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01 Jul 21. Leaders Committed to Transparency With African Partners. China, Russia and the United States are all on the African continent, each with their own interests. But while the commander of U.S. Africa Command said the U.S. would not ask African nations to choose between the U.S. and other countries as a partner, he did say they should pay close attention to what partnering will actually mean.
“Both China and Russia are … competing fiercely in Africa,” said Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend during an online discussion Tuesday with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I think the Russian’s competition there is very self-interested and exploitative. I don’t believe either one of these actors are really there to help Africa in the long run. But in Russia’s case, I think they’re there to exploit the continent for their own gain.”
Some Russian-based mercenary groups operating in Africa, for instance, are suspected of committing atrocities in the Central African Republic, Townsend said.
“We have pointed out the actions of [The Wagner Group] in Libya just a few months ago,” Townsend said. “I don’t think these actors are helping Africans, that’s what I believe.”
China has done much investment in Africa on infrastructure. Townsend said while the U.S. is not going to compete with Chinese investment in infrastructure, it does have its own benefits to offer.
What the U.S. does offer, he said, is always tied with democratic values and transparency — just like what is offered by the European Union.
“That’s what we bring,” he said. “We play with our cards facing out, as the saying goes. And we offer our skills. And I think that’s an attractive proposition for most of our African partners.”
Townsend said that while the U.S. doesn’t ask African nations to choose between it and China, for instance, he does offer caution about what’s being offered and what the terms are.
“I think that these countries ought to just go into these relationships with their eyes wide open,” he said. “I don’t think Russia is out for the best interests of Africa and probably in the long term, neither is China. But China is bringing a lot of investment to the continent and I would just urge our African partners: try to take advantage of that without getting taken advantage of.”
Last year’s exercise Flintlock 2020 was held across multiple locations in Mauritania and Senegal, and involved more than 1,600 service members from 30 African and Western nations. It’s an example of successful partnerships in Africa, Townsend said.
“Flintlock 2020 was a fantastic exercise,” he said. “Our view of these exercises is it’s … one of the best ways to bring allies and partners together to work on common security objectives and to share knowledge and best practices.”
The Flintlock exercise is a Special Operations Command Africa led all-domain exercise meant to strengthen the ability of partner nations to counter violent extremist organizations, protect borders and provide security to civilians.
“I think these things are important because they allow us to share best practices and improve our interoperability,” Townsend said. “If we are going to operate together on the battlefield, we have to exercise so we know how … each of our armies work.”
He said exercises like Flintlock allow partners to better understand each other’s equipment, procedures and communications.
“I think the exercises are very important and we seek, in U.S. Africom, to continue our exercises not only in West Africa but across the continent on … air, land and sea,” Townsend said.
Africom conducts six annual multinational exercises including Flintlock; Africa Lion and Justified Accord, both led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force Africa; and the Express Series consisting of Phoenix Express, Cutlass Express and Obangame Express, all led by U.S. Naval Forces Africa Command.
For more information visit the Prosper Africa website. https://www.prosperafrica.gov/ (Source: US DoD)
29 Jun 21. NSA, Cybercom Leader Says Efforts Have Expanded. Adversaries have heavily invested in cyberspace operations and capabilities. As such, cyber operations, cybersecurity and information operations are increasingly important to the joint force, said the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, who’s also the director of the National Security Agency.
“The scope of what we need to defend and protect has dramatically expanded,” Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone said today during a virtual address to the U.S Naval Institute and Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s WEST Conference.
The Defense Department’s information network is composed of 15,000 sub-networks, 3 million users, 4 million computers, 180,000 mobility devices and 605 million website requests a day, he said.
“We used to think about cyberspace as merely the need to protect these computer networks. And while it’s a good place to start, the attack surface is much broader,” Nakasone said.
For example, protecting weapons systems is a related but distinct challenge compared to networks, he said. They require software updates and patches. In the case of the Navy, they’re onboard ships that don’t return to port for months at a time, making it even more challenging to provide timely updates.
Another challenge with weapons systems is ensuring that cybersecurity considerations are implemented in the earliest phases of the acquisition cycle, he said.
Protecting DOD’s data is also a major challenge, he said.
Understanding how state and non-state adversaries are able to successfully carry out cyberattacks is important, he said. “They learn over time in terms of what they can do. They’re not static in the terms of how they approach cyberspace.”
In about the past 150 days, adversaries have successfully conducted supply chain attacks, particularly ransomware attacks, he said. In the last several years, election cybersecurity has taken on an increasingly important role.
Terrorist groups are also mounting cyberattacks, he said. In response, the department has emphasized close teamwork between the NSA, Cybercom, and other commands — U.S. Special Operations Command, in particular.
“We learned how to work closely with U.S. Special Operations Command, both to support their efforts against kinetic targets and to leverage their capabilities against virtual ones,” he said.
Nakasone also emphasized the importance of working with industry, academia, interagency partners like the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as with allies and partners.
Having a skilled and motivated workforce is also critically important, he said. They need to have the right training and career paths and professional development opportunities, and the DOD must be open to their new ideas. (Source: US DoD)
29 June 21. House Democrats want to spend more on weapons procurement than Biden. Tweaking President Joe Biden’s Pentagon spending request for next year, House appropriators have proposed $1.7bn more for weapons procurement and $1.6bn less for development and testing of cutting-edge technologies meant to deter China. The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning released its fiscal 2022 Pentagon-funding bill, which proposes $706bn in defense spending, or roughly $10bn above the amount enacted for the current fiscal year. When added to the $11bn for military construction appropriators are seeking separately, that sets it about even with Biden’s $716bn request.
The legislation, crafted by Democrats, includes $134.3bn for procurement, which is $2.2bn less than the current year’s budget. For research funding, appropriators are proposing $110.4 bn, which is $3.2bn above the current year’s budget.
Appropriators were expected to tailor Biden’s request, but at first blush the bill doesn’t appear to include any major pushback against the administration’s strategy of divesting from legacy platforms to reinvest in cutting-edge technologies.
For the Navy, the bill adds a second Arleigh Burke-class destroyer sought widely by lawmakers, and it cuts one of two towing, salvage and rescue ships. Otherwise, it matches Biden’s two Virginia-class attack submarines, one Constellation-class frigate, one John Lewis-class fleet oiler and the one ocean surveillance ship.
The Biden administration’s omission of the second destroyer was controversial on Capitol Hill because without it, the Navy cannot meet its obligation under multiyear contracts with both Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works. Those contracts call for each of the companies to build one ship in FY22.
All told, appropriators propose the same number of ships as Biden — eight — but they add $915m above the Navy’s budget request.
For aircraft, the bill would add 12 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, of which the administration sought none; four C/KC/MC-130J tankers for 134 total; six MQ-9 Reaper drones for 12 total; $170m for the second and third set of five CH-47F Block II Chinook helicopters; three UH/HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for 33 total; and two CH-53K helicopters for 11 total.
It matches Biden’s request for 85 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 12 F-15EX aircraft and 14 KC-46 tankers, plus assorted helicopters. The Air Force’s unfunded priorities list conspicuously omitted additional Lockheed Martin-made F-35s, but it did want another 12 Boeing F-15EXs to help narrow a projected gap as the service divests its aging F-15C/D fleet.
Wading into controversy around nuclear modernization, the bill matches the Navy’s decision to shelve its sea-launched nuclear cruise missile. While the decision was been cheered by arms control advocates and some lawmakers, it’s come under tough scrutiny from Republicans, who argue the move should be subject to the rigor of the administration’s upcoming Nuclear Posture Review.
At the same time, appropriators would provide $2.5bn to develop the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, which is the next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, as well as $581m for the Long Range Standoff Weapon, a new air-launched cruise missile.
The bill includes the administration’s 2.7 percent pay raise but takes sharper aim at personnel costs, trimming $488m from the request for a total of $167bn.
The bill also gets rid of the much-criticized overseas contingency operations account, like the Biden request.
“The Defense Appropriations bill provides resources requested by the Secretary of Defense to protect our national security, maintain a strong industrial base to support good paying jobs, and counter the rising threats from our adversaries, including China,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement. “As it protects our nation, it also honors the soldiers and civilians who serve and support our nation’s military by providing for them and their families. This includes strong funding to combat sexual assault in the military, a serious and pervasive problem that for too long has been overlooked by the Pentagon.”
The legislation includes a number of policy provisions likely to spark partisan debate, like ordering the closure the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by Sept. 30, 2022; requiring contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage; and barring support for the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive military operations in Yemen.
A partisan fight over the top line has been brewing for months, as key conservatives ― including the defense subpanel’s top Republican, California Rep. Ken Calvert ― have called for a 3-5 percent increase above inflation. Progressive Democrats are expected to push for cuts ― a move moderate Democrats are resisting.
The Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel will take up the FY22 spending bill in a closed session on Wednesday. (Source: Defense News)
29 Jun 21. House appropriators want more cargo helos for US Army in FY22. The U.S. Army continued its yearslong tradition of not funding the procurement of the latest variant of the CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopter in favor of future programs in its fiscal 2022 budget request, but House appropriators are pushing back.
Some lawmakers are again calling for enough funding to buy the aircraft for the active force. The House Appropriations Committee’s FY22 defense spending bill includes a $170m plus-up for a second set of five CH-47F Block II aircraft and additional funding for a third set of five “to ensure that the Army stays on schedule with the program,” according to a summary of the bill released June 29.
Congress funded the first lot of five CH-47F Block IIs in its FY21 budget, going against the Army’s wishes laid out in FY20 and FY21 budget requests, which included funding for only the Army special operations variant — the MH-47G.
The service said it would not procure Block IIs for the active component because it needed to allocate funding toward its ambitious plans to procure two future vertical lift aircraft by 2030.
Congressional appropriators and authorizers increased procurement funds in FY20 by $28m, priming the pump to get advanced parts to build the first lot of CH-47F Block IIs.
While the Army did not include CH-47F Block II aircraft in its FY22 budget request, providing funding only for six MH-47Gs for special operators, it did ask for five of the aircraft in its unfunded requirements list sent to Congress last month. The inclusion in the wish list serves as the first sign the Army may be warming up to the idea of restoring future production of the helicopter to the active component.
The new version of the helicopter features new rotor blades, a fuel system, an electrical system and a stronger airframe that brings the Chinook up to a maximum gross weight of 54,000 pounds.
The Army has yet to schedule a limited-user test for the CH-47F Block II and has instead ordered its return to flight testing to gather more data after issues cropped up in previous testing in 2020, such as excessive vibration from the new Advanced Chinook Rotor Blades.
Boeing said it is confident it will win a first production contract in FY21. The first unit would receive the aircraft in 2025.
The F-model Block II variant, as of earlier this spring, had flown a total of 450 flight test hours, and its rotor blades handled an additional 2,500 pounds of lift.
The Army conducted an analysis of alternatives for the program in 2017 that found it would save more than $3bn in the long term compared to recapitalizing the entire CH-47F fleet, which would be necessary without a Block II program.
House appropriators are also adding $211.5m above the Army’s request for 33 more UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters.
After building 42 UH-60 Mike-models in FY21, the service will build half that in FY22 with plans to roll just 24 off the production line. The Army indicated this drop-off in its FY21 through FY25 five-year plan. Buying more aircraft will help the service get a better price per aircraft. The Army is preparing to enter into its last multiyear production contract for the helicopter in FY22.
Meanwhile, House appropriators are providing 30 remanufactured AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, in line with the Army’s request for $494m. According to the FY21 through FY25 five-year plan, the Army had planned to buy 31 of the helos but ultimately requested one less in FY22.
(Source: Defense News)
28 Jun 21. Moderate Democrats rebuke defense budget cuts. In the upcoming budget debate, a group of moderate Democrats are trying to set a floor for 2022 defense spending before progressive Democrats try to push it lower.
Leaders of the House’s Blue Dog Coalition say they oppose calls to fund any less than the requested $753bn national defense budget for fiscal 2022 — which included $715bn for the Pentagon. The stance adds fuel to an already complicated budget debate, where Democrats are split and key Republicans are pushing for a boost.
“We believe this is a strong and sensible funding request, and we oppose calls to authorize or appropriate funding below this level,” the six lawmakers said in a June 24 letter to leaders of the House Armed Services Committee and House Appropriations Committee.
The letter’s signatories are Reps. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey; Tom O’Halleran of Arizona; Stephanie Murphy of Florida; Ed Case of Hawaii; Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.
A group of six is significant in the House, where the 220-211 partisan split means Democrats can only lose four members on any party-line vote. The letter comes as some Democrats worry that appropriations bills will have difficulty garnering the necessary support to advance before the August recess.
“My understanding is that it isn’t just my bill that’s in trouble, just appropriations across the board,” Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard told Congressional Quarterly on Wednesday. “A lot of the subcommittees are having problems for different reasons.”
The House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee is set to release its proposed defense spending bill this week.
The letter from the Blue Dog bloc emphasizes President Joe Biden’s budget request, which sets its signatories at odds with a group of 50 House progressives who have called on Biden to “significantly” slash defense. However, it does not rule out an alliance with key Republicans, who have said defense must rise 3-5 percent above inflation to counter a rising China.
The group of six did not like everything about Biden’s budget. The lawmakers joined bipartisan pushback against the request’s formulation of the China-focused Pacific Deterrence Initiative, saying Congress should “provide no less than $4.68bn” for FY22, as outlined by Indo-Pacific Command’s Section 1251 report. (Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has acknowledged the criticism and said the Pentagon will work with Congress to resolve issues.)
Also on Thursday, several Senate Republicans held a news conference to say Biden’s defense spending proposal is too low, and they challenged moderate Democrats in the Senate to join them. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said moderate Democrats and Pentagon leaders privately told him they are unhappy with the budget request.
“We think national defense should be the top priory of the Congress, not the last priority, and I think we have the American people behind us on this,” he said. “I think there’ll be tough votes for Democratic senators from states ― Virginia, Georgia, Arizona ― think about those states, very pro-military states.” (Source: Defense News)
27 Jun 21. Statement by the Department of Defense regarding Iraq-Syria Strikes. (Attributable to Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby).
“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region. The targets were selected because these facilities are utilized by Iran-backed militias that are engaged in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq. Specifically, the U.S. strikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at two locations in Syria and one location in Iraq, both of which lie close to the border between those countries. Several Iran-backed militia groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS), used these facilities.
As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks. We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS. The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.
As a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense. The strikes were both necessary to address the threat and appropriately limited in scope. As a matter of domestic law, the President took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq.” (Source: US DoD)
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