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18 June 21. 10th United States – Mexico Defense Bilateral Working Group Discuss Bilateral Defense Cooperation. On June 17, 2021, Under Secretary for Policy, Dr. Colin Kahl, and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, Mr. Ronald Moultrie, co-hosted the tenth meeting of the United States – Mexico Bilateral Defense Working Group with Major General Ricardo Trevilla Trejo, Chief of Staff of the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) and Vice Admiral Luis Javier Robinson Portillo Villanueva Chief of Staff of the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR). The Defense Bilateral Working Group is the bilateral defense component of United States – Mexico high level cooperation efforts.
The co-chairs established mutual objectives, lines of effort and priorities to address the shared bilateral and transnational challenges facing our region. The co-chairs recognized that North America has regional responsibilities and complex challenges are best addressed by collaborative and cooperative responses. Together with the supporting Defense Bilateral Strategic Framework, the Defense Bilateral Working Group provides a process for bilateral cooperation between the United States and Mexico’s defense institutions. The purpose is to build a common understanding of challenges and to identify and implement initiatives to promote bilateral defense cooperation.
The co-chairs agreed to expand U.S. and Mexican defense cooperation; advance bilateral capability to address mutually identified regional defense challenges; expand bilateral support and cooperation for regional defense cooperation activities; and, exchange lessons-learned and best practices. (Source: US DoD)
18 June 21. Navy releases long-range shipbuilding plan that drops emphasis on 355 ships, lays out fleet design priorities. The Navy submitted an update to Congress to its annual long-range shipbuilding plans, one that takes a step back from the much-talked-about standard of a 355-ship fleet and instead lays out priorities for a future distributed naval force. The new document lays out a manned fleet as low as 321 manned ships and potentially as large as 372 manned ships. A fleet of 321 manned ships would be a departure from past modeling, wargaming and analysis that pointed to a fleet of 355 or more manned ships to counter threats from China and Russia in a future fight. The lower number, though, is more in line with current fiscal constraints and industry capacity. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said this week that, “based on the top-line that we have, that we can afford a Navy of about 300 ships” – and there’s not much hope that Navy shipbuilding budgets will increase drastically in the next few years.
Those 321 to 372 manned ships would be supplemented by a yet-to-be-determined number of unmanned surface and underwater vessels – between 77 and 140, according to the document. It notes that new types of platforms, such as unmanned vessels, “bring great potential, but also have greater developmental risk. This is represented by a wider objective range. As prototyping and experimentation retire technical and [concept of operations] uncertainty and risk, along with a clearer understanding of the associated costs, we expect that the objective force ranges will narrow.”
As a result, the Navy’s total fleet could range from 398 manned and unmanned ships to 512. The document, obtained by Defense News June 17, states the Navy will release a more detailed long-range plan with the FY23 budget request next year.
“In the interim, the Department will continue to build on ongoing analysis, experimentation, testing, prototyping, and the analytic results from force structure assessments, future fleet architectures, and intelligence updates to refine required capabilities and characterize the technical and operational risk of an objective battle force in military competition. This work will inform the content and transition pace to the future force and be reflected in the FY2023 shipbuilding plan.”
called 355 ships “a good goal to shoot for” but said he was working to field “the right mix of capabilities. Size matters, but capabilities also matter.”
The Navy is required to submit a 30-year shipbuilding plan to Congress each year along with its budget request, but the document is often skipped in the first year of a new presidential administration. The outgoing Trump administration submitted a document in December 2020 that was labeled a fiscal 2022 long-range ship plan, and it laid out a fleet that would grow to 347 manned ships by the end of the decade and above 400 manned ships by 2050. The Biden administration has accompanied its FY22 budget request with a shorter document that includes more themes and priorities than actual long-range shipbuilding and ship inventory projections.
The document maintains the Navy’s focus on undersea warfare, which leadership has repeatedly said is an advantage the Navy needs to protect and expand. Still, it notes that the Navy and industry wouldn’t dramatically expand the size of the attack submarine fleet before the late 2030s, when the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine procurement ends.
“Maintaining the undersea advantage is a priority for the Navy. As the Navy’s most survivable strike platforms, SSNs and SSBNs are key to both deterrence and winning conflict against a rival power. To meet the demand for additional submarines, industrial base capacity must be expanded. The plan beyond the Future Year Defense Program (FYDP) reflects an increase in SSN production that is fully realized with the conclusion of the Columbia class procurement and delivery. We continue to evaluate the industrial base capacity increase required for more consistent delivery of two SSNs per year during Columbia serial production and subsequent potential increases to SSN procurement.”
The document maintains the service’s commitment to fielding small surface combatants in greater numbers, freeing up a smaller fleet of large surface combatants to conduct only the most complex missions with their larger sensors and weapons. It also continues support for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers but notes that “new capability concepts like a light aircraft carrier continue to be studied and analyzed to fully illuminate their potential to execute key mission elements in a more distributed manner and to inform the best mix of a future force.”
And it acknowledges that the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 effort that is overhauling the Fleet Marine Force has implications for shipbuilding as well. “This approach requires a new mix of amphibious warships (LHA/LPD) and includes the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW), which is an enabler of [Marine Littoral Regiment] mobility and sustainability. The overall number of amphibious warships grows to support the more distributed expeditionary force design, with LAWs complementing a smaller number of traditional amphibious warships.”
Generally, it notes, “the concepts of Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE) / Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) require a balanced and different mix of traditional battle force ships and new amphibious and logistic ships. This will result in greater combat power than previous force structures in addition to new and key roles played by uncrewed platforms. These concepts and capabilities are being analyzed, tested, experimented, and exercised to better define a future objective battle force.”
The document also outlines sealift and auxiliary ship gaps the service faces.
The Navy is short two oceanographic survey ships – and plans to buy two in FY22 – and one cable repair ship.
On organic strategic sealift, the Navy has a shortfall of roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo vehicle ships, with just 35 in the inventory today compared to a requirement for 53.
The document states the Navy’s FY22 spending request “continues Navy’s commitment to surge sealift requirements through procurement of used vessels to replace aging surge sealift capacity and conversion/upgrade of all newly-procured used RORO vessels to be performed in U.S. shipyards in a profile closely aligned to the procurement schedule. The recapitalization plan also includes adjustments to the existing fleet with service life extension of the ten most viable platforms, retirement of the seven least-ready roll-on/roll-off vessels, retirement of four special mission ships, continued investment in platform maintenance, and consolidation of the Surge Sealift and Ready Reserve Force.”
The Navy is seeking $369m to buy five used RORO ships.
The document also lays out planned ship decommissionings in FY22, which has already been a point of contention between the Navy and lawmakers.
The service would decommission seven cruisers – five that were already planned to age out of the fleet, and two more that are partway through a modernization program that’s growing more costly and more timely; four Littoral Combat Ships, two of which Congress said no to decommissioning in FY21; an amphibious dock landing ship, two attack submarines and a fleet tug.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the Navy in a June 15 hearing with the full House Armed Services Committee and a June 17 HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee hearing, arguing the Navy should have released a full five-year plan and a 30-year shipbuilding plan with its FY22 budget request in accordance with the law. The Navy released its plan on the evening of June 17, hours after the subcommittee hearing, but it didn’t sit well with all lawmakers.
“The law requires a 30-year shipbuilding plan and a future years defense plan (FYDP). Neither has been provided by the Pentagon. If the Navy does not give Congress a plan, we can’t tell where they are going — we have to make assumptions. If we assume that next year’s budget will also fail to enable the force structure that we need, we will be forced to make broad cuts to other programs to fund the force structure that the Navy cannot articulate themselves. When the Navy provides ranges of ships needed it is clear that they do not have a strategy that defines actual requirements, otherwise it would be a discrete and defensible number,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who sits on the subcommittee and serves as vice chair of the full committee. (Source: Defense News)
16 June 21. ‘At the Limits of What I Can Do:’ Marine Corps Commandant Makes Plea for Funding. Arguing for full funding of the Marine Corps’ fiscal 2022 budget request, Commandant Gen. David Berger said his service has shed all waste and needs support to focus on potential adversaries like China and Russia.
Making his case before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday for the Marine Corps’ $47.86bn budget request, Berger said he has reduced headquarters staffing by 15%, cut legacy systems and end strength, and has nothing left to draw from to fund programs and projects.
“We have wrung just about everything we can out of the Marine Corps internally,” Berger said. “We’re at the limits of what I can do.”
The Marine Corps’ budget request represents a 6.2% increase from fiscal 2021, even as the service plans to reduce the size of the active-duty force by 2,700, to 178,500 Marines. The service ultimately wants to reach 174,000 by 2030 — roughly the size it was in fiscal 2002.
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Berger is using the money he has saved by reorganizing the Marine Corps and shedding capabilities such as tanks and artillery to invest in new technologies and platforms.
Among the systems included in the fiscal 2022 budget is development of the Ground/based Anti-Ship Missile/Remotely Operated Ground Unit Expeditionary Fires Vehicle. The Marine Corps had requested funding for this program but the budget was cut, and the Corps also received no funding for long-range fires.
“It set us back in time, and for combatant commanders, this equals risk,” Berger said during the hearing.
The service also plans to invest in its new amphibious combat vehicle, buying 92 per year. It also plans to buy eight Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, or GATOR, systems for $300 million.
As part of the planned cuts, the service will divest itself of some or all of its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles as well as the M88A2 Hercules Recovery Vehicle and the vehicle-mounted Training Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device-Electronic Warfare (CREW) system, “since it no longer meets training objectives,” according to budget documents.
The Marine Corps submitted a $3 billion list of its unfunded priorities to Congress this year, items that Berger said are needed to counter the “pacing threat” of China, which is rapidly building up its strategic forces.
The top wishes on the list include two types of anti-ship missiles, including 35 anti-ship Naval Strike Missiles for $57.8 million, and 48 Tactical Tomahawk long-range anti-ship and strike missiles for $96 million.
The list also includes two KC-130J aircraft for $197.7 million — replacements for aircraft that were lost in 2018 in Japan and last year in California.
Funding for items on the list would help the Marine Corps’ “counter the pacing threat of China in the near term,” Berger said.
“We are self-funding our modernization. The items on the unfunded priority list would help us move faster.” (Source: Military.com)
16 June 21. Official Details DOD Missile Defense Strategy. Missile defense plays a key role in U.S. national security. However, as missile technology matures and proliferates among potential adversaries China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, the threat to the U.S., deployed forces, allies and partners is increasing, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy said.
Leonor Tomero provided testimony at a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing regarding the fiscal year 2022 budget request for missile defense and missile defeat programs.
To address these evolving challenges, the Defense Department will review its missile defense policies, strategies and capabilities to ensure the U.S. has effective missile defenses, Tomero said.
Spotlight: FY 2022 Defense Budget
The review will contribute to the department’s approach on integrated deterrence, she said, noting that the review is expected to be completed in January.
The department recently initiated development of the Next Generation Interceptor, she said, adding that the NGI will increase the reliability and capability of the United States’ missile defense.
“The department will continue to ensure that we bring a more integrated approach to air and missile defense to address various types of ballistic missile threats and enable defense against cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems,” she said.
Additionally, the department will enhance its global network of integrated space-based and land-based sensors used in a variety of capabilities, such as detection, tracking and targeting through all phases of flight for incoming missiles, Tomero said, mentioning that U.S. commercial innovation is already transforming this field.
In fiscal year 2022, the department will continue to develop the prototype hypersonic and ballistic tracking space sensor that will allow the tracking of hypersonic threats and add resiliency to the sensor architecture, she said.
The department’s approach for regional hypersonic defense will first focus on defense in the terminal phase, she said, meaning the final phase of a missile’s trajectory.
Information superiority is critical to future battlefields and is necessary to enable rapid planning and employment in a joint operating environment. To that end, the department is developing multi cyber-hardened, advanced, all-domain awareness for command and control architecture that will enable timely and accurate decision making to address emerging threats, she said.
“The department is engaging and working with our allies and partners to enhance our collective missile defense efforts,” she said, mentioning Japan, South Korea, Australia and our NATO allies, along with Israel and Gulf Cooperation Council nations.
Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command; Navy Vice Adm. Jon A. Hill, director of the Missile Defense Agency; Army Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command; and Space Force Lt. Gen. John E. Shaw, deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, also testified. (Source: US DoD)
15 June 21. Proposed modernization increases show Army sees joint operations as ‘top priority.’ While the Army slashed its overall budget request $5bn, the service asked for an increase of about $1.8bn for modernization efforts, a priority that it noted will “enable our forces to effectively fight and win in Joint All Domain Operations.”
In the midst of cuts, the team upgrading the service’s tactical network would receive a $537m boost to build the backbone of resilient battlefield data transfer.
The boosts represent significant emphasis on the battlefield of the future as the service pivots to fights where war-fighting systems are interconnected via the tactical network, a concept the service tests at its annual Project Convergence event. According to a top acquisition official, the increase signals how the Army views its network as critical to Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
“Clearly, to the Army [and] to senior leaders, the network and all it can potentially provide is still a top priority,” said Doug Bush, acting assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.
Analysts, such as Andrew Hunter, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed the Army’s budget plan shows it is taking JADC2 seriously.
“The Army in general put real money into networking in its budget request for FY22. Given that overall money for R&D and procurement is down, it’s notable that they’re prioritizing investing in command and control and networking,” Hunter said.
The Army contributes to the joint war-fighting concept through Project Convergence, an annual event in the Yuma, Ariz., desert where the service tries to connect sensors from air, land and on orbit with emerging networks. The goal is to process data with artificial intelligence to automatically target potential threats and fire from beyond line-of-sight at blazing speeds.
The event, which doesn’t have a dedicated budget line, incorporates work from the Army’s eight cross-functional teams dedicated to updating the service.
In a late May budget preview, Army officials told reporters it wants $106.8m for its Project Convergence demonstration, including $33.7m for operations and maintenance and $73.1m dedicated to research, development testing and evaluation.
The RDT&E proposal showed the Army wants to spend millions on AI-enabled target recognition, data management, SATCOM and autonomy, among other futuristic technologies.
The service’s investment in the Network CFT is important because it touches all the systems under development in other modernization areas. Without it, new systems for soldiers couldn’t communicate with each other.
“One of the key things that the Network CFT’s going to do over time, is how we integrate these capabilities across all the modernization efforts because there’s not one that’s not interdependent of the network,” Col. Rob Ryan, acting director of the Network CFT, said at recent event.
Hunter said the proposed investment will benefit Army JADC2 contributions.
“Overall, they’ve [the Army] clearly prioritized investing in the network, and that’s going to likely be a very good thing for the development of an Army contribution to JADC2 down the road,” Hunter said.
(Source: Defense News)
15 June 21. Classified Navy JADC2 budget plan has a few spending hints. Experts picked up signs in the Navy’s budget about its joint war-fighting priorities despite a lack of details because most related spending lines are classified.
Notably, they pointed to investments in enterprise networking, command and control, and cybersecurity to support the service’s Project Overmatch.
The Navy has provided few specifics about its effort to better connect ships, aircraft and unmanned systems for Joint All-Domain Command and Control. Experts said fleets’ interconnected network structures make them susceptible to devastating interference and could explain the secrecy.
At a late May budget briefing, the Navy said classified research and development budget requests went up. “Project Overmatch with funding in the budget of FY22 has the three R&D lines that also happen to be classified. But those values do increase,” said Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget.
Following the top item in the Navy’s unfunded priority list for a guided-missile destroyer, the service listed requests for two networking-related items critical for JADC2: $53.9m to accelerate naval tactical grid development and $87m for resilient communications and position, navigation and timing for combat logistics fleets.
“What we did see was there was $50 some million that was second highest unfunded requirement that the Navy was willing to put forth to Congress, which does say a lot,” said Rob Carey, president of Cloudera Government Solutions, vice president of Cloudera Public Sector and former Navy CIO and DoD principal deputy CIO.
The broader Navy budget plan pointed to investments in information warfare systems that will support Project Overmatch to seamlessly connect network sensors, manned and unmanned platforms, and weapons to help forces make better battlefield decisions than adversaries.
In this category, the Navy would spend $5.8bn for FY22 procurement. That would include satellite communications, enterprise networks, command and control systems, ISR sensors and processor development, resilient precision, navigation and timing systems, electronic warfare systems, counter C4ISR systems, tactical data link systems and cyber, among others. By far the largest chunk of the lot is $1.19bn requested for enterprise networks.
To really gauge the Navy’s true investments in this space, observers will need to check the Future Years Defense Program projections, Carey said, adding that funding will probably ramp up over the next five years. However, the Biden administration did not release those numbers for this budget request.
The Navy is spending on the right mission areas, said Juliana Vida, chief strategy adviser at Splunk and former Navy deputy CIO.
“It’s actually, I think, very encouraging to see that language that supports the JADC2 concept and Project Overmatch concept are now making their way into budgets with large dollars attached to them,” she said. “We all know that you follow the money in the Department of Defense and where there is funding placed, that is a very strong signal of senior leadership’s dedication to making sure that these capabilities get put into the hands of our sailors and Marines.”
Bryan Clark, senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute, said he saw Navy investments in the budget falling into three broad buckets:
- Alignment of communications systems to the right bandwidth or to reduce latency to support operations and decision-making in real time.
- Interoperability to build platforms on the backbone of three existing network or sensing architectures.
- A reduced communications signature footprint for greater resiliency on the electromagnetic spectrum.
Beyond these three, he said the details stray into the classified realm.
The Navy might have classified much of its funding plan because it views itself as more susceptible to C4ISR disruption than its service counterparts.
Calling Project Overmatch the Navy’s crown jewel and the most important capability the service is pursuing, Clark explained that an adversary could in one fell swoop disrupt the communications chain to cripple the entire fleet, which is much harder to do to an Army unit or an air sortie.
A Navy force is too slow to quickly recompose and doesn’t have the terrain in which to hide itself and regroup, he said.
As a result, the service might be trying to protect its “secret sauce” from adversary eyes, Clark said.
Carey was pleased the Navy decided to classify these items because a war would likely begin with a network attack, and Project Overmatch is all about network architectures.
“War fighting is a pretty sensitive art. This is the network side of war fighting, which you don’t want to reveal because the next war, the first parts of it will not be kinetic, they will be nonkinetic. I think the Navy smartly has classified this,” he said. Adversaries “can exploit the information that’s put out there and then figure out ways to now stymie that development because this is about accelerating war-fighting decisions by providing access to information in disparate places, running AI.” (Source: Defense News)
15 June 21. Congress dealt ABMS a blow, but experts see progress. The Pentagon’s new budget plan provided a first look at how the military is building investment in its signature future war-fighting strategy, pumping money into linking networks and processing data for a connected force.
On one hand, experts said the fiscal 2022 proposal is a marker for Joint All-Domain Command and Control that shows shifting priorities and encouraging signs after 18 months of spending on the plan for U.S. superiority against highly capable adversaries such as China or Russia.
But the budget left many details murky, with chunks of classified spending, no top-line figures and much of the funding mixed in larger programs, raising questions with insiders on issues including whether command and control will get enough money or how the services will combine separate efforts.
By one conservative estimate, a national security expert expects the Pentagon to spend more than $1bin on JADC2 next year. Observers predict funding will ramp up in budgets to come, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff already asking Congress for future JADC2-specific modernization money and the project’s top leader proclaiming “delivery time” has arrived now that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed a formal strategy.
“It’s great to see money going toward better networking, resilient communications and more adaptable communications. Those are critical things for the DoD, but they are not, in and of themselves, command and control,” said Eli Niewood, vice president for intelligence and cross-cutting capabilities at Mitre, which runs federally funded research centers for government technology development. “What we think really needs to happen for JADC2 is better capabilities within decision-making [and] within sense-making. It’s much harder to find that money than it is to find the money going into networks and radios.”
Under the Defense Department’s JADC2 vision, the military could take data collected from anywhere, process it with artificial intelligence to target potential threats, and push that information to the relevant weapon system or war fighter over emerging networks in near real time.
Experts expect future budget projections, when they’re eventually released, will provide a stronger picture of how the investments might change and grow. Air Force and Army demonstrations, which will take place again later this year, have shown progress at the ground level to link sensors and shooters at unprecedented speed. Still, accountability is hard to gauge because the services do not outline clear milestones and timetables for those events.
Some of what’s unknown about JADC2 investment stems from the fact that the money is spread across many programs that feed the services’ so-far disconnected individual efforts: the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, the Army’s Project Convergence and the Navy’s classified Project Overmatch. Further muddying the waters, only ABMS has a budget line as the sole program of record in the bunch.
Additionally, billions for service modernization efforts contribute indirectly.
But some spending insights can be found. A conservative estimate from Travis Sharp, a research fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, is that the Defense Department is requesting at least $1.2bn in FY22 for programs that directly support JADC2. That number could underestimate the total “perhaps significantly,” he said.
Sharp searched for JADC2-specific terms, such as “Project Overmatch” or “fully networked command and control,” and he didn’t include programs that only partially support the concept. The bulk of the $1.2bn is in requests from the Office of Secretary of Defense, which runs several joint command and control research programs, and for the Space Development Agency, which is developing a new space-based mesh network to connect sensors and shooters all over the world via satellite.
The challenge in estimating a total price tag is “due to the difficulty of assigning dollar values to programs that indirectly support JADC2,” Sharp said.
For example, the Navy noted that a broad proposed information warfare increase would help Project Overmatch.
After the services listed several JADC2-enabling programs on their unfunded priority wish lists to Congress, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, the chief information officer/J6 of the Joint Chiefs, tried to assuage any concerns that the services won’t have enough money for JADC2. “I firmly believe we are adequately resourced to get done with the experimentation phase we’re talking about,” Crall said at an early June press conference.
At an Army event that same week, Brig. Gen. Robert Parker, head of the JADC2 Joint Cross-Functional Team, said military leaders have had “encouraging” conversations with lawmakers about adding JADC2-specific funds to incentivize modernization and adopt promising prototypes.
“The critical thing is what is being invested in terms of a JADC2 capability versus what the services are investing in to modernize their force and to close some critical gaps within the force,” said Scott Lee, cross-cutting priority lead for JADC2 at Mitre.
The lack of clarity reflects broader issues with the JADC2 development structure. While the services have taken steps toward collaboration, it’s not clear how the independent efforts fit together. The Joint Chiefs are working toward a top-down plan, but for now each service has a unique approach with varying levels of transparency.
“Regarding JADC2, the issues go beyond funding. It’s much more important that the services are aligned, that the ‘J’ in JADC2 truly be ‘joint.’ The services aren’t there yet, but they’re working to find a mutual path forward. Once that is in place, they can look at funding with a more keen eye,” said Mark Lewis, executive director of the Emerging Technologies Institute of the National Defense Industrial Association. (Source: Defense News)
10 June 21. The Five Surprises In Pentagon’s 2022 Budget. Most observers had expected an increase in the Navy’s shipbuilding accounts with this budget, especially after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said that, even as an Army general, he would support budget increases for the Navy and Air Force in light of the Chinese threat. But this budget decommissions 12 ships and buys relatively few replacements.
Many elements of the Biden Administration’s first defense budget had been signaled ahead of time: focus on climate, cuts to “legacy” platforms, and an emphasis on developing future technologies.
What were the surprises? Unchanged Army end strength, a strong nuclear modernization program, the absence of new unmanned systems, a resilient F-35 program, and a shrinking Navy.
The Shrinking Navy!
Most observers had expected an increase in the Navy’s shipbuilding accounts with this budget, especially after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said that, even as an Army general, he would support budget increases for the Navy and Air Force in light of the Chinese threat.
But this budget decommissions 12 ships early (seven cruisers, five previously planned plus two additional, an LPD amphibious ship, and four LCSs) and buys relatively few replacements. Some of the ship decommissionings, especially the cruisers and amphib, had been expected since the Navy has fought with Congress about extending their service lives. However, the LCSs had only been in service four to nine years out of a potential 30-year lifespan. The budget proposes buying only eight battle force ships, of which four are combatants (one DDG 51, one frigate, and two Virginia-class submarines). Assuming a 30-year service life, that implies a fleet of only 240 ships.
The Obama administration had set the fleet size at 308 ships. The Trump administration increased that to 355 ships, which Congress codified into law. Mark Esper, just before he resigned as Defense Secretary, proposed a fleet of “500+” ships that included a large number of unmanned vessels. Although congressional members have expressed skepticism about such a high target, many Democrats, particularly those from shipbuilding districts, have endorsed some naval expansion.
In the past, the Navy accelerated the deactivation of ships to save money, for example, in the early 1970s and in the 1990s. However, after the declines, it has never been able to build the numbers back up to where they were. Thus, the Navy is likely to be headed for a smaller fleet (290 manned ships?), though one that is younger and more capable.
Unchanged Army End Strength.
Most observers expected the Army’s troop- numbers would shrink to help pay both for Army internal programs and for Navy and Air Force programs designed to counter China. The Army’s budget was, indeed, cut by $3.6 bn (though some of that reflects reduced operations in Afghanistan), but the end strength cut did not happen, at least not yet.
The budget proposes an Army end strength of 485,000, essentially its level today. The Army was quite upfront that its priorities were end strength, readiness, and modernization, so it protected end strength at the cost of other elements. Historically, the Army has prioritized personnel and end strength, seeing them as its institutional core.
Further, the Army had been on a strategic communications campaign to argue that its size needed to be sustained. The Army points to its major role in the Pacific with ballistic missile defense, long-range precision fires, and theater-wide logistics. It also argues that its extensive day-to-day deployments put a floor on its size. These efforts seem to have paid off, at least in the short term.
The Army remains in a precarious position. Strategists see it as a bill payer for other priorities, particularly naval and air. Many elements of its program will decline in FY 2022―readiness, training, and modernization―as Tom Spoehr at Heritage Foundation notes. The bottom line: the Army will need more money if it wants to hold onto its people.
Vibrant Nuclear Modernization.
Arms-control advocates have been hammering the Biden administration about curbing nuclear modernization, arguing that the effort is “unnecessary and costly.” The Democratic Party’s platform denounced “the reckless embrace of a new arms race.”
But the Biden Administration’s first budget strongly supports all three legs of the triad. The three major nuclear modernization programs all would receive funding increases and large budgets: B-21 (+$30m, to nearly $3bn), Columbia class ballistic missile submarine (+$509m to $5 bn), and the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD, +$1bn, to $2.6bn).
This nuclear budget did not come out of thin air. The Obama administration developed a nuclear modernization package in 2010 as a complement to New START. The United States would reduce its nuclear forces but modernize the remainder. Although Democrats have been expected to continue with the Obama program (and many Biden administration officials served in the Obama administration), some programs are vulnerable. The long-range standoff missile (LRSO), a nuclear-tipped cruise missile, had been part of the Obama program, but the arms-control community opposed it strongly. Still, the program’s proposed funding increased by $224m, to $609m. GBSD had always been controversial with arms-control advocates for reasons of both cost and vulnerability, but the Biden budget sustained it.
Funding the nuclear modernization programs may be, in part, a negotiating tactic for expected arms-control negotiations with Russia, and, conceivably, China. There is no point in giving away bargaining chips before the negotiation even begins. Further, the administration will conduct a nuclear posture review that might set a different path. Nevertheless, it would be hard to back away from the FY 2022 commitment to these programs without strong justification.
Few Drones Requested
Repeated statements about the need for new technologies, new operating concepts, and the importance of innovation would have led one to believe that unmanned systems would receive a large boost. In fact, they are just sputtering along. Indeed, the Pentagon will divest itself of a range of large drones if the budget is approved. The Air Force plans to divest MQ-4 block 30 Global Hawks; the Navy to divest its remaining four BAMS-D, and the Marine Corps to divest the disappointing RQ-21s.
The services plan to buy few unmanned aircraft. The Army, for its part, plans to 60 manned aircraft and no major unmanned systems. The Air Force buys 91 manned aircraft, no unmanned systems. The Department of the Navy buys 101 manned aircraft and six unmanned aircraft. The Navy buys no MQ-4C Tritons, continuing a multiyear “pause” for additional development and continues development of the MQ-25 as a refueling aircraft (but no procurement yet). The Marine Corps buys six “Medium Altitude Long Endurance-Tactical (MALE-T) Unmanned Aerial Systems,” which is odd budget nomenclature, lacking a name and designation. Budget details indicate that MALE-T is actually the MQ-9A Extended Range. (Note to Marine Corps: if your budget presentation is unclear about what you are asking for, that will be a red flag to Congress.)
Overall, this Air Force and Navy funding balance between manned and unmanned does not indicate a change in approach. Indeed, it constitutes a resounding endorsement of manned over unmanned systems.
The Persistence Of The F-35.
One year ago, the F 35 program seemed to be stable, having reached a steady production level and established control over its schedule and cost (though not quite over its operational tests and performance). Then, Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, denounced the program: “I want to stop throwing money down that particular rat hole.” The Joint Staff planned a review of tactical aviation programs with an expectation of changing the mix. Gen. Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, promised a clean sheet design of Air Force tactical aviation. The vultures seemed to be circling.
But the 2022 budget request gives no indication of serious trouble. Total program spending is down slightly but remains greater than $12bn a year. The budget proposes buying 85 aircraft in 2022, down from 96 in FY 2021 but more than what had been requested in FY 2021 (79) before congressional adds. The Air Force requests 48 aircraft, the same level as requested in 2021 and about the the same level the Air Force has requested for several years.
The Marine Corps had signaled concerns about the F-35. Gen. David Burger had said in his commandant’s planning guidance: “It is unlikely that exquisite manned platforms represent a complete answer to our needs in future warfare… This means a significant increase in unmanned systems.” Yet, the Corps buys 22 F-35s, more than the 15 for the Navy.
When the administration completes all its strategic reviews, the hammer may still fall on the F-35, but it escaped the blow in this budget.
Of course, the 2022 budget is only an interim product since the Biden administration’s only had a few months to consider it. The administration could change course on these five items when the department completes its various strategic reviews. Those results will be published with the 2023 budget, the first week in February or perhaps, as the Trump administration did, a few weeks earlier. Nevertheless, the choices in FY 2022 establish facts on the ground…at least until Congress gets its say. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
11 June 21. Australia-Germany to boost Indo-Pacific co-operation. The second Australia and Germany 2+2 Security Policy Consultations between Foreign and Defence Ministries addressed key security and regional challenges faced by both countries.
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton held the meeting virtually with Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Minister of Defence Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Ministers committed to intensifying their co-operation in the Indo-Pacific, in support of an open, inclusive and resilient region with Australia welcoming the deployment of a German frigate in the Indo-Pacific in the second half of 2021.
Germany’s focus on implementing its new “Policy Guidelines for the Indo-Pacific” to step up its engagement provided a significant opportunity for strengthening co-operation in the region.
The ministers discussed the situation in the South China Sea and underlined the centrality of UNCLOS. The discussion reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight and that the 2016 South China Sea arbitration is final and binding on the parties.
The ministers discussed the importance of co-operating on countering cyber and hybrid threats, as well as disinformation. Ministers also exchanged their views regarding matters related to Iran, North Korea, Russia and China.
Following the meeting, Minister Payne and Minister Maas signed a new Australia-Germany Enhanced Strategic Partnership.
The 2+2 consultations highlighted the close and trustful relations between Berlin and Canberra. The new partnership lifts the bilateral relationship to a new level and commits Australia and Germany to a broader strategic alignment and joint support for the multilateral system and its institutions. (Source: Defence Connect)
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