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09 Jul 21. Biden Explains Reasoning Behind Afghanistan Decision, Thanks U.S. Vets of the Fight. In making his decision to end the war in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden determined he would “not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”
The president spoke at the White House yesterday and gave further insight into his thinking to have all American forces out of Afghanistan by August 31.
The president also praised the more than 800,000 American service members, DOD civilians and contractors who served in Afghanistan since 2001.
“I want to thank you all for your service and the dedication to the mission so many of you have given, and to the sacrifices that you and your families have made over the long course of this war,” he said. “We’ll never forget those who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country in Afghanistan, nor those whose lives have been immeasurably altered by wounds sustained in service to their country.”
– President Joe Biden
Those sacrifices played in Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. “Let me ask those who wanted us to stay: How many … thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay?” he said.
He noted that there are already veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan whose sons and daughters have also deployed to the country.
The United States military went into Afghanistan as a response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 that killed 3,000 people in the United States. Al-Qaida — led by Osama bin Laden — planned and rehearsed the attacks from their safe haven in Afghanistan.
Since then, the United States has lost 2,448 Americans killed, 20,722 wounded, and thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health. The United States spent about $1trn training and outfitting Afghan defense forces. “The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago,” Biden said. “We need to meet the threats where they are today.”
The terror threat has shifted to different areas including Somalia, West Africa and South Asia and the Middle East. Biden said the U.S. military is studying where forces can best be used. “But make no mistake: Our military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any resurgent terrorist challenge emerging or emanating from Afghanistan,” he said.
But the main threats have changed since 2001 and the United States needs to develop new capabilities to meet the challenge from China.
“We have to defeat COVID-19 at home and around the world, make sure we’re better prepared for the next pandemic or biological threat,” the president said. “We need to establish international norms for cyberspace and the use of … emerging technologies. We need to take concerted action to fight existential threats of climate change. And we will be more formidable to our adversaries and competitors over the long run if we fight the battles of the next 20 years, not the last 20 years.”
(Source: US DoD)
09 Jul 21. French, U.S. Defense Leaders Discuss Ways to Further Cooperation. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly to the Pentagon today and discussed myriad ways the United States and France can work together.
It is safe to say that without France, the United States would not have won independence in 1783. More than 200 years later, the two nations still work and fight together.
The two leaders also signed the Special Operations Forces roadmap, which enhances cooperation between French and U.S. special operators.
“Our cooperation in NATO, the Sahel and the Middle East are a key to our long-standing partnership, which is grounded in common strategic interests, our shared understanding of the importance of diplomacy and a powerful interest in preserving the international rules-based order,” Austin said at the beginning of the meeting.
The meeting follows the NATO Summit and the two leaders discussed the ways the two nations will work together in NATO and bilaterally. The challenge from China was among the topics of discussion. “Today, as you well know, some of our competitors are working to undermine the stable and open order that we both support,” Austin said. “So in the Indo-Pacific in particular, France is an ideal partner for the United States as we work to bolster our shared interests in the region.
Russian challenges in Europe and elsewhere also concern both nations and Austin promised the United States would continue to consult with France on this issue and more.
France is a bulwark in West Africa, and especially the Sahel region. Austin and Parly spoke about working with coalition forces from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger to bring peace and security to the region. “The United States is proud to support our French and African partners,” he said.
French and American service members worked shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan and Austin praised the French contributions. “We thank the French people and the French military who served bravely alongside us for the last 20 years,” he said. “And now it’s time for us to end that war, and we appreciate the coordination we’ve had as together, we and our NATO allies have begun to transition to a new relationship with our Afghan partners.”
But the allies are looking to the future. After the meeting Austin and Parly went to Fort Meade, Md., to visit U.S. Cyber Command. “I know you have also made cybersecurity a top priority, and that France has developed a cybersecurity strategy to mitigate risk and increase its capabilities,” the secretary said. “Our countries have a strong shared interest in protecting our critical infrastructure and that of our allies, including cyber infrastructure, and that’s a foundation for our future cooperation in the area of technological infrastructure more broadly.”
Parly wants the two nations to build on the very robust military-to-military relationship. “Our cooperation is already very strong and deep, especially in the field of operations, and we want to seize every opportunity to strengthen it,” she said. “Intelligence, space and cyber are also domains where we cooperate more and more.”
Parly specifically thanked Austin for American support in the Sahel. “Your support will continue to be needed in the fight against terrorism and we are very grateful for it,” she said.
“France and the United States are known to be the oldest allies,” the minister said. “These are not just pretty words; they reflect something real. We are allies in words and deeds.” (Source: US DoD)
09 Jul 21. Hicks Assesses DOD Modernization, Innovation. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks is on a trip to New England to assess the Defense Department’s innovation and modernization efforts and partners’ capabilities to better enable the warfighter with the latest technology.
The deputy secretary began her trip June 8 at Bath Iron Works in Brunswick, Maine, where she met with troops and toured the USS Daniel Inouye, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. She traveled that afternoon to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Pease Air National Guard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
“How [ships] innovate is a huge piece, of course, of where the department is going today with different kinds of actors, research institutions, universities and startups …” she said of ship and submarine modernization.
Those elements are important to how DOD modernizes by ensuring shipyards have space availability and move with agility through repair work and understand software upgrades that are moving at a fast pace, Hicks said.
At Pease, the deputy secretary met with troops and toured the KC-46A Pegasus, a 2019 wide-bodied, multi-role tanker aircraft that can refuel all U.S., allied and coalition military aircraft that are in line with international aerial refueling procedures. The KC-46, used by the Air Force, can also carry passengers, cargo and patients, according to Boeing.
Traveling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hicks went to Harvard University’s engineering school and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for innovation assessments and briefings. At Harvard, she met with former Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
DOD is building on the path Carter laid in his Defense Department career by working in partnership with the private sector and academia to quickly get innovation into the warfighter’s hands on the battlefield.
At MIT, Hicks visited military and academic teams at the Air Force-MIT Artificial Intelligence Accelerator, which is designed to make fundamental advances in AI to improve Air Force operations. She also went to the Army’s Natick Soldier System Center at Draper Laboratory, a nonprofit engineering innovation company, and The Engine, a venture firm founded by MIT to support “tough tech” companies.
DOD has done well in the last decade to make clear its interest in embracing new technology, she said.
“Where we need to go next is knitting [everything] together so that we have an ecosystem in the department that doesn’t crush the ability to have innovation in small teams because I think there’s a lot to be gained from that,” she said.
Hicks emphasized the need to have what she called feedback loops and the ability to understand what such teams are doing to share lessons learned and spread innovation to share with the warfighter.
“[Regardless] of what that pathway is, we need to hear those insights and lessons learned from those who are … deploying forward into the innovation base,” Hicks said. (Source: US DoD)
09 Jul 21. U.S. set to add more Chinese companies to blacklist over Xinjiang. The Biden administration is set as early as Friday to add more than 10 Chinese companies to its economic blacklist over alleged human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang, two sources told Reuters.
The U.S. Commerce Department action will follow its announcement last month adding five other companies and other Chinese entities to the blacklist over allegations of forced labor in the far western region of China.
The additions to Commerce Department’s Entity List are part of the Biden administration’s efforts to hold China accountable for human rights violations, the sources said.
China dismisses accusations of genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang and says its policies are necessary to stamp out separatists and religious extremists who plotted attacks and stirred up tension between mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs and Han, China’s largest ethnic group.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of the sources said the department plans to add 14 Chinese companies to the Entity List over reported abuses in Xinjiang.
The identities of the companies being added were not immediately known. Some companies from other countries are also set to be added to the department’s blacklist as soon as Friday.
The White House declined to comment, while the Commerce Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The latest action shows President Joe Biden aims to press China over what the administration says are worsening human rights abuses against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
Generally, entity-listed companies are required to apply for licenses from the Commerce Department and face tough scrutiny when they seek permission to receive items from U.S. suppliers.
Last month, the Commerce Department said it was adding the five Chinese entities “for accepting or utilizing forced labor in the implementation of the People’s Republic of China’s campaign of repression against Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
The department said the action in June targeted the ability of the five entities, including Chinese-based solar panel material firm Hoshine Silicon Industry Co (603260.SS), “to access commodities, software, and technology … and is part of a U.S. Government-wide effort to take strong action against China’s ongoing campaign of repression against Muslim minority groups” in Xinjiang.
This is not the first time the U.S. government has targeted Chinese firms linked to allegations of high-tech surveillance activity in Xinjiang.
In 2019, the Trump administration added some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups to its economic blacklist over its treatment of Muslim minorities.
The Commerce Department under Trump targeted 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision (002415.SZ), as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology Ltd.
The Commerce Department said in 2019 the entities were implicated in “high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”
UN experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, most of them Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang.
08 Jul 21. Watchdog group finds F-35 sustainment costs could be headed off affordability cliff. Under current estimates, the U.S. Air Force will reach a tipping point where projected F-35 sustainment costs become too expensive, forcing the service to either cut its planned buy of the Lockheed Martin-made jet or drastically reduce flying hours, the Government Accountability Office found in a new report.
As the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps’ F-35 operations reach their peak in 2036, it will be exponentially difficult for the services to afford sustaining the F-35 if the cost per tail remains at current estimates, the GAO said in a July 7 report. Cost per tail per year is the measurement the Pentagon uses to measure how much money it takes to sustain a single aircraft annually.
Specifically, the Defense Department will face a $6bn gap in 2036 between the actual cost of sustaining the services’ F-35s and the cost the services can afford, the GAO said.
About $4.4bn of that expense will be billed to the Air Force, which plans to buy 1,763 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets throughout the program of record.
“If the projected annual sustainment cost overruns — conservatively estimated at tens of billions of dollars when aggregated — are not reversed and brought into alignment with the affordability constraints, over time there will be increasing and significant pressure on DOD’s annual budget as the number of the aircraft in the F-35 fleet increases,” the GAO said.
“Decisions made and actions taken in the coming few years could have a significant effect on the affordability and effectiveness of the F-35 program in the longterm.”
Specifically, Air Force officials told the GAO that unless sustainment costs decrease, “the service’s only available remaining options to meet the affordability constraints are to reduce the total number of F-35A aircraft they plan to purchase, or to reduce the aircraft’s planned flying hours.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown has already signaled that the service may be willing to cut the F-35A program of record and buy a less expensive “fourth-gen plus” fighter to replace some of its oldest F-16s, which were originally slated to be replaced by the F-35.
The F-35 program is expected to cost taxpayers a total of $1.7trn across its lifecycle, according to the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office’s 2020 estimate.
Sustainment activities — which include maintaining the jet, the manpower needed to support the aircraft, fuel and training munitions costs, support equipment, certain costs associated with training, and other expenses — make up a whopping $1.3trn of F-35 lifecycle costs.
The $1.3trn sustainment estimate reflects an increase of more than $150bn since the program was re-baselined in 2012, and there are signs sustainment expenses could continue to grow, the GAO said.
The sustainment cost problem overwhelmingly hurts the Air Force, the single largest F-35 customer.
“The Air Force needs to reduce estimated costs per tail per year by $3.7m (or 47 percent) by 2036 or it will incur $4.4bn in costs beyond what it currently projects it could afford in that year alone,” the GAO stated.
The Marine Corps — which operates both the F-35B short takeoff and landing variant and F-35C carrier variant — needs to push down F-35B cost per tail by 26 percent and F-35C cost per tail by 14 percent, or by 2036 will risk incurring about $900m more than it can afford.
Meanwhile, the GAO calculated that the Navy will need to reduce sustainment costs by 24 percent to meet affordability targets, or it will pay an additional $655m in 2036.
The stakeholders of the F-35 program—which include the F-35 joint program office, the services and prime contractor Lockheed Martin — have “unique and differing perspectives on affordability,” which ultimately make it difficult to develop a shared plan for cutting sustainment costs, the GAO said.
For example, Air Force officials have noted that, even if it could somehow obtain all spare parts for its F-35 fleet for free, F-35 sustainment costs would still exceed affordability targets by 14 percent. Further, officials told the GAO that there is “little room left for the program to make significant sustainment-related cost reductions” because its design and maintenance plan have already been set in stone.
For the other services, the situation is less dire.
Navy officials believe current cost-cutting initiatives will eventually bear fruit and resolve affordability problems, while the Marine Corps stated that while affordability issues could arise in the future, the service plans to address them further down the road, the GAO stated.
Officials from the Pentagon’s acquisition and sustainment office noted that the F-35 program could cut sustainment costs by transitioning additional contractor-performed maintenance to military maintenance personnel.
Meanwhile, other stakeholders — such as the F-35 joint program office — told the GAO that service requirements like number of aircraft, flight hours per year, and mission capable rate make it difficult to bring down the cost of sustaining the aircraft.
Lockheed Martin officials have also sought for the services to decrease manpower costs, which according to CAPE’s 2020 estimate make up about 53 percent of the total sustainment costs.
Both lawmakers and the Defense Department have a chance to mandate further cost reductions as part of the upcoming Milestone C full-rate production decision, which could occur sometime before 2023, the GAO said.
“Taking program-wide strategic actions to achieve the services’ affordability constraints prior to Milestone C declaration would better position DOD and the services to take the necessary steps to arrest the increasing sustainment costs of the F-35 and plot an affordable direction for sustaining the F-35 program,” the GAO said.
“Such an approach would entail assessing cost-savings initiatives, assessing the impact of potential changes in program requirements, developing and documenting a program-wide plan for achieving affordability constraints with detailed actions tied to milestones and resources, and developing and documenting a risk-management approach for addressing potential challenges or making adjustments to achieving affordability objectives.”
Sustainment costs have become an albatross for the F-35 program over the past several years, and several lawmakers have put pressure on program officials to decrease them.
“There’s no question that everyone involved ― certainly Lockheed Martin ― could be doing a better job on getting sustainment costs down,” said House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., during a roundtable with reporters last month. “The sustainment costs ― and it varies, I understand they’re as high as $38,000 an hour, and that is incredibly expensive ― it’ll make the plane so that you don’t really want to operate it any more than you absolutely have to.”
(Source: Defense News)
06 Jul 21. Two Army brigade deployments to Mideast and Europe announced. Army officials have announced two upcoming unit rotations to Europe and the Middle East. The 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson, Colorado, will deploy approximately 1,800 personnel this summer to Iraq to support Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Stryker unit will replace the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, from the Louisiana National Guard. Inherent Resolve is the named mission to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Major combat operations ended when ISIS lost its territorial caliphate in 2019, but the group remains active as an insurgency. Tensions between the United States and Iran-backed militias in the region also continue to garner headlines.
“Our Soldiers and leaders have been training hard preparing to answer our nation’s call,” said Col. Ike L. Sallee, commander of the 1st SBCT, in a statement. “We are ready for this mission and we are fortunate to have the very best Soldiers, leaders and family members.”
The 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Riley, Kansas, is also slated to deploy approximately 3,800 personnel this summer to Europe to support Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The armored unit will replace the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.
Atlantic Resolve started in 2014 as a way for the United States to demonstrate its commitment to NATO following the Russian annexation of Crimea and the War in Donbas.
“The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team is honored to deploy in support of Atlantic Resolve as a regionally allocated force in Europe,” said Col. Brian E. McCarthy, 1st ABCT commander, in a statement.
“It is a great privilege to aid in the preservation of peace by showcasing our Army’s ability to project readiness across the globe,” McCarthy added. “This brigade’s legacy of fighting and training alongside our European partners began in the fields of France during World War One. We are proud to uphold our dedication to a strong Europe, and once again stand with our allies and partners.” (Source: Army Times)
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