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11 Feb 21. How Republicans might accept a smaller defense budget. California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert is willing to meet Democratic lawmakers partway in their reported plans to trim the defense budget: cut back on civilian employees, not equipment and modernization.
“Like everything else in government, personnel is your biggest cost, and the civilian-to-uniform ratio … is at an all-time high,” Calvert, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel, said in an interview Wednesday. “Our inability to correct that trend is eating away at our military, our procurement, our readiness, all the above, and so we need to do this.”
President Joe Biden is expected to release his federal budget plan in April, but battle lines are being drawn on Capitol Hill ahead of what is expected to be a tighter military budget than in recent years.
While some key Republicans want to protect the military budget increases that came under then-President Donald Trump, or even build upon them, Calvert said he is open to “responsible reductions.” He is offering civilian cuts as an alternative to cutting end strength and weapons platforms.
“Rather than reducing [personnel in] uniforms ― and I think there’s some talk about doing that, especially in the Army ― we need to look at the civilian workforce, which is at the highest ratio to uniformed service members than it has ever been,” Calvert said.
“If you’re going to cut defense, are you going to cut procurement? People are arguing we need to build the Columbia-class submarine and Virginia-class submarine ― and I agree ― that we [keep the] Space Force, and [that] our satellite program is woefully behind ― and I agree. Where do you make your reductions when your overwhelming cost is personnel?”
Under Calvert’s bill, the Rebalance for an Effective Defense Uniform and Civilian Employees Act, or Reduce Act, a 15 percent cut to the civilian workforce overall and a cap for the Defense Department’s Senior Executive Service at 1,000 employees would have to be in place by fiscal 2025 and remain through 2029. The defense secretary would be empowered to use voluntary-separation and early-retirement incentives toward the reduction.
The legislation, which has been introduced several times before, was inspired by a 2015 study by the Defense Business Board that illustrated how the Department of Defense could save $125bn over five years by slashing overhead.
Still, the proposal to cut civilians would face new optics this year. As civilian voices were muted in favor of uniformed leaders under the Trump administration, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a former general, committed under bipartisan pressure to “rebalance” Pentagon decision- and policy-making in favor of civilian leaders.
It’s also a different tact than that of the House Armed Services Committee’s new top Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers, who plans to guard against cuts and would prefer a 3-5 percent increase in defense spending ― which Pentagon leaders say is required to carry out the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
It’s still early in the budgeting cycle, and the two may align. But in meantime, Calvert’s approach offers something to fiscal conservatives, and it tracks with past efforts from Rogers’ predecessor, former Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.
Even if Republicans can fend off a top-line cut or win an adjustment for inflation to keep shipbuilding and aircraft procurement on track, Calvert said he supports cutting the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.
“Hey, I hope Mike’s right. I mean, he is a good friend, but I think he’s a realist too,” Calvert said. “I worked with his predecessor on procurement reform, I’m trying to do some personnel reform, and we need those reforms on both sides.”
For their part, Democrats swiftly rejected Calvert’s legislation, making it one of the first skirmishes of the annual battle over the defense budget. The defense subpanel’s new chairwoman, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., said she discussed the matter with Calvert and disagrees with him.
“His proposal could lead to some of the most talented and committed DOD public servants losing their jobs,” McCollum said in a statement. “While we agree there is excess defense spending, my focus is on making smart investments that yield demonstrable outcomes by cutting waste and ending subsidies for outdated and unnecessary programs and facilities. In my view, the existing Department of Defense civilian workforce is mission critical to ensuring our national security.”
The American Federation of Government Employees has historically opposed the bill, and a spokesman said funding and defense policy legislation passed last year prohibit civilian workforce cuts “without regard to impacts on readiness, lethality, military force structure, stress of the force, operational effectiveness and fully burdened costs.”
With 768,000 federal employees working across all Defense Department components, the proposed cut amounts to 100,000 employees. Between 2015 and 2019, an average of just under 82,000 employees left DoD jobs each year.
Calvert contends his 15 percent cut could be accomplished through attrition, not firings, and target “growth in middle management,” not the supply depots scattered around the country that have political backing. Previous cuts of civilian personnel have fueled increases in contracting costs ― and Calvert said he is open to cutting those too, in partnership with McCollum.
“There would be discretion on the part of the people running the Pentagon; there are people you don’t want to lose, they’re in a special category, I get it,” Calvert said. “There are probably a lot of people you wouldn’t miss, people up for retirement.”
Democrats are more apt to take on nuclear modernization, which is projected to cost the Pentagon more than $240bn in taxpayer dollars through 2028. In the balance is the contract for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, awarded to Northrop Grumman last year, to replace aging, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Politico reports that progressive lawmakers and disarmament advocates are lobbying allies in the Biden administration for a pause in the GBSD program, while the Air Force and its allies in Congress, think tanks, and defense contractors are sharpening their arguments to preserve the program.
Calvert acknowledged criticism of nuclear spending from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., but said big cuts to the nuclear triad lack the backing to succeed. (The panel rejected a funding cut for GBSD last year.)
“I know Adam has been critical of that, but there’s absolute support for redundancy of the deterrent within the Republican ranks, and so I don’t see that going away. What I’m hearing so far out of the administration is that they feel the same way, so I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Calvert said.
Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks have voiced support for nuclear modernization broadly but stopped short of pledging to uphold the current nuclear modernization strategy in its entirety.
Nuclear modernization cutbacks would “weaken the United States,” Calvert argued.
“We’re not just thinking about Russia; we’ve got China, who’s rapidly militarizing space, and their missile capability is improving. Obviously we’ve got countries like North Korea or Iran that are building their own missile capability, so we have to have a strong deterrent to make sure we are ready for any contingency.” (Source: Defense News)
10 Feb 21. President Stresses Unity in Message to Defense Department. Just as in his inaugural speech, President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s message to the Defense Department revolved around unity.
In a visit to the Pentagon, the president emphasized the need for the United States to work with allies and partners around the world, the Defense Department to work with other agencies in government and for individual service members and DOD civilians to work with each other.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted the president and Vice President Kamala Harris for the visit.
Biden said all members of the DOD “whether you’re newly enlisted, a career officer, a non-commissioned officer or a civilian policy expert, you’re essential to how we project our strength around the world, defend America’s interest and advance American leadership in the world.”
You are unquestionably part of the finest fighting force in the history of the world: You are warriors.” President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
DOD personnel are often the face of America that people around the world see. “You all know as well as anyone, that our country is safer and stronger when we lead not just for the example of our power, but with the power of our example,” he said. “As your commander in chief, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interest of America, the American people and our allies around the world when necessary. The central indispensable mission of the Department of Defense is to deter aggression from our enemies, and if required to, fight and win wars to keep America safe.”
But force should be a tool of last resort, not the first, he said. The Defense Department is essential for the work State Department diplomats do around the world. In fact, the president said, DOD personnel are not just the guarantors of U.S. security, but often diplomats themselves, he said.
He promised to work with Austin and leaders around the world “to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long, while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people.”
The 21st century requires leadership from the women and men of the DOD, he said, and there is hardly an area where they will not be called on to serve. This runs the gamut of helping curb the COVID-19 pandemic at home and abroad, to “addressing the real threats of climate change that are already costing us billions and impacts on our bases and our national security, or being part of an ongoing fight for racial justice,” he said. “You are essential to how we must rethink and reprioritize our security to meet the challenges of this century. ”
DOD personnel must evaluate the risks and opportunities posed by emerging technologies. He called on the department to enhance DOD capabilities in cyberspace. “We must ensure that we are positioned to lead a new era of competition from the deep sea to outer space,” he said. “And we need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally.”
The president praised the people who make up the department. “You are unquestionably part of the finest fighting force in the history of the world: You are warriors,” he said. “The work you do each and every day is vital to ensuring the American people, your families, friends and loved ones, are able to live in peace and security and growing prosperity.
“I will never ever … dishonor you. I will never disrespect you. I will never politicize the work you do.” (Source: US DoD)
11 Feb 21. State clears first three foreign military sales of Biden administration. The Biden administration has approved three Foreign Military Sales requests for Jordan, Chile and a NATO agency, with a combined potential price tag of more than $200m. The approvals mark the first FMS cases moved since President Joe Biden took office. The last FMS cases approved by the State Department came in late December; the Biden team has since announced a pause and review of a number of weapon sales approved by the Trump administration, most notably on weapons purchased by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The three approvals were announced on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. DSCA announcements mean that the State Department has decided the potential FMS cases meet its standards, but this does not guarantee the sales will happen in their announced forms. If the U.S. Congress does not object, the foreign customer begins to negotiate on price and quantity, both of which can change during the final negotiations.
Jordan was approved for an F-16 Air Combat Training Center and related equipment, with an estimated cost of $60m. That package would include “mission trainers, combat tactics trainers, instructor/operator stations, tactical environment simulators, brief/debrief stations, scenario generation stations, database generation stations, mission observation centers, and other training center equipment and support,” per the DSCA notice.
The center would “enhance” Jordan’s pilot training for their fleet of F-16s, the oldest of which entered service in 1997. Work will primarily be done at Lockheed Martin’s Rotary & Mission Systems center in Orlando, Fla.
Chile was approved to purchase up to 16 Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA missiles, along with support equipment and contractor assistance, with an estimate price tag of $85m. The anti-air weapons are slated to be used aboard two recently transferred former Adelaide-class frigates to the Chilean Navy. Work would be preformed by Raytheon Missiles and Defense in Tucson, Ariz.
The NATO alliance’s Communications and Information Agency to buy 517 AN/PRC-158 Manpack UHF SATCOM radio systems, worth an estimated $65m. Also included in the package would be “crypto fill devices, man-portable ancillaries, vehicular ancillaries, deployed Headquarter ancillaries, power support, and operator and maintenance training,” per the DSCA notice. (Source: Defense News)
11 Feb 21. Task Force Looks to Prioritize, Synchronize DOD Response to China. DOD’s China Task Force will examine all the DOD activities relating to what Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III calls America’s “pacing challenge” to ensure they are synchronized, prioritized and coordinated to the greatest extent possible, the leader of the review told Pentagon reporters today.
Ely Ratner will lead the 15-member panel as it seeks to examine all the department’s policies with regard to China. President Joe Biden announced the task force during a visit to the Pentagon yesterday.
China is a rising power and is challenging the United States and its allies in many parts of the world. From the Horn of Africa to South America to throughout the Indo-Pacific, China is asserting its growing influence in ways that often undermine the established international order that has maintained peace since the end of World War II.
The task force will identify the most important challenges and opportunities for the secretary, Ratner said. The team will also rank and organize priorities and examine whether there are enough resources or attention devoted to them. The team has four months to deliver its findings.
“The initial period of the task force will be an assessment, where the members of the team will be spanning out across the department, doing a little bit of a listening tour to hear what the various components are identifying is their top initiatives, top priorities and challenges,” Ratner said. “Then it’ll be incumbent upon the task force to distill those down to a discrete set of top priorities, and spend a period of time trying to identify what are the right mechanisms to address, review and implement various areas.”
While the task force is a DOD organization it will be fully integrated with the White House and broader interagency, Ratner said. (Source: US DoD)
10 Feb 21. Biden Announces DOD China Task Force. President Joe Biden announced the formation of a DOD China Task Force to provide a baseline assessment of department policies, programs and processes in regard to the challenge China poses.
Ely Ratner, a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, will lead the effort. The task force has four months to develop recommendations for senior defense leaders.
Austin and newly sworn in Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks called China the “pacing threat” for America in this era of strategic competition.
China is seeking to overturn the current rules-based structure, which has benefitted all nations in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States and its allies seek to continue the free and open environment in the region. China is using all elements of national power to bend the nations to its will.
The United States is conducting freedom of navigation operations to ensure all nations can use international waterways and air routes. The U.S. is working with allies to improve policing of national borders and exclusive economic zones to ensure sovereignty.
Countering Chinese efforts is the focus of the task force.
Defense officials called the task force a “sprint effort” that will examine high-priority topics including strategy, operational concepts, technology and force structure, force posture and force management and intelligence. The task force will also examine U.S. alliances and partnerships and their impact on Sino-American relations and DOD relations with China.
The 15-member task force will come from a wide swath of the department and include the Office of the Secretary of Defense staff, the Joint Staff, the services, the combatant commands and representatives from the intelligence community.
The task force will also speak with interagency partners to ensure the defense response is aligned with the whole-of-government approach toward China that the president wants. (Source: US DoD)
10 Feb 21. OSD, Joint Staff Double Down On DoD-Wide Data Standards.
“We even had representation at our [first] data summit from NATO,” said Army Brig. Gen. Rob Parker, JG deputy director and head of the JADC2 Joint Cross-Functional Team (CFT).
The Joint Staff and DoD’s Chief Data Office David Spirk have agreed to lead a new process to set data standards for all future military sensors and weapons to connect at machine speed — the foundation for success in All Domain Operations, leaders of the J6 say.
“I believe all of us have come to understand for JADC2 to truly function as a joint warfighting capability, we’ve got to have the data foundation. And so, this is a critical first step,” said Army Brig. Gen. Rob Parker, JG deputy director and head of the JADC2 Joint Cross-Functional Team (CFT). The J6 leads the Joint Staff’s work on Command, Control, Communications, & Computers/Cyber.
Once fleshed out, the new standards will inform capability requirements for Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), J6 Director Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall explained during the interview.
The new process involves experts and chief data officers from all military services, Combatant Commands, DoD offices and the Intelligence Community, Parker said. “We even had representation at our [first] data summit from NATO. Also, as part of our CFT, we have regular engagements with some of the mission partner network/C3-type executive committees, NATO and others.”
That first ‘data summit’ was held Jan. 26, as Breaking D readers were first to know, and Parker said they’d made more progress than the J6 had expected.
“We set the bar reasonably low upfront, meaning: getting the group together and agreeing to some common vernacular,” Parker elaborated. “When we say something like ‘data fabric, that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people — not just within the military construct, but outside in commercial industry as well.”
A common data fabric refers to a set of standards and IT services that allow data to be shared among different weapon systems, different C2 networks, different organizations and services and across different levels of security. However, there are myriad concepts of just what those standards and services entail.
“We were relatively surprised to be able to come to an agreement on what that definition for ‘data fabric’ looked like, just in the first hours of the summit,” Parker elaborated. “But we moved beyond that, though, and really started looking at the specific components of that data fabric, and what we need to do to have good, solid terms of reference as we move forward, but also, more importantly, a prioritized effort on the right portions of that.”
Parker noted that rather than just “grinding away on our own plan,” the CFT took the meeting’s results to the Defense Innovation Board and “trusted industry experts” to “grade our homework” and determine if those constructs “make sense” from industry’s perspective.
“And so they gave us some good feedback. I’m not going to go into all of the specifics, but they said our definition was pretty solid,” he said.
In addition, the CFT identified several specific areas for future work. There is a widespread “recognition that there’s some things that need to be very rigid and structural, so to speak in terms, of governance at a strategic level,” he explained, “but to operate with our data in the ways we need to — with at-edge computing, some of the AI type of capabilities we want to use, machine learning at the tactical edge — those rulesets may need to be a little bit different depending on who the data owners are. … Not all the data we’re going to consume and use and, in fact, probably more of it than not, will come from outside of the DoD where we don’t really have the benefit of the data management techniques that we would like.”
The group will work on issues such as data management and data tagging (so data can be located by key words) over the next six months, Parker said. The idea is to move fast, he added, with a focus on producing tangible results that can then be built on over time as the implementation process for the JADC2 strategy rolls out.
Stuart Whitehead, J6 deputy director for cyber and C4 integration, noted that working with allies is critical to successful standard setting, because future all-domain conflicts with peer competitors Russia and China will rely heavily on allied participation in US operations.
“Historically, within the DoD we usually try to solve problems for ourselves first, and then kind of work out [from there to allies.] What we’re trying to offer with JADC2 is to start from the outside and work in,” he said. “And so, we’re leveraging where we have international agreements — such as NATO STANAGS [standards agreements]. There’s a whole body called ‘Federated Mission Networking, which is NATO-plus. Where there are agreements in that forum, that also becomes a driver for our implementation in JADC2.”
The JADC2 data summits, while a separate process, will feed into the overall DoD approach to data standardization and management that eventually will apply across all defense acquisition programs. That effort is led by DoD’s Chief Data Officer Council as they implement the top-level Data Strategy published in October by Spirk’s office. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
09 Feb 21. Great Power Competition Adds to Challenges in Middle East. Great power competition is adding a level of risk and uncertainty in an already risky and uncertain part of the world: the Middle East, the commander of U.S. Central Command said.
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said in an address to the Middle East Institute yesterday that Russia and China are vying for power and influence through all aspects of national power in the region. This is on top of the risks posed by Iran and violent extremist groups.
Peace and stability in the Middle East is important to the United States because the health of the global economy depends on the free flow of oil and other commerce from the region and within the region, he said.
“The United States faces increasing competition in the region from Russia and China both vying for power and influence through a combination of diplomatic, military and economic means,” he said in the keynote address at the institute’s virtual convention.
China and Russia each have reasons for challenging the status quo in the region, but many are surprised that the challenge is happening because it is widely assumed that great power competition is occurring only in the Indo-Pacific or Europe, McKenzie said. “The CENTCOM [area of operations] is and always has been a crossroads of global interests and, historically, a prime arena for foreign powers to compete for influence for resources and for access,” he said. “In 2020, Russia and China exploited an ongoing regional crisis; financial infrastructure needs; perception of declining U.S. engagement; and opportunities created by COVID-19 to advance their objectives across the Middle East and central and southern Asian nations to gain or strengthen footholds in the region.”
Russia seeks to undermine and disrupt U.S. influence to reassert its own identity as a global power, the general said. Russia also has economic reasons for moves in the Middle East including destabilizing arms sales. Russia is also looking to establish permanent bases in Syria and Sudan.
This has impacted U.S. operations to counter violent extremists in the region. “In September 2020, in response to a dangerous increase in unauthorized and unsafe Russian interactions with coalition forces, CENTCOM deployed Sentinel radar and Bradley fighting vehicles to the eastern Syrian security area and increased combat air patrols over U.S. forces,” he said. “I suspect Russia will continue to challenge U.S. presence as opportunities present themselves, positioning … itself is an alternative to the West by trying to mediate regional conflicts; selling arms without end-use restrictions; offering military expertise; and participating in regional and multilateral organizations and military exercises.”
China is dependent on the region for half of its crude oil. China continues to cultivate trade relationships, economic investment and comprehensive partnerships among regional states. “China uses its ‘Belt and Road’ initiative and the China-Pakistan economic corridor to expand Chinese influence and presence within the [region],” McKenzie said.
Both Russia and China leverage their proximity to the region, historical relations and a perceived decline in U.S. engagement to establish and strengthen opportunistic relationships, he said.
He said he expects China will continue to strengthen defense cooperation throughout the region with arms sales, exercises and the use of multilateral organizations to establish and strengthen trade relationships across the Middle East while prioritizing access to energy resources.
Coordinated U.S. interagency efforts, strong allies and partner relationships are key in this phase of great power competition. “Opportunities to bolster partnerships and compete with Russia and China in the region include border security measures, counter narcotics efforts, counterterrorism, defense institution building, and even development assistance,” he said. “These low-cost and often overlooked programs possessed outsized impact in terms of building relationships and assuring key partners.”
But Iran remains the main problem for the command, McKenzie said. “For more than 40 years, the Iranian regime has funded and aggressively supported terrorism and terrorist organizations and defied international norms by conducting malign activities, which destabilize — not only the region — but global security and commerce, as well,” he flatly stated.
McKenzie said Iran sponsors proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria and uses Iraq as a proxy battleground against the United States. “Iran’s actions also contribute to the instability seen in Syria and Yemen, two regional conflicts that have resulted in millions of refugees, famine and outbreaks of diseases.”
McKenzie also said the U.S. presence in the region has brought about a period of contested deterrence with Iran. “That presence sends a series of clear and unambiguous signals of our capabilities and will to defend partners and U.S. national interests, a signal which has been clearly received by the Iranian regime,” he said. “In addition to visible presence, CENTCOM demonstrates U.S. capability and will [continue that] by enhancing a resilient and responsive force posture; dynamically moving forces in and out of the region, as needed; and building cohesive and dominant partnerships with regional and coalition forces.”
McKenzie also talked about Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan joining Egypt and Jordan in recognizing Israel.
“The easing of tensions between Israel and other Arab countries provides us with a strategic opportunity to align additional partners against shared threats to stability in the region,” he said. “Now, I fully understand there are fundamental political issues that remains to be worked out between Israel and many of its Arab neighbors, and that process will take its course. But it’s always been my observation that since you can’t choose your neighbors, you have to find a way to get along with the ones that you do have.” (Source: US DoD)
08 Feb 21. Tiny Drones Are the Biggest Threat in the Middle East Since IEDs, Top General Says. State and nonstate actors have figured out another cheap way to target U.S. troops, a four-star general warned this week.
Small drones anyone can “go out and buy at Costco right now” pose the most concerning tactical development since the rise of the improvised explosive device in Iraq and Afghanistan, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, said Monday.
“These systems are inexpensive, easy to modify and weaponize, and easy to proliferate,” McKenzie said during a virtual event hosted by the Middle East Institute. The U.S. has systems that can defend against large unmanned aircraft, he added, but organized militaries and terror groups in the region are making use of much smaller and cheaper off-the-shelf drones. The small aircraft can not only take off and land vertically, but are really tough to spot.
Battery-operated drones that have cameras and can be flown for a couple miles at a time cost just a few hundred dollars. McKenzie said adversaries can use them to surveil and target U.S. and partner facilities.
Land-based IEDs targeting U.S. vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan were some of the deadliest weapons insurgents used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The threat led the military to develop new armored vehicles that could better protect the troops inside.
Now, the U.S. needs to defend service members against IEDs that can fly.
“Right now, we’re on the wrong side of the cost imposition curve because this technology favors the attacker — not the defender,” McKenzie said. “But we’re working very hard to fix this.”
U.S. troops have been training to take out drones armed with explosives since Kurdish fighters were killed by a small drone that blew up while they were taking it apart in Iraq in 2015. That was the first time the Islamic State was believed to have killed troops on the battlefield using a drone, The New York Times reported at the time.
Just last month, airmen in Qatar for a training exercise were tasked with grounding a small drone, which they treated like an improvised explosive device.
“Although [unmanned aircraft systems] is a newer threat, the concepts used to mitigate the associated hazards are ones that we are all too familiar with,” Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Leslie, an explosive ordnance device flight superintendent, said in a release about the exercise.
It’s not just land-based troops that are seeing the threat of drones in the region. In 2019, Marines on a Navy warship used an air-defense system on an all-terrain vehicle to take down an Iranian drone targeting troops at sea.
McKenzie on Monday called Iran the most challenging driver of instability in the region.
“For more than 40 years, the Iranian regime has funded and aggressively supported terrorism and terrorist organizations and defied international norms by conducting malign activities which destabilize not only the region but global security and commerce as well,” he said. “Iran is a major source of instability in Iraq, and uses Iraq as a proxy battleground against the United States.” (Source: Military.com)
08 Feb 21. Extremism in the Ranks Will Be Addressed by DOD Leaders. On Feb. 5, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III ordered a Defense Department-wide stand down to discuss the problem of extremism in the ranks. He directed commanding officers and supervisors at all levels to conduct a one-day stand-down with their personnel within the next 60 days.
Austin made it very clear that leaders have discretion to tailor discussions with personnel as appropriate to each command. Such discussions should include the importance of the oath of office that service members take, impermissible behaviors, and procedures for reporting suspected or actual extremist behaviors, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said at a press briefing today.
because every command is different, every service is different. And, of course, some commands are very much in harm’s way right now, and you have to make sure that they can do this in a way that doesn’t impede their ability to accomplish missions around the world,” Kirby said.
“This is, importantly, an opportunity for leadership to listen to the men and women they lead and to their concerns, to their experiences, and maybe even to their possible solutions for how to tackle this problem,” Kirby said.
The secretary believes this will be a very deliberate process to try to tackle this problem, Kirby said. “He understands that a one-day stand-down across the force isn’t going to solve everything, but it might bring to light concerns and experiences.”
The department has not been centrally tracking extremism in the ranks and doesn’t have a database it can pull information from, Kirby said, adding that having one will be open for discussion. Currently, civilian law enforcement tracks a lot of that.
Kirby noted that the service chiefs have some good ideas that they’re sharing with the defense secretary. One of their ideas has to do with educating the force, beginning in basic training or even before that.
Having a discussion about educating service members who are about to separate is another topic that will be discussed, he said.
Kirby said some extremist groups have been successful at recruiting service members separating from the military because some service members espouse the same ideologies as the groups. More critically, the groups value service members’ expertise with weapons, leadership skills and management capabilities. “So, there’s an organized — almost aggressive — effort by some of these groups to pull veterans into their circle.” (Source: US DoD)
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