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12 Mar 21. Asia Trip by State, Defense Secretaries Highlights Importance of Indo-Pacific. Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III emphasized the importance of the Indo-Pacific region by becoming the first cabinet-level members of the Biden administration to travel to Japan and South Korea.
In a call with reporters, Ambassador Sung Y. Kim, the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said the outreach shows that diplomacy is back at the center of U.S. foreign policy.
“We are working to strengthen America’s relationships with our allies as well as the relationships among them,” he said. “And none are more important than Japan and the Republic of Korea.”
The two secretaries will meet with leaders in both countries to discuss a wide range of regional and global concerns. The rise of China and the problems of dealing with North Korea are among the issues they will discuss, Kim said. They will also discuss ways to battle COVID-19 and the steps that must be taken to combat climate change.
In Tokyo, Blinken and Austin will participate in the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee – the so-called “Two-plus-Two” meeting — with Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
In Seoul, they will attend the U.S.-South Korea foreign and defense ministerial hosted by Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha and National Defense Minister Suh Wook.
“The American, Japanese and Korean people share deeply rooted values of defending freedom, championing economic and social opportunity and inclusion, upholding human rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity,” Kim said. “Our cooperation with both Tokyo and Seoul to promote these universal values is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
From a defense standpoint, the alliances with South Korea and Japan are a force multiplier, said David Helvey, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific affairs. The trip illustrates “the United States’s commitment to a rules-based international order that places all nations on a level playing field and holds them responsible for preserving the principles that underpin it,” Helvey said.
The Indo-Pacific is the Defense Department’s priority theater, and U.S. military capabilities there are dedicated to “upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty and pursue economic opportunity, resolve disputes without coercion and have the freedom to navigate and fly consistent with international rules and norms,” he said.
“At a time when the region is facing mounting pressure from the People’s Republic of China, and the continued threat from North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, this trip sends an important signal of resolve to work with allies, partners and like-minded nations to promote a peaceful, stable and resilient order that benefits us all,” Helvey said.
After Seoul, Austin will travel on to India where he will meet with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and others in New Delhi. They will discuss ways to better cooperate in the major defense partnership the U.S. has with India. These will include enhanced information sharing, regional security cooperation, defense trade and the effects of new domains. (Source: US DoD)
12 Mar 21. The US military has put scores more ship-killer missiles under contract as Pacific tensions continue. The U.S. Navy and Air Force signed a contract last month for dozens of Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles, a closely watched program that seems to introduce a new sophisticated guidance system into lethal ship-killing missiles.
The $414m deal buys 137 LRASMs, support equipment, systems engineering, logistics and training support, Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Monaghen said in an email.
LRASM has a published range of about 300 nautical miles, is jam resistant, and designed to locate targets with onboard sensors rather than relying on guidance from another source such as a drone’s sensors or another ship. The missile is also difficult to detect.
The contract comes as tensions have continued to simmer in the Western Pacific between China and the United States, and between China and others in the region, concerning China’s ever-expanding fleet. The People’s Liberation Army Navy, which is expected to grow to 425 ship by 2030 has driven the U.S. to accelerate procurement anti-ship missiles, including the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps. Both services are seeking the ability to threaten ships at sea from long ranges.
Last February, Defense News reported that the military had put about 850 anti-ship missiles in the five-year defense spending projections, up from 88 anti-ship missiles programmed into the 2016 budget five years earlier.
In a press release announcing the contract, Lockheed said the buy, which was for lots four and five of the missile, showed LRASM’s “increasing significance to our customers’ missions.”
In January, the Pentagon’s weapons tester, the director of operational test and evaluation, said the Navy should ramp up testing of the newest iteration of the missile.
Citing “multiple hardware and software failures” in the first version of the LRASM missile, the DOT&E report called on the Navy to put the new LRASM 1.1 through a rigorous testing process under realistic combat conditions to ensure it will “demonstrate mission capability in operationally realistic environments.”
Lockheed Martin’s website says the missile is designed to use its “multi-modal sensor suite, weapon data link, and enhanced digital anti-jam Global Positioning System to detect and destroy specific targets within a group of numerous ships at sea,” meaning it can pick out what ships are its intended targets from a group of ships.
In the release, the company said the missile “reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments. LRASM will play a significant role in ensuring military access to operate in open ocean, owing to its enhanced ability to discriminate and conduct tactical engagements from extended ranges.” (Source: Defense News)
12 Mar 21. New Missile Defense Program On Deputy SecDef’s Desk, Awaiting Approval. An official with knowledge of the program said there have been “no decisions” made on the Next Generation Interceptor program, which is awaiting the approval and award of two development contracts.
Early plans for a long-awaited new ballistic missile defense system are on the desk of Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, but the industry proposals, expected to be approved for development contracts awarded this month, may take more time to work through the process.
An official with knowledge of the program said there have been “no decisions” made yet on the Next Generation Interceptor program, which is awaiting the award of two design and development contracts.
The NGI effort sprung to life in 2019 in the wake of the cancellation of a sputtering $5.8bn effort to replace the existing Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle, a ground-based interceptor designed to defend the US mainland against long-range ballistic missile attacks.
Pentagon officials and defense industry teams have been working toward two development contracts, which are with Hicks. The participation of Raytheon in the competition means Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is sitting the decision out, as his previous service on the company’s board led him to recuse himself from making any decisions involving the company.
Plans crafted by the Missile Defense Agency called for the Pentagon to choose two winners from teams led by Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing for development contracts, followed by a final decision on which team gets to build up to 20 new interceptors that would protect the homeland against ballistic missiles launched by North Korea or Iran.
While it’s unclear when the Pentagon might sign off on the contracts, sources suggest any delay is likely more due to the complexities faced by a new administration reviewing multiple programs at once, and Hicks’ upcoming workload while Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin travels in Asia next week.
Tom Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he’s “confident the Pentagon’s senior leadership will give the NGI question the close look it deserves, and move out toward an appropriate and sustainable path capable of addressing the significant rogue state threat to the homeland.”
The NGI is envisioned as the replacement for the failures of the Redesigned Kill Vehicle program, which was scrapped in 2019 after burning through $1.2bn on research and development funding. But the Missile Defense Agency has taken its time on the NGI work, issuing requirements in 2019 and by all indications doing its homework on how and why the previous effort failed. The RKV followed an ambitious schedule and was initially slated to be fielded in 2020.
Defense officials have said they’ve been able to harvest much of the research they did on the program, shrinking the NGI’s timeline for development and eventual fielding. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
12 Mar 21. Defense Department Launches $7.5m Center of Excellence in Networked Configurable Command, Control and Communications for Rapid Situational Awareness. The Department of Defense (DoD), through the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)), launched a $7.5m Center of Excellence in Networked Configurable Command, Control and Communications for Rapid Situational Awareness (COE-NC4) at the University of California, Riverside, a Hispanic-serving minority institution.
The Center was awarded through the OUSD(R&E)’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions (HBCUs/MSIs) Research and Education Program and is administered by the Army Research Laboratory.
By focusing on large-scale networked systems for next-generation computing and communications, the Center will conduct research that enables systems and subsystems for sensing, data analysis, communications and networking, to be seamlessly integrated and adaptive to novel mission needs. The University of California, Riverside is nationally recognized for both its research capabilities and its diverse student population. The COE-NC4 will connect the university’s talented students, faculty, and staff with fundamental research questions in the development of a robust, resilient, secure, and fully networked infrastructure while responding to failures and security threats.
“We are excited for the capabilities of University of California, Riverside to further enhance the Department’s efforts to conduct transformative research in these vital areas and their contributions to the defense technology base through the exploration of ideas,” said Dr. Jagadeesh Pamulapati, acting Deputy Director of the Office of Research, Technology, and Laboratories in OUSD(R&E). “The development of key fully networked command, control, and communication applications deepens our ability to solve science and technology challenges ranging from improving the performance of defense networks to accelerating sensing and computing research to further deter our adversaries in support of the DoD’s technology priorities.”
The COE-NC4 supports the Department’s commitment to building a diverse pipeline of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics talent. This center will integrate underrepresented students into essential research efforts by way of design projects, colloquiums, and internships at defense laboratories and provides participants with a pathway to graduate studies while fostering awareness of critical research that impacts our national security.
“Our partners at the University of California, San Diego, will engage in research using novel communication and computing paradigms to transfer sensitive information safely to enable better decision making,” said Dr. Pamulapati. “The Center’s research framework will further facilitate collaborations among the partnering institution and the DoD Army Research Laboratory in thrust areas concerning flexible network resource allocation and robustness to adversarial disruptions on sensing and communications infrastructure.”
For more information on the DoD HBCU/MSI Program, see [https://basicresearch.defense.gov/Programs/HBCU-MI-Program/] (Source: US DoD)
11 Mar 21. Flat budget must prioritize IT, Air Force official says. U.S. Air Force’s top IT official warned this week that the service needs to continue to increase investment in information technology as the Pentagon prepares for flat or declining budgets, or risk falling behind.
“While we’re entering that world of flat or declining budget, most likely, we are also entering a world where the entire rest of the commercial world, their IT spending is going [up],” Lauren Knausenberger, the Air Force chief information officer, said March 9 at the AFCEA Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium. “They’re making trades where better operations means fewer people having to fight through manual process[es], and where they’re spending more and more on their digital infrastructure because they know that it’s the foundation for their future competitive advantage. They will not be in business if they don’t make this investment. And we know more and more that we will not be in business if we don’t make this investment.”
Knausenberger’s comments come as debate swirls on Capitol Hill over the future of the defense budget. The latest expectation is a flat defense budget that will total $704 billion to $708 billion, an amount that analysts expect will cut into procurement and research.
The Biden administration’s recently released interim national security guidance that said the U.S. military needs to “shift our emphasis from unneeded legacy platforms and weapons systems to free up resources for investments in the cutting-edge technologies and capabilities.” All the services have efforts underway to create complex future networks to enable joint war fighting and to modernize other parts of their information technology enterprise. Recent government cybersecurity compromises affecting the IT supply chain have underscored the need to invest in modernizing legacy systems and boost network safeguards.
The Air Force has made a public push in the last few years to upgrade its digital infrastructure, using new cloud and software development platforms. Knausenberger leads the Air Force’s effort to burn down legacy systems and reduce manual processes, a project dubbed “Operation Flamethrower.” The goal of that project, Knausenberger said, is to “ruthlessly attack manual process, we get after redundant IT and we just get rid of all of that redundant policy that’s not ready for 21st century.”
She encouraged airmen to take initiative in automating manual IT processes that can easily be replaced, adding that if the automation replaces their job, “we’ll find you another job.”
“We have so much need,” Knausenberger said. “We need our airmen to be writing code. We need our airmen to be learning about cloud engineering. We need that next generation of AI algorithm developers, we need folks that understand comms, and an environment that includes Starlink, 5g and LTE and whatever else comes next.”
Knausenberger’s comments were echoed at the event by Col. Andrew D’Ippolito, the A-6 director at Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, who recently took part in an on-ramp event for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, the service’s effort for Joint All-Domain Command and Control. JADC2 is a Joint Staff-led effort to connect the best sensor with the best shooter. D’Ippolito outlined several lessons from the ABMS event that common across the service: the Air Force and DoD aren’t keeping pace with commercial technology, the acquisition process is holding the DoD back, and the culture needs to change.
D’Ippolito said the biggest obstacle to JADC2 is the service’s AF Network and AFNET-Secure.
“Our AFNET and our AFNET-S are not capable of managing the demands of what JADC2 actually requires at this time,” D’Ippolito said, because those networks can’t handle the vast amounts of data that must be transported under the new joint war-fighting concept.
“We need big pipes, and we need large throughput,” he said of the data demands. “There’s no doubt about that.”
For the Air Force to move forward successfully, the service components must get behind the efforts pushed down by Knausenberger, he said.
“The first step is to get on board with Ms. Knausenberger and with ACC’s [Air Combat Command] thoughts and plans to establish a rock sold digital infrastructure,” D’Ippolito said. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
11 Mar 21. USAF has its first F-15EX. The U.S. Air Force took delivery March 10 of the first F-15EX from Boeing and will soon begin testing the new jet, the service said Thursday.
The Air Force signed off on the acceptance of the first F-15EX at the company’s St. Louis facility, the service said in a news release. A photo from Boeing shows the aircraft en route to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
“This is a big moment for the Air Force,” said Col. Sean Dorey, the Air Force’s F-15EX program manager. “With its large weapons capacity, digital backbone, and open architecture, the F-15EX will be a key element of our tactical fighter fleet and complement fifth-generation assets. In addition, it’s capable of carrying hypersonic weapons, giving it a niche role in future near-peer conflicts.”
The newest “EX” version of the venerable F-15 comes with advanced avionics such as the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System electronic warfare system, a digital cockpit, the more advanced ADCP-II mission computer from Honeywell, and fly-by-wire flight controls.
Boeing’s delivery of the F-15EX comes little more than a month after the inaugural flight of the jet on Feb. 2. A second aircraft is due to arrive at Eglin next month, and the remaining six aircraft in the first lot will fly to Eglin in fiscal year 2023 for operational testing.
The Air Force placed its first order for the F-15EX in July 2020, awarding a contract for the first lot of eight jets with a value not to exceed about $1.2 billion. The entire program has a ceiling value of $23 billion. It plans to buy at least 144 F-15EXs to replace the F-15C/D fleet, which is at an average age of 37 years and starting to see structural strain. However, the contract has options that would allow the service to buy up to 200 jets.
The second lot of F-15EX planes is on schedule for delivery in fiscal year 2024 to Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Oregon, which will also serve as the site for F-15EX training. The third lot will deliver to Portland ANGB in Oregon in fiscal year 2025, with the base’s 142nd Wing becoming the first operational unit to fly the aircraft. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
11 Mar 21. To maintain tech supremacy the US must avoid ‘military-civil fusion.’ The strategic threat from China is real but American tech giants do not deserve special treatment. During the cold war it was said that the US had a military-industrial complex, while the Soviet Union was one. The question today is how far the US must develop a military-technological complex, just as China is turning into one.
This month, the US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence published a 752-page report highlighting the seriousness of China’s strategic threat and US unpreparedness. “Within the next decade, China could surpass the United States as the world’s AI superpower,” it concludes. To maintain US supremacy, the commission recommends a long list of actions, including injecting technological expertise into every military domain, massively increasing federal research spending and investing heavily in critical infrastructure and strategic industries, such as semiconductors. There is no doubt the challenge posed by China will require a long-term, systemic response from the US, not the natural reflex of the attention-deficient superpower. But the US must resist the temptation to emulate China’s pursuit of “military-civil fusion”. While government and business will have to collaborate to an intimate degree, they should never run off together. “We do not have military-civil fusion, nor should we,” says Gilman Louie, a commission member and technology venture capitalist. As the commission argues, AI is of overriding importance to national security because it can magnify so many military capabilities and expose strategic vulnerabilities. It enables battlefield weapons systems, such as swarms of drones, to be deployed at terrifying speed and macro-scale with micro-precision.
“In the future, warfare will pit algorithm against algorithm,” the report states. “Humans cannot be everywhere at once but software can.” Yet AI can also be used in more subtle ways to amplify “weapons of mass influence”, undermining a rival’s economic stability, critical infrastructure and societal cohesion. The rolling cyber attacks and foreign-instigated disinformation campaigns under way in the US highlight the range of exposed targets and how much damage can be done short of direct military confrontation. The added complication is that, as well as being geopolitical rivals, the US and China are intertwined economic partners. US teenagers use Chinese-made iPhones while Chinese students flock to US universities. “China is not self-isolating in the way that the Soviet Union was,” says Anja Manuel, director of the Aspen Security Forum, supporting the commission’s recommendation of “targeted disentanglement”. Another difference with the cold war is how much essential technology is now controlled by US private companies. Only the federal government could have mobilised the resources for the Manhattan project in the 1940s to build the atomic bomb. But West Coast tech companies now dominate data resources and AI expertise.
The commission itself was chaired by Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chairman, and included representatives from Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle. The tech giants have been wrapping themselves in the American flag and presenting themselves as national champions. Just as the Bush administration went soft on tech companies in the aftermath of 9/11, because of their usefulness to the national security agencies, so there may be an impulse to go soft on them today over competition issues because they are seen as strategic technological assets. That would be a mistake. Encouragingly, the Biden administration has just hired Tim Wu and is vetting Lina Khan, two antitrust experts who are among the tech industry’s toughest critics. “It seems as though Silicon Valley has glommed on to this China argument and is saying ‘do not break us up’. But this does not ring true to those in the technology field,” says Lindsay Gorman, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US. The priority must be on creating the Googles and Microsofts of tomorrow, she says, rather than protecting the incumbents of today. In 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower first used the term “military-industrial complex”, warning of its “acquisition of unwarranted influence” and its potential threat to democracy. “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together,” he said. The strength of the US lies in invention, innovation and fierce economic and political competition. That is its greatest national security asset that should never be lost. (Source: FT.com)
09 Mar 21. The rare earths crisis requires more than free markets. A recent opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board wrongly argues the rare earth minerals crisis isn’t as bad as many claim and that markets alone will solve issues associated with China’s dominance. Unfortunately, the editorial glosses over China’s ability to cut off supplies; provides misleading information on China’s current and future involvement in rare earth production; inappropriately argues the U.S. can meet its defense needs in the event of an embargo; offers a knee-jerk assessment of rare earth mining and processing as environmentally destructive; and ignores the national security implications of an entirely market-driven approach.
This sort of counternarrative has stifled the development of a complete rare earth supply chain over the last decade, and will only scare and confuse the government and markets moving forward.
First, to say that China’s global share of rare earth production is “on the wane” is both misleading and ill-informed. There has only been a small decline in their dominance of rare earth oxide production, which ignores the critical downstream capabilities required to bring products to market, such as rare earth metals, alloys and magnets — products where China dominates and, in some cases, maintains nearly a total monopoly on production. Such a gap in supply chains exposes the U.S. to various national security risks, which makes oxide production gains far from a panacea.
Second, suggesting the U.S. could meet all Department of Defense needs for rare earths in the event of an embargo is incorrect and dangerous. Many key elements of U.S. defense systems rely on rare earth materials that are in short supply, or unavailable, outside of China. As the Biden administration’s new interim national security strategic guidance argues, these supply chains need to be secured in order to improve U.S. security and the economy.
Third, the idea that domestic rare earth mining and processing is environmentally destructive is misplaced. The U.S. has the most highly regulated and environmentally friendly rare earth mine in the world, using methods that can be replicated as the domestic market expands. The real environmental tragedy, however, is our continued habit of ignoring China’s willful environmental destruction in some of the world’s most harmful mining operations.
Fourth, relying on the free market to solve the rare earth supply chain issue is an approach we’ve tried before that failed miserably. Suggesting we do it again doesn’t acknowledge the critical national security risks involved with such a strategy and assumes the Communist Party will play by the rules that govern free and fair markets. Just as they’ve done in the past, and as the World Trade Organization has noted, China could unfairly tip the scales of the market in its favor. In turn, trusting markets to operate freely and fairly, as it relates to national security, would do anything but diminish China’s stronghold on current supply chains.
Not all of WSJ’s editorial board is off the mark: Innovation is a key element of future independence, which is why technologies that separate rare earth oxide more cheaply or build magnets using new technology need forms of government support and investment. More specifically, Defense Production Act investments in next-generation technologies for rapid solvent extraction separation could ensure long-term competitiveness and support for the innovation needed to compete with China.
Fortunately, the government seems to recognize the need for investment, at least for the moment: President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order that explicitly addresses chokepoints for materials deemed critical during the pandemic, such as semiconductors, pharmaceutical ingredients, pandemic supplies and rare earths. The order mandates a 100-day review to assess how existing critical supply chains may be repositioned to withstand the threats we face today.
Additionally, the House Armed Services Committee announced a bipartisan task force to investigate critical supply chains that will develop an expanded list of critical military supplies and recommendations for how to best deter risks.
While the executive order and House task force are both steps in the right direction, lawmakers and the administration should remain mindful of the need to reshore production processes, especially for materials that are essential for many defense-related technologies that help keep Americans safe.
The WSJ should note that even the 18th century economic theorist Adam Smith noted that market rules don’t apply to national security, so lawmakers and members of the administration must not be fooled by an entirely free market approach that ignores forces larger and more powerful than the invisible hand. Meanwhile, China’s intention to achieve economic dominance across the globe will not cease or bend to market forces (see the Made in China 2025 initiative), which requires an explicit strategy to safeguard America’s interests.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Jeffery A. Green is the president of J. A. Green & Company. He previously served as a staff director and counsel for the House Armed Services Committee. (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
09 Mar 21. A radical plan calls for shifting billions to State from Defense. A new report from the Center for American Progress calls for a radical overhaul of the U.S. security assistance program, including shifting roughly $7bn in funding streams from the Pentagon to the State Department to ensure stronger, more cohesive oversight. The report, from Max Bergmann and Alexandra Schmitt, argues that the current system of funding for foreign militaries is “dysfunctional and bifurcated,” and that the Biden administration should look to reset the relationship between the departments of State and Defense.
The current system is “both inefficient and ill-suited for the present foreign policy environment,” the authors write in the report, obtained first by Defense News. “The new era of great power competition and today’s threats of climate change, pandemics, and other nontraditional challenges demand a new and more integrated, agile, and wholistic approach” to U.S. efforts around the globe.
The report was published March 9.
The Center for American Progress was home to several national security-focused advisory teams for the Biden campaign, and has emerged as a more significant player since Biden’s election. Neera Tanden, who has led the organization since 2011, was Biden’s pick for budget chief before being unable to gather votes in the Senate, Kelly Magsamen, a CAP expert, is serving as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s chief of staff.
Speaking to Defense News, Bergmann argued that no one “sat down 10 years ago and said this how we want to structure how the U.S. provides security assistance. Crises and problems developed around the world, and then there was a push to do something.”
The resulting structure is one where State funds are restricted to pots of money with little flexibility, whereas combatant commanders have more leeway to spread money around — while only having to focus on defense issues and not broader foreign relations topics such as human rights or economic goals.
“When you provide flexible resources to DoD and not the State Department, you make the Pentagon the interlocuter that foreign countries want to engage with,” said Bergmann, who worked at State from 2011 to 2017. “And that inevitably puts the Pentagon in the driver’s seat for U.S. foreign policy.”
The shifting of funds would come from two pots of money within the defense budget.
The first would come from the relatively-new Section 333 train and equip authority, which the authors argue is duplicative of State’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program — an overlap that’s privately been echoed by state officials since Section 333 was created.
The second would come from the Pentagon’s long-term development funds, including the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, the Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Train and Equip Fund, and the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative fund. Those dollars are recurring streams designed to help those specific countries build up their indigenous capabilities.
In the report, the authors are also critical of State’s setup, calling the status quo “not fixable” without major reforms. A top-down review of how to create more flexibility in all of State’s programs would have to go hand-in-hand with any reform efforts.
The shift would benefit overall U.S. goals, the authors argue, because it would provide greater, centralized oversight into how foreign arms financing is being used and how it fits into America’s broader geopolitical goals. This centralization would matter not just for the administration, but in Congress, where oversight of the programs would go from eight committees to just the four committees controlling State funding.
Getting Congress on board will be vital, and both authors acknowledged that on the Hill, it’s easier to flow funds to DoD than to State — and especially tricky to take money from the Pentagon and shift it to Foggy Bottom. Bergmann, however, said the start of the Biden administration, with a Secretary of State in Anthony Blinken who is extremely close to Biden, is the time to make the effort.
“We’re not talking about increased funding, just moving the location of where that funding is,” Bergmann said. “We’re talking ultimately about a bureaucratic shift. and while that oftentimes seems impossible, often just a little bit of political leadership can make changes like that happen very quickly.” (Source: Defense News)
08 Mar 21. Congress on track to extend pandemic reimbursement for contractors. Congress is poised this week to extend prized “Section 3610” authorities ― which let federal agencies pay certain contractors even if they aren’t working ― as part of the government’s next pandemic relief package.
House Democrats are expected Tuesday to pass the final version of a $1.9trn package which contains the extension sought by trade groups and small businesses. Without the extension to Sept. 30, the authority would have expired March 31.
The Senate on Saturday voted 96-3 to approve the extension as an amendment from Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla. It applies to Section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
The National Defense Industrial Association, Aerospace Industries Association and the Professional Services Council were among groups that lobbied to extend 3610, arguing it was critical to the national security industrial base’s relience.
“With so much uncertainty around safe access to workplaces, now is not the time to let up on COVID-19 protections,” David Berteau, PSC’s president and chief executive, said Saturday in a statement. “If enacted, this extension will help the federal government continue to access the highly skilled, cleared and trusted contractor workforce needed to meet mission needs.”
The Defense Department spent about $18.3m to reimburse contractors under 3610, well more than the six other agencies which were also covered as part of the authority, the Government Accountability Office reported in September. (Source: Defense News)
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