that marks the first time a civilian has led the office since a previous agency was recognized into the current DSCA structure in 1998. The general expressed no concerns over that move, in large part, he said, because of Grant, a fixture in the international security cooperation world.
Grant will have to hit the ground running, given the potential impact from COVID on the world economies. The good news, Hooper said, is that by March, DSCA had concluded that the global economy would be hurt by the disease and set up an interagency working group, called the Operations Planning Group, to study program-level impacts from global trends and develop solutions.
The first step Hooper’s team took was to revise the collection process of foreign payment in order to make them “a bit more flexible, to accommodate those partners that may be having some economic difficulties or may have reprioritized their budgets towards for example, economic recovery and away from defense.”
Those options include delaying payments on planned procurements to future years, creating new payment plans for ongoing procurement efforts, and returning funds currently on deposit with the United States to the customer nations as well as new financing strategies.
“One of the things we did is we are allowing our partners to draw on standby letters of credit from foreign banks operating in the United States, according to U.S. banking rules,” Hooper explained. “That offers a nation an opportunity to draw, for example, in that case, a standby letter of credit on one of their banks that operates in the United States, under United States banking rules, which ensures that there’s no fiduciary risk to the United States.”
DSCA officials had been considering adding such an option for some time, but the economic downturn pushed the agency to start offering it for customer nations, Hooper added. Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, director of the Arms and Military Expenditure Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said that option sounds different from funding plans that have existed for some time in Europe, where specific entities in countries are responsible for guaranteeing arms-recipient states’ loans thanks to the state treasury.
“There are a number of economic factors globally, that we anticipate will likely have an impact on country’s abilities to move forward,” Hooper said. “Obviously, energy prices are lower, and those countries all over the world that specialize in energy are going to see a fall in revenue. We see countries that, as a result of the pandemic, are having to shift funds from their defense budgets to more domestic missions like economic recovery and other things.”
In addition to oil-reliant nations in the Middle East, Béraud-Sudreau said to watch the Pacific region, where “many countries have already decided to cut their military spending for this year, and planning decreases for 2021.” Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, and the Philippines are among the nations that have already announced plans to cut defense spending, while Singapore is seeing delays in weapon deliveries due to supply chain issues.
“If there are limited orders in 2020-2021, there will be repercussions later on, as these companies work on long-term projects. Hence the pressure, on both sides of the Atlantic, for the defense sector to be part of economic recovery packages and high levels of military expenditure,” she said.
Over the course of his time at DSCA, Hooper oversaw almost 18,300 Foreign Military Sales actions, including 5,800 new agreements and various amendments and modifications to existing agreements, according to agency figures. He reduced three different surcharges on customers, saving customers millions of dollars as well. Also, timelines shrunk, with DSCA offering 50 percent of all new FMS cases that flow through the process to partner nations in 49 days or less by Hooper’s exit.
And while Hooper did not want to preview what weapon sales totals for fiscal 2020 will be, he did say that the United States remains “on a very positive trajectory… We remain the global partner of choice. And I’m very optimistic that we’re going to continue to see positive trends in our foreign military sales this year and in the years to come.” (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
04 Aug 20. Unheralded DOD Agency is Key to Building International Partners. One crucial aspect of the National Defense Strategy is tending to and encouraging allies and partners, and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency is at the heart of that process, said Army Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the agency’s outgoing director.
Hooper spoke to retired Army Gen. Carter Ham recently as part of the Association of the U.S. Army’s podcast series.
The agency is little known outside Washington, but its effect on allies, partners and friends around the world is profound. The agency is the Defense Department entity responsible for all security cooperation, ranging from training to equipment to professional military education. Last year, the agency was responsible for more than $55bn in sales under a myriad of programs, Hooper said.
Allies and partners using U.S. military equipment makes good sense from strategic and economic viewpoints, he noted. Common equipment leads to greater interoperability. The training foreign service members receive on American equipment also builds close personnel ties. Finally, the U.S. military sales mean jobs in the United States and keeps the defense industrial base healthy.
Hooper said that over the past three years, military sales have grown 16 percent. It has accelerated because the U.S. produces the best military capabilities in the world, he added, and because of streamlining efforts by the administration and Congress.
The agency reorganized as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017. Congress wanted to make the agency more efficient and effective. That legislation also created a civilian career field for security cooperation and a schoolhouse to train them.
The administration streamlined authorities for conventional arms transfers. This served to ”compress those timelines between the identification of a capability necessary for our partners and its delivery,” he said.
”The third thing that really helped was the National Defense Strategy,” he said, adding that the strategy provided ”clear guidance to me as to what my mission is, and that is to strengthen alliances and attract new partners.”
The change in strategy for the United States military to operate ”by, with and through” local military forces also gave impetus to the agency. ”I’ve seen security cooperation become a policy tool of first resort,” Hooper said. ”Often in the past, it was kind of an afterthought — we’d come up with a security policy, … we’d implement that policy towards a country or an alliance, and then as an afterthought, we consider military capabilities. But with the second line of effort in the National Defense Strategy, security cooperation has become a tool of first resort.”
Another change tied to the National Defense Strategy is great power competition. China and Russia are U.S. near-peer competitors, and this forced a different approach at the agency. Hooper had to judge U.S. strengths and weaknesses against those of China and Russia.
”I came to the conclusion that there is a uniquely American approach to security cooperation, and that distinguishes us from our strategic competitors,” he said. ”Instead of trying to mimic their procedures, we should leverage our strengths.”
U.S. competitors benefit from an autocratic streamlined arm sales processes and government-subsidized defense industries, he said. ”I have to determine how we maintain our competitive edge and continue to expand our market share when they have systems that allow them to react quickly, and are reflective, frankly, of their governmental systems,” the general said.
”We have a democracy. And as we all know, democracy was designed for effectiveness, and not efficiency,” he said. And that carries its own benefits.
U.S. high-quality, high-technology systems are in demand, and make American systems competitive. Hooper said he wants the idea of export for these systems built in from the beginning of research and development for the systems.
”We have to improve our ability to engineer exportability into the beginning of our research and development process and not at the end,” he said. ”Right now, what we do is design a system for our own forces, and then we go back and re-engineered for export, we don’t have the time to do that any more.”
Hooper said he also wants to compress decision timelines without sacrificing due diligence. ”Our system is set up to vet whether or not we want to share a capability or a system with our partners over a long period of time, then we finally make a decision and then we export it,” he explained. ”We must compress those timelines if we’re to remain competitive, but we understand there’s always a cost-benefit analysis — the benefit of sharing these technologies and systems with our allies or partners against a potential cost of losing our technological edge.”
The American way of sharing is also much different from those of the Russians or Chinese. ”Our approach has always been not only to provide our partners with the systems themselves, but training, education, institutional capacity building, helping them to build the institutions that will help them to maximize the performance envelope with the equipment,” Hooper said. ”This commitment is to a long-term relationship.”
There is value in this approach. He told about visiting Kenya last year, and seeing the Kenyan air force flying 40 year-old F-5 Tiger jets built by Northrup. The older jets were landing next to 3-year old Chinese grounded helicopters. ”Why are our 40-year-old aircraft still flying, and the 3-year-old Chinese aircraft not? The difference was we made a commitment to the Kenyan air force to help them to develop a culture of maintenance excellence that allows them to continue to repair and maintain their 40-year-old U.S. aircraft,” he said. ”That’s the distinction that separates us from our strategic competitors.”
Hooper is the most senior foreign-area officer in the U.S. Army, and he says that ”dollar for dollar, our international military student programs are the best investment we can make in security cooperation.”
Whether it is foreign students coming to the United States to learn to use U.S. military equipment or senior foreign military officers attending the war college classes, it is a way to build personal relationships. Hooper spoke of being the defense attache in Cairo during a difficult time in U.S.-Egyptian relations. Those relations were smoothed by the fact that many in the Egyptian government had studied at U.S. military war colleges, and there was a baseline of understanding among all.
”I was in China for seven years,” he said. ”Very rarely did they answer my phone calls, but there was never a time where the Egyptian senior official did not answer my phone calls.”
U.S. students have an opportunity to forge relationships with the cream of the international military officers because only the best come to the United States. ”Those relationships that are forged here, the way we welcome international students, pays enormous dividends,” Hooper said. (Source: US DoD)
04 Aug 20. Nuke Sea-Launched Cruise Missile Would Bolster Deterrence, Officials Say. Developing and deploying a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile is essential to deter Russia, U.S. officials have said.
A recent State Department paper says the new weapon would help fill a gap identified in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The United States retired its last nuclear sea-launched cruise missile in 2010 — one of only two remaining U.S. theater or tactical (“non-strategic”) nuclear weapons. In contrast, Russia continued a comprehensive program to modernize and expand its low-yield theater and tactical nuclear weapons. What is more disturbing, officials said, is that Russian strategy actually contemplates the use of these nuclear capabilities in conflict.
Russian strategic thought mistakenly believes that limited nuclear first use with low-yield weapons could provide Russia with a “coercive advantage” in a conflict, the State Department paper says.
Russia may have pursued this strategy because the United States, unlike Russia, retired most of its non-strategic nuclear systems. Russia may believe it can use theater or tactical weapons, the paper says, because the United States could not effectively respond and might be reluctant to escalate further by responding with strategic nuclear weapons..
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review calls for adjustments to U.S. nuclear forces to close this perceived gap on the escalation ladder and reinforce deterrence against low-yield nuclear use, DOD officials said.
A nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile would address alarming developments in the forces and doctrine of nuclear competitors, the posture review says, adding that Russia and China both are investing significant sums to improve and expand their nuclear forces with no clear indication as to where that expansion will stop.
Russia’s “adventurism” is the most immediate concern, officials said. The nation invaded Georgia in 2008 and still occupies two provinces. Russia illegally occupied Crimea in 2014 and sponsors a shooting war in the eastern part of Ukraine today. Russia has propped up the Assad regime in Syria and has prolonged the civil war in that nation. Russia has also sent forces to Libya, and Kremlin-associated contractors have seized two of its largest oil facilities. Finally, Russia has done its best to divide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, seeking more leeway to intimidate the frontline states of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
There are credible concerns that theater and tactical nuclear capabilities are central to a Russian approach to regional conflict that envisions the early, limited use of non-strategic nuclear weapons to end a war on terms favorable to Russia.
“This approach may be premised on Russia’s belief that its expanding anti-access/area denial networks will be able to neutralize the airborne nuclear deterrent forces of the United States and NATO,” the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review concluded. “In the future, it is possible that China could adopt a similar doctrine. Developing and fielding (sea-launched cruise missile-nuclear) signal the leaders of nuclear competitors in a concrete way that the United States has the capability and will to maintain operationally effective nuclear options to deter regional aggression.”
The SLCM capability could also help allay the concerns of regional allies shielded by the U.S. nuclear umbrella, officials said.
The United States having such a capability would make any adversary think twice about using nuclear weapons. Without requiring nuclear testing or violating any treaty, the SLCM “will lower the risks of nuclear conflict, bolster the confidence of allies and restore a degree of balance in non-strategic nuclear weapons that could create conditions more conducive to addressing this category of forces through arms control,” the posture review says. (Source: US DoD)
04 Aug 20. US must increase shipbuilding to keep up with competitors: US senator. As great power competition continues to evolve between the US and China, many within America’s political and policy leadership have recognised that the US will need to expand its shipbuilding operations to keep pace with competitors and secure the global maritime commons.
Naval power has always played a critical role in the way great powers interact – competitions to design the most powerful warships often characterising the great power competitions of the past.
The decades leading up to the outbreak of the First World War saw an unprecedented competition between the UK and German Empire, with much of the emphasis placed on Dreadnought battleships echoing a similar, albeit smaller, naval arms race gathering steam between the US and China.
Further challenging the previously unrivalled dominance of the global maritime commons by the US is the resurgence of an increasingly modernised Russian Navy and the proliferation of advanced, increasingly capable weapons systems, once previously only the domain of global powers.
These factors, combined with a period of sequestration during the Obama administration and rising funding challenges, have given rise to growing concerns about the US Navy developing a ‘hollow force’, one that has a large fleet, with little to no manpower to support the tactical and strategic requirements of America’s national security doctrines.
Despite President Donald Trump’s commitment to achieving a 355-ship fleet, capable of guaranteeing global maritime security, freedom of navigation and stability in the face of increased peer and near-peer competitors – the funding question remains an important one for consideration.
Indeed recently, Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained the importance of balancing readiness with force and platform modernisation to the Senate Armed Services Committee: “This need to balance current readiness with modernisation is the department’s central challenge and will require strong leadership, open and continuous dialogue with others, and the courage to make tough decisions.”
In spite of these factors, the President has sought to capitalise on a surging US economy to pass yet another increase for the US defence budget – expected to see the Pentagon receiving US$738bn for FY2020-21.
While the figure is less than the US$750bn President Trump called for earlier this year, the US$738bn figure will still see a major ramp up in the modernisation, recapitalisation and expansion of the US military at a time of increasing great power rivalry.
Echoing calls for an increase to the US shipbuilding enterprise in response to the rapidly evolving geo-political reality, US Republican senator for Georgia David Perdue jnr has recognised that the US can and should be doing more to keep pace with its rivals.
“Right now, the world is more dangerous than any time in my lifetime. The United States faces five major threats: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and terrorism. We face those threats across five domains: air, land, sea, cyber space and space,” Senator Perdue explains.
“The US Navy is one of the most effective tools we as a country have to maintain peace and stability around the world. Today, however, the Navy is in danger of being surpassed in capability by our near-peer competitors. On top of that, our competitors are becoming even more brazen in their attempts to challenge our Navy every day.”
Political consistency in funding and goal a key challenge
There is an old saying that politics is the same no matter where you travel, and it appears that the challenges that have long plagued Australia’s own naval shipbuilding endeavours have had an equally dramatic impact on the US Navy’s attempts to modernise and recapitalise having a dramatic impact upon the capability of the force today.
Senator Perdue said, “To address this, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act called for a 355-ship Navy to be built as soon as possible. This effort is extremely expensive: $31bn per year for 30 years. This can’t be funded by new debt. We must reallocate resources to fund this priority.
“It is unclear at this time whether we will be able to achieve this goal, however, because Washington politicians have failed to provide consistent funding to our shipbuilding enterprise over the years.
“The last two Democratic presidents reduced military spending by 25 per cent. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did it. Also, since 1975, Congress has only funded the government on time on four occasions due to our broken budget process. As a result, Congress forces the military in most years to operate under continuing resolutions, which further restricts the Navy’s efforts to rebuild.”
This echoes concerns regarding the potential for a ‘hollow force’, Secretary Esper speaking to DefenseNews articulated his commitment and ambitions to getting the US Navy to a 355-ship fleet by 2030, with an aim to achieve a much higher number in response to the mounting global challenges.
“To me that’s where we need to push. We need to push much more aggressively. That would allow us to get our numbers up quickly, and I believe that we can get to 355, if not higher, by 2030,” Secretary Esper said.
This statement echoes the statements made by acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who stated, “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?”
Discussing the composition of this future force, Secretary Esper posited some interesting ideas for consideration, leveraging advances in unmanned and autonomous/semi-autonomous ships to ensure the US Navy meets its force structure obligations.
“What we have to tease out is, what does that future fleet look like? I think one of the ways you get there quickly is moving toward lightly manned [ships], which over time can be unmanned,” Secretary Esper added.
“We can go with lightly manned ships, get them out there. You can build them so they’re optionally manned and then, depending on the scenario or the technology, at some point in time they can go unmanned.”
Inconsistency has harmed the industrial base, which in turn has harmed strategic capability
For Senator Perdue, this policy and budgetary inconsistency has had a dramatic impact on the US defence industrial base and its capacity to support the ambitious modernisation and recapitalisation efforts outlined as part of the 355-ship fleet plan.
Senator Perdue added, “According to a 2018 report from the Pentagon, the entire Department of Defense lost over 20,000 US-based industrial suppliers from 2000 to 2018.
“This means that, today, many shipbuilding components have just one US-based supplier, and others are entirely outsourced to other countries. This is one of the reasons why it is doubtful that we can reach 355 ships unless major changes are made immediately. If we don’t strengthen our industrial supplier base, there is simply no way to scale up ship production and maintenance capabilities to meet the requirements of a 355-ship fleet.
“The Department of Defense has not yet released this year’s 30-year shipbuilding plan as required by law, and time is running out to reach the Navy’s most recent projection of a 355-ship fleet by 2034.
“However, even if the Department of Defense has a solid, achievable plan to only reach 355 ships, I am skeptical that it will be enough. I am skeptical because America’s biggest long-term challenge, China, is already running laps around us on shipbuilding.”
Despite a record level of investment in the US Armed Forces, the US Navy’s shipbuilding budget is dominated by expensive, big-ticket acquisition programs, namely the new Gerald R Ford Class aircraft carriers, the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines and Virginia Class attack submarines.
Indeed, the FY2020-21 budget request seeks US$19.9bn ($29.6bn) for shipbuilding, approximately US$4.1bn ($6.1bn) more than the levels enacted for the FY2019-20 budget request.
As part of the Navy’s budget request, the service asked for two Arleigh Burke Class destroyers, a single Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine and Virginia Class attack submarine, one FFG(X) future frigate, a single LPD-17 amphibious transport dock and two towing and salvage ships.
The US$4.1bn ($6.1bn) reduction saw a cut to both the Virginia and FFG(X) programs, each of which were expected to see two ships funded in the FY2020-21 budget – moving forward, the longer-term budget cuts will also see the US Navy cut five Flight III Arleigh Burke variants.
Additionally, the US Navy’s budget requests US$2.5bn ($3.7bn) for aircraft acquisition over the 2020 decade, requesting ‘just’ US$17.2bn ($25.6bn) – which would deliver 24 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 21 F-35Cs (split between the Navy and Marine Corps) and four E-2D Hawkeye aircraft.
Despite this investment, Senator Perdue highlights some major challenges in light of Beijing’s own rapidly evolving shipbuilding capabilities, stating, “The Chinese Navy has 350 ships today, compared to our 300. By 2034, China is projected to have more than 425 ships. Even if we reached 355 ships, we would still have a 70-ship disadvantage, at the least.
“On top of that, because of the range restrictions in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which just ended in 2019, China has surpassed, or ‘out-sticked’, us in some missile capabilities as well.
“There are several steps we can take to respond to these developments. For starters, we need to place greater emphasis on funding our shipbuilding enterprise. Also, we need to rebuild our industrial supply chains through consistent, robust funding and by eliminating continuing resolutions.” (Source: Defence Connect)
03 Aug 20. US weapon sales boss talks China, arms exports and his agency’s future. After years of working various jobs related to security cooperation, Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper took over the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency in August 2017. It was an appointment that coincided with a major push by the Trump administration to increase weapon sales as an economic driver. Three years later, as he gets ready to retire, Hooper sat down with Defense News for an exclusive exit interview.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
You came in as DSCA director in 2017, when the Trump administration was making a concerted push to increase arms sales abroad. Has that push been successful?
Certainly I think the answer to that question is: “Yes, absolutely.” When I assumed responsibility at DSCA, we saw a convergence of three authorities that helped to create conditions that would help us to move forward and to elevate security cooperation. The first one was the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which [gave me] responsibilities in the Department of Defense to reform security cooperation, in ways that would make it more efficient and effective. The second one was the revision and the updating of the administration’s arms transfer policies. And the third was the National Defense Strategy with which has three lines of effort, the second of which was strengthen alliances and attract new partners.
So those three authorities created by convergence — what I call a perfect storm of authorities — and conditions to allow us to elevate and push for security cooperation and foreign military sales. And I made it my mission to take advantage of those conditions to move it forward.
You have talked often about the need to both trim time and cost for partners and allies buying American systems. What are some highlights for you?
In 2018, we lowered the admin surcharge rate from 3.5 to 3.2 percent. And since the new rates have gone into effect, our partners have saved $250m on FMS cases. Next, we reduced the transportation rates in 2018. And since that reduction has gone into effect, since Aug. 15, 2018, our partners saved about $15m. Then this year, we reduced the FMS contract administration surcharge from 1.2 percent to 1 percent. Although we don’t have enough data as of yet to determine actual savings, we estimate that our allies and partners will save about 17 percent on contract administration over the life of each FMS case, which averages about seven or eight years. That perfect storm of authorities allowed us to move forward with many of the initiatives that we’ve been able to accomplish over my tenure as DSCA director.
And then the Defense Security Cooperation University. I’m very proud of that, and we were able to bring that online in less than two years: The establishment of a civilian career field for security cooperation specialists, so that we are able to train and educate a cadre of people specifically focused on security cooperation, and foreign military sales through their mid-career and all the way to their capstone years.
We all know one big FMS case can skew an entire year’s numbers, but do you feel confident that enough has been done to ensure FMS sales will continue to grow?
Although we tell everyone what the total value was of the cases that were implemented in that year, we think a three-year running average is a much more accurate measure of the success of FMS over time. And if you look at the three-year running average, over the past three years we’re actually up around 16 percent, I believe. So the answer to your question is, yes, I think that we’re still on a very positive trajectory. And I think that’s the result of many of the changes that have taken place over the last three years that were made possible by the authorities that we were given. So for example, we looked at those surcharge [changes], we revised our financial collection policies to align collections with the actual anticipated billing requirements. And so by decreasing those early collections, foreign partners will experience less financial strain, aligning FMS procurement with fiscal realities. And we’ve also introduced new flexible financing options for our allies and partners to fit their own unique national budget and fiscal requirements. I’m very optimistic that we’re going to continue to see positive trends in our foreign military sales this year, and in the years to come.
The DSCA job is moving from a three-star role to a civilian job, with Heidi Grant taking over. You’ve often talked about the benefit of having years of relationships, going back to your younger officer days, with officers from other countries. Do you see any downside with the position being civilian?
What’s most important about this position is the person coming into it, and Heidi Grant has all the qualifications that you would need to be an exceptional DSCA director. She has time in combatant commands; of course time on the Air Force secretary’s [staff]; her time as the director of the Defense Technology Security Administration. So it is the right person, with the right skill set, to be an upstanding director of DSCA and, frankly, I’m excited to see all the accomplishments that she’s going to have.
There is speculation that a potential Biden administration could roll back some of the arms control changes made under the Trump administration. If that were to happen, what would be the impact?
I’m not going to hypothesize here about what ifs. What I can say is that we’re clearly on a very positive trajectory as a result of the three steps that have taken place. And I think that the results that have come forward — I mean, the results that we’ve seen today are a reflection of the NDAA, the conventional arms transfer policies and National Defense Strategy. Future administrations will of course consider things as they will consider them. And I wouldn’t want to speculate on that. But I think the progress we’ve made today speaks very, very strongly toward the effectiveness of the measures in place.
We hear a lot about Russia and China looking at foreign arms sales as a way to exert influence around the globe. Are they successful in pushing the U.S. out of certain markets?
Both of our main strategic competitors are mounting challenges to the United States, and I think we see that in a number of places all over the world. But I would say that the proper characterization of this is that they are challenging us. They are competing with us. Certainly they’ve mounted challenges around the world and in providing goods and services that are not quite the quality of the United States, trying to replace the United States as the partner of choice. Whether it’s been successful or not, I think that we have recognized that they’ve mounted this challenge and we’ve taken some of the steps that I’ve articulated for you here that we’ve done to ensure that we remain the partner of choice and that we complicate their efforts to compete with us.
In addition to providing partners with the hardware, our approach ensures that we strengthen these institutions — logistics, doctrine, infrastructure, institutional support, financial management — so that they can learn how to pay the people who will actually fix the equipment. And this is what makes our approach so unique. And this is why we will win this great power competition. Our values set us apart from the other great power competitors.
You were the defense attache to the embassy in Beijing for two years, and obviously have a view on China’s efforts from your current spot. How do you asses the country’s defense export capacity?
Certainly, the Chinese are going to look across the spectrum, but certainly they’re looking in areas where they think they can challenge us. We know, of course, that the Chinese have marketed UAVs and other things. So they’ll look for market niches in areas where they think they can be competitive with the United States. They have economic reasons for doing so, as well as strategic reasons for doing so. But once again, their approach stops at the point of sale. And this is the inherent weakness in their approach and the inherent strength in our approach.
Do you think UAVs will be the main area that China targets?
No. I used that solely as one example. We’ve seen attempts by the Chinese to compete across the spectrum, from small arms, small missile sets and others all the way up to more sophisticated equipment such as UAVs and others. We’ve seen a comprehensive effort by the Chinese to compete across the spectrum of defense articles and services. And I think we’ve seen a comprehensive effort on their part to try and market systems that replicate U.S. systems and U.S. capabilities across the spectrum, from small arms through artillery systems and other things. So I think we have to be vigilant across the spectrum of defense articles and services to where the Chinese are probing.
I think the Chinese will generally try to press forward in areas where they sense that the U.S. position is perhaps a bit weaker, and they will push forward in those areas. And I think rather than having a strategy of competing in any particular sector of defense articles and services, I think that they’re more interested in trying to compete across the spectrum, where what they perceive to be potential areas where they might be able to make some advances, and moving forward in those.
In what areas is the U.S. potentially vulnerable, and are those where the U.S. needs to increase sales?
I don’t look at it that way. Defense exports are driven by a rapidly evolving security environment and emerging threats. And so we can’t really predict this system or that system, or this category of systems. That said, we know what our military leaders are saying: that [the capabilities] they need in the field to ensure our strategic and operational edge [is what] our allies and partners will want as we move into the more modern areas of conflict. In the past, there was a lag between when the United States would introduce a system and when our allies and partners would ask for us to export it, and those days are behind us.
We’re in a world where interoperability is the key to success, and we cannot afford to have delays in when we introduce new technology and when we consider exporting them. Now, there are inherent challenges here, between conducting the cost-benefit analysis of risk versus gain, but we have the talent and the ability to rapidly assess these, and to move forward and provide our partners their defense articles and services that they want and that they need, and that will make them better allies and partners for the United States.
So rather than predict any particular segment, I would say that the steps that we’re taking to improve our overall approach will ensure that whatever the evolution of systems and the evolution of threats is, we will be able to respond and react quickly, and work with our allies and partners to provide them those defense articles and services in a timely fashion.
Both the commercial and defense industries are investing heavily in new technologies, including artificial intelligence, which can be tricky to export. How does this work going forward?
That’s a great question. And I’ll tell you, early this year I took a visit out to Silicon Valley and Stanford, and had an opportunity to talk to some of the people out there. Ever since I came back from that trip, I’ve been thinking about this question and related questions. And, to be honest with you, I think we’ve yet to determine — we know that this will be one of the principal challenges for security cooperation moving forward. We absolutely know this. And I’m confident that we’re thinking deeply about this because I’ve had this discussion with my colleagues and others.
I don’t have any solutions for you right now. But I think we’ve all come to the conclusion that the rapid evolution of technology is going to require us to conduct risk assessments and cost-benefit analysis more quickly, without sacrificing the due diligence necessary to determine the relative cost and benefits of whether or not we want to move forward with [exporting] a certain technology. We all recognize that we have a challenge to come together and determine how we will move forward in the security cooperation realm to address space, cyber, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.
Should there be a hard and fast rule for whether technology like AI can be exported, given its nature?
Listen, never ever forget that security cooperation is a policy function at its core. That’s why DSCA resides in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. And policy is a process of adjudicating on a case-by-case basis, based upon a number of economic, diplomatic and political factors, as well as the right steps to take to secure the security of the United States.
Just as security cooperation now is a case-by-case consideration of a number of factors, I don’t see why, as the technology evolves, it would be any different. All of this, everything we do, is on a case-by-case basis because our national security is predicated on a comprehensive assessment of the situation as it exists, the factors impacted on that situation and the ramifications of a decision for the security of the United States. (Source: Defense News)
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