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09 Dec 20. US Senate Fails to Block Arms Sale to UAE. The U.S. Senate voted on two resolutions of disapproval Wednesday, failing to block the Trump administration’s planned sale of more than $23bn in military equipment to the United Arab Emirates. The resolutions failed, with the Senate, splitting mostly along party lines, voting 47-49 and 46-50, short of the 51-vote majority needed for passage. President Donald Trump was expected to veto the resolutions had they passed. The bipartisan group of senators who introduced the resolutions say the administration did not go through the proper congressional review process for a sale of that magnitude, and that there are unanswered questions about the purpose and security of the transfer.
“On this sale in particular, the consultative process was really important, because this sale is as big and as hairy and as complicated as you get,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We are for the first time selling F-35s and MQ-9 Reaper drones into the heart of the Middle East. Never done before.”
Human rights group Amnesty International has criticized the U.S. sale of drones and other weapons to the UAE, saying they will be used in the conflict in Yemen.
“The United States must resolutely refrain from supplying weapons that could be used in the conflict and not transfer weaponry to the UAE, or risk complicity in likely war crimes in Yemen,” Amnesty said in a November statement.
According to the State Department, the sales to the UAE total $23.37bn, including more than $10bn in sales for 50 F-35 Lighting aircraft, almost $3bn in sales for unmanned aerial systems and a $10bn package of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
The UAE and Israel signed the Abraham Peace Accords earlier this year, opening the way for a normalization of relations between the two countries.
In a statement announcing the sales last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the accord “offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region’s strategic landscape. Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success.
Pompeo said 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.”
But U.S. lawmakers say that while it is important to support the security of the UAE, the speed of the sale leaves too many unanswered questions.
“We are clear-eyed about the threat Iran continues to pose to U.S. national security interests. But we have yet to understand exactly what military threat the F-35 or armed drones will be addressing vis-a-vis Iran,” Sen. Bob Menendez, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday.
The resolutions were introduced by Menendez and Murphy along with Republican Sen. Rand Paul. A similar resolution had been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under U.S. law, the window for blocking the sales ends on December 10. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Voice of America News)
08 Dec 20. ‘Gravely Disappointed:’ 14 Fort Hood Leaders Fired, Suspended in Wake of Vanessa Guillen Murder. In one of the most sweeping responses to command climate problems in recent memory, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced today that he has relieved or suspended 14 leaders at Fort Hood, Texas, in the aftermath of Spc. Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance and murder earlier this year.
Maj. Gen. Scott L. Efflandt, deputy commanding general for Support at III Corps, Col. Ralph Overland and Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Knapp, the 3rd Cavalry Regiment commander and command sergeant major, have been relieved of command, according to a separate Army statement. All were among the leaders identified in an independent review launched after Guillen’s death and made public today.
The review included nine findings and 70 recommendations addressing major flaws in the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) program at Hood, as well as a “command climate at Fort Hood that that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” McCarthy told defense reporters at the Pentagon.
“I have determined the issues at Fort Hood are directly related to leadership failures,” McCarthy said. “Leaders drive culture and are responsible for everything the unit does or does not happen to do.
“I am gravely disappointed that leaders failed to create a climate that treated all soldiers with dignity and respect.”
Following Guillen’s murder, which family members have said came after she was sexually harassed at her workplace, Army leaders have had to appear before Congress multiple times to answer for the tragedy. Many have expressed outrage, and some Army recruiters in Texas have reported encountering hostility and anger from those who’ve heard Guillen’s story.
McCarthy also directed suspension of 1st Cavalry Commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Broadwater and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas C. Kenny, the 1st Cavalry’s command sergeant major, pending the outcome of a new fact-finding investigation into 1st Cavalry Division’s command climate and SHARP program, according to the statement.
McCarthy also ordered the relief or suspension of another nine leaders, down to the squad level, left unidentified by the Army.
“As a matter of policy and to protect individual privacy, the Army will not release the names of the battalion level and below commanders and leaders who received administrative action,” according to an Army statement.
Army Lt. Gen. Pat White, Fort Hood’s commander, will not face any administrative action, because he was deployed to Iraq for 13 months, during which time III Corps was under the command of Efflandt, McCarthy said.
“The tragic death of Vanessa Guillen and a rash of other challenges at Fort Hood forced us to take a critical look at our systems, our policies and ourselves,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said he will accept all 70 recommendations from the independent review, and has created a “people first” task force that will formulate a plan for all 70 recommendations, which the Army will begin implementing by next March.
“While the independent review focused on the command climate and culture at Fort Hood the findings contained in the committee’s report impact the entire Army,” McCarthy said. “This report, without a doubt, will cause the Army to change our culture.” (Source: Military.com)
09 Dec 20. Statement from Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller on Fort Hood Review Findings. I have been closely following Vanessa Guillen’s case these past few months. While my heart is heavy with the tragedy of her death, my commitment to addressing the issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment is resolved. As a department we must do better, and we will do better. I support Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy’s decision to hold leaders at multiple levels accountable and will be closely reviewing the results of the Fort Hood Report and the People First Task Force. (Source: US DoD)
07 Dec 20. Trump veto will hurt troops and families, Republican and Democratic leaders warn. Congressional leaders from both parties warned Monday that a presidential veto of the annual defense authorization bill later this month could have devastating effects on the military, and leave lawmakers with few solutions to fix that damage.
“The short term damage is likely that (troops) won’t get paid bonuses,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., in a conference call with reporters on Monday. “Training will stop on a number of very large training areas across the country. We will also have (military construction) projects that will be disrupted…
“Our ability to properly reform the Pentagon stops. So, it’s bad. And we are going to do everything we can to try and avoid it.”
Smith’s comments came just a day before an expected House vote on the $740.5bn defense budget policy measure, which has drawn the ire of President Donald Trump in recent days for its lack of language dealing with legal protections for social media companies.
Trump has also objected to language in the measure that would require military officials to rename multiple sites — including at least 10 major Army bases — that currently honor Confederate leaders.
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the measure later in the week. Smith and his Republican counterpart, House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, each predicted that both chambers will have enough votes not only to finalize the bill but override any potential presidential veto.
But they also cautioned that if the president does successfully scuttle the measure, troops and their families will suffer.
“Military families are going to see their compensation cut, and that is undoubtedly the effect if we don’t pass an authorization bill,” Thornberry told reporters Monday. “Plus, there are a lot of new benefits — good things in this bill — that would not take place.
“There are 13 new projects for family housing, schools, child development centers. There are seven projects that deal with safety and security, like perimeter fencing, base access control, fire stations. You just go through this list and those things can’t happen without an authorization bill.”
Thornberry, like Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said Trump’s plan to repeal the liability shield for social media companies, known as Section 230, does not belong in the sprawling defense bill. Both men have said that Congress needs to address the issue, but not at the expense of risking military re-authorizations and reforms.
Both Smith and Thornberry warned that if the authorization isn’t finalized by the end of session (Jan. 3), there is no alternative plan in the works.
Reviving the bill in January under the new president would be a near-impossibility logistically, and would still delay final passage by months. Smith said a bare-bones version of the measure to give authorization to pay and benefits provisions wouldn’t work either.
“A skinny bill is not an option because there are demands and priorities that people have that the skinny bill will not address, and then we won’t have the votes,” Smith said.
“Here’s the other thing: the president isn’t vetoing the bill because of anything that’s in it. He’s vetoing the bill because of what’s not in it. But what’s not in it is also going to not be in the skinny bill.”
House lawmakers are scheduled to leave town on holiday break later this week, but Smith said they would return later this month if needed for a veto override vote. (Source: Defense News)
08 Dec 20. Congress authorises NDAA focus on expanding US airpower capabilities. Legislators from US House and Senate Armed Services Committees have handed down their latest summary of the proposed 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with a specific focus on expanding the acquisition of key air power capabilities and strategic force multipliers including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, B-21 Raider and the next-gen platforms like Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) and Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).
While the counting and legal battles continue to determine the leader of the free world, Congress introduced a budget proposal for the US government, totalling US$1.4trn ($1.9trn) in new spending, with an updated budget request of US$732bn ($985bn) allocated to defence spending.
This proposed bill differs considerably from a similar proposal from the House of Representatives with a series of shifts in acquisition, funding allocations and research and development programs designed to modernise the platforms and weapons, which have formed the backbone of the US Armed Forces since the end of the Cold War.
Two key components of this funding request are the increasingly limited pool of financial resources available to the COVID-ravaged economy and as the nation as a whole struggles to shift its priorities from the Middle East to countering peer and near-peer great power competitors in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.
As part of this, US Congressional legislators in a summary, Conference Report Summary for the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, detail the driving force behind the 2021 NDAA, stating, “To address the country’s greatest military threats, the FY21 NDAA conference report balances vital national security requirements in a resource-constrained environment while ensuring the Department of the Defense is postured to address the shifting global security landscape and its effects on the national defence apparatus.
“The FY21 NDAA authorises a defense enterprise that is diverse, inclusive, accountable, and responsible in the management of its resources, and ensures America’s military maintains its competitive edge while increasing accountability so that Congress and the American people know how defence resources are allocated and spent.
“The FY21 NDAA Conference Report continues to improve the quality of life for our service men and women in uniform – including the authorisation for a 3.0 per cent pay increase – makes key investments to military infrastructure, and provides crucial support to training and sustainment activities that enhance military operations.
“Our service members confront unique, complex challenges and deserve our support. The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected every aspect of our daily lives, and the military is no exception. The FY21 NDAA conference report authorises funding that will strengthen DOD and the country’s ability to respond to potential COVID-19 resurgence and other infectious diseases in the future.
“The FY21 NDAA conference report authorises approximately $732 bn in discretionary spending for national defense, including approximately $69 bn of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). This authorisation level will allow our military to maintain readiness, expand capabilities, and invest in the new software and technologies required to secure our country.”
A major winner of this new round of defence spending is the US Air Force which has been undergoing a major period of recapitalisation and modernisation, as the force phases out a range of platforms, technologies and weapons systems, many dating back to the Reagan-era defence build up during the 1980s.
Boost to F-35 numbers, B-21 fully funded, NGAD gets some cash also
The US Air Force, much like the Royal Australian Air Force is undergoing a transition to a fifth-generation force, incorporating key platforms like the new Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the backbone of the force’s future air combat capability to operate in conjunction with updated variants of the fourth-generation F-15EX and F-16 as well as the F-22 Raptor and, as was recently revealed, a Next-Generation Air Dominance platform designed to replace the venerable Raptor.
To this end, US airpower is expected to receive 93 F-35 aircraft across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, with the US Air Force to assume six of the F-35A’s originally planned for Turkey, but never delivered following the Central-Asian nation’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 integrated air defence system and associated security concerns.
The US Air Force and broader US Armed Forces, namely Navy and Marines, will also see funding allocated to conduct “critical oversight of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and initiates new reporting requirements from the Department on software testing methodologies, Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) redesign and fielding, mitigation of physiological episode occurrences, and critical issues approaching the full-rate production decision occurring in 2021”.
This will see the US Air Force receiving a slight increase of US$2.5bn ($3.36bn) in procurement funding, for a total expenditure of US$51.1bn ($68.7 bn), but with flow on reductions of US$753m ($1.01bn) for the US Air Force research, development, test and evaluation for a total of US$36.3bn ($49.25bn).
The funding for the Joint Strike Fighter is supported by the approval for full funding for the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, with US$2.8bn ($3.76bn) allocated to ongoing R&D for the Raider, and early-procurement funding of US$193m ($259.7m) to commence acquisition of the 100 aircraft identified to replace the US bomber fleet beginning in 2022.
These funding allocations also see an increased funding directive to continue support both the Air Force and Navy next-generation air dominance capabilities, with Congress mandating that the “Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to conduct an in-depth cost, risk, and affordably review on Air Force plans to develop and field the Next Generation Air Dominance aircraft under an aggressive and uncertain plan known as the Digital Century Series Aircraft Acquisition Strategy”.
This will aim to avoid the costly research and development delays and acquisition cost overruns which saw a limited production run of the F-22 Raptor program, having flow on impacts for the US Air Force’s capability to engage in peer competitor deterrence and great power competition, both in the Indo-Pacific and Europe concurrently.
Expanding the ISR, air lift and integrated battle management
Key tactical and strategic force multipliers, namely intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, airlift, aerial refuelling and critically, the next generation integrated advanced battle management systems have also emerged as key investment priorities for the US Air Force moving forward.
In particular the Congress is mandating greater forward planning on the part of the US Air Force, with a funding allocated to providing road maps for the long-term modernisation of the airborne ISR fleet, as well as, “Strengthens accountability of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) by adding reporting requirements on ABMS demonstrations, product line capabilities, and decision-making authorities. Also requires the Air Force, in consultation with the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, to provide a cost estimate for ABMS.
“Requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to transfer responsibility for Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations to an appropriate entity within the Department of Defense. Also requires the European, Indo-Pacific, and Central Commands and the military services to evaluate their ability to conduct electromagnetic spectrum operations.”
Adding to this, the congressional summary supports funding requests for:
- US$104.610m to retain 13 KC-135 and 10 KC-10 aerial refueling aircraft originally scheduled for divestment;
- US$148.42m to retain A-10 aircraft originally scheduled for divestment, and sustain a fleet of 281 aircraft;
- Provides additional funding for MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft;
- Provides additional funding for up to 16 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft;
- Supports the Air Force’s F-15EX tactical fighter program and the budget request for the T-7A training aircraft program;
- Provides additional funding to enhance the Air Force’s development schedule of Low-Cost Attributable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) program capabilities;
- Provides additional funding for Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTT);
- Provides additional funding for procurement of additional Civil Air Patrol aircraft;
- Provides additional funding for E-8 JSTARS modernisation;
- Provides funding sufficient for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System;
- Prohibits the retirement of any aircraft carrier before its first refueling;
- Establishes a statutory floor that the Air Force is required to retain for air refueling aircraft;
- Requires the Air Force to retain a minimum of 287 tactical airlift aircraft;
- Provides funding for one additional MQ-4 Triton;
- Provides funding for seven additional C-130J aircraft;
- Provides funding to support the propulsion and propeller upgrades of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130H airlift aircraft; and
- Provides full funding for the VC-25B Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization (PAR) program.
While there is still a while to go before the full and final allocation is presented, it appears as though the US defence budget is facing the limitations of spending as a response to the impact of COVID on the US economy and maintaining the full spectrum of global responsibilities the US must shoulder, with interesting implications for key allies like Australia.
Funding granted for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative
The congressional summary also identifies and commits funding for the introduction of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), which will see US$2.2bn ($2.96bn) worth of funding allocated to the Indo-Pacific with significant impacts for the region, namely:
- Prohibits the use of funds to reduce active duty US forces in South Korea below 28,500 until 90 days after the Secretary of Defense certifies certain conditions;
- Prohibits the commercial export of defence articles and services and munitions items to the Hong Kong Police Force;
- Authorises the Secretary of Defense to transfer $15m to the State Department to be used for dioxin (Agent Orange) cleanup at Bien Hoa, Vietnam; and
- Expands and codifies an annual report on the infrastructure requirements and investments at enduring and contingency bases maintained overseas. In addition, requires a one-time report on the infrastructure masterplan for all infrastructure requirements, and a breakdown of US and Australia funded projects, needed to support the Marine Rotational Force and others that may operate from Darwin. (Source: Defence Connect)
04 Dec 20. FY2020 Security Cooperation Numbers. DSCA Director Heidi Grant and R. Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, announced the Fiscal Year 2020 U.S. arms transfer figures, as well as other notable Defense and State Department accomplishments and statistics, highlighting the depth and breadth of U.S. security cooperation and security assistance efforts. Arms sales and defense trade are tangible implements of U.S. foreign policy with potential long-term implications for regional security. Over the last fiscal year, authorized arms exports (including both government-managed and commercial) rose by a total of 2.8 percent from $170.09bn to $175.08bn, strengthening U.S. Alliances and attracting new international partners, and adding thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy and sustaining many thousands more.
The U.S. arms transfers figures are as follows:
— Foreign Military Sales (FMS) totaled $50.78bn, raising the three-year rolling average to $54bn. This comprised approximately:
* $44.79bn in arms sales under the FMS program funded by Allies and partners nations;
* $3.30bn under the Title 22 Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program; and
* $2.69bn under Title 10 Foreign Assistance Act or Building Partner Capacity (BPC) programs.
DSCA’s Historical Sales Book, a refreshed version of the previously-published DSCA Factbook, provides a full breakdown annual FMS by country.
— Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) totaled $124.3bn.
Highlighting that Security Cooperation is much more than just arms transfers, Director Grant also highlighted a number of other FY20 Institutional Capacity Building accomplishments:
— The United States trained over 31,000 foreign military students in Department of Defense schoolhouses.
— DSCA’s component the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies conducted 11 CONUS events with 184 participants and 84 OCONUS events with 749 participants.
— DSCA component the Institute for Security Governance conducted 214 advising activities as part of ongoing multi-year programs with 38 priority Allies and partner-nations and 17 education events with 401 international students from 70 countries.
— DSCA’s Ministry of Defense Advisors Program deployed 55 advisors to 13 Ally and partner nations.
— The Defense Security Cooperation University registered nearly 18,000 online courses completed by the Security Cooperation workforce. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Defense Security and Cooperation Agency)
04 Dec 20. NDAA Adds 14 F-35s, OKs $9.1bn; Fully Funds B-21. Authorizers want CAPE to assess costs and risks of the “aggressive and uncertain plan” Digital Century Series approach to acquire NGAD aircraft.
House and Senate authorizers approved 14 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters over DoD’s 2021 budget request: 12 F-35As and 2 F-35Bs. In addition, the Air Force is authorized to add six F-35s meant for Turkey to its own fleet.
The accord “supports the budget request and service’s Unfunded Priorities Lists by authorizing 93 F35 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps,” explains a summary of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report released today by the Democratic Majority of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC). In total, the authorizers okayed $9.1bn for the program.
The authorizers’ agreement to boost the F-35 buy echos the Senate Armed Services Committee version of the NDAA, and in effect splits the different between Senate and House appropriators; House defense appropriators wanted to add 12 F-35s; their Senate counterparts, 17. Of course, no defense appropriations bills been passed and one does not look likely. Unless appropriators add the additional F-35s to a Continuing Resolution there may not be any money to buy them,
The two sides of Capitol Hill agreed that the Air Force should be able to use the six F-35s ordered but never delivered to Turkey after Erdogan’s country was ejected from the program in July over its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defense system, the conference report explains. Those aircraft currently sit in storage at Edwards AFB.
At the same time, the authorizers are keeping a close eye on the F-35, particularly its troubled maintenance software known as ALIS and continuing spare parts shortages. The HASC summary says: “Continues critical oversight of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and initiates new reporting requirements from the Department on software testing methodologies, AutonomicLogistics Information System (ALIS) redesign and fielding, mitigation of physiological episode occurrences, and critical issues approaching the full-rate production decision occurring in 2021.”
All in all, the Air Force makes out relatively unscathed in the conference agreement: getting a $2.5bn bump to its procurement request, for a total of $51.1bn; about $753m was cut from its request for research, development, test and evaluation, for a total of $36.6bn.
This includes authorizer’s approval for full funding of Northrop Grumman’s B-21 stealth bomber, including the first year of procurement funds, the HASC summary said. The Air Force had requested $2.8 bn for Raider R&D, and some $193m in 2022 to launch procurement of the 100 aircraft the service has said it needs.
The conferees further would add $655 m to the service’s request to fund seven additional Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft. The accord also “supports acceleration of the prototype and fielding of Low-Cost Attributable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) systems and the SKYBORG program by adding $50m to augment our current air forces with autonomous unmanned aircraft that would pair with F-35 and other tactical aircraft to ensure air superiority for our warfighters,” the SASC summary says.
The conference report also requires the Air Force to retain a minimum of 287 tactical airlift aircraft, and 92 bombers. It “establishes a minimum number of combat coded aircraft for most major mission areas in the U.S. Air Force and prohibits the divestment of combat-coded aircraft until the minima are reached to ensure that the Air Force meets [National Defense Strategy] and combatant command requirements. This includes limitations on bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft and maintains the fighter aircraft requirement,” the SASC summary of the bill says.
Congressional authorizers approved some $10.4bn in Space Force RTD&E, an almost $85m bump from the budget request.
The conference report language elaborates that, “subject to the availability of appropriations,” the Air Force must “seek to achieve the capabilities provided by a minimum of 386 available operational squadrons, or equivalent organizational units. In addition, the Secretary shall seek to achieve not fewer than 3,580 combat coded aircraft within the Air Force.”
Reading between the lines, the language in essence is a plea from lawmakers — but in essence an unfunded mandate. Indeed, the authorizers leave the Air Force wiggle room on the numbers by stating that if modifications are deemed acceptable due to “new capabilities” coming on line, the Air Force secretary simply must provide a report explaining the rationale to Congress. This includes a certification that the changes imply only a “moderate operational risk” to the Joint Force’s capabilities.
The House and Senate authorizers keep a careful eye on the service’s plans for developing a six-generation fighter under the Next-Generation Air Dominance program, via the Digital Century Series approach championed by Air Force acquisition czar Will Roper. The agreed NDAA draft would cut $70 m from the Air Force’s $1bn request, and “requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to conduct an in depth cost, risk, and affordably review on Air Force plans to develop and field the Next Generation Air Dominance aircraft under an aggressive and uncertain plan known as the Digital Century Series Aircraft Acquisition Strategy.”
The Air Force’s high-priority Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) program, designed to underpin Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) for future operations across the air, land, sea, space and cyberspace domains, also remains under scrutiny. The conference report cuts $85.5m from the program for “unjustified costs.” It further “strengthens accountability” for ABMS “by adding reporting requirements on ABMS demonstrations, product line capabilities, and decision-making authorities. Also requires the Air Force, in consultation with the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, to provide a cost estimate for ABMS,” the HASC summary says.
Specifically, this includes a mandate for DoD “to produce” JADC2 requirements (developed by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, or JROC), and instructs the Air Force chief of staff “to certify that the current JADC2 efforts meet the requirements,” the SASC summary says.
In one of the strongest indications yet of congressional interest in multi-domain operations, the full conference report say the other service chiefs must certify to the HASC and SASC that their “efforts in multi-domain command and control are compatible with the Air Force-led architecture no later than July 1, 2021.” Meanwhile, the Secretary of Defense “would be required to incorporate the expected costs for full development and implementation across the Department of Defense in the fiscal year 2022 budget request,” it adds.
In other key provisions, the conference language:
- Requires the Air Force to provide a long-term modernization plan for airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR).
- Updates existing public law prohibiting retirement of the RQ-4 or U-2 aircraft until specific certifications or waivers have been provided to Congress. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
04 Dec 20. NDAA: Conference Cuts New Army Tech, Pluses Up Old. The cutting-edge IVAS targeting goggles took a $230 m hit, while the latest upgrade to the venerable CH-47 Chinook – which the Army doesn’t actually want – got a $165 m boost.
The House-Senate conference on the 2021 defense policy bill delivers a rebuke to the Army’s ambitious modernization program, cutting several high-priority programs priorities while adding to one program the Army had sought to end.
True, the National Defense Authorization Act, expected to survive a presidential veto threat, is not the final word on 2021 funding. That would be the still-delayed defense appropriations bill. But it still sends a strong and not entirely reassuring signal to the service — especially when its former Chief of Staff, now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is predicting a budgetary “bloodbath” in 2022 as ground-force programs are cut to help fund the Navy, Air and Space Forces.
Now, this final draft of the 2021 NDAAA does make modest plus-ups to research & development for all of the Army’s Big Six priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the tactical Network, Air & Missile Defense, and Soldier Lethality. But most of the additions are in a relatively early phase of R&D. Late-stage R&D – particularly what the Pentagon calls System Development & Demonstration – and actual procurement of Army priority programs took some big hits.
At the same time, the Congress added miilions to a program that the Army had tried to cut, the CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter. While the newest CH-47F Block II model is undoubtedly a major upgrade, the basic Chinook design dates back to the Vietnam era, and the Army had hoped to stop investing in incremental improvement so it could free up funds for more radical technology. But the conference NDAA nearly doubled the Army’s CH-47F request: It added $136m for five helicopters above the 2021 request, which had been just $160.1m for six. It also added another $29m for Advanced Procurement of helicopters in future years to the Army’s $18.4m request.
Goggles & Gunsights
The biggest blow – which our readers will have seen coming – was to the Soldier Lethality portfolio’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) goggles, basically a militarized Microsoft HoloLens that projects a targeting cross-hairs and other tactical data superimposed on the wearer’s field of vision. The Army is excited about the potential for both combat and training, from improved rifle marksmanship to calling in AI-guided airstrikes and artillery. But early prototypes weren’t tough enough for field conditions. While the Army is already testing a ruggedized model, Congress – especially the House Armed Services Committee – remains concerned the service is rushing the technology into service.
In its 2021 budget request, the Army asked for $1.1bn to buy IVAS goggles for frontline infantry units. While the Senate approved the full amount in its draft of the NDAA, the House wanted to cut it by $230m, i.e. 20 percent, and the House got its way in conference.
The bill requires the Army to report by August 15 on how well the IVAS technology is working, what real soldiers think of it in field-tests and what it will cost. Then it requires the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOTE) to submit a separate report as an independent check on the Army.
The House also convinced the Senate to cut $18.5m from procurement, and $5m from R&D, on a closely related program: the FWS gunsight, which is what the IVAS uses to know where the soldier’s rifle is aimed.
The NDAA’s second biggest hit came to the Next Generation Combat Vehicle portfolio, but in this case, the Army asked for two programs to be cut after they ran into delays.
The Army had requested $327.7m for System Development & Demonstration (SDD) of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, a heavily automated replacement for the Reagan-era M2 Bradley troop carrier. As Breaking D readers know, Army leaders realized their OMFV timeline was way too ambitious. So early this year they rebooted the program with a more manageable schedule. Because of that delay, the Army determined, some $83m of the original requested wouldn’t actually be needed in 2021. The conference committee cut that exact amount.
The Army also identified, and the NDAA cuts, some $20m “excess to need” for System Development & Demonstration on the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV), basically a turretless Bradley to replace for the Vietnam-era M113 tracked transport. Manufacturer BAE Systems had struggled with quality control and, while the factory issues are now fixed, the production line is still catching up to the original schedule.
On the upside for armored vehicle modernization, Congress added $47m for SDD on Vehicle Protection Systems. VPS, also known as Active Protection Systems, are a vital piece of defensive kit for future combat vehicles, because they use a miniaturized missile defense system to shoot down incoming anti-tank missiles. (Jamming and decoys are also part of the system). After seeing the effect of similar Russian systems in Ukraine, the Army’s urgently fielding two Israeli systems – Trophy Active Protection System on its M1 Abrams tanks and the Rafael Iron Fist on its M2 Bradleys – while exploring options for the lighter-weight 8×8 Stryker vehicles.
Congress also added $321m to upgun 60 additional Strykers with heavier weapons, bringing the total Stryker upgrade program to $1.2bn for 214 vehicles. The Army hadn’t included the extra 60 vehicles in its budget submission, but they were part of its formal Unfunded Priorities List submitted to Congress.
The NDAA blows hot and cold on this portfolio. Congress continues to hammer on its least-favorite missile defense program, the Army’s Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC). The NDAA cuts IFPC procurement by $40.7m, nearly 40 percent below the $106 m request, and it cuts R&D (specifically System Development & Demonstration) by $47.8m, 20 percent below the $235.8m request. Congress has been so skeptical of the Army’s efforts to develop this tactical defensive system that it forced the service to buy two batteries of the Israeli Iron Dome system as a stopgap.
On the other hand, Congress apparently believes in lasers, because the NDAA adds $20.5m for them to early R&D (half in Applied Research, half in Advanced Technology). It adds $18.5m for R&D into other aspects of air & missile defense ($5.5m in Advanced Technology, $13m in Advanced Component Development & Prototypes).
The conference also wholeheartedly supports the new Army-led multi-service effort to shoot down small drones, the Joint Counter-UAS Office, adding $42.5m. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
05 Dec 20. Congress Moves to Block US Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan and Germany. President Donald Trump’s controversial orders to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and 12,000 from Germany would be blocked by the massive defense policy bill now headed to his desk.
One provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2021 would block funding for reducing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by Jan. 15, as ordered by Trump, until the Defense and State Departments verify that it was in the national interest.
Another provision of the NDAA essentially called on the incoming Biden administration to take a second look at Trump’s executive order to pull 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany.
The bill said troop levels in Germany should remain at 34,500 until 120 days after the secretary of defense submitted cost estimates and assessments of the impact of a withdrawal on allies and military families.
The final version of the NDAA, released Thursday night, said that Afghanistan withdrawal orders announced by Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller on Nov. 17, gave Congress no estimate of the national security implications.
The Trump administration has thus far failed to explain how a troop withdrawal was “in the national security interests of the United States to deny terrorists safe haven in Afghanistan, protect the United States homeland,” the conferees said.
The NDAA provision also asked for details on whether the withdrawal would impact on the “hard-fought gains for the rights of women, girls, and other vulnerable populations in Afghanistan.”
Trump’s June announcement that he wanted 9,500 troops out of Germany after years of jousting with NATO allies to pay more for defense has also drawn opposition from both sides of the aisle.
On July 29, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a plan to carry out Trump’s order that increased the number of troops to be withdrawn from Germany to 12,000.
Some of those troops would return to the U.S., while others would go to Poland and the Baltic states in a shift eastward to enhance NATO’s deterrence against Russia, Esper said at the time.
The NDAA provision on Germany means that final decisions on a troop withdrawal could go to Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of Defense for Policy who is considered a frontrunner for defense secretary in the Biden administration.
Flournoy has already stated that pulling thousands of troops out of Germany would likely cost more than leaving them in place.
At an Aspen Security Forum in August, Flournoy also said that “Our allies were completely surprised by this punitive troop withdrawal from Germany.”
In addition, once he is inaugurated on Jan. 20, Biden would have the authority to issue his own executive order reversing Trump’s withdrawal mandate. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Military.com)
05 Dec 20. ‘Possible’ UAE F-35 deal can be inked before Trump administration ends, says top arms officials. A top arms sale official believes it is “possible” to get the United Arab Emirates on contract to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter before the end of the Trump administration.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Heidi Grant, the head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, acknowledged that such a timeline is logistically feasible but noted it would likely require quick action from the UAE.
“If you ask if it’s possible, absolutely it’s possible,” Grant said in response to a question about whether the F-35s could be on contract by Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated. “But we don’t control it. We are waiting on the Congress benchmark, then we are going to wait when we offer it to the Emiratis, and it’s up to them as far as timeline. But it’s possible.”
The “Congress benchmark” Grant mentioned is the end of the congressional notification period required by law for all Foreign Military Sales offers. The DSCA notified Congress of the potential sale on Nov. 10, meaning the notification period will end next week.
FMS cases are agreements between a partner nation and Washington, with the Pentagon acting as a go-between for the purchaser and the industrial partner. That means the next step after the notification period ends is the crafting and signing of a letter of agreement between the UAE and the U.S., said R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.
“That is a bilateral process between the United States and the UAE, so that does not have a particularly set timeline,” Cooper said. “Obviously when we work on LOAs, in any case, the partners would certainly like to see them sooner than later, but that does not have date specificity.”
The UAE is seeking a massive $23.37bn arms package, which includes up to 50 F-35A fighters worth $10.4bn, 18 MQ-9B drones worth $2.97bn, and $10bn worth of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. Those dollar totals are estimates and may shift during final negotiations, but it still represents a massive win for American industry — and a political fight on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers, primarily Democrats, have expressed opposition to the potential sale, saying it ignores risks to sensitive military technology posed by UAE’s ties to Russia and China. And they’re concerns about the threat to Israel’s qualitative military edge, or QME, in the Middle East. The Senate is set to vote next week on legislation to block the sale.
While the sale has been backed by President Donald Trump, there is a belief that the Biden administration may look to block it, and hence there’s a belief in some corners of Congress that the Trump administration is rushing to get the sale done before Jan. 20.
Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, told reporters in late October that the deal is “something we would look at very, very carefully, and make sure that the QME is preserved and also very important that Congress play a role.”
In an interview Thursday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the Trump administration briefing on the sales that he and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee received last month convinced him the sale is being rushed to box in the incoming Biden administration. But he believes the deal, if it’s not defeated in Congress, could be changed by the next president.
“I believe the Biden administration will be able to put additional conditions on sales or hold back weapons, but I haven’t dug into the fine print yet,” Murphy said. “My worry is there are certain sales we will be obligated to make.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
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