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16 Jul 21. Biden to nominate defense industry expert Andrew Hunter as Air Force acquisition boss. President Joe Biden on Friday announced he would nominate Andrew Hunter, a well-known defense industry expert, to serve as the Air Force’s next acquisition boss.
Air Force Times broke the news of Hunter’s selection ahead of the White House announcement on Friday afternoon. If confirmed by the Senate, Hunter would become assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics amid a major push to modernize the service’s aircraft and weaponry.
“He is one of the real defense acquisition experts/professionals in this town,” said John Hamre, CEO and president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Washington think tank where Hunter works. “Lots of people talk about it, but very few are real experts. He is one.”
Hunter directs the defense-industrial initiatives group at CSIS and is a senior fellow in its international security program. A former Pentagon senior executive and Capitol Hill staffer, his work focuses on industrial base policy, trade and innovative technology.
Long an outside observer of Air Force procurement, Hunter could soon oversee its hardware and software portfolio worth more than $60 billion. Chief among those programs will be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, B-21 Raider bomber, KC-46 Pegasus tanker and multiple nuclear weapons initiatives. Pandemic-era budget constraints promise to complicate efforts to execute a massive upcoming spending plan.
He will likely build on former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper’s initiatives to streamline development, introduce digital tools and infrastructure like artificial intelligence and cloud computing, and embrace nontraditional partners like Silicon Valley.
Hunter landed the nomination because of his past work with Frank Kendall, the former Pentagon acquisition chief who is Biden’s pick for Air Force secretary, and the qualifications he has garnered in and out of government, according to the White House official.
Colleagues describe him as a low-key, gentle professional who excels at listening to his team. He and Kendall work well together and will be able to hit the ground running at a crucial time of year for defense policymaking and spending decisions, colleagues said.
The United States “needs more Andrews” — people who are masters of their craft without being showy, said Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown University law professor and former counselor to Pentagon policy chief Michèle Flournoy. Hunter and Brooks worked together on Biden’s informal defense policy team during his 2020 presidential run.
Hunter got his start in military acquisition issues as a House staffer from 1994 to 2011, rising from a military legislative assistant to former South Carolina Democratic Rep. John Spratt, Jr., to a professional staff member handling acquisition policy for the House Armed Services Committee.
That experience will come in handy as the Air Force negotiates with Congress on its future inventory, experts said.
“Many in Congress remain skeptical of these [Advanced Battle Management System and Next-Generation Air Dominance] efforts and fear that the Air Force is going to waste money on trying to develop cutting-edge technologies that never mature or perform as expected,” noted Stacie Pettyjohn, a senior fellow and defense program director at the Center for a New American Security.
In 2011, Hunter joined the Obama administration as chief of staff to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Kendall during their respective tenures as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
He also ran the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, a unit focused on getting effective technology into the field faster, before joining CSIS in 2014.
Hunter served on the Defense Department landing team during the transition between the Biden and Trump administrations last winter as well. (Source: Defense News)
16 Jul 21. The number of major F-35 flaws is shrinking, but the Pentagon is keeping details of the problems under wraps. As the F-35 program inches its way through operational testing, the number of critical technical deficiencies is slowly dwindling, dropping from 11 critical deficiencies in January to seven in July.
However, the exact nature of these problems will remain unknown to the public, even when the deficiency itself is not classified. The F-35 Joint Program Office declined to characterize the fighter jet’s remaining seven critical deficiencies, but said in a statement that it has identified and tested fixes for each problem.
“Details of [deficiencies] — even unclassified [deficiencies] — are not publicly releasable because the information is operationally sensitive, and its release could be detrimental to U.S. and international war fighters operating F-35s worldwide,” said F-35 JPO spokeswoman Laura Seal.
Seal noted that all remaining critical deficiencies are classified as category 1B issues, which represent a “critical impact on mission readiness.” The more serious category 1A problems indicate a risk to the operator’s life.
Lockheed Martin also declined to issue additional details on the deficiencies.
“We track all F-35 deficiency reports. However, not all deficiency reports represent contractual deficiencies, but instead may represent observations or potential product improvements,” the company said in a statement.
In June 2019, Defense News published an investigation into the F-35 that detailed all 13 category 1 deficiencies on the books at the time — the first and only time a full list of F-35 critical deficiencies has been publicly released.
The program office confirmed in April 2020 that the number of critical flaws had dropped to seven, with only three deficiencies remaining from the previously released list of known problems:
- A technical problem involving the F-35′s cockpit pressure regulation system led to several incidents of extreme sinus pain, or barotrauma. In April 2020, the program office believed it would be able to resolve the problem in 2021 after flight testing the fix.
- On nights with little ambient light, the night vision camera embedded in the F-35 helmet could display horizontal green lines that could make it more difficult for pilots to land on ships. The JPO had intended to test a software update for the Generation III helmet to assess whether that could correct the issue with the hopes of declaring the deficiency solved in 2021.
- The F-35′s Northrop Grumman-made AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array radar meets requirements, but the Navy wants to upgrade the system so that it can scan a wider area while in sea-search mode. In 2020, the program office stated that this issue would remain on the books until 2024, when a software update is made to the aircraft’s avionics equipment.
The JPO declined to comment on whether these specific deficiencies are resolved. However, Seal noted four of the seven critical deficiencies are expected to be fixed by the end of October, and another deficiency is scheduled to be fixed in early 2022 after shipboard tests.
The program has not set timelines for resolving the remaining two deficiencies, which “are in work pending test schedules,” Seal said.
The Government Accountability Office recommended the program fix all of the F-35′s critical deficiencies before the Pentagon approves full-rate production, an action the watchdog said would “reduce the potential for additional concurrency costs stemming from continuing to produce aircraft before testing is complete.”
While the Defense Department has concurred with that recommendation, the timeline for a Milestone C decision — which precedes full-rate production — has faced significant delays.
Operational testing must be complete before the Pentagon can make a Milestone C determination. However, that testing is at a standstill while the program office finishes work on the Joint Simulation Environment, a virtual environment that replicates adversarial threats — including highly realistic versions of enemy aircraft and weaponry — that are too complex to be simulated in live training.
The Defense Department intended to complete F-35 simulator testing in advance of a full-production decision in 2019, but testing officials discovered technical problems with the simulator and have not been able to complete the 64 tests requiring the Joint Simulation Environment.
The program could release an updated simulator test schedule as early as August, the GAO stated in a July 13 report. “Until this happens, the full-rate production date remains undetermined,” the GAO said.
Aside from the major category 1 deficiencies, the program is tracking 850 category 2 deficiencies — minor problems that represent a “possible impediment or constraint to successful mission accomplishment,” Seal said.
Of the 850 minor issues, 165 are classified as “enhancements,” meaning they do not represent a deviation from the program’s requirements like most reported deficiencies. These features are typically seen as proposed future upgrades, Seal said. (Source: Defense News)
16 Jul 21. The Warthog and the senator: The politics of retiring a warplane. The U.S. Air Force is desperate to get rid of some of its fleet of expensive, slow and outdated A-10 Warthog airplanes, but politicians have blocked the move, aiming to keep the local dollars flowing.
President Joe Biden wants to retire dozens of the 40-year-old warplanes to free up funding to modernize the military. But within weeks of the release of his proposed defense budget, Democrats drafted a law to keep the planes, many of which are based in Arizona, where Senator Mark Kelly is up for re-election in 2022.
The negotiations over the A-10, which the Air Force has wanted to retire for more than two decades, show the extensive measures Democrats will take to protect their slim majority in the Senate.
Having military aircraft based in a constituency brings enormous economic benefit. The A-10 fleet at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson has been viewed as vital to the base, which contributes about $3 billion to the local economy and is among the region’s top employers, former Tucson Mayor Thomas Volgy said.
Kelly wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 9 to request $272m “to restore all funding to the A-10 program” in fiscal 2022 and $615m to buy new wings to rewing the portion of the A-10 fleet that had been earmarked for retirement.
He also spoke to Democratic Senator Jack Reed, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who in turn prohibited any A-10 retirements in his draft of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, annual legislation that sets defense policy, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The NDAA is a long way from becoming law, but items added by the chairman in the draft are difficult to strike, or weaken with an amendment.
Democrats hold a tenuous majority in the 50-50 Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, meaning they cannot afford to lose even one seat in the chamber.
Kelly faces up to seven potential Republican competitors in the race to keep his seat. Mothballing about a fifth of the A-10 fleet would be a significant symbolic blow that local officials fear would foreshadow a longer-term plan to eliminate the planes completely – and could weaken Kelly’s candidacy.
“We all know that the A-10 had been on the chopping block for some time. It has taken a Herculean effort by elected officials to keep the A-10 in the Air Force’s inventory,” Volgy said.
Kelly opposes “retiring A-10s without a suitable replacement to carry out the close air support mission that is critical to our national security and protecting American troops,” a spokesperson told Reuters.
The A-10 has been on the chopping block for many years because it is old – it was first deployed in 1976 – and because it competes with attack helicopters for the best way to provide air support to frontline troops.
While the Air Force plans to install a larger contingent of military personnel at the base once the A-10s are retired – eclipsing the economic fallout from mothballing the planes – Kelly could be blamed for letting some planes go under his watch.
Kelly is seen as among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2022, along with Georgia’s Raphael Warnock.
The former astronaut and husband of gun-control activist Gabrielle Giffords defeated Republican Senator Martha McSally in a special election last November. But he is up for re-election next year because he is finishing the term of the late Republican Senator John McCain, who also supported retaining the A-10 fleet before he died in 2018.
The funds saved by retiring the planes would go to Air Force
modernization projects like the development of hypersonic weapons. At the same time, Air Force Lieutenant General David Nahom said at a House of Representatives hearing this week that if the number of A-10s is not reduced this year, the Air Force will face a shortage of mechanics for newer planes.
Volgy, currently a University of Arizona professor, said the question is not just about the A-10, “but making sure Davis-Monthan will remain stable.” (Source: Reuters)
15 Jul 21. DOD Officials Testify on Fixed-Wing Tactical, Training Aircraft Programs. For the Defense Department to properly test the systems it intends to buy against expected threats, the DOD must invest now to create a robust test and evaluation infrastructure with live and synthetic environments that is equipped with cutting-edge tools and staffed by people with deep expertise, a DOD official said.
Raymond O’Toole Jr., acting director of operational test and evaluation, testified Tuesday before a House Armed Services Committee panel about the DOD’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for fixed-wing tactical and training aircraft programs.
“DOD’s mission success and national security reflect the quality of the operational test and evaluation we perform,” he said. “A large number of new and complex technologies are in the development and acquisition pipeline, and our adversaries continue to advance their capabilities.”
The F-35 Lightning II’s Block 4 program is now underway, O’Toole said. He also said the existing development process — known as continuous capability development and delivery — is supposed to deliver a new, tested and verified increment of software every six months. “However, each increment has been flawed, more flawed than expected,” he said. “Further, software changes intended to add new capabilities or fix deficiencies have instead introduced stability problems that adversely affected certain existing F-35 functionality.”
O’Toole told the panel he is “cautiously hopeful” that the program office’s decision to move to a 12-month software cycle will mitigate some of those issues; however, there remains concern that the ability to conduct adequate testing and evaluation is now at a crossroads.
“Simply put, we cannot determine the system’s combat credibility nor thoroughly prepare our warfighters if our test and training capabilities are not kept up to date,” O’Toole said.
Joseph Nogueira, acting director of cost assessment and program evaluation, answered three questions from the panel on CAPE.
First, in support of the fiscal 2022 budget request, CAPE conducted several analytic efforts assessing the capability, capacity and readiness of the DOD’s tactical aircraft, he said. “To support major defense acquisition program milestones, CAPE generated independent cost estimates for the F-15 Eagle[‘s] Passive Active-warning and Survivability System Program and the next generation jammer low- and mid-band programs.”
CAPE also oversaw the joint tactical air synthetic training, analysis of alternatives and the Air Force’s and Navy’s next-generation air dominance analysis of alternatives, he said. CAPE also conducted other internal analyses directed by DOD leadership to investigate tactical air survivability, lethality, overall affordability and novel concepts of operations to support combatant commander needs.
Second, as part of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress tasked CAPE with completing analyses on the service acquisition strategies for sixth-generation aircraft and a non-advocate review of the Air Force’s digital century series business case. Both studies are underway, and CAPE is engaged in detailed discussions with the program offices, contractors and other stakeholders to gain the necessary data and insight to inform the department’s evolving acquisition, he noted. “The digital century series business case review should be completed in August, and I expect to send it to you shortly thereafter,” he said.
Third, Nogueira said, there are a number of analytical efforts underway across the DOD to determine the appropriate balance of sixth-, fifth- and fourth-generation capabilities. The Joint Staff, in coordination with combatant commands, is leading the DOD’s thinking on how tactical air should be employed in a future conflict.
Additionally, “the Air Force and Navy are conducting tactical air studies focused on assessing both near- and long-term requirements,” he said. “The results of these efforts will inform the National Defense Strategy and decisions to be captured in the President’s fiscal year 2023 budget submission and associated Future Years Defense Program,” Nogueira said. (Source: US DoD)
14 Jul 21. House appropriators advance $706bn defense spending bill. The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a $706bn defense spending bill for fiscal 2022 over the objections of panel Republicans.
The 33-23 party-line vote to approve the bill followed objections from Republicans that the budget’s $10bn, or 1.4 percent, increase was not enough to counter global threats, particularly from China.
“Now is the time to prioritize our national security funding, not shortchange it,” said the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Kay Granger of Texas.
Though progressive Democrats voted to advance the bill, they said they were only doing so to allow for a debate and amendments on the House floor. They continued to decry what they saw as too much spending with too little oversight.
“We just spend too much on what is defined as traditional defense, and many of us in the country and many of us in Congress would like to redefine defense,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis. “What’s actually in the defense of this country? It’s not in defense contractors, but it’s things like pandemics and climate change and other items that actually defend us.”
The panel voted by voice to adopt two amendments from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., aimed at reclaiming Congress’ war powers. One would end the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War immediately, and the other would enact an eight-month sunset for the 2001 authorization for the war in Afghanistan.
“The forever wars, which expand wider and wider across the globe, have cost us approximately $6.4trn and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives,” Lee said. “It’s time for us to restore the balance to this Constitution. Enough is enough. Congress needs to act.”
The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee’s top Republican, Rep. Ken Calvert of California, said he would support updating war authorizations, but argued it would be too risky to pass a repeal without a replacement.
Among the Republican amendments rejected by the panel, one from Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida would have blocked the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center and the transfer of detainees to the continental United States. It echoed language passed into law before and left out of this year’s bill.
Though the size of the bill hews to President Joe Biden’s proposed defense budget, 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 bill includes eight ships like Biden’s budget does, but it adds a second Arleigh Burke-class destroyer widely sought by lawmakers, and it cuts one of two towing, salvage and rescue ships.
On Tuesday, House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Betty McCollum, D-Minn., emphasized the bill’s inclusion of a 2.7 percent pay raise for troops and other investments in service members and their families.
“The defense appropriations bill is a jobs bill,” McCollum said. “Across the country, millions of jobs are funded by this bill. These are jobs in all of our congressional districts ― union jobs in industry, manufacturing, small businesses, as well as jobs in scientific research and academia.” (Source: Defense News)
14 Jul 21. Biden’s nominee for Pentagon weapons chief withdraws. President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Defense Innovation Unit director Mike Brown, withdrew from consideration on Tuesday, Defense News confirmed.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin obtained by Defense News, Brown said he was withdrawing because an inspector general investigation into hiring practices at DIU was expected to delay consideration of his nomination by up to a year.
”While I am confident the Office of the Inspector General will ultimately find no wrongdoing on my part, I know there are other qualified candidates who can focus on the urgent business of making our acquisition process faster and more cost-effective,” Brown said in the letter. “I must put the interests of the Department above my own enthusiasm for serving as Under Secretary for Acquisitions and Sustainment.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Austin respects Brown’s decision and thanked him “for his willingness to be nominated for this challenging position.” Austin “remains grateful for Mr. Brown’s continued service at the Defense Innovation Unit,” Kirby said.
News of Brown’s withdrawal was first reported by Inside Defense.
Numerous defense innovation experts expressed dismay over Brown pulling out as nominee. Because of his past career in the tech sector and work at DIU, many had high hopes for Brown’s ability to reform the department’s arcane acquisition practices that doesn’t suit small innovative, nontraditional contractors offering new technologies that primes don’t.
Chris Brose, former Senate Armed Services Committee staff director, said Brown had a “proven track record of rapid acquisition and fielding of advanced technologies” and called his withdrawal a huge setback.
“You need someone who understands what that ecosystem looks like, that understands what the cutting edge of advanced technology is and who’s developing it, what nontraditional defense companies and new entrants are going through in trying to begin and scale their work with the Department of Defense,” said Brose, now chief strategy officer at defense tech firm Anduril Industries. “He, better than anybody, understands all of that.”
As undersecretary of defense for acquisitions and sustainment, Brown would have overseen a budget of more than $100bn for major defense programs — such as the F-35 fighter jet, aircraft carrier elevator and efforts to speed up software acquisitions. He would have been highly influential over defense industry matters and been responsible for maintaining America’s military edge.
Brown has led the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley outreach arm since 2018 and worked to connect small startups developing innovative technologies with Department of Defense components. Brown’s initial nomination was praised by observers, including several former senior DoD officials, because of his tech industry background and understanding of the challenges nontraditional contractors face working with the DoD.
“One of the exciting aspects of his nomination was the combination of a few different skill sets and knowledge bases that he would have brought to the role,” said Lindsey Sheppard, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Brown’s withdrawal is another setback for the president’s efforts to fill key roles at the Pentagon.
“Whenever you don’t have confirmed the leadership in senior positions at the Department of Defense, you’re losing,” Brose said. “You don’t have people with the mandate and the legitimacy to take decisions and risky decisions to the fullest extent of the authorities of that office.”
Brown joined government in 2016 as a White House presidential innovation fellow after a long career in the tech sector capped by two years as CEO of cybersecurity software giant Symantec. As a fellow, he wrote a detailed report on the threat the Chinese government posed to the U.S. venture capital system.
Under Brown’s guidance, DIU has transitioned increasing amounts of projects to DoD components. In 2020, DIU transitioned 11 projects, up from four in 2018. One of DIU’s most significant achievements under Brown’s leadership was providing an alternative to Chinese-made small drones under a DIU project called Blue sUAS, which made trusted small drone options available to the whole federal government.
Bill Greenwalt, nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial policy, called the news “sad and depressing.”
“He had the potential, based on his background, to really bring in and leverage this massively innovative sector of the U.S. and international economy and then fold that into how we can create better capability against China,” Greenwalt said.
Arnold Punaro, a former staff director with the Senate Armed Services Committee and the National Defense Industrial Association board chairman, said he is disappointed to see Brown out of the running.
“The DOD acquisition system needs strong leadership to implement innovation, speed, and cost-effectiveness, and Mike was the perfect choice for the position,” Punaro said in a statement. “Mike’s strong leadership will continue to benefit DIU and the Department moving forward, and we are lucky to have him there.” (Source: Defense News)
14 Jul 21. Can the US sustain its lead in the innovation race? How can the United States prevent China from closing in on its position as the world’s leading technological powerhouse?
Earlier this year, the US Senate approved the United States Innovation and Competition Act – a $250bn bill designed to ramp up semiconductor production, scientific research, development of artificial intelligence, and space exploration.
The bill, which largely received bipartisan support (68 votes to 32), was introduced amid heightened concerns over increased competitiveness from China, which according to Kapil Patil, a research associate at Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), is “fast closing the gap”.
Patil writes that the Biden administration’s new bill signals a return to an “interventionist industrial strategy”, aimed at “overhauling the US manufacturing enterprise” and preserving the country’s competitive edge.
“It commits US policymakers to revive and reshore manufacturing and spend about US$200bn on research and development and innovation over the next five years,” he notes in ASPI’s The Strategist.
“In principle, the bill provides a roadmap for American industries to lead innovation in future technologies and signals America’s leadership resolve to be in the innovation race for the long haul.”
Patil argues that the decline in the US’ manufacturing capacity has spurred China’s growth over the past decades, enabling it to leverage “significant external technological input” to challenge traditional powerhouses.
He fears that Beijing’s ambitions, epitomised by its ‘Made in China 2025’ policies, could “overturn the very free-market principles” that triggered its growth.
“China’s state-led market economy model – together with Beijing’s coercive trade and technology-acquisition practices, such as theft of intellectual property, cyber espionage and arm-twisting of international firms to part with cutting-edge technologies in return for market access – has stirred much anxiety among governments and business leaders across the Western world,” Patil continues.
Trade restrictions, including those imposed on semiconductors exported to China, have stifled the US’ trade and economic advantages, Patil claims.
The researcher acknowledges the impact of such restrictions on China’s access to innovation, but argues that they’ve had an equal impact on the US’ own progress.
“The US administration’s export ban on semiconductors is already hurting American firms as much as their Chinese counterparts,” he adds.
“The decline in revenues due to loss of access to Chinese markets is likely to impair the ability of American firms to invest in cutting-edge R&D and innovation.”
Patil therefore proposes the US “double down on indigenous R&D” and “revamp its industrial strategy” to stay ahead of China.
The US Innovation and Competition Act would support this revamp by filling funding gaps exposed by export bans.
But Patil expects renewed investment to intensify trade frictions at the global level.
“Nowhere will such frictions be more intense than in multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization and its appellate bodies,” he observes.
“Although the Trump administration’s decision to distance itself from the WTO and its dispute-settlement body has proved to be deeply problematic, the WTO’s future, for now, hangs in the balance as the US doles out subsidies to domestic companies and seeks to carve out new supply lines.
“The Biden administration faces a difficult road in convincing its allies in Europe of the need for reforming and strengthening the WTO and forcing China to abide by the rules of global free trade.”
Patil also notes challenges posed by an increase in cyber espionage.
“Safeguarding American intellectual property will require Washington to strengthen its cyber deterrence against Beijing and provide better protection of its critical infrastructure.
“As the bill undergoes modifications and amendments during the congressional approval process, lawmakers must consider adding provisions relating to cyber security R&D and innovation.”
Patil concludes by suggesting the US forge alliances with like-minded countries like India to offset risks, contributing to the development of production and innovation capacities in the region.
“As a counter to rapacious debt-trap schemes like Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, Washington can lead the way in global industrial development, especially in many middle- and low-income countries, and pull them out of Chinese dependence,” he writes.
“Forging an international economic order that is equitable, inclusive and environmentally sustainable will ultimately be critical for the wellbeing of human civilisation.” (Source: Defence Connect)
12 Jul 21. Appropriators Increase Air Force Aircraft Procurement, Cut Missiles And Ammo. The HAC report rebukes the Air Force for a lack of transparency in shifting spending on prototyping of hypersonic missiles.
House appropriators treated the Air Force gently in its fiscal 2022 budget report, which increases the service’s procurement request of $4.44bn by some $679m.
And while the service’s research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) request of $39.2bn took a $122m trim, individual program cuts were small, and key nuclear weapons programs were left largely untouched.
But that doesn’t mean the service escaped criticism, with members knocking the Air Force’s transparency over its various hypersonic weapon programs and, for the first time in years, not adding additional F-35A joint strike fighters to the planned buy.
The report from the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) defense subcommittee will go through markup with the whole appropriations committee on Tuesday. Read about the Navy’s results here and the overall numbers here.
Service aircraft procurement was the clear winner, with the subcommittee adding $900m in extra funds. In particular, lawmakers threw $485.8 m into the procurement pot to buy four extra C-130Js specifically earmarked for the Air Force Reserve. (As reported last month, the subcommittee provided a total of $1.35bn for 13 C/MC/KC-130J aircraft.)
But the aircraft buys were offset by hits to both missile and ammunition procurement, which took cuts of $140.3m and $122.8m respectively.
Advanced software development techniques are reducing risk and will enable the Air Force and Northrop Grumman to more efficiently integrate weapons on future aircraft, like the B-21.
House appropriators have made good on threats by key congressional Democrats to halt the long-standing practice by lawmakers of adding aircraft to the Pentagon’s annual proposed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter buy, providing $8.54bn in procurement funds for just the 85 aircraft requested— 48 of which are Air Force F-35A models. (The committee did give the service an additional $50m in F-35 procurement funds for “depo acceleration.”)
The report does not explain the decision (summarized by the HAC on June 29) on the F-35 buy. But the lack of an increase in funded aircraft reflects the warning by House Armed Services readiness subcommittee chairman Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., who back in April said congressional Democrats are done with business as usual for the JSF due to concerns about the jet’s expected $1.2trn life-time sustainment costs.
The Air Force is the largest customer for Lockheed Martin’s F-35, currently planning to buy a total of 1,763 aircraft — although that number isn’t set in stone as the service attempts to work out its future plans for combat aircraft. And in fact, for the first time this year, the service did not ask for additional F-35As in its unfunded priorities list.
Research, Development, Test and Evaluation
The most interesting language in the report with regard to Air Force RTD&E was a rebuke by lawmakers of the lack of transparency and budget fluidity in the service’s hypersonic prototyping efforts. To fix that, the HAC-D created new line-items for both the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, fully funded at $238.3m) and the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM, funded at $190.1m, a $10m cut).
“In order to ensure transparency and budget discipline, the Committee separates the funding for hypersonics prototyping into two new lines, one for the ARRW effort and one for the HACM effort. This increases the transparency of funding and subjects both efforts to normal prior approval reprogramming requirements,” the report said. In addition, the appropriators demand that the Air Force report to Congress “not later than 30 days following the initiation of the first all-up round test” on ARRW, to cover “both the result of that test and whether the result supports a decision to initiate procurement of the first lot of ARRW missiles.”
Despite calls by progressive Democrats to halt the the Ground Based Strategy Deterrent (GBSD) program to replace the aging Minuteman III ICBMs, the HAC reports expresses the committee’s support for the program’s continuation — but with a warning about the need to control costs as it moves into procurement. To that end, lawmakers asked for a quarterly briefing on program progress including “consistent metrics to track cost and schedule performance by the prime contractor.” The committee funded the GBSD at just above $2.5bn, trimming just $21m from around the edges.
Likewise, the subcommittee asked for a quarterly budget briefing on the Long Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO) as it transitions to engineering and manufacturing at the end of this fiscal year (having passed its Milestone B in May), trimming its $581m RTD&E request by $28m. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
12 Jul 21. Indo-Pacom Deputy Commander Discusses Joint All-Domain Command, Control. The importance of command and control, the fragility of long lines of contested logistics and communication, assessing risk and taking risks and knowing when and where to project power are still as relevant and important today as they were during World War II in the Indo-Pacific region, the deputy commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Minihan spoke today about the Joint All-Domain Command and Control at the National Defense Industrial Association.
Today, the number one potential adversary in the region is China, followed by Russia, North Korea and extremist organizations, he said.
China is closely watching as the Defense Department develops its JADC2 system and Beijing undoubtedly will be working hard to try and emulate that system as they learn how important it will be in connecting networks and sensors in all domains with shooters, he said.
The autocracy of the Chinese Communist Party gives them the ability to move quickly forward on a JADC2-like system without the scrutiny that a democratic American system requires such as congressional oversight, he said.
On the other hand, their system is fraught with risk since autocracies have “single mind think,” he said, meaning the researchers and developers follow orders without question, which could inhibit creativity and initiative in their design.
That said, combining a Chinese JADC2-like system with their home turf advantage would be a real challenge for regional security in the future, he said.
Fortunately, DOD leadership, combatant commanders and members of Congress understand the threat from China and the importance of investing in JADC2, Minihan said, noting that with that in mind, he thinks the U.S. will retain its competitive advantage in that area.
There are a number of experiments and exercises taking place that are moving JADC2 forward at a good pace but there’s much more work to be done, he mentioned.
The general said that another advantage the U.S. has is a second-to-none industrial base workforce. “That’s our asymmetrical advantage. You know, our industry is second to none.”
Minihan also stressed the importance of allies and partners in the region. “Partners and allies want to know that we’re in it for the right reasons and that we’re going to win.”
Deterrence, meaning avoiding war through strength, is attained through seamless interoperability with partners and allies, as well as within the joint force, he said. “But should we get to a fight, we want to win and we want to win quickly,” he added. (Source: US DoD)
12 Jul 21. Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan to step down Monday, marking a symbolic end to 20 years of war. Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller served as the top commander for the last three years. The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will step down on Monday, marking a symbolic end to 20 years of American military involvement here — and coming as an ascendant Taliban threatens to topple the central government.
Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, who has overseen the war effort for nearly three years, will relinquish responsibility in a ceremony at the top U.S. military headquarters. President Biden said last week that the military withdrawal he ordered will be complete Aug. 31, but Miller’s departure is among the only pieces left. Virtually all other troops, contractors and equipment already have exited, defense officials said on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.
Miller will depart Afghanistan as the war’s longest-serving senior U.S. officer. A former commander of the elite Delta Force, he oversaw a tumultuous period that included the Trump administration’s 2020 deal with the Taliban that set the stage for withdrawal, and the final call by Biden in April to remove all troops.
Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, the chief of U.S. Central Command, arrived in Kabul on Monday morning to assume command of the remaining mission. He is expected to oversee the small-scale operation from his headquarters in Tampa, with a two-star Navy SEAL, Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, leading about 650 troops tasked with protecting the U.S. Embassy.
McKenzie told reporters traveling with him that he believes the Taliban are pursuing a “military victory” over the Afghan government, citing its recent battlefield victories in numerous parts of the country and the threat it poses to several provincial capitals. But he predicted the militants will encounter significant resistance in Kabul, noting how much larger and more complex the city of 6 million people and its defenses are now than when the Taliban ruled it in the 1990s.
“I think, certainly, the provincial capitals are at risk, and we’ll see how that shakes out over the next few weeks,” McKenzie said, speaking aboard a military aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean. “I think the Afghans are determined to fight very hard for those provincial capitals.”
McKenzie assessed that the Taliban are pursuing a “multipronged approach” in asserting power. If they cannot topple the central government, the general said, they are likely to “go wherever there is the least resistance” and consider a political settlement with senior Afghan officials.
McKenzie said he does not place any “undue regard” on Monday’s ceremony. He called his visit to Afghanistan a symbol that the United States will continue to support the Afghan government financially and with technical assistance from afar.
Still, the general acknowledged, the end of the military’s mission here marks a significant change in the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan.
“It won’t be done like it was done in the past, and we need to be very clear about that,” McKenzie said.
The rapid disintegration of security amid the withdrawal has put the president on the defensive. Last week, he said in remarks at the White House that he and his advisers anticipated problems but that focusing on them has been used for years as a rationale to extend the military mission while U.S. troops remained in harm’s way.
“Let me ask: How many more — how many thousands more Americans, daughters and sons — are you willing to risk?” Biden said. “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.”
Biden said a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was “not inevitable,” however. (Source: Washington Post)
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