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08 Oct 20. US Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress. The US Navy’s new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program envisions procuring a class of 28 to 30 new amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, particularly in implementing a new Marine Corps operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $30m in research and development funding for initial industry studies and concept design work on the ship. The Navy envisions procuring the ships on an expedited schedule, with the first LAWs potentially being procured in FY2023 and a total of 28 notionally being procured by FY2026.
The EABO concept was dveloped with an eye toward potential conflict scenarios with China in the Western Pacific. Under the concept, the Marine Corps envisions, among other things, having reinforced-platoon-sized Marine Corps units maneuver around the theater, moving from island to island, to fire anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and perform other missions so as to contribute, alongside Navy and other U.S. military forces, to U.S. operations to counter and deny sea control to Chinese forces. The LAW ships would be instrumental to these operations, with LAWs embarking, transporting, landing, and subsequently reembarking these small Marine Corps units.
As conceived by the Navy and Marine Corps, LAWs would be much smaller and individually much less expensive to procure and operate than the Navy’s current amphibious ships. The Navy wants LAWs to be 200 to 400 feet in length, and to have a unit procurement cost to be “several digit millions not triple digit millions,” a phrase that might be interpreted to mean a unit procurement cost of less than $100m, or perhaps one that is closer to $100m than to several hundred million dollars.
The LAW as outlined by the Navy is small enough that it could be built by any of several U.S. shipyards. The Navy states that in response to an initial request for information (RFI) about the LAW, it received responses from 13 firms, including nine shipyards. The Navy’s baseline preference is to have a single shipyard build all 28 to 30 ships, but the Navy is open to having them built in multiple yards to the same design if doing so could permit the program to be implemented more quickly and/or less expensively.
The LAW program poses a number of potential oversight matters for Congress, including the merits of the EABO concept, how LAWs would fit into the Navy’s future fleet architecture, the Navy’s preliminary unit procurement cost target for the ship, and the industrial-base implications of the program.
The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2021 funding request and envisioned acquisition strategy for the program. Congress’s decisions regarding the program could affect Navy and Marine Corps capabilities and funding requirements and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Congressional Research Service)
09 Oct 20. Western Hemisphere Allies Work Together to Ensure Stability. A sign outside an office in the Pentagon summarizes the feelings of the people inside the office: “The Western Hemisphere Is the Best Hemisphere.”
Sergio De La Peña, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, says that, despite some problems, the “neighborhood” is safe and prospering. Still, this condition requires constant attention and involvement.
De La Peña’s office provides policy guidance for U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command. It has responsibility stretching from the Arctic to the Antarctic. It is half the globe.
De La Peña is the only deputy assistant secretary for the region. In contrast, the rest of the globe has eight deputy assistant secretaries.
The Western Hemisphere is relatively peaceful compared to the rest of the world, but it isn’t without problems. Transnational criminal organizations call the hemisphere home. Drug and human trafficking are vast problems throughout the hemisphere. Economic disparities exacerbate migration trends and there are a few countries — Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — that just can’t get with the program, De La Peña said.
And the hemisphere is not immune to problems arising in other parts of the world. China and Russia are rising great power competitors of the United States and they see some countries in the region as ripe targets. China and Russia look for any way to sow dissension among friends and create doubt and uncertainty in alliances.
Terrorist organizations, too, look for ungoverned or under-governed areas in which to establish safe havens. The terrorist groups also look to cooperate with transnational criminal organizations.
Countering these threats requires constant monitoring, communication and effort. Thankfully, De La Peña said, the extent and level of cooperation among the nations of the hemisphere may be at its highest levels to date.
“We are a collaborative, prosperous and secure hemisphere,” he said. The United States is working with nations of the hemisphere to improve lives throughout the region. The United States is not imposing its will, he said, but listening to its neighbors as cooperatively, the region moves forward.
“Transparency, the rule of law, human rights, the rights of … minorities,” are all values shared among the nations of the Western Hemisphere, De La Peña said. It has been a tough row to get to this point as many of the nations emerged from dictatorships. The progression has been a “whole-of-governments” effort — meaning all elements of U.S. influence and power worked with the elements of influence and power in partner nations. Democracy cannot be imposed on a nation or people, but must be the desire of the population.
Economic, diplomatic and intelligence/information is part of the effort, but the military plays a role in the effort, as well.
U.S. Southern Command has outstanding contacts and relations with the nations of Central and South America and the Caribbean, De La Peña said.
The main U.S. military effort is helping the nations of the region build capabilities to guard their sovereignty. The militaries must answer to their civilian leaders and respect the human rights of their citizens.
This is working. Many of the Central and South American militaries have embraced this effort and, frankly, have become “exporters” of security. Colombia and El Salvador provided forces in Iraq in the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other hemispheric nations are providing trained, professional forces to United Nations missions.
But the most important aspect of this is the nations are working together in the region in ways they did not in the past.
Many hemispheric nations are exchanging intelligence and information on shared threats. Service members are working bilaterally with the United States and multilaterally to improve responses and interoperability.
“What we are asking is for them to be situationally aware of their own environment and then be willing to share as they see fit,” De La Peña said. “It’s like a neighborhood watch; nations must have situational awareness over their own sovereign space.”
Maintaining situational awareness over land, sea and air is tough enough, but, now, the new domains of space and cyber add new levels of complexities to an already daunting task, he said.
But those new domains are key to understanding threats and combating them.
There are very few threats that reside completely within the borders of one nation. Cooperating and sharing is absolutely essential to beating back those threats.
On the military-to-military relations side of the equation, leaders have good relationships. They have a common understanding of threats, and they can advise civilian leaders on the strategies necessary to defeat them, De La Peña said.
“Militaries can help provide guidance and leadership,” De La Peña said. “That security is key because if you don’t have security, you’re not going to have prosperity.”
The United States will continue its close work with hemispheric nations. The Inter-American Defense College at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington is a premiere venue for collaboration. Professional military education – officer and noncommissioned officer – are other ripe areas where U.S. and allied officers can get to know one another and learn how each thinks and acts. The interaction among the neighbors requires constant maintenance, De La Peña said. The United States cannot take hemispheric allies for granted. (Source: US DoD)
08 Oct 20. DOD Issues New Data Strategy. The Department of Defense has published a new Data Strategy focused on accelerating the Department’s transition to a data-centric organization that uses data at speed and scale for operational advantage and increased efficiency. The Strategy emphasizes managing data as a strategic resource, highlighting the criticality of data to build and maintain battlefield advantage, and the need to treat information systems on par with the priority given to weapon systems.
DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy stated, “Data is the ammunition in the Digital Modernization Strategy and is increasingly central to warfighter advantage on and off the battlefield. The National Defense Strategy directed us to be more lethal, efficient, and interoperable with partners. This strategy is our first step to making that ammo persistently available to the men and women of the DOD regardless of echelon or geographic location.”
When Spirk was appointed as the Chief Data Officer for DOD, he noted how the Data Strategy will support operational data needs. “The Honorable Mr. Deasy gave me clear guidance to focus early efforts on data for joint warfighting. The Strategy’s emphasis will allow us to concentrate on that. It reinforces DOD’s priority focus areas of joint warfighting, senior leader decision support, and data analytics”
Implementing the Data Strategy will require an automated orchestration of numerous data pipelines (e.g., discovery, ingestion, preparation, storage, processing, exposure / dissemination) in order to facilitate trusted and reproducible machine-to-machine data exchanges. In close partnership with the Military Department and Joint Staff CDOs, Spirk will map and build an even larger community of data leaders, via a deliberately expanded DOD Data Council that brings in the Combatant Commands and Department Agencies and Field Activities. This empowered enterprise-wide team of DOD data leaders will work together to operationalize the objectives under the Data Strategy’s seven goals of making data visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trustworthy, interoperable, and secure.
Deasy added, “The principal challenge in the Data Strategy isn’t getting data; the Department has access to vast data reserves, but we need to build the engine to turn this resource into insight for our service members at the speed of need. The Digital Modernization program is doing just that, via our investments in cloud, A.I., C3 modernization, and cyber.”
DOD Data Strategy: Unleashing Data to Advance the National Defense Strategy
Summary: The DOD Data Strategy supports the National Defense and Digital Modernization Strategies by providing the overarching vision, focus areas, guiding principles, essential capabilities, and goals necessary to transform the Department into a data-centric enterprise.
Vision: DOD is a data-centric organization that uses data at speed and scale for operational advantage and increased efficiency.
Focus Areas: The strategy emphasizes the need to work closely with users in the operational community, particularly the warfighter. Initial areas of focus include:
Joint All Domain Operations – using data for advantage on the battlefield
Senior Leader Decision Support – using data to improve DOD management
Business Analytics – using data to drive informed decisions at all echelons
8 Guiding Principles
- Data is a Strategic Asset
- Collective Data Stewardship
- Data Ethics
- Data Collection
- Enterprise-Wide Data Access and Availability
- Data for Artificial Intelligence Training
- Data Fit for Purpose
- Design for Compliance
4 Essential Capabilities: Architecture; Standards; Governance; Talent & Culture
7-Goals (aka, VAULTIS) we must achieve to become a data-centric DOD:
- Make Data Visible – Consumers can locate the needed data.
- Make Data Accessible – Consumers can retrieve the data.
- Make Data Understandable – Consumers can recognize the content, context, and applicability.
- Make Data Linked – Consumers can exploit data elements through innate relationships.
- Make Data Trustworthy – Consumers can be confident in all aspects of data for decision-making.
- Make Data Interoperable – Consumers have a common representation/ comprehension of data.
- Make Data Secure – Consumer data is protected from unauthorized use/manipulation. (Source: US DoD)
09 Oct 20. U.S. Justice Department seeks to curb risks of foreign-made drones. The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday said it was revising its drone purchasing policy, saying those who use department funds to buy or operate foreign-made drones must mitigate the security risks and protect people’s privacy.
“We take seriously concerns about the use of foreign-made UAS and the potential for related data compromise,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in a statement, referring to unmanned aircraft systems, or drones.
The Trump administration has raised concerns about the potential for drones used by U.S. government agencies being compromised by China for spying.
The revised rules do not mention China, but say that the participating jurisdictions in the Office of Justice programs must now certify in writing they can mitigate risks of malware or unauthorized collection of information including data theft or electronic hijacking and can also secure communications and protect the information collected by the drones.
The rules also say that participants in the program must have a “plan to address civil liberties-related complaints regarding use of” the drones.
Drones have been a problem for several U.S. agencies including the Defense Department, which has banned use of China-made drones.
In August, the Pentagon announced that the federal government could purchase drones from five companies including Altavian, Parrot SA, Skydio, Teal and Vantage Robotics.
China’s SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, the world’s largest commercial drone maker, said in January that there was a lack of credible evidence to support a broad country of origin restriction on drone technology. (Source: Reuters)
07 Oct 20. All US Troops In Afghanistan To Withdraw By Christmas, Trump Tweets. The bewildering message came just hours after his national security advisor said the United States would draw down to 2,500 by 2021.
All U.S. troops currently serving in Afghanistan will return to the United States by Christmas, President Donald Trump said in a shocking tweet Wednesday night just hours after his national security advisor said that the United States would draw down its forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early next year.
“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump tweeted, about 90 minutes before the vice presidential debate was scheduled to begin.
Trump and other officials previously have said that the number of United States troops in Afghanistan would be down to between 4,000 and 5,000 troops around November, and that any subsequent withdrawal would be conditions-based.
But Trump has made it clear that he wants the United States out of Afghanistan, rarely speaking publicly about what “conditions” would be necessary to carry out that withdrawal and instead emphasizing the length of the conflict and complaining that U.S. soldiers are acting as “police” in the war torn country. Former and current administration officials have described him as eager to pull out by November in order to fulfill a key campaign promise from the 2016 election.
It was not immediately clear on Wednesday evening whether he had issued an order to zero out U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the end of the year. Notably, there have been no following statements or comments from U.S. officials at the Pentagon, U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., or in Kabul. Typically, major changes to U.S. force levels or strategy in Afghanistan have been announced with coordinated public messages by administration and military leaders. Earlier in the day, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that there are currently fewer than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan, and that the United States planned to draw down to 2,500 by early 2021.
“Ultimately, the Afghans themselves are going to have to work out an accord, a peace agreement,” O’Brien said at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It’s going to be slow progress, it’s going to be hard progress, but we think it’s a necessary step – we think Americans need to come home.”
Over the past six months, the United States reduced the number of its troops in Afghanistan first to about 8,600, in accordance with a deal brokered with the Taliban and signed in February. That deal envisioned the immediate drawdown from 14,000 to 8,600 troops by the summer, and a complete U.S. withdrawal within 14 months, if the Taliban lived up to their end of it. Pentagon leaders have long insisted that the second phase would be “conditions-based.”
Defense officials have long braced for the possibility that Trump, frustrated with the slow pace of the withdrawal process, may order a sudden and complete exit, as he did for U.S. troops in Syria. Trump has repeatedly sought to withdraw the military from conflict zones and permanent stations overseas, arguing that Americans are tired of “endless” wars. As the weeks wind down the 2020 election, the president has urged or ordered further withdrawals from Iraq, Germany, and elsewhere, in an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to end the so-called “forever” wars and force allies to take on more of the burden of their own security.
Frustration with the lengthy Afghanistan war — in which 2,400 Americans and thousands more coalition troops and Afghan citizens have perished — has grown into a national mood in recent years. Throughout the Democratic primary campaign, presidential candidates including presumptive nominee Joe Biden called for either an outright withdrawal or a substantial drawdown.
Wednesday marked the 19th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to topple al Qaeda in 2001. (Source: Defense One)
07 Oct 20. DOD Acquisition Chief Praises Reform Milestone. The Defense Acquisition System exists to develop a more lethal force, and the Defense Department’s acquisition executive is confident an overhaul, years in the making, will yield a decisive and sustained U.S. military advantage.
In remarks given at the Pentagon today, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord lauded the completion of updates to DOD Directive 5000.01, the overarching directive describing the principles governing the Defense Acquisition System.
“This capped off a comprehensive redesign of the entire DOD 5000 Series acquisition policies,” she said, “which were streamlined and modernized to empower program managers, facilitate flexibility, force critical thinking and enhance our ability to deliver capability at the speed of relevance.”
The milestone marks the culmination of the department’s initiative to transform its acquisition practices stemming back to Lord’s arrival in 2017.
Amidst a new National Defense Strategy and reorganization of the Department’s former Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics office, the impetus was on speed to restore the nation’s competitive advantage.
The legacy acquisition system was slow and perfectly fit no system, Lord said, and needed to be replaced with a solution on par with industry best practices. She also stated the update needed to create a culture that facilitates critical thinking and creative compliance.
The resulting Adaptive Acquisition Framework gets rid of the traditional one-size-fits-all model in favor of six distinct, tailorable acquisition pathways program managers can follow depending on the capability being acquired.
Despite having been in effect only since January, Lord highlighted examples of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework already making a difference in each of the services.
The Army, using the middle tier of acquisition pathway, has been able to reduce development timelines through rapid prototyping on its Integrated Visual Augmentation System.
Similarly, the Navy and Air Force are using the framework to accelerate the delivery of software. The Navy’s “Compile to Combat in 24 Hours” effort indicates progress is being made to deploy new software capabilities to ships afloat in under 24 hours, a marked improvement from the traditional 18-month timeframe. Likewise, using modern, iterative development practices like Agile and DevSecOps, the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program has been able to gain accreditation more rapidly and begin early development with industry.
Lord was joined by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Kevin Fahey and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Stacy Cummings who did much of the heavy lifting in moving the effort from concept to policy.
Speaking after the engagement, Fahey further emphasized critical thinking and creative compliance as the underlying focus of the reforms.
“Fundamentally, it’s not about picking a specific pathway and boxing yourself in,” he said. “It’s about common sense decision-making and using the AAF as a tool to bring together what makes sense for a particular program. While that may be following a pathway directly, it could also be moving from one pathway to another throughout the acquisition, or a blend of aspects from several pathways.”
Lord made mention of several service proposals that exemplify Fahey’s point, highlighting one in particular that plans to begin along the middle tier pathway before leading into a more traditional-looking major capability pathway. She added that by taking a hybrid approach, program managers and decision authorities will be able to start programs more quickly, drive down risk, and solidify requirements and engineering approaches while still ensuring proper levels of analysis and oversight.
Looking forward, Lord also brought attention to the framework’s agility to respond to emerging requirements, leaving open the potential for additional pathways in the future.
“As with the AAF’s existing pathways,” she explained, “our intent is to ensure we have a process that is designed around the characteristics of the capability in development, rather than forcing them through a business model that just doesn’t fit.”
While Lord acknowledged policy change is only one piece of the puzzle, she was encouraged by the momentum this transformation had generated and expects the 5000 Series reforms to have a long-lasting, positive impact across the department. (Source: US DoD)
06 Oct 20. US sees ‘important progress’ in Helsinki nuclear arms talks. The top U.S. negotiator in nuclear arms control talks with Russia held in Helsinki says a one-day follow-up meeting to earlier talks in Austria has yielded “important progress.”
Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, President Donald Trump’s special envoy for arms control, gave the upbeat view in a tweet Tuesday, a day after the talks in the Finnish capital with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. He gave no further detail.
The low-profile negotiations were meant as an update to a U.S.-Russia dialogue on nuclear arms in Vienna in June, July and August.
Monday’s talks are thought to have focused on producing a new agreement to replace, or to extend, the New START treaty that expires in February — the last remaining pact constraining the arsenals of the world’s two major nuclear powers.
In Moscow, the tone was much more skeptical. Speaking at a meeting with European business leaders on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Washington of “unilateralism” and said the New START treaty would likely cease to exist.
New START, which limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, expires Feb. 5 unless the U.S. and Russia agree to extend it.
Lavorov said the conditions for the treaty’s extension that the U.S. has put forward are “absolutely unilateral and don’t take into account our interests, or the experience of many decades when arms control has existed to mutual satisfaction.”
After Monday’s talks, Billingslea and Ryabkov met separately with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, who said that “in the current world situation all dialogue is important, and I welcome its continuation between the United States and Russia.”
Finland, a militarily non-aligned European Union nation that isn’t a NATO member, has a long legacy going back to the Cold War era of hosting U.S.-Russian summits and acting as a neutral ground for negotiations between officials from Washington and Moscow.
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first dedicated summit in Helsinki in July 2018. (Source: Defense News)
06 Oct 20. U.S. says Taiwan military budget boost insufficient for ‘resilient defense.’ A senior U.S. defence official said on Tuesday Taiwan’s plan to boost defense spending by $1.4bn was a step in the right direction, but insufficient to ensure resilient defense in the face of an increasing Chinese threat.
In August, the Taiwanese cabinet proposed T$453.4bn ($15.24bn) in military spending for coming year, versus T$411.3bn ($13.99bn) budgeted for this year, a rise of more than 10 percent.
The move comes as China has significantly stepped up military activity near Taiwan, which it regards as a breakaway province, raising fears it might one day attempt to retake the island by force.
David Helvey, the acting U.S. assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, told an online defense industry conference hosted by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council that actions of China’s People’s Liberation Army were a test for Taiwan’s “ability and preparedness to respond to coercion.”
“While the PLA’s actions are real and dangerous, the PLA is not unbeatable,” he said. “Taiwan can, through smart investments, send a clear signal to Beijing that Taiwan’s society and its armed forces are absolutely committed to the defense of Taiwan.”
Referring to the proposed defense budget, he added: “These increases, while a step in the right direction, however, are insufficient to ensure that Taiwan can leverage its geography, advanced technology, workforce and patriotic population to channel Taiwan’s inherent advantages necessary for a resilient defense.”
Helvey said Taiwan must continue to seek a balance in defense investment between indigenous development and foreign purchases, while avoiding over-investment in areas that did not provide a good return for limited resources.
He said United States encouraged Taiwan to invest in “large numbers of small capabilities” that would signal that “an invasion or attack would not come without significant cost.”
These include acquiring as many coastal defense cruise missiles as possible and other capabilities to help defend coastal areas and beaches, including short-range air defense, naval mines, fast-attack craft, mobile artillery and advanced surveillance assets.
Helvey also said Taiwan needed to strengthen its reserve forces, and their training “should demonstrate to the people … how small, but manageable actions can support Taiwan’s defense.”
As fears have grown about China’s intentions, so have concerns in military circles in the United States and elsewhere about Taiwan’s military preparedness, as well as the willingness of its people to stand up to any Chinese attack.
The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself but has maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to the question of whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.
Last month, sources told Reuters the United States plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems, including mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taiwan. (Source: Reuters)
06 Oct 20. Eglin F-35 Crash Resulted from Tired, Distracted Pilot and Unresponsive Tail Glitch, Investigators Find. An investigation has concluded that the May 19 crash of an F-35A Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida was caused by the pilot trying to land at an excessive speed, and a previously unknown flight control logic glitch that left its tail unresponsive.
The report, which the Air Force posted online Sept. 30, also listed multiple pilot mistakes or factors that investigators said significantly contributed to the crash on Eglin’s Runway 30. They found the pilot was fatigued and, as a result, “experienced cognitive degradation” was also distracted at a critical point in the flight due to a misaligned helmet-mounted display. The pilot tried to land with the speed hold engaged and used an alternate cross-check method, and lacked some key knowledge about the fighter’s flight control logic.
The pilot in this crash successfully ejected, sustaining non-life threatening injuries. The crash was the second involving a fifth-generation fighter at Eglin in short succession, following an F-22 crash four days earlier. It prompted alarmed base leadership to temporarily put flights on hold to focus on safety.
The F-35 was in the 58th Fighter Squadron, assigned to Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Air Force Times)
05 Oct 20. Why is the United States losing the information war? The United States is losing an ongoing information war because it’s failing to pivot from the counterterrorism fight of the last decade, according to former top government officials.
Nation state actors are waging a persistent information war against the United States and its allies as a means to undermine democratic institutions and sow discord among citizenry.
“I think the United States is being strategically defeated in the information environment. We’re not even holding our own. We’re being defeated. We’re being outmaneuvered, we’re being outflanked, we’re being out persuaded,” Michael Nagata, a retired three-star general who spent most of his career in the special operations community and served as director of strategy for the National Counterterrorism Center, said Oct. 2 during a virtual presentation at a National Defense Industrial Association conference.
The stakes for this information war are much greater than those in the war on terror, former officials contend.
“A lot of guys on [Capitol] Hill, they like to pass bills that … are buying lots of guns and not much butter. This [information warfare capability] is the butter, this is not flashy, it’s not something that you can put in a parade, but it’s as important and in this day and age maybe even more so,” Karen Monaghan, former department chief for Russia at the CIA, said at the same event.
The Defense Department has traditionally viewed information operations as supporting kinetic activities, but Nagata believes it’s time for the government to flip this paradigm in today’s global competition.
“Perhaps military physical action … or any other form of physical action by the U.S. government now should be increasingly seen as things that support information operations,” he said. “I have occasionally seen examples of this where we used kinetic action by [counterterror] elements to do shaping activities so that an information operation could succeed, but they’re rare. I think we need to make them much more commonplace.” (Source: Defense News)
05 Oct 20. US Army, Air Force sign agreement to develop joint all-domain concept. The U.S. Army and Air Force signed a two-year collaboration agreement to develop a concept for joint all-domain operations, the services announced last week.
According to an Air Force news release, the services agreed to establish the “most basic” levels of what they are calling Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or CJADC2, adding a “C” to the usual JADC2, the services’ effort to connect sensors to shooters.
The services agreed to develop mutual data-sharing standards and service interfacing by the end of fiscal 2022.
The effort will be led by Army Futures Command and the Air Force’s office of strategy, integration and requirements known as A5. The agreement was signed during a daylong meeting at the Pentagon on Sept. 29 between Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.
“The core challenges of the future fight are speed and scale,” Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, Army deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7, said in the news release. “The future fight will be much faster, and the joint force will have more sensors and more shooters. [It will] be more widely distributed than ever before.”
Both the Air Force and Army have separate, ongoing efforts to enable multidomain operations. The Air Force and the Space Force are developing the Advanced Battle Management System, the twice-tested system that the Air Force is using to connect sensors to shooters and to shorten the kill chain.
Meanwhile, the Army is modernizing its network in two-year increments with an eye on delivering tools that will enable JADC2. The Army recently tested network tools at a weeklong experiment, called Project Convergence, at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.
At the event, the Army demonstrated significant improvements in speeding up data transfers across domains using artificial intelligence, software and autonomous systems. Leadership at the experiment told reporters that the technology reduced the sensor-to-shooter timeline from 20 minutes to 20 seconds.
McConville said that the agreement with the Air Force was “very, very important.”
“We will have all sensors, the right shooter, and the right command and control coming together to give us the speed and the depth in the battlefield that we’ve never had before,” McConville said Oct. 1 at the Army Fires Conference.
Critical to the Army’s contribution to JADC2 will be its new Multi-Domain Task Force because of its ability to provide long-range precision effects, as well as intelligence, information and cyber capabilities, McConville said.
“We’re going to have the capability for long-range precision fires at ranges that we’ve never even considered before,” he added. “And this will give us a cross-domain capability to work with the joint force and coalition partners, and give us capabilities that are really going to make a difference.”
The agreement will also affect the joint forces’ training, exercises and demonstrations, the release said.
The Navy and Air Force announced a handshake agreement on JADC2 development late last year.
“Each branch, including the newly-formed Space Force, must learn to interface with each other and successfully access data, reconnaissance and intelligence collected from across joint networks,” the release stated. (Source: Defense News)
05 Oct 20. US Navy’s aging surface fleet struggles to keep ships up to spec, report shows. The U.S. Navy’s aging surface fleet is getting harder to maintain, and overall is showing declining health in several key areas, such as its main propulsion systems, electrical systems and Aegis combat systems, according to an annual report of the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey submitted to Congress earlier this year.
The so-called INSURV inspections found that over five years, the surface fleet found big dips in the main propulsion systems — the plants that produce the power to push the ship through the water — as well as in the electrical systems and aviation systems. The Aegis systems, a collection of sensors and software that protects the ship primarily from air threats, has also shown some signs of slipping over the last half-decade.
The declining trend comes after years of intense focus on readiness inside the Defense Department, but the Navy says that recent changes to how the Navy conducts the notoriously intrusive INSURV inspections are making the fleet more ready. Still, the slipping scores do raise questions about whether the Navy’s much-in-demand surface combatants are getting adequate time in maintenance.
For INSURV, ships are graded across a wide variety of systems, with scores adding up to a “figure of merit” where perfect equals 1.0. Over more than 30 surface ship inspections in 2019, the Navy tracked a 20 percent drop in scores between 2014 and 2019 in the main propulsion plant and another 20 percent drop in scores for the ships’ electrical systems.
Aegis, which is the beating heart of the combat systems on cruisers and destroyers, saw a slight but concerning drop from a figure of merit of 0.88 in 2017 to 0.77 in 2019. Aviation systems, the systems concerned with launching and recovering rotary wing aircraft, dropped from 0.77 in 2014 to 0.68 in 2019.
By contrast, scores from submarine main propulsion — governed by strict Naval Reactors guidelines and inspections — scored figures of merit of 0.94, submarine electrical systems scored 0.90, and submarine combat systems scored a 0.84.
Overall, the Navy’s surface fleet got high marks in navigation systems, medical systems, anti-submarine warfare systems and preservation.
The Navy accounts for its drop in scores by pointing to a recent change in how the service conducts the inspections. In 2019, the chief of naval operations ordered that INSURV be conducted once every three years, the length of one deployment readiness cycle where the ship is maintained, the crew is trained, and the ship deploys. The inspections were also changed from an event that is planned for well in advance, to an event that comes with little notice, and requests for delays to the inspection were prohibited.
The short-notice INSURV inspections are designed to get a more accurate picture of ships’ readiness, instead of allowing sailors ample time to borrow parts from other ships and make temporary fixes that can boost the overall score on the inspection, according to Naval Surface Force Pacific.
“Because ships knew exactly when the inspection would occur, they were able to put their best foot forward during the exam,” said SURFOR spokesperson Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman. “Over time, it became clear the (consistently good) INSURV scores ships were receiving did not accurately capture the material condition of the surface fleet.
“As a result, Navy leadership directed that future INSURV inspections be performed at any time during a ship’s [deployment cycle], and with minimal notice. At the same time, the Board of Inspection and Survey eliminated the possibility of ships receiving a delay to their inspection date due to a late occurring equipment casualty. The inspection is therefore more ‘come as you are’ than it has been in the past.”
SURFOR has also directed that ships conduct more rigorous and regular shake-out tests, such as directing the ships to max out their propulsion system in what’s known as a “full power run,” and has increased the frequency of inspections of the ship’s transmission, known as the main reduction gear, and monitoring of the health of the ships’ SPY-1 radar system, Schwegman said.
The surface fleet has made investments in increasing self-sufficiency of sailors so they can fix their own gear and made sure they have the right spares on board their ships to make sure they can fix broken gear, Schwegman said. The goal is to make sure the fleet gets away from relying too heavily on technical experts employed by the companies who make the gear on ships.
“While we have the funding and availability of technical representatives (and we send them, to include with COVID-19 protocols in place), we will continue to ensure that ships are able to maintain most if not all of their equipment should technical assistance not be immediately available,” Schwegman said.
Part of the issue, of course, is that the Navy’s surface fleet is getting older. The cruisers are all closing in on their expected 35-year expected hull lives, and the first 27 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are not far behind them. Keeping the radars going in earliest ships has been a particular challenge, as has maintaining the aging engineering plants.
There remain questions, however, about how much the roughly 10-to-20 percent drop in scores across critical areas inspected by INSURV is attributable to the change in the inspection regime that SURFOR points to, said Bryan Clark, a retired U.S. Navy submarine officer and senior fellow at Hudson Institute.
“Probably part of that 10-20 percent is a function of just not being able to prepare as much as you would in the past,” Clark said. “The way you’d do it in the past is you’d see you had INSURV coming up and you’d have a bunch of [preventive maintenance checks] you’d perform to make sure the equipment they were going to test was in working order. You’d go run things that are almost never run and see, ‘Oh, I need to go fix that.’
“So, really the old system was to both test the ship as well as force the ship to make sure all of its systems were working at the right level of capability. Now it’s much more of a test where they come on board, test a bunch of stuff and they see if it works or not.”
But given that the downward trends go back so far, it’s also likely that the high demands placed on the force continue to degrade the material condition of the ships without adequate time for maintenance, Clark said.
“Part of it has to be that the Navy continues to struggle to put the time and money into maintenance availabilities that they need to,” Clark said. “Particularly in the surface fleet, the ships’ schedules have just not been able to be freed up they way they need to be, and in some cases they’ve had to manage costs and growth, which meant they couldn’t do all the maintenance they needed to.”
The move to schedule more INSURV inspections will likely yield good results over the long term, he added, but said the whole outlook on how the Navy deploys must change if any significant progress is to be made.
“Doing INSURV more frequently is a good time, especially since it is pretty much the most comprehensive inspection your ship is going to get,” Clark said. “You test things that you use infrequently so that you don’t need to find out they don’t work in extremis.
“But I suppose I question how much the Navy really has taken a turn on readiness. They’ve put more money into it due to supplemental funding. They’ve done a much better job managing availabilities. But Navy-wide, you need to complement that with a supply-based model where you tell combatant commanders ‘We just can’t get you the forces you want because they need to go into maintenance and they have to be there for as long as they need to be there.’” (Source: Defense News)
05 Oct 20. Defense Experts Throw Warning Flags As Congress Mulls Tighter Buy-American Rules. The House NDAA would require major defense programs to be all-American by 2026. As Congress mulls stricter buy-American rules for Pentagon purchases, European and some former defense officials in the United States are pushing back, arguing that America’s national security would be better served by deepening industrial cooperation with its closest allies.
The House has approved provisions in its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would require 100 percent American-made parts in major acquisition programs by 2026. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.
Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute said that’s unrealistic. “Almost nothing purely — with every part and component — isn’t made in one country ever,” Eaglen said.
Andrew Hunter, a former Pentagon acquisition official who now runs the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, concurred with Eaglen.
“Some of the proposals that are right now moving in the NDAA would be, I think, a real barrier to that kind of necessary cooperation for U.S. national security,” Hunter said Tuesday at the virtual COMDEF conference. “I think overall, we sometimes bash a little too hard on the Buy America Act, because when you actually go into the provisions of the Buy America Act, there is flexibility there.”
Lawmakers are reacting, in part, to the way the coronavirus pandemic put a spotlight on just how much the Pentagon relies on globally sourced materials in its weapons. Earlier this year, U.S. manufacturers were unable to get aircraft parts from virus-shuttered factories in Mexico.
Over the past year, the United States has struggled to remove Turkish suppliers from the F-35 fighter program. U.S. officials had hoped to shift production to other suppliers by March, but will now continue accepting Turkish-made parts through 2022.
Allies have been pushing the Pentagon to buy more gear from their own companies — but the Trump administration has also been on an intensive drive to promote U.S. defense exports.
Foreign sales account for about one-quarter of annual revenue among the top American defense companies.
The U.K. plans to spend $32bn on U.S.-made weapons over the next decade, said Edward Ferguson, the minister counsellor for defence at the British Embassy. That work supports 160,000 American jobs. And British companies based in the U.S. — like BAE systems, Rolls-Royce and Martin Baker — employ 56,000 people.
“The integration of our supply base is extraordinarily deep,” Ferguson said. “That’s really important, both because it gives us that interoperability in the theater when we need it, but also because it allows us to share the costs and to draw on each other’s innovation.”
European companies build critical components for the F-35 Lightning II, a fighter jet flown by the U.S. and numerous allies.
“We’ve managed to do these things, because we share and I think the danger with some of this Buy America direction is that it starts to undermine that principle, or serve to push culture in the wrong way,” Ferguson said. “I think the challenge … is finding the right balance between on the one hand making sure that we are able to protect our technology, and we are able to shore up our national security industrial base, but on the other hand, we remain open enough to allow ourselves to collaborate and draw on technologies from each other.”
Hunter, who ran the Pentagon’s Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell during the Obama administration , said the U.S. would not have been able to fast-track weapons and equipment to troops on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade without global suppliers.
Companies used steel from Mexico and Canada to build bomb-resistant MRAP troop transports because the U.S. steel stockpile was not large enough, Hunter said.
“We didn’t have sufficient capacity within the United States,” he said.
The Pentagon relied on the U.K. for ballistic protection equipment and Norway for communications equipment and air defenses, Hunter said.
Ferguson called for building a “trusted community” so allies could quickly share technology data and intellectual property.
“We all need to review our supply chain saying, in the wake of COVID … to see where we might be exposed and over reliant on untrustworthy sources of supply,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bathwater and putting up a drawbridge and saying, well, we’re not gonna work with anyone.” (Source: glstrade.com/Defense One)
05 Oct 20. Pentagon plans to scale back US presence in Europe. The Pentagon has increasingly advocated for a scaled back US presence in Europe to better position key force multiplying units and capabilities in close proximity to global flashpoints, namely in the Indo-Pacific. However, both sides of America’s increasingly divided Congress have come together to question the validity of such an approach.
Much like the rest of the world, Europe’s post-war security has been disproportionately guaranteed by the US – as the US continues to embrace some measure of isolationism from Europe’s security environment amid the weight of COVID, great power competition and domestic social issues, many US allies will be following the European experience more closely.
Across the globe, the post-Second World War economic, political and strategic order appears to be in tatters; rising great power competition, economic decline and the impact of COVID-19, combined with domestic social and political unrest, is serving to impact the security and sovereignty of many nations.
However, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War cementing America’s position as the pre-eminent world power – this period was relatively short lived as costly engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, peace-keeping interventions in southern Europe and enduring global security responsibilities have drained American ‘blood’ and ‘treasure’.
Further compounding matters is the renewed assertiveness and ambitions of ‘traditional’ European enemy Russia, as President Vladimir Putin seeks to maximise the economic, political and strategic malaise in the western European powers and more broadly the Western world to re-establish its position on the global stage.
As the threads of the post-Second World War economic, political and geo-strategic order continue to unravel, many emerging and re-emerging peer competitors are leveraging ‘whole-of-government’ approaches to maximise their influence, prosperity and security in an increasingly troubling period of time.
Adding further fuel to the fire is the increasing unpredictability and ‘isolationism’ of Europe’s security benefactor: the US, which under both former president Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump has pressured the Europeans to take a greater hand in their own security.
Recognising this, continental Europe’s industrial and economic powerhouse, Germany, is seeking to push ahead with developing and implementing policy and doctrine rationalisation as the US seeks to draw down its presence on the continent, shifting its focus at least in part towards the Indo-Pacific.
German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, speaking to the European Parliament, explained growing rationale behind consolidating and collaborating on collective defence post-US draw down in the region, stating, “If that is the case, it means we Europeans must become able to act more so than is the case today.”
What’s the plan?
In spite of these challenges, a bipartisan group of Congressional representatives has sought to challenge the Pentagon’s plans to withdraw 12,000 US troops out of Germany, in contrast to a growing policy shift by the US going back to former president Barrack Obama and has been intensified by current President Donald Trump, which has seen increasing pressure on the Europeans to take a greater hand in their own security.
As part of the proposal of the US draw down from Europe, Meghann Myers, Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta writing for Defense News explain, “Under the plan, 11,900 troops would be pulled out of Germany, with 2,500 of those relocating to countries like Belgium and Italy, while the other 6,400 would return stateside. But without a cost analysis, no timeline and, according to lawmakers, scant reasoning for the move at all, the plan has gotten a resoundingly poor grade from a committee with the power to approve or deny it.”
This apparent lack of planning has drawn the attention of both sides of the aisle, with Democrat Representative Adam Smith, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, raising concerns about the lack of long-term forward planning relating to the proposed draw down of US forces based in Europe and Germany in particular.
“I don’t think this plan was particularly well thought out and I worry about a number of aspects of its implementation,” Congressman Smith said. This was reinforced by the ranking Republican Representative, Mac Thornberry, who expanded on the comments made by his Democrat colleague, saying, “there needs to be an overall strategic plan that is coordinated with allies, rather than have a bunch of rationalisations after the fact.”
Lessons to be learned
Australia has taken proactive steps, particularly following the announcement of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and supporting Force Structure Plan backed by a record $270bn worth of funding over the next decade, the limitations of US power and resolve are increasingly being revealed and clearly cannot be taken for granted.
However, these capabilities are still framed within the lens of a largely defensive conflict scenario, whereby Australia’s critical economic, political and strategic interests in the region, namely the critical sea lines of communication, are still at the mercy of regional partners and a limited level of Australian area-denial, while Australia’s major military platforms remain committed to the defence of the continent.
This approach fails to acknowledge that Australia’s limited military capabilities, largely limited as a result of the budgetary and doctrinal constraints established by dogmatic adherence to the now clearly outdated ‘Defence of Australia’ doctrine and the arbitrary 2 per cent of GDP defence expenditure rate and relegates Australia to a protracted period of isolation, until larger allies either in the region or beyond come to our aid.
In doing so, this not only leaves Australia at the mercy of these ‘great and powerful friends’, who may have conflicting tactical and strategic interests thus stretching their capabilities and means, Australia’s ‘commitment’ to the Indo-Pacific once again defers all the heavy lifting in the region to other nations, while we continue to believe that we can dictate the balance of power, economic relationships and security partnerships for our own interest and benefit without any real skin in the game. (Source: Defence Connect)
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