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20 Nov 20. Most US aircraft failing to meet mission capability goals. Only three of 46 piloted Pentagon aircraft met their annual mission capability (MC) goals in a majority of the years between fiscal years (FYs) 2011–19, according to a new report. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), in a report released on 19 November, said that 24 of the 46 aircraft did not meet their annual MC goals in any fiscal year from FYs 2011–19. The MC rate, the percentage of total time when an aircraft can fly and perform at least one mission, is used to assess the health and readiness of an aircraft fleet. The three aircraft that met their annual MC targets in a majority of years between FY 2011–19 were the US Air Force (USAF) Bell UH-1N Huey helicopter, the US Navy (USN) Lockheed Martin EP-3E Aries II signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, and the USN Boeing E-6B Mercury long-endurance command, control, and communications (C3) aircraft. The UH-1N met its MC goal in all nine of the fiscal years, the EP-3E met its target in seven of nine fiscal years, and the E-6B reached its MC goal in five of nine fiscal years. The next best performing aircraft was the USAF Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle, which met its MC target in four of nine fiscal years. (Source: Jane’s)
18 Nov 20. Army Will Protect Key Weapons From Post-COVID Cuts: Pasquarette. When defense budgets fell in the past, “the easy button” has been cutting modernization to protect manpower and readiness, Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette says. “It’s going to be different this time.” around.” The Army will fully fund “selected” high-priority weapons programs even if the defense budget is slashed, the service’s chief budget programmer said today. Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette didn’t specify what sacrifices the Army might offer up but he took pains to point out that, if you don’t cut modernization, you have to cut readiness or personnel instead.
My bet? The Army’s worked hard in recent years to restore the readiness of its combat brigades, an accomplishment that senior leaders are quick to boast of. Even under COVID, it’s worked hard to preserve major training exercises.
By contrast, the service has not increased the number of soldiers in the ranks even during the flush years of Trump budgets. That means we have a good sense of what the Army values, even if the incoming Biden Administration’s defense priorities are unclear.
So if Biden is forced to slash federal spending to pay down the debts incurred over COVID, expect Army leaders to offer reductions in endstrength as their first resort. Their argument, presumably, would be that, with most troops out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, the best way to deter Russia and China is with a smaller, highly ready and well-modernized force.
No “Easy Button”
“Since the end of the Cold War, when the Army has been faced with a significant downturn in top line, the easy button has been modernization,” said Pasquarette, who coordinates long-range spending plans as the Army’s deputy chief of staff (G-8). “[We] turned down modernization… to preserve endstrength. Whatever was left over after that, we put into readiness.
“I believe it’s going to be different this time around, if and when we receive a significant topline reduction,” he told an Association of the US Army webcast. “The Secretary [Ryan McCarthy, who may leave in January – ed.] and the chief [Gen. James McConville, who won’t] have stated that we must modernize the Army. It’s a once-in-every-40-year opportunity” – since the Army last comprehensively overhauled its arsenal with the Big Five during the Reagan buildup – “and it’s against a valid requirement: Russia and China aren’t going anywhere.”
So what gets protected?
Since fall 2017, when then-Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley – now chairman of the Joint Chiefs – announced the service’s new modernization strategy, the service has focused on 30-odd “signature programs,” from hypersonic missiles to assault rifles. The number fluctuates a bit but currently stands at 35. 31 fall under Amy Futures Command and four under the Rapid Capabilities & Critical Technologies Office, which handles the most technically demanding programs: hypersonics, intermediate-range missiles, and lasers for air and missile defense.
Over the last two budget cycles, the Army has cut or cancelled over 240 lower-priority programs and freed up almost $40bn (spread over six years) so the 35 signature programs could have all they needed. Of that, $9bn and 80 program cuts/cancellations are part of the 2021 budget package still being debated on Capitol Hill, even though the fiscal year began Oct. 1st. The government has been operating under stopgap Continuing Resolutions that puts 26 Amy programs in limbo, Pasquarette said, because they require either a new start or a funding increase, neither of which the CR allows.
The Army’s five-year spending plan for 2022-2026 cuts “dozens” more programs, Pasquarette said. Since that Program Objective Memorandum (POM) is still under review by the Secretary of Defense, he didn’t give specific figures or dollar amounts.
But he did say that, in addition to the 35 programs considered “Priority 1,” the Army is now systematically protecting “Priority 2” programs that are essential to those 35. For example, he said, since the new ERCA howitzer (which is one of the 35) will double the range of current cannon, out to 70 km, the Army must upgrade its Q-53 counterfire radar (which isn’t) to detect targets out to that distance as well.
That kind of linkage was occurring on a case-by-case basis in previous budgets but it was “scattershot,” Pasquarette said. In the 2022-2026 plan, however, it’ll be systematic.
However, that ’22-’26 plan doesn’t reflect the cuts that many believe are coming – including the majority of outside experts the Army consulted back in the spring, Pasquarette said. If the Army’s topline budget plummets, the question won’t be which programs outside the 35 “Priority Ones” to protect, but which of the 35 get to survive.
“I believe we’ll look at continuing to fully resource selected CFT efforts that are deemed especially critical, even under a significant topline reduction,” Pasquarette said, stressing the word “selected.” What is that list? “I’m gonna not share with it you, and I don’t even really know it myself.”
The chief of Army Future Command, Gen. Mike Murray, will play a crucial role in advising top Army leaders on what to cut and what to keep, a problem that Murray has already been wrestling with for months. “Gen. Murray will be intimately, personally involved if it gets to that,” Pasquarette said. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Breaking Defense)
18 Nov 20. DOD Prioritizes December Launch of ‘Trusted Capital Marketplace.’ While plans are underway for a change in administration, officials within the Defense Department still have several goals they’d like to achieve. Among those is implementation of the “Trusted Capital Marketplace,” the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment said.
“[One] area that we want to bring over the finish line here is our trusted capital project,” Ellen Lord said during an online discussion today as part of the three-day American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics ASCEND Summit. “We’d like to think the capital markets are very, very efficient. But we work with the Council on Foreign Investment in the U.S. to block or undo a lot of transactions where our adversaries are coming in and buying companies that are critical for our national technology initiatives.”
The Trusted Capital Marketplace project is a department effort within A&S meant to both support the defense industrial base and limit adversary nation access to American technology. The effort is in response to a mandate by Congress laid out in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.
Within the Trusted Capital Marketplace, the department will be involved in matching up businesses in need of investment with investors that have been shown to not have ties to adversarial nations.
“What we want to do is instead of driving companies, or driving people trying to sell real estate to these adversarial and nefarious kinds of actors out there, we want to be able to partner people with clean money with companies where we understand the beneficial ownership and grow that capability for the betterment of our national security and economic security,” Lord said.
To facilitate that, there’s going to be an electronic marketplace, she said, something she said pairs up cleared investors and companies in need of investment in much the same way a dating website might work.
“What we’re doing is clearing people with money, investors, and then companies that have critical technology for the Department of Defense, and giving them a place where they can get together and talk and hopefully do some deals,” she said.
Lord said she expects the Trusted Capital Marketplace to be available in December.
“We are literally just going through federal paperwork right now to launch this,” she said. “I’m really excited about our Trusted Capital Marketplace.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
18 Nov 20. U.S. senators seek to stop Trump’s $23bn in arms sales to UAE. Three U.S. senators said on Wednesday they would introduce legislation seeking to halt the Trump administration’s effort to sell more than $23bn of drones and other weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates, setting up a showdown with the president just weeks before he is due to leave office.
Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Rand Paul will introduce four separate resolutions of disapproval of President Donald Trump’s plan to sell more than $23bn worth of Reaper drones, F-35 fighter aircraft and air-to-air missiles and other munitions to the UAE.
The huge sale could alter the balance of power in the Middle East, and members of Congress have chafed at the administration’s attempt to rush it through, having sent a formal notice to Congress only last week.
Many lawmakers also worry about whether the UAE would use the weapons in attacks that would harm civilians in Yemen, whose civil war is considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
When the deal was announced, Amnesty International warned that the weapons would be used for “attacks that violate international humanitarian law and kill, as well as injure, thousands of Yemeni civilians.”
The sale includes products from privately held General Atomics, Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N F-35s and missiles made by Raytheon RTX.N.
SALES’ FATE UNCERTAIN
While the resolutions bring attention to lawmakers’ questions about the massive sales, and could delay them, they are unlikely to stop them.
U.S. law covering major arms deals lets senators force votes on resolutions of disapproval. However, to go into effect the resolutions must pass the Republican-led Senate, which rarely breaks from Trump. They also must pass the Democratic-led House of Representatives and survive Trump vetoes.
But incoming President Joe Biden could ultimately stop them for reasons of national security, making a prediction on the final outcome difficult.
The senators said the Trump administration, seeking to rush the sale as it brokered a peace deal between the UAE and Israel, circumvented the normal review process. They said State and the Pentagon failed to respond to their inquiries.
Weaponry involved includes the world’s most advanced fighter jet, more than 14,000 bombs and munitions and the second-largest sale of U.S. drones to a single country.
The Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review and attempt to block weapons sales.
Past measures to block arms sales over concerns about Yemeni casualties passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, but failed to get enough Republican backing to override Trump’s vetoes.
Lawmakers have also expressed concern about whether the UAE sales would violate a longstanding agreement with Israel that any U.S. weapons sold in the Middle East would not impair its “quantitative military edge” over neighboring states.
Menendez is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and in line to become chairman next year if Democrats take control of the Senate in Georgia runoff elections in January.
Paul and Murphy are also members of the committee. (Source: Reuters)
19 Nov 20. Outgoing US SECNAV looks to establish Indian Ocean-based 1st Fleet. With a little over two months left in his tenure, US Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite has rocked the proverbial boat, calling for the reactivation of the US 1st Fleet, to be focused on the Indian Ocean theatre of Indo-Pacific Command. This proposal, while still in the developmental stage, would see an increased US presence in the region, providing opportunities for Australia to also position itself as a homeport.
Australia’s involvement in the contentious Vietnam conflict at the behest of the US signalled a major shift in the direction of the nation’s strategic policy that continues to influence Australia’s doctrine to this day, despite promising shifts recently announced as part of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan.
In the dying days of the conflict, domestic political backlash and a changing geo-strategic environment would see Australia adopt an arguably more isolationist policy, focusing almost entirely on the ‘Defence of Australia’ and the combined maritime and aerial approaches to continental Australia.
While Australia’s participation in the conflict further enhanced the nation’s position as an integral US ally in the Indo-Pacific, the mounting domestic pressure saw the formalisation of the Defence of Australia (DoA) policy in the 1986 Dibb report and the subsequent 1987 and 1994 Defence White Papers, which established the sea-air gap as a strategic ‘buffer zone’ for Australia, enabling the reorientation of Australia’s strategic and broader defence industry posture, shifting away from what Dibb identifies:
“Until the late 1960s, Australian defence planning and policy assumed that our forces would normally operate in conjunction with allies, and well forward of the continent. We saw our security inextricably linked with the security of others.”
In the maritime domain, the introduction of the Two Ocean policy in 1987 initiated a period of unprecedented infrastructure and force structure recapitalisation and redeployment of the Royal Australian Navy – with the newly redeveloped Fleet Base West, HMAS Stirling becoming the home of the Navy’s Collins Class submarines and an increasing number of surface warships.
However, the rapidly evolving geo-strategic situation and bubbling arms race is presenting Australia with a number of challenges for the Royal Australian Navy despite the government’s program of modernisation and recapitalisation, raising important questions about the validity of the Two-Ocean policy in a period of geo-strategic competition transforming the Indo-Pacific.
Meanwhile, the US has recognised that any approach to the growing challenges present in the Indo-Pacific will require a more permanent presence in the Indian Ocean, particularly as allies continue to look to the US to guarantee regional operational strategic freedom.
This is particularly important as many nations throughout the Indo-Pacific continue to grapple with the challenges presented by an increasingly confrontational and vindictive People’s Republic of China, keen to flex its muscle and presence across the Asian continent, the critical water ways and aerial domain, bringing the world’s rising superpower into direct competition with the regional order.
Recognising this, outgoing US Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite has stepped up calls for the US Navy to establish a “new numbered fleet” close to the key sea lines of communication traversing the Indian Ocean into key maritime chokepoints in south-east Asia.
Secretary Braithwaite explained to the US-based Naval Submarine League conference: “We want to stand up a new numbered fleet. And we want to put that numbered fleet in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, and we’re really going to have an INDOPACOM footprint.
“We can’t just rely on the 7th Fleet in Japan. We have to look to our other allies and partners like Singapore, like India, and actually put a numbered fleet where it would be extremely relevant if, god forbid, we were to ever to get in any kind of a dust-up,” Secretary Braithwaite added.
For reference, the US 7th Fleet operates out of Japan and covers a massive amount of space from the International Dateline to about the India-Pakistan border, the US 3rd Fleet operates out of San Diego and covers from the International Dateline to the west coast of the continental United States.
Operating under the auspice of US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) is one of six geographic combatant commands defined by the Department of Defense’s Unified Command Plan (UCP).
As a geographic combatant command, USINDOPACOM is in charge of using and integrating United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps forces within the USINDOPACOM area of responsibility (AOR) to achieve US national security objectives while protecting national interests.
The USINDOPACOM AOR covers more of the globe than any of the other geographic combatant commands and shares borders with all of the other five geographic combatant commands. The commander of US Indo-Pacific Command reports to the President of the United States through the Secretary of Defense and is supported by multiple component and sub-unified commands including: US Forces Korea, US Forces Japan, US Special Operations Command Pacific, US Pacific Fleet, US Marine Forces Pacific, US Pacific Air Forces and US Army Pacific.
The 36 nations comprising the Asia-Pacific region are home to more than 50 per cent of the world’s population, 3,000 different languages, several of the world’s largest militaries, and five nations allied with the US through mutual defence treaties. Two of the three largest economies are located in the Asia-Pacific, along with 10 of the 14 smallest.
The Indo-Pacific AOR includes the most populous nation in the world, the largest democracy, and the largest Muslim-majority nation. More than one-third of Asia-Pacific nations are smaller, island nations, including the smallest republic in the world and the smallest nation in Asia.
Countering Beijing, providing a rapid response
China’s rapid recapitalisation and modernisation has seen the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) evolve into one of the world’s most powerful and modern navies, capable of global reach on an increasing scale, with aircraft carriers, ballistic missile submarines, amphibious warfare ships and next-gen large surface combatants all on the shopping list.
On the other side of the Pacific, the US Navy is struggling to modernise, repurpose and recapitalise a range of Cold War-era platforms that have formed the backbone of the world’s most powerful navy since the end of the Second World War – increasing budget overruns, delivery delays and a focus on land-based wars in the Middle East have seen the fleet fall by the wayside.
Nevertheless, the US is keen to step up its presence in the region, particularly to enable a rapid response and overwhelming strategic presence at key points across the Indo-Pacific, with Singapore an early favourite.
Secretary Braithwaite said, “More importantly, it can provide a much more formidable deterrence. So we’re going to create the First Fleet, and we’re going to put it, if not Singapore right out of the chocks, we’re going to look to make it more expeditionary-oriented and move it across the Pacific until it is where our allies and partners see that it could best assist them as well as to assist us.”
Expanding on this, Secretary Braithwaite explained the logic behind the US push, stating, “The Chinese have shown their aggressiveness around the globe. Having just come from the High North (where he previously served as US ambassador to Norway), Chinese presence in the Arctic is unprecedented. Most recently I was in a trip to the Far East: every single one of our allies and partners are concerned about how aggressive the Chinese have been. I would argue with anybody that not since the War of 1812 has the United States and our sovereignty been under the kind of pressures that we see today.”
This point in particular was further strengthened by potential Biden administration defense secretary Michele Flournoy, who recently told Defense News, “We have to have enough of an edge, that first and foremost we can deter China from attacking or endangering our vital interests and our allies. That means resolve.”
Building on this, Flournoy posed an important question, “What capabilities would US naval and air forces need to credibly threaten to sink 300 military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships within 72 hours? Such a capability would certainly pose a fundamental dilemma for any great power contemplating aggression.”
Singapore? What about Freemantle or Darwin?
Secretary Braithwaite was very quick to highlight both Singapore and India as potential hosts for the proposed 1st Fleet, however, Australia is equally well positioned to host whatever units are proposed as part of the fleet, from afloat support and attack submarines, through to aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships as an extension of the existing US Force Posture Initiative in the Northern Territory.
Such a proposal would see larger numbers of allied naval assets, including US Navy amphibious warfare ships, guided missile destroyers, nuclear powered submarines and, potentially, nuclear powered aircraft carriers, continue to rotate through Australian ports. The capacity of Australia’s limited naval sustainment, maintenance and overhaul infrastructure will face increased burden, limiting Australia’s capacity to ‘value add’ in a contemporary threat environment.
The Australian government has committed itself to the single largest recapitalisation and modernisation program in the recent history of the Royal Australian Navy, also seeing the long-term economic and industrial benefits of developing a robust, sovereign industrial capability and naval shipbuilding capacity, however one of the critical force multiplying factors has been overlooked: critical ashore maintenance, sustainment and modernisation infrastructure.
Expanding the existing naval shipbuilding, maintenance and sustainment facilities at key locations like Williamtown in Victoria, Port Adelaide, and Henderson in Western Australia provides Australia with the opportunity to maximise its impact as an ally, providing reliable and sustainable maintenance, sustainment and repair facilities for both Australian and allied vessels while also supporting industry through increased access to naval platforms requiring varying degrees of maintenance and sustainment.
While costly, developing comparable naval maintenance and sustainment infrastructure at these key locations can also be done in partnership with key allies, namely the US, as has recently been announced for Darwin and the expansion of joint facilities in the strategic city, or the establishment of similar infrastructure in Freemantle, provides additional value add for Australian industry and strategic multipliers, including giving the nation access to supporting nuclear powered vessels, with additional economic flow-on effects for the cities in which such hubs are established. (Source: Defence Connect)
18 Nov 20. Chinese-American Raytheon engineer sentenced to prison for technology exports. A Chinese-American electrical engineer who worked for Raytheon Missile and Defense was sentence on Wednesday to 38 months in prison after pleading guilty to violating U.S. export control law, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
The department said that Wei Sun, 49, a Chinese national and naturalised U.S. citizen, worked for the Raytheon unit in Tucson, Arizona, for 10 years. Lawyers for Sun did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sun’s case is the latest in a lengthening list of prosecutions launched by the administration of President Donald Trump related to alleged Chinese spying and technology theft.
On Wednesday, an official confirmed to Reuters a report by the Axios website that U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe was planning soon to “describe in granular detail” U.S. intelligence findings regarding China’s “nefarious actions inside the U.S.”
The Justice Department said that while employed with Raytheon, Sun had access to defense technology information whose export is prohibited under American and international arms export laws and rules.
Prosecutors said that between December 2018 and January 2019, while on a personal trip to China, Sun brought along unclassified technical information in a company-issued computer which included material related to a missile guidance system covered by U.S. export controls.
Prosecutors said Sun knowingly transported the data to China without an export license in violation of U.S. laws and regulations.
On February 14, 2020, Sun entered a guilty plea to charges related to the illegal export of defense data stored in a Raytheon laptop related to an advanced medium range air-to-air missile system.
Prosecutors said Sun was arrested on Jan. 24, 2019 en route to Tucson Airport for a flight connection to China, and that he later admitted his intention was to enroll in a Chinese university. (Source: Reuters)
17 Nov 20. Formal NDAA talks to begin under shadow of Confederate renaming issue. U.S. House and Senate conferees will meet Wednesday to wrangle over the massive 2021 defense authorization bill, but they still face potentially bill-derailing fights over whether to keep plans requiring the retitling of Confederate-named bases and regarding an Afghanistan drawdown.
As lawmakers are set to hold their “pass the gavel” meeting Wednesday morning to formally kick off the bicameral talks, the two provisions are among the sticking points for getting an agreement on a final National Defense Authorization Act, which sets broad policy for the military and is expected to authorize $740.5bn.
House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas., warned Tuesday that the bill could be upended over the Confederate-renaming language. Lawmakers have been meeting informally, and for most everything else, “there’s a good chance we will be able to resolve … in a short amount of time,” he said.
A cadre of 37 Senate Democrats have called for lead negotiators to buck President Donald Trump’s veto threat, and essentially to resist the temptation to remove the language, since President-elect Joe Biden supports removing the names and could do so when he enters office.
Yet, the mandate passed in both chambers, and the prospect of bipartisan compromise has grown cloudy amid the race for a pair of Senate seats in Georgia early next year and Trump’s denial the Biden won the presidential election. Democrats are saying privately that a veto of the popular bill in order to protect Confederate names and symbols would be a political error and potentially animating in the Georgia runoffs.
Thornberry urged a compromise for the sake of the overall bill.
“I am concerned there is at least the potential that political concerns, especially with the Georgia runoffs, are going to play a bigger role than what’s good for the men and women of the military, and all of the good in this bill,” Thornberry said, adding that there are riders unrelated to the military that lawmakers should compromise to preserve.
“To say what everybody knows: The incoming Biden administration is going to deal with the base-naming issues anyway, so really what we’re down to is whether it has to be in this bill just this way and whether it would provoke a veto,” he said.
Thornberry, who is retiring before the new Congress is seated on Jan. 2, warned against punting the NDAA into next year. The bill would likely be delayed for weeks as the new Congress is sworn in, the new Armed Services committees are formed and the presidential inauguration is held.
“I worry that people will say, ‘Oh, we can just do it later’ — flippant — ‘because it’s just too politically volatile right now’ because of all the good in the bill and nearly insurmountable obstacles to resurrecting it,” Thornberry said.
Amid news Trump is expected to withdraw a significant number of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and a smaller number in Iraq by the final days of his presidency, Thornberry was asked whether that placed new weight on a bipartisan provision in the House-passed NDAA to prohibit troop reductions below 8,000 without a series of conditions first being met.
Alluding to Biden’s less absolute stand on a troop withdrawal, Thornberry said the issue transcended the election results and pointed to the “bipartisan support and interest to make sure that we do not precipitously withdraw and undercut our mission, not only in Afghanistan but in other places.”
Thornberry and other lawmakers of both parties have pushed back against Trump’s efforts to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, arguing that the withdrawal ought to be based on conditions in the country and that it’s a unilateral concession in U.S. peace talks with the Taliban.
“Increased military pressure brought the Taliban to the table, and pretty much everybody agreed that further reductions would be conditions-based,” he said. “In other words: They give and we give. And I don’t know of any condition which justifies reducing further the troops that we have in Afghanistan.”
As of Tuesday morning, Thornberry said he had received no explanation of the administration’s plans, but that acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller had reached out and would be speaking with Thornberry later that day. (Source: Defense News)
17 Nov 20. U.S. Will Draw Down Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Acting Secretary Says. The United States will draw down forces in Afghanistan and Iraq by Jan. 15, 2021, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller said today at the Pentagon.
Miller announced the drawdown of troops to 2,500 in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq during his first appearance in the Pentagon briefing room. There are currently around 4,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq.
Miller, who took over as acting secretary on Nov. 9, said the move was made with the full concurrence of military officials in the U.S. Central Command area and at the Pentagon. The decision is in keeping with President Donald J. Trump’s promise to get U.S. forces home from the “forever wars.”
A senior defense official speaking on background before the announcement said the president has been consistent about withdrawing forces from the countries. One precondition was that U.S. safety and security not be threatened by the actions. The senior defense official said that certain conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan had to be met, but the official declined to enumerate them.
The official said the U.S. forces left in both countries should be able to continue the mission with no degradation in capabilities.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members and troops from partner nations have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many Americans served multiple tours. More than 6,900 Americans have been killed in these wars and more than 52,000 have been wounded. This does not count the almost 3,000 Americans killed in the terror strikes of Sept. 11, 2001, that began this. The al-Qaida terror group used Afghanistan as a planning, training and staging area for the strikes in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania.
“In light of these tremendous sacrifices, and with great humility and gratitude to those who came before us, I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries,” Miller said. “This is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives, supported by the American people, and does not equate to a change in policy or objectives.”
Miller said Trump’s decision is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet over the past several months. “We will execute this repositioning in a way that protects our fighting men and women, our partners in the intelligence community and diplomatic corps, and our superb allies that are critical to rebuilding Afghan and Iraqi security capabilities and civil society for lasting peace in troubled lands,” Miller said.
Miller said he has spoken to Afghan and Iraqi officials and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The decision is not irreversible, Miller said. “If the forces of terror, instability, division and hate begin a deliberate campaign to disrupt our efforts, we stand ready to ally the capabilities required to thwart them,” Miller said. (Source: US DoD)
17 Nov 20. DOD Announces Rare Earth Element Awards to Strengthen Domestic Industrial Base. As part of the U.S. government’s strategy to ensure secure and reliable supplies of critical minerals under Executive Order 13817, today the Department of Defense is announcing contracts and agreements with several rare earth element producers which will strengthen the domestic rare earths supply chain. Three of the awards were made under the authorities of Title III of the Defense Production Act (DPA).
MP Materials, who owns the largest rare earth element mining operation outside of China, has been awarded a DPA Title III technology investment agreement to establish domestic processing capabilities for light rare earth elements (LREE). LREEs are critical to numerous defense and commercial applications, including petroleum refining, glass additives, and magnets used in electric vehicle drivetrain motors and precision-guided munitions. Upon successful completion of this project, MP Materials will refine its current mixed rare earth concentrate production, which represents approximately 12 percent of global rare earth oxide content, into separated rare earth products at its site in Mountain Pass, California.
Under the technology investment agreement with MP Materials, the Department of Defense will contribute $9.6m to MP Materials’ effort to add value-add processing and separation capabilities to the Mountain Pass operations. MP Materials has recently announced a definitive agreement to transition to a publicly held company through a merger with Fortress Value Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by an affiliate of Fortress Investment Group LLC.
The Department of Defense also signed DPA Title III agreements with TDA Magnetics of Rancho Dominguez, California and Urban Mining Company of San Marcos, Texas for rare earth element magnet supply chain studies and inventory demonstrations. The Department of Defense funding was $2.3m and $0.86m, respectively.
On Sept. 10, 2020, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) increased the scope of its Rare Earth Salts Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF) project to expand production to 20 tonnes per annum of neodymium praseodymium (NdPr). Under their RIF project, Rare Earth Salts has been scaling up capacity of their low capital and operating cost technology at their Beatrice, Nebraska facility. Rare Earth Salts made their first deliveries of high purity refined rare earth elements to an industry partner in 2020.
The DPA Title III awards follow a series of rare earth element actions the Department of Defense has taken in recent years to ensure supply and strengthen defense supply chains. Specific actions include stockpiling, implementing Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) rules to transition defense supply chains to non-Chinese sources of rare earth element magnets, launching engineering studies with the Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment program focused on re-establishing domestic heavy rare earth element processing, partnering with industry to re-establish domestic neodymium iron boron magnet production, and leveraging the Small Business Innovative Research and Rapid Innovation Funds to accelerate development of new rare earth element processing technologies. (Source: US DoD)
17 Nov 20. DOD Works With Partner Nations to Avoid Civilian Casualties During War. The United States works with partner nations to mitigate civilian casualties as much as possible during military operations, adhering to the Law of Armed Conflict, also known as International Humanitarian Law.
A panel of Defense Department experts on the topic spoke remotely at the American Society of International Law.
The American military’s strong commitment to minimizing civilian casualties to the maximum extent possible and adhering to international humanitarian law principles is enculturated and internalized at all levels of command and across the services, Air Force Maj. John Legg, assistant professor of law at the U.S. Air Force Academy, said.
At the educational level in all of the services, commanders are inculcated with the moral and legal obligation to mitigate civilian harm, he said.
Also, structures are in place in the military to mitigate civilian casualties, he said, adding that the department works closely with allies and partners to ensure these norms are followed.
Foreign military sales are contingent on the partner nations’ respect for mitigating civilian casualties, Loren Voss, senior advisor for Civilian Harm Mitigation at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said.
Factors that determine whether or not an FMS transfer is approved include looking at how the weapons will impact regional stability, how the arms are intended to be used, how the transfer affects U.S. national security and foreign policy interests and how the recipient nations will mitigate any risk of civilian casualties, she said.
The State Department’s Office of Regional Security Arms Transfers oversees this effort in cooperation with DSCA and the geographic combatant commands, as well as with congressional oversight, she said.
Retired Army Col. Randy Bagwell, senior director of International Services — U.S. Programs at the American Red Cross, said there are cultural differences among nations. Some cultures respect the rule of law more than others and compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict is much higher in those nations. Also, some nations lack the training and education necessary to reduce civilian harm.
Nicholas W. Mull, Civilian Harm Mitigation Program manager at the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies, said his organization promotes partner nations’ military and institutional awareness of the Law of Armed Conflict through education and advisory efforts, as well as plans to ensure shared normative values dedicated to the rule of law. (Source: US DoD)
17 Nov 20. DOD-Wide Audit Improves Efficiencies to Benefit Warfighter. With the exception of a couple of organizations, the Defense Department has completed most of its third annual comprehensive financial statement audit covering the entire enterprise, worth about $2.9trn, a DOD official said, adding that there have been improvements resulting from the audit that will directly benefit the warfighter. As of Nov. 12, DOD had cleared more than 530 findings, which are 16.3% of the discrepancies from the prior year’s audit, Thomas W. Harker, who is performing the duties of the under secretary of defense (comptroller)/chief financial officer, said at a Pentagon press briefing.
Several hundred more discrepancies should be cleared by next month when auditors complete their work. None of the discrepancies were related to fraud, he noted.
The cost of this year’s audit was approximately $203m, he said, with about $700m in savings identified.
The ultimate goal is to get a clean financial statement audit opinion across the entire department, Harker said, but the lack of a positive opinion should not be regarded as a failure.
“We’ve been clear that this is a journey that will require a sustained effort over several years. And we remain committed to this goal and continue to make significant progress,” Harker said.
The DOD audit is actually 24 separate audits of the military services, as well as defense agencies.
Harker provided some examples:
- The Navy eliminated three material weaknesses, two on their general fund and one on their working capital fund; the Marine Corps eliminated one material weakness, he said.
- The Defense Information Systems Agency has improved its business processes and controls, resulting in decreased time required to deliver property to customers, improved accuracy of property records and improved accuracy of financial statements.
Among the organizations expected to receive a clean audit, besides DISA, are: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Civil Works; the Military Retirement Fund; the Defense Health Agency — Contract Resource Management; the Defense Contract Audit Agency; the Defense Finance and Accounting Service; the Defense Commissary Agency; and the DOD’s Office of the Inspector General.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, auditors were prevented from doing a lot of in-person travel and testing, he said. Nevertheless, the auditors did a lot of virtual testing, using such things as digital media and photos.
Independent public accounting firms, along with DOD and the Office of the Inspector General perform the audits. About 1,400 auditors conducted more than 100 in-person site visits this year and more than 530 virtual site visits, he said.
Audit remediation is one of the major components of the National Defense Strategy lines of effort focused on reforming business processes for greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Harker said the audit provides the following benefits:
- Improves the quality of the department’s financial statements and underlying data available to the public, including providing a reliable picture of its assets, liabilities and spending.
- Highlights areas where the department needs to improve its accountability over assets and resources.
- Improves cybersecurity.
- Provides accountability and transparency to Congress and the American public.
- Identifies legacy systems that need to be eliminated.
- Identifies where too many systems are in place and where consolidation of systems will improve efficiencies.
- Identifies previously unknown equipment that’s available for the warfighters.
- Provides more accurate financial data that gives leaders improved ability to use that data to make decisions. (Source: US DoD)
16 Nov 20. Pentagon signals troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq. Defence officials tell commanders to prepare for withdrawal of 2,500 personnel. The Pentagon has told US commanders to prepare to withdraw an additional 2,500 troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, delivering on a pledge by the Trump administration to bring forces back and end America’s “forever wars”. A defence official told the Financial Times that a “warning order” was recently issued to reduce troop numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq by 2,000 and 500, respectively. There are currently 4,500 troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq. The verbal instruction to prepare to reduce troop numbers by January 15, which was first reported by CNN, stopped short of a final drawdown decision from the White House, known as an “execute order”. “This is a harbinger of an execute order that will direct those changes,” the defence official said, adding an official order was expected by the end of this week. US military commanders have repeatedly resisted reducing troop numbers in Afghanistan, arguing they would be unable to do their job with so few people.
The Pentagon did not respond to a request to comment and the National Security Council at the White House declined to comment. Donald Trump, who has refused to concede the US presidential election following his defeat to rival Joe Biden, campaigned on a promise to bring America’s soldiers home. US election 2020: Joe Biden’s foreign policy explained If the reduction was completed by January 15, it would make it harder for Mr Biden to reverse, as he is not due to take over the US presidency from Mr Trump until inauguration day, five days later. Similar warning orders have been issued in the past but did not result in troop withdrawals. “The direction is arbitrary and capricious and now it’s up to us to figure out what [Mr Trump] means,” said the US defence official. There was no clear guidance on how the location or mission of US troops on the ground would be affected, the official added. Mr Trump last week fired Mark Esper as his defence secretary and appointed Chris Miller, a retired army officer who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, in an acting capacity. Mr Trump also placed several officials who are seen are loyal to him in senior Pentagon roles. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, pushed back against the withdrawal plan on Monday, saying a premature US exit from Afghanistan would “embolden the Taliban” and hurt US allies. “A disorganised retreat would jeopardise the track record of major successes this administration has worked to compile,” he said, adding only a “small minority” in Congress would support a rapid drawdown. Mr Trump tweeted last month that all troops should be “home by Christmas”. Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and Mr Trump’s top military adviser, subsequently told NPR that further US withdrawal would be “conditions-based”.
The US has already reduced troop numbers in Afghanistan to 4,500 from 14,000 last year, after the Trump administration struck a deal with the Taliban in February. That agreement required a reduction of violence by the Islamist group towards US forces in exchange for force withdrawals. It was also predicated on intra-Afghan talks to end the war, which began late and have not concluded. In his first address to the entire US defence department, Mr Miller wrote that he was among those “weary of war” and that it was “time to come home”. But in the same letter, which was sent on Saturday, he argued that the US must avoid the “past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish”, adding they were “on the verge” of defeating al-Qaeda and its associates. Bradley Bowman, an Afghanistan veteran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said national security interests rather than “the political calendar” should determine America’s military posture in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He is among some analysts who believe the primary beneficiaries of a premature withdrawal from Iraq would be Iran and Isis, and that complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan could deliver victory to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Michael O’Hanlon, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, said that while there was no magic number, he was worried about reducing troops to 2,500 in Afghanistan, describing such a drawdown as “too fast and too big”. He said it would be hard to protect remaining military bases with skeletal forces. (Source: FT.com)
16 Nov 20. Small Businesses Key to Nation’s Defense. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and a large part of the defense of the nation, the Defense Department’s director for the Office of Small Business said today.
Small businesses make up 99.7% of U.S. firms and create 64% of net new private sector jobs, said Amy Murray, who spoke during a keynote address before members of the National Defense Industrial Association. Murray also serves as the department’s deputy director for industrial policy.
In fiscal year 2019, Murray said, DOD awarded over $75bn in prime contracts to small businesses, providing an opportunity for those business owners to contribute to national security by providing both combat power to U.S. troops and economic power to the nation.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy,” Murray said. “[They] represent 67% of businesses that are awarded contracts in the DOD — creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
By their very size, Murray said, small businesses also benefit the department’s need to more adequately adapt to the new security environment.
“Small businesses are key to DOD’s mission and innovation initiatives,” she said. “Their agility delivers the speed and performance to transform the defense industrial base and provide competitive advantage. And this agility drives … value faster by increasing innovation, responsiveness, customer satisfaction, productivity and quality.”
The mission of the Office of Small Business Programs, or OSBP, Murray said, is to maximize opportunities for small businesses. She said the department has achieved it’s small business prime contracting goal every year since fiscal year 2014 and received a procurement scorecard grade of ‘A’ for six consecutive years.
Why do we have these goals, and why do we need small business participation?. Murray said 99.7% of all employer firms are small businesses, and 97.5% of all identified exporters are small businesses. “Small businesses produce 16.5 times more patents than large patenting firms and create more than half of non-farm private gross domestic product — which is significant to our economy,” she said.
Protecting the Industrial Base for U.S. Security
The industrial policy team’s efforts also protect American businesses from being influenced by investment by foreign adversaries. That’s part of the industrial policy team’s “protect” line of effort, Murray said.
“These are the hard tools that we use to deter those who would seek to use America’s traditional strengths — openness and fair competition — against us,” she said. “This is the team that identifies those transactions, or economic activities, which undermine our economic and national security.”
Much work done in this area is in partnership with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. As part of the mission to protect American companies from adversarial investment, she said, it is important to recognize that during a crisis such as that posed by COVID-19, the defense industrial base becomes vulnerable to adversarial capital.
“We need to ensure companies can stay in business without losing their precious intellectual property, the foundation of so many critical technologies,” Murray said. “CFIUS now has jurisdiction over non-controlling investments for innovative technology, critical infrastructure, and personal data, and certain real estate transactions, in addition to the long-standing jurisdiction over transactions that could result in foreign control of a U.S. business.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, Murray said, the department became more acutely aware of the fragility of the U.S. industrial supply chain. In response, more investments through the Defense Production Act have been made to further strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base. (Source: US DoD)
16 Nov 20. DOD Completes Fiscal Year 2020 Department-Wide Financial Statement Audit; Continued Value and Progress Despite COVID-19 Constraints. Today, the Department of Defense (DOD) completed its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Department-wide financial statement audit. “For the third year in a row, the audit has proven its tremendous value,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said. “As we continue reforming the Department for greater affordability, the audit delivers returns that significantly outweigh its cost by improving business operations and enhancing the lethality of our warfighters.”
Seven DOD organizations are expected to sustain unmodified or “clean” opinions. Four audits are still underway and are expected to be completed between December 15, 2020, and March 25, 2021.
- We are working towards, and optimistic that we will have, an additional (beyond the seven) clean opinion this year for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Working Capital Fund (WCF).
- Auditors thus far validated that DOD resolved over 530 findings from the FY 2019 audits.
- DOD continued to demonstrate progress despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck during a typically critical time for audit testing. Nevertheless, our Military Service members, civilians, contractors, and auditors came together to develop and implement alternative and innovative solutions to complete this year’s audit. Our financial statement audits continue to be foundational to business reform and our 2018 National Defense Strategy. The most tangible benefits come from addressing audit findings, which help us enhance our information system controls, improve the reliability of our financial data, and improve operational efficiency.
This year, we are optimistic that the DISA WCF can achieve an unmodified opinion, a notable improvement from a disclaimer of opinion last year, and the beginning of a future trend where smaller organizations begin to achieve positive opinions over the next several years.
The following entities sustained their unmodified opinions: the U.S. Army Corps of Civil Engineers – Civil Works; the Military Retirement Fund (MRF), the Defense Health Agency – Contract Resource Management; the Defense Contract Audit Agency; the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) WCF; and the Defense Commissary Agency. These were the 26th and 21st consecutive unmodified opinions for the MRF and DFAS WCF, respectively. The DISA WCF; Department of the Navy General Fund and WCF; and DOD Office of Inspector General (DOD OIG) audits are still ongoing. We expect the DOD OIG to sustain its clean opinion.
The DOD has made important progress since last year. For example, the Department anticipates the downgrade of two Agency-Wide material weaknesses; and is hopeful that Navy’s auditors can downgrade three Navy material weaknesses when the Navy’s audit is completed in December. Several material weaknesses for the Marine Corps and Defense Agencies have been downgraded. Auditors also confirmed during the FY 2020 audit that the Department successfully closed over 530 FY 2019 audit findings, and were able to expand their testing in several areas. Progress continued in an array of areas including information technology, inventory, Fund Balance with Treasury, and financial reporting.
During the FY 2020 audit, auditors verified the Department sustained earlier progress reported in the
FY 2019 audit, including:
- No significant issues found with payment amounts made to civilian or military members,
- No evidence of fraud, and
- Existence and completeness of major military equipment.
The annual audit continues to play a pivotal role in improving financial management and supporting business reform throughout the Department. It reinforces our accountability to the American taxpayer and our stewardship over resources entrusted to us in support of our warfighters. (Source: US DoD)
13 Nov 20. US bans investments in firms linked to China’s military. The US government has issued a directive to prohibit US investments into Chinese firms that are deemed to be owned or controlled by China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
An executive order by the White House on 12 November said the move is intended to address China’s ‘civil-military fusion’ strategy to leverage commercial technologies and investments for military gains.
The executive order – applicable from January 2021 – bans purchases by US investors of publicly traded securities issued by Chinese companies linked to the PLA or China’s military-industrial complex. It also prohibits US investments in derivatives “designed to provide investment exposure to such securities” owned by such Chinese firms.
Transactions to divest ownership in such Chinese firms will be allowed until November 2021, said the executive order.
Explaining its decision, the executive order said that through its civil-military fusion strategy China expands its military-industrial complex by “compelling” civilian companies to support its military activities.
It added, “At the same time, those companies raise capital by selling securities to US investors that trade on public exchanges both here and abroad, lobbying US index providers and funds to include these securities in market offerings, and engaging in other acts to ensure access to US capital. In that way, [China] exploits US investors to finance the development and modernization of its military.”
Chinese firms covered by the ban are those described by the White House as “Communist Chinese military companies”, which were identified in lists published by the US Department of Defense (DoD) in June and August 2020. (Source: Jane’s)
12 Nov 20. New DoD Adviser Has Made Controversial Proposal: Get Rid of the Marine Corps. Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, newly-appointed as a senior adviser at the Pentagon, has a track record of making controversial statements. But his most provocative of all might be a proposal to do away with the U.S. Marine Corps.
In a 2012 opinion piece for Time Magazine, Macgregor, a decorated veteran of the Gulf War, argued that the Corps was living on its past glories and was unsuited for combat on today’s battlefield, with the possible exception for pushover enemies.
He went further, too, suggesting the acronym “USMC” should really stand for “Under-utilized Superfluous Military Capability.”
“Most of today’s Marine force consists of airmobile light infantry,” Macgregor wrote. “This Marine force is designed for use in the developing world against incapable opponents from Haiti to Fiji, but not much else.”
He took exception to previous remarks from then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos on the future of the Corps as “America’s shock force” of agile and adaptable units vital to the nation’s defense against evolving threats.
Macgregor summed up Amos’ assessment this way: “Rah, rah, the Marine Corps is awesome, and all we have to do is make sure they have the equipment & training & facilities they need so they can always be awesome Marines, rah, rah!”
“Wrong,” said Macgregor. “The Marines as currently organized and equipped are about as relevant as the Army’s horse cavalry in the 1930s.”
Macgregor, who has a reputation as an iconoclastic thinker on military strategy and tactics, was brought on as a senior adviser at the Pentagon by new Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who was named to the post by President Donald Trump after he fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper via a Twitter post.
The Pentagon announced Wednesday that Macgregor “will be serving as a Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense. Mr. MacGregor’s decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the president’s national security priorities.”
Macgregor, a frequent guest on Fox News, has argued for the imposition of martial law at the U.S.-Mexico border with orders for troops to “shoot people” if necessary to stop illegal immigration.
He has also criticized European countries for being too welcoming to “Muslim invaders.”
There is a historical precedent for arguing to disband the Marine Corps. Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower both attempted to do away with the amphibious service. But these arguments have always been brushed aside by furious pushback from the Marines and their allies in Congress.
The enduring future of the Marine Corps was seen from a Navy ship offshore of Iwo Jima by then-Navy Secretary James Forrestal in February 1945.
When he saw the flag go up atop Mount Suribachi, Forrestal said that “means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years.”
Retired Marine Lt. Col. Dakota Wood, senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, said Macgregor’s new Pentagon assignment is likely a non-issue for the Marine Corps.
“I do not think it will cause any notable problems,” Wood said.
In the short time before the inauguration of the next president, “there isn’t any opportunity to make significant changes to the [National Defense Authorization Act] or any key documents that would materially affect the Corps,” Wood said.
“Plus,” he said, “the Corps is well-supported in Congress and any big changes in role, funding or programs would be driven from there.” (Source: Military.com)
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