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11 Nov 20. Senate Appropriators Cut R&D To Buy More Weapons. The Senate Appropriations Committee proposal adds $2.4bn to procure more weapons ASAP – especially F-35s – and cuts longer-range R&D by $2.1bn.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Navy’s surface fleet will win big in the 2021 budget if the Senate Appropriations Committee has its way.
With the 2021 fiscal year already almost six weeks old, the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-led Senate remain billions apart on their appropriations bills, leaving the Pentagon and other federal agencies to muddle along on a stopgap spending measure called a Continuing Resolution. A bitterly contested election and a flood of departures from the Pentagon will hardly help bring a swift and harmonious resolution. Today, when Senate Appropriations chairman Richard Shelby decided to nudge the process along by releasing thousands of pages of legislation — hundreds on the Defense Department alone – the first response we saw was House seapower subcommittee chairman Joseph Courtney denouncing the bill for not spending enough on submarines (largely built in his home state).
True, the Senate Appropriations Committee only buys about 1.5 Virginia-class attack subs in 2021, while Courtney got the House to fully fund two boats. The Senate would also add $130m to support the submarine-building industrial base as it tries to keep building attack boats and begin production on the ballistic missile sub, the Columbia class. In fact, the Shipbuilding & Conversion, Navy account does very well in the Senate bill, which adds $1.4 bn to the Pentagon’s request, mostly to fund additional surface warships, bringing the total to $21.3bn.
More big plus-ups go to airpower, with the senators adding $1.7 bn to Navy and Marine Corps aircraft procurement, $452m to the Air Force aircraft, and $159m to Amy aviation. Of that added funding, $1.7bn goes to a single mega-program, the Lockheed Martin-manufactured F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The House adds a less substantial $1.4bn to F-35.
So where does all this extra money come from? The Senate appropriators do cut some procurement programs they deem lower-priority, with the biggest dings coming to Navy weapons ($259m), Army missiles ($300m), and Air Force “other procurement” ($470m).
Overall, the Senate would increase procurement by $2.4bn. By contrast, it cuts Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation by $2.1bn. The net effect is more money for buying today’s military hardware and less for developing the weapons of tomorrow.
SAC cites the Air Force’s unfunded priorities list as one justification for the increase12 new F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants. It also notes that DoD’s 2021 budget request cut back the numbers of Joint Strike Fighters for fiscal year 2021 from the long-term plan approved by Congress last year. SAC’s move pretty much guarantees a bump up in the DoD F-35 buy, given that the House added 12 JSFs in their version of the bill passed in July.
But Senate appropriators did rap DoD for its lack of transparency regarding planned F-35 modernization. Noting that DoD has asked for $5.7bn through 2025 for modernization of all three variants, the SAC said lawmakers are “deeply concerned with the Department’s approach to budgeting [and] the lack of detail in the budget justification materials.”
Indeed, SAC has raised a number of concerns about DoD budget practices, concerns long shared by the House. In particular, lawmakers fretted about the Pentagon’s use of streamlined acquisition processes that they themselves created, because they allow the Defense Department to provide less detail to Congress. SAC in particular called out the Mid-Tier Acquisition authority (Section 804) and “the services’ growing trend toward procuring de facto operational assets via prototyping acquisitions.” This not only “obfuscates costs and limits transparency and visibility into services’ procurement efforts,” but also raises risks of program mismanagement, the committee charges (and it definitely makes it harder for professional staff members to track every dollar).
So for the 2022 budget request, the SAC bill would mandate that the “Under Secretaries of Defense (Research and Engineering) and (Acquisition and Sustainment), as well as the service acquisition executives for the Army, Navy, and Air Force” provide Congress a complete list of approved and pending acquisition programs using such authorities, a rationale for those decisions and a cost estimate for each.
The SAC also expressed skepticism about a host of specific air and space programs. Some highlights:
ABMS. The Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which is developing the backbone of the all-service Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) network to link all sensors to all shooters on future battlefields, is among the RTD&E programs catching Senate ire. SAC cuts $93.5m from the Air Force’s $302.3m request and demands Air Force acquisition czar Will Roper to provide an acquisition strategy certified as fully funded by the service comptroller.
Senate skepticism about ABMS is not a surprise. As Breaking D readers know, Roper has had a hard time selling lawmakers and their watchdog, the GAO, on a novel acquisition strategy that upgrades ABMS and associated technologies on rapid-fire four-month cycles. House appropriators rapped the program’s acquisition strategy for a lack of “discipline” and chopped $50m from the 2022 request.
Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD). SAC recommends $974m for the NGAD effort to build a sixth-generation fighter jet along with a family of uninhabited air vehicles (UAVs) to enable teaming operations. This represents a $70m cut to the service’s $1bn-plus request, and reflects ongoing congressional wariness about the vagueness of the current acquisition strategy for the top-secret effort — despite the Air Force’s surprise announcement in September that a plane had been built and flight testing started.
National Security Space Launch (NSSL). Senate appropriators would cut $95 m from the Space Force’s $1bn-plus procurement request, despite “applauding” the Phase 2 contract awards in August to United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. SAC expressed some concerns about “recent moves by some agencies to procure launches outside of the space launch enterprise through direct commercial contracts or delivery on orbit contracts.” Thus, the committee wants all DoD and Intelligence Community launches for “NSSL class” missions to use that contract vehicle, unless the Secretary of Defense and Director of National Intelligence certify there are compelling reasons not to.
Missile Defense Agency. The SAC includes $10.23bn for the Missile Defense Agency, $1.1bn more than the administration’s request. Bump ups include an additional $319.6m for an eighth THAAD battery; $250m for Ground-Based Midcourse Defense reliability/SLEP; and $200m for risk reduction on Ground-Based Midcourse Defense. In addition, SAC fully funds the Next Generation Interceptor; a SM-3 Block IB multi-year procurement contract; and the Long Range Discrimination Radar.
Missile Warning. SAC, like its House counterparts, also raises concern about DoD’s plans for SDA to develop missile tracking satellites instead of the Missile Defense Agency. SAC wants the 2022 budget request to include a comprehensive acquisition strategy for the “hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor (HBTSS),” and to fully fund the effort. SAC adds $140m to MDA’s budget for HBTSS and approves SDA’s request for a transfer of $20m to its budget for the effort. DoD’s request had no MDA funds slated for the program, only the $20m for SDA.
The Army historically has the most manpower but the smallest acquisition budget, and this year is no exception. The Senate Appropriations bill would give the Army $34.5bn in combined procurement and RDTE: That’s less than half the Navy Department total (which includes the Marine Corps) and a little more than a third of the Air Force (which includes the Space Force).
But that Army figure is actually $284m more than the Pentagon requested, with the Senate adding funding for helicopters, tracked vehicles, weapons and ammunition.
The highest-profile plus-up here, touted in the Senate’s highlights of the bill, is $60m for the Common Hypersonic Glide Body – which, although an Army program, will provide hypersonic warheads for Navy missiles as well. (The Navy will build the booster rocket for both services). The Senate also added $47m to build up the highly specialized infrastructure required to test hypersonic weapons, which benefits all the services.
Combing through the funding tables, a few other changes jumped out.
The Senate appropriators made big additions to Army air & missile defense:
- They added $92m to “advanced technology” (R&D Budget Activity 3), most of it for work on high-energy lasers;
- $106m to “systems integration” (the next step of R&D, Budget Activity 4);
- and $23m to improve cybersecurity and supply chain resilience for air & missile defense systems.
- On the other hand, they cut $54m from various aspects of the LTAMDS radar program
- and cut $74m from IFPC, a battlefield air and missile defense system that’s attracted considerable congressional skepticism.
The senators also cut $204m from the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) program to replace the Reagan-era M2 Bradley. That’s no surprise because the Army decided to reboot the program and develop the new vehicle on a slower and more realistic schedule, so it doesn’t need as much money as soon.
Finally, we note that the bill would cut virtual-reality training systems – what the Army called the Synthetic Training Environment – by $48m; this Synthetic Training Environment is another high-tech effort that Congress has been leery of. By contrast, the augmented-reality IVAS targeting goggles got through the Senate uncut, while the House would dock them by $235m. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
10 Nov 20. Senate Republicans unveil $1.4trn spending bill, with $696bn for defense. Senate Republicans on Tuesday introduced a governmentwide, $1.4trn spending package, with $696bn for defense, teeing up negotiations in Congress’ tense lame-duck session ― and several fights with House Democrats.
The government is operating on a stopgap continuing resolution, or CR, through Dec. 11, and Congress must either pass a deal, or another funding patch, to avoid a government shutdown in the middle of a turbulent presidential transition. A separate COVID-19 relief effort and the annual defense policy bill are also on Capitol Hill’s busy to-do list.
The Senate must reconcile its long-awaited package of 12 bills with the House, which passed its own bills in July. The Senate’s GOP-drafted defense language for fiscal 2021 differs from the House version on the number of Lockheed Martin-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to order and funding for a space-based sensor.
Compared to the House bill, the Senate version also calls for one fewer Virginia-class submarine and $19m more in funding for next-generation 5G networks.
Though the Senate bill was mostly bipartisan and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., expressed confidence in an eventual deal, the atmosphere for compromise is unclear. The post-election period remains white hot politically, as Republican leaders back President Donatl Trump in his legal challenges of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral win, and as two races to determine control of the Senate face January runoffs.
On Tuesday, Democrats chided Republicans over the long-stalled bills. Stopping short of endorsing the effort, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., criticized the legislation for ignoring the country’s COVID-19 relief needs, shortchanging safety net programs and the environment, and wasting money on Trump’s border wall.
The House passed its $694.6bn Pentagon spending bill for fiscal 2021 in July as part of a $1.3trn package. It included politically charged provisions to set aside $1m for the Army to rename 10 bases that honor Confederate leaders and to bar the Trump administration from using more Pentagon funds on border wall construction. It would reduce transfer authority from the requested $9.5bn to $1.9bn, and place additional oversight mechanisms on the Defense Department’s ability to reprogram funds.
Here’s what stood out in the Senate GOP’s latest proposal:
Air warfare: The Senate panel would fund a total of 96 F-35s in FY21, 17 jets more than the Pentagon’s request and five more than the panel’s House counterpart. Its bill added about $1.7bn for 12 F-35As for the Air Force and five F-35Cs for the Marine Corps and Navy.
Though the bill fully funds the B-21 bomber program, many of the Air Force’s other major development programs received slight cuts. Funding for one of its biggest priorities, the Advanced Battle Management System, shrank from $302m to $208m. The committee cited “poor justification” as a reason for the cuts.
The Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance program also would take a hit despite the headline-grabbing first flight of a full-scale demonstrator aircraft, which was disclosed by the service in September. The Air Force wanted $1bn in FY21 to continue development of NGAD ― a suite of manned and unmanned air superiority technologies that could include a sixth-generation fighter. However, the committee shaved about $70m off the request.
Naval warfare: The bill provides money to buy nine ships, though some argue it’s only eight because the LPD-17 was already procured. The total comes to roughly $21.35bn, or $1.44bn more than the president’s request, but less than the House bill.
The ships include one attack submarine (one less than the House bill but a match to what the administration requested), a Constellation-class frigate, two destroyers, and two towing and salvage ships.
The Senate bill also calls for nine P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and four E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes, as well as 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters.
5G technology: The bill fully funded the Pentagon’s $449m budget request for defensewide 5G projects, $19m more than the House. In their budget justification, House appropriators cited “historical underexecution” for its $430m recommended allocation. The Pentagon is working with industry on multiple ongoing 5G experiments that are underway at military bases across the country. The department recently awarded $600m in contracts for the effort.
Satellites: The bill also adds to frustrations expressed by members of the House at how a new constellation of hypersonic weapon-tracking satellites will be funded. While technically a Missile Defense Agency program, former Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin pushed for the Hypersonic Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, or HBTSS, to be funded through the Space Development Agency.
Leaders of both agencies have insisted that the program remains under MDA’s ownership, but legislators have expressed concern over the arrangement and the low level of funding set aside for it. No money was set aside for HBTSS in MDA’s budget, while the Space Development Agency’s budget included $20m for the critical sensor.
In June, the House Armed Services Committee’s’ strategic forces subpanel threatened to transfer MDA away from the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, placing it instead under the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. While the Senate bill doesn’t go that far, it does add an additional $140m in unrequested funding for HBTSS, including a $20m transfer from the Space Development Agency. Furthermore, senators demanded the agencies report on their acquisition strategy for HBTSS and fully fund the program in their future budget proposals. (Source: Defense News)
10 Nov 20. U.S. approves $23.37bn advanced arms sale to UAE, Pompeo says. The Trump administration told Congress on Tuesday it had approved the U.S. sale of more than $23bn in advanced weapons systems, including F-35 fighter jets and armed drones, to the United Arab Emirates, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The formal notification followed a U.S.-brokered agreement in September in which the UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel, becoming the first of three Arab states to make such a move in recent months.
“This is in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The $23.37bn package includes up to 50 F-35 Lighting II aircraft, up to 18 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Systems and a package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions, the State Department said.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees – whose members have criticized UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen’s civil war – review major weapons sales before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.
Any deal the United States makes to sell weapons in the Middle East must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that it must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over its neighbors.
The announcement came just days after Democratic challenger Joe Biden won enough states needed to take the presidency from Trump, a Republican who made pro-Israel policies part of his re-election campaign.
Israel initially balked at the prospective sale of F-35 warplanes, valued at $10.4bn, but dropped its opposition after what it described as U.S. guarantees that Israel’s regional military superiority would be preserved.
The UAE, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long wanted the stealthy jets and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal when it agreed to normalize relations with Israel, part of a strategic regional realignment against Iran.
In the past, the F-35 has been denied to Arab states while Israel has about 24 of the jets. Israel is currently slated to purchase 50 of the fighters.
“The proposed sale will make the UAE even more capable and interoperable with U.S. partners in a manner fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge,” Pompeo said.
The $2.97bn sale of armed drones would mark the first such export since the Trump administration reinterpreted a Cold War-era arms agreement between 34 nations to allow U.S. defense contractors to sell more drones to allies. (Source: Reuters)
09 Nov 20. Esper fired as defense secretary. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been fired by President Donald Trump. Trump announced the move in a Nov. 9 tweet, just days after the presidential election was called in favor of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, has been appointed acting defense secretary, Trump said.
Esper, a West Point graduate and former Army lieutenant colonel, was vice president of government relations for Raytheon — the fifth-largest defense contractor in the United States — for seven years before becoming Army secretary. His most notable work leading the Army included a shake-up of the service’s acquisitions portfolio, a trend he brought with him to the top job.
He was confirmed as defense secretary in August 2019 and now becomes the third man to exit the top job at the Pentagon under the Trump administration, following Jim Mattis and, in an acting capacity, Patrick Shanahan. (Then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer briefly filled in as defense secretary between Shanahan and Esper.)
The announcement marks a meteoric rise for Miller, who served in the Army from 1987 through 2014, over the last year.
From 2018 to 2019, Miller served as a special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism and transnational threats at the National Security Council. In January, he was sworn in as deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism, a job four levels down from defense secretary, and then was quickly boosted to fill in as performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for special operations. He was sworn into the National Counterterrorism Center role in August.
Notably, Miller would be legally barred from taking the job through the traditional confirmation process. Under 10 U.S. Code § 113, an individual “may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.” As he retired from the military in 2014, Miller would not meet that threshold.
However, it does not apply to acting officials, according to Joshua Geltzer, a former counterterrorism official with the Obama administration, who is now a professor of law at Georgetown University.
Legal experts quickly raised questions about whether the appointment of Miller over David Norquist, the confirmed deputy secretary of defense, was an illegal move. A spokesperson confirmed that Norquist is still in his role at the department.
Mieke Eyoang of the Third Way think tank said “By passing over the Senate-confirmed DepSecDef, Trump is again showing he doesn’t care about the rules, continuity, or the smooth management of the largest military on earth.”
National security leaders have urged Trump to keep Esper for the duration of the lame duck presidency.
“That’s the way it ought to work, that’s the way it’s always worked, and that’s why I’ve said very forcefully that we want to send a signal to our adversaries and allies alike that the chain of command is intact,” said National Defense Industrial Association Chairman Arnold Punaro, a former Marine Corps general and staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Because Esper is respected, removing him might “create undue turbulence,” Punaro warned last week. “If the president decides to fire him there’s nothing we can do about it — but it would be a bad decision for national security.” (Source: Defense News)
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