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21 Dec 20. Congress races to pass $2.3trn spending deal, with $696bn for Pentagon. Congress is rocketing to pass a massive $2.3trn spending package by Monday at 11:59 p.m. that includes pandemic relief and federal spending, with $69 bn for the Pentagon.
The full-year Pentagon spending bill released Monday morning as part of the mega package represents a $2.6bn increase over the 2020-enacted level but $2.1bn less than President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget request.
It shakes out to $627.3 bn in base funding and $68.7 bn in wartime overseas contingency operations funding.
The deal includes $1.4trn in regular federal government spending for 2021 and $900bn in coronavirus relief. One of the largest relief packages in modern history, it includes an extension of a reimbursement program for federal contractors under Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The legislation, which represents much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business for the year, was expected to sprint through both chambers. To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers must pass the bills before the latest stopgap funding measure runs out at the end of Dec. 21. (The 2021 annual defense authorization bill remains in limbo, awaiting a possible veto — something the president has threatened — and an override vote by lawmakers.)
“The American people expect us to do our job, and after many months of work on this legislation, I am hopeful we can swiftly advance the bipartisan package through Congress and on to the President’s desk. Funding the government, including our Armed Forces, is our fundamental responsibility,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
“Providing relief to struggling Americans and businesses is paramount as our nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. This year has been unprecedented in a number of ways. Completing our work is all the more important. I urge my colleagues to support this package.”
“I’m incredibly honored that my final legislation as a Member of Congress will provide full-year funding for all of government and deliver urgently-needed coronavirus relief to save lives and livelihoods,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. “The process was not always smooth, but at the end of the day we secured funding increases for critical priorities and strong emergency relief to crush the virus and put more money in people’s pockets.”
The House passed its $694.6bn Pentagon spending bill for fiscal 2021 in July as part of a $1.3trn package. Senate Republican waited until November to introduce their $1.4trn spending package, which included $696 bn for defense.
According to Monday’s summary of the compromise bill, the legislation funds the request of 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft at $1.7bn; 96 F-35 aircraft at $9.6bn, which is 17 more than Trump’s request and includes 60 F-35As, 10 F-35Bs and 26 F-35Cs; and 12 F-15EX aircraft at $9.6bn to recapitalize the F-15C/D fleet.
It also spends $1.6bn for nine Navy Reserve P-8A Poseidon aircraft that the president did not request.
It surpasses Trump’s request by $189 m for the first five CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopter and long-lead funding for the second five CH-47F Block II Chinooks; and by $141m above the request to fund a total of 42 UH/HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.
It also includes six more V-22 aircraft (for 15 total) at $1.4bn.
The bill adds a Virginia-class submarine in its $23.3bn shipbuilding allotment to build 10 Navy vessels. Those dollars would also buy two DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers; two SSN-774 attack submarines; one Columbia-class submarine; one frigate; two towing, salvage and rescue ships; one expeditionary fast transport; and one amphibious transport dock.
It also provides $500m in incremental funding for LHA 9, a landing helicopter assault ship, and $73m for advance procurement for one expeditionary sea base.
For the Army, it funds upgrades for 271 Stryker combat vehicles at $1.16bn, or $375m over the request; funds upgrades for 89 Abrams tanks to the M1A2 SEPv3 tank variant for $968m; provides $100m for the Army National Guard to modernize Humvees; and funds the Army’s request for 1,920 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and 1,334 JLTV companion trailers at $884m.
The bill funds the Army long-range hypersonic weapon at $861m, or $60m above the request; provides $88.1m above the request for systems integration and testing in support of the Army’s mid-range missile development; and provides $161m to support the Army’s enduring Indirect Fire Protection Capability program.
After a series of explosions and fires at Army munitions plants, the bill would provide $84m above the request for safety and environmental upgrades of Army industrial facilities and $62m above the request for Army organic industrial base investments. (Source: Defense News)
21 Dec 20. Congress seals agreement on $900bn COVID relief bill. Top Capitol Hill negotiators sealed a deal Sunday on a $900bn COVID-19 economic relief package, finally delivering long-overdue help to businesses and individuals and providing money to deliver vaccines to a nation eager for them.
The agreement, announced by congressional leaders, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
It came after months of battling and posturing, but the negotiating dynamic changed in Republicans’ favor after the election and as the end of the congressional session neared. President-elect Joe Biden was eager for a deal to deliver long-awaited help to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size that Democrats wanted this fall.
Biden praised the bipartisan spirit that produced the measure, which he called “just the beginning.”
“This is a model for the challenging work ahead for our nation,” Biden said in a statement.
House leaders informed lawmakers that they would vote on the legislation on Monday, and the Senate was likely to vote on Monday, too. Lawmakers were eager to leave Washington and close out a tumultuous year.
“There will be another major rescue package for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in announcing the agreement for a relief bill that would total almost $900 bn. “It is packed with targeted policies to help struggling Americans who have already waited too long.”
Democrats acknowledged it wasn’t as robust a relief package as they initially sought — or, they say, the country needs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed more to come once President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
“It is a first step,” she said. “We have to do more.”
A fight over Federal Reserve emergency powers was resolved Saturday night by the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, and conservative Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. That breakthrough led to a final round of negotiations Sunday.
Still, delays in finalizing the agreement prompted the House to pass a one-day stopgap spending bill to prevent a government shutdown at midnight Sunday. The Senate was likely to pass the measure Sunday night as well.
The final agreement would be the largest spending measure yet. It combined $900bn for COVID-19 relief with a $1.4trn government-wide funding plan and lots of other unrelated measures on taxes, health, infrastructure and education. The government-wide funding would keep the government open through September.
Passage neared as coronavirus cases and deaths spiked and evidence piled up that the economy was struggling. The legislation had been held up by months of dysfunction, posturing and bad faith. But talks turned serious in recent days as lawmakers on both sides finally faced the deadline of acting before leaving Washington for Christmas.
“This bill is a good bill. Tonight is a good night. But it is not the end of the story, it is not the end of the job,” Schumer told reporters. “Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what’s going on in America.”
The $300 per week bonus jobless benefit was one half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the $1.8 bn CARES Act in March and would be limited to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks. The direct $600 stimulus payment to most people would also be half the March payment, subject to the same income limits in which an individual’s payment began to phase out after $75,000.
The CARES Act was credited with keeping the economy from falling off a cliff amid widespread lockdowns this spring, but Republicans controlling the Senate cited debt concerns in pushing against Democratic demands. Republican politicians, starting with President Donald Trump, focused more on reopening the economy and less on taxpayer-financed steps like supplemental jobless benefits.
Progress came after a bipartisan group of pragmatists and moderates devised a $908bn plan that built a middle ground position that the top four leaders of Congress — the GOP and Democratic leaders of both the House and Senate — used as the basis for their talks. The lawmakers urged leaders on both sides to back off of hard-line positions.
“We put our heads down and worked around the clock for nearly a month to produce a bipartisan, bicameral bill to address the emergency needs of our country,” the bipartisan group of about a dozen lawmakers said in a statement. “Our consensus bill was the foundation of this final package.”
Republicans were most intent on reviving the Paycheck Protection Program with $284bn, which would cover a second round of PPP grants to especially hard-hit businesses. Democrats won set-asides for low-income and minority communities.
Late-breaking decisions would limit $300 per week bonus jobless benefits — one half the supplemental federal unemployment benefit provided under the CARES Act in March — to 11 weeks instead of 16 weeks as before. The direct $600 stimulus payment to most people would be half the March payment, subject to the same income limits in which an individual’s payment begins to phase out after $75,000.
After the announcement, Schumer and Pelosi, D-Calif., announced additional details, including $25bn in rental assistance, $15 bn for theaters and other live venues, $82bn for local schools, colleges and universities, and $10bn for child care.
The governmentwide appropriations bill would fund agencies through next September. That measure was likely to provide a last $1.4 bn installment for Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall as a condition of winning his signature.
The bill was an engine to carry much of Capitol Hill’s unfinished business, including an almost 400-page water resources bill that targets $10bn for 46 Army Corps of Engineers flood control, environmental and coastal protection projects. Another addition would extend a batch of soon-to-expire tax breaks, including one for craft brewers, wineries and distillers.
It also would carry numerous clean energy provisions, $7bn to increase access to broadband, $4bn to help other nations vaccinate their people, $14bn for cash-starved transit systems, Amtrak and airports.
Democrats failed in a monthslong battle to deliver direct fiscal relief to states and local governments, but they successfully pressed for $22bn would help states and local governments with COVID-19-related health expenses like testing and vaccines. The end-of-session rush also promised relief for victims of shockingly steep surprise medical bills, a phenomenon that often occurs when providers drop out of insurance company networks. (Source: Defense News)
18 Dec 20. Acting Secretary Accepts Inclusion Board’s 15 Recommendations. Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has accepted all 15 recommendations proposed by the Diversity and Inclusion Board chartered by former Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper in July.
Miller signed a memo entitled “Actions to Improve Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Inclusion in the U.S. Military” that examined the culture of the military following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In the memo, Miller called diversity and inclusion in the DOD “moral imperatives.” Miller — and Esper — stressed the need for all service members to be treated with dignity and respect. Service members from different backgrounds and cultures bring a wealth of experiences to the U.S. military and that needs to be encouraged.
“To strengthen diversity and inclusion across the Department of Defense, the Board analyzed data, reviewed literature, crowdsourced feedback, and listened to personal experiences,” Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, who chaired the board, said. “Our analysis generated 15 recommendations to empower each individual to fulfill his or her maximum potential.”
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón “CZ” Colón-López and Matthew Donovan, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, assisted Barrett. The board, which included representatives from all services, evaluated military diversity and inclusion policies, programs and processes; reviewed industry best practices; and assessed pertinent data and reports, DOD officials said.
The first recommendation is for military recruiting content to reflect the current and future racial, ethnic and gender demographics of the United States.
The second recommendation deals with the dearth of diversity at the higher levels of the military. The recommendation calls for the department to develop a data-driven accessions and retention strategy. The deadline for the DOD to develop this strategy is March 31.
The third recommendation looks to increase the diversity of the officer corps itself. It recommends the DOD expand sponsorship of programs and initiatives to increase the available pool of qualified applicants for ROTC enrollments, scholarships and commissions from students enrolled at minority-serving institutions. These institutions include historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and institutions serving Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The board calls for a thorough review of DOD aptitude tests to ensure they do not adversely impact diversity. The DOD will develop plans for a rigorous and thorough assessment of all aptitude tests currently administered. The goal of this assessment will be to analyze, identify and remove — as applicable — “barriers that adversely impact diversity while retaining rigorous screening processes necessary to access a high-quality force,” the board recommendation states.
The board also wants the military to evaluate demographic trends in performance evaluations.
The DOD is also looking to provide diverse pools for nominative positions. These positions are often the road to senior ranks in the department. The board wants to ensure all service members are represented.
The board also wants the department to:
- Establish a Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
- Offer internships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as part of the Junior ROTC program.
- Develop an organizational governance structure between diversity and inclusion and equal opportunity offices.
- Develop a diversity and inclusion mobile app and website.
- Include diversity and inclusion instruction in all professional military education curricula.
- Increase promotion selection transparency.
The board also recommends prohibiting all extremist or hate-group activities. While this is already the case, the board wants the DOD to look to ways to strengthen the prohibitions against extremist or hate group activity.
In conjunction with this, the board wants to update the Uniform Code of Military Justice to address extremist activity.
“The board’s recommendations, and the department’s measures to implement them, are important and positive steps toward ensuring diversity and inclusion. However, enduring culture change requires commitment from every level of leadership and from every individual service member to capitalize on this momentum. Success requires constant vigilance. These recommendations start us off, but our dedication to this on a force-wide scale will ensure we achieve our end-goal of a more diverse and fully inclusive force,” Dr. Elizabeth P. Van Winkle, executive director of the Office of Force Resiliency for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said.
“Collectively, we must do everything we can to eliminate potential bias, prejudice and racism in our military,” Miller wrote. “Our ability to maintain a lethal and ready force depends on it. I am confident these actions will bolster existing diversity and inclusion efforts and pave the way towards new methods of enhancing opportunity and strengthening our nation’s defense.” (Source: US DoD)
18 Dec 20. Government Officials Announce U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict, Promote Stability. Leaders with the Defense, State and Treasury Departments, along with other agency officials, held a virtual meeting today to announce the release of the “U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability” document.
The strategy details partnerships across federal agencies designed to mitigate global conflict and promote stability and prosperity. The Global Fragility Act of 2019 directed the State Department to lead this whole-of-government strategy.
Stephanie Hammond, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability and humanitarian affairs, said this strategy aims to prevent conflict and promote stability by focusing on interagency collaboration and fostering strong partnerships.
One of the main tools to support the interagency effort and implementation of the strategy, she said, is DOD’s interagency support authority — known as the Defense Support to Stabilization.
This new authority allows DOD to provide logistical support, supplies and services to other federal agencies conducting stabilization activities, she said.
Defense support to stabilization ensures critical civilian expertise can get into hard-to-reach areas more quickly and efficiently and with more effective resources, creating a unity of effort that the agencies have lacked in the past, Hammond said.
This strategy looks to a complex future challenged by both regional and world powers, and allows the United States to work with a united front and build strong coalitions with civil society, think tanks, academia and international partners to meet the most difficult tasks, she said.
“I believe this strategy will end up and serve as a foundational document for many years,” she added.
Jim Richardson, director of the Office of Foreign Assistance at the State Department, spoke about some of the shortcomings that led to the need for this strategy.
“Within the past five years, the U.S. has spent about $30bn in foreign assistance in just the 15 most fragile countries,” he said. “We’re not alone. Nearly every donor around the world is doubling down in these spaces for a simple reason: weak and poorly governed states give rise to a host of challenges — including conflict, terrorism, crime and humanitarian crises.”
“These challenges can also spill across borders, threaten regional and even global peace, as well as our own national security,” he added.
Unfortunately, even with high levels of investments from the U.S. and other countries, progress has not been adequate, he said.
Dr. Denise Natali, assistant secretary of state for conflict and stabilization operations, said “the strategy is not old wine in a new bottle.”
Rather than externally driven nation-building, the United States will support locally driven solutions that align with U.S. national security interests rather than fragmented and broad-based efforts, the United States will target the political factors that drive fragility. And rather than diffuse and open-ended efforts, the United States will engage selectively, based on measurable results, host-country political will, respect for democracy and human rights and cost sharing, Natali said.
Stephen Biegun, deputy secretary of state, said, “Our strategy reflects input from a broad range of experts and draws on lessons learned from decades of experience.”
He added that the strategy, along with the Global Fragility Act of 2019, has had strong bipartisan support from Congress.
Other speakers included: Robert Jenkins, deputy assistant administrator for conflict prevention and stabilization at the U.S. Agency for International Development; Mathew Haarsager, deputy assistant secretary of international development, finance and policy at the Treasury Department; and Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, chief executive officer of Mercy Corps. (Source: US DoD)
18 Dec 20. Statement on Transition Activities by Acting Secretary of Defense Miller. Statement by Acting Secretary of Defense Miller: The Department of Defense will continue to provide all required support to the Agency Review Team (ART) to keep our nation and her citizens safe. As of today, we have supported 139 interviews sessions more than 200 DoD personnel, 161 requests for information, and disclosed thousands of pages of non-public and classified documents, exceeding prior transitions. At no time has the Department cancelled or declined any interview.
Our key focus in the next two weeks is supporting essential requests for information on OWS and COVID-19 information to guarantee a flawless transition. This is my major focus area.
After the mutually-agreed upon holiday pause, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today.
Again, I remain committed to a full and transparent transition – this is what our nation expects and the DoD will deliver AS IT ALWAYS HAS.”
To date, since November 23rd the Department has:
- Conducted 139 interviews with 265 officials
- Responded to 161 requests for information (RFI)
- Provided 4,400 pages of controlled non-public information
- Provided 900 pages of classified information
We continue to schedule interviews with senior leaders and career officials. Today, we are working to reschedule approximately 20 interviews with 40 officials until after January 1.
We continue to support with:
- Reading materials, reporting requirements, and working with the Agency Review Team to validate a pilot for rapidly onboarding political appointees in a new administration.
This has all been done while: taking all precautions to protect American lives from COVID-19 exposure
o Operating under HPCON B – with only 40% of the workforce in the building and 60% teleworking.
o Conducting all interviews virtually – something that has never been done before.
- Implementing the National Defense Strategy
- Supporting Operation Warp Speed to save American lives.
DoD continues to support the presidential transition aligned with the President Transition Act, White House and Biden-Harris Transition Team Memorandum of Understanding, and DoD policy.
In 2016, a total of approximately 175 RFIs were responded to and 180 interviews were conducted from November 19th through January 12th. Most of these interviews were with junior career officials, not senior leaders. Implementing guidance from the Secretary, DoD has made available leaders at the highest levels of our organization, many senate-confirmed as well as other politically appointed leaders, and has ensured senior career officials and experts were also part of the interview process. (Source: US DoD)
17 Dec 20. Cordillera CEO David Kilcullen: War on Terror bases in Africa and Asia will allow the West to compete against Beijing.
David Kilcullen, CEO of risk management company Cordillera Applications Group, has predicted that United States military bases established for the Global War on Terror in Africa and Asia will be essential if the West wants to effectively counter China’s aggressive expansionism in the next decade.
In an analysis distributed this week by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan institute focusing on national security and foreign policy, Kilcullen states that existing military infrastructure abroad will be valuable in dealing with future Chinese expansion strategies in those regions.
“The terror threat to Americans will not end because Washington says so. But even if the terror threat does fade, bases established for the Global War on Terror offer the ability to compete more effectively against Beijing,” he writes.
Kilcullen, who operates in five continents and has written five books, points out that, for example, China holds a naval base in Djibouti, controls vast commercial infrastructure and military sites in Africa and has more than 2000 troops in the continent.
The analysis is part of “Defending Forward: Securing America by Projecting Military Power Abroad”, a monograph edited and published by FDD.
It includes 22 essays and opinions by former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Lt. General McMaster, former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Finland Eric Edelman, Dr. Samantha Ravich, Lt. General Ben Hodges, Lt. General Edward Cardon, Eric Sayers and John Hannah, among other experts. Kilcullen argues that existing U.S. bases will become crucial assets in the Great Power Competition that is intensifying after the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explains that “the arithmetic of counterterrorism shows that there is no substitute for forward-deployed forces”.
Kilcullen is the President and CEO of Cordillera Applications Group. This global firm provides geopolitical analysis and risk management to governments, corporate clients and NGOs in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
The firm’s suite of technological tools, and its distributed operations model, enables Cordillera to help clients adapt and thrive throughout the complex world that will arise as a consequence of the COVID-19 health emergency.
In the past, he has served as the Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and senior counterinsurgency advisor to General David Petraeus, then Commanding General of United States and international forces in Iraq.
He also worked as chief counterterrorism strategist at the U.S. State Department, operating in the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia, including operational activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
Kilcullen is a former Australian infantry officer with 22 years of service, including deployments in East Timor, Bougainville, and the Middle East.
A best-selling author on military issues, his last book, The Dragons and the Snakes, has been described by The Times of London as a book that “should be read by everyone in uniform”.
You can read David Kilcullen’s analysis on https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2020/12/15/defending-forward-enhancing-special-operations/ (Source: PR Newswire)
17 Dec 20. Trump doubles down on threat to veto $740bn defence bill. President’s latest ultimatum comes as US agencies warn that sweeping cyber attack is ‘ongoing.’ The defence bill on Donald Trump’s desk would authorise the Department of Homeland Security to hunt for intrusions on federal networks.
Donald Trump has renewed his threat to a major $740bn defence spending bill even though US intelligence and security agencies have warned that a sweeping cyber attack on the government and companies is “ongoing”. The National Defense Authorization Act passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support earlier this month, after lawmakers refused to cave in to the president’s demands for the legislation to remove legal protections from social media companies. Mr Trump reiterated on Thursday that he would use his presidential veto power to reject the bill, a key piece of legislation that specifies the funding of the US defence department. “I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy,” Mr Trump said on Twitter.
Mr Trump’s tweet on Thursday came just hours after the FBI, the director of national intelligence and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a statement that they had formed a task force to respond to a sophisticated attack, which they described as a “significant and ongoing cyber security campaign”. “This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government,” the agencies said late on Wednesday. Thomas Bossert, a former homeland security adviser to Mr Trump, said in an opinion piece published in the New York Times on Wednesday that the NDAA was a “must-sign piece of legislation”, especially in light of the ongoing attack. “Among other important provisions, the act would authorise the Department of Homeland Security to perform network hunting in federal networks,” he said.
Mr Trump has 10 days from the legislation’s passage, excluding Sundays, to either sign or veto the bill, or it will become law without his approval. The NDAA passed on December 11, meaning that Mr Trump will have to make a final decision before Christmas. The president on Thursday repeated a list of demands he has made to Congress for measures he wants to see in the defence bill: “Must have Section 230 termination, protect our National Monuments and allow for removal of military from far away, and very unappreciative, lands,” he added. Mr Trump’s rejection of the legislation is likely to be symbolic because the bill passed both chambers of Congress with a “veto-proof” supermajority of more than two-thirds. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 84-13 to approve the legislation last week, after it sailed through the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats. However, several Republican senators, including Josh Hawley of Missouri and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said on Thursday that they would vote to sustain, rather than override, Mr Trump’s veto. “I’m going to stick with the president and his effort to get something done on 230,” Mr Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “If it takes using the NDAA as leverage, so be it.”
The president has long taken issue with the Communications Decency Act, known as Section 230, which guarantees immunity for social media companies from being prosecuted for libellous content posted by their users. Mr Trump has throughout his presidency taken aim at social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, arguing that they are biased against him and fellow conservatives. While the NDAA is ostensibly intended to fund the US military, the president has seen the legislation as one of his last opportunities to hit social media companies. The president has also objected to language in the legislation that would force the Pentagon to rename military bases named after Confederate generals. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing and the Black Lives Matter movement, many Americans have called for changes to the names of military bases, statues and other public facilities that commemorate those who supported slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. (Source: FT.com)
18 Dec 20. US says cyber hack poses ‘grave risk’ to critical infrastructure. US energy department says it is investigating a ‘cyber incident’ related to SolarWinds breach. The hackers demonstrated ‘sophistication and complex tradecraft’ in their intrusions, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said. US cyber officials warned that the massive espionage campaign unearthed this week posed a “grave risk” to the government, critical infrastructure and private sector, as the US department of energy was the latest agency to confirm it had been breached. Microsoft also admitted late on Thursday that it had been hacked, making it the second tech company, after FireEye, to be caught up in what is quickly turning into the most sweeping cybersecurity crisis on record. Thousands of businesses and government agencies may have been exposed after downloading compromised software from SolarWinds, a Texas-based IT group. Brad Smith, Microsoft president, said the software company had identified 40 customers that had been breached, and called it “an act of recklessness that created a serious technological vulnerability for the United States and the world”.
The energy department said on Thursday that it was “responding to a cyber incident” as part of an ongoing investigation. However, a spokesperson for the agency said there was no evidence so far that the attack had any impact on national security functions, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for managing and safeguarding the US nuclear weapons arsenal. Politico first reported the energy department breach. Earlier on Thursday, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned that the hackers had also gained access to systems using means other than the SolarWinds software, and of the difficulty involved in finding and removing hackers from compromised systems. Cisa said the hackers had “demonstrated sophistication and complex tradecraft in these intrusions” and that it would be “highly complex and challenging” to eject the perpetrators. Today’s classified briefing on Russia’s cyber attack left me deeply alarmed, in fact downright scared, Richard Blumenthal It added that it had “evidence” of “access vectors, other than the SolarWinds Orion platform” which were being investigated. Microsoft said that it had “found absolutely no indications that our systems were used to attack others.”
The agency cited a report published by cyber group Volexity detailing attacks by the same hackers against an unnamed US think-tank, including one that used new methods to bypass multi-factor authentication security. FireEye, SolarWinds and some US officials have blamed “nation-state” hackers for the breach, which first came to light at the end of last week. Cyber security experts, plus several politicians, have singled out Russian intelligence as the culprit, although Russia has strongly denied any involvement. “Today’s classified briefing on Russia’s cyber attack left me deeply alarmed, in fact downright scared,” Richard Blumenthal, Democratic senator from Connecticut wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Americans deserve to know what’s going on. Declassify what’s known & unknown.”
On Thursday, House committees for homeland security and oversight announced they were launching a probe into the hack, urging the FBI, the DHS and the intelligence agencies to share more information about the scale and implications of the attack. They also requested a classified inter-agency briefing on Friday. “While investigations and technical forensic analyses are still ongoing, based on preliminary reporting, it is evident that this latest cyber intrusion could have potentially devastating consequences for US national security,” the committees’ chairs said. President-elect Joe Biden also said in a statement that he had been briefed by US government officials on the attack and vowed to impose “substantial cost” on adversaries who penetrate US computer systems. Recommended The FT ViewThe editorial board A wake-up for the world on cyber security “We need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyber attacks in the first place,” Mr Biden said. “Our adversaries should know that, as president, I will not stand idly by in the face of cyber assaults on our nation.” Cisa warned that the hackers “demonstrated an ability to exploit software supply chains and shown significant knowledge of Windows networks”. The agency also confirmed reports that, once inside a victim’s networks, the hackers were able to pose as other accounts and gain privileged access to certain systems, such as email services, travel services and file storage services. In particular, it said it had seen “adversaries targeting email accounts belonging to key personnel, including IT and incident-response personnel”. As a result, it warned that “discussion of findings and mitigations should be considered very sensitive, and should be protected by operational security measures”. It recommended that victims communicate via other channels that have not been exposed in any way. FireEye said on Wednesday it had identified a kill switch that could stop the attackers from continuing to lurk inside networks in some cases. (Source: FT.com)
17 Dec 20. How did the US cyberattack happen and why did no one notice? Hundreds of thousands of organisations around the world rely on a piece of software called Orion that is used to manage their IT networks. This is produced by Solarwinds, the US software company. Orion can monitor everything in a computer network, checking for outages.
Hackers broke into the computer systems of Solarwinds, and inserted a piece of malicious code into its Orion software. That meant every time Solarwinds released a software update for Orion, clients were unwittingly downloading a computer bug on to their network when they installed the latest update.
The update was pushed out to nearly 33,000 customers, but Solarwinds believes about 18,000 downloaded it. Ironically, companies that ignored the normal IT advice to always download the latest update of their software were safer in this scenario.
Once the corrupted software update was downloaded, the hackers had backdoor access to an organisation’s computer network. The updates were released between March and June this year, meaning hackers may have been inside some government systems for as long as nine months.
How did no one notice?
Cybersecurity experts say the hackers were extremely clever, moving slowly and deliberately once inside a government network.
After initially lying dormant on a computer network for two weeks, the computer bug would wake up and start executing commands, such as transferring files, disabling services and scanning the internal system. The malware’s activity was disguised to look like it was performing tasks as part of the “Orion Improvement Program”. The data it takes is stored and hidden within legitimate Solarwinds files, allowing it to blend in. The malware also searches for security and antivirus tools once inside a computer system to avoid them.
Hackers were careful to use only the malware to break into certain select targets, rather than indiscriminately infiltrate as many companies as possible, which would raise the chance of being detected.
They tended to use the backdoor malware once only at each target. The malware was completely new code, meaning the normal security programs that hunt for elements of code used in previous hacks were oblivious to this bug.
Who discovered this hack?
It was spotted this month by Fire Eye, a global cybersecurity firm, whose own systems were broken into via this Solarwinds trick. Fire Eye has since been uncovering the sheer scale of this hack and the range of targets.
Who is behind the hack?
Intelligence services are pointing towards Russia’s foreign intelligence service, who are often classified as APT29 or Cozy Bear, although Russia strongly denied any involvement in the hack.
Fire Eye said it was clearly the “work of a highly skilled actor and the operation was conducted with significant operational security”, with Kevin Mandia, its chief executive, calling it an “attack by a nation with top-tier offensive capabilities”.
What happens now?
Researchers say it could take years to fully uncover the magnitude of this attack, with government agencies and businesses around the world rushing to disable Solarwinds products from their network. But because the attackers could use Solarwinds to get inside a network and then create a new backdoor, disconnecting Solarwinds is not enough to boot the hackers out, experts said.
Customers are therefore looking for signs of the hackers’ presence across their network, with Fire Eye and Microsoft publishing a list of indicators that suggest malicious activity. (Source: The Times)
17 Dec 20. Defense Officials Discuss Special Operations, Irregular Warfare Initiatives. This year, the Defense Department released a declassified summary of its Irregular Warfare Annex to the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The annex details how the department seeks to institutionalize and operationalize this form of warfare amid the ongoing recalibration of its focus on peer and near-peer adversaries.
In the annex, irregular warfare is defined as ”a struggle among state and non-state actors to influence populations and affect legitimacy.”
The DOD is currently working on crafting a new irregular warfare annex to the next NDS.
Kristen R. Hajduk, national security innovation network director of operations; Daniel ”Deak” Roh, acting principal director for special operations and combating terrorism; and David Stephenson, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s office of irregular warfare, spoke about the topic on a National Defense Industrial Association panel discussion yesterday.
Irregular warfare doesn’t necessarily mean that the struggle by a state or non-state actor has to involve violence, although it can, Stephenson said. It could also include influencing populations through propaganda or intimidation.
In order to influence a population, they have to be able to trust you. They have to understand where your motivations are coming from, Haiduk added.
To succeed at irregular warfare, the department can’t rely solely on special operations forces, Stephenson said. Partnerships play a bigger role —meaning with the joint force, industry and interagency partners including the State Department, Treasury Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as allies and partners.
Haiduk agreed: “The operators that are most effective are those that have the best relationship with the country,” she said, meaning that special operations forces and others serving abroad in a conflict zone are most effective if they gain the trust of the local military and government.
It is not necessary for every warfighter to understand the concepts of irregular warfare, Roh said, but noncommissioned officers and field-grade officers should have a basic knowledge of why it is important and what it means in shaping the battlespace and the feelings of the local populace.
Stephenson noted that the young generation entering the military is digitally savvy and has an understanding about what role social media can play in influencing populations.
The NDS and the annex are not political documents, Stephenson emphasized. “They’re based on the threats the nation faces and what capabilities there are to counter them,” he said, expressing optimism about the incoming administration’s approach to irregular warfare. (Source: US DoD)
16 Dec 20. Congress moves to bring back domestic electronics manufacturing. The Defense Department will have to stop using circuit boards, made in China and other potentially adversarial countries in its mission systems starting in 2023, according to a provision in the 2021 defense policy bill.
The 2021 defense policy bill, which Congress passed last week and is awaiting the president’s signature, prohibits DOD from buying circuit boards used for mission critical functions that are made in certain countries, including China and Russia starting in 2023 with exceptions for commercial-off-the-shelf products and services. The legislation also names North Korea and Iran as off-limits, but the U.S. already has rules in place banning most trade with either country.
The defense secretary can also make exemptions “after reasonable notice, based on a determination that the designation is required to support national security,” according to the bill language.
“The pandemic was a big wake up call,” said John Mitchell, the president and CEO of the electronics industry advocacy organization, IPC. “The tariffs that started a couple of years ago got everybody to pay attention…but then the pandemic said, wow, my supply chain just got cut off and I can’t buy certain things.”
Printed circuit boards are used to help electronics from televisions to supercomputers function, and have increasingly become a part of the defense supply chain security conversation, especially this year as the COVID-19 pandemic made certain items difficult to make and buy.
The Trump administration has focused a lot on China and its national security risks when it comes to electronics components, such as potentially siphoning sensitive data during the manufacturing process. And with growing competition with China and national security concerns heighted by the pandemic, the Congress and the Defense Department have pushed to tighten its cybersecurity and technical supply chains.
“You can’t have a chip without the rest of the stuff to have it talk to it and communicate and be put on,” Mitchell said. “The challenge is: everybody’s very keen on artificial intelligence, 5G, quantum computing, but they don’t understand that there’s a whole rainforest around getting just those trees to grow.’
The defense secretary would have until May 2022 to develop regulations, according to the bill, but changes are expected to take shape in the next year as DOD works with electronics companies, contractors, and suppliers to determine sourcing and capability needs.
In addition to the NDAA’s new sourcing requirements, Congress also required DOD to study the effects of expanding the restrictions to commercial printed circuit boards and assemblies.
“You can have a factory on one end of the country that is completely secure, and you can have them transmitting information from another factory that’s completely secure, but all the stuff in between — it’s basically traveling over commercial lines,” Mitchell said.
The pandemic’s constricting effect on supply chains plus this year’s NDAA could also lead to a resurgence of U.S. microelectronics production.
“The combination of that with this [NDAA] will help fill in the gaps in the ecosystem and the electronic supply chain in the U.S. And that I think is the primary driver. It’ll take some time, but efforts will start, I think, as early as 2021 to try to make sure that we’ll be examining what parts of the supply chain don’t exist here or where we had those problems,” Mitchell said. (Source: Defense Systems)
15 Dec 20. The US Navy is investigating a potential LCS class-wide design flaw. Repeated failures in the propulsion train on the Freedom-class littoral combat ships Little Rock and Detroit have raised the specter of a class-wide design flaw that could trigger an expensive reworking of a crucial component on 17 of the Navy’s small surface combatants.
The issue being investigated is whether there is a fundamental issue with the design of the Freedom-class’ combining gear — a complex transmission that connects power from two large gas turbine engines and two main propulsion diesel engines to the ship’s propulsion shafts, which propel the ship through the water with water jets.
A potential class-wide issue with the propulsion train on 17 ships either in the fleet or under contract is the latest in a long string of issues with the littoral combat ship program. Senior Navy leaders have tried repeatedly to set the program aright only to be confronted with stubborn challenges ranging from unreliable engineering plants to glacial development progress on the sensor packages that would give the ships credible warfighting capabilities.
The combining gear issue came to a head with repeated failures in recent months on the littoral combat ships Little Rock and Detroit, issues linked to the “high speed clutch bearings failing prematurely,” according to a statement from Naval Sea Systems Command.
Detroit’s combining gear suffered a casualty in October, forcing the ship to have to limp back to Florida. A subsequent power failure during the transit forced the ship to have to be towed into port.
In a statement, Naval Sea Systems Command said it was conducing a “root cause analysis” of the repeated breakdowns.
“The government is investigating a material defect with the combining gear of USS Detroit and USS Little Rock, both Freedom-variant littoral combat ships,” the statement reads. “A joint Navy and Lockheed Martin team with RENK AG, the original equipment manufacturer, are conducting a root cause analysis of this defect.”
But it’s beginning to look like a bigger problem.
The Navy is closing in on an assessment that the issue may need to be addressed across the class, the statement reads, an issue that experts have told Defense News would be difficult and costly. In the meantime, the in-service ships are limiting the use of its combining gear, which limits ships specifically designed for speed to operating at around 10 knots.
“Based upon preliminary assessments, the defect appears to be a design issue that will need to be addressed across the Freedom class,” the statement reads. “The Navy is taking the final steps to verify this as part of the root cause analysis of the combining gear failures. While this is in progress, measures have been implemented to mitigate risk to all the in-service Freedom variant ships.”
The Freedom-class was designed by Lockheed Martin and built at Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine shipyard, which recently won the Navy’s next-generation frigate competition. There are 10 Freedoms in service today, with an additional seven either under construction or under contract, according to the Navy’s 2021 budget justification books.
In a statement, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said it was committed to fixing the combining gear problem.
“In partnership with the U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin is aggressively pursuing a resolution to the gear issue the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship is currently experiencing,” the statement read.
The Independence-class littoral combat ship, a trimaran aluminum hull ship built at Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, has a different propulsion train from the Freedom-class and thus would not be affected by this issue.
The Freedom-class combining gear was an imperfect solution engineered to meet a demanding 40-knot-plus speed requirement.
With just its diesel engines engaged, the ship can make between 10 and 12 knots, but to go any faster it must engage the gas turbine engines. The combining gear fuses and transmits the power to the propulsion shafts. It is a system with a lot of moving parts and has proven unreliable.
The issues date back to at least late 2015, when the LCS Milwaukee broke down on its maiden voyage to its home port in Mayport, Florida, and had to be towed into Little Creek amphibious base in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Early the next year, the littoral combat ship Fort Worth suffered a casualty to the combining gear in port when sailors accidentally ran the system without lube oil running through it.
A tricky problem
Fixing a design flaw with the combining gear across the whole class is no easy fix, according to sources and experts who spoke to Defense News.
The Navy is still assessing what such a fix would cost and who would be on the hook to pay for it, according NAVSEA’s statement, but no matter who is ultimately responsible it would require repairs to a system that was supposed to last the life of the hull, said Matthew Collette, associate professor of naval architecture and marine engineering at University of Michigan.
There is nothing inherently wrong with combined diesel and gas propulsion trains, Collette said, but the 40-knot speed requirement might be just on the edge of what’s possible from the system.
“It’s something that should work,” Collette said. “But it’s like everything else on LCS: It was driven by the speed requirement. Because the diesels are about 20 percent of the power of the gas turbine, you don’t want to leave them out when you’re trying to hit that sprint speed. It’s such a demanding requirement.
“So, it is not a technology that strikes me as inherently problematic. But like a lot of the LCS decisions, we were kind of trying to get every last ounce of performance out of the vessel. And you stack up a whole bunch of those decisions that the ship is not as reliable as you would like.”
Getting after the issue now, after the ship has already been designed and fielded is anything but simple, Colette continued.
“Fixing LCS now is a huge problem, because we generally don’t design gearboxes to be replaced during the ship’s service life,” he said. “Could you switch it out with an either/or gearbox instead of an combining gearbox? I mean, I think you can on the whiteboard and it would drop the top speed a little, but we’re trying to improve the reliability. I’m not sure you could do that in the confines of the ship, however.”
Still, the root cause analysis could turn up something relatively simple to fix any potential flaws in the system, Collette said.
“Without the details of how the gears are failing, it’s much harder to say how easy it is going to be to fix this,” he said. “If it’s filters, or the lube oil system is not strong enough for certain operating conditions? You could upgrade those parts of the gearbox. If there’s a fundamental design flaw, then it gets much harder to figure out how you’re going to fix this issue cost effectively.”
‘On my watch’
The issues with LCS reliability are not lost on the Navy’s senior leaders.
In a July interview with Defense News, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said he was committed to addressing the reliability issues with the platform.
“There are things in the near term that I have to deliver, that I’m putting heat on now, and one of them is LCS,” Gilday said. “One part is sustainability and reliability. We know enough about that platform and the problems that we have that plague us with regard to reliability and sustainability, and I need them resolved.
“That requires a campaign plan to get after it and have it reviewed by me frequently enough so that I can be sighted on it. Those platforms have been around since 2008 — we need to get on with it. We’ve done five deployments since I’ve been on the job, we’re going to ramp that up two-and-a-half times over the next couple of years, but we have got to get after it,” he added. “LCS for me is something, on my watch, I’ve got to get right.”
For Gilday, the continued reliability issues on LCS are a lesson the Navy needs to learn as it pushes forward with new classes of ships and unmanned surface vessels as part of a push to grow the Navy, he told Defense News.
“I go back to: Do I really need a littoral combat ship to go 40 knots?” Gilday mused. “That’s going to drive the entire design of the ship, not just the engineering plant but how it’s built. That becomes a critical factor. So, if you take your eye off the ball with respect to requirements, you can find yourself drifting.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
15 Dec 20. New COVID-19 bill extends contractor reimbursement, but no new funding. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has unveiled a $748bn coronavirus relief proposal that includes an extension of a prized reimbursement program for federal contractors, but without the billions of dollars previously sought by defense firms.
Defense officials have warned they will need to tap modernization and readiness funds if Congress does not appropriate at least $10bn for defense contractors’ coronavirus-related expenses, as authorized by Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. However, the new proposal doesn’t appropriate funding for the Section 3610 reimbursements.
Negotiations on a final relief deal are ongoing, but the package includes a Section 3610 extension through April 30, 2021. The provision applies to all federal agencies, but it has been of particular interest to the Pentagon and defense industry.
Added funding could come in the $1.4trn omnibus spending package for fiscal 2021, which is expected this week, or it could come with the next Congress and the incoming Biden administration in 2021. The defense industry has of late pushed for the extension of Section 3610 first, over added appropriations.
“You have people who can’t feed their families, you have people who are going to get evicted, you have people whose unemployment insurance is going to run out. They need Congress to pass this legislation,” Arnold Punaro, National Defense Industrial Association chairman, said of the new bipartisan relief package.
“We prefer the defense industry have 3610, and we believe we’ll have an opportunity with the new administration to make the case to them that it’s still an important provision,” Punaro said, adding that the extension gives the incoming administration time to work on a “much more comprehensive approach.”
Fifteen defense companies implored Congress on Friday to extend the program. In a letter to congressional leaders, they argued the extension is needed to maintain national security, but also “thousands of critical employees who would be difficult to replace within the industrial base.”
“As COVID-19 rates hit record levels that were unanticipated not only when the CARES Act was enacted but just weeks ago, agencies are shifting work plans, reducing hours and taking other steps to ensure the health and safety of the workforce,” the letter stated.
The reimbursement window was extended until Dec. 18 under the continuing resolution Congress passed on Friday. Originally the support was to stop at the end of fiscal 2020 in September.
NDIA was among eight trade organizations that signed a Nov. 20 letter to Congress urging an extension of Section 3610. There have been a spate of similar letters from lawmakers to congressional leaders in recent weeks.
“The current authority has saved thousands of NASA and defense contractors from being furloughed,” Florida Republican Rep. Bill Posey said in a letter with nine other lawmakers. “If the authority is not extended, many contractors — through no fault of their own — will face dire economic and financial consequences if they are restricted again from conducting their regular work on a NASA center or defense program and may be limited or unable due to the nature of their work to do so through a telework alternative.”
Senate Intelligence Committee acting Chairman, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., pressed congressional leaders earlier this month to extend Section 3610.
“Section 3610 has proven to be an important means of providing necessary relief during the pandemic to critical Intelligence Community industry partners ― and particularly to small businesses that provide highly specialized capabilities ― to retain key national security capabilities,” they said in a joint letter. (Source: Defense News)
15 Dec 20. DDTC Announces DECCS User Group. The U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) has announced a Defense Export Controls and Compliance System (DECCS) User Group for 2021. its mission is to allow individual industry users to provide feedback on DECCS by establishing and maintaining a forum for active and regular communication between the users of DECCS and DDTC. DDTC is looking for a diverse group of up to 50 U.S. and non-U.S. volunteers (representatives of companies, government agencies, and third-party organizations) enrolled with DECCS who can provide the end-user point-of-view on issues related to the system. DDTC plans to kick-off the group on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, at 10:30 AM ET via a virtual forum such as WebEx. To express your interest, email PM_DDTCProjectTeam@state.gov by COB December 23, 2020, and provide your name & company/government affiliation (as applicable). DDTC will email all selected participants by January 11, 2021, letting them know the final make-up of the 2021 DECCS User Group. (Source: glstrade.com)
15 Dec 20. The United States Sanctions Certain Turkish Individuals and Entities Under CAATSA 231. The U.S. Department of State has announced that the United States has imposed sanctions on the Republic of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) pursuant to Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms export entity, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The sanctions include a ban on all U.S. export licenses and authorizations to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on Dr. Ismail Demir, SSB’s president, and other SSB officers. CAATSA 231 requires the United States to impose at least five of the 12 sanctions listed in CAATSA Section 235 on any person determined to have knowingly engaged, on or after August 2, 2017, in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation. The CAATSA 231 sanctions imposed are as follows:
- A prohibition on granting specific U.S. export licenses and authorizations for any goods or technology transferred to SSB (Section 235(a)(2)); the text of Section 235(a)(2) reads, “(2) EXPORT SANCTION.—The President may order the United States Government not to issue any specific license and not to grant any other specific permission or authority to export any goods or technology to the sanctioned person under— the Export Reform Control Act of 2018 (50 U.S.C. 4601 et seq.) (as continued in effect pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)); the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.); the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2011 et seq.); or any other statute that requires the prior review and approval of the United States Government as a condition for the export or reexport of goods or services.
- A prohibition on loans or credits by U.S. financial institutions to SSB totaling more than $10m in any 12-month period (Section 235(a)(3));
- A ban on U.S. Export-Import Bank assistance for exports to SSB (Section 235(a)(1));
- A requirement for the United States to oppose loans benefitting SSB by international financial institutions (Section 235(a)(4)); and
- Imposition of full financial blocking sanctions and a visa denial (Section 235(a)(7), (8), (9), and (11)) on SSB President Ismail Demir, SSB Vice President Faruk Yigit, SSB Head of Air Defense and Space Department Serhat Genecoglu, and SSB Program Manager for Air Defense Systems Mustafa Alper Deniz (Section 235 (a)(12)).
As a result of these sanctions, the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) has announced that effective immediately, it will not approve any specific license or authorization to export or re-export any defense articles, including technical data, or defense services where SSB is a party to the transaction. This prohibition does not apply to temporary import authorizations or to current, valid, non-exhausted export and re-export authorizations. However, the prohibition does apply to new export and re-export authorizations – including amendments to previously approved licenses or agreements and licenses in furtherance of previously approved agreements. This sanction does not apply to subsidiaries of SSB; however, licenses submitted to DDTC which name subsidiaries of SSB are still subject to a standard case-by-case review, including a foreign policy and national security review. We are not imposing a prohibition on U.S. Government procurement from SSB as part of this action. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has likewise announced a policy of denial for export license applications to the Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB).
Click here for a Fact Sheet providing further details: https://www.state.gov/assistant-secretary-for-international-security-and-nonproliferation-dr-christopher-ford-and-deputy-assistant-secretary-for-european-affairs-matthew-palmer-on-the-imposition-of-sanctions-on-turkey-und/
and here for a special press briefing by Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Dr. Christopher Ford and Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Matthew Palmer.: https://www.state.gov/assistant-secretary-for-international-security-and-nonproliferation-dr-christopher-ford-and-deputy-assistant-secretary-for-european-affairs-matthew-palmer-on-the-imposition-of-sanctions-on-turkey-und/ (Source: glstrade.com)
14 Dec 20. Effective Use of Data in DOD Requires the Right Leaders. The Defense Department released its new data strategy in September, with a focus on joint all-domain operations, senior-leader decision support and business analytics. Across the department, agencies are now appointing their own chief data officers to become part of a community that wants to be able to use the DOD’s vast amount of data to make better decisions faster.
David Spirk, DOD’s chief data officer, identified “strategic impatience” as a characteristic of those who will end up being the best CDOs within the department.
“The right person for a leadership job in the data front in the department right now … [is] somebody who knows when to be patient and impatient with extreme precision,” Spirk said Dec. 10 during ThoughtSpot’s virtual Beyond 2020 Digital conference. “We can only push these organizations so far, so fast because it is a cultural change.”
As the department moves toward using more data to make better, faster decisions, organizations that have in the past been reticent to share their data will need to open up to the idea if they want to reap the benefits that come from matching data with artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, Spirk said.
Many organizations — with the right CDOs in place — are making such shifts now in their thinking.
“Some of the legacy concepts around ‘this is my data’ just naturally change when we start using data to drive some of our senior leader-most decision-making forums,” Spirk said. “I think at the department level we’re blasting through some of those legacy cultural tendencies.”
One way that’s happened, Spirk said, at least at the department level, is through the newly-created Deputies Management and Action Group, which involves the deputy secretary of defense, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the service chiefs and the service secretaries, Spirk said.
“The fact is we sit with Deputy Secretary of Defense [David] Norquist a couple times a week, as a small team, and talk him through where we’re at, what data are we unlocking, what data-driven decision-making forum can we put this in front of next. This senior leader attention is [now] foot-stomping and smashing through resistance from middle management because the tactical elements are now asking for the same ,” he said.
Spirk said there is now a data community across the department that is growing, and this data community is helping break down barriers that have in the past prevented the sharing of data. The new data community includes chief data officers, data stewards, data custodians and data managers, he said.
“As we start stitching this team together and looking at hard problems that we can help each other out with, there’s a growing team of data professionals who can go in and explain to [their] senior leaders that this isn’t as scary as they might have thought in the past,” he said. “Making our data visible allows us to more quickly get predictive analytics so we can create training quality data sets and really unleash the power of AI across our decision making.” (Source: US DoD)
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