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11 Sep 20. Biden not planning defense cuts, but they may come anyway. Former Vice President Joe Biden said this week that, if elected president, he doesn’t foresee major reductions in the U.S. defense budget as the military refocuses its attention to potential threats from “near-peer” powers such as China and Russia.
But internal pressure from the progressive wing of the Democratic party, combined with pandemic-related economic pressures, may ultimately add up to budget cuts at a Biden Pentagon.
In an interview with Stars and Stripes on Thursday, Biden avoided any sweeping pronouncements about how defense spending might change in his administration. “I don’t think [budget cuts] are inevitable, but we need priorities in the budget,” Biden said, adding that the Pentagon must invest in emerging technologies.
“We have to focus more on unmanned capacity, cyber and IT, in a very modern world that is changing rapidly,” Biden said. “I’ve met with a number of my advisors and some have suggested in certain areas the budget is going to have to be increased.”
Biden vowed to better equip the National Guard and that he would work to reassure allies rattled by his opponent’s “America First” approach. He said he backs a small footprint for U.S. troops in the Mideast, but couldn’t promise a full withdrawal given the complicated conditions in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
“These ‘forever wars’ have to end. I support drawing down the troops. But here’s the problem, we still have to worry about terrorism and [the Islamic State],” Biden said, adding that there ought to be a maximum of 1,500-2,000 special forces troops in Afghanistan for counter-terrorism operations.
As President Donald Trump campaigns for a second term and tries to make good on his promise to get America out of “endless wars,” the Pentagon announced this week that thousands of troops will withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump has overseen historic increases in U.S. defense budgets, but also tested U.S. alliances with his aggressive emphasis on burden-sharing.
Though both Democrats and Republicans placed “sequestration” limits on defense spending, Trump and other critics have associated those limits, and downward pressure on defense budgets, with President Barack Obama. Left-wing Democrats credit Biden for the Democratic Party’s 2020 platform’s promise to “end the forever wars” and champion less militarized foreign policy, but the platform skirts the question of whether to lower defense spending.
So, for some analysts, Biden’s comments were nothing shocking, and just an affirmation of what they have seen coming: Defense spending will be flat or down 4-8 percent over the next five years, depending on external political factors and the makeup of Congress.
“Democratic candidate Joe Biden told Stars and Stripes he isn’t planning for major defense spending cuts and some areas may need to increase,” analyst Roman Schweizer, of Cowen Washington Research Group said in a letter to investors Friday. “We don’t see this as an ironclad campaign pledge, but we do see it as a sign that defense may be far less worse-off than many expect.”
One of those external factors is the U.S. budget deficit, which hit a record $3trn this week, fueled almost entirely by increased federal spending due to the pandemic. But the indicator to watch will be interest rates, since rising borrowing costs for the government would make it harder for the Pentagon to sustain spending growth, said Avascent analyst Matthew Vallone.
More than the economy, the likely risk to defense spending will come from Congress. Should Biden propose defense top lines that are level, or feature minor reductions, he could see pushback from “a significantly stronger far left and Republicans anxious to restore credibility on deficits by opposing spending,” Vallone noted.
If Democrats take the Senate, Vermont Independent and longtime defense spending skeptic Sen. Bernie Sanders is in line to take the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, and “it’s difficult to see top lines getting through his committee unscathed,” Vallone said.
Biden is already under pressure from the progressive wing of his party, which mounted a test vote in the Senate (sponsored by Sanders), and one in the House, to cut the defense budget by 10 percent. Though the votes failed resoundingly and split Democrats, advocates of restraint argue that public sentiment is on their side and have cited an urgent need to rebuild the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Matt Duss, a Sanders foreign policy aide, said Biden’s team has engaged with a progressive wing that’s energized around reshaping U.S. foreign policy.
“You have a progressive movement in the party now that is really motivated and mobilized around foreign policy and national security issues, and that’s not going away,” Duss said. “That is something a President Biden will have to work with, and I think his team understands that … This debate will be different under the next Democratic administration from the last one.”
Whomever occupies the White House, they will face public pressure to withdraw from Syria and Iraq and pressure from the foreign policy establishment to stay, said Daniel DePetris, of the Defense Priorities Foundation. He argued that view is not only outmoded because America’s energy boom has made the Mideast less strategically important, but it’s out of step with American voters.
“For years, polling has indicated that the American people no longer view these wars as necessary for U.S. security and indeed find them quite costly,” he said. “Were a president to wind down some of these conflicts, he would likely have the support of the public.” (Source: Defense News)
11 Sep 20. Senior Defense Officials Discuss 2030 Missile Defense. Three senior Defense Department officials took part in a discussion about missile defense capabilities in 2030 and the demands of tomorrow at the Missile Defense 2030 symposium.
Yesterday’s panel included James H. Anderson, acting undersecretary of defense for policy; Navy Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency; and Army Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commander of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
“When you look at 2030, we’re looking at advanced ballistic missiles, [and] we know they’re going to maneuver hypersonic threats and cruise missile threats,” Hill said. “That’s a very challenging place to be.”
When you get into ground-based missile defense or midcourse defense for protection of the United States, we are working very Intensely on the service-life extension program, along with the reliability program that takes us beyond just the analytical, he added. “We now have hardware and equipment tied into that thanks to very great support coming from Congress, as well as the department.”
That support, Hill said, will help DOD increase and extend the life of the existing fleet, which he said is vital.
“While we have to also compete in parallel with the next generation interceptor, … by closing that gap with a very strong liability program for the fleet today, and bringing on a new interceptor that will tie into the ground systems and into the sensors, [it] is going to be pretty formidable,” Hill said.
The joint kill web has to enable DOD’s defensive systems and its offensive systems, Karbler said.
“If the adversary launches at us, we’re going to the joint kill web [to] enable us to censor any sensor by shooter to engage,” he said. He noted it also will allow DOD, integration-wise, to offensively respond with whatever capability that it might have from air to surface.
“The Army is working very hard on long-range precision fires to be able to counter what that adversary brings to us,” Karbler said.
In terms of DOD’s vision for 2030, the department will seek out those opportunities where it makes sense to work with allies and partners in missile defense, Anderson said.
“We talked before about defending the homeland. What’s also very critical when we talk about missile defense is the regional context,” he noted.
Anderson also said both China and Russia would seek to overwhelm the U.S. and its allies early in a particular theater and impede the flow of allied forces.
Because of this, it’s vital in a regional context for the United States to have a robust integrated air and missile defense. “That’s why we have had these collaborative efforts, and we will seek out them going forward, as well,” he added. (Source: US DoD)
11 Sep 20. Military Must Continue Progress to Deter Competitors. The U.S. military has seen tremendous progress in readiness, equipment, processes and personnel over the past five years, and the United States must continue on that road in order to deter Russia and China, a top Defense Department official said.
Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist told attendees of the virtual Defense News Conference yesterday. He spoke about the changing threats, U.S. military moves and what the future may hold.
Russia and China saw America’s preoccupation with violent extremism after the events of 9/11 as a “strategic opportunity” to catch up to the United States military, Norquist said. “China and Russia noted how we fought and began designing their militaries and capabilities to counter our strengths and exploit our weaknesses,” he said.
And they have closed the gap. China invested heavily in its army, increasing the budget by an average of 10 percent per year. Since 2001, China has launched its first domestic aircraft carrier; demonstrated the ability to shoot down satellites; modernized and expanded its nuclear capabilities; successfully tested a hypersonic glide vehicle; and fielded short-, medium-, and long-range missiles in volume, Norquist said.
China has also exerted growing power in Asia, Africa, Oceania and in cyberattacks worldwide. In 2015, China’s President Xi Jinping pledged not to militarize the artificial islands China had built in the South China Sea. He broke that pledge, Norquist said.
China is also working to weaken America’s web of allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.
Russia is playing the same game. In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and still occupies two provinces. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea by force — something we had not seen in Europe since World War II — and entered combat against Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine. Russia seeks every opportunity to weaken NATO.
“Our goal over the next decade is to maintain a force strong enough to deter aggression and, should deterrence fail, to prevail in any conflict,” Norquist said. “This requires us to continue adapting and changing.”
The United States is concentrating on leap-ahead technologies like artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons. But the nation is also investing in the people needed to use these new capabilities, he said.
The new technologies only go so far. They must be fielded in a way “to make the sum greater than the parts,” he said.
Norquist chaired a Future Naval Forces Study. “We examined ships and Marine units we have, and those we might build by 2045,” he said. “We looked at their costs, their analytical capabilities, and we war-gamed different combinations of ships and Marine forces against different future missions and challenges.”
The results of this study will be used to build the fleet and forces needed over the next 25 years.
He noted that the Joint Staff is developing a draft Joint Warfighting Concept to align personnel, equipment, organizations, training and doctrine as the military transitions to all-domain operations.
Research into hypersonics continues, and he said DOD has twice flown a hypersonic glide body over 2,000 miles in under 20 minutes at speeds approaching 20 times the speed of sound.
“While we focus on accelerating the development of our own capabilities, we remain aware of what our near-peer competitors are doing,” Norquist said. “Just as China and Russia watched us closely, we are watching them to exploit their weaknesses.”
All of this does require investment. He called on Congress to continue adequate, timely funding.
Budget cuts, as some propose, will endanger the United States and cause a reversal of readiness, he said.
“Warfighting is in a new era,” Norquist said. “In four years, we have become more lethal, a stronger partner and a wiser spender. But despite our progress, we cannot stop here. China’s plans are ambitious, and we need to keep making strides.”
11 Sep 20. F-35 Is Running $10bn Short Through 2025, Pentagon Finds. The Pentagon’s five-year budget plan for the F-35 falls short by as much as $10bn, the military’s independent cost analysis unit has concluded, a new indication that the complex fighter jet may be too costly to operate and maintain.
The Defense Department’s blueprint for the next five fiscal years calls for requesting $78bn for research and development, jet procurement, operations and maintenance and military construction dedicated to the F-35 built by Lockheed Martin Corp. But the cost analysis unit estimates $88bn will be needed.
The estimated shortfall was set out in a four-page review dated June 17 and marked “For Official Use Only.” The document, obtained by Bloomberg News, provides the first comprehensive estimate through 2077 for the Pentagon’s costliest weapons program since it underwent a major reorganization in 2012.
The F-35’s total “life cycle” cost is estimated at $1.727trn in current dollars. Of that, $1.266trn is for operations and support of the advanced plane that’s a flying supercomputer.
“As the five-years numbers are estimates, we do not have a reaction,” said Brandi Schiff, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department’s F-35 program office.
The projected shortfall is “an issue to address” during preparation of the next five-year defense budget plan, Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood said in an email. “The department has a range of options regarding the F-35 program and will consider these issues.”
The shortfall “includes research and development, military construction, procurement and system operations and maintenance,” Sherwood said.
He added that the projected cost increase isn’t due to any expected major increase in the unit cost of the aircraft. In fact, the cost analysis office projects that the average procurement cost for an F-35, including its engines, is dropping from a planned $109m to $101.3m in 2012 dollars. By contrast, it found that estimated support costs once the planes are built have increased about 7% over a 2012 estimate.
That will present a daunting budgeting challenge to the next president, whether Donald Trump is re-elected or Democrat Joe Biden defeats him.
The Pentagon anticipates a flat budget with virtually no growth at least through fiscal 2023. That’s at the same time it’s ramping up the costly modernization of nuclear weapons systems, stepped-up shipbuilding and moving the F-35 program into full-rate production next March. The current five-year plan calls for requesting funding for 96 jets by 2025, up from 79 requested for fiscal 2021.
The F-35 program “had a good stretch where it stayed within its revised cost estimates, but this shows that the programs costs are once again growing faster than expected,” said Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said it underscores “that DoD is facing some serious budget challenges over the next four years, regardless of who wins the White House.”
Byron Callan, a managing director and defense analyst with Capital Alpha Partners LLC, said “something will have to give. If the estimate is correct, DoD may have to find funding from other programs or cut its purchases of the F-35.”
Among other findings by the Pentagon cost analysis unit:
- “There remains uncertainty” about the F-35’s long-term costs because so far the planes have flown only about 2% of the total flight hours called for over their life cycle.
- The reasons that aircraft procurement costs have dropped “remarkably” since 2012 include inflation that has been less than expected, an increase in foreign sales of 138 planes, or 18%, and contractor fees to Lockheed that were less than projected.
- The “government should take steps to correct” a lack of sufficient data to understand the sustainment costs for the plane’s Pratt & Whitney engines. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Bloomberg)
10 Sep 20. New Pentagon directive will put programs on more solid ground, says MDA boss. A new Pentagon directive that essentially updates its charter — which calls for increased oversight from specific department offices — would put programs developed within the agency on more solid ground, according to the head of the Missile Defense Agency.
The recently disclosed (but dated in March) “directive-type memorandum” on “missile defense system policies and governance” was signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist. The memo seeks to involve more players in oversight of MDA programs, such as requiring the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office to provide independent cost estimates before MDA program development and production decisions are made.
In addition, more oversight would be given to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment and less to the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering.
The changes went into effect in August.
The memo comes at a time when the future chain of command for the MDA is up in the air. Legislators expressed their frustration in the spring with how leadership handled a number of missile defense priorities, including a space-based sensor layer that could track hypersonic weapons and the abrupt cancellation of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program.
“We worked very closely across the department on the directive-type memo,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said at the Defense News Conference on Sept. 10, “which will result in a re-review of the overall charter.”
Hill said the directive “essentially codifies what we’re already doing.” The MDA “had to deal with the fact that we had an organizational change not reflected in the current charter,” he added.
With the dissolution of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and with the creation of the USD for research and engineering and the USD for acquisition and sustainment in 2018, “that needs to be accounted for and then the roles and responsibilities of each and how the Missile Defense Agency is responsive to that,” Hill said.
The memo also “brings up some areas that I think really do make programs more solid — things like independent technical reviews that are required at each major phase within a program,” Hill said, adding that, for example, military utility assessments “are very powerful.”
Hill said he sees the directives as “codifying how we’re doing business.”
That was particularly reflected, he said, in how MDA proceeded with its new attempt to develop a Next-Generation Interceptor to replace Ground-Based Interceptors that are part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System. The system protects the United States homeland from possible intercontinental ballistic missile attacks from adversaries like Iran and North Korea.
Then-Pentagon research and engineering head Mike Griffin canceled an upgrade effort — the Redesigned Kill Vehicle — to the Ground-Based Interceptors last year in favor of pursuing a new interceptor as the upgrade effort ran into insurmountable technical issues.
“If you look at the way we did the Next-Generation Interceptor, from requirements to getting the request for proposals to what we’re doing in source selection, and then, when we come to the decision to make the award, we’re following exactly the spirit of what the deputy secretary has just put out,” Hill said.
The request for proposals to industry for the NGI was delayed for several months as MDA ran parallel an acquisition plan, the drafting of a request for proposals and the creation of requirements.
To get requirements right, the NGI program went through the Joint Requirements Oversight Council rather than a combatant command-focused Operational Forces Standing Committee, which is customary.
Hill said earlier this year that the process with the council led MDA to realize that “our requirements were almost so technical there was no way a war fighter would ever be able to understand them and say: ‘Yes, go for it.’ ”
Being able to take NGI through the JROC process “meant that I had the endorsement of all the service leads, which is incredible. And so I have that in addition to the combatant commands through our normal process,” Hill said Sept. 10.
“We are trying to do all the right things to make sure requirements are rock solid, that the development process is solid through independent technical review across every phase to military utility assessments to lead service designations as early as possible. I think it’s all good,” he added.
“We’re talking about big systems now that we need to get right and we have to have a high level of confidence in; it gets very complicated very fast,” acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson said during the same conference event. “But our efforts here, and Deputy Secretary Norquist’s, we are very committed to finding ways to streamline and to accelerate in a way that balances the sense of urgency with the requirements to be thorough and not have any rushes to failure.” (Source: Defense News)
10 Sep 20. DOD Officials Describe Modernization Priorities That Will Benefit Warfighters. Defense Department officials spoke about the DOD’s modernization strategy, including the development and procurement of high priority systems — such as artificial intelligence, directed energy, small satellites, hypersonics, a 5G network and unmanned aerial systems — which could potentially offer game-changing results on the battlefield.
Dr. Mark J. Lewis, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Michael Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, spoke today at the Defense News Conference.
Lewis noted that Congress has been very supportive with the direction of the DOD’s research and engineering work.
One of the important reasons for this support on the Hill, Lewis said, is that the DOD has demonstrated that it has adopted an approach to “accepting risk intelligently.” That means supporting research and engineering efforts that either result in success or in some measure of success, such that even if an experiment fails, some learning about the physics and process results in enlightenment for the successful creation of a future capability.
The types of failures that the DOD wants to avoid are “dumb failures,” such as a fin falling off a rocket or use of a wrong type of battery, said Lewis, who is also the director of defense research and engineering for modernization.
A second strategy of the department, Lewis said, is ensuring each of the services and DOD organizations — including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — are researching and developing systems that are complementary across the department and are not duplicative.
A third strategy, Lewis said, is working with industry and academia on important research or technologies that could benefit the warfighter.
The other portion of this strategy is working with allies and partners across the globe, even those that are less traditional partners. This benefits the department because it gets a variety of perspectives and viewpoints, he said, adding that all 11 of DOD’s top modernization priorities involve working with allies and partners.
The department’s modernization priorities are rapidly developing, Lewis said. “The most important thing is that we’re moving beyond the research lab. We’re moving beyond the development phase. We’re really moving to actual procurement.”
Some examples Lewis cited are:
- The Space Development Agency just awarded contracts for low-Earth orbit satellites that will benefit the military’s command, control and communications systems.
- Several programs across the department are involved in testing hypersonic prototypes, including an air-breathing cruise missile with plans to deliver these to the warfighter before the end of the decade.
- The department is experimenting with AI for numerous applications, including for UAS flights.
In addition, Brown provided the following examples:
- Testing of AI-assisted augmented reality is being done with microscopes that will look for precancerous cells that a radiologist might not be able to otherwise spot unassisted.
- AI algorithms are helping National Guard troops and California firefighters pinpoint areas they need to be or avoid in fighting wildfires.
- DIU is supporting the Army’s small UAS program known as Blue sUAS. Five suppliers are already on the General Services Administration schedule and two more will be added next week. Although it was an Army program, the Air Force and Marine Corps are ready to buy, and talks are underway with the Department of the Interior and Customs and Border Protection. Allies have also expressed an interest. (Source: US DoD)
10 Sep 20. DSCA Encourages Partners to Look Beyond Gear to Multi-Domain Ops. While it’s true the Defense Security Cooperation Agency is most-closely associated with foreign military sales, that is not all they do. When it comes to working with security partners, there’s an effort now to focus on multi-domain operations to improve teamwork in regards to air operations, Heidi H. Grant, DSCA’s new director said.
“To effectively build a partnership and team in air operations, we work with our allies to bring them into a multi-domain environment,” Grant said, during a conversation at the Defense News Conference today. “In this era of renewed great power competition, our adversaries will not be operating in singular land, air or sea domains. They will be operating in multi-domain environments to include cyber and space.”
Operationalizing a multi-domain approach, she said, allows for more effective air-power teaming, for instance.
“One of the challenges is to get our partners to look beyond what I call the ‘bright and shiny aircraft’ to the added necessity to connect and develop a net-centric capability, which will … make it more effective,” she said.
To further push the multi-domain approach, Grant said the DSCA team works actively with geographic combatant commands, military departments and the U.S. defense industry to ensure defense sales are more holistic. She also said the agency monitors international competitions to create further opportunities to expand the use of U.S. platforms with allies and partners.
“Currently, we’re monitoring 48 international competitions with 24 partners,” she said. “Of those, 70% are air-power based and primarily rotary wing and fighter jets.”
Grant also said that DSCA is working to ensure that the exportability of U.S. capabilities is built-in to both programs of record and non-programs of record so that defense partners can have access to the capabilities they need more quickly.
“We’re doing our best to lean forward with new emerging technologies to ensure we have a determination on release in advance of actual system deployment by the U.S. military forces,” she said.
While it makes sense that U.S.-developed capabilities would be fielded to the U.S. military first, she said partners have said that more could be done earlier in consideration that they also might want access to those capabilities.
“I think this has been one of the complaints of FMS … we think about the U.S. first, and we don’t think about our allies and partners in advance,” she said.
Now, she said, there’s significant effort across the U.S. government and within industry to consider the exportability of U.S. military hardware early on in its development so that it will be easier to share that technology with partners. That way, partners will consider U.S. technology first — and the compatibility that comes with it — rather than looking elsewhere.
“I think it’s … important to recognize the market is becoming increasingly competitive overall,” she said. “Allies and partners don’t want to wait to procure the most advanced technology.”
Grant has been on board as director of the DSCA, an agency with a civilian and military workforce of about 20,000 personnel, for just over four weeks now.
As the new director, she said she plans on implementing a “partner culture” within the agency to better serve stakeholders.
“This is something that’s been important to me in the last couple of … leadership roles that I’ve held, this ‘partner culture,’ and it fits very nicely here in the organization. It’s what I value,” she said, during an earlier telephonic conference Sept. 9.
Grant used the word “partner” as a mnemonic device to spell out the priorities she thinks will enhance the partner culture she hopes will grow within DSCA.
“I want the agency to be proactive, in how we do business — proactive in identifying what our stakeholders need so that we can develop policies and plans to ensure they’re successful,” she said.
The DSCA will also remain accountable to stakeholders, including Congress, she said.
“I can tell you my predecessors have done a tremendous job in reforming our processes to streamline how we do business. And I want to build on that success and will hold the organization accountable for achieving the tangible results,” Grant said.
Agency work will also be conducted with respect, she said. With a diverse array of stakeholders, including the defense industry, foreign partners and agencies within the U.S. government, there are bound to be disagreements on how to proceed with agency work.
“What we’ll do is navigate our work, leading a diverse stakeholder group, with respect for each other’s organizations, equities and responsibilities,” she said. “I really believe in order to make progress, we really need to roll up our sleeves and understand each other.”
As with nearly every government agency, transparency is also a key facet of Grant’s partner culture, she said.
“I want to make sure our stakeholders understand the context associated with process improvement, policy development or funds management and have the opportunity to contribute and provide feedback,” she said.
The National Defense Strategy has called for building new partnerships and alliances and strengthening existing ones — DSCA is a key part of that. But as the Defense Department and the DSCA make greater pushes into areas like space and cyber, Grant said, the DSCA itself will need to grow its network of stakeholders — that’s the ‘n’ in partner — to be successful.
“The importance of this mission has grown, and it will only continue to grow and expand into new mission areas,” she said. “As the opportunities increase, we’ll continue to build our network of stakeholders who will contribute to our success.”
Grant also said that there’s significant talent within the 20,000 personnel inside DSCA, and that agency success will require empowering those individuals to work closely with foreign governments and industry counterparts to advance agency efforts.
Finally, she said, DSCA’s work must always represent the values of the United States and its people. (Source: US DoD)
09 Sep 20. GBSD, B-21 Spending Could Top $10bn In 2027: Cowen Group. B-21 production costs, the Cowen analysis finds, will ramp up fast, from $202m in 2022 to $4bn in 2027. The Air Force’s combined spending on the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and the B-21 bomber is likely to triple by 2027 to some $10.2bn annually, as production begins to ramp up under both programs, the Cowen Washington Research Group estimates.
The $13.3bn GBSD contract, announced yesterday by the Air Force, covers engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) of the new ICBMs through 2029. The Cowen analysis, out today, notes that while the contract announcement does not explain whether LRIP is included, it can be assumed. This is because Air Force budget justification documents detail plans for “five option years” under the contract to include “early production and deployment,” author Roman Schweizer explains.
GBSD, which will replace the aging LGM-30G Minuteman III missiles that first became operational in 1970, represents one third of DoD’s top priority nuclear modernization effort. The third leg of the modernization program is the Navy’s planned buy of 12 new Columbia-class nuke-launching submarines, which the Pentagon’s 2021 budget documents estimate to cost $110bn to buy.
The Congressional Budget Office in 2019 estimated the price tag for the total DoD triad modernization effort at $234 bn through 2028. This ginormous price tag does not include spending by the Energy Department to build the nuclear warheads that would be carried by DoD’s ICBMs, bombers and subs.
Northrop Grumman was the sole bidder for the GBSD program following Boeing’s decision last year to drop out over concerns about Northrop’s acquisition of one of the two makers of solid rocket motors in the country, Orbital ATK.
Cowen estimates that research and development spending for GBSD will jump from $1.5bn in 2021, peaking at $3.07bn in 2024, and decreasing to $1.9 bn in 2027. Production, the analysis says, will begin in 2027 with a budget of $2bn. The Air Force’s press release yesterday says that it expects to begin deploying GBSD in late 2020.
For the B-21, the analysis estimates that R&D spending will steadily decline from the $2.8bn in the Air Force’s 2021 request to $1.2bn in 2027. But production costs, the analysis finds, will ramp up: from $202m in 2022 to $4bn in 2027.
A layered approach comprised of NGI, Aegis BMD and THAAD could be available in the mid to late-2020s, which strengthens our defense against a rogue
The analysis is largely based on Air Force budget estimates through 2025, and Schweizer’s own projections. Of course, this means the numbers are squishy. That’s especially true for the B-21, whose program is highly classified.
Indeed, the number of B-21 bombers the Air Force intends to buy, originally set at 100, remains unclear. As Breaking D readers know, senior service officials have been hinting loudly that they need more.
In addition, unit costs for the stealth bomber’s production are also classified. Way back in 2015, when the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman the B-21 contract, it put a cap on the Average Production Unit Cost per aircraft of $550 m in 2010 dollars. “The APUC from the independent estimate supporting today’s award is $511m per aircraft, again in 2010 dollars,” the release added. No updated assessments have been released. Several high officials have said the program is on budget and on schedule, without providing any details.
Finally, the production schedule and the count of how many are to be built each year, is classified, along with the planned annual procurement costs. That said, our colleagues at Bloomberg reported in February that internal Air Force budget documents show procurement starting in 2022 budgeted at $193m. That jumps to $4.3bn in 2025. Schweizer said in an email that his estimates are based on those numbers, and that the projections for 2026 and 2027 are his own.
Cowen’s analysis notes that Congress is by and large supportive of both efforts. While some have fretted that presidential candidate Joe Biden might reconsider building the GBSD, the document says that is not likely. After all, the Obama administration, during which Biden served as Veep, actually started the program. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
09 Sep 20. Defense authorization bill delayed until after election. A bipartisan compromise and vote on the 2021 defense policy bill isn’t likely before the Nov. 3 elections, but it should come “quickly” thereafter, the House Armed Services Committee’s top Republican said Wednesday.
The vote would delay a decision from Congress about whether the Defense Department to rename military bases honoring Confederate leaders. It’s defining issue for the $740.5bn defense authorization bill, which includes must-pass provisions like military pay hikes, defense equipment purchase plans and strategic posturing of forces in coming years.
“There are more negotiations that have to occur, and part of that negotiation is talking with the White House about the shape of that provision,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, of Texas, said at the Defense News Conference. “Is there a way to get everybody to ‘good?’ Of course there is. Is it likely to happen before the election? No, it’s not.”
Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to back language requiring the changes, though the House requires the names changed within one year and the Senate bill requires them within three years.
President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act over the Confederate name changes among other issues.
Trump has said Senate Armed Services Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., personally assured him that Congress will not force the Pentagon to change the names. That’s fueled speculation that bipartisan negotiations to reconcile the bills could drag on.
The summer’s sustained protests over racial injustice have buoyed the provision, while Trump has argued that changing the names would dishonor troops who have served at the sites and that Confederate symbols aren’t racist. “We can’t cancel our whole history,” he told Fox News last month.
Thornberry, who had offered a softer alternative as a House amendment, said Wednesday that both sides have political incentives not to compromise on the base renaming provision, among other issues.
“I don’t know how that will come out in conference, but I do think we are in a time when neither party is rewarded for compromise, and coming together and getting things done,” he said. “On the other hand, I think we should be able to get a conference report pretty quickly after the election.” (Source: Defense News)
09 Sep 20. Industry could wait months for COVID reimbursements from Pentagon. As the defense department seeks billions in emergency funding to reimburse industry for costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official pledged not to rush that money out the door.
Speaking at the annual Defense News Conference, Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said it will likely take five to six months before any reimbursements to industry under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act will take place as the department seeks a “very data driven approach” to that money.
Section 3610 of the CARES act allows firms serving the federal government to seek reimbursement for pandemic-related expenses, but Congress hasn’t passed corresponding appropriations. Defense officials have said they need roughly $10n, and that without added funding from Congress, the Pentagon would have to dip into modernization and readiness funds.
“We believe we need that appropriation to maintain readiness because if we do not get that what we are going to find is we are not going to get the number of units delivered, we are not going to maintain warfighter readiness, we’re not going to move forward in modernization,” Lord said. “We would like to take the one-time hit and then see where we go from there.”
Should Congress appropriate the requested funds, the Pentagon would issue a request for proposal, with the large primes gathering data from up and down their supply chains before returning with their requests to the Pentagon. That process will likely take two to three months, Lord said.
“Then we want to look at all of the proposals at once. It isn’t going to be a first-in-first-out and we have to rationalize using the rules we’ve put in place, what would be reimbursable, and what’s not,” she added. “So overall, we think five to six months, in terms of a process.”
When the COVID pandemic struck in March, hundreds of defense subcontractors had to close up shop. As of now, only 30 remain shuttered, Lord said, although she acknowledged that the department is keeping a wary eye on the situation.
“What we are looking for is whether or not we’re maintaining warfighter readiness for our production programs, and then relative to modernization, whether we are hitting key milestones relative to development programs,” she said. “We have seen some slowdowns. We are carefully monitoring, using monthly metrics, where we are.”
While the most recent round of quarterly earnings reports from public defense companies did not show a major slowdown from COVID, Lord warned that those reports “in large part don’t reflect the hits that were taken by business,” warning of a “delayed response” in terms of the diseases’ economic impact on the sector.
“I would contend that most of the effects of COVID haven’t yet been seen, because most companies gave their employees time off, they stretched out production, paid a lot of people for working 100% when perhaps they were only getting 50% of the hours in and so forth,” she said.
“So I think the system has absorbed it up to this point in time. Now when we get to the point where we’re having payments and incentive fees and award fees earned, and if we haven’t done the deliveries, that’s where you’re going to see the hit.” (Source: Defense News)
09 Sep 20. Eliminating geographic bias could be key in information fight. To be successful in today’s information fight — what military leaders call the competition phase ahead of conflict — the U.S. military must tear down certain geographic assumptions it has built over the course of its counterterror mission, according to a top general.
After 9/11, sensors and personnel were trained to locate terrorists on a map. But given the global nature of new mediums such as space and cyberspace, the physical location of an adversary might not be the most important factor, said Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, commander of 16th Air Force.
“[When] we look at data or competition in the information environment or where a hacker exists, that physical location may not be the most critical factor in terms of how we think about threats going forward either in the cyber or the space domain,” he said Sept. 9 during a virtual presentation as part of the Billington Cybersecurity Summit.
“As we look at the adversary’s competition forces, how Russia is using private military companies to be able to disavow their activities — that’s occurring across multiple combatant commands. When we take a step back and we look at that globally, it’s a very different sight picture as to see what adversary activities are underway.”
The geographic commands the military has created as a way to command forces across the world are increasingly becoming stretched, as malign actors can simultaneously influence multiple regions through non-kinetic or information-based capabilities. In response, the U.S. military has begun reexamining its war-fighting structure.
“What I’ve noticed is that, as opposed to everything I’ve done my entire career, the biggest difference is that in the future there will be no lines on the battlefield,” Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in August, previewing a new war-fighting structure under development.
One example in the cyberspace realm that posed a thorny legal conundrum for this new paradigm was the fight against the Islamic State group. Though ISIS was physically based in Iraq and Syria, it was using servers from across the world to spread its message, recruit fighters and promote its activities. In some cases, the servers were based in nations friendly to the United States, posing a challenging debate over whether to tell those host nations if American forces were going to take down the servers to disrupt ISIS’ operations.
Haugh pointed provided the example of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, explaining that while that is of interest to Indo-Pacific Command, China is using the plan to project influence beyond the region. For a command that transcends those geographic boundaries, he said, his airmen must eliminate their previous geographic bias and focus more on data.
“How do we, as one of the elements that can help assist in understanding that activity, be able to think about it not with a geographic bias, but really getting back to that core idea of which data is relevant, ensuring we’re using our authorities properly to be able to inform those decisions so that, as a nation, we can determine what’s the best approach, whether that be from a Department of Defense perspective or across our interagency or with our partners,” he said.
09 Sep 20. Hyten: New Warfighting Concept to Erase Battlefield Lines. A new warfighting concept due to be delivered by the end of the year will do away with the traditional concept of “battlefield lines,” said Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Mark Esper tasked the Pentagon with developing new warfighting ideas for engaging in future conflicts that incorporate all battle domains and address threats outlined in the National Defense Strategy. This will require the services to restructure its forces and change the way they operate.
The development process is still in the experimentation phase, Hyten said Sept. 9 at the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition, which was held virtually due to COVID-19 safety concerns. However, the upcoming concept is beginning to take shape, he noted.
“We’re about there and we’re starting to understand what that [concept] really is,” he said.
The upcoming document — which is slated to be released in December — will be unique in that it changes the way the military will operate by eliminating lines on the battlefield such as fire support coordination lines, he noted. Instead of designating areas for each of the service’s operations, fires will come in from multiple domains, he said.
“We’re going to be able to bring fires from all domains including space and cyber, kinetic and non-kinetic,” he said. “We’ll be able to bring fires from all domains seamlessly.”
The goal is to be able to deter adversaries from attacking U.S. forces, he said.
“The speed in which we do that will overwhelm an adversary and hopefully create the environment where we no longer have to worry about fighting that war because an adversary will look at us and say, ‘I never want to enter into war with the United States,’” he said.
Artificial intelligence will be a key part of the concept, he noted.
“It has to be enabled by artificial intelligence,” he said. “We have to be able to use machine learning to create that environment, and [the] all-domain command-and-control concept has to have all those pieces together.”
The department will also need to work closely with its allies, he added.
To better acquire advanced AI technologies, the Defense Department must better coordinate with industry, he said. Many companies already have the computer algorithms it needs, he noted.
There are “industry partners out there that already have functioning algorithms that can take massive amounts of data, apply the algorithms … and learn from that [and] allow the machine to learn from that,” he said.
The Pentagon will need to adopt new AI technologies in a more modern, quick way, he said.
Additionally, the Pentagon will need to change the way it acquires software, he noted. Rather than employing large development teams of about 500 people, the Defense Department should have smaller, more agile processes that can deliver products quickly.
“We have to figure out how to do that across our enterprise,” he said.
(Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)
08 Sep 20. Trump says Pentagon leaders are under defense industry’s influence. U.S. President Donald Trump accused Pentagon leaders of wanting to “fight wars” to satisfy the defense industry, during a White House news conference Monday.
Trump, who’s been under fire for reports he disparaged fallen service members, made the remarks to contrast with his Democratic opponent in the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden, who he accused of sending “our youth to fight these crazy endless wars.
“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me. The soldiers are,” Trump said. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Throughout the Trump administration, the president has proudly supported the U.S. defense industry and the jobs it creates, both at home and through overseas deals. Trump, in December 2018, called U.S. defense spending levels “crazy,” but he’s also boasted that he’s responsible for $2.5trn in spending on military equipment. (The figure is reportedly much lower.)
In Monday’s remarks, Trump noted his administration’s success in fighting the Islamic State group and his desire to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Trump attacked Biden as a “globalist” over the previous administration’s trade deals and involvement in foreign wars, before touting his own promotion of burden-sharing among NATO allies.
“Some people don’t like to come home. Some people like to continue to spend money,” Trump said.
Which candidate respects the military has become a top issue in the presidential race since a report in The Atlantic on Thursday, which quoted anonymous administration officials who charged Trump with referring to fallen U.S. troops buried in France as “losers” and “suckers.” They also alleged the president questioned why any American would join the military, and demanded that wounded veterans be kept out of planned parades because “nobody wants to see that.”
Biden called on the president to apologize for his reported remarks.
“If what was written in The Atlantic is true, it is disgusting and it affirms what most of us believe to be true: that Donald Trump is not fit to do the job of president or be the commander in chief,” he said.
A Military Times poll last week showed a continued decline in active-duty service members’ views of Trump and a slight but significant preference for Biden in the upcoming November election among troops surveyed. (Source: Defense News)
08 Sep 20. GOP’s ‘targeted’ stimulus doesn’t include defense dollars. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday introduced and set up a floor vote for a leaner Republican coronavirus relief bill, but it does not contain the billions of dollars the defense industry has sought to diffuse the economic impact of the pandemic.
The bill, which includes some of the elements of the $1trn package the GOP proposed in July, is intended to break a weekslong partisan stalemate. However, it has a slim chance of passage in the face of Democrats’ insistence for more sweeping aid.
“The Senate Republican majority is introducing a new targeted proposal, focused on some of the very most urgent health-care, education and economic issues. It does not contain every idea our party likes,” McConnell said in a statement. “I will be moving immediately today to set up a floor vote as soon as this week.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what the differences, if any, were to an earlier version that Senate Republicans floated last month. Both draft bills excluded the $29bn for defense that the GOP included in its previous $1trn package.
The $1trn proposal from July contained $11bn to reimburse defense contractors for coronavirus-related expenses, as authorized by Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. which expires Sept. 30. Defense firms and trade associations have lobbied for an extension of Section 3610 as well as the funding, fearing the Pentagon would otherwise have to tap modernization and readiness accounts.
The move comes as lawmakers straggle back to Washington for an abbreviated preelection session, as hopes are dimming for another coronavirus relief bill — or much else.
Passage of an extension for Section 3610 and any funding may have a better chance if lawmakers can attach it to and pass a stopgap continuing resolution before Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends and 2020 appropriations run out. However, defense industry observers were pessimistic on Tuesday.
“I don’t see any of the COVID package procurement money making it into the CR, and the CR is a high hurdle in any event,” a defense industry source told Defense News. “This Senate bill is a ‘press release’ bill and not a piece of legislation that has a chance of passing into law.”
Several Republican senators in tough reelection bids are eager to show constituents they are working to ease the pandemic’s strain on jobs, businesses and health care. But many Senate Republicans are resisting more spending.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters Tuesday that the GOP conference would discuss the legislation during a meeting on Wednesday.
McConnell’s move Tuesday would clear the way for a Thursday test vote in which the $500bn, scaled-back bill — roughly half the size of a measure McConnell unveiled earlier this summer — is sure to be blocked by Democrats.
McConnell’s bill would provide more than $100bn to help schools reopen, enact a shield against lawsuits for businesses and others that are powering ahead to reopen, create a scaled-back supplemental jobless benefit of $300-per-week, and write off $10bn in earlier post office debt. (The National Defense Industrial Association is among groups that have called for a liability shield.)
But the bill won’t contain another round of $1,200 direct payments going out under President Donald Trump’s name.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., continues to demand $2.2trn, and while Trump’s negotiators have signaled a willingness to inch further in her direction, a significant gap remains.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., rapped McConnell in a statement Tuesday for resisting earlier calls to work on an economic stimulus bill. They called the most recent bill “political” and a nonstarter with Democrats.
“As they scramble to make up for this historic mistake, Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere,” Pelosi and Schumer said. (Source: Defense News)
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